“Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this to me is what matters most.” Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.
(Now that Mitt Romney has officially selected Wisconsin U.S. Representative Paul Ryan as his running-mate, I thought I might be a good idea to republish an article I originally wrote for Project Censored in June, 2011. For Ryan’s friends, family, and staff, Ayn Rand is required reading).
In the interest of full disclosure, I consider myself spiritually agnostic. That said, can I get a Hallelujah! Some Christians are finally getting hip to the fact that Republicans have been worshiping at the altar of Ayn Rand, and unwittingly the Church of Satan. I kid you not. Well, at least the part about Ayn Rand. As for the Satanism bit, there is only one degree of separation between Rand’s philosophy and Satanism, but more on this later.
Personally, I enjoyed reading Rand’s books. Perhaps twenty years ago, I read her novels Atlas Shrugged, and The Fountainhead, as well as her non-fiction book Virtue of Selfishness. Rand is most known for her novels. However, Rand’s philosophy of “Objectivism” is what attracted both me and many extreme Right-wingers in America. Coming from a conservative Christian family, I have followed the writings and influences of Right-wing extremism my entire life. In the 1970’s, for summer vacation, our family went to Ocean Grove, New Jersey for a James Dobson, Focus on the Family, “Dare to Discipline” seminar.
Anyway, I rejected Dobson and Rand’s philosophies. Deep down inside, I was convinced altruism was inherently moral, valuable, and virtuous. However, I agree with some of what Rand espoused. For example, like Rand, Aristotle, and our Founding Fathers, I believe reason and logic should play a determining role in one’s life. I also agree with Rand avoidance of superstitions. However, I strongly disagree with her conclusions on individualism and collectivism. Rand seems to suggest individualism and collectivism is always working against each other and can never work hand in hand. I find Rand’s worldview to be a dark and disturbing portrait in black and white.
For Rand, a child of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, capitalism and socialism were diametrically opposing ideas that could never be balanced. Rand believed Liaise-Faire capitalism represented the highest form of morality. She believed it was only logical that individuals sought after their own selfish needs first and foremost. She claimed those that pursued a morality of selfishness were most able to rise to the top and conquer the world. By the virtue of their selfish ambitions, individuals could acquire great material wealth, power, and individual freedoms. Therefore, Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is essentially the virtue of selfish individualism.
Since the McCarthy area, Rand’s Objectivism has been a leading philosophy for both Right-wing extremist and radical libertarians. Although, it should be pointed out, many notable mainstream conservatives became early fans of Rand’s. In fact, Alan Greenspan once was a member of Rand’s New York “Collective”. Some biographies have described Rand’s “Collective” as somewhat like a “cult”.
For those that are not interested in reading Rand’s books, check out this three part interview of Ayn Rand, conducted in 1959 by Mike Wallace. Here are the links to Part I, Part II, and Part III. The entire interview is fascinating, but I’ll quote one question and answer from the interview:
Wallace: “How does your philosophy translate into politics? One of the most principle achievements of this country in the past twenty years and practically, I think most people agree, is the gradual growth of social protective legislation based on the principle that we are our bothers keeper. How do you feel about the political trends of the United States, Western world?”
Ayn Rand: “The way everybody feels, except more consciously. I feel that it is terrible. That you see destruction and that you are moving toward disaster, until and unless all those welfare state conceptions have been reversed and rejected. It is precisely these trends that are bringing the world toward disaster. Because, we are now moving toward complete collectivism, or socialism. A system in which everyone is enslaved to everybody and we are moving that way only because of our altruistic morality.”
Rand goes on to state that she is in favor of complete separation of economy and state, like the separation of church and state. Rand further states that she believes the government does not have the right to regulate the affairs of it citizens, nor demand they pay taxes. She suggests taxes should be voluntary.
I rejected Rand’s Objectivism because I believe people putting themselves first does not always promote economic efficiency, nor does it represent the best of America or the human spirit. I believe, as our Founding Fathers believed, it is the government’s role to make laws and raise taxes to promote and protect the general welfare of the people. In fact, after the American Revolution, the first order of business by the first U.S. Congress was to levy tariffs (import taxes) and to tax wealthy businesses – via the Whiskey Tax. Benjamin Franklyn famously said, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Guided by the policies of Alexander Hamilton and the leadership of George Washington, the Founding Fathers took the money raised by the tariffs and taxes and used the funds to help pay off America’s war debt, build bridges, roads and schools. This, of course, is an example of early American collectivism, which Rand and the Right-wing have openly scorned.
As I mentioned before, Christian groups are beginning to get hip on the whole Republican selfish Objectivism ideology. A recent campaign, by the American Values Network (AVN), a coalition of Christian organizations, has blasted Representative Paul Ryan and the Republican Party’s budget plans, which they are calling the “Rand Plan”. At this AVN website, a video ad shows Senator Rand Paul, along with other Republican leaders like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, praising Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Representative Paul Ryan is seen in the video clip stating, “Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this to me is what matters most.”
