There is a substantial take-down of pedantic bore Ayn Rand in GQ. They tease it thusly:

2009′s most influential author is a mirthless Russian-American who loves money, hates God, and swings a gigantic dick. She died in 1982, but her spawn soldier on. And the Great Recession is all their fault.

I love that because it is both funny and touches upon so many subtle truths; Here is a longer, funnier excerpt:

“This is because there are boys and girls among us who have never overcome the Randian infection. The Galt speech continues to ring in their ears for years like a maddening tinnitus, turning each of them into what next year’s Physicians’ Desk Reference will (undoubtedly) term an Ayn Rand Asshole (ARA). They constitute a relatively small percentage of Rand readers, these ARAs. But they make their reading count. Thanks to them, the Rand Experience is no longer limited to those who have read the books. It’s metastasized. You, me, all of us, we’re living it. Because it’s the ARA Army of antigovernment-antiregulation puritans who have spent the past three decades gleefully pulling the cooling rods out of the American economy. For a while, it got very big and very hot. Then it popped. And now the rest of us have to spend the next decade scaling the slippery slopes of the huge suppurative crater that was left behind.

Feeling fisted by the Invisible Hand of the Market lo these past fifteen months? Lost a job lately? Or half the value of your 401(k)? Or a home? All three? Been wondering whence the too-long-ascendant political and economic ideas and forces behind Greenspanism, John Thainism, blind Wall Street plunder, bankruptcy, credit-default swaps, Bernie Madoff, and the ensuing Cannibalism in the Streets? Then you, sir, need to give thanks to Ayn Rand Assholes everywhere—as well as the steely loins from which they sprang.”

Brilliant.

I haven’t read Rand’s work for decades, but I do recall two things: A) It was a giant pedantic bore; 2) Debating it with people in College was always a hoot. The thing that struck me most was the lack of rigor in the arguments — it was more religion than logic, more wishful thinking than reality based observations of how humans actually behave.

You can the concentration of ARAs in a certain groupings. These are the folks who blame the CRA for the collapse of the economy; ARAs tend to be hardcore idealogues; many are rabidly partisan. All too many are deeply uninformed. They breathje co0gnitive dissonance they most people breathe oxygen. When confronted with facts, data, reality that challenge their ideology, they make up new facts.

I imagine that Freud would bluntly use Randian logic to note they inhabit a guise of superiority in part to compensate for vast and deeply felt inferiorities and insecurities. That’s right, those of you who feel compelled to talk about how big your junk is are typically are sporting selections from the wee person’s aisle.

Malcolm Gladwell is a guy who knows how to write compellingly readable stories. The takeaway in his book Outliers The Story of Success is quite unRandian — it is that luck plays an enormous factor in out-sized success. That is a factor the Randians prefer to ignore.

What I find so weird about Rand is that there are more than a few people I respect who gobbled up her work. These are not ARAs — but are otherwise rational folks who never quite went full tilt into ARA-hood. But they have a huge respect for her work. Me? I prefer “lessers” like Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and John Maynard Keynes.  I prefer John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle of Liberty over Rand’s Objectivism.

Dangerous Minds contextualizes the pedantic bore portion of the Rand legend:

“It’s Rand’s dialogue that seals her reputation as an author you just can’t take seriously. To be fair, she was writing in her second language, but the problem with her books is that no one actually speaks to one another, they just make speeches at each other. Hectoring, long-winded speeches. It’s fine to read stuff like that as a teenager, but when I crack open one of her books today, I shake my head in disbelief at how bombastic and horrible her writing is.”

Bombastic and horrible? You are being too kind . . .

My actual problem with Rand — behind her blindingly horrific prose — is that she was pushing back against a totalitarian system in the Soviet Union, a corrupt and morally indefensible system she had every right to be infuriated by. But she applies that righteous fury and outrage to a Democracy, whose economy is Free Market based. Hence, rather than challenging the politburo, she challenges Unions. Cooperative behavior seems to be hard for her to grasp. One suspects she would have disliked Consumer Reports, or Zagats, or Amazon’s user ratings.

Worst of all, Rand’s Objectivism has become the rationale for all manner of morally repugnant behaviour. However, I did take one personal lesson from Atlas Shrugged to heart: Anytime I see a parked car with a John Galt bumper sticker, I like to knock off one of the sideview mirrors, and leave it on the hood. I include a note stating my selfish, random act made me feel good, and therefore should be a perfectly fine act in their world.

I assume the recipients miss the irony . . .

>

Sources:
The Bitch is Back
Andrew Corsello
GQ, October 27, 2009

http://www.gq.com/entertainment/books/200911/ayn-rand-dick-books-fountainhead

Ayn Rand Assholes
Dangerous Minds, 11.11.2009

http://www.dangerousminds.net/index.php/site/comments/ayn_rand_assholes/

Category: Psychology, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

178 Responses to “Ayn Rand: The Boring Bitch is Back”

  1. Quretaro says:

    Eric Hoffer, who spent his lifetime studying mass movements, very aptly observed: “Add a few drops of venom to a half truth and you have an absolute truth

  2. 11/16/09 10:21pm

    Geez, I really need a “Sarcasm” font.

    Way too many of you people took the mirror comments literally . . .

  3. kmckellop says:

    Next book will be titled…. ” Alan Shrugged” ?

  4. Kort says:

    I’m not a Rand fanbois and actually have read much of her stuff (and certainly not for quite some time) but one thing I would give Rand credit for is the notion of Productive People vs Non Productive people and, in Shrugged, the Productive people essentially opting out of carrying the lazy along.

    When W came into office i 2000, 33% of tax filers were not paying federal income tax. When he left last year, it 39%. It appears under O, this number will get close to 50% in short order. What happens to a society when 60% are getting a free ride? 70%? Would they continue to vote for a system that rewards them and punishes the top 30-40%? We have a generation that is used to free music downloads and free movie downloads—who will make the music or movies in 20 years, and will it be any good? Will we enjoy seeing Batman 8 or Saw 22 since they are less risky to make than an interesting, new, novel concept? Steven Soderbergh remarked last week that a movie like The Matrix would never get made today—like Matrix or not, it was a game changer at the time. (although I wish Matrix 2 or 3 hadn’t been made…)

    What happens if the US gets “used to” 10-12% unemployement like what plagues Europe and worse, Spain. Are we comfortable with permanent 10% U3 and 15-20% U6?

    I do know that if government running things was so great, then we should just go for 100% taxes on everything and let the government handle things for us.

    Rand may still be a bitch.

    ~~~

    BR: Put the numbers into context: The labor pool is 143 million people, out of a population of 308 million.

    The nature of our society of hunters, gatherers, and nesters is that many people — about half — do not work. They are either children, or stay at home moms, or retired.

  5. posted on this same article recently, ended up with a comments thread loaded with invective, neofascism, elitist ramblings and outright hatred.

    the cult will show up spittin’ mad in this comments section too, beware br! lol

  6. willid3 says:

    KORT, oddly enough we are the ones with the high UE now. with a few exceptions, the EU is much better off than the US is.

  7. Tom K says:

    @Kurt

    Are you saying there is such a thing as lazy and unproductive people? People who will vote for politicians to plunder the productive for their own benefit? Well, I have to question the rigor 9r your arguments — it sounds more like a religion than logic, more wishful thinking than reality based observations of how humans actually behave.

    You mean there are large number of humans who prefer to ride in the wagon even when they see others struggling to pull it? Nah! You’re observations of how humans behave must somehow be wrong.

  8. S Brennan says:

    Fun read…thanks

  9. justinabyrd says:

    Exactly which free market policies of Greenspan are at fault for our current dire economic situation.? None. Greenspan gave up the free market system when he became chairman of The Fed. The Federal Reserve is inherently anti-free market with its bureaucratic manipulation of interest rates and currency values. Not to mention Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which destabilized the housing market. i cannot think of two organizations which less exemplify the ideas of Ayn Rand.

    ~~~

    BR: And exactly how did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “destabilize” the housing market ?

  10. Transor Z says:

    Never was a Robert Heinlein fan for similar reasons. The movie of “Starship Troopers” had fun camping up a fascistic/elitist theme that Heinlein actually believed in when he wrote it.

