Ayn Rand Acolytes Go Ballistic Over CNN Rand Segment
A four-minute CNN segment on Ayn Rand has struck a nerve with Ayn Rand factotums.
The Ayn Rand Institute's Don Watkins has a blog post out the other day, taking issue with a comment that I made on CNN's Situation Room last week, in which I said: “Ayn Rand made it morally acceptable to be harsh in your treatment of the poor.”
Let’s get this straight: Rand did not advocate “harsh” treatment of poor people, nor did she think in terms of “rich” vs. “poor.” She thought in terms of individuals, arguing that every person, whatever his income, has an inalienable moral and political right to pursue his own life and happiness–neither robbing others nor being robbed by them.Rand was opposed to every so-called "entitlement" program for the poor and middle class. She advocated eliminating all taxation and all public services, turning back the clock to the era of the robber barons, when "individuals" flourished, and the state of one's education and health were a function of one's wealth.
That's not, of course, the way the Randers push their ideology. What's amazing is how so many otherwise well-meaning and intelligent people buy into it. Sure, the Rand philosophy doesn't advocate oppression of the poor, not in so many words. But that is what it would do. To deny that is just silly.
When I read this kind of rationalization, I'm reminded of Anatole France: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
Actually I should amend what I just said. Rand was opposed to entitlements unless they benefited her personally, in which case it was OK for her--as it was when she and her husband went on Medicare, a program she had violently opposed from the beginning.
That's reminiscent of Paul Ryan attacking the economic stimulus while asking for stimulus money for his district.
This wasn't the only grumbling from the Rand establishment over that little CNN segment.
Also last week, the ARI's Harvey Binswanger posted a really amazing comment on his website concerning the Situation Room broadcast. This was posted on his website hblist.com but has since been removed. After first bemoaning the fact that an ARI spokesman didn't get as much air time as myself or Rand biographer Anne Heller, Binswanger said:
In Ayn Rand Nation I said that Randers don't constitute a cult, and I still adhere to that belief. It's far too diverse a movement. But these kinds of irresponsible attacks demonstrate that there are still cultlike aspects to the Rand movement. No wonder Paul Ryan has sought, unconvincingly, to distance himself from Rand.
© 2012 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.
My latest book is AYN RAND NATION: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul, published by St. Martin's Press. Click here to order the book from Amazon.com, and here to order it from Barnes & Noble. Follow me on Twitter: @gary_weiss