Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for May 3, 2012
It could only have been her. Who else in the world could have talked a whole country into collectively committing suicide? Turn it into a heedless fiddle-playing grasshopper who had no responsibility for its future because winter would never come? Who could make a whole nation believe that it was so exceptional, so special, so wonderful, so King-of-the-Worldish that it didn’t need to undertake those annoying chores like taking out the garbage, washing the windows, mowing the lawn and paying the mortgage, all of which are part of the adult responsibility required to maintain a civil society? Who could feed the adolescent ego to such a degree that a whole generation of boomers would grow up to become right-wing Randian Republicans, all convinced that they were John Galt and it was time to shrug?
Ayn Rand, that’s who. And why not? Hers was the irresistible siren song for every 18 year-old brooding in his room in the basement, picking at pimples and daydreaming about the cool, blond Dagny Taggart, while Mom keeps hollering down the stairs that he needs to do his homework, clean up his room, take a shower and come take the garbage out. Terrible. Take the garbage out. That’s for mooks, for losers, for leeches and takers, not for job-creating Masters of the Universe!
And so John Galt was secretly born in the hearts of millions of average Americans – the belief that the benefits they received by living in a civil society, the schools they attended, the roads they drove on, the public health measures that helped keep them healthy, the regulations and subsidies that kept their food safe and affordable, everything in the social compact that surrounded them, all paid for by taxes by their hard-working fellow citizens – all of that should be eliminated, de-regulated, privatized, profitized and paid for by The Other Guy, while they alone would be exempt, would be the special ones, answerable only to themselves. Not for them the taking out of garbage. Or paying the taxes that kept the schools and roads open so others could also benefit. No. Once he’s gotten his, John Galt doesn’t do The Commons for anybody else. That is for the moochers, the leeches.
Did I say “siren song?” Crack cocaine is more like it. It was irresistible to the self-centered sociopathic 18-year old mind. Fortunately, most people were able to outgrow Randian sociopathy when they grew up, got a job, had a family. That’s when a world-wiser adult realizes that paying for a civil society actually brings benefits, secures a better future for their kids, and offers vital protections against the brutal way capitalism often operates in the real world.
But a few people never grew out of that mind set. Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the Fed, was one of those life-long fanboys of Ayn. He was also one of the most powerful financial advisers to all the Masters of the Universe for years, which gave his Randian world view extraordinary legitimacy. The Koch Brothers are fanboy beneficiaries extraordinare, as is Congressman Paul Ryan. He’s a Super Fanboy who requires that his staffers read her interminable Atlas Shrugged. His proposed federal budget is Ayn at her chilling best.
Which is all well and good. In a capitalist, consumer society, sociopathy has its special charms and pay-offs for a certain few. But here was the most amazing part of Ayn’s mind-trick: Her few fanboys managed to convince a huge majority of normal adults --who knew better-- that they should repeatedly vote for Master of the Universe policies that would benefit a handful of real John Galts, while hurting all those useless, contemptible moochers and leeches -- themselves.
It was a brilliant piece of political ju-jitsu, all blind self-destructive noses, scissors, and fearful, misdirected spite on the part of the voters. While the manipulative, sociopathic Randers smiled. Ayn would have been so proud.
So, how did it all work out? Look around you at what happens when Atlas shrugs: For the moochers, an underwater mortgage, a looted national treasury, record unemployment, outsourced jobs, busted unions, voter suppression, a crumbling, bankrupt Commons, a failing health system, a failing school system. In short, a system in collapse, a country without a future.
And for the Masters of the Universe? The happy continued massive transfer of the nation’s wealth upline, with the booming Wall Street casino once again open for business-as-usual.
And why not? Johnny Galt needs a new pair of shoes.