    “The Fountainhead” was so painful to get through that I never read any more of her shit writing after that.

    Going to have to agree that anyone that likes Rand has a tin ear for literature and dialogue.

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

  11. CTB says:

    Is “kort” Russian for troll?

  12. “…but one thing I would give Rand credit for is the notion of Productive People vs Non Productive people and, in Shrugged, the Productive people essentially opting out of carrying the lazy along…”

    Kort,

    but, we Know that isn’t happening here: “a Democracy, whose economy is Free Market based.”

    wherever that is…

    “For years the satellite-spy-industry has flourished as a result of the “cold-war-fever” that plagued the United States and the Soviet Union: Extremely sensitive American and Soviet satellites have been orbiting the Earth with military objectives for years.

    Today a complex “civilian” spy network has nurtured with roots in the U.S. government structure and scientific community. The use of satellites, government bureaus and their corporate counterparts, are a far more efficient tool for resource exploitation and social control.

    The use of aerial photography and satellite imagery in the decision-making processes of local, state, and federal government is widespread. A spin-off from years of military development and space-age computerization, it is now apparent that individual collective privacy is being threatened from sources unseen.

    State governments usually use aerial photography and satellite imagery for road and highway planning as well as floodplain mapping. The infamous U-2 is being used in California for a variety of purposes. Local governments have used remote-sensing technology for tax assessment purposes and land ownership….”
    http://www.projectcensored.org/static/1977/1977-story25.htm
    http://www.libertyzone.com/Communist-Manifesto-Planks.html

    where, exactly, is this “a Democracy, whose economy is Free Market based.”-Fantasia?

    “Rand may still be a bitch.”, No Doubt.

    But, I was under the impression that True Premises were a necessity of Valid arguments..
    As always, I may be wrong, though, I’d like to learn ‘the right answer’..

    And, if it helps, ‘Rand fanbois’ are, indeed, a pathetic lot, but, less pathetic than those that use Rand as a stand-in for those that believe that “Socialism Can’t Calculate”.
    http://www.reasonforliberty.com/reason/socialism-cant-calculate.html

  13. investorinpa says:

    I was sent a copy of Atlas Shrugged by a friend of mine who insisted that I read it. I am 1/4 of the way done and while I must admit a lot of what Barry wrote about has merit, let’s be objective here. The writing occurred in the mid 1950′s. It was a different world back then. A few lessons in the book still are relevant, but shouldn’t the book be judged by its time period FIRST?

    Second of all, doesn’t it say something about the book that there is no other piece of fiction that speaks of today’s times in business the way that AS did for its era? I mean, what is the seminal piece of business fiction literature right now (spare the “Enron’s quarterly report” jokes!).

    So far, my opinion of the book is that it is ok by today’s standards, pretty good by 1950′s standards. And hey, they are making it into a movie, in which Dagny Taggart will be played by Angelina Jolie in 2010 from what I read some time ago. And that makes it worthwhile to me :-)

  14. CTB says:

    Atlas Shrugged plays to the considerable egos of men/women of wealth and power. No idea is more pleasing to the rich and elite than the idea that they are inherently smarter and well prepared than the common man. Luck never enters the equation. They blame poor people for not being educated enough, or not working hard enough.
    It’s disgustingly used as a rationalization for their greedy, society-destroying behavior.
    Let’s put the captains of industry on a desert island and see how they fare.

  15. john-nicholas says:

    I always think it’s cute when a new randian tells me how much they enjoy reading “Ann” Rand.

  16. Transor Z says:

    @investorinpa:

    If you want a reading list of stuff written in the 50s and earlier that shows Rand to be the hack she was, I’m happy to provide one. ;-)

    ~~~

    BR: Hit me!

  17. RW says:

    What Reformed Broker said — we are probably going to be up to our ears in madly oscillating ARA’s pretty soon — but man it was worth it for the excerpt alone and the links, the links: You’re aces in my household BR (or was that asses, oh well, you get it).

    Here’s a link in return, not nearly as fun though: http://tinyurl.com/ycrkvyg
    Can’t even get a direct jobs bill off the ground in this poisoned political climate much less get it passed/signed into law. What a stinking mess.

  18. sjcny says:

    @investorinpa:

    Yes, look at the trash her contemporaries were producing….Lolita, The Adventures of Augie March, the Naked and the Dead, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, etc. etc. Oh, and a little novelized response to totalitarianism called 1984. But yes, for penis imagery and rape fantasies, she was without peer.

  19. HarryWanger says:

    Love it! Great job, Barry!

  20. Haigh says:

    In our Christian culture, Rand’s insight that organizes human interaction into traders vs looters is an oasis in a dry desert.

  21. Joe Friday says:

    Kort,

    “When W came into office i 2000, 33% of tax filers were not paying federal income tax. When he left last year, it 39%. It appears under O, this number will get close to 50% in short order. What happens to a society when 60% are getting a free ride? 70%?”

    Eh, when the federal income tax was originally enacted, it only applied to taxpayers with income in excess of $500,000, with less than 1% of the population paying it. That means more than 99% of the population was exempt.

    We prospered.

  22. Craiggan says:

    Rand resonates because of these principles: 1. An individual’s life belongs to himself. 2. Physical forces is not a proper way to deal with others. 3. The proper purpose of government is to protect individuals from force or fraud. Are these the principles of “assholes” or immature undergraduates? I think not.

  23. bsneath says:

    “Feeling fisted by the Invisible Hand of the Market lo these past fifteen months? Lost a job lately? Or half the value of your 401(k)? Or a home? All three? Been wondering whence the too-long-ascendant political and economic ideas and forces behind Greenspanism, John Thainism, blind Wall Street plunder, bankruptcy, credit-default swaps, Bernie Madoff, and the ensuing Cannibalism in the Streets? Then you, sir, need to give thanks to Ayn Rand Assholes everywhere—as well as the steely loins from which they sprang.” ”

    That was one high-quality rant! (I’m jealous as all get out.)

  24. VennData says:

    Kort,

    You say, “…When W came into office i 2000, 33% of tax filers were not paying federal income tax…”

    But you’re falling for the slippery GOP “Not paying Federal income tax” talking point. Key slip: “income tax.” The GOP talking point (run endless in WSJ etc) aren’t including all the other non-income yet income-based taxes, like SS, Medicare etc… More people (two-thirds) pay more in Social Security taxes than income taxes…

    http://www.urban.org/publications/1001065.html

    …which is used to cover the deficit interestingly enough, ever since Reagan raised Social security taxes.

    Objectivism is dead meat, why? Who’s buying all the stuff you sell Superman?

  25. Wes Schott says:

    i was too interested surfing (as in waves) and chasing the beach girls down in So Fl as a kid to read very much…so, i did not come across Ayn Rand until after college…i drank the kool aid (of her philosophy).

    i was in a meeting once, circa 1979, while working for a major oil company that also had a bunch of coast guard guys in attendance. we were trying to get the deepwater oil bidness going, and being an ocean engineer, i was interested in designing and building the floating platforms that would provide the surface “real estate” to allow these types of projects to be realized.

    there were few codified engineering practices that covered what we were trying to do since their was no precedents. there were federal rules and regulations primarily pertaining to safety of life at sea and the USCG guys were spewing off about CFR 1.2.3, and Regulations 4.3.2 section 4 pp 15 or whatever – stuff i had not even heard about, but they did this with bureaucratic, self righteous fervor.

    finally, this newly converted ARA could not take it anymore, and, to the horror of the company’s regulatory affairs representative, I stood up in the meeting and said that these guys (the Coast Guard dudes) were “like leaches on the backs of productive members of society, growing like a cancer….”

    …the kool aid has long since been pissed out of my system……what a flashback…..i enjoyed the send up

  26. VennData says:

    And speaking of female darlings of the right… Would love to barista for the Sec. of State, Yale Law grad and the new female darling of the right…

    Clinton: Happy To Talk To Palin Over Coffee

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/15/clinton-happy-to-talk-to-_n_358277.html

    Maybe Palin will affix a school of “thought” to her philosophy like the Russian, Rand, did… Quitism?

