By YARON BROOK
Ayn Rand died more than a quarter of a century ago, yet her name appears regularly in discussions of our current economic turmoil. Pundits including Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli urge listeners to read her books, and her magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged,” is selling at a faster rate today than at any time during its 51-year history.
There’s a reason. In “Atlas,” Rand tells the story of the U.S. economy crumbling under the weight of crushing government interventions and regulations. Meanwhile, blaming greed and the free market, Washington responds with more controls that only deepen the crisis. Sound familiar?
The novel’s eerily prophetic nature is no coincidence. “If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society,” Rand wrote elsewhere in “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,” “you can predict its course.” Economic crises and runaway government power grabs don’t just happen by themselves; they are the product of the philosophical ideas prevalent in a society — particularly its dominant moral ideas.
Why do we accept the budget-busting costs of a welfare state? Because it implements the moral ideal of self-sacrifice to the needy. Why do so few protest the endless regulatory burdens placed on businessmen? Because businessmen are pursuing their self-interest, which we have been taught is dangerous and immoral. Why did the government go on a crusade to promote “affordable housing,” which meant forcing banks to make loans to unqualified home buyers? Because we believe people need to be homeowners, whether or not they can afford to pay for houses.
The message is always the same: “Selfishness is evil; sacrifice for the needs of others is good.” But Rand said this message is wrong — selfishness, rather than being evil, is a virtue. By this she did not mean exploiting others à la Bernie Madoff. Selfishness — that is, concern with one’s genuine, long-range interest — she wrote, required a man to think, to produce, and to prosper by trading with others voluntarily to mutual benefit.
Rand also noted that only an ethic of rational selfishness can justify the pursuit of profit that is the basis of capitalism — and that so long as self-interest is tainted by moral suspicion, the profit motive will continue to take the rap for every imaginable (or imagined) social ill and economic disaster. Just look how our present crisis has been attributed to the free market instead of government intervention — and how proposed solutions inevitably involve yet more government intervention to rein in the pursuit of self-interest.
Rand offered us a way out — to fight for a morality of rational self-interest, and for capitalism, the system which is its expression. And that is the source of her relevance today.
Dr. Brook is president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.
Finally! Nuclear power has been safe for decades, if we hadn’t been so stubborn in our adoption of it, we could have slowed down our growing addiction to Middle Eastern Oil.
"here’s to our last drink of fossil fuels
let us vow to get off this sauce
shoo away the swarms of commuter planes
and find that trian ticket we lost”
Yesterday morning, I had a long discussion with one of the locals at Racys. He’s a man who defines the description of growing better with age, like brandy or wine, he is in the prime of his life. We talked on a range of subjects, from Iraq and the American imperialism to colleges and finallly, to high speed rail. He expressed surprise and a considerable amount of interest in the grassroots movement we are starting in trying to route the tracks through Eau Claire, thus spurring environmental and economic progress in addition to an infinite number of benefits. Talking to him made me realize how much of an influence the older generation in Eau Claire can have on politics, economics, etc., and how important they are in moving forward with our plans.
Jay Tobin is one of an elite intellectual group of people, who are fairly numerous for a community of our size, that care as deeply, if not moreso, for the environment and progressive ideals. If we could enlist there help in virtually any aspect of organizing, I believe that they will prove to be extremely beneficial and may just provide the kind of exposure needed to attract the attention of the state and national government to reroute the train. Jay has opened the door and is willing to help with whatever plans swing themseleves into motion.
MORE than 100,000 angry citizens united in the nation’s capital to take their country back: back from the tax collector and the political and financial elites, back from bureaucrats and backroom wheelers and dealers and, more elusively and alarmingly, back from those who, well, were not like them.
These weren’t the incensed Americans who helped elect Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race and who rallied around conservative candidates in the Illinois primary on Tuesday; this scene didn’t take place at the Tea Party demonstration in Washington last year. These protesters were gathered in France a half-century ago: Last week was the 55th anniversary of the mass demonstration in Paris of the Poujadist movement, a phenomenon that bears a close resemblance to our own Tea Party. For a brief moment, the movement threatened the very foundations of the French Republic. A comparison between France then and America now may be instructive.
It is. Read on!
The real France, he insisted, was found not in Paris, but in small towns and on farms. It was certainly not found in the person of France’s most promising politician, Pierre Mendès-France, who as prime minister had acted on many of his campaign promises for meaningful economic and political change. For Poujade, the young and cerebral Mendès-France, a Sephardic Jew whose family had lived in France for several generations, was and would always be a foreigner.
