George Monbiot does not like Ayn Rand

06/03/2012

George Monbiot does not like Ayn Rand:

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

George Monbiot does not say that he finds Rand’s philosophy ugly: no, it is ugly, like an objective fact indepedent of himself and his particular tastes. At least he uses some relativity of valuations… just in order to make it the ugliest.

Her views on altruism, empathy and compassion are problematic, but what she mainly criticizes is the coercive version of all of them, how they are abused by interventionists everywhere in order to justify statism, socialism and communism.

I do not remember any quote from Rand saying that the poor deserve to die: maybe Monbiot can provide it; or perhaps not. The same goes for the unmediated power of the rich: Rand distinguishes the deserving rich, those who have success in producing and exchanging value, from the parasitic rich, those who receive favors from government.

There are always limits to the power of any one, poor or rich: the property of others. Capitalism does not mean “no limits”.

Capitalism has been tested and it has not failed. But of course Monbiot cannot understand or accept this fact. The failures and castastrophes are due to its absence.

She described the poor and weak as “refuse” and “parasites”, and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them.

Again: references, please?; quotes, if possible not out of context?

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt.

They weren’t just millionaires but creative entrepreneurs who had generated abundant wealth but were being prevented from continuing to do so by state regulation. Not all the good characters are rich, though. Describing John Galt as a plutocrat suggests Monbiot has either not read or not understood the book.

The poor die like flies as a result of government programmes and their own sloth and fecklessness. Those who try to help them are gassed.

Those who try to help the poor are gassed? All of them? I probably missed that part of the story. Or maybe it is nowhere to be found.

Rand’s is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed.

This a cool and impartial rational analysis of philosophical ideas, isn’t it? Have you noticed how Monbiot uses bad sounding words against Rand? Cruelty, revenge, greed… Man, is she wicked…

… she has become to the new right what Karl Marx once was to the left: a demigod…

Well, Marx’s ideas have a few million dead already on them. It is good to know that he is just something from the past to the left. Or is he?

Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed, secondhand, by people who have never read it.

Monbiot has obviously not absorbed it, and probably he has not read it either. Not even secondhand, it seems. Maybe thirdhand.

… the sneering, jeering bloggers who write for the Telegraph and the Spectator, mocking compassion and empathy, attacking efforts to make the world a kinder place.

Do some people dare mock compassion and empathy? How can that be? And also attack efforts to make the world a kinder place? Outrageous! Intolerable! Making the word a kinder place sounds so… well, kind; nice, beautiful, positive, loving… Is someone really attacking the good? Aren’t we supposed to attack the bad?

By the way, how are those efforts with the better world going? Any positive results? Or don’t you care about results, it’s just intentions that count? Kindness always wins. At least mentioning it wins popularity and moral status to the speaker or writer.

It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victimhood. She tells them that they are parasitised by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments.

Rand does not appeal only to billionaries: millionaires find her ideas attractive too; and even productive workers like her ideas. Mainly because they are often parasitised by others (some poor, some not so poor, and almost always with help from governments), and quite tired of it.

The sense of victimhood is a trick that can be deployed by anyone: but some really are victims, for instance of theft of what is legitimately theirs.

I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and social security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill health.

Well yes: if you have been forced to pay for them, you might at least try to get something back. Some collectivists don’t just want everybody to participate in their dysfunctional associations: they want individualists to pay but not receive anything in exchange. Cool.

By the way, yoy may like and agree with Rand without worshipping at her shrine. I suspect not many do that last part.

… the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve.

Probably the devotion meter was jammed that day, George.

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.

Greenspan has received plenty of criticism for defending capitalism rhetorically but doing the opposite in reality: a central bank, for instance, is not an institution of capitalism.

What I did not know and find amazing is that Greenspan had the power to cut taxes. The president, congress and senate must also be surprised by this impressive discovery by Monbiot. I’m sure they are about to call him to ask how he did it.

The derivatives trading did not bring the system down: the culprits are the central bank, with money and interest rates manipulations, federal deposit insurance, and faulty regulation and supervision (the usual thing when government does it). Here are Greenspan’s faults: all are state interventions against the free market.

About predatory lending, well… may I say predatory borrowing? Oops, I just did…

Saturated in her philosophy, the new right on both sides of the Atlantic continues to demand the rollback of the state, even as the wreckage of that policy lies all around. The poor go down, the ultra-rich survive and prosper. Ayn Rand would have approved.

We are drowning in ideas of capitalism… who would have noticed! Free market think tanks, close shop! Nothing more to do, here.

And no, George, Rand would not have approved. Specially of your lack of intelligence.