Vladimir Shlapentokh

Сентябрь 27, 2010

Ayn Rand is an enemy of the Tea Party, not its prophet

Filed under: Uncategorized — shlapentokh @ 6:49 пп


Ayn Rand is an enemy of the Tea Party, not its prophet

                        Vladimir Shlapentokh

In the 1960s, Vladimir Lenin was considered by many Russian liberals as their ally in the fight for the liberalization of Soviet society because they agreed with one single item in his ideological heritage: his relative tolerance of the views of his party comrades. At the same time, neo-Leninists pretended to ignore the fact that Lenin was a constant foe of the free election process and of liberal freedoms, which was in addition to him being the founder of the infamous Soviet Gulag. The case with Ayn Rand and the Tea Party is quite similar. The leaders of this influential movement focus on only one commonality between the views of Rand and that of their own ideology — her hostility toward welfare — all while ignoring the total incompatibility of the remainder of her views on other major social issues within the principles of the Tea Party movement.         

 On Sunday, September 14, the Tea Party organized a massive rally in Washington, where much like other gatherings of a similar nature the ideological fervor was directed against the elites, of whom Rand was ironically a great admirer. It is only natural that in the midst of such an anti-elitist atmosphere the name of Thomas Jefferson was found on the posters of the marchers. For the Tea Partiers, Jefferson is the epitome of a true democrat, one who more than many of his contemporaries emphasized both the role of common people in governing society and the importance of small government. The Tea Party activists could not help but to take pleasure in Jefferson’s diatribes written in his famous letter to John Adams where he spoke strongly against an “artificial aristocracy founded on birth and wealth,” which is “a mischievous ingredient in government” and an enemy of “the equality of men.” To be sure, Jefferson’s name could be found on the rally posters in Washington on September 14, as well as in other places where the Tea Party made itself visible.

The name of Ayn Rand competed in popularity with Jefferson’s at the Tea Party meetings.  Some demonstrations started with a reading from Atlas Shrugged, which was coupled with the declaration that this book should be treated as “America’s Second Declaration of Independence.” Meanwhile, among American authors over the last two centuries it is impossible to find somebody who has so openly and consistently praised the American elite as Rand has. Rand created magnate protagonists like John Galt and Francisco d’Anconia who ran their industries and societies without paying heed to public opinion. Rand and her heroes hold ordinary people in great contempt, and would be appalled if she were alive today to see how the common man has demanded that it is they (not the American nobility nor the Ivy League graduates) who should have the decisive voice in this country’s politics.  This movement’s activists, in their fervor against the elites, literally echo the motto of the Russian Bolsheviks who insisted that “the cook if taught will efficiently govern society”; this slogan indeed only bolsters the cadre policy of the Tea Party whose members do not require a diploma from even a mediocre college from their chosen Senatorial candidates.     

 In fact, those who commend Rand as the champion of individualism conveniently forget that she wanted to protect individualism and the unlimited freedom of action when only applied to her Nietzschean tycoons. Indeed, Rand was fully indifferent to the workers in her novels, whom she described as primitive beings — “savages” in the words of Atlas’ steel mogul Hank Rearden, arguably one of Rand’s most beloved personages.        

               It is obvious for those who have genuinely read Ayn Rand’s novels and essays (as opposed to those who are merely formulating opinions of her from hearsay), that she and the Tea Party politicians have very nearly opposite views on what would be the desirable political system. In her most popular novels, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, it is impossible to find any praise of the American Revolution or the American Constitution, but it is very easy to find many cases of the derogation of democracy and the majority rule, as well as a contempt for all democratic institutions: the election process, presidency, public opinion, media, and of the judicial system. In her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, she directly mocks democracy in both the past and present periods, and disparages “the will of the people.” While it is indeed true that Rand is disgusted with the state, a fact which makes the partiers erroneously think that Rand is their ally, it is remarkable that the issue of taxes, a crux of the movement, was addressed by Rand only in regards to big companies, and never as a concern for ordinary people.

               The rank-and-file in the movement sincerely believes that Rand is a staunch supporter of the same liberal capitalism as they are, when in fact Rand is the champion of aristocratic, oligarchic capitalism which is deeply antagonistic toward democracy and the will of people.

                The Tea Party is an interesting phenomenon in American life, eloquent evidence of the vitality of American democracy even if its ultimate influence on American political life is yet to be understood. Even if its anti-elitist fervor can be useful for American democracy, at this point in time, the narrative of the Tea Party is vague, contradictory, and full of utopian and destructive elements. In Ron Chernov’s recent New York Times article from September 24, 2010, he remarkably notes in his discussion of the Tea Party’s ideological roots, that it “can claim legitimate descent from Jefferson and Madison.” Yet, he totally ignored their strong anti-elitist views, which is so crucial for the movement.

               The inclusion of Ayn Rand on the list of their saints, an ideologue who is mostly the enemy of the Tea Party’s ideology as well as of democracy in general, suggests that the only way the Tea Party will have a future as a constructive part of American politics beyond the November election is if the Party seriously reassesses its intellectual arsenal.

7 комментариев »

  1. The author of this post completely confuses (i.e. equivocates on) the meaning of *elite*. There are 1) the self-made, NON-aristocratic elite that are the self-made men who created wealth, and there are 2) the aristocratic, wielders of political FORCE. Jefferson was a republican, who believed in individual liberty FROM that force. He was only liberal in that sense (not in the sense of Democrat). Ayn Rand very specifically identified the equivocation between the ‘elitism’ of economic wealth made by the productive and the elitism of aristocratic power OVER wealth.

