Sunday, April 17, 2011

Upside down and backwards

As I think more about the concept of "Atlas Shrugged," thanks in part to the release of what appears to be a thoroughly awful film adaptation of the book, it occurs to me that the Rand's adherents (thralls?) really believe that it is the fleeting possessors of capital who are supporting the universe.  I mean think about that for a minute. The "philosophy" at work here says that these few capitalists are somehow supporting the masses. Seriously.

Let's take a look at Mr. Atlas, shall we?

There he stands, hunched over, supporting not the Earth, but the entire heavens, the universe (as the Greeks understood it).

Atlas, with his brother Menoetius, sided with the Titans in their war against the Olympians, the Titanomachy. His brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus weighed the odds and betrayed the other Titans by forming an alliance with the Olympians. When the Titans were defeated, many of them (including Menoetius) were confined to Tartarus, but Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of Gaia (the Earth) and hold up Uranus (the Sky) on his shoulders, to prevent the two from resuming their primordial embrace. Thus, he was Atlas Telamon, "enduring Atlas," and became a doublet of Koios, the embodiment of the celestial axis around which the heavens revolve. (Wikipedia)
In the Randian view, this great burdon is the masses. The common people, the people who toil away in factories and on farms.  Atlas is, of course, the "productive" class (i.e. capitalists) bending under the oppressive weight of the semi-barbaric horde.

The book was produced in a time of great labor strength.  Unionism was strong and the public honored and respected labor and working people.  Rand saw this kind of collectivism and respect for collectivist ideas as both distasteful and unhealthy.  She sought to convince people that it was the owners of capital who produced the wealth, not the workers.  In her way, she echoed the works of Milton Friedman and the monetarists of the Austrian school.  Value derives from the top, not from the bottom.

This view inverts the more accepted construct that it is the capitalists who live parasitically from the labor of others and it is the capitalists who extract labor value from the masses. Rand's inverted world view drives everything that the right today stands for.  To them, the masses are "dirty hippies," "lazy teachers" and "union thugs." They should be lucky to even have jobs in the Randian utopia that the Tea Party wants to see ushered in.  Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris!

Of course, the Tea Party are really just the populist face of this ugly strain of American political thought which seeks to denigrate the dignity of labor and working people for its own selfish ends. To maximize profits and limit expenses, front groups like Americans for Prosperity fund these assaults on workers and their rights.  And the Tea Party shuffle along, like zombies, dancing to the tune of discord from the pipes of their corporate masters.

But I think that people are waking up from this Fox News induced scam-coma.  Newsweek ran an article entitled War on the Weak: How the GOP Came to View the Poor as Parasites -- and the Rich as our Rightful Rulers.
The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites.
It's would be comical if it weren't so cruel and if we weren't living in a time where our political leaders are actively trying to bring about this Randian New World Order.  Paul Ryan is a Randian. And he's setting GOP economic policy in the house.
Representative Paul Ryan, also of Wisconsin, requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged, describes Obama’s economic policies as “something right out of an Ayn Rand novel,” and calls Rand “the reason I got involved in public service.”
Does anyone not see the irony in this? Someone claiming that Ayn Rand drove him to public service? How is that possible? Rand absolutely despised public service. The only thing worse than the dirty laborers in Rand's world were the public servants.  So what does it mean when Paul Ryan says that it was Ayn Rand who led him to public service? Could it be that Paul Ryan got involved in public service so he could destroy public service?

Ayn Rand is informing our public policy like never before. I, for one, find this more than a little alarming.  But then, I'm just a "dirty hippie" aren't I?


  1. Well, there's an easy way to disprove Ms Rand's theory: workers stop working. We'll see how things fall out then, won't we?

    Excellent entry, full of astute observations and well-made points. It's highly amusing/disturbing to learn Ryan's forcing public servants to read that idiotic book. The human capacity for denial never fails to amaze and dismay.

  2. Well I don't think it's surprising at ALL that Ryan would make such a statement. It simply means that he felt Rand "illuminated" him to th perils of socialist collectivism-based public policies, and he felt a burning need to right this wrong by the most logical(?) method possible: getting elected so he could set public policy himself, and steer the country to the proper moral direction.

    ... The fact that it's all malarkey, just tells me he's either a sociopath or a true-believer. I'm betting the latter.

  3. Aren't "true believers" sociopaths (or at least psychopaths) by definition? :-)

    I guess I have an overdeveloped sense of irony. Paul Ryan, in the role of a public servant, advocates the work of someone whose entire "philosophy" is predicated on the belief that public servants are evil.

    But I agree with you, Ari. Ryan is a huckster of the first magnitude. He is a cynical politician who is using his office to advance the interests not of his constituents, but of the wealthy 1%.

    But then I suppose, they bought him so they feel they're entitled to do with him as they please.

    I often wondered growing up whether Jerry Falwell believed the vile shit that spewed from his pie-hole or whether it was a cynical power-play? And then I wondered if it really mattered one way or the other? He was either an idiot or a psychopath and neither choice was particularly pleasant.