Even as New York contained its pandemic, however, the coronavirus surged out of control in other parts of the country. There was a deadly summer spike in much of the Sunbelt. And right now the virus is running wild in much of the Midwest; in particular, the most dangerous places in America may be the Dakotas. …
[W]hy does this keep happening? Why does America keep making the same mistakes?
Donald Trumpâ€™s disastrous leadership is, of course, an important factor. But I also blame Ayn Rand â€” or, more generally, libertarianism gone bad, a misunderstanding of what freedom is all about.
If you look at what Republican politicians are saying as the pandemic rips through their states, you see a lot of science denial. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, has gone full Trump â€” questioning the usefulness of masks and encouraging potential super-spreader events. (The Sturgis motorcycle rally, which drew almost a half-million bikers to her state, may have played a key role in setting off the viral surge.)
But you also see a lot of libertarian rhetoric â€” a lot of talk about â€œfreedomâ€ and â€œpersonal responsibility.â€ Even politicians willing to say that people should cover their faces and avoid indoor gatherings refuse to use their power to impose rules to that effect, insisting that it should be a matter of individual choice.
Britain always leads the way, even preceding California, in reaching new levels of left-wing tyranny.
Nobody in America knows who Michael Gove is. But, it should be suficient to explain that he is high-ranking Tory politician and cabinet member.
Gove is in the news currently because his wife, Sarah Vine, a prominent newspaper columnist, indiscreetly published a photo of one of their bookshelves on Twitter, and some of its contents provoked leftist accusation of thought-crime.
People want to know why Michael Gove owns “racist” and “anti-Semitic” booksâ€™, reports the Independentâ€™s website. By ‘people’ it actually means the time-rich Twitterati, who have discovered a new hobby: bookshelf policing. And the latest bookshelf to fail their purity test, to commit the sin of containing books these people disapprove of, is Gove’s.
Yes, not content with policing speech, tweets, jokes and even hairstyles (witness the screams of ‘cultural appropriation’ that greet any celeb who wears her hair in a way her race isn’t meant to), now the offence-taking mob is policing bookshelves. The Shelf Stasi, we might call them, peruse the tomes in people’s private book collections and bark ‘Verboten!’ if they spy something unacceptable.
Sarah Vine the Daily Mail columnist and Gove’s wife, posted a photo of one of their bookshelves on Twitter and almost instantly the literature cops were out in force. As the Independent puts it, people spotted ‘something sinister’. They always do. Everything’s sinister to people who live to take offence.
The sinister thing in this case was a book by David Irving, the historian and Holocaust denier. And a copy of The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard J Herrnstein, which argues that intelligence is shaped by environmental factors and genetic inheritance. Oh, and Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, which, as the Independent balefully informs us, ‘praises individualism and defends capitalism’. Lock up Vine and Gove instantly!
The meltdown was epic. Owen Jones, who can never resist the thrill of censorious rage, pointed a judgemental finger. It is very iffy, he said, that a Cabinet member owns a book by ‘one of the most notorious Holocaust deniers on earth’. Hicham Yezza, a writer for the Guardian, went further. If this bookshelf had been on Through the Keyhole, he said, ‘I’d have guessed Anders Breivik’.
Right, so Michael Gove is being spoken about in the same breath as one of the worst mass murderers on the basis of his bookshelf. That is deranged. It isn’t Gove and Vine who have behaved badly (by merely owning books!) â€“ it’s the frothing Twitterati with their borderline medieval insistence that certain books should be banned. Why don’t they draw up an Index Librorum Prohibitorum decreeing which books are ‘contrary to morality’ and should never be read, as the Vatican did in the 1500s?
Kevin Williamson looks at the Forbes 2018 list of the richest people and concludes that the best way to get very, very rich in America is by doing good things for ordinary people and the least well-off.
[W]hat kind of companies did the wealthiest Americans start? Overwhelmingly, Americaâ€™s billionaire entrepreneurs grew wealthy by providing goods and services to middle-class families and people of modest means. The wealthiest European on the list is Bernard Arnault, the guy behind Louis Vuitton, while the wealthiest Americans on the list brought you Amazon, Microsoft, Dairy Queen (one of Berkshire Hathawayâ€™s many holdings), Facebook, Dixie Cups (a product of Koch Industries), Google, and everyday low prices at Walmart.
“There is a great deal that is wrong with the American economy. There is crony capitalism, subsidies, and favoritism, and advocates of free-market policies should be open about those abuses and rigorous in opposing them. But where our progressive friends are most mistaken is in this: If you want to see whatâ€™s wrong with American society, you wonâ€™t find the answers on the list of who is rich â€” youâ€™ll find it in the account of who is poor, how they got that way, and why they stay that way. It isnâ€™t Amazon keeping them down.”
Henry Racette is not one of those swaddled, buckled-up-for-safety types, begging for the Government to take away his guns and drive his car for him.
Thereâ€™s talk â€“ silly, absurd talk â€“ of banning the private ownership of cars. Molon labe, baby! You can have my Yukon, my three-ton id, when you pry it from my cold dead hands. And you can forget the self-driving nonsense, too: up here where I live, you canâ€™t see the lines on the road four months out of the year on account of the blowing snow. Good luck dealing with that, Google.
Ayn Rand, in one of her two major works of fiction (Iâ€™m going to go with Atlas Shrugged, but someone correct me if Iâ€™m wrong â€“ itâ€™s been almost 40 years since I read it) has her heroine wax rhapsodic (as if thereâ€™s any other way to wax) about the act of smoking. Dagney (or possibly Dominique) marvels at the flame held in obeisance inches from her, the spark of destruction so casually lashed into service for the pleasure of mankind. Never having been a smoker, and coming of age as I did during the first great anti-smoking crusades of the â€™70s, I admit that the imagery was less compelling for me than it might have been for someone of my parentsâ€™ generation. But Dagneyâ€™s ruminations have remained with me, an oddly vivid example of our peculiar attraction to dangerous things â€“ and to mastering them.
I like guns. I didnâ€™t always: when I was a child, I was indifferent to them. Then I became a man, a lover of liberty, and an enthusiastic critic of the insipid and emasculating idea that safety comes first. Lots of things are ultimately more important than safety. Being able to credibly say â€œthus far, and no fartherâ€ is one of them; merely reaffirming that we have the right, the moral right and the legal right, to say that is another.
Safety is important, donâ€™t get me wrong. But of all the parameters that define the human experience, safety isnâ€™t the one we should seek to maximize. John Lennonâ€™s â€œImagine,â€ the most comprehensively evil song ever written, is an ode to safety above all else, the pathetic celebration of the apathy-induced coma. Iâ€™m glad Lennon never became a US citizen.
Living as an adult male â€“ as opposed to an androgynous, pajama-clad, cocoa-sipping man-child â€“ means spending years, decades even, standing precariously close to the edge of doing something stupid. (The life of a young man is a race between the rising arc of sensibility and the statistical certainty that, if weâ€™re only given enough time, weâ€™ll have our â€œhold my beerâ€ moment and, if weâ€™re lucky, the ER visit that goes with it.) That sometimes leads to tragedy, but most often to maturity, and thereâ€™s no path from baby to man that doesnâ€™t, at least occasionally, tread close to a dangerous edge.
The best things in life are dangerous: freedom, love, faith, women, sex. Children â€“ those raw nerves we thrust out into the world. Cars. Guns. Saying what you think.
The Washington Post suggests he is, and that he is filling his cabinet with fellow attendees of the August-in-Colorado annual retreat.
Donald Trump has decided to risk a confirmation fight, officially nominating ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state this morning. Tillerson and Trump had no previous relationship, but the Texas oilman and the New York developer hit it off when they met face to face. One of the things that they have in common is their shared affection for the works of Ayn Rand, the libertarian heroine who celebrated laissez-faire capitalism.
The president-elect said this spring that heâ€™s a fan of Rand and identifies with Howard Roark, the main character in â€œThe Fountainhead.â€ Roark, played by Gary Cooper in the film adaptation, is an architect who dynamites a housing project he designed because the builders did not precisely follow his blueprints. â€œIt relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything,â€ Trump told Kirsten Powers for a piece in USA Today.
— Tillerson prefers â€œAtlas Shrugged,â€ Randâ€™s novel about John Galt secretly organizing a strike of the creative class to hasten the collapse of the bureaucratic society. The CEO listed it as his favorite book in a 2008 feature for Scouting Magazine, according to biographer Steve Coll.