    The Tea Party-ers of Boston & those of today are both opposed to the aristocratic wielding of political force. The is a political minded group in America that seek to take over today’s Tea Party. These are the religious right who seek to usurp the movements thrust toward freedom, in order to see their religious beliefs imposed upon all Americans.

    Considering that the Tea Party today brings out the largest *ideological* issue since the Barry Goldwater campaign (& does so much more strongly), it is pretty bad to miss its point! It is hard to say which is worse, those who sense the Tea Party threatens their bankrupt beliefs & can only smear the Tea Party, or those who fail to grasp what it is and attempt to ‘diagnose’ it from superficialities.

    комментарий от RnBram — Сентябрь 28, 2010 @ 11:01 дп | Ответить

  2. Actually, Rand and Jefferson were in perfect agreement. Jefferson believed that the aristocracy of birth would be replaced by a meritocracy of ability. Neither believed, however, that any government official, no matter how worthy in himself, should have the power to deny the individual rights of even the least members of society. Ayn Rand certainly did not believe that there should be an elite group of people at the top, pushing everyone else around. If you missed that in her writing, you’ve failed to understand her at all.

    комментарий от Ardsgaine — Сентябрь 28, 2010 @ 12:58 пп | Ответить

  3. This is John Galt’s oath from Atlas Shrugged: «I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, NOR ask another man to live for mine.» (Emphasis added.)

    In other words, it is as wrong to sacrifice others for oneself as it is to sacrifice oneself for others. People who can’t imagine a third way to live in this world, always assume that Rand’s denunciation of self-sacrifice means that she thinks we should sacrifice other people for our interest. What she believed is that every individual, rich or poor, should deal with other individuals by trading value for value, not by demanding that they sacrifice their interests for his.

    комментарий от Ardsgaine — Сентябрь 28, 2010 @ 1:06 пп | Ответить

  4. Ayn Rand and the Tea Party are in sync, and I am urging those on my Objectivist listserv (hblist.com) to vote for any candidate, no matter how bad, who represents the Tea Party movement.

    Ayn Rand told me in personal conversation that she detested the word «elite.» Several of her heroes, contrary to the article’s claims, have friends who are of average intelligence and ability, but of unusual independence and honesty. E.g, Roark’s friendship with Mike Donnegan (The Fountainhead), Dagny Taggart’s and Francisco d’Anconia’s friendship with Eddie Willers, and Dagny with her sister in law, Cherryl Taggart.

    Naturally, since Rand was a Romanticist, since she wanted to create really interesting characters who did heroic and innovative things, the vast majority of her characters are unconventional, intelligent, audacious, innovative individuals. This is not elitism, this is great literary imagination.

    All of her books, fiction and non-fiction, express the same devotion to universal human liberty and to the rights of *every* individual. E.g., John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged, says in his radio address:

    «Some of you will never know who is John Galt. But those of you who have known a single moment of love for existence and of pride in being its worthy lover, a moment of looking at this earth and letting your glance be its sanction, have known the state of being a man, and I — I am only the man who knew that that state is not to be betrayed. I am the man who knew what made it possible and who chose consistently to practice and to be what you had practiced and been in that one moment.

    «That choice is yours to make. That choice — the dedication to one’s highest potential — is made by accepting the fact that the noblest act you have ever performed is the act of your mind in the process of grasping that two and two make four.

    «Whoever you are — you who are alone with my words in this moment, with nothing but your honesty to help you understand — the choice is still open to be a human being, but the price is to start from scratch, to stand naked in the face of reality and, reversing a costly historical error, to declare: ‘I am, therefore I’ll think.’ «

    комментарий от Harry Binswanger — Сентябрь 28, 2010 @ 3:45 пп | Ответить

    • anyone who implores me to vote for «any candidate, no matter how bad» just because they tangentially support an ideology is still asking me to vote for a bad candidate. your argument is invalid. and very, very sad.

      комментарий от Erik — Октябрь 27, 2010 @ 3:09 пп | Ответить

  5. «… just because they tangentially support an ideology is still asking me to vote for a bad candidate. your argument is invalid. and very, very sad.»

    To assume this is sad, presumes an Idealist view of voting, wherein one should ONLY vote for their Platonically Ideal candidate. Any other vote dismisses the other-worldly forces of justice.

    Harry Binswanger is not so foolish. The Tea Party is a congeries of participants, but its overall message is: Washington YOU have no Right to OUR money, nor to dictate OUR liberty. Washington politicians of both parties, most noticeably since FDR, have moved steadily towards a complete disregard of ANYTHING in the U.S. Constitution that might block their need for statist total control over Life, Liberty and Property.

    This is just as true of Republicans as it is of Democrats. Therefore, ANYTHING that will fight off their statism is valid. The thing that is sad is that it has become THIS ghastly.

    Harry Binswanger is only arguing for the most effective means of blocking that statism. His position, even if desperate, is NOT «very, very sad». Instead Erik’s vapid misunderstanding is «very, very sad».

    комментарий от RnBram — Октябрь 27, 2010 @ 7:29 пп | Ответить

  6. […] Now, however, it seems that many do not even care what is in their interests. Mr. Shlapentokh has another post about how Rand’s ideals are entirely opposed to the populist spirit of the Tea Party. In this, […]

    Уведомление от The Triumph of the Bill: Ayn Rand’s Worst Kept Secret « A Register of Follies — Апрель 18, 2011 @ 7:24 пп | Ответить

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