[FoRK] Randy are we?

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Aug 16 11:32:00 PDT 2012

Taking Rand literally is like taking the Bible literally: Shallow, destructive, and wrong.

Ayn Rand made some good points, although presented too simplistically in a lot of cases. That's probably what it took in her era to 
get any point across. There are ways to reconcile what Ayn was getting at within the framework of a stable, functioning society. Too 
many people have no concept of interconnectedness, dependency, and structure of a modern society. Teenagers and college kids seldom 
realize what has and is still going into creating such a society. Perhaps spending 6 months in the desert and/or a third world 
country trying to construct civilization would give better context. Unfortunately, we aren't given any concrete context to our 
society, so we focus only on the immediate, apparent and explicit transactions we encounter. Perhaps if we were made more aware in a 
quantifiable way of the investment made in us and the infrastructure that supports us, it wouldn't be so hard for people to connect 
taxes and other participatory transactions to a fair exchange.

I've been much closer to the self-sufficient end of the spectrum in my life. I was essentially on my own from 13 and actually left 
home for good at 15. I received virtually nothing from my parents, not even babysitting, as I raised children and created a career. 
I had a little help here and there from unobligated parties, which helped and taught me a lot.

Yet it is easy for me to see how society should enable people rather than presenting a default hostile baseline. Of course you don't 
want to just take from those who produce to distribute to others _with no strings or expectations_. However, it is the 
responsibility of those who are successful to help others be successful. In a real sense, although the former don't owe the latter, 
they do owe those who came before, directly and indirectly. Pay it forward or fail to pay your debt. It is not original sin that 
people are saddled with, it is original debt, which can generally only be repaid by paying it forward. This is especially true as 
investing in youth is a lot like investing in an early stage startup: A) small investments can become very valuable B) while not all 
investment will pay off, overall good investments generally will pay off greatly.

Additionally it is in the enlightened self-interest of the successful to build up all of society. Shallow thinkers don't see either 
of these, plus they often subscribe to the fixed pie model of the world. The pieists expect that helping the whole of society 
increases competition for them and their progeny, putting them at a net disadvantage. That's clearly true for those who aren't 
actually competitive but have benefited from one privilege or another by accidents of birth. To anyone truly competitive and 
constructively active, it is not true at all.

Lack of effective investment in education and careers, including starter jobs and opportunities, is a huge drag on our society. Of 
course we don't want to enshrine some artificial system of blessed jobs, fake career paths, and unwarranted salaries and benefits. 
But it is not hard to see clear paths to inexpensive higher education, useful and effective job training and projects, and 
coordinated convergence on a series of grand improvements to our commercial industries. We're seeing an interesting transformation 
taking place in the space industry now, not to mention technology for self-driving cars. Those should be models for improved 
solutions for many areas. Yet we dawdle and fret about how to invest less and waste more of our human capital. Of course we need to 
reduce waste. Of course we need to terminate or curtail or full transform programs that are not working. Of course we need to make 
major investments in areas not already functioning well in the commercial market.

> Mr. Ryan’s rise is a telling index of how far conservatism has evolved from its founding principles. The creators of the movement 
> embraced the free market, but shied from Rand’s promotion of capitalism as a moral system. They emphasized the practical benefits 
> of capitalism, not its ethics. Their fidelity to Christianity grew into a staunch social conservatism that Rand fought against in 
> vain.
> Mr. Ryan has attempted a similar pirouette, but it is too late: driven by the fever of the Tea Party and drawing upon a wellspring 
> of enthusiasm for Rand, politicians like Mr. Ryan have set the philosophy of “Atlas Shrugged” at the core of modern Republicanism.
> In so doing, modern conservatives ignore the fundamental principles that animated Rand: personal as well as economic freedom. Her 
> philosophy sprang from her deep belief in the autonomy and independence of each individual. This meant that individuals could not 
> depend on government for retirement savings or medical care. But it also meant that individuals must be free from government 
> interference in their personal lives.
> Years before Roe v. Wade, Rand called abortion “a moral right which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved.” 
> She condemned the military draft and American involvement in Vietnam. She warned against recreational drugs but thought government 
> had no right to ban them. These aspects of Rand do not fit with a political view that weds fiscal and social conservatism.
> Mr. Ryan’s selection as Mr. Romney’s running mate is the kind of stinging rebuke of the welfare state that Rand hoped to see 
> during her lifetime. But Mr. Ryan is also what she called “a conservative in the worst sense of the word.” As a woman in a man’s 
> world, a Jewish atheist in a country dominated by Christianity and a refugee from a totalitarian state, Rand knew it was not 
> enough to promote individual freedom in the economic realm alone. If Mr. Ryan becomes the next vice president, it wouldn’t be her 
> dream come true, but her nightmare.
> Jennifer Burns <http://www.jenniferburns.org/author-bio>, an assistant professor of history at Stanford, is the author of “Goddess 
> of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.”

> I’d been wondering how long it would take Republicans to realize that Paul Ryan is their guy.
> He’s the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. He has a winning air of sad cheerfulness. He’s affable, clean cut and really 
> cut, with the Irish altar-boy widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes and unashamed sentimentality.
> Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?
> Ryan was drawn to Rand’s novels, with their rejection of “the altruist morality,” making narcissism a social virtue; her 
> exhortation that man must not only strive for “physical values” — her heroes were hot — and self-made wealth, but a “self-made 
> soul.” Like John Galt, who traces a dollar sign “over the desolate earth” at the end of “Atlas Shrugged,” Rand idolized the 
> dollar. She wore a brooch shaped like a dollar sign, and a 6-foot dollar sign stood beside her coffin at her wake.
> Although the Catholic Ryan told Fox News’s Brit Hume in an interview that aired Tuesday night that he “completely disagreed” with 
> Rand’s “atheistic philosophy,” he said his interest in economics was “triggered” by her.
> His long infatuation with her makes him seem even younger than he looks with his cowlick because Randism is a state of arrested 
> adolescence, making its disciples feel like heroic teenagers atop a lofty mountain peak.
> The secretive, ambiguous Romney was desperate for ideological clarity, so he outsourced his political identity to Ryan, a numbers 
> guy whose numbers don’t add up.
> This just proves that Romney will never get over his anxiety about not being conservative enough. As president, he’d still feel 
> the need to prove himself with right-wing Supreme Court picks.
> Ryan should stop being so lovable. People who intend to hurt other people should wipe the smile off their faces.


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