  27. pstoller says:

    Yes, Rand’s writing is useless both as literature and as philosophy, although valuable as compost. But, I knew that when I was 19. I have no idea why Corsello thinks “recovering” from Rand is so difficult; I “got done” with her the moment I got done slogging through her dreadful prose, if not well before. As for blaming all our economic woes on Rand’s odiferous blast radius, let’s not overstate the case. The very fact that these people gulped down that load of codswallop and then kept it down was a pretty good indication of where they were headed—and with what limitations of character and intellect—anyway.

  28. KidDynamite says:

    wow. now HERE is an interesting thread.

    Kort wrote:
    “one thing I would give Rand credit for is the notion of Productive People vs Non Productive people and, in Shrugged, the Productive people essentially opting out of carrying the lazy along”

    for me, that’s the crux of it – maybe you can change the word “lazy” – but it’s about what we all think are basic human rights. While most agree on shelter and food, we can’t even find a way to agree on healthcare, never mind cheap rail transport and its offshoots (Atlas Shrugged)

    I am just finishing Atlas Shrugged for the first time, and it’s a remarkable time in history to be reading the book, as it seems life is imitating art. Our policy solutions to close revenue gaps feel to be largely to increase taxes on the wealthy. That’s all fine and dandy until the wealthy go John Gault and leave the system.

    Now, lest someone accuse me of being some naive Rand idealist – the reason this concept hit me so hard is that I felt it before I read the book. I quit my job in late 2007 because for me the equation no longer worked – that of giving 50%+ of my earnings to the system. So now, instead of getting a crapton of money from me in taxes, the system will get nothing. The notion that high earners have a breaking point is not just a Rand fantasy – at least for me it wasn’t.

  29. KidDynamite says:

    ps – Barry – I don’t think the philosophy of Atlas Shrugged and John Galt was that anything that makes you feel good is ok… I think it was that there is no “owe” – there is no “deserve.” You have to EARN everything.

  30. Winston Munn says:

    Wasn’t Ayn Rand also the Lady in the Lake who gave Sir Alan his baton and turned him into The Maestro and who was later burned at the stake for turning Sir Gingrich into a Newt and weighing the same as a duck?

  31. Wes Schott says:

    …that’d be her, Winston

  32. danm says:

    Would they continue to vote for a system that rewards them and punishes the top 30-40%?
    ——–
    Another error in logic. Why do you assume that the 30-40% are morally superior? Is that 30-40% more productive or just plain lucky?

    Maybe a huge % of that 30-40% deserves to pay for the rest. Seems to me there is a nice % ot those who are overpaid bureaucrats. I’m not saying that all bureaucrats are unproductive, I’m just saying there’s alittle too much self-righteousness going on out there.

  33. madman130 says:

    “Feeling fisted by the Invisible Hand of the Market lo these past fifteen months? Lost a job lately? Or half the value of your 401(k)? Or a home? All three? Been wondering whence the too-long-ascendant political and economic ideas and forces behind Greenspanism, John Thainism, blind Wall Street plunder, bankruptcy, credit-default swaps, Bernie Madoff, and the ensuing Cannibalism in the Streets? Then you, sir, need to give thanks to Ayn Rand Assholes everywhere—as well as the steely loins from which they sprang.”

    BS. A lot of things mentioned happened in 30′s, too. I don’t think Randism was so popular back then.
    Blaming Rand for today’s problems is like blaming fish for low water levels. It lacks of perspective and ignores all the reality. Not a Randian myself. Never finished a book of her, found to be too long and boring but I get the gist of it.

    Excellent summary, Craiggan! A+

  34. danm says:

    1. An individual’s life belongs to himself. 2. Physical forces is not a proper way to deal with others. 3. The proper purpose of government is to protect individuals from force or fraud. Are these the principles of “assholes” or immature undergraduates? I think not.
    ————-
    Socipath could not care less about those assumed “rights” and research has shown that both the political and business worlds are run by a slew of them.

  35. danm says:

    Now, lest someone accuse me of being some naive Rand idealist – the reason this concept hit me so hard is that I felt it before I read the book. I quit my job in late 2007 because for me the equation no longer worked – that of giving 50%+ of my earnings to the system. So now, instead of getting a crapton of money from me in taxes, the system will get nothing. The notion that high earners have a breaking point is not just a Rand fantasy – at least for me it wasn’t
    ————-
    Considering that over 75-80% of America’s wealth is in the hands of the 55+, it’ll be interesting to see how the younger generation reacts when the retirees don’t want to share.

    Not many people realize that our worker to dependant ratio just peaked in the last couple of years and will only go down. It’s demographics pure and simple.

    So either the wealth gets even more concentrated (Banana republic) or gets redistributed (socialism).

    Something tellls me the older folk are going to complain so the sharing will get ugly.

  36. austincompany says:

    KidDynamite : ” I am just finishing Atlas Shrugged for the first time, and it’s a remarkable time in history to be reading the book, as it seems life is imitating art. Our policy solutions to close revenue gaps feel to be largely to increase taxes on the wealthy. That’s all fine and dandy until the wealthy go John Gault and leave the system.”

    I agree with the kid. Seems to me that many New Yorkers are leaving the state because of high taxes;

    http://www.huliq.com/8738/88168/new-yorkers-flee-states-high-taxes-poorer-newcomers-replace-them

    I would assume this is also happening in California, Chicago, etc. Forgive the kid and I if we tire of working harder simply to see more of our monies being taxed and then given to those that do not. And the earlier comment from Kort about the fact that soon 50% (of INCOME TAX FILERS – NOT children, etc.) will not be paying INCOME TAXES (yes, not FICA, etc.) means that you have an increasing number of people that are DEPENDENT on the system and a fewer number of people that are CONTRIBUTING TO the system. This does not seem to be a difficult problem to grasp. And quite frankly, if this is what Ms. Rand was saying and bitchin about, then I would have to agree with her.

  37. Patrick Neid says:

    “Worst of all, Rand’s Objectivism has become the rationale for all manner of morally repugnant behaviour. However, I did take one personal lesson from Atlas Shrugged to heart: Anytime I see a parked car with a John Galt bumper sticker, I like to knock off one of the sideview mirrors, and leave it on the hood. I include a note stating my selfish, random act made me feel good, and therefore should be a perfectly fine act in their world.

    I assume the recipients miss the irony . . .”

    You are kidding?

    ~~~

    BR: Only a little . . .

  38. Transor Z says:

    Barry,

    I’ll just stick with American lit that people other than pretentious English majors can actually enjoy in 2009:

    Huckleberry Finn (1884!), Grapes of Wrath, A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman. Great Gatsby. And since Atlas is going to be a movie, let’s see how the dialogue stacks up against Casablanca.

  39. Travis says:

    I’m hoping this entire post is some sort of joke. Honestly I just lost a lot of respect for you Barry.

    Worst of all, Rand’s Objectivism has become the rationale for all manner of morally repugnant behaviour. However, I did take one personal lesson from Atlas Shrugged to heart: Anytime I see a parked car with a John Galt bumper sticker, I like to knock off one of the sideview mirrors, and leave it on the hood. I include a note stating my selfish, random act made me feel good, and therefore should be a perfectly fine act in their world.

    I assume the recipients miss the irony . . .

    Could you explain the irony for those of us that are too dense? Because to me the above makes me wonder if you have even read Atlas Shrugged. Like many others you appear to be simply reacting to the loaded word “selfish”.

    ~~~

    BR: 1) Dont be so literal;
    2) The reaction isn’t to Rand’s words, it is to the people who so blindly embraced those words

  40. GuinnessFan says:

    Kid Dynamite writes: “I quit my job in late 2007 because for me the equation no longer worked – that of giving 50%+ of my earnings to the system. So now, instead of getting a crapton of money from me in taxes, the system will get nothing. The notion that high earners have a breaking point is not just a Rand fantasy – at least for me it wasn’t.”

    Dear Kid: Enjoy your sabbatical. I doubt that the world has missed your contributions. If you were performing a useful function I’m sure there will be someone who feels less wronged and will step in to fill your shoes. Ultimately you are like me and others who read and commemt on this blog. You’re only labor. You’re replaceable.

  41. NoahAddle says:

    To me, Ayn Rand’s writing represents a continuation of Nietzche’s ideal of the enlightened individual breaking free of the restraints placed on him by society and achieving the ultimate freedom of being able to shape his own environment in whatever way he chooses. Finding meaning in this world then becomes up to the individual and not restricted to what’s acceptable to society. This is both freeing and disconcerting because it implies that there is no common “touchstone” from which everyone will necessarily agree upon, e.g religion, etc. and find common values. Rand’s ideas support the very core philosophy of individualism we see today in this country. Like all good ideas, they are very easily misinterpreted by their followers or taken too far.

    ~~~

    BR: The difference being that Nietzche is relatively readable . . .

  42. Goldilocksisableachblond says:

    The bottom 90% of the income distribution may be currently engaged — unknowingly — in a version of ” going Galt ” , as they cut up their credit cards and refuse to continue working two or three jobs to eke out some degraded counterfeit of ‘ The American Dream’ , and instead resign themselves to the fate Rand would say they’ve deserved all along — subsistence living. No electronic gadgets , vacations , health insurance , restaurant meals , just the basics. Thus trashing the U.S. economy.

    It would be poetic justice if the working class decimated the Randian’s huge accumulations of wealth by using her own techniques , even if they didn’t realize it.

  43. izimbra says:

    Rupert Murdoch is far more toxic than Rand and, nowadays, far more influential through his editorial control of the WSJ, Fox Network, and dozens of other large media operations.

  44. thistle says:

    I’m in full agreement with the Kid as well. I will add that if tax rates go above 50%, I have an incentive to take not only my productive labor out of the system, I will pull my borrowed capital as well. Here’s a perfect example: the proposed limitation on mortgage interest deductability. If Mr O decides that the “wealthy” don’t deserve a full deduction of their interest, then that raises my after-tax cost substantially, particularly in the 50%+ tax rate world. My response? If and when, I plan to sell US stocks from my savings accounts and pay off the mortgage. This isn’t me being an Ayn Randian jerk – it’s me looking at the numbers and seeing a disincentive to be invested in America when the hurdle rate just rose. So the bank gets its money back (reduced multiplier) and stocks are sold (less capital in the system). On the margin, my decision means little. But if more people start to think this way….

  45. wunsacon says:

    The graveyards are full of indispensable people. Similarly, others will step up to take the jobs vacated by Kid and others who “have enough” to exit the system from which they’ve already profited so handsomely.

  46. wunsacon says:

    At the same time, as we raise taxes, I can only hope that and encourage a lot of amoral scumbags in the FIRE economy to “go Galt”. By all means!

    And who will continue taking high pressure jobs for less money? Maybe those who are motivated by more than just numero uno.

  47. danm says:

    Although I know that people are tax averse and will walk away in the name of tax arbitrage there is still an irrefutable fact out there…

    75-80% of the wealth is owned by 55+.

    So either the concentration of welath increases and the US goes Banana republic or the wealth gets redistributed and the US goes more sociali*t.

    I know the 55+ will do lots of complaining but it will be interesting if they catch on when young do lots of walking away.

  48. danm says:

    What I am saying is that for most of you, whatever happens you’re not going to like it. You can run, you can hide, whatever you do there is going to be a redistribution of wealth.

    Anf if there isn’t you’re going Banana Republic.

  49. censeo says:

    Where does this antedeluvian shit resurface from? Ayn Rand? Read it just before college; anyone who talked it after sophomore year hadn’t taken a break from speed since freshman orientation. Also never thought I’d see anti-Darwinianism. Or the most wonderous and common corrupted take on the Constitution. Yes yes of course Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton were Born again. Riiiiight. It would be a great use to our American way of life if people read books, That is books–plural. Not one, not the Fox News Cliff Notes version. Read people. Like the Constitution; it takes about 7 minutes at a 4th grade reading level. Don’t say nothing about free markets, abortion. Christ (christ!).

    Back to Rant (sic). If the old USA really operated like an Ayn Rant novel (see the movie version of The Fountaindead) life in this country would be like… I don’t know… Like the Soviet Union. That’s it.

  50. Yossarian says:

    Wow Barry, I am an avid reader of this blog but I just lost a lot of respect for you. You have managed to lump yourself in with the rest of the reactionary Left who bastardizes the concepts of Capitalism and the Objectivism of Ayn Rand in order to equate them with fraud, theft, dishonesty, and generally parasitic behavior when the entire substance of the aforementioned theories are based on the opposite; Objectivism is based on virtue, honesty, respect for yourself and others, property rights, and reward for contribution. Furthermore, to link Objectivism to this crisis is laughable when the epicenter of the entire crisis is a Central Bank and fiat money regime that is the antithesis of what Rand advocated for. From The Virtue of Selfishness:

    “There is a fundamental moral difference between a man who sees his self-interest in production and a man who sees it in robbery. The evil of a robber does not lie in the fact that he pursues his own interests, but in what he regards as to his own interest; not in the fact that he pursues his values, but in what he chose to value; not in the fact that he wants to live, but in the fact that he wants to live on a subhuman level (see “The Objectivist Ethics”).

    If it is true that what I mean by “selfishness” is not what is meant conventionally, then this is one of the worst indictments of altruism: it means that altruism permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting man—a man who supports his life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others. It means that altruism permits no view of men except as sacrificial animals and profiteers-on-sacrifice, as victims and parasites—that it permits no concept of a benevolent co-existence among men—that it permits no concept of justice.”

    ~~~

    BR: Blah blah blah . . . Its just so much nonsensical blather, blessedly data free, only loosely connected to reality.

    One of the things I have learned in the many years of writing this blog is to consider and anticipate how things will be misinterpreted. Clearly, that’s something Rand might have given some thought to.

    But the bottom line is I found the world Rand created to have little correlation to way actual Human Beings think and feel and behave in the real world. . .

  51. tt says:

    The real story is that the usa tax code is already pretty close to a flat tax. When everything is taken into consideration the effective tax rate of vast majority of people in usa is about 20%. this includes income tax, SS tax, Sales tax. This does not really change much even with huge differences in marginal rates. The whole tax debate is usually silly. Do you know how many bets I have won when I challenge a friend that tells me they pay near 50%. Break out the tax return and win a bet. Effective rates are very reasonable in usa. And it is very similar across all income groups.

    Of course if one is smart, one can set ones life accordingly and pay a very small rate of effective rate. Real Estate and manufacturing and farming come to mind. People that say they pay 50% taxes are delusional. It is very rare.

  52. Marcus Aurelius says:

    “I imagine that Freud would bluntly use Randian logic to note they inhabit a guise of superiority in part to compensate for vast and deeply felt inferiorities and insecurities. . .”
    ________________

    Randian men sport 3′ long vaginas.

  53. bergsten says:

    OK. I really should have the sense to steer clear of this one. So, right off — if you agree with me, then I’m “me.” If you don’t, then blame this comment on that CNBCS guy.

    I also just happened to read “the two” Ann Rynd (“Rand” is the corporation) novels quite recently. I had no preconceived notions — I was book-deprived and a friend just happened to lent me the books in exchange for some I already read and lent to him (no loss of revenue here, Barry, I’ve only lent your book once, to a neighbor).

    I read the shorter book in its entirety. I read the longer one and skipped the 60-page radio speech) (which, as best as I could tell took nothing away from the “story”). So, here’s my Ann Rynd FAQ:

    Was it the best fiction ever written? Not by a long shot. Was it the worst? Not by a long shot. Let’s see you sit down and write 1,800 odd pages of fiction. Without a computer. Having said that, the stories could have been told in 1/3 the number of pages…

    Was the topic original and clever? “I” thought so — I’ll get to that in a bit– I’ve read thousands of books, and never saw these ideas made into a story before.

    Was it dated? Sure — people flew their own planes for personal transport — everybody smoked — you had to queue up for “the long distance telephone” and so forth. But, less dated than, say Beowulf.

    Is it fit for high school or college kids to read? Of course not. Neither is history — sorry, but kids haven’t lived enough to have enough experience to put this stuff into context.

    So, should one take the opinions of anyone who “read this as a kid 30 years ago”? Let’s leave that one for the reader to decide.

    Did these works inspire a Philosophy and perhaps a Religion? Sigh. Sure seems that way. On the other hand, so did L. Ron Hubbard’s Science Fiction. For all I know, so will Steven King’s in a few decades.

