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Trump's Brand Is Ayn Rand


#1

Trump's Brand Is Ayn Rand

Robert Reich

Donald Trump once said he identified with Ayn Rand’s character Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead,” an architect so upset that a housing project he designed didn’t meet specifications he had it dynamited.

Others in Trump’s circle were influenced by Rand. “Atlas Shrugged” was said to be the favorite book of Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state. Rand also had a major influence on Mike Pompeo, Trump’s CIA chief. Trump’s first nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, said he spent much of his free time reading Rand.


#2

“Trump’s Brand Is Ayn Rand”

Except when it comes to legalizing marijuana.

Direct Democracy


#3

Thanks, Dr. Reich for a concise statement of the problem. The ghost of Ayn Rand stalking the USA, (with occasional visits to the UK) is really at the root of our ongoing social-economic-environmental catastrophe.

“Atlas Shrugged” was universally-panned, if not openly derided, by-critics when it released in 1957. Ayn Rand herself was regarded as a nutcase. Her 1957 sick, psychopathic virtue-villain-reversing novel languished until the mid-late 70’s when it mysteriously exploded in popularity - along with the political-economic philosophy of so-called “libertarianism”. An era of aggressive triumphalist capitalism followed

The economic result can be starky seen here - the graph is in percentages rather than dollars/labor hour productivity - but the area between the two curves represents many, many billions of dollars that were literally stolen from the sweat and stress of the worker. if they aren’t a vindication of Marx’s labor theory of capitalist value, nothing is:

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_wages#/media/File:US_productivity_and_real_wages.jpg)


#4

Six or seven million years as social primates, and three hundred thousand years as homo sapiens have left us indelibly marked as social humans beings. It is our evolutionary heritage, and our way to the future.

But outliers in the diversity that is present in every population, and a truly mind-boggling ability as technologists, has produced an overpopulated planet, a shortage of resources, and human caused climate change as we transitioned from ice age hunter-gatherers to inter-glacial farmers - then industrialists - and finally corporate dominated consumers.

These are all, at root - cultural changes.

We can and must change again.

I did - so can all, or at least, most of us.


#5

Shock & Awe - pretty much a characterization of the human experience on the planet.

Shock - at the mindless injustice and cruelty.

Awe - at best - the sense of wonder of the philosopher, equipped now with the observational instruments of modern science.

Neurotic - always - an unintended consequence of the big brain - we’ll just have to keep dealing with our neuroses.

The only thing we can avoid is outright psychosis, which is unfortunately present in pretty much all zero-sum pursuits, such as business as usual, large or small, and the power and privilege set.

True Leadership - distinguished by leading by example - all the rest is spin.


#6

In 1963 I read The Fountainhead. I read the whole thing (about 800 pages), which was pretty amazing because at 18 my attention span was not long. The book had a fierce, focused momentum that really drew me in.

Sometime later I started Atlas Shrugged ( about 1200 pages). I got about two-thirds of the way through when it dawned on me that Ayn Rand had a problem. Her worldview was black and white, hyper-focused like a race horse with blinders. Her solitary heroes were the makers, the creators, towering geniuses surrounded by a great mass of pathetic human parasites.

Rand’s writing, for all it’s energy, seemed driven by a deep loathing, even hatred, towards most of humanity. There was a strong element of self-pity that really turned me off - I never finished the book. I didn’t know what drove Rand to such feelings of alienated majesty, but I knew that the philosophy she was espousing was poisonous.

After the last 30-40 years of rising inequality brought on by military/industrial/corporate welfare, it’s no surprise that people world-wide are angry with the status-quo. To look to Rand’s egotistical, self-centered ethos as a solution to what ails us is like bringing gasoline to put out a fire.


#7

Interesting further facts about AR–she lived on social security in her old age, she was pro-abortion, a consistent stance for a libertarian, and her chief intellectual influence was Nietzsche! Gesundheit!


#8

Hmmm…AR…AR-15. Just coincidence I suppose, though it kinda works.


#9

We now have the technology to flip the sociopath gene. Right now it’s identified as several genes but they will hone it down and I believe they will also find the narcissist gene. In other words, we’re evolving to where we can remove it since evolution didn’t do it fast enough. Or, perhaps reaching the point where we can change it ourselves is a form of our evolution.


#10

Yes! Ayn Rand was a Russian who fled the totalitarian communist excesses of her native country and became a radical capitalist, materialist and hedonistic self-serving obsequious minion toadying up to the wealthy to advance her career. Plus–her hypocrisy in accepting social security and medicare in her old age–as owed to her!–after ranting against them for most of her adult life were nauseating. But not atypical.


#11

Kudos to you–I got about a third of the way through Atlas Shrugged before I stalled. I think a bookmark might still be in my copy, which still sits on my shelf in silent accusation.

I did watch all three of the film versions, hoping to get a flavor of the story and philosophy. They were wholly entertaining in a manner that I don’t think the filmmakers expected. On the other hand, I haven’t seen the film version of The Fountainhead yet. I’m sure it will crop up on TCM again sooner or later.


#12

Ayn Rand made a religion out of selfishness and all sorts of sociopaths signed up. It is not surprising or perhaps to some it is that so many of the CEO’s of American Corporations worship her and feel her “ideas” are something they can live by: the CEO of Whole Foods, Greenspan, Rand Paul Ryan etc… The list is easy to fine, just Google. But Dr. Reich has left out the name of Milton Friedman. He legitimized these crack pot views in Academia where the good Doctor now resides. Milton made Reagan and the rest possible and he put the final nail in The Great Society and FDR’s America. Give him credit. Even Obama worshipped the Chicago School of Economics which is just a sanitized version of her insanity.


