Atlas Shugs-style libertarianism is a perversion of democracy in precisely the same manner that apocalypse Christianity is a perversion of Christian practice going back to Day One. The Catholic Church, rightly, considers “end times” theology a heresy.
Ayn Life to Live
Why? I can’t quote the Church fathers and I don’t actually care what they have to say. The perversion of apocalypse “end times” Christianity (which is only about a century or so old) is that you live your life constantly expecting the end, when all the non-believers (e.g. NOT you) get their comeuppance. Therefore, you live without planning for what might happen if He doesn’t come back tomorrow, and your life is, in many ways, wasted.*
[The danger of the “we know” approach to “end times” leads to people standing on rooftops in white robes, having sold or given away all their earthly possessions, as happened on October 22, 1844. But beliefs are stubborn things, and the members of that cult that still exist call themselves “Seventh Day Adventists.“]
So, too, the “MEEE” libertarianism, where your entire focus throughout each and every day is on where you’re NOT free to do whatever you please. It eats at you. It angers you. You say, how did the evil government steal my right to freely cross the nation with their freeways and their right of way laws? And why do I have to wear a motorcycle helmet? You’re not my mommy, you’re a NANNY STATE!
If you carry the thought process to the end, you end in absurdity. Having conquered all laws and restrictions (and yet, somehow, protected from others who have gotten the same silly notion and have guns) you now inveigh against the tyranny of constantly having to breathe! Every damn day. All the damned time. It’s oppressive. I shouldn’t be forced into this diaphragmatic enslavement. The forced servitude of GRAVITY! And so forth.
Against the tyranny of gravity
There is no perfect freedom. There is only relative freedom and as far as the Mind is concerned, the past half-century in America have been the freest that the Mind of Man has ever experienced. You can not only talk about thoughts and ideas (communism, socialism, capitalism, atheism) but you can talk about sexuality, and the sexual organs, and the “third” gender, who have always been with us, but have lived under pain of death (e.g. Matt Shepard in Wyoming) if your secret should slip out.
But reason has often gone to sleep in all that freedom, and as Goya noted, “The sleep of reason breeds monsters.”
Goya portrays a learned ass.
Ayn was a bit nuts, you see. Her father had been a successful businessman in Russia before the Revolution, and his store and home were confiscated. The rest of her life was obsessed with reactively opposing that extremism. And so, she went the other direction. As far as she could get.
And, as part one and part two (this is “The Ravening Beast That Threatens U.S., part iii.) went into, this is based on fundamental misperception of what “individuality” actually is.
But let me start with something that I had not realized — even though I’ve read more of Rand than most of her devotees — was the fundamental childish revenge aspect involved in her works. Spiking the well, as it was called, was a typically cruel Roman practice, poisoning or ruining a water source so that if the Romans couldn’t use it, no one else ever would, EITHER. I was struck by this when I saw Americans for Limited Government’s stooge, Rick Manning pimping his inaugural piece on The Daily Caller (funded by Fundamentalist End Timer AND Libertarian Tea Party Wannabe God Foster Friess):
Rick Manning – Rick Manning is the Communications Director for Americans for Limited Government. He served under Secretary Elaine L. Chao in the Bush Labor Department, and is a former National Rifle Association state lobbyist.
Did Obama ignite Wyatt’s Torch?
9:38 AM 04/14/2011
In the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, Ellis Wyatt creates the enduring image of the book when he sets his shale oil field in Colorado on fire rather than turn it over to the federal government. The resulting fire, called Wyatt’s Torch, could not be put out, and stood as the symbol of the producers rejecting their enslavement by the masses including their economic competitors who were more reliant on the government picking winners and losers than on their own ingenuity, drive and excellence. (more)
Isn’t that special?
