I was thinking about this morning, when I heard Obama had mentioned Ayn Rand’s book The Virtue of Selfishness to buttress his claim that the McCain/Palin economic policies were selfish.
My guess is that if he had, he didn’t understand her underlying concepts in the book, which BTW I think most people would find challenging given the fact that Rand’s definition of selfishness is not the one most people understand.
In keeping with Rand’s definition of selfish and carrying it over to our country’s economics, let me just say, that I believe there are two kinds of capitalists . . . smart capitalists and dumb capitalists.
Smart capitalists understand that it is in their selfish interests to be sure that a limited government funds education, defense, the country’s infrastructure. I’ve always thought that the concept of, “pay me now or pay me later” applies here; education being the best example of being selfish for the common good.
Dumb capitalists behave in a way that is contrary to their own self interests . . . one could say this is irrational behavior, because if one subscribes to “pay me now or pay me later” it is clear there is no free lunch when living in a society where people are dependent upon each other . . . their work and their good will.
Either we make sure that every child receives a good education or our country pays the consequences with part of the population being illiterate, turning to drugs, despair, crime etc. It is in our selfish interests that we fund quality education for all of our citizens.
That having been said, this is a far different concept than Obama’s socialist/Marxist notion of spreading the wealth around . . . of taking from people who have produced wealth and giving to people who have not.
Ah, but I digress.
Before you know it I was thinking about Rand’s other books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I was thinking about what happens in socialist countries, how innovation is stifled . . . I was thinking what a socialist/Marxist America might look like when I found these comments concerning Atlas Shrugged and what the book addresses that Obama doesn’t understand.
In the world of Atlas Shrugged, society stagnated when independent productive achievers began to be socially demonized and even punished for their accomplishments, even though society had been far more healthy and prosperous by allowing, encouraging and rewarding self-reliance and individual achievement. Independence and personal happiness flourished to the extent that people were free, and achievement was rewarded to the extent that individual ownership of private property was strictly respected. The hero, John Galt, lives a life of laissez-faire capitalism as the only way to live consistent with his beliefs.
Atlas Shrugged is a political book. It portrays fascism, socialism and communism – any form of state intervention in society – as systemically and fatally flawed. However, Rand claimed that it is not a fundamentally political book, but that the politics portrayed in the novel are a result of her attempt to display her image of the ideal person and the individual mind’s position and value in society.
Rand argues that independence and individual achievement enable society to survive and thrive, and should be embraced. But this requires a “rational” moral code. She argues that, over time, coerced self-sacrifice causes any society to self-destruct.
It has been written, that for many people, reading Atlas Shrugged has had as great an impact on their lives as reading the Bible. That might be a stretch, but I can testify that Rand’s books have impacted on my outlook on life.
They should be required reading in history classes and democracies every where.