Any time Glenn Beck promotes a book, I get very curious, especially when written by vastly overrated, disturbed people like Ayn Rand. I read two of her books, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” while working toward my bachelors degree in philosophy. At the time I likened these ponderous works to pounding a raw egg with a sledgehammer 100 times with the goal of creating a beautiful Easter egg; Rand’s weak and obtuse “objectivism” was the forgone conclusion around which her copious and gooey prose was sloppily draped.
The best analysis of Rand and her works recently appeared in the 11/09 New Yorker as “Possessed” by Thomas Mallon. He opines of “The Fountainhead” “It is, in fact, badly executed on every level of language, plot, and characterization”. I concur. And the best distillation ever of Rand’s character pops up in the same article on page 65: “The philosopher’s most famous directive was ‘Check your premises’, but those in her orbit never dared question hers”. Otherwise bottomless insecurity would fulminate. And I would venture that she never checked her own presumptions either.
In my experience as a perpetual student and avid reader, the best authors and teachers are also copious readers and insatiable students themselves. As Mallon points out, Rand appeared to be profoundly ignorant of the actual writings of the authors she touted, from O. Henry to Mickey Spillane. So rather than her scholarship being the primary bait for her fan base, perhaps her “arrestingly abrasive” persona and atheism were the attraction. Who knows. Who cares?
But here’s the interesting and significant fact- that I did not know -Mr. Mallon reveals: Among Rand’s groupies, otherwise known as “The Collective” was Alan Greenspan. Wonderful! So we had a guy running (ruining?) the Federal Reserve who believed government is an evil impediment to the always virtuous entrepreneurial pursuits of the infallibly noble businessman. That explains a lot, how the foxes came to be guarding the chicken coop. How could anyone think that we need armies, police, fire fighters and even sports referees but not also need financial regulators to control the darker sides of human nature, especially when it comes to power and money? Yes, even business people like me are subject to human weaknesses such as greed & shortsightedness. Self regulation- especially by Wall Street -has always failed.
I’ll take Obama’s “socialism” (which it really is not) over a free-for-all market any day. No one who has looked up the definition of “socialism” could disagree. We all enjoy our socialist roads, socialist military, socialist police protection, socialist court system, socialist Internet (created by the government, made possible principally by funding Al Gore secured for it), airwaves, etc. I just want the most efficient and effective systems in place. Sometimes the private sector does better. Other times mass cooperative efforts (aka, government) perform better. Labels such as “socialist” or “free-market” are merely being used in place of real thinking.