According to AVN, Paul Ryan requires all his staff, including interns, to read Atlas Shrugged. Republican’s devotion to Rand’s selfish morality has become the final straw for many Christians. AVN is now speaking out against the Right-wings selfish lead morality. Here are the opening two paragraphs from the AVN webpage:
“GOP leaders and conservative pundits have brought upon themselves a crisis of values. Many who for years have been the loudest voices invoking the language of faith and moral values are now praising the atheist philosopher Ayn Rand whose teachings stand in direct contradiction to the Bible. Rand advocates a law of selfishness over love and commands her followers to think only of themselves, not others. She said her followers had to choose between Jesus and her teachings.
GOP leaders want to argue that they are defending Christian principles. But, at the same time, Rep. Paul Ryan (author of the GOP budget) is posting facebook videos praising Rand’s morality and saying hers is the “kind of thinking that is sorely needed right now.” Simply put, Paul Ryan can’t have it both ways, and neither can Christians. As conservative evangelical icon Chuck Colson recently stated, Christians can not support Rand’s philosophy and Christ’s teachings. The choice is simple: Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ. We must choose one and forsake the other.”
As a religiously agnostic person, I don’t really care about Rand’s atheism. However, as with the Christian groups, I believe Rand’s selfish driven, utopian vision morality of capitalism and individualism to be, in fact, immoral. One of the many Bible texts the Christians are quoting to counter the GOP’s worshiping at the altar of selfishness is Luke 27 – 30:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”
Many Christians are claiming the GOP’s budget plans are inspired by Rand and antithetical to Jesus Christ. In case the Christians missed it, I would like to provide a bit of further proof for the claim Rand’s philosophy is diametrically opposite of Jesus’ message. Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, melded Ayn Rand’s philosophy into the Satanic Bible. Here are direct quotes from the Church of Satan website from the official biography of LaVey and the ideology behind his book the Satanic Bible:
“Unlike the founders of other religions, who claimed exalted “inspiration” delivered through some supernatural entity, LaVey readily acknowledged that he used his own faculties to synthesize Satanism, based on his understanding of the human animal and insights gained from earlier philosophers who advocated materialism and individualism…
By the end of 1969, LaVey had taken monographs he had written to explain the philosophy and ritual practices of the Church of Satan and melded them with all of his philosophical influences from Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Mencken, and London along with the base wisdom of the carnival folk.”
Rand’s philosophy of materialism and individualism plays a key role in the ideology of Satanism. Not that I really give any credit to Satanism. In fact, I give as much weight to Satanism as I do Objectivism. The whole Satanism thing is mostly for entertainment sake. After all, LaVey was actually a talented entertainer before developing the modern philosophy of Satanism. Like LaVey, Rand started out as an entertainer before developing her own philosophy. Perhaps Rand was secretly entertained by the fact that people were following her philosophy? The fact that modern Satanism was influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy is a sideshow, but something I find entertaining and something my Christians friends might find curious, scary, or just outright disturbing.
You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in much of what Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and “Love your enemy.” These are hard words to follow, yet deep down many people know the truth in these words. Not only that, recent studies has confirmed altruism has been show to have positive health effects. Therefore it is logical to support the Bible when it declares in Act 25:30, “I have shown you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
While I agree with Ayn Rand that one must be lead by logic and reason, I find people are seldom logical and reasonable. Our Founding Fathers also valued logic and reason. Yet, as practical men, they knew our budding nation needed to collectively pull together. We needed to become a network of communities (a republic) bound by a greater purpose and sharing in its common dreams and fortunes. The collective dreams and purpose of our Founding Fathers were laid out in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and other early national documents. While on the surface our national documents may seem to some logical and reasonable, they are actually wide open for interpretation and at times anything but logical and reasonable.
Our Founding Fathers were able to balance the collective interests of our nation with the interests of the individual. They heavily regulated capitalism and laid the pathway to collectivism and socialism. In spite of what the Right-wing ideologues would like people to believe, (Satanists proudly proclaim to be devout liars) Hamilton and Washington, used the collective wealth of the nation to create schools, pay off debts and provide for the general welfare of our new nation.
The GOP has turned bridge building and other acts of national collectivism from our Founding Fathers into acts of evil. The Right-wing holds materialism, individualism, capitalism, and selfishness as the highest forms of morality. Seven days a week, Satanists and GOP “Christians” are preaching the “virtues” of materialism, individualism, selfishness, and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. Paul Ryan’s budget plans are designed to deregulate industries, systematically strip away the middle-class safety-net, grow the national debt, and further concentrate America’s wealth into the hands of a few, very powerfully, selfish driven people. Just as Ayn Rand envisioned.