whoisjohngalt-final

How Objectivism Has Ruined Politcs, The Economy and The Social Safety Net
By Michael Maynard
September 20, 2013

“There’s so much nonsense about human inconstancy and the transience of all emotions. I’ve always thought that a feeling which changes never existed in the first place. There are books I liked at the age of sixteen. I still like them.” – Ayn Rand “The Fountainhead”.

Like many college age men and women, I read Ayn Rand’s novels,“Atlas Shrugged’, “The Fountainhead” and “Anthem”. All have a certain appeal to the idealistic young mind, inexperienced with the real world. I was taken in by the romantic notion of The Great Capitalist Man (notice, not The Great Capitalist Woman) trying to rise above the less talented masses trying to drag him down and “the evil government” trying to impede his greatness with laws and regulations.

Those books are not well written. The philosophies/ideologies presented are puerile, uninformed and unrealistic. Yes, who didn’t want to be John Galt and achieve greatness when you were that age? All things were still possible for you to rise to your full potential and heights, back then. You were just starting to make your place in the world and, damnit, you’re going to show everyone by becoming the real version of John Galt.

Ayn Rand wrote fiction, not fact. She could have just as easily have been writing about Superman or Batman. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are a more realistic fictional characters than John Galt. Batman is human, has much better adventures and enemies, and always manages, somehow, to save Gotham City. Superman has his kryptonite issues, but always manages, somehow, to save Metropolis. In their own, superpowered ways, they serve the people. John Galt is all about saving his sorry ass.

Ayn Rand doesn’t really exist, either. Ayn Rand is her nom de plume. Her real name is Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum She was born in Russia. Her family led a middle class life style, until the October Revolution. The October Revolution was central to the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the rise to power of the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin. The Bolsheviks (later known as the Communist Party) seized her father’s pharmacy business as the newly risen working class over threw their oppressors, the wealthy. This was the Bolshevik philosophy: Workers of World, Unite!

It is understandable why she was so angry with “centralized government”. That anger became the basis of her “philosophy” of Objectivism. Here is the Wikipedia explanation of Objecivism.

“Objectivism is an amateur philosophy created by Russian-American writer Ayn Rand (1905–1982). Objectivism’s central tenets are that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness (or rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans’ metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.

Rand characterized Objectivism as “a philosophy for living on earth”, grounded in reality, and aimed at defining human nature and the nature of the world in which we live.

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Translation: As long as I got mine, I don’t give a bleep if you don’t have yours.

Ayn Rand’s writings became popular again because the 2012 Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, mentioned being a follower during the campaign. Other Tea Party Republicans are followers of Rand’s writings and philosophy. Ryan has railed against the evil spirit crushing and welfare-dependent creating “Federal Government”. Like Ayn Rand, who received Social Security and Medicare in her later life, Paul Ryan received federal government largesse. He reportedly saved Social Security Survivor Benefits, after his father died at age 55. Ryan has said he used his SSSB checks to help pay his college tuition. Paul Ryan is never going to be confused with being a deep thinker or humanitarian.

What does it say about Paul Ryan that he still believes in a fairy tale that most 16 year olds learn to reject?

John Galt reminds me of Lloyd Blankenship, Chairman and CEO of the government bailed out investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs. During the Great Recession, which his company helped create, the Chairman and CEO “only” took $600,000 in salary. But his total compensation in 2007 was $53,965,418, including a cash bonus of $26,985,474. In his testimony before Congress on the housing crisis and Goldman Sachs’ role in it, Blankenship came across as a self-important, arrogant, and smug jerk. People are losing their homes and he deserves a bonus. He stated that his subordinates caused the crisis, not him. Lloyd Blankenship isn’t even as noble as John Galt.

On September 18, 2013, Forbes Magazine contributor, Harry Binswanger (yes, that is his real name), wrote a column titled, “Give Back? It’s Time For the 99% To Give Back To The 1%”.