    Was there any real reason to? Not as far as I can tell.

    So, what’s all the fuss about? Got me, boss. Seems like, every time somebody puts forward a novel or “original” idea (good or otherwise) a bunch of people start following them around, their ego (and income) grows by leaps and bounds, they take themselves all kinds of serious, and before you know it, they and their group are all doing phenomenally stupid things (just to tribe-up and stand apart), and the author gets all the blame.

    OK. Was there any ideas in the books worth considering?

    Well, here things get tricky — so tricky in fact, that we had to start a whole new paragraph. Remember the Blind Men and the Elephant (if not, go look it up)? It appears that everyone who reads this stuff comes away what they think is “the central idea” but you have to figure that at 1,800 pages, there are many central ideas and each will appeal to different readers.

    Do you realize, by the way, she did the plot of The Producers in a paragraph? And used the phrase “fear and loathing” decades before Hunter Thompson? And that, you can take virtually any incredibly dumb statement in the book and find some company somewhere whose HR department issued almost exactly the same thing as a new policy/procedure.

    These books had an ax to grind, and it was mostly against Stalin’s neck. As a reaction to her and others’ unbelievably awful treatment in the USSR, she postulated the idea the everybody should only be responsible for themselves, thereby eliminating the overhead of “freeloaders.” This, of course, is simplistic, and gets anyone with a heart (or a primate-based social brain) upset, as not everyone has the capacity at all times to take care of themselves.

    I can certainly see that, if this is all one got out of the reading, one could be tempted to blame all selfish behavior on Ann Rynd. Somehow, though, I suspect that selfish behavior (or the rationale for it) didn’t begin in 1953, so you can all kinds of upset at Rynd if you like, but that’s a bit simplistic and unreasonable too.

    Here is what “I” felt was new and unique about her stories:

    Both books illustrate how crappy society treats those who actually create/produce something — not the wealthy, or the upper classes, or the “royalty,” or the celebrities — the producers of stuff. The problem is that creative people are driven and motivated by the desire and result of creation not necessarily by financial gain, consequently they can be treated like shit because they will continue to create anyway — what choice do they have? This is why we have so many “starving artists.”

    Ann had a clever and unique idea. What would happen to society if these “producers” just stopped producing? This hasn’t ever happened (a union strike is the closest thing we’ve seen to this, but that is kind of a different cohort), and for the reason above, probably never will (though you see more and more of this passive resistance attitude of individuals or groups indulging in nonviolent civil disobedience in things like Dilbert and The Simpsons).

    My conclusions:

    1. Give the poor dead woman a break — ad hominem attacks don’t even cut it against the deceased.

    2. Maybe, instead of everybody bitching about how some B-Team 50′s novelist destroyed American society, we ought to be thinking about treating our creative people better before they all turn into Homer and Wally?

    OK. You try being profound in a little input rectangle.

    p.s. I don’t have a Rynd sticker, I’ve never joined anything, and my rearview mirror is already bashed off.

  54. Awesome comment, bergsten

    ~~~

    Reality check: As bad as things have gotten in this nation over the past decade, its still damned fine for the elite. The US tax rate is cheaper than most of the industrialized world. I find the whining of the wealthy (ARAs especially) to be self-serving and lacking in all gratitude for their situation.

    The top 1% of this country have it pretty damned good — they own multiple homes, plenty of high end toys, and have the most important luxury of all: time. The smarter ones easily provide for their family’s safety, health and well being.

    The top one tenth of that top 1% live like Kings. There is nothing they can imagine they cannot possess, own or experience.

    Like Mae West said: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor — rich is much better.”

  55. @tt: 20% tax…you can’t be serious. The social security tax is 15% right there when you consider that you could receive the employer paid portion of the tax. Then you have an average 6% sales tax, which is even higher for hotels, airfare, utilities, and other items. Considering our savings rate is below 5%, we could assume that most people pay at least 4% to sales tax. With an effective federal income tax of 15%, we are at 34% for average folks. This ignores any real estate and state income tax. That might be another 5% or more depending on your locale. So even folks in the 25% federal tax bracket are really paying close to 40% to taxes. If one is in the top tax bracket, they are getting darn close to 45 or 46%.

    Rand’s writing does drag on and on. She could have made her point in a 1/4 of the pages. So you can’t make a case that she is a great writer. I also think many who have read her works misinterpret them. They think she advocates anarchy. She just believes that each individual should be treated equally in all aspects. The collective, whether it is unions or governments, tend to limit the rights of the individual. I would rather live in a world where individual rights reign supreme than the collective is celebrated.

  56. Marcus Aurelius says:

    All of this bitching about taxes. Jeeeeezus!

    We’re running deficits while the wealthiest among us hoard cash and commodities. I’ll bet the national debt we’ve taken on since Ronnie RayGun equals the income gap between the wealthiest 2% and the rest of us to the penny over the same period of time.

    Look around, Randians: see all of the good shit in our society? The schools? The libraries? The electric lights? The highway system? Every goddamned thing else that separates us from the Afghanis? Taxes (and since RR, debt, a.k.a: taxes deferred) paid for it all. We voted for getting stuck with the bill under the false pretense that if we made the “productive” among us pay for any of it, society would collapse. Well guess what — society is collapsing now, and y’all are still protecting the ideology that put us here.

    Like I said, 3′ long . . .

  57. Transor Z says:

    Like somebody said above, Rand is warmed-over Nietzche, only a sucky unreadable version. Message to all you self-styled ubermenschen out there: you and everyone you love are one drunk driver away from a wheelchair. Get over yourselves. Even Bill Bennett finally came around and acknowledged the role of birth lottery.

    I’m off to watch the Pats/Colts, ’cause I’m a non-producer like that.

    Untermensch out.

  58. Yossarian says:

    Blah blah blah is quite an intelligent response- I’m starting to think that your 15 minutes of fame may already be up.

    Who is saying that Rand would celebrate those in the top 1% and condemn those in the bottom 1%? Her views are all about merit, and there is clearly less merit in sucking money from wealth producers via Government Sachs than there is in working 40 hrs a week as a janitor. Rand’s views were clearly anti-Elitist and pro-innovator.

    As far as your phallic reference, I think Objectivists are fairly secure in both their own abilities and the ability of their fellow man to add value. It is Collectivists: Communists, Socialists, Fascists, etc. who use the power of government to coerce citizens to support the narrow interests of the few. I look at Collectivists on both the Left and the Right as generally insecure people who need to be needed.

  59. davossherman@gmail.com says:
  60. stutaub says:

    Your analysis of Ayn Rand and her philosophy couldn’t be more off in many respects. Asserting that you think knocking off someone’s rear view mirror in the guise of ‘selfishness” without penalty or fines is somehow consistent with her philosphy reveals how little you really know. Too bad. While her philosphy is definitely flawed, so is our semi-capitalistic based economic system. Greenspan as Fed Chairman, heck even having a fed chairman would have been an anathema to Rand. So would unregulated or unchecked markets as well as the bailouts ad naseum.

    The tryanny of the majority Rand preached about is running rampant through Obamanomics. Life is indeed mimicking art and we are reminded of it everyday as the Messiah and his minions through Pelosi and Co. have press conference after press conference. Your fail to see the “big picture” here at all. So sad.

  61. bergsten says:

    Oh yeah, as for Ayn Rand’s (yes, I know the “y” is in the first name — you can’t EDIT in the little input rectangle either) Objectivism Philosophy…

    In My Humble Opinion — Philosophy is for the idle rich and the idle poor. The rest of us just don’t have the time for such foolishness.

    So, I got no opinion on it whatsoever (other than it makes for a great insomnia cure).

  62. Pat Shuff says:

    CSPAN Booknotes had the authors of two recent Rand books on, neither of whom wielded hatchets no worshipped at the feet of Goddess of the Market.

    http://www.booktv.org/Program/10928/Anne+Heller+quotAyn+Rand+and+the+World+She+Madequot+and+Jennifer+Burns+quotGoddess+of+the+Market+Ayn+Rand+and+the++++American+Rightquot.aspx

    Both authors and books spoke to the powerful political DNA that Rand has and is contributing, from her involvent with the failed Wendell Willkie campaign through Goldwater and Reagan, National Review and WSJ editorial page.
    There are many superior talents in the libetartarian vein like economists and political philosophical but both authors gathered from their research that due to Rand’s reach and popularity she is easily the Big Fish spawning much of what still courses through stream today. It is a good program, worth watching whatever’s one’s view or leanings.

