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Atlas Plea-Bargained

March 12, 2009

Funny segment on Colbert last night (OK night before but I need to wait for the 8 pm rerun the next night because I’m old or something) about Ayn Rand – how everyone is resurrecting her as the Great Spirit of Conservatism (Bush I, II, Reagan, Gingrich, and Limbaugh having all God-That-Failed them in short order post-collapse).  The thing that strikes me, as someone who was in the truest sense Ruined By A Book as a very young man (age 18, circa 1980) by her collected works, is that…well, that Ayn Rand, reborn, would probably tear them all a new asshole.  If you look back at her novels, who are her heroes?  Men (invariably, with the exception of the women who enjoy rough sex with them) who make shit.  Railroad tycoons, newspaper magnates, perpetual motion machine inventors…none of whom can be found in the latest round of scandal.  I mean, do you really think Ayn Rand would celebrate the inventor of derivatives?  The refinancer?  The bond rater who forged value?  The bottom line restater?  The Madoffian/Melmottian Ponzi Schemer?  The essence of Rand’s philosophy depends on the worth of the people at its core – people who make physical product.  All the product that is made today is made in China – the people who grovel before Hank and John don’t grovel because of some idealistic hoo hah; they grovel because their own, American livelihoods depend on it.  But what would even Rand herself make today of a world where “competence” was sacrificed to the greed for an extra nickel to be made by outsourcing every task to a “slave” in China?  Where the failure to prove that A=A was to be engulfed in a cloud of financial misstatement no regulator or reporter could unravel?  The nobility of her characters depends on their value to society as a whole; what nobility hath the outsourcer who destroys the livelihood of every eager-to-work American more completely than Ellsworth Toohey could ever dream? 

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