Mr. Binswanger (saying that name makes me laugh) writes:

“It’s time to gore another collectivist sacred cow. This time it’s the popular idea that the successful are obliged to “give back to the community.” That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from “the community.” And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by “exploiting” people, not by creating value–as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and Steve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence.

Let’s begin by stripping away the collectivism. “The community” never gave anyone anything. The “community,” the “society,” the “nation” is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person–a parent, a teacher, a customer–”gives” something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.”

Mr. Binswanger’s ideas are definitely not funny.

Where have I heard this tripe before? Oh, yes, the works of Ayn Rand. Mr. Binswanger is writing for a publication, Forbes, that does have less collective intelligence than your average college freshman, to publish an article like this. Remember Steve Forbes, the President and CEO of Forbes, Inc, and Editor-In-Chief of Forbes Magazine? Remember his illustrious “Presidential Campaigns” in 1996 and 2000? I do, but I’m a political junkie and masochist. BTW, Mr. Forbes is a “taker” not a “maker”. He inherited Forbes, Inc, from his father Malcolm Forbes. Steve Forbes is a follower of Ayn Rand’s writings, too.

So why is this so important now, other than it is fun to say Binswanger? Because we are seeing the political manifestation of the ideology, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, in the current federal debt ceiling negotiations and budget processes. The Tea Party House Republicans, of which Paul Ryan is one of the leaders, wants to defund “Obamacare” by $200 million.The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is making health care insurance more available and affordable to those who do not have it. The first target for the Affordable Care Act is to enroll 7 million people by March 2014

These House members also have proposed deep cuts in the funding of programs and agencies they really want to abolish, like the Environmental Protection Agency and National Endowment for The Arts., Another Tea Party boogeyman, the Internal Revenue Service, would have its budget cut by 24%. Today, along party lines, the House passed a “stopgap” funding bill with no funding for ACA implementation. The Senate will not pass it, nor would President Obama sign this. The real possibility of a federal government shutdown darkly looms.

Worst of all, the House Republicans want to cut $300 million from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka, food stamps. These cuts would deny assistance to at least 4 million people. More than 47 million people are currently enrolled in SNAP. 76% are the poor, children, disabled, and elderly. Those enrolled are paid $133 per month, approximately $4.30 per day. 95% of SNAP’s funding goes to assistance, so the program operates relatively efficiently.) 40% of Americans approve of cutting this small daily food assistance, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov June 2013 poll.

While cutting SNAP, the House Republicans would lower taxes on the wealthy by changing the current income tax upper-limit from 35% to 25% and lower the top corporate profits tax rate from 35% to 25%, The collapse of the Greek and Italian economies, through budget and tax cuts like the ones proposed, proves how well those budgetary ideas work.

How Galtian of them to try to uplift those being held down by the burden of receiving federal assistance, like being able to eat. How noble is their proposed cutting the tax rates of their wealthy patrons, who will use the extra profits to give themselves higher bonuses.

It is sad how cruel and hateful all of these proposed budget cuts and tax reductions are. We know who are the patrons of the Tea Party and the Republicans. In Congress are their hired hands, wanting to say thanks for their campaign contributions in the way the 1% ers prefer – Reverse Robin Hood. Take from the poor and give to the rich.

That’s ultimately what the underlying battle for the future of the United States has become – which is more important: people or money? We know which side the cruel and heartless Ayn Rand believers are on. Their selfish view of freedom is:

“Freedom – To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

But we all depend on others! Even the 1% have to depend on the 99% to do the manual labor, fight the wars, and provide support to the poor, disabled and elderly, which they and their loved ones ultimately become.

Who is John Galt? Not me. None of us in the real world should be.

Copyright 2013, Michael A. Maynard

Columnist/Journalist/Writer/Book Editor Co-Founder/CEO of Azimuth Partners, high tech consulting firm for 30+ years. Former columnist for the Washington Post/Newsweek syndicate.

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