    They spoke of Rand and her movement flailing through the 40′s into the 50′s until the genius of grafting on the altruism motivation, the avenue to a higher moral ground that seems necessary for traction and appeal for isms,
    whether con/liber-tar-al/enviro/soc/com/naz etc, the mitochondria that retains devotees and lends passion to the proselytizing necessary to win converts and lobs artillery across all battlegrounds.

    A NYT Book Review of Gladwell’s WHAT THE DOG SAW, a critique piece, Stephen Pinker.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/books/review/Pinker-t.html

    The GQ article opens early with “A weirdly specific thing happens with the books of Ayn Rand. It’s not just the what of the books, but when a reader discovers them—almost always during the first or second year of college. Rand grabs a reader at a time of maximum vulnerability and malleability, when he’s getting his first accurate sense of how he measures up in the world in terms of intellect and talent.”

    Reading that some weeks ago I found it equally or more apt to Econ 101, retaking 101 then 2,3 during evening adult courses 20 years later in the mid-Nineties, bringing some volumes of an Hayek or Mises etc under my belt for contrast.
    Interesting, the diverging shadows of Keynes and Hayek probably loom largest across the past century’s economics yet the text used for all three Econ segments for the year contained no mention of that school of economic thought nor Hayek, whether in the text or index or bibliography or footnotes, nowhere. The middle aged econ prof nearing retirement was largely unfamiliar with any of it.

    An earlier poster ‘I quit my job in late 2007 because for me the equation no longer worked’ expressed my experience, retiring half dozen years ago pre-50 not to embrace greed and rapaciousness but to elude it. It does happen, owners have thrown the keys to the place in the face of another bureaucratic antagonist.

    Another poster ‘Similarly, others will step up to take the jobs vacated by Kid and others who “have enough” to exit the system from which they’ve already profited so handsomely.’

    As I recall it was dirty face and dirty jeans, hopefully clean hands after washing, and some risk to life and limb in precarious situations. It wasn’t much money, just somehow managing to spend less than earned which amounted to judiciously managed savings that grew, alot of sheer blind dumb luck, allowing present liberties. Not to prosyletize an ism but I would recommend it to anyone, the guilt for non-contibuting belongs with the cause.

  63. crosey says:

    And you would assert that the lazy, socialist villains within Atlas Shrugged cannot be found, prolific, amongst us, today?

    You Fools! Throwing out the babies with the bath water.

    Wake up to the reality of that which is smothering the last of any freedom, and self-determination, you will ever have. There are hipocrytes on both sides of the aisle. Make your own way! Shun career politicians, and the status quo boardroom. They seek to ONLY hold their positions.

    Next step? Vote with your dollars, and your ballot. Invest ONLY in what you believe is right and viable. Don’t vote for the charlatans. If there has ever been a time in history when we can easily identify the charlatans, it’s today! Find a worthy candidate and WORK for their election. Make it happen! Retake America!

    It may take decades, but we did not get into this mess overnight. It will take time and some BUST ASS hard work to correct the problems that we have allowed to be.

    How hard are YOU willing to work? You KNOW what needs to be done. Are you willing to DO it?

    All great plans are ultimately reduced to work.

  64. Joe Friday says:

    KidDynamite,

    “Our policy solutions to close revenue gaps feel to be largely to increase taxes on the wealthy. That’s all fine and dandy until the wealthy go John Gault and leave the system.”

    RightWing gibberish.

    A) The two greatest periods of prosperity in the 20th Century were when federal income tax rates on the Rich & Corporate were either at their highest or after the federal income tax had been raised on the Rich & Corporate.

    B) On Friday night, during an interview with Charlie Rose, Warren Buffett stated:

    * “If we’re looking for more money, I think we ought to be looking at guys like me. I am still paying a lower rate on dividends and capital gains than my cleaning lady is in her payroll tax.”

    * “I’ve worked with all kinds of systems of taxation. I’ve worked with hundreds of rich people, even in the ’50s and the ’60s when the top rate was 70% and I’ve worked with them when the capital gains rate was 39.6%, and not one of them ever said ‘It’s one o’clock, instead of working this afternoon I think I’ll go to the movies because my marginal rate is so high’. If anything, they worked harder.”

    “I quit my job in late 2007 because for me the equation no longer worked – that of giving 50%+ of my earnings to the system.”

    NOBODY in America pays 50% of their income in taxes.

    You’re either ignorantly adding up tax brackets (which nobody pays) instead of percentages of income, or you’re a liar.

  65. wrongway says:

    A little off topic here, but I just read my daughter’s homework assignment, Animal Farm. I’d never read it in high school – too busy drinking beer and I wouldn’t have understood it anyway.

    It seems to me that this book is as relevant to our own current society as it was to the old Soviet Union. More relevant and thought provoking than Ayn Rand.

    In any society or organization that I’ve seen, it appears true that those at the top didn’t necessarily get there by merit and their primary concern is not in improving life for anybody but themselves. Their time is spent in solidifying and improving their own position. There certainly are a lot of Napolean the Pig types in this world. I just hope that I’m not Boxer the Horse.

  66. ShatteredArm says:

    I can’t help but shake my head at the recent stream of people disparaging Ayn Rand because Greenspan once claimed to have been influenced by her. I’m no Ayn Rand apologist by any means, but to claim Greenspan’s policies are Randian is no different than if I were to claim to be a vegan, and someone then blaming vegans for problems caused by my all-meat diet. It doesn’t matter how much lip service Greenspan paid Rand. The wealthy people in our society are not John Galts; they are James Taggarts.

  67. Machiavelli999 says:

    This is @Yossarian and @Barry,

    The reason that Obama has such a problem doing the necessary things to fix this economy is because if he did, if he nationalized the banks, setup a strong regulatory structure and all the other stuff you recommend, the Yossarians of the world would say he is a communist, socialist, death pannels, etc., etc. In your blog, purposefully or unpurposefully you continue to underestimate the people of this cult. The Rand cult.

    And the comments you are receiving here, just show the power of this cult following.

    And Yossarian, Rand’s world would exist if humans were perfectly rational and considered the long term consequences of their short term decisions. But they don’t. As Barry has pointed out many, many times, people can often be irrational for long periods of time.

    Now, here is what you must understand Yossarian. This does not mean that we are bashing capitalism. We love capitalism. But we understand that there needs to be rules setup for capitalism to work appropriately. Some of these rules are undeniably useful: contract enforcement. But there are others as well that are needed especially in a complex financial and globally intertwined world that we live in today. But Ayn Rand and her cult following reject all these rules and the only question I have for them is why not anarchism. I mean if all rules applied by governments to govern the behavior of men are so evil, what is wrong with anarchism?

  68. bergsten says:

    @wrongway — you might also check out Orwell’s life story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell) — by no means dull. Among other things, apparently Animal House was dropped by one publisher based on the influence of a British government employee who turned out to be a Soviet agent. Har.

    Also, allegedly 1984 (written about 40 years prior to that date) was based on Orwell’s experiences working for the BBC…

  69. R.D. says:

    Anal = RAND

    but “” LUCK

    is the resevor of a prepared mind””

    author unknown

  70. AJ says:

    I love the split between the two camps . . .

  71. postmodernprimate says:

    …the Productive people essentially opting out of carrying the lazy along.
    “…for me, that’s the crux of it” – Kid Dynamite

    Is lazy/unproductive being defined so narrowly that every full time worker paying little or nothing in income tax would be included? Doesn’t someone have to fill these jobs? What would happen to the economy if everyone making less than $30,000 went “Galt” en masse to make a point about how undervalued their contribution really is? Isn’t higher taxes to pay for more social benefits the flip side of “productive people” using global labor arbitrage to take profits at the expense of middle class jobs?

