“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” That’s freshly minted GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan talking — statements he would eventually recant — at a party celebrating what would have been the prolific author’s 100th birthday,
Rand’s books are a big driver in the long-term right-wing campaign to delude millions of people into believing that there’s no such thing as society — that everyone must look out only for themselves. Lately, Rand’s work has enjoyed a major revival of interest. Besides Ryan, she’s inspired yoga-wear company Lululemon to publish her quotations on its products, and she’s even made inroads into the North American semi-socialist enclave of Canada.
AlterNet has kept the pace with Rand’s resurgence, doing our best to educate people about what a nutcase she was and how harmful her ideas are. These 10 articles, previously published on AlterNet, shed light on why Rand’s influence on Ryan is so dangerous.
“When I was a kid,” AlterNet contribuer Bruce Levine writes, “my reading included comic books and Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There wasn’t much difference between the comic books and Rand’s novels in terms of the simplicity of the heroes. What was different was that unlike Superman or Batman, Rand made selfishness heroic, and she made caring about others weakness.”
Bruce Levine’s explanation of how Rand has captured the minds of so many is a must-read. “While Harriet Beecher Stowe shamed Americans about the United State’s dehumanization of African Americans and slavery, Ayn Rand removed Americans’ guilt for being selfish and uncaring about anyone except themselves. Not only did Rand make it ‘moral’ for the wealthy not to pay their fair share of taxes, she ‘liberated’ millions of other Americans from caring about the suffering of others, even the suffering of their own children.”
The bloggers at ThinkProgress explain that the philosophy Ayn Rand laid out in her novels and essays was, “a frightful concoction of hyper-egotism, power-worship and anarcho-capitalism. She opposed all forms of welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. She also insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts were the only appropriate arenas for government, and that all taxation should be purely voluntary. Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between ‘moochers’ and ‘producers,’ with the small group making up the latter generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy, the successful, and the titans of industry.”
AlterNet’s Joshua Holland has the goods: “Her books provided wide-ranging parables of ‘parasites,’ ‘looters’ and ‘moochers’ using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes’ labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O’Connor (her husband was Frank O’Connor).
According to author Greg Mitchell, Rand called the nuclear weapon capable of incinerating entire cities “an eloquent example of, argument for and tribute to free enterprise.”