Monday, May 11, 2015

You Are What You Read

In an attempt to better understand the Neo-Conservative mind, I decided to read the tome that they all seem to hold so dear: “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. I am only about a third of the way through it, but can say that it is an interesting view in to the psyche of anyone who holds this book dear.

It is a muddle of ideologies that do not hold any coherent picture of the world. That anyone could use this book to justify their political approach to life is a mystery. For those of you who have not read Rand, the basis of her ideology can be phrased something like this: “I am doing what I want to do because I want to do it and if you don’t like it – too bad!” Objectivism is a pretty harsh ideology and runs contrary to pretty much everything we currently believe to be true about human psychology.

The characters in the book are selfish, and egotistical – which I have no inherent problem with – but they are driven to such extremes by preposterous conditions that would never exist in the real world. Their industries are stymied by conditions set upon them by regulations that any half-competent observer of economics would see are unsustainable. Their reactions to these conditions are – if not actually altruistic – at least well-intentioned. And here is where the use of this book as a basis for a system of politics breaks down. The Neo-Cons, far from taking the path taken by the characters in the book of dealing with the regulations and attempting to beat the competition despite the fetters placed on them, seem to have take then message that the government is a bad thing that should be used to facilitate the movement of wealth to the rich without needing to work for it.

Given a potential lethal blow to his industry by a think tank that has been pushing for the government to outlaw “Reardon Metal,” Hank Reardon does not quake with fear, the railroad that is using the metal to build its line does not give in to public opinion; they push forward. When a law is passed to even the playing field by forcing companies in multiple industries to divest of all but their core business, Reardon does not accept the deal offered by the people to whom he sells his source material mines. Far from complaining about the regulations, he tells his suppliers to charge whatever they like – charge him as much as they like. He wants to succeed despite this set-back. This, more than anything else, is what baffles me about the Neo-Con worship or Rand. If this concludes like her other books that I have read, the characters will win out not by controlling the government and making their greed easier – but by sheer determination and disregard for anyone else.

That being said, there are some telling points raised in the book. Not only is sheer determination  and selfishness praised, one character goes so far as to throw a press conference and state outright that she could care less what her investors think or whether they ever earn a penny. She is in business for the money she can make. So telling! This, by the way, would be the “Job Creator” that the Right holds a special reverence for!

One other great passage (so far) is from that same conference. It is clear that Rand holds no great love for the press.

“The reporters who came to the press conference in the office of the John Galt Line were young men who had been trained to think that their job consisted of concealing from the world the nature of its events. It was their daily duty to serve as audience for some public figure who made utterances about the public good, in phrases carefully chosen to convey no meaning. It was their daily job to sling words together in any combination they pleased, so long as the words did not fall into a sequence saying something specific. They could not understand the interview now being given to them.”

It is an interesting theory and one that has made the cast and crew over at Faux News a lot of money.

So, yeah, Atlas Shrugged is a strange book and seems to be following the pattern of her other books. I am enjoying the bits about the railroad industry, though. And the bits set in Colorado – though her thoughts about what Colorado looks like and how Geology works are as strange as her political views.

Wherever you are today, I hope that whatever you are reading, you are enjoying.

Don Bergquist – May 11, 2015 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

No comments: