DISSECTING RAND: PART I: Bitter Political Reality

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“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
Lewis Carroll

The time has come, to talk of many things, of Randians, Objectivism, economic crashes and the very bad things Rand has caused.

“…”…Greenspan was no mere theorist when it came to Objectivism and was, in time, in a position to put its theories into practice on a massive scale. He believed fervently that business should not be regulated by us parasitic consumers, and had written to that effect from the ’60s onward. In 1987, he became Fed Chairman, succeeding the towering (and wholly unobjectivist) Paul Volcker. The results of his Objectivist convictions, made manifest in that role, were far-reaching. It has been argued in many quarters that Greenspan’s rock-ribbed laissez-faire policies resulted in a succession of bubbles—first in the dot-com boom, then in real estate and credit—that led directly to the 2008 crisis.

Part of the blame lies in his attitude toward derivatives. The efforts of the CFTC’s Brooksley Born to compel the regulation of derivatives trading began in 1994, but came to nothing owing largely to Greenspan’s objections. After the Enron debacle, which, thanks to “the smartest guys in the room,” left California holding the bag on about $9 billion of natural gas bills, Senator Diane Feinstein made herself very busy pestering Greenspan about the need to regulate derivatives. In 2004, Alan shrugged: he wrote to Congress in response to Senator Feinstein in what had by then become the signature Greenspan style of floaty, oracular, narcoleptic polysyllables:…”I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms […]

“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

Never mind that for years Greenspan had had a bunch of regulators and congressmen all but coming after him with baseball bats trying to get him to see that “the self-interest of lending institutions” was no match for the greed of unscrupulous individuals.

For Communist “altruism,” read “SEC regulation.” For Stalin, read Lloyd Blankfein et so many al. Just follow the money. How much does it cost such guys to pay lip service to the glories of the free market, Communism, whatever, while they grab everything that isn’t nailed down for themselves? Not too much, if all you care about is your own, um. Individualism….”

Ayn Rand Hated Jesus

One day, a half century from now, if this nation still exists, histories will be written, condemning the financial policies embraced by the disciples of Ayn Rand, specifically Alan Greenspan.  During his years at the Fed, he fully employed her theories, putting them into practice.  He ignored Fed governors who told him that the mortgage industry was failing because of the wild and crazy sub-prime markets.  He ignored Enron.  He ignored Madoff.  He promoted the policies where banks could own brokerages.  He ignored those who told him that his easing of regulations was causing an economic disaster.

Althernet

Instead – by putting into practice Rand’s teachings that greed was good, raw capitalism was freedom, and there should be no rules or regulations for those making money through greed, the very fabric of our economy is still in danger.

Nope – it wasn’t caused by Barney Frank, Fannie May or Freddie Mac – not at first.  It was caused by the full employment of Randian economic theory.

Monbiot

One day, when the history of this time is written, The Pink Flamingo theorizes that Rand will go down as one of the most evil and diabolical influences of the latter half of the 20th Century.  It was the full embrace of Rand’s theory that literally brought our nation to its knees. It is about a sick, perverse, rankly immoral, and seriously disturbed woman who had the ability, the charm, to bring the disaffected to her side, to manipulate, use them, and fully brain-wash them.  She was so emotionally abusive and arrogant, had she been in a position of power, she would have become a despot.  Fortunately, for us, she was basically a nothing, until she began manipulating Alan Greenspan.

Years ago, I can remember my Grandfather Froehlich ranting against Greenspan.  My grandfather, who considered Ronald Reagan the be all and end all, thought that Greenspan was one of the worst influences this nation had experienced in years.  He always said that, if Greenspan was allowed to have full power at the Fed, he would bring our nation’s economy to its knees.

Grandy was right. Then again, he always was.

Rand embraced a theory that as so cruel, so vicious, and so radical, it is completely incompatible with Christianity.

“...Given how fashionable Rand is in the GOP nowadays, her atheism is going to raise some thorny issues for the Republican Party. She repudiated not just belief in God but cherished Judeo-Christian moral tenets, including the desirability of altruism and help for the needy. Rand’s Objectivism celebrates selfishness and promotes the belief that the poor need to rise up without relying on help from anyone.

Rand’s celebration of individuality certainly has its place, but her influence on national politics is corrosive — if, that is, you believe that government plays an important role in society….”

An atheist, she detested Christians.  She detested kindness, goodness, and human decency and altruism.  There are those who consider her the Right’s version of Marx.

“...But they have a still more powerful reason to reject her philosophy: as Adam Curtis’s BBC documentary showed last year, the most devoted member of her inner circle 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”.

Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru’s philosophy to the letter, cutting taxes for the rich, repealing the laws constraining banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down. Much of this is already documented, but Weiss shows that in the US, Greenspan has successfully airbrushed history.

Despite the many years he spent at her side, despite his previous admission that it was Rand who persuaded him that “capitalism is not only efficient and practical but also moral”, he mentioned her in his memoirs only to suggest that it was a youthful indiscretion – and this, it seems, is now the official version. Weiss presents powerful evidence that even today Greenspan remains her loyal disciple, having renounced his partial admission of failure to Congress….”

