The Dim-Post

November 30, 2008

Ayn Rand and Obama’s Erection

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 9:26 am
Tags:

rand3Every now and then I take a look at the most popular search terms people use to find my blog. For a few months now, “ayn rand” and “obama erection” have been at the top of the list.

“Obama erection” speaks for itself, but the enduring popularity of Ayn Rand is something of a mystery.

Rand was a mid-20th century author, Russian born but she spent most of her life in the US. Her books are widly popular with undergraduate university students, real estate agents and  corporate executives. Rand lived through the russian revolution, Leninism and the early years of Stalin and her books are a deranged reaction against marxism and collectivist thinking. Her books celebrate capitalism, individualism and ‘reason’ (the definition of ‘reason’ being agreement with everything that Ayn says.) Her philosophy is known as ‘objectivism’.

Objectivism is alive and well in New Zealand, where it is celebrated at SoloPassion. If you’re an objectivist looking for love you can find it at AtlasSphere, a free market-meat market for Rand fans.

New York magazine has been trawling the singles profiles of AtlasSphere and found some gems:

You should contact me if you are a skinny woman. If your words are a meaningful progression of concepts rather than a series of vocalizations induced by your spinal cord for the purpose of complementing my tone of voice. If you’ve seen the meatbot, the walking automaton, the pod-people, the dense, glazy-eyed substrate through which living organisms such as myself must escape to reach air and sunlight. If you’ve realized that if speech is to be regarded as a cognitive function, technically they aren’t speaking, and you don’t have to listen.

Sounds like a keeper.

One of the fundamental tenets of Rand’s philosophy is that company executives – far from being incompetent idiots blinded by fear and greed – are actually the titanic heroes of our age.

With that in mind, I was amused to read this comment by Citigroup director Robert Rubin in the Wall Street Journal. (Citi has just been bailed out by the US taxpayer to the tune of $20 billion dollars).

Under fire for his role in the near-collapse of Citigroup Inc., Robert Rubin said its problems were due to the buckling financial system, not its own mistakes, and that his role was peripheral to the bank’s main operations even though he was one of its highest-paid officials. “Nobody was prepared for this,” Mr. Rubin said in an interview.

Many people were prepared and made a fortune short-selling CDS’s to chumps like Rubin – who over the last two years was paid $17 million in salary and $33 million in stock options; you’d think that for that kind of money you’d damn well be prepared. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that a lot of executives in the financial services industry were essentially paid huge sums to make money when the market was good and then get bailed out by the state when the market is bad. Nice work if you can get it. Rubin went on to say:

He cited former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan as another example of someone whose reputation has been unfairly damaged by the crisis.

Greenspan was a close friend of Ayn Rand’s and has been a long time advocate of objectivist philosophy, until last month when he had to admit that many of the worlds largest companies were run by idiots, and that his anti-regulation free market ideology was ‘flawed’.

It’s actually to Greenspan’s credit that he acknowledged this; the rest of the Ayn Rand cult is robotically insisting that the problems in the totally unregulated CDS market were somehow caused by ‘too much regulation’. Probably taxes are also to blame.

If you’re interested in reading one of Rand’s books I’d go for The Fountainhead‘, which compares favourably to her other epic Atlas Shrugged in that it is several hundred pages shorter, there’s only one >25 page monologe (Atlas contains three or four, including an extended polemic against Robin Hood). Also it has more of Rand’s detailed rape fantasies. Enjoy!

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28 Comments »

  1. Oh dear, you’ve done it now. If there’s one thing that Randroids hate more than the government its criticism of the greatest person ever to have lived in the history of human civilisation. On that note, she hailed pollution and smoking as evidence of man’s genius, and subsequently developed lung cancer. But hey, A is A right?

    Anthem is even shorter. Life is finite after all.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — November 30, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

  2. Alan Greenspan rejected Ayn Rand’s philosophy years ago. His ideas and leadership are NOT in any way influenced by her thinking.

    Comment by Joe McHugh — December 1, 2008 @ 5:13 am

  3. Come on Danyl, if you don’t know your opponent, don’t know down a straw woman.

    The head of the Fed is now an example of an Objectivist? If there’s one thing wrong with the world, it’s the existence of central banks as their existence makes business booms and busts possible. Ever heard of the phrase “sound money”?

    Comment by Berend de Boer — December 1, 2008 @ 7:26 am

  4. {sigh}.

    ok berend, i’ll bite.

    how do central banks make business booms and busts possible? *exactly* how, mind you.

    Comment by Che Tibby — December 1, 2008 @ 7:53 am

  5. Perhaps Berend can also explain how central banks caused panics well before the banks were even created. He can start with this list;

    Panic of 1819 – pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures; culmination of U.S.’s 1st boom-to-bust economic cycle
    Panic of 1837 – pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures; a 5 yr. depression ensued.
    Panic of 1857 – pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures
    Panic of 1873 – pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures; a 4 yr. depression ensued.
    Panic of 1893 – pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures
    Panic of 1901 – limited to crashing of the New York Stock Exchange
    Panic of 1907 – pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures

    Apologies for using Wikipedia, I don’t any economic texts with me.

    Comment by Tane W — December 1, 2008 @ 8:06 am

  6. The South Sea bubble and the Dutch tulip bulb mania were obviously also caused by non-existent 17th-18th century central banks. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been possible.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — December 1, 2008 @ 8:15 am

  7. i’m inclined to think that berend might have some thought in common with some leaders of business nz, who even recently were still asserting that the current crisis was caused by “too much regulation”.

    meanwhile all the *actual economists* are stating it has occurred because of too little regulation.

    i think going to business nz to talk about the economic crisis is a little like going to farmers to talk about global warming.

    Comment by Che Tibby — December 1, 2008 @ 8:49 am

  8. Guys, I’m glad the USSR never had boom/bust cycles.

    Guy Smiley: a bubble isn’t a recession/depression. Bubbles can’t be prevented wherever 2 humans exists.

    Tane, bank failures are not equal to a recession. Remember, we get the first depression after the Fed was created.

    Otherwise I won’t enter the discussion here, you guys are only interested in more regulation as that seems to be the only answer. Never mind you that no area is more regulated than finance. Can you create your own money for example? No, you can’t. But I suggest you people ask yourselves why Peter Schiff was able to see this coming. And look up Austrian economics.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — December 1, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  9. Didn’t Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac get into trouble because they were instructed by the Clinton administration (also known at the time as “The Government” to lend a certain percentage of their mortages to low income borrowers, who then were not able to repay their debts? Would they have lent that money to low income people if they hadn’t been ordered to? Hard to see why they would. It’s not sound business.

    Comment by chris — December 1, 2008 @ 11:16 am

  10. “Otherwise I won’t enter the discussion here, you guys are only interested in more regulation as that seems to be the only answer.”

    Wow, for such a keen booster of liberal rationalism, you don’t have much respect for your fellow commenters, do you?

    However I bypassed your implied insult and actually did chase up some reading on Austrian business cycle theory. Interesting stuff, and it has a common-sense feel to it – what real world models exist for economies that thrive without a central bank?

    Comment by Sam Finnemore — December 1, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  11. Why, Somalia of course! http://mises.org/story/2066

    Comment by The PC Avenger — December 1, 2008 @ 11:23 am

  12. Berend,

    “Tane, bank failures are not equal to a recession. Remember, we get the first depression after the Fed was created.”

    You’re talking purely in semantics here. After the panics of the 19th century, the word panic was deemed too ‘hot’ to use, so they became ‘crises’ instead. After 1907, that word became too hot, so experts decided to use ‘depression’.

    Now that’s too hot, so we use ‘recession’. Granted, the recessions we’ve had since the 50s have all been pretty mild compared to the Great Depression. I think this current recession might break all records though.

    The point remains though; financial collapses, panics, depressions, general catastrophes, whatever you call them, happened with monotonous regularity without central banks and in an unregulated economy.

    Maybe that’s why they happened so frequently…

    Comment by Tane W — December 1, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  13. berend, you live with regulation every minute of your life.

    but some of them are called “laws”, others are called “social conventions”.

    the US relaxed regulations preventing loaning above a certain percentage of assets held within a financial institution. i.e. you can only loan out $100 if you have an actual $40 in the bank. the result was that a huge amount of “funny money” was created, and now that funny money is evaporating.

    leaving these reasonable regulations in place would have prevented this crisis.

    and please note, this isn’t my opinion, it’s becoming an accepted fact of the current crisis.

    Comment by Che Tibby — December 1, 2008 @ 11:39 am

  14. “Guys, I’m glad the USSR never had boom/bust cycles.”

    The favourite retort of Randroids” “but the Soviet Union…”. Cause, you know, the only alternative to totally unregulated capitalism is centralised authoritarian communism. Once you start regulating, it is impossible to stop, y’know.

    “I won’t enter the discussion here”

    And having laid down that amazing gem of an argument, they refuse to argue. It most resembles a religion to me – articles of faith that cannot be disproven.

    For those interested in observing this behaviour from the man with the Yellow Jacket, I recommend RodneyWorld!.

