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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 01:39 PM
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Digby: RANDy Conservatives
Randy Conservatives

By Digby on October 6, 2007 - 1:54pm.

It's interesting that Naomi Klein's new book about "disaster capitalism" is taking the political world by storm, since it's such a downer. She offers a stark and scary explanation as to why in disasters and wars and crises of all kinds we so often see these even more disasterous "free-market" solutions. From shock therapy in Russia to the CPA in Iraq to the Republican post-Katrina planning committee at the Heritage Foundation, you see similar examples of market fundamentalist approaches to problems of vast scale that one would have until recently assumed would be undertaken by government, democratic or otherwise. Klein makes the case that this is essentially a product of a school of economic thought that has found it can not only benefit by disaster, but it benefits greatly if it actually creates disasters, frightening people into accepting what in the best case can be considered experimental solutions to problems and in the worst case provides the opportunity for greed and graft to operate without restraint.

It's an interesting thesis, but I don't mean to debate its merits in this post. The reason I bring it up at all is that I coincidentally found myself reading Alan Greenspan's autobiography at the same time and was struck by the psychology of selfishness that I found underlying both of these books. There are too many people involved in this behavior to simply explain it as an anomaly. In a country supposedly based upon Judeo-Christian values and Enlightenment philosophy, I wondered why so many wealthy and powerful people are now openly embracing a philosophy of pure self-interest --- and acting on it. And the answer, I think, is Ayn Rand.

When the Greenspan book was published, the NY Times reprinted a letter to the editor from Greenspan defending Rand's magnum opus "Atlas Shrugged" which used some rather startling language:

"'Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.

It's hard to believe that the man who wrote that fanboy letter was the man who went on to become one of the most powerful economic gurus in history. But then the fans of Ayn Rand are almost always, on some level, stuck in a sort of perpetual adolescence, which seems odd because many of her most ardent admirers are fantastically wealthy masters of the universe who attribute to her the inspiration for their success. And that, I suspect, may be one of the roots of the problem we are seeing with "disaster capitalism" and other frightening modern manifestations of cruel, free market fundamentalism.

Ayn Rand, muse to the millionaire, thought she was imparting philosophy, but her own philosophy of "Objectivism," (which was essentially a personality cult) remains very marginal in society at large. But certain of her ideas seem to have greatly informed the worldview of modern free market thinkers and business leaders in ways that run far more deeply and strongly than works of "philosophy" normally do on these types of people.

Many of these leaders admit that "Atlas Shrugged" was the most important book they ever read. And "Atlas Shrugged" is a very stupid book, a turgid fantasy, tailor made for the scores of 16 year old who still read it every year (mostly because the Ayn Rand institute sends nearly half a million copies a year to Advanced Placement high school courses.) It appeals to the smart, sexually overwhelmed adolescent with its passionate relationships allegedly based purely on "reason" but which experienced adults know to be the complex work of hormones, opportunity and much more mysterious influences than the purely "cerebral." I have little doubt that all those advanced placement geeks find that concept enthralling. (I was once one myself.)


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Me. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 01:54 PM
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1. This DU Thread Is A Must For Info On Greenspan & How We've Been Gamed
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camero Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 10:49 PM
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2. We should just put them on the fringe like we do Scientologists
Edited on Sun Oct-07-07 10:49 PM by camero
Since both faiths are based on works of fiction.
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