  72. catman says:

    In her time and place Aynie was the literary equivalent of the La Haye end of the world shit that went around the last few years. Too bad Monty Python never got around to those two and Hugh Hefner, although they did a nice job on Jean Paul Sartre.

  73. impermanence says:

    Barry writes:
    “The top one tenth of that top 1% live like Kings. There is nothing they can imagine they cannot possess, own or experience.”

    I believe this to be one of the greatest mis-conceptions of modern material existence. Generally speaking, these people are where they are because of a tremendous imbalance in their lives. Although they may be at the top in net worth, they probably lacking of an equal magnitude in other areas of their lives.

    It seems that the truly greatest humans throughout history were almost always dirt poor.

  74. Andy T says:

    Bergsten@7.46. Well stated. A lot of thought went into that comment. It was sober, coherent and many many good points. Thanks.

    Barry’s response to you comment?…meh! Not so much….

    Everything swings in cycles and right now it is clearly “cool” to bash the Randian crowd, given that they are totally responsible for everything that has gone wrong in the last 30 years (he he). I cannot believe BR spent that many pixels doing this sort of ‘hit and run’ on some dead lady incapable of defending herself. Classy. Must have had a real desire to get a faux “debate” going here….well done!

  75. Jessica6 says:

    The problem with a lot of ‘Randtards’ is that they confuse what are essentially trust fund brats and well-connected people with ‘productive people’. Come on, how many people at say, Goldman Sachs or JPM actually produce anything? Ever see that reality TV show with music producer David Fosters’ kids? Best argument for putting in a 99% estate tax if you ask me.

    Part of what’s brought on this financial crisis is the lousy corporate culture that’s become more and more prevalent over the years – one that rewards sucking up and following the herd rather than actual engenuity and creativity. Just reading ‘Conspiracy of Fools’ on how Enron was run but I’ve seen similar stuff at other companies. The people who are kinda dumb and don’t ask too many questions or value climbing the ranks and getting a fat bonus regardless of the extent it eventually destabilizes the compnay go a lot further than the clever ones who see crooked deals for what they are, lousy accounting for what it is, and incompetence in their ‘superiors’ – and instead of being rewarded, they are punished.

    As for ‘wealth redistribution’ – currently, it’s being taken from the middle class and given to the rich. The super-rich – billionaires, etc. often just compete with each other over who would be top dog. Taxing them out the yin yang wouldn’t change that but would certainly bring in revenue for the government.

    What most people seem to miss when they complain about taxes – is that they seem to be thinking mainly of taxes on employment income. However, a lot of the uber-rich don’t ‘earn’ a lot from employment, but from passive investments, tax shelters and so forth. Also, learn the distinction between top tax rate and top m-a-r-g-i-n-a-l tax rate before spewing off hyperbole about how ‘screwed’ you are going to be.

    As for the rights of individuals being limited – well, grow up, that’s reality. It’s called ‘other people’ who, oddly enough have rights too, some of which may very well at some point conflict with yours. But I don’t find there’s a point arguing with extreme ‘libertarians’ – you can no more argue their beliefs than you can a religious person though I’ve always found it ironic that someone can cling so dearly to strict dogma yet insist they are rational.

  76. tt says:

    swim….

    The federal tax rate has been about 18-20% of gdp for decades. This is just a fact. States revenues are about another 5%.

    And since the panic of 08, the tax rate is about 15% of gdp.

    This includes all taxes collected, including estate and excise taxes as well as SS and income and corporate. Most confuse marginal rates with effective rates. Go look it up. It has been consistent. Unless you are really doing something dumb, nobody pays 50% of income to taxes. But i will say there are two codes. One for employees and one for owners. The w2 guys that make 200k-700k do get socked more than a guy making a million with his own business.

  77. Jessica6 says:

    Also, let’s face it – when it comes to ‘oppressive’ social structures vs the individual and even wealth redistribution – most of the time family certainly trumps government.

  78. bernandoo says:

    @Joe Friday:

    You lose a lot of credit when you claim to know something and say it in ALL CAPS when it turns out you have no idea what you are talking about. There are A LOT of people who pay more than 50% of their income in taxes. The marginal rate in NY is pushing 60% and it’s up there in Cali too. I don’t like the NY Post, but here’s a link confirming the NY rate.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/regional/dem_health_rx_poi_on_pill_in_ny_3AApff75KCb9ZbMkjSC8PO

    Perhaps you should do some research, because it kinda weakens you’re argument, you know… when you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  79. Yossarian says:

    Wonderful: I have just discovered that one of my favorite Bloggers moderates out posts that go against his personal views, despite the fact that said post contains no profanity or political propaganda. Et tu Ritholz?

    ~~~

    BR: Cool your jets, nimrod. Its late Sunday night and I am just catching up with the 32 spam filtered comments. I expected some ARA pushback but not 100 comments on a weekend

  80. Andy T says:

    “BR: And exactly how did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “destabilize” the housing market ?”

    You’re kidding, right? How could a government sponsored entity that financed TRILLIONS of dollars of mortgages possibly create an unstable housing market….? Hmmmmm…..I dunno….I’m sure the government people that created these behemoths and “regulated” them probably administered the whole thing in a “stable” way. Because, you know that anything well regulated and left out of the control of the free market is much better….HA! [Cognitive Dissonance anyone?]

    ~~~

    BR: It is a simple question, one that you have managed to avoid answering.

  81. michael m. says:

    Some years ago I read a brilliant essay by a sociologist on the great paradox of American life. It is: On the one hand, one is supposed to develop oneself as an “individual.” But accompanying this, one is supposed to be successful. Now in fact the main way to become successful is to play the game – do what the system says you have to do. Which of course is pretty much the opposite of becoming an “individual.” He wrote that as far as he could tell, the main way Americans resolve this paradox is to play the game and try to become an “individual” by making more money compared to other people. Most of the Rand defenders sound like they fit: people who are in reality sheep who want to be individuals.

    My idea of important individuals is just old-fashioned, I guess. It includes people like Newton, or Beethoven, or (in fact) Henry Ford. Many of them didn’t make a lot of money, though they had plenty of will and talent. One notes that some of them, like Newton, made remarks about how standing on the shoulders of those who went before him, as opposed to thinking they had done everything themselves somehow.

    Most of the people writing on the Rand side strike me as insignificant people who want to be someone, who confuse making money with being an important individual. But that is not surprising, because making money is much easier to do than doing something really creative.

    Barry, I think your love of good jazz musicians shows you understand the difference between actual creative individuals (some of whom do make money), and self-important hacks.

  82. michael m. says:

    sorry – sentence should have been “like Newton, made remarks about standing on the shoulders of those who went before him,”

  83. Transor Z says:

    Great plays in 1Q by RAND-y Moss. Coincidence? I think not. ;-)

    Yossarian just reminded me of another great book and great read: Catch-22. All the King’s Men another one.

  84. franklin411 says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t check the blog until now when there are so many comments (which I may or may not strive to examine). However, this was an awesome post, Barry, and I will certainly read the article. Right now, in fact!

    Thanks!

  85. alfred e says:

    @bergsten: spectacular comment. Dead on.

    Bottom line: For whatever good or bad reasons, Ayn Rand wrote two off the most influential books in recent history. So what exactly defines good writing? Her writing certainly impressed me as being unbelievably powerful. Right or wrong. How many other books have that relevance or staying power?

    I agree with Bergsten that people have seized upon her writing to serve their own purposes. And perhaps she got caught up in that as her source for support. I can recall not too long ago the conservatives were quoting Adam Smith like crazy until someone bothered to read a little more carefully. And he has not come up again. “They could afford to be generous”.

    For me, the bottom line is she was totally against the collective and the elites. Mediocrity and legacy wealth and power do not breed competence or excellence.

    And that’s exactly where we are as a nation. BananAmerica.

    Meritocracy is DEAD. Long live Ayn.

  86. franklin411 says:

    OK, I have to post this comment…Did anyone else notice that the comments on the original article @ GQ.com that defended Rand were strangely written in a style similar to her own work? IE, massive, ranting paragraphs! I love it! =P

  87. I have a few posts scheduled for this weekt hat the Randians are gonna love . . .

  88. investorinpa says:

    Really great commentary on this thread. Bergsten summed up exactly everything I feel about this book. It has to be considered a classic. Much like art, it is in the eye of the beholder. But a LOT of people have read it. A lot of people hate it. A lot of people abide by the philosophy in it. Personally, its ok for me. But there is no need to trash a dead novelist who was writing in the times of their existence. Instead, the focus should strictly be on those who interpret everything so damn literally.

