My latest NewsRealBlog post:
Leftist Rule for Engaging Conservative Ideas #1: conservatives’ motives are never what they claim. It must be rigorously asserted that right-wingers are invariably driven by impulses more sinister than making people better off or trying to find solutions to the problems we face. New Republic senior editor Jonathan Chait knows that lesson by heart—on the Daily Beast, he argues that from the lowliest Tea Partier all the way up to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Right is animated by a view of “the poor as parasites” and “the rich as our rightful rulers,” a dogma we’ve picked up from philosopher Ayn Rand:
Ayn Rand, of course, was a kind of politicized L. Ron Hubbard—a novelist-philosopher who inspired a cult of acolytes who deem her the greatest human being who ever lived. The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites.
John Galt, the protagonist of her iconic novel Atlas Shrugged, expressed Rand’s inverted Marxism: “The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.”
In 2009 Rand began popping up all over the Tea Party movement. Sales of her books skyrocketed, and signs quoting her ideas appeared constantly at rallies. Conservatives asserted that the events of the Obama administration eerily paralleled the plot of Atlas Shrugged, in which a liberal government precipitates economic collapse.
To be sure, Rand’s ultra-capitalist works have enjoyed a surge in popularity recently, a predicable response to our leaders overreaching in the opposite direction. But it’s not quite true to suggest Rand is universally embraced on the Right; for instance, consider National Review’s March 2009 symposium on Rand, which on the whole takes a dim view of the author (in fairness, she’s much more popular at Big Hollywood).
I haven’t read her, and have no strong opinions about her philosophy either way, but I can certainly tell when mainstream conservative thought is subjected to class-warfare caricatures: