It only stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.It sounds almost communistic. If there are no masters, then there are no slaves, but the message of her writing is that the masters must be allowed to remain masters, and untrammelled by any concern for the wretched. Slaves must be slaves forever! It is all they are good for. Rand believed that altruism was evil. So any redistribution of wealth, even voluntarily, is weakening to society. How can such a vision be anything other than Nazi? Rand’s vision of the world in Atlas Shrugged inspires either slavering devotion or disbelieving ribaldry. Leading philosophers ignore it as puerile. Noam Chomsky even called her “one of the most evil figures of modern intellectual history”. But Rand’s adherents see parallels in today’s economic events. Faced with Obama's Keynsianism, the thought of a right wing strike has its sympathisers among the caste of Republican politicoes on Capitol Hill. Some foresee a Rand revolution, in which those unwilling to pay their taxes decide to “do a Galt”, arrange a strike of the wealthy. Obama’s policy of creating work by injecting cash into the economy, they argue, smacks of socialism, forcing the strong and successful to prop up the weak, feckless and incompetent. Business commentator, Stephen Moore, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
The current economic strategy is right out of Atlas Shrugged. The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you.The Republican congressman, John Campbell, told The Washington Independent:
People are starting to feel like we’re living through the scenario that happened in Atlas Shrugged. The achievers are going on strike. I’m seeing, at a small level, a kind of protest from the people who create jobs… who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they’ll be punished for them.They cannot mean the bankers! Among the bankers, brokers and industrialists, whose greed brought on this recession, were adherents of Rand’s ideas, like Alan Greenspan, for long boss of the Federal Reserve. They just love Ayn Rand. Ideas like hers justify their “rational self-interest” in packaging up debts as leveraged private equity buyouts, but theirs turns out to be an “irrational self-interest”. The system was an elaborate pyramid selling scheme that some didn’t catch on to and others ignored to get the most out of it while they could—not via the phony bonds themselves, but the bonuses for selling them! We need to force more of them to give up their ill-gotten gains, then send them on a permanent enforced strike in some suitable penitentiary. Just to prove how out of touch with reality modern Republicans are, Campbell gives Rand’s book as gifts to his interns. The conservative right wing ignore history in favour of these infantile fantasies like Rand's. Penelope Newsome, writing in The Guardian, brought all this to mind. She talks about J M Keynes, 70 years ago, revealing the two great mistakes in economic policy capitalist governments make in a recession. Keynesianism was taught as received wisdom in university economics courses until about 35 years ago, when Milton Friedman's monetarism became fashionable, and set us on the road to our present state. Ayn Rand was obviously not a Keynsian.
- First Mistake—Governments should reduce interest rates and increase the money supply then businesses will borrow and invest and create a recovery in output and employment. Not so! Businesses will not borrow, even at zero interest rates, when there is no demand for their output. And why would banks lend money at zero interest rates, especially to businesses with no demand even for their existing output.
- Second Mistake—Governments should cut wages and allow costs to fall then prices will fall and demand will increase, lifting output and employment. Not so, again! Output and employment will not rise even if prices do fall, because the fall in incomes imposed first must mean that workers do not have the cash to spend, especially when they are scared of becoming unemployed.