Exhuming Ayn Rand
What’s up with all the Ayn Rand love we’re seeing lately? Hasn’t the boring and didactic novelist’s most prominent acolyte, Alan Greenspan, been revealed as an empty suit in the wake of the financial crash? And hasn’t her crassly anti-altruistic, dollar-worshiping world view been soundly dismissed as right-wing fantasy? Yet Atlas Shrugged has reappeared on bestseller lists, and Rand’s muddle-headed “Objectivism” is back in the zeitgeist.
Mother Jones (July-August 2009) puts it all together for us in “And the Rand Played On,” which unpacks the current neo-Rand vanguard and the strange bedfellows it has created. One wing of the movement includes right-wing blogger Helen Smith and the “Going Galt” movement she inspired, in which rich people, excuse me, the “producers,” inspired by Atlas Shrugged hero John Galt, are going to withhold their contributions from society to protest wealth redistribution. (Um, OK.) Another wing includes celebrity-philosophers such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Billie Jean King, Christina Ricci, and Vince Vaughn, who have all gushed about Rand’s genius. But Mother Jones writer Amy Benfer has a different take:
Rand‘s particular genius has always been her ability to turn upside-down traditional hierarchies and recast the wealthy, the talented and the powerful as the oppressed. … In this world, it is not possible to admit that the rich and the Republicans may have been undone by their own greed and cluelessness. Instead, the Galters have rewritten the story of how we got here with a dash of idealistic fantasy and a side of empty rebellion.
Hear, hear. If I see one more coffeehouse hipster with a dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead next to his Mac, I’m going to go Galt on him and refuse to hand him the half-and-half at the creamer station.
UPDATE (7/2/09): There’s a call among some conservatives to “Go Galt” on July 30 and “phone in conservative” to work, and also to not spend any money on that day. I’m not sure how many Galters will sign on to the idea, but here’s the vision as laid out by Anthony G. Martin, who blogs as the Columbia Conservative Examiner:
If this means businesses lose billions of dollars on that day, fine. If this means that travel will be disrupted, good. If this means communication systems are crippled, so be it. … For now, this is a peaceful but firm protest to show Washington and ‘progressives’ that they can no longer expect us to simply roll over and play dead as they ram a socialist agenda down our throats. There are more of us than there are of them. We can shut this country down if we so choose.
I love it. Stealing tactics from the labor movement (striking), the anti-consumer camp (stop shopping), and anarchists (the state is the enemy), the Galters have come up with an idea that could bring Rand’s message to a wider audience–and convince them just how nutty and confusing it is.