Atlas Was Drugged!
By Beverly Bandler
It is not surprising that the ultra-right conservatives of the Republican Party and their Tea Party minions have a love affair with Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1905-1982). Their embrace of uninformed conceit, ignorance of philosophy, history, economics, and infantile extremism is unbounded.
The United States has already had an Ayn Rand laissez-faire world: The Gilded Age, which ran from the 1870s through the 1920s. It wasn’t pretty. It ended with the Great Depression that it caused. It ended with the kind of economic and social disaster that was responsible for the very Bolshevik revolution that traumatized Rand. Why didn’t America experience a similar revolution? Because Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in March 1933 and led the New Deal. FDR has been credited with saving capitalism in the U.S. The right, the Republicans, the libertarians, the conservatives, those who prefer misery to joy (particularly for others), and those who are seduced by the perception of the easy certainty of authoritarianism, simply cannot recover from the truth and the lessons of this history—it appears they resist the lessons of any history.
Rand was a Russian émigré from a Jewish family that had been victimized by the Bolsheviks (they had already been victims of the anti-Semitism of imperialist Russia). Her philosophy was heavily influenced by Nietzsche (she was enthralled by the serial killer William Hickman). There appears to be no evidence that Rand read any of the historians and philosophers who influenced the Founding Fathers of her adopted country (which happens to be ours): Greek and Roman classicists, Charles de Montesquieu, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and others. They certainly did not influence her thinking or her writing.
Today’s gullible and easily manipulated ultra-right conservatives are prime examples of motivated reasoning—they come to a conclusion and choose the book that supports their conclusion— Atlas Shrugged that glorifies unfettered capitalism and greed fits their bill.
It would be more accurate to say conservatives have two books now: the Bible which they cherry-pick and Atlas Shrugged. The “inconvenient truth” that they have to face is that the latter is in conflict with the best principles of the former. Also, Rand was an avowed atheist and has been described as a “libertine.” Good grief, how does the right reconcile those conflicting truths of their two “bibles?” The extreme right’s talent for gross over-simplification and sophomoric concepts may be of help to them. The right must also cope with the fact that Rand didn’t base any of her over-blown, clap trap fiction and essays on any of the influences that brought us the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution (the latter being the law of the land). The incessant Republican Noise Machine with its irresponsible distortions, lies, and glorification of both repellent selfishness and ignorance, the latter of which Ayn Rand is a superb example, is getting tiresome. As one writer puts it: “You shouldn’t condone sociopathic greed, much less succumb to it. To do so is to violate the very moral precepts that make our civilization possible.”
It is time to stop this Ayn Rand and right-wing destructive nonsense. Stephen Goldstein’s unflinching satire Atlas Drugged is a needed relief for those of us still grounded in reality. For those who remain in arrested intellectual development, abide in an alternative reality, and who have been lobotomized to think that Rand’s belief system should be taken seriously, Atlas Drugged will help set them straight. They also should consider reading the tens of thousands of books that have been written by philosophers, economists, historians, and novelists who have been judged favorably according to the highest standards of their respective disciplines by respected peers. Ayn Rand is not in the latter category. Put her back on the shelf with the other comic books from your fondly-remembered teenage years.