On the inadvisability of self-skinning
It might help you to know that Howie Rich, who founded and runs Americans for Limited Government is married to his sweetheart from the first New York Libertarian Party Convention in New York City in 1973, Andrea Millen, who was elected Chair and Howie was elected Vice Chair. They married and, as Andrea Millen Rich, she ran the Libertarian bookstore in Manhattan, Lassaiz Faire Books (run, naturally, through a non-profit which she headed, “The Center for Independent Thought”) from 1982 to 2005, 1982, ironically, being the year that Ayn Rand died in Manhattan. Here’s her “official” speakers profile from the FFF — the “Future of Freedom Foundation” — Speakers List:
Former President of Laissez Faire Books, she bought the assets of Laissez Faire Books from John Muller in 1982. Shortly thereafter she and her husband* [*note that “Howard Rich” is not mentioned] acquired the Libertarian Review Foundation and folded Laissez Faire Books into it. In 1990 they changed LRF’s name to Center for Independent Thought, to more accurately reflect its various projects. She read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in college and later attended her lectures at The Nathaniel Branden Institute for several years. She was very involved with the Libertarian Party, both nationally and in New York, from 1972 to 1983. During that period, she spent much time getting radicalized in Murray Rothbard’s living room.
(And does FFF = QQQQ? B 4 U answer, sound it out.)
So don’t doubt that the ALG Communications Director’s position doesn’t come straight from the Ayn’s mouth.
I had not seen the monstrous vengeance beast in Ayn’s writings before, but now it shines through, clear as a sky of deepest azure blue.
Howard Roark blows up a housing complex for poor people. Wyatt’s torch is an oil man blowing up his oilfield. Atlas Shrugs is dumbass John Galt blowing up all of civilization. It’s the ultimate spiking of the well, but, worse, it’s based on a ridiculous notion that thought is the same as deed.
Thought and Deed
I’m going to return to the “end times” heresy for a moment to refract the same picture through two separate prisms. Later, perhaps, we shall see that there is only one prism here.
The problem with constantly expecting the apocalypse is that you continually order your life around an unknown and unknowable, unquestioned “fact” that any minute now, this is all going to go away (and something better, perhaps will replace it). It is exactly as though you lived, expecting the asteroid to hit Earth at any moment.
For a couple of million years you have been wrong. (About asteroids.) For a couple of thousand years, people have lived and died in constant expectation of an event that never happened, wasting vast portions of their lives in a demonstrable fantasy.
Which is why it’s heretical: it grants an escape and avoidance from the duty to live your life here, in THIS world. Other worlds will take care of themselves in the by and by, by the by.
So, too, the John Galt/Howard Roark model that Rick Manning and Paul Ryan and Howie Rich all so admire.
There IS no John Galt. He is the projection of Ayn Rand’s idealized perfect libertarian Übermensch.
He has never existed, and never will exist.
These numnuts haven’t been there, and so can fantasize about what it must be like — exactly as Ayn did. And they chafe, each and every day about THEIR property rights, and THEIR freedom … based on a form of human existence that does not exist. But when you base your responses to the world on a filter of unreality, your results are inherently unreliable.
You see? It is the same behavior refracted through the same prism, only at a slightly different angle: I am not free; government oppresses my freedom, therefore if I dissolve government I will be free. (That one works. Just ask the Somalis.)
Jesus is coming soon. What the hell does it matter if we cut down all the forests?
Former Secretary of the Interior James Watt, of Wyoming, on the Apocalyptic Interpretation of national forest policy, misquoted, seemingly. (His “I can see Russia from my house” moment, or “I invented the internet.”) But what he demonstrably said, refutes the apocalyptic notion of ignoring the world, while laying out the creepy devil’s bridge that justifies theocracy:
My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns.
~ The Washington Post, May 24, 1981
As far as law and national policy go, we have always been committed to a pragmatic approach to this world, and not in living in fantasy worlds that bankrupt the nation, like, say, getting even for the loss of two skyscrapers and an unoccupied portion of the Pentagon by invading, occupying and remaking Iraq.
[* And hanging its former leader in a warehouse in the dead of night by guys in black ski masks. Mustn’t forget the terrific “honor” in that.]
But the point herein is that both the Galtists’ and Apocalypticists’ approach is fundamentally (pun intended) driven by a fantasy, an illusion, a day-dream. Until and unless either John Galt or The Armies of Heaven appear out of the clouds, there is no national or rational basis for implementing such policies.
