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Paul Ryan's Biggest Influence: 10 Things You Should Know About the Lunatic Ayn Rand

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"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.

1. How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation

"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."

2. Rand's Philosophy in a Nutshell

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."

3. Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them

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).

4. Rand Worked on a Movie Script Glorifying the Atomic Bomb

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." 

5. Billionaires and Corporations Use Rand's Writings To Brainwash College Students

Pam Martens reported that Charles Koch, who pushes "millions of dollars through his foundation into economic programs at public universities and mandating approval of faculty and curriculum in some instances," partnered with the "southern banking giant BB&T ... mandating that Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged is taught and distributed to students."

6. How Rand Became the Libertarians' Favorite Philosopher

Author Gary Weiss explains how the "Rand movement, which was little more than a cult when the Atlas Shrugged author died 30 years ago, has effectively merged with the vastly larger libertarian movement. While many differences are likely to remain ... this means that Objectivism, Rand’s quasi-religious philosophy, is going to permeate the political process more than ever before."

7. Ayn Rand in Real Life

Author Hal Crowther writes, "For an eyewitness portrait of Ayn Rand in the flesh, in the prime of her celebrity, you can’t improve on the 'Ubermensch' chapter in Tobias Wolff’s autobiographical novel Old School.  Invited to meet with the faculty and student writers at the narrator’s boarding school, Rand arrives with an entourage of chain-smoking idolaters in black and behaves so repellently that her audience of innocents gets a life lesson in what kind of adult to avoid, and to avoid becoming. Rude, dismissive, vain and self-infatuated to the point of obtuseness — she names Atlas Shrugged as the only great American novel — Rand and her hissing chorus in black manage to alienate the entire school, even the rich board member who had admired and invited her. What strikes Wolff’s narrator most forcefully is her utter lack of charity or empathy, her transparent disgust with everything she views as disfiguring or disabling..."

8. Red-State 'Parasites,' Blue-State Providers

Ayn Rand loved to throw around the word "parasite." If you aren't a psychopath billionaire, in Rand's eyes you're a parasite. It's a psychology totally in keeping with the myths of blue-state/red-state America, as AlterNet's Sara Robinson explains.

9. Ayn Rand Was a Big Admirer of a Serial Killer

No exaggerating here. Mark Ames writes, "Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of a 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation ... on him."

10. We've Already Had a Randian in High Office (Alan Greenspan), and It Was Devastating to the Middle Class

"The most devoted member of [Rand's] inner circle," George Monbiot writes, "was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Here, starkly explained, you'll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as 'the "greed" of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.' As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a 'superlatively moral system.'"
by on Aug. 17, 2012 at 6:54 PM
Replies (11-20):
krysstizzle
by on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:27 PM

The undeniable truths, like her heinous philosophies and horrid writings, should be enough to turn most stomachs. Anything aside from that, including her personality (of which I know next to nothing because I simply don't care to) would just be flies on top of the dung heap.

Quoting asfriend:

hard to tie facts to a piece that is completely wrong


Quoting Jesi_79:

AlterNet draws some unfounded conclusions... it is a fairly weak opinion piece.  Tying in some facts would have added credibility.



krysstizzle
by on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:28 PM

Sigh, if only it were a joke...

Quoting asfriend:

saw that (lame) joke coming a mile away


Quoting krysstizzle:

This about sums up Rand's books for me: There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.




asfriend
by on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:29 PM
OCCUPY!


Quoting krysstizzle:

The undeniable truths, like her heinous philosophies and horrid writings, should be enough to turn most stomachs. Anything aside from that, including her personality (of which I know next to nothing because I simply don't care to) would just be flies on top of the dung heap.


Quoting asfriend:

hard to tie facts to a piece that is completely wrong





Quoting Jesi_79:

AlterNet draws some unfounded conclusions... it is a fairly weak opinion piece.  Tying in some facts would have added credibility.





Posted on CafeMom Mobile
krysstizzle
by on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:31 PM

Occupy what? You should work on your assumptions. 


