Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Ayn Rand Fan Tyler Cowen Doesn’t Like The Results Of Decades Of Randism On Conservatives

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 13, 2011

This just cracked me up.

Tyler Cowen, Ayn-Rand-worshiping product of and coddled hothouse flower in the conservative ideology factory and Koch Brothers plaything known as George Mason University, is all bummed out at how lazy and amoral conservatives and libertarian producers are letting themselves be outshone by liberal moochers in the intellectual and other departments:

The first problem is that higher status for the wealthy can easily lead to crony capitalism. In public discourse social status judgments are often crude. Critical differences are lost, like the distinction between earning money through production for consumers, as Apple has done, and earning money through the manipulation of government, which heavily subsidized agribusinesses have done. The relevant question, in my view, is not about how much you have earned but about how you have earned it. To further confuse matters, many right-wing Republican politicians supported corporate bailouts and corporate welfare far beyond what was necessary to stabilize the economy, in doing so further muddying the difference between productive and predatory capitalism.

The second problem is that many conservatives have become so attached to their cultural vision that they have ceded sound, technocratic reasoning to the left and center. For instance there is a common willingness among conservatives to defend the Bush tax cuts, even though the evidence does not show much of an economic payoff.


…today’s elites are so wedded to permissive values — in part for their own pleasure and convenience — that a new conservative cultural revolution may have little chance of succeeding.

Well, boo hoo hoo.

The spoiled-brat Cons Cowen rails about are precisely what you get when you rear three generations of conservatives on Ayn Rand’s mid-20th-century Social-Darwinist gloss on the Calvinistic idea that they are the Elect and everyone else is the Preterite.

Of course the modern Cons are lazy, stupid, greedy, and amoral — and it’s because they are Randians, even the self-alleged Christians among them like Mark Sanford.

They have been trained to think of themselves as the embodiment of her perfect elite, the studly producers and “makers” whose every action per Rand (including rape and murder) is self-justified, and to have nothing but contempt for the 99% — or as they call us, the “moochers”, “parasites” (a term adopted by rabid Randian Alan Greenspan (aka Mr. Andrea Mitchell) when he was a young man: “Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.”), “looters”, and “takers” (which math-challenged Rand worshiper Paul Ryan favors).

So when Cowen says that everyone needs to behave like “the hero from an Ayn Rand novel”, what he doesn’t mention is that the very conservatives and Republicans he’s allegedly complaining about are the ones who have taken Rand’s words most strongly to what passes for their self-interested, self-centered, other-ignoring, empathy-shunning hearts. Quelle surprise — not.

4 Responses to “Ayn Rand Fan Tyler Cowen Doesn’t Like The Results Of Decades Of Randism On Conservatives”

  1. shrimplate said

    I recall a decades-old episode of the Mac/Lehrer Report in which a Randian guy said that the “market” determines the price of a work of art, nothing else, and if the markets say that Madonna is a greater artist, sales-wise, than Bach… well then, that’s it. Nothing else need be considered. (Not even Madonna’s own opinion, interestingly enough.)

    This avoids the whole concept of *music* in its entirety and reduces it to a mere object to be tossed about in some Aynal white-guys’ man-room called a “market.” Like a ball or an image of a pornogrified woman. Musical “values” are reduced to dollar signs.

    I do not think that this is necessarily just how things really are. Financial values in these times have NO necessary bearing on philosophical (aesthetic and ethical,) and other human values.

    Randians seem to be mystified by such distinctions. Baffled. Confounded. Does Not Compute.

    (Charles- Shaken or stirred?!)

    Years ago in New York we went to a dinner/tasting featuring Wild Horse Vineyards Central Coast wines. It’s a really nice family-run operation and I think they press olive oil too. So I guess I have tried to drink a horse; many delicious glasses successfully, in fact! I was somewhat younger then…

    • Charles II said

      Shrimplate says, “(Charles- Shaken or stirred?!)”

      Just so folks understand that Shrimplate is in full possession of his senses, a comment of mine mysteriously disappeared. It said something to the effect that when any conservative does something that can no longer be defended, he is No True Scotsman, er…Conservative..

      Comments going missing happens even to SysAdmin, folks. I just hope it wasn’t thrown out of a helicopter or something.

  2. As painful as it is to make a logical comment on this ranting, here goes. Alan Greenspan betrayed Ayn Rand, her philosophy and himself. His opinion either way is irrelevant. Capitalism has never been tried, not fully. Not even halfway. We had a taste of it a hundred years ago. Little is left of it now. We have to start over.