At a fundamental level (pun, again, tediously, repetitively, intended) these two philosophies are contradictory — all allegiance to the self versus all allegiance to World-Ending Jesus, whatever you consider that to be, but also, fundamentally, since they are both based on a kind of ‘revenge’ on a world that “doesn’t understand me,” they also have something in common.
Both consider themselves unique members of an elite and “chosen” group of individuals, and reject society at large. As looters in the former case, as unbelievers in the latter. And the mean old world is going to get its comeuppance.
(I’ll eat a bug and then I’ll die/and you’ll be sorry by and by.)
Howard Roark believes that since he designed the housing complex for the poor (Ayn’s little conceit) EVERYTHING about it proceeded from his self-anointed genius, and, therefore he has a right to destroy it.
Ellis Wyatt believes that he created the oil shale field, and therefore has every right to destroy it.
One doubts whether Ellis Wyatt did any of the manual labor that created the facility to exploit the already-existing deposits of oil shale. One knows that Howard Roark lifted not a single brick in the construction of the housing complex. What they had was an idea.
The word is mistaken for the deed.
Even the Gospel of John doesn’t make that mistake.
First, the word must be made flesh.
The Word Made Flesh
[Fountainhead spoiler alert. Do not read the next section. Skip down to the picture of the bunny rabbit, and read on from there.]
Roark’s Defense follows
At the conclusion, newspaperman Gail Wynand resolves the strike that has shut down his newspaper following his firing of Howard Roark’s Arch-Nemesis, Ellsworth Toohey. He resolves it in a typically Randian way. He calls the re-hired Toohey to his office so that Toohey can hear the presses stop.
Rather than “give in” to the strike and Toohey’s “power” of evil collectivism, Wynand has shut down the newspaper for all time.
It is another spiking the well, by a proud rugged individualist. Rather than “Atlas Shrugged,” the proper title of Ayn’s final Statement of Übermenschianism OUGHT to be “Samson Pushed.”
OK: Samson has a pretty good reason. But Ayn Rand’s Galts and Roarks believe that THEY are the motive engine for all thoughts that proceed from theirs. They are Aristotle’s Prime Movers, Unmoved. If they are offended, then ANY deed which might have proceeded from them must be destroyed. Here, let me litigate the case of The People of the State of New York v. Howard Roark:
Mr. Roark? Pretend to be Gary Cooper and give your speech:
The Jury returns with a verdict of “guilty.” The Judge speaks:
Mr. Roark, you state that you had a verbal agreement from Mr. Keating that you would secretly design the plans for a housing complex for the poor.
Had you trusted the law, you’d have written up a contract that would have been legally binding, and you would have a case for damages to Mr. Keating for breaking that agreement. Your attorney’s fees, all monies that Mr. Keating had derived from the contract between himself and the builders and punitive damages to recompense you for the time and trouble this has cost you.
But you didn’t do that, did you?
You made an agreement outside the law, and when the agreement was abrogated (and we only have your word that it was), you decided that anything that proceeded from the plans was “yours” and you had the right to blow that up using high explosives. The fact that no one was injured or that you took great pains to make sure no one was present when you set off your dynamite doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility if there had been a homeless person sleeping somewhere that you had not inspected.
But you forgot the thousands of people who built those buildings, Mr. Roark. Isn’t the engineer’s input meaningful? What about the “genius” of the brick-layer and the carpenter and the electrician? What about those who fabricated the materials and transported them?
I put it to you, Mr. Roark that your philosophy is one of the most monstrous that we have ever seen in this courtroom. You state that you have the right to physically dynamite any building that you believe that you designed. Even if that were true, you contributed not a brick or a plank to that building, and were I to grant your contribution, I could only order that all ill-gotten plans be destroyed, and that no one else be allowed to build a building using those same exact plans.
But you believed yourself above the law from the very first moment, sir, and when your ego was pricked, you responded monstrously — not against the man who had wronged you, but against every single person who built that building, even though not a single one of them could have possibly known of your complaint or your peevishness. That was a secret between you and Mr. Keating which he was NOT ALLOWED to reveal, wasn’t it, Mr. Roark? To them, they were doing honest work for honest pay. But you didn’t take your revenge on Mr. Keating, the only person who could have known who had drawn the plans. No: you “avenged” yourself on THEM. On every other worker who worked on that housing project, Mr. Roark.