#13

Heard about the book- have no interest in reading it. These days CEOS ruin their own businesses so that they can make more profits and in the mean time lay off everybody else. It sounds like selfishness is “in”


#14

The funny thing is how the whole zeitgeist (ghosts again) of the tech-capitalist phenomenon - and particularly its corporeal players - Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, the Uber guy… etc… are literally duplicates of the heroes of Rand’s novels - except the bullshit they sell is nowhere near as useful as the novel’s “Rearden metal” would be.

Yet right now, My city is falling over itself to get Amazon into the city, and over this “Hyperloop to Columbus and Chicago” (“Imagine travelling to Columbus, Ohio in only 20 minutes!”) which is total vapor-tech - the most basic aspects of its design are nowhere close to being shown to be feasible much less economically viable.


#15

Seriously, does anyone with a jot of sense actually think Twitler has read anything by Ayn Rand?
Yeah, I thought so…
The rest of the dippity-doodles on the R side of the aisle may have, certainly good old Paul Ryan. Twitler may have received something resembling verbal cliff notes on her selfish views though.


#16

The way Ayn Rand exploded into popularity in the US (and only in the US save for a few British) during the run-up to the Ronnie Raygun election always seemed very suspicious to me. It did not happen organically or spontaneously. I recall a SNL skit (now called a “sketch” for some reason) of the old man knocking at the door of a party full of young left-liberals and giving them a big inflatable green bean-pod with “Reagan” printed on the side. The partiers set the pod on the coffee table, then it started glowing and pulsating, and the partiers conversation suddenly turned from the Great Society programs and Eugene McCarthy to stuff like: “You know, the only legitimate government is one that does not interfere in any way in free markets and the creativity of the wealthy”; “Poor people are getting what they deserve” and the like…

It was positively hilarious because it was the only contemporary observation I can recall discussing (like only SNL could in those days - unlike today) how stark and sudden political viewpoints inexplicably shifted to the pro-capitalist right in the 1979 to 1980 period.

I’d love to find a copy of this skit, but a search of Google and YouTube turns up empty…


#17

It’s not surprising, I think, that Atlas Shrugged flopped upon publication: The political climate, at least in the US, was a liberal one with strong sense of (dare I say?) collectivism.

As the pendulum began to swing into conservatism in the late 1970s, so too did right-leaning philosophies such as Rand’s begin to manifest themselves–I don’t think there is much mystery there. (One of my high school classmates in the late 1970s already had a T-shirt made up that asked “Who is John Galt?” His invariable reply to those who asked was, “Read Atlas Shrugged!” And as this was in Canada, and as we were all duly proud that “our” rock band Rush actually had name recognition, I noticed that in the liner notes for Rush’s album 2112 , chief lyricist Neal Peart acknowledged Rand’s influence on him.)

This 1970s pendulum swing also coincided with the rise of the “Chicago School” of economists exemplified by Milton Friedman, influenced by F.A. Hayek, while Leo Strauss, another University of Chicago figure, proved influential on the neocons who proliferated in the Bush II administration.

More recently, Nancy MacLean’s book Democracy in Chains has brought to light economist James M. Buchanan as an influence on right-wing tycoons, particularly Charles Koch, as the meaning of “public choice” has been spun so thoroughly that it has become an “alternative fact”; Buchanan was also initially affiliated with the Chicago School, and MacLean also notes that the their economic theories got their trial under the Pinochet junta in Chile; this included drastically re-writing the Chilean constitution to put “democracy in chains.” MacLean’s fear is that the Kochs et al. are trying to do the same in the US now.

And while Alan Greenspan didn’t become Fed chairman until the late 1980s, his ascendancy served to suggest that Randism had arrived, at least in part, around the same time as the gap between productivity and wages in the graph you have linked began to become noticeable.


#18

Oh, you had to bring up Rush - until Justin Bieber, Canada’s worst contribution to popular culture…

And the critics mainly panned the writing and paper-cutout thin characters - not the ideological message of Atlas Shrugged.

And yes, I head about these “Who is John Gault” t-shirts appearing everywhere on campuses in this era well before the internet much less social media. Who was the source of the t-shirts? I’m resistant to conspiracy theories, but there was some kind of plot going on back then.


#19

Finally an article by Reich with a little actual substance. Of course he did assiduously make sure to avoid directly attacking the neo-liberals for their identical ideology.

I do agree with his final statement: If there is no common good, there is no society.

…and since there is no common good, I therefore declare there is no society. Just haves, and have nots.


#20

There are those who maintain that poutine is Canada’s worst contribution, but we can blame that on the Francophones. As for the Anglophones . . .

Between the pounding prog-metal dynamics (which I like) and Geddy Lee’s banshee vocals (not so much), Rush’s egregiousness lies in the smug social engineering it propounds, primarily through Peart’s lyrics, with Rush naturally at the top of the food chain. (And bemoaning it in songs like “Limelight.”)

“Closer to the Heart” exemplifies this with couplets like “And the men who hold high places/Must be the ones who start/To mold a new reality/Closer to the heart,” a nod to those bold captains of industry so beloved of Rand, and “Philosophers and plowmen/Each must know his part/To sow a new mentality/Closer to the Heart,” which establishes everyone else’s social order.

Certainly the writing and characters are the reason why I stalled about a third of the way through. I did see all three of the movies, though, which were their own form of amusement.

My classmate said that he had it custom-made and, if I’m recalling correctly, the guy affixing the letters to the shirt didn’t know who John Galt was. One data point; hardly conclusive.