One of the more disturbing trends I and many others have noted during this rise of radical right-wing extremism in the US is the popularization of the ideology of Ayn Rand. Surely some of the readers have noticed the people carrying signs at so-called “Tea Parties” baring phrases such as “ATLAS WILL SHRUG!” Like schizophrenia, libertarianism is a serious disorder. But if libertarianism can be likened to that guy at work who believes in conspiracy theories and is generally socially awkward (and thus a libertarian), then Randian libertarianism or objectivism is that guy you see by the bus stop screaming about how Frank Sinatra and the Spice Girls are using iPods to steal his thoughts.
There are a lot of great rants about the reality of Rand’s “Objectivism” (the name comes from the fact that it is the least objective ideology in history) from sites such as Gin and Tacos (ginandtacos.com), and recently Tim Wise (timwise.org) wrote a scathing indictment of Rand’s ideology as well as her insane personality.
First of all, the very title Objectivism is absolute nonsense. The basic ideals of Objectivism are that the greatest moral good is selfishness, and the worst evil is altruism. Now when you want to create an ideology that is objective, much less called Objectivism, most sane people would suggest that you avoid throwing around words like “good” and “evil,” since these are generally recognized to be subjective terms. That is not to say that there aren’t things that are objectively positive or negative, but reasonable people understand that reality is not so black and white. Alas, we are not dealing with reasonable people when we speak of Randists, though they claim to be thoroughly logical.
Socialism’s major beef with Randism is the elitist attitude, which of course is one of its main appeals, especially to petty-bourgeois white males who think that they are entitled to wealth taken from the hands of exploited workers. The problem with these elitist philosophies, which run the gamut from Randian Objectivism to Nazi eugenics, is that those who espouse such theories always, by some lucky coincidence, happen to be in the favored group. For example, if someone is preaching some racist eugenics philosophy about how this or that racial group is superior, they will always be a member of that group. To my knowledge there is no eugenic theory that draws the line at only race or even ethnicity, rather they extend down to the individual. Yet they people who support these theories never think that they might constitute the lower end of the great “Caucasoid” race; one of the masses. No, they are always sure that they are in that tiny minority of Nietschzian supermen- is that lucky or what?
Ditto with Randism. Rand considered that to be “common” was the most terrible thing in the world—that it was to be nothing but a worthless parasite holding back the elite “producers.” Yes, you might have to read that again—the people who actually, physically produce goods and services and thereby wealth, are parasites, while the rich who do virtually nothing are the “producers.” The point is that just like with other elitist ideologies, Randists are sure that they must be in that producer category. So the pasty white petty-bourgeois business major holding the “ATLAS WILL SHRUG” sign at the Nuremburg Tea-Bag Rally is sure that he must be a producer, just like his heroes Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.
What these Ron Paul fans cannot figure out is that they are just as replaceable as the night manager of a Taco Bell (the crew of which produces far more value). The concept of Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged, aside from providing a paperweight that doubles as a conversation piece (“Why yes Bill, this book DOES suck hard”), is that those wacky “producers” get sick of all the parasitical common people (known as workers in the real world), and retreat away to the mountains while civilization collapses without their guidance. Atlas was the god who literally held the world on his shoulders in mythology—in this case the “Atlases” of big business have decided to shrug off their burdens. The metaphor is obvious.
As we all know, life would be chaos were it not for the great producers such as the board of Lockheed-Martin or George Soros. I am not sure if Ayn Rand actually believed that the heads of major industrial corporations personally produced their wares, or if she enjoyed smoking peyote while shooting heroin, but that’s basically the concept. Rich people leave us all to die in our own filth. So that means the frat boy Tea-Bagger with the Randian sign is basically threatening to…NOT WORK! Whatever shall we do?
Well, brother Preston Ellis III Jr., of Phi Beta Kappa, I’ve got some sad news for you. Nobody cares if you “shrug” by not stepping up and becoming yet another empty suit-and-tie driving a beamer. Go ahead and “shrug” and you’ll be utilizing your specialized business skills by managing the deep fryer at Wendy’s. Your PR training will make you a shoe-in for the job of greeter at Wal-Mart, and your marketing degree would really help you sell those extended warranty plans at Best Buy. Leave, and another hundred SUV-driving suburban white males will take your place. And guess what—we don’t really need them either! The funny thing is, people who actually produce products have the unique ability to manage their own affairs collectively, whereas the opposite is untrue.
Do you tremble at the sounds of socialism, O lovers of Rand? Well this will twist the knife just a little bit further into your guts—our theoretical founders, who unlike you with your fish-eyed heroine are not worshipped by us, all had either wives or at least long-term relationships. The future of YOUR love life lies either in prostitution or mail-order brides from extremely low-GDP countries, which of course, Randian philosophy sees no moral dilemma with, seeing as how exploitation of those born into poverty by those born into ownership and wealth is nothing more than “free” market capitalism and “consensual” and “free” enterprise and to interfere in that sort of exchange would be “totalitarian.”
Now in summation, I realize that should a libertarian or a Randian ever see this, there will be a tsunami of martyr syndrome, mostly accusing me of straw man arguments or some other logical fallacy. Guess what—it’s intentional. Randism is not logical in the least bit. The best she produce in terms of philosophy was “existence exists.” Brilliant. There is no reason to debate your ideology because it is so worthless and bizarre that it makes anarchism look totally plausible.
So, in conclusion, nobody cares if Atlas shrugs. In fact Atlas, instead of shrugging, why not go all the way and just bugger off?