This does beg an interesting parallel to our promising young, cerebral president. If he was our attempt to turn the tides in America, he serves as a painful example to exactly how ineffective the executive branch has become. Despite, and perhaps it is in spite of Obama’s oratorical skills that he has been demonized. If he cannot create any sort of legislative momentum in this climate, then who the hell can?
Maybe no one. Because “this climate” has been defined almost entirely by the dividers and the liars. When Fox news is making GOP power plays, when our rights have been fraying for the past 8 years, when news desks turn into apocalyptic pulpits, that is when the potential for movement started grinding to a halt. And all of these dividing forces have culminated into the movement of the Teabaggers, a group that is very good at tearing down and has shown no initiative to build.
-Jesse Peter Johnson
Obama and House GOPers held a riveting Q&A. A bipartisan group of bloggers, techies, and consultants is now demanding they do it again. And again.
Sent to me by Steve Majstorovic.
-Jesse Peter Johnson
So guys, I have an idea. I already posted the good news regarding the stimulus money that was allocated to Wisconsin for High Speed Rail. To fill you in, $816 million was awarded to the state last Thursday. Most of this money is going to go to build the first leg of this Wisconsin route from Milwaukee to Madison, but one million of this sum of money is going to be used to determine whether Eau Claire or La Crosse would better suited for a stop on the Madison - Twin Cities route. Now I researched this a bit the other night, and as much as I was hoping to see that Eau Claire is favored over La Crosse, it is more of a stale mate than anything. Economically and geographically speaking, it doesn’t really matter where it goes. But we all know the many reasons why Eau Claire would be better suited for this stop, but that is not the point of this essay.
When I see this stalemate between Eau Claire and La Crosse, I feel as if it’s going to be a close call to determine. So I asked myself what would put Eau Claire ahead of La Crosse…. What would make those calling the shots realize that Eau Claire is in fact better suited for this stop on the High Speed Rail line? The answer is simple. Show that we want it more. Show the state that Eau Claire wants it more than La Crosse. How do we do that? Well, I have a few ideas.
This is what I was thinking. In the spring time when it gets nice and all the great people of Eau Claire come out of hibernation, we organize an event at Phoenix Park. We get bands, speakers, booths full of information, and the community out there; all for the purpose of saying that Eau Claire is for High Speed Rail. Luckily, I have connections to some professional rail advocates and lobbyists (I’d like to say that it’s probable that they’d be down, but it’s still a maybe) that could speak. And we could get city, county, and state officials to speak. We can invite all sorts of groups to come have booths in the farmers market pavilion thinger, and we can have some of Eau Claire’s finest bands playing in the amphitheater. If everyone there signs a giant petition that says something along the lines of “I’m from Eau Claire, and not only do I want High Speed Rail in Eau Claire, but I would (fucking) use it all the time,” then it can’t possibly go unnoticed by whomever is deciding the fate of this line.
This is just an idea in it’s infancy, but if you guys are down, I’m down. I can’t do it alone, but the only useful thing I’ve learned so far in college is how to organize political campaigns on a grassroots level, so that can’t hurt. Please give me feed back if you have any ideas, good or bad. I’m serious. Let’s do this shit. Let’s change the world. Let’s get Eau Claire to change Eau Claire.
Seth T. Hoffmeister
I was reading this article about the upcoming and first annual mass convention for the Tea Bagger Movement. I found it really amusing, because it elaborates on how this event is full of controversy because attendees are expected to pay upwards of $500 dollars for a ticket, and $300 to see the keynote speaker, non other than our savior in a parka, Sarah Palin. These Tea Bagger activists who tote their signs that show not only their support of, but their complete faith, to a free market economy are getting riled up about the ‘for-profit’ nature of the event. I can see why they’re disgruntled. I mean, these are just people who are trying to find their voice in our “democracy,” when all of a sudden this small percentage of people realizes that they can profit off of the exploitation of the many. That would make me mad too! All these people want is to tote their belief that free market capitalism will solve all of our problems! To make this metaphor more understandable, think about….hmm. Ah. Think about free market capitalism. There is a big group of people that are doing their own thing and trying to survive (because in the end it’s all about survival), and this small percentage of people realize that they can exploit the many on things basic to them. With the Tea Baggers it’s their right to free speech and assembly. With 21st century Capitalism, it’s everything from food to housing to hobby to information and education. My own dismay at this parasitic relationship only allows me to feel great sympathy for the Tea Baggers and their wish to get their message across. We should support them in their quest for their basic right to assembly to fight for what they believe in, which is free market capitalism (among other ironic subjects). After all, we can all relate to a similar situation of being exploited by something big like an economic system? So why should we allow this to keep happening?
Seth T. Hoffmeister