— This has now officially become a trend. Trump is turning not just to billionaires but Randians to fill the cabinet:
Andy Puzder, tapped by Trump last week to be secretary of labor, is an avid and outspoken fan of Randâ€™s books. One profiler last week asked what he does in his free time, and a friend replied that he reads Ayn Rand. He is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which is owned by Roark Capital Group, a private equity fund named after Howard Roark. Puzder, who opposes increases in the minimum wage and wants to automate fast food jobs, was quoted just last month saying that he encouraged his six children to read â€œFountainheadâ€ first and â€œAtlas Shruggedâ€ later.
Mike Pompeo, who will have the now-very-difficult job of directing the Central Intelligence Agency for Trump, has often said that Randâ€™s works inspired him. â€œOne of the very first serious books I read when I was growing up was Atlas Shrugged, and it really had an impact on me,â€ the Kansas congressman told Human Events in 2011.
— Trump has been huddling with and consulting several other Rand followers for advice as he fills out his cabinet. John A. Allison IV, for example, met with Trump for about 90 minutes the week before last. â€œAs chief executive of BB&T Corp., he distributed copies of â€˜Atlas Shruggedâ€™ to senior officers and influenced BB&Tâ€™s charitable arm to fund classes about the moral foundations of capitalism at a number of colleges,â€ the Journal noted in a piece about him. â€œMr. Allisonâ€™s worldview was shaped when he was a college student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and stumbled across a collection of essays by Ms. Rand.â€
— Ayn Rand was perhaps the leading literary voice in 20th century America for the notion that, in society, there are makers and takers, and that the takers are parasitic moochers who get in the way of the morally-superior innovators. Her books portray the federal government as an evil force, trying to stop hard-working men from accumulating the wealth that she believes they deserve. The author was also an outspoken atheist, something that oozes through in her writing. Rand explained that the essence of â€œobjectivism,â€ as she called her ideology, is that â€œman exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.â€
Mallory Ortberg delivers another of her amusing Ayn Rand parodies. This time imagining what you’d get if Ayn Rand had written C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories. Personally, I find them much improved.
If the witch understood the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the Deep Magic differently, for when a willing victim who has committed no treachery, dies in a traitorâ€™s stead, the stone table will crack and even death itself will turn backwards.â€
â€œOh, how interesting,â€ Lucy said. â€œWhat is the true meaning of sacrifice, Aslan?â€
â€œIt is an artificial anti-concept,â€ Aslan said in his low, golden voice. â€œIt is the ultimate force of destruction. The very word self less suggests self-immolation, a complete annihilation of oneâ€™s own self for the sake of others. Sacrifice destroys knowledge, skill, talent, usefulness, all in the name of duty. It destroys love and self-esteem, which are the same thing. Self-sacrifice is an immoral nightmare.â€
â€œI donâ€™t quite understand,â€ Lucy said. â€œDoes this mean Edmund is going to die instead of you?â€
â€œLet us put it this way,â€ Aslan said. â€œIf I exchange a penny for a dollar, have I made a sacrifice?â€
â€œNo,â€ Lucy said.
â€œBut if I were to exchange a dollar for a penny instead,â€ Aslan said, sounding rather as if he had a locomotive in his throat, â€œwould I be making a sacrifice then?â€
â€œY-e-s,â€ Lucy said.
â€œAnd you understand why your brother is not the dollar, in this analogy,â€ he said.
â€œSo Edmund must die,â€ Lucy said triumphantly, â€œor else you would be betraying your own values!â€
â€œExactly,â€ Aslan said. â€œHave a penny.â€
Edmund burst into tears, like a Communist.
â€œOh, do be quiet,â€ Lucy said to Edmund. â€œI want to listen to Aslan explain his plans for a transcontinental railroad into Calormen again.â€
Tigerhawk has a few choice words about the leading (Rand villain) couple of America’s “aristocracy of pull.”
The news today had its uplifting moments. Vox choked out a spectacular story about the arresting wealth gathered in by Bill and Hillary Clinton since 2007, and graced it with a headline so snarky that Donald Trump might have written it: “Hillary Clinton has paid more in taxes than Jeb Bush has ever earned.” The short version is that the Clintons have “earned” — more about the use of that word in a moment — $141 million since 2007. I don’t care who you are, that’s some decent coin.