    Comment by George Darroch — December 1, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  15. Sam Finnemore, I probably wasn’t talking to you, but to the usual suspects. Check out http://blog.mises.org/blog/ for a steady stream of articles that should help you to come to grip with various aspects. One of the models is the real world. At various points in time private money has existed.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — December 1, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  16. Che: the US relaxed regulations preventing loaning above a certain percentage of assets held within a financial institution.

    Yeah, I’m glad the crisis has only hit the US. Luckily no bank in Europe has gone bust or been nationalised.

    George: The favourite retort of Randroids” “but the Soviet Union…”.

    Yeah, notice that the favourite retort here is “but America”? I’m just playing along pal.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — December 1, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  17. I don’t recall anyone ever saying “but America” on this blog

    Comment by Rangi — December 1, 2008 @ 11:21 pm

  18. berend, didn’t you just repeat back to me what i said, but in a slightly different way?

    so in effect you agreed with me?

    Comment by Che Tibby — December 2, 2008 @ 6:58 am

  19. Berend, when people are talking about the USA it is relevant, because we run a somewhat similar economic system. We’re a particularly highly deregulated economy (with a few exceptions for things like consumer and worker safety and protection etc.)

    Talking about the Soviet Union is irrelevant, because we do not have an economic system that resembles it any any meaningful way, and Labour is quite committed to keeping it. Even the Greens, decried by the wingnuts as ultra-left-socialists only endorse certain interventions, and are unlikely to govern alone in the next few years (unfortunately!).

    Comment by George Darroch — December 2, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

  20. Come on George, any activity by the state other than locking poor people up for stealing your stuff is communism. What we have is worse than the Soviet Union because it’s crypto-communism with a free-market facade. All social and economic problems are caused by regulation and can be fixed by removing regulation. Ayn Rand and Goerge Reisman say so. Let freedom ring! Now where’s my rocket launcher?

    Comment by Guy Smiley — December 2, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

  21. The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Present Crisis

    The news media are in the process of creating a great new historical myth. This is the myth that our present financial crisis is the result of economic freedom and laissez-faire capitalism.

    The attempt to place the blame on laissez faire is readily confirmed by a Google search under the terms “crisis + laissez faire.”

    [...]

    The utter absurdity of statements claiming that the present political-economic environment of the United States in some sense represents laissez-faire capitalism becomes as glaringly obvious as anything can be when one keeps in mind the extremely limited role of government under laissez-faire and then considers the following facts about the present-day United States:

    1. Government spending in the United States currently equals more than forty percent of national income, i.e., the sum of all wages and salaries and profits and interest earned in the country. This is without counting any of the massive off-budget spending such as that on account of the government enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Nor does it count any of the recent spending on assorted “bailouts.” What this means is that substantially more than forty dollars of every one hundred dollars of output are appropriated by the government against the will of the individual citizens who produce that output. [...]

    2. There are presently fifteen federal cabinet departments, nine of which exist for the very purpose of respectively interfering with housing, transportation, healthcare, education, energy, mining, agriculture, labor, and commerce, and virtually all of which nowadays routinely ride roughshod over one or more important aspects of the economic freedom of the individual. [...]

    3. The economic interference of today’s cabinet departments is reinforced and amplified by more than one hundred federal agencies and commissions, the most well known of which include, besides the IRS, the FRB and FDIC, the FBI and CIA, the EPA, FDA, SEC, CFTC, NLRB, FTC, FCC, FERC, FEMA, FAA, CAA, INS, OHSA, CPSC, NHTSA, EEOC, BATF, DEA, NIH, and NASA. [...]

    4. To complete this catalog of government interference and its trampling of any vestige of laissez faire, as of the end of 2007, the last full year for which data are available, the Federal Register contained fully seventy-three thousand pages of detailed government regulations. This is an increase of more than ten thousand pages since 1978, the very years during which our system, according to one of The New York Times articles quoted above, has been “tilted in favor of business deregulation and against new rules.” [...]

    Government Intervention Actually Responsible for the Crisis

    Beyond all this is the further fact that the actual responsibility for our financial crisis lies precisely with massive government intervention, above all the intervention of the Federal Reserve System in attempting to create capital out of thin air, in the belief that the mere creation of money and its being made available in the loan market is a substitute for capital created by producing and saving.

    [...]

    http://mises.org/story/3165

    Comment by Myth — January 5, 2009 @ 11:20 am

  22. As someone who doesn’t speak for objectivism but still is a minarchist libertarian I was just going to put out two words here that might make you all realise just how much unregulated capitalism actually can do for people: Hong Kong.

    I mean, seriously, check it out. They started with absolutely nothing. They didn’t even have fresh water there in the beginning, and capitalism not only solved all their problems, but also turned Hong Kong into one of the world’s richest countries in no time.