To reject Rand, is not to reject capitalism or conservative principles, rather it is to embrace them.  There is nothing conservative about Rand.  She is about “rational self-interest” – abject selfishness.

“...In an Objectivist world, the reset button would be pushed on government services that we take for granted. They would not be cut back, not reduced — they would vanish. In an Objectivist world, roads would go unplowed in the snows of winter, and bridges would fall as the government withdrew from the business of maintaining them — unless some private citizen would find it in his rational self-interest to voluntarily take up the slack by scraping off the rust and replacing frayed cables. Public parks and land, from the tiniest vest-pocket patch of green to vast expanses of the West, would be sold off to the newly liberated megacorporations. Airplane traffic would be grounded unless a profit-making capitalist found it in his own selfish interests to fund the air traffic control system. If it could be made profitable, fine. If not, tough luck. The market had spoken. The Coast Guard would stay in port while storm- tossed mariners drown lustily as they did in days of yore. Fires would rage in the remnants of silent forests, vegetation and wildlife no longer protected by rangers and coercive environmental laws, swept clean of timber, their streams polluted in a rational, self-interested manner by bold, imaginative entrepreneurs….

The poor and elderly, freed from dependence on character-destroying, government-subsidized medical care, would die as bravely and in as generous quantities as in the romantic novels of a bygone era.

Minimum wage laws would come to an end, providing factory owners and high- tech startups alike with a pool of cheap labor competitive with any fourth-world kleptocracy.

All laws protecting consumers would be erased from the statute books.

Mass transit would grind to a halt in the big cities as municipal subsidies come to an end.

Corporations would no longer be enslaved by antitrust laws, so monopolies and globe-spanning, price-fixing cartels would flourish. The number of publicly held corporations would be reduced to a manageable, noncompetitive few. Big Pharma would manufacture drugs without adequate testing for safety and efficacy—deterred only by concern for their reputation, as described by Greenspan in 1963. Except that with competition reduced by mergers and legal price-fixing, the market would be a feeble substitute for even the FDA.

Securities laws and stock market regulations would be eliminated.

Corporations would operate in secret if they so desired, or with only selective, cursory disclosures to their investors and customers. Only outright fraud would be prosecuted; otherwise the public— a concept no longer recognized as valid— would be on its own.

Insider trading, now legal, would become the norm. Wall Street now would truly be a sucker’s game. “Let the buyer beware” would replace the fifty state regulators and the SEC.

Income taxes would end, so the lowest-paid, ten-cent-an-hour, non-OSHA-supervised factory workers would enjoy wages taxed at the same rate—zero—as their billionaire bosses in distant cities and foreign lands. Dynasties of American royalty would arise, as fortunes pass from generation to generation, untaxed.

Nonprofit organizations, apart from those serving the egos and social calendars of the self-indulging rich, would see their funding dry up as government support vanished. The super-wealthy, having repudiated their “giving pledge,” would now enjoy their riches without guilt, no longer motivated to share their billions with the poor. Philanthropy would be an obsolete relic of discarded moral codes and forgotten history.

Such is the Ayn Rand vision of paradise: an America that would resemble the lands from which our ancestors emigrated, altruism confined to ignored, fringe texts, grinding poverty and starvation coexisting alongside the opulence of the wealthy. Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York would become like Cairo and Calcutta, with walled enclaves protecting the wealthy from the malnourished, uneducated masses outside….”

Make no mistake, the excerpt above was written from a very liberal point of view.  There are those who have accused The Pink Flamingo of being a liberal and a socialist.  Sorry, but I’m a very real Republican – someone who voted for Reagan, and can’t stomach the fact that we are on the brink of nominating such an inferior individual to seek the highest office in the land.

“...And what is the result, three years later? The markets in unregulated derivatives, Warren Buffett’s “financial weapons of mass destruction,” were never outlawed and are alive and well. Nobody went to jail or even really had his hand slapped, except for Bernie Madoff. Nearly all the destructive forces Greenspan set in motion came roaring right back, along with Wall Street bonuses, despite his claims of the enormous restraint certain to follow the debacle of 2008, for “an indefinite future” that didn’t last for even one year.

So here we return to the “looters” who don’t create anything, and the policy of cherchez l’argent. Greenspan and all these free marketers and bankers and Wall Street guys who generally just love Ayn Rand, self-sufficiency and individualism, and so they would never see themselves as the looters. But the question is just so there, because while the financial services sector provides some valuable services to a society, it is very questionable indeed whether those services are worth 12% of GDP, which is, by the way, about what we’re all paying now, or roughly triple what they used to cost before the publication of Atlas Shrugged.

The real parasites, it turns out, are not the looting masses but the Objectivist elites (what is it that these hedge fund managers “create” again?), rabidly pursuing their own “happiness” at the cost of our social safety net, our environment and the prosperity and well-being of the world’s people. So much for the triumph of individualism….”

If this is indeed the case, and The Pink Flamingo suspects it is, then the GOP is on the cusp of one of the greatest mistakes we might possibly make, nominating a man who has spent his life practicing the financial theory Rand embraced.

 

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