And that doesn’t include the firemen and police who had to clean up your mess afterwards, and make sure you hadn’t inadvertently set the rest of the coommunity on fire, Mr. Roark. Because instead of taking private vendetta on a personal grudge, you took vengeance upon our entire community over something that no one in that community could have possibly known.
This was an act of terrorism, pure and simple, sir. That is troubling enough.
What troubles me about your thinking even more is that it is absurd. Solomon is famous throughout the world as a judge, but no one would claim that all judges proceed from him. Nor that all decisions ever made since Solomon could not have been made without him.
You claim a right of creation that only the Almighty had formerly reserved for Him/Herself, and brought about your own personal apocalypse.
But it is not within my rights to cast you into a lake of eternal flame. So, I grant that which the State of New York allows me, which is the maximum penalty provided by law for your act of terrorism: life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
Perhaps you can raise parakeets or something useful. I don’t know, or care, Mr. Roark, but it seems odd that someone whose very intellectual existence is defined by projects to house and shelter human beings and which must be built by the collective effort of countless other human beings — and I am including everyone who ever designed or built a single truck that transported a single brick, and all those who located, drilled, transported and refined one gallon of gasoline for that truck — would have such monstrous contempt for those who make your very profession possible.
You clearly despise society, Mr. Roark, and you clearly are a danger TO that society, and I have no choice but to imprison you for the rest of your natural life.
Think whatever you please, sir, but do not think that you have created our world. Another architect would have done the job of building as well, no matter what your designs. Buildings would have been built and people housed in them, whether you had ever been born or not.
Court stands adjourned.
But only Ayn Rand the novelist might have been so convinced of her Superman’s faux-eloquence that a jury of her imagination would have exonerated Roark.
Sad that she wasn’t alone in this conceit.
The Anti-Spoiler Easter Bunny
So, What is the Ravening Beast that Endangers U.S.?
It is a combination — actually and alliance — between the electoral machine of the “libertarians” (and I mean the specific circle of the Kochs and their willing collaborators) and the Dominionists of whom Foster Friess and Sarah Palin are the poster children.
When the Ayatollah released the hostages upon Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, a message was being sent. When Keith Olbermann was suspended the day after the 2010 November elections — as we can now see — a message was being sent. And, when the Scott Walker style “Tea Party” politicos took over, a message was sent as they went after abortion in Washington D.C. and 49 state legislatures*. Abortion was never a “libertarian” issue — they have neatly danced over it from the earliest days when Howie was wooing Andrea, much like the Founders danced over slavery.
[* Yes. You read that right. According to the Guttmacher Institute, FORTY NINE legislatures through March 31.)
So WHY is this at the top of the agenda when it was never mentioned during the campaign?
A message is being sent. On Lawrence O’Donnell’s “Last Word” (the sad, sickly replacement for Olbermann on MSNBC), it was gratifying to see someone else, of “expert” credentials, making the same connection.* Without the Dominionist Christian wing of the GOP (Dobson, Robertson, Farah, et al.), the Kochian Libs cannot possibly govern. So, a “deal” has obviously been struck, as with Reagan and the Ayatollah, MSNBC and Comcast (who was about to take over operations of NBC-Universal, and whose top officers are on the Tea Party side of radical republicanism).
[* And see HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. Peter Montgomery, Senior Fellow of People for the American Way, who has written an exposé on a phony minister/historian (ministorian?), David Barton. Here’s from the transcript at 6:37 on the video:
and it’s an important part of an effort by a lot of Republican strategists and conservative strategists right now to sort of merge the energies of the religious right activists with the tea party movement, so David Barton comes long and claims that there’s a biblical basis for the tea party’s view of radically limited federal government and for all this right-wing economics. They’re doing this with an eye to the 2012 elections, of course….]
If that happens, as there is very little doubt that it has, we incontrovertibly face a ravening beast, and it unquestionably threatens U.S.
Whatever the viability of that (literally) unholy alliance let’s hope that the Dominionists never watch Ayn Rand’s “Message to America.”
That would be bad. Very bad.