It's Ayn Rand's fault? Really?
I'm a financial supporter of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute and the Libertarian Party. Yet, despite my wacko anti-government leanings, I do not support the Ayn Rand institute. My reasons for this will remain my own, for now. I'm not a Rand scholar, but I've read much of her work - and I have an understanding of much, if not all, of Objectivism. Rand can be a bit wordy. Not Post Modern Structuralism wordy, mind you. But wordy nonetheless.
But today I want to attack those that attack Ayn Rand. Newsweek, in its literary brilliance, ran an article recently titled: "Can Ayn Rand Survive the Economic Crisis: Some point to Alan Greenspan. But his hands-off approach to the economy originated with Ayn Rand."
It's popular belief that Ayn Rand originated the idea of laissez faire capitalism. It's also widely understood that Greenspan was implementing Rand's ideas during his tenure at the Federal Reserve.
These two points need to be addressed, even by those who disagree with Rand's philosophy, as they are ridiculous and false.
The concept of laissez faire capitalism did not originate with anyone. It occured naturally. It exists anywhere productive people cooperate without government interference. It is not a public policy, per se. It is the absence of economic policy. It is the absence of third party influence in economic affairs. It is the absence of coercion in an economic transaction.
Though many people before Rand have noted the benefits of laissez faire, most famous among them beign Classical Liberal Frederick Bastiat. The Law, published in 1850, describes in detail how government's natural tendency is to interfere in the economy, seize power, and crush liberty. In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand turned this concept into an epic science fiction novel.
That's right. Atlas Shrugged at its core, is a science fiction novel - and a poorly written one at that. It has its moments. It has great characters.... okay GREAT characters..... and it's based on The New Deal, but it's still a fiction novel.
Let me pause. Let's go back to Newsweek's article. Should we blame Ayn Rand for the economic crisis? As much as you can blame any science fiction writer, I suppose.
What about her relationship with Greenspan? Some of my Left friends are pulling a Horshack right now trying to get my attention. Didn't Greenspan and Rand pal around? Wasn't Greenspan a Rand disciple?
You know what else Greenspan liked? A Gold Standard. A complete separation of State and Economics. He questioned the very existence of the Federal Reserve.
In 1967, Greenspan released an essay titled "Gold and Economic Freedom." Here's an excerpt:
"In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves."
So why the seismic shift in policy? How did Greenspan become Fed Chairman, where he systematically confiscated savings through inflation? Why did he refuse to autograph this very essay when Ron Paul mockingly showed it to him during his Chairman days?
But most importantly, why does the government and media, all of whom are well aware of Greenspan's split with the Gold Standard community (and Ayn Rand) continue to paint Greenspan as Randian?
Well it could just be a case of Stupidity Propagating Stupidity. I see this all the time on message boards, even here at TMF. Folks that have never picked up Rand, Hayek, Mises, Friedman, Bastiat, Rothbard, etc. feel the need to parrot the same B.S. that they heard from "respected" journalists like ...ahem... Newsweek.
Or it could be nefarious. Those that understand the laissez faire realize that it gives power to the individual, and conversely, removes power from the State. From the State's perpective, naturally, any chance it has to discredit laissez faire is a chance to increase its power. This is why Keynes is America's revered economist, while Bastiat and Mises' works remain unknown in American schools.
Nonetheless, anyone who has read Rand can make these assertions:
1. She would have been appalled at the level of debt Americans accumulated. Rand believed that you worked in order to purchase things you want and need with your own money. You don't work to enslave yourself with borrowed money. You can't afford the car you want? The house you want? Too bad. Read a book. Learn a craft. Acquire a skill. Improve society and you will be rewarded.
2. Government laid the framework for this disaster long ago. The Federal Reserve, and central banking in general, has long been known to be the enemy of the people. Government and their bankers, of course, will tell you otherwise.
3. True wealth comes from within. The stock market crashed? So what. The housing bubble burst? So what. Mining for gold starts in your own brain. Assert yourself. Act in your own self interest. Study. Create. Learn. An insatiable desire for knowledge will make you wealthy no matter what happens to the economy. And the proper reward for what you create is the ability to exchange it with someone else for something that you value from them.
So, let's return to Newsweek's question: Can Ayn Rand Survive the Economic Crisis? I sure hope so because I'd hate to live in a world where people lost faith in their own ability to create something special.
David in Qatar