    Last time I checked they didn’t even have national bank, and that was AFTER China got them back. The Hong Kong dollar is printed by two private banks.

    And yes, it is true that full on communism isn’t the only alternative to laissez-faire capitalism but I dare you to find any kind of research that actually says that bigger government and less freedom has ever made a country richer or hightened the living standard of the population there. I’ll give you a hint. You won’t. Because libertarianism, that is when people get to live their lives exctly as they choose without the interferance of others, civilians or government, they make the best decisions for themselves because that’s what people are good at, making decisions for themselves.

    And no, capitalism doesn’t make the poor poorer. It is true that it makes the richer richer, but that’s because it makes everyone richer. And no, it doesn’t even make the richer faster than the poor. Statistics show that countries with more free market actually have smaller gaps between the rich and the poor than countries with alot of government interference.

    How is this possible? Easy. Capitalism isn’t a game where the starting value is all there is. It isn’t about how much money you have, it’s about what you can buy for them.

    Comment by Zarad — March 9, 2009 @ 6:21 am

  23. Zarad: “I mean, seriously, check it out. They started with absolutely nothing. They didn’t even have fresh water there in the beginning, and capitalism not only solved all their problems, but also turned Hong Kong into one of the world’s richest countries in no time.”

    It’s not one of the world’s richest countries. It has a high rate of Rolls Royce ownership per capita, but in GDP per capita it’s about the same as New Zealand.

    “And yes, it is true that full on communism isn’t the only alternative to laissez-faire capitalism but I dare you to find any kind of research that actually says that bigger government and less freedom has ever made a country richer or hightened the living standard of the population there. I’ll give you a hint. You won’t.”

    It seems to have worked quite well in Sweden

    Comment by kahikatea — March 9, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  24. “It seems to have worked quite well in Sweden”

    Nice try, but I am a swedish citizen and now what happens here. In the end of the 19th century Sweden was a starving country. We have reports of cannibalism during the winter from that era. Children where walking through the snow to collect breadcrums, yes breadcrums, from their neighbours who often couldn’t give them up because they needed them to survive themselves.

    In England at the time people where sending money and food to the starving swedish population.

    Short story, we were fucked.

    Cut to the industrial revolution. Suddenly Sweden adapted something quiet similar to laissez-faire capitalism. Practically anyone could start an industry anywhere they wanted to as long as they could pay for it. It’s from this period of time that many of the swedish industries we have today, such as Electrolux etc. originates from.

    Government regulation was still there, true. But the government very rarely actually regulated something to change it. The regulations that where there were mostly insurances of what had already happened naturally on the free market.

    This free market was what took Sweden out of starvation and into riches. Up until the 1950s we even had lower taxes than the US.

    In 1970 we were the 3rd richest country in the world with an economic growth equal to that of Japan’s. By now, however, socialism started taking greater and greater space, and while it’s true that we haven’t gotten any poorer since the 70′s we haven’t actually gotten any richer either.

    Today Sweden is more like 16th richest country in the world, and no. It’s not because more countries are up there today competing with us. Every country that has advanced us was there on the list in the 70′s as well, but back then they were right behind us instead.

    Also, given how our political parties stands today I suspect that far from every swede is happy with this development. The right block won the last election. Our left parties are constantly taking a more capitalist-friendly take on their politics and so on.

    Over and out.

    Comment by Zarad — March 10, 2009 @ 12:22 am

  25. “One of the fundamental tenets of Rand’s philosophy is that company executives – far from being incompetent idiots blinded by fear and greed – are actually the titanic heroes of our age.”
    A straw woman, indeed. Anyone who has read the tiniest bit of Rand would recognize this as a bald face lie. Much more, her heroes were entrepreneurs and artists, not stuffed suits. And above all they were competent.

    Comment by Tadd — March 14, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  26. her heroes were entrepreneurs and artists

    And pirates! Don’t forget Ragnar.

    Comment by Danyl Mclauchlan — March 15, 2009 @ 6:49 am

  27. Let’s see now Tad:

    “CEOs,” said Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, “are indeed heroes, but not because their achievements benefit others. They are heroes because they are exceptionally productive individuals pursuing their own goals and happiness. CEOs are the Atlases carrying the whole world on their shoulders, and it should come as no surprise that at a time when they are under such vicious attack, they are turning to Atlas Shrugged to find a sense of their own moral worth and the moral defense they desperately need.”

    Comment by Guy Smiley — March 16, 2009 @ 1:36 am

  28. “One of the fundamental tenets of Rand’s philosophy is that company executives – far from being incompetent idiots blinded by fear and greed – are actually the titanic heroes of our age.”

    Comment by Silden — January 18, 2010 @ 8:00 am


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