    As an aside, Robert Kiyosaki gets criticized all the time for Rich Dad Poor Dad being a bunch of make up junk that is poorly written. His response? “I may not be a best writing author, but I am a best selling author”. I think that quote fits most of the anti-Atlas Shrugged crowd.

  89. scharfy says:

    The boys at Goldman, Citi, et al, operate about as far from Randian principles as possible, though they no doubt consider themselves Jon Galt style producers. In truth they suckle off the tit off public funds siphoned from actual laborers. No doubt they are good at what they do, but they wouldn’t prosper but for an illegal entity known as the Fed – spewing credit all over a once powerful industrial nation.

    So to pin Rand’s philosophy as the culprit for this distorted American economy misses the point.

    I think what Rand missed, (or overlooked) was that the heroic producers of society would eventually side with corruption, not run from it. Whatever their ethical considerations, oligarchy quickly ensued.

    Now, to those who would remedy this problem by delegating MORE power to the govt, then I must respectfully say that that they have lost their friggin minds.

    Calling Greenspans policies Randian is downright silly. Thats like calling Stalin a populist, or Bush a republican. In Name Only. In name only.

    Rand’s philosphy resonates with Americans because liberty and self determination are in our blood, and in our charter, The Constitution (Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness?)

    Lumping the criminal activity of the Banksters to the free market is an insult to hard working Americans, and an attempt by the Left to help the Government take more from the pockets of the many, and give to few. Not the reverse.

    Greenspan… free market? Maybe in a theoretical undergrad paper. His real world activities spoke a lot louder than his term papers.

  90. Uchicagoman says:

    Barry,

    Nice post.

    I completely agree.

    Rand is booooooring, ego-centric, and ………will be forgotten.

    Marx/Engles, now that, is an interesting read….. at least it has some humanity and passion!

    Good evening to all. ;-)

  91. catman says:

    We are so special, arent we? Original insights to live by. I havent had the pleasure. Can you roll spliffs with it in the paperback or does that make you amotivational ? Rich dad Poor dad? How about we canonize George Steinbrenner? Re issue the complete Playboy philosophy in Hardcover. In this, as in many other cases you can smell the meth cooking in the kitchen. Sorry all, but the lack of punctuation should have tipped you off a long long time ago.

  92. Andy T says:

    “BR: And exactly how did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “destabilize” the housing market ?”

    You’re kidding, right? How could a government sponsored entity that financed TRILLIONS of dollars of mortgages possibly create an unstable housing market….? Hmmmmm…..I dunno….I’m sure the government people that created these behemoths and “regulated” them probably administered the whole thing in a “stable” way. Because, you know that anything well regulated and left out of the control of the free market is much better….HA! [Cognitive Dissonance anyone?]
    ~~~
    BR: It is a simple question, one that you have managed to avoid answering.
    ~~~

    I know you’re a smart man Barry. It’s difficult to imagine that you don’t understand the answer to your own question. FNM and FRE were implicitly back by the USG because of their status as a GSE. They were funded at below market rates because of this. In return, they sponsored or funded TRILLIONS of dollars of mortgages or guarantees that would otherwise not have been given in a normal “free” market.

    Imagine the market conditions over that last few decades WITHOUT a Fannie or Freddie? Do you honestly think as many mortgages would have been issued or demanded without these GSEs? They were the base of the pyramid/ponzi that was the Housing “market.”

    The Fed could keep interest rates low as long as they wanted, but as long as there was no distribution mechanism for the “money,” it’s useless. FNM/FRE were some of the distribution mechanisms for the “money,” also known as credit.

  93. Bruce in Tn says:

    Barry:

    Why do you keep fighting the last war? It is a tendency of yours. Something makes me think you lost this argument in some debate society somewhere.

    I would suggest losing 40 pounds…you’ll be happier and live longer.

    B in T

  94. I do not get this post AT ALL. Ayn Rand’s views were a grossly oversimplified view of the world. At the same time, all philosophies, or ‘isms if you will, are oversimplified ways to describe the world. Nothing with such blunt black and white stances can describe a world that has infinite shades of grey. Now that we’ve established that I’m not a ARA, we can discuss some points.

    My biggest problem with this post is that it does not jive with what was said in Bailout Nation, namely that the free market really wasn’t at play (a government bailout by definition is not free market). Now we are blaming Ayn Rand for this? Ridiculous.

    Barry you prefer John Maynard Keynes? As unrealistically consistent as Ayn Rand was, Keynes was the opposite by being perfectly inconsistent. As one example, he wrote a whole book about maximizing employment while at the same time wrote that all unemployment was a choice because workers were being too picky. Another example, he admits that business cycles are self correcting and yet advocates intervention. Finally, here is my favorite Keynes quote: “Thus gold-mines are of the greatest value and importance to civilisation, just as wars have been the only form of large-scale loan expenditure which statesmen have thought justifiable, so gold-mining is the only pretext for digging holes in the ground which has recommended itself to bankers as sound finance; and each of these activities has played its part in progress-failing something better.” I thought he hated gold? Whoops. And then he postulates that wars have helped progress the world? The man was a loon and I have no idea how anyone took him seriously back then, let alone today.

    Bernanke and the other federal reserve board members almost all call themselves Keynesians. Greenspan may have been an Ayn Rand follower ages ago but his stint at Fed Chairman should show without a doubt that he no longer held those views while in power, or at least did not set policy that way. Why is Ayn Rand being blamed for this economic crisis? This is the worst Big Picture post I have ever read.

    ~~~

    BR: Keynes knew how to trade . . .

  95. catman says:

    BR – How do you do it. Have you ever considered patenting something for say Ecolab? Just a thought. I look forward to the rest of the week.

    ~~~

    BR: Develops and markets cleaning, sanitizing, pest control, maintenance and repair products ?

  96. Scott F says:

    Wow, some serious Randian asshole action tonight. I love how the douchebags freak out when you call out their hero the hack writer she was.

    War & Peace is readable and 1000s of pages long. Rand simply had verbal diarrhea.

    I know, I know, the book is fantastick! It changed your lives!

    Get over yourselves, dipshits.

  97. Theodore D. says:

    Sadly I check this blog daily even though I am starting to disagree more and more. Started reading after I used to attend too many D.C. happy hours that were hosted by ARA’s. I’m pretty conservative socially but economically liberal (blame my Catholicism) so the gathers were fun but a little frustrating. I started to read Rand so I could pick it apart and see the flaws in objectivism. I read it trying to hate it, thinking of all of the obnoxious ARA that I argued with in D.C. – turns out the more I read the more I liked.

    It seems like everyone pulls something from this enduring work. Alan Greenspan working from the FED (an inherently anti-free market institution) got the idea that keeping money cheap after 9/11 was a good idea, while others like alfred e (in the post above) pulled “For me, the bottom line is she was totally against the collective and the elites. Mediocrity and legacy wealth and power do not breed competence or excellence.”

    I think most people take away what alfred does and for that I see Rand as an enduring author who still contributes much to a system that had inherent anti-free market elements.

    The more important debate though – Brady or Manning?

    Brady because of his clutchness.

  98. Greg0658 says:

    “puritans who have spent the past three decades gleefully pulling the cooling rods out of the American economy” … if that is a nuclear metaphor .. the term is “control rods” dampen the chain reaction .. and cooling water is what boils to push the turbine that turns the generator that makes electricity that powers my www connected computer

  99. Dennis says:

    You Randians have been just suckered by your Superior.

    This post is classic flame bait, and you gave Ritholtz exactly what he wanted — a firestorm on an otherwise slow Sunday.

    Fools.

    I have been reading this blog for 3 years — it makes me money — but I can always tell when our host is hankering for a fake fight, and this one fits to a “T”. I suspected earlier, but the sideview mirror was the final “tell.”

    Bravo and touche. You completely fooled the ARAs. Who would thought that the “Superiors” could be so easily duped ?