    • Charles II said

      Fairelaissez, that’s exactly what Marxists say about communism! Stalin and Mao betrayed it, it has never been tried, etc. etc. They will not concede the possibility that it contains a structural flaw.

      But I think it’s more important that you’ve managed a fail at the most basic point, i.e., your implication that you are making a logical comment. Most prominent is the fact that the thread is about Rand, not about capitalism. Unless you believe that Rand represents the only flawless exponent of “real” capitalism, it does not follow that a failure to embrace Randianism represents a failure to embrace capitalism.

      But the fail is far deeper than that. Logic implies well-defined terms, a limited set of reasonably defensible axioms, and a proposition which connects axioms into a theorem which itself is not falsifiable. On all accounts, your comment is a fail.

      Since capitalism, according to you, has never actually existed, using it as a term is problematic. If I were to claim that we would all be happy if only we worshiped the Magic Duck, no one would take it seriously. But because there are a number of people with a lot of money who sincerely wish for a capitalism that doesn’t cause human suffering, the same unsubstantiated claims circulate decade after decade.

      Well, let’s concede that in a real world we always deal with impure quantities. If we have experience with 99% pure gold, we probably have a pretty good idea of how 100% gold would behave. It’s always possible that there could be a discontinuity of behavior, but if the ideal is greater than what can be achieved, we cannot posit such a discontinuity. We have to argue our case through careful extrapolation.

      The generally agreed upon definition of capitalism, let’s say Wikipedia’s ( elements of capitalism include private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit, competitive markets, and wage labor), does not include Rand’s vision of (again, Wikipedia) “a market system with no interference by states.” So, you wish to use a definition that resembles a Magic Duck in that most people simply don’t accept it.

      But, ok, let’s humor you. A market system with no interference by states it is. Such states do exist in the form of small villages. Unfortunately for your case, they tend to be socialistic. People may not be coerced by the state to share their bounty, but they do not engage in the sort of sociopathic behavior that Rand advocates, if only for a healthy fear of being shamed publicly. And, before you take “sociopathic” as some sort of insult, it is fully grounded in fact. She based one of her fictional heroes on William Edward Hickman, a man who kidnapped and dismembered a 12 year old girl. In this case, Wikipedia does not do justice to the man or Rand’s relationship to him, so I refer you to this and this. If you are unwilling to explore those links, then you do not know Rand.

      But, of course, Rand’s little idiosyncrasies do not discredit the Magic D…er, pure capitalism. It’s the fact that in the one case in nature where we can observe a market without interference by a state, the result is not capitalism. It is often primitive communism. Marx based a lot of his writings on actual, documented cases.

      Now, if this were the only bit of evidence against the notion that some sort of mythical pure capitalism, one would still continue the attempt at resuscitation. But let’s go Code Blue and do our best to resurrect it by using clearly defined terms and a plainly logical structure of arguing the case. In effect, the proposition which we are attempting to falsify or sustain is this:

      The less interference by the state in the operation of a system of exchange of goods and services, the more efficiently exchanges through the market operates, the greater the aggregate wealth of the society, and therefore, the greater the aggregate happiness. Therefore, the point of maximum happiness coincides with minimum interference in the markets.

      Now, there are a lot of problems with this, even if one allows the usual escape hatches such as the military and the courts, both of which fundamentally represent massive interference in markets.

      First, there is no provision for those who, through age or disability or happenstance do not have the ability to participate in the market. This is why Rand’s books have no one who is very old or very young or blind or otherwise unable to compete. Presumably they are expected to die as quietly as possible to maximize the aggregate happiness. And so this exposes the hollowness of the term “aggregate happiness.” If one person starves so that another may feast, it does not follow that “aggregate happiness” is greater than if both ate sensibly. In fact, to the extent that one can measure and sum happiness, the latter is clearly the better course.

      Second, the historical evidence does not support the proposition. Any prosperity in the 19th and early 20th century was clearly connected to the conquest and exploitation of enormous resources. The Great Depression (and the panics of the 19th century) occurred at a time of minimal government interference in markets. And the period of greatest American prosperity post World War II was at a time of maximum government interference in markets. The most recent crash, again, was at a time of low taxes and regulation.

      And so there we are left with the rubble of the proposition. Its terms are worthless. It’s axioms are based on myth. Its logical structure is wanting.

      So, now I must withdraw my criticism that you have failed in claiming that it is hard to make a logical comment on this thread. It isn’t, though it may be very hard for you to deal with the fact that it wasn’t made by you.
      Added: Promoted to a full post.

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