Quoting asfriend:

OCCUPY!


Quoting krysstizzle:

The undeniable truths, like her heinous philosophies and horrid writings, should be enough to turn most stomachs. Anything aside from that, including her personality (of which I know next to nothing because I simply don't care to) would just be flies on top of the dung heap.


Quoting asfriend:

hard to tie facts to a piece that is completely wrong





Quoting Jesi_79:

AlterNet draws some unfounded conclusions... it is a fairly weak opinion piece.  Tying in some facts would have added credibility.






FrogSalad
by Sooze on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:34 PM

This was the first thing I thought of when I opened this post.

Quoting krysstizzle:

This about sums up Rand's books for me: There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.




How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children.  Charles Darwin

bozobean
by Bronze Member on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:41 PM
I agree.

Quoting krysstizzle:

Oh, and I loathe the term anarcho-capitalism, what a crock (every person i've met who's described themselves as such is a grade A douche).

Noam Chomsky has an eloquent view on this and expresses it much better than I.
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Jesi_79
by Bronze Member on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:45 PM
2 moms liked this

Like her writing style or not, her message warning people against the evils of collectivism pre-dated the common knowledge that Stalin, Lenin, and Mao eliminated millions of their own people to try to construct their utopian states.

More people have died for collectivism/communism than all wars combined.  And add to that the people who lost their free will and the number of lives affected by the imposition of collectivism makes me regret people could not get over her writing style to heed her message... it would have precluded a lot of suffering in the world.  

krysstizzle
by on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:50 PM

All those you mentioned were bonafide politicians, nothing more and nothing less, in the end. To think that they were collectively any worse than politicians that have been far right is just silly. Marxism, communism, capitalism...all of these are actually great theories. But people have a grand way of fucking things right up. The challenge is to strike a balance without politicians steering things straight down the pooper, which so far has proven a difficult task.

It's more about scale than anything else. Collectivism has worked fantastically well in small scale societies. 

Quoting Jesi_79:

Like her writing style or not, her message warning people against the evils of collectivism pre-dated the common knowledge that Stalin, Lenin, and Mao eliminated millions of their own people to try to contruct their utopian states.

More people have died for collectivism/communism than all wars combined.  And add to that the people who lost their free will and the number of lives affected by the imposition of collectivism makes me regret people could not get over her writing style to heed her message... it would have precluded a lot of suffering in the world.  


asfriend
by on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:52 PM
1 mom liked this
Stalin, Lenin and Mao just didn't do it right.

They were for the people, dontcha know, and they each released their tax returns.


Quoting Jesi_79:

Like her writing style or not, her message warning people against the evils of collectivism pre-dated the common knowledge that Stalin, Lenin, and Mao eliminated millions of their own people to try to contruct their utopian states.


More people have died for collectivism/communism than all wars combined.  And add to that the people who lost their free will and the number of lives affected by the imposition of collectivism makes me regret people could not get over her writing style to heed her message... it would have precluded a lot of suffering in the world.  


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Jesi_79
by Bronze Member on Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Actually, those I mentioned were ideologues... not merely politicians.

Quoting krysstizzle:

All those you mentioned were bonafide politicians, nothing more and nothing less, in the end. To think that they were collectively any worse than politicians that have been far right is just silly. Marxism, communism, capitalism...all of these are actually great theories. But people have a grand way of fucking things right up. The challenge is to strike a balance without politicians steering things straight down the pooper, which so far has proven a difficult task.

It's more about scale than anything else. Collectivism has worked fantastically well in small scale societies. 

Quoting Jesi_79:

Like her writing style or not, her message warning people against the evils of collectivism pre-dated the common knowledge that Stalin, Lenin, and Mao eliminated millions of their own people to try to contruct their utopian states.

More people have died for collectivism/communism than all wars combined.  And add to that the people who lost their free will and the number of lives affected by the imposition of collectivism makes me regret people could not get over her writing style to heed her message... it would have precluded a lot of suffering in the world.  

 

 

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