The second best part about the Vox story is the searchable list of all the organizations, mostly large business corporations, that have paid the Clintons enormous sums to hear their talking points in person. Scroll down and make your list of boycott targets (I was sad to see my old law firm Latham & Watkins in that corrupt crowd, by the way). …
Is there a single person alive who believes that corporations, trade associations, NGOs, unions, and the like pay the Clintons enormous sums for speeches because they believe their members actually want to hear the Clintons say the same tedious talking points they have been spewing for years? If that were the only value received no profit-minded enterprise would pay the Clintons these vast fees because they would earn, well, a shitty rate of return.
No, the Clintons are not paid to speak. Businesses and other interest groups pay them for the favor of access at a crucial moment or a thumb on the scale in the future, perhaps when it is time to renew the Ex-Im Bank or at a thousand other occasions when a nod might divert millions of dollars from average people in to the pockets of the crony capitalists. The speaking is just a ragged fig leaf, mostly to allow their allies in the media to say they “earned” the money for “speaking,” which is, after all, hard work.
We have such people as the Clintons (and the tens of thousands of smaller bore looters who have turned the counties around Washington, D.C. in to the richest in the country) because they and their ilk in both parties have transformed the federal government of the United States in to a vast favors factory, an invidious place that not only picks winners and losers and decides the economic fates of millions of people, but which has persuaded itself that this is all quite noble. Instead, the opposite is true: This entire class of people, of which the Clintons are a most ugly apotheosis, are destroying the country while claiming it is all in the “public service.” It is disgusting. We need to say that, at least, out loud.
Of course, all of this was prefigured years ago in a novel some of you will know.
Milo Yiannopoulos celebrates the publication of the novel version of Ayn Rand’s generally forgotten play, Ideal, with a nice essay poking fun at Rand-hating, Rand-villain progressives.
There’s just one problem with all the preening and posturing this author is subjected to: In order to sneer at Rand, you have to read her. That’s why you’ll sometimes see ridiculous social media spectacles of angsty liberal bloggers and overwrought students burning copies of the Fountainhead. And just how many Vox bloggers have made it all the way through Atlas Shrugged ? The next time someone is rude about that novel in your earshot, ask him to name a single character besides John Galt and you’ll see what I mean.
In a sense, Ayn Rand is a victim of her own totemic success. By appealing to such atavistic human drives, she has become shorthand for a whole range of gauche, aspirational working-class anxieties about other people that the liberal left likes to sneer at. Mock Ayn Rand and you are mocking the entire value system of the right-wing media, the Koch brothers, Wall Street, the Tea Party, and whomever else you don’t likeâ€”in a manner every bit as mean-spirited as anything Rand ever wrote.
Which is not to say that Ayn Rand was a particularly nice person in print. She is ruthlessly unforgiving in her mocking portraits of spoiled middle-class train wrecks. And if there’s one thing earnest socialists hate, it’s being mocked. Rand skewers the preoccupations and hypocrisies of metropolitan liberals with such ferocity that their only response is slack-jawed horror and social ostracism. …
History can be unkind to progressives, so their impotent fury is understandable. It has a habit of reminding us that, regardless of noble intentions, progressivism tends to make the world a worse place to live and further impoverish the poor. Rand predicted almost everything that ordinary people loathe about state-sponsored late capitalism, in particular the rampant corruption and bailout cronyism of an overweening government. Far from being pleased at the power Wall Street wields, if Rand were alive today she’d pull her hair out over the state of the state. Atlas Shrugged is no longer fanciful; if anything, it was a conservative prediction.
Rand’s critics might argue that she appeals to the worst of human natureâ€”that her writing plays on our jealousies, our insecurities, our most antagonistic impulses. Ayn Rand is right-wing porn: capitalism, self-reliance and self-interest at their most outrageously unapologetic. But that, of course, is what makes her so fabulously readable.
Marxism’s clown philosopher offers his own take on the great libertarian novelist.
His supposed aperÃ§u is just a typical bit of Slavonic verbal acrobatics. Rand’s philosophy is “an embarrassment” only in the sense that it is a direct contradiction of 2000 years of Judeo-Christian ethical prescription thereby flying in the face of deeply-ingrained cultural assumptions.
It is amusing though to see the characteristically-indiscreet Å½iÅ¾ek freely acknowledging the extent of Rand’s influence in a perverse sort of outlaw solidarity.