But there's a familiar piece of irony encased within the underlying aspects of social Darwinism that reverberates inside the extreme right's timorous cultural outlook, with again, much of it connected to Ayn Rand. Her persuasive condemnation of "ethical altruism" and her equally convincing arguments in favor of "the virtue of selfishness" offer concise, scholarly justification for the advocacy of cultural norms designed to forge a society in which only the strongest can survive -- in other words, textbook social Darwinism.
Since the publication of The Fountainhead in 1943, and her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged, generations of so-called "anti-big-government-conservatives" have been enraptured by Rand's stringent expressions of laissez-faire capitalism . "Government "help'," she famously stated, "is just as disastrous as government persecution. The only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hand off."
It is such rhetoric that as drawn so many so-called "personal responsibility" Tea Party conservative types under Rand's spell. But the irony lies not in the fact that -- contrary to the assumptions of some conservatives -- social Darwinism as a concept, originated neither with their hero Rand, nor with its namesake, Charles Darwin . The incongruity stems from a narrative related to both Rand and the actual scholar who many credit for presenting the concept.
Note that Rand's base philosophy of "objectivism" relies on the embrace of what she terms "rational egoism," or, a coherent path of pure self-interest in which the moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness. Thus, in some ways it should come as no surprise that among the enraptured include " Path to Prosperity " federal budget proposal author, Tea Party fave, and former Oscar-Meyer " Wienermobile " driver, Wisconsin Republican congressman Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee.
"The reason I got involved in public service " if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," stated Ryan in an article posted on AlterNet this past January.
But Ryan's inclusion among the smitten is obviously something no one should find surprising; after all, many of his hero's views are boilerplate Tea Party swagger: anti-federal government; an emphasis on states' rights; unregulated personal freedom; and a lean, if not emaciated federal government; concepts which appear to have inspired perhaps the most controversial feature of the Ryan budget plan -- its proposal to end Medicare by the year 2022.
But if you think eliminating Medicare is a proposal Rand would support were she alive today, you probably want to think again. In spite of her clamorous expressions of contempt for government entanglement in the lives and affairs of its citizens, Rand, writes Jim Magruder of the liberal website Policy Grinder.com , "was a fraud who died dependent on Social Security and Medicare."
Rand's descent from being one of the foremost apostles preaching disdain for government largess to recipient of government entitlements fosters images of those older Tea Party supporters who'd roll into anti-Obamacare rallies on government-subsidized powered wheelchairs -- Hoverounds -- to rail against federal government programs while simultaneously demanding that the government "keep its hands off my Medicare."
Meanwhile, regarding historian Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) -- the person many credit with bringing into a broader light, the socio-biological theories establishing the basis of social Darwinism pioneered by 19th century philosopher Herbert Spencer -- the narrative has a similar ironic twist. Hofstadter, a Columbia University professor, is author of Social Darwinism in American Thought , published in 1944, and considered the writing that delivered the concept into the public lexicon. But in addition to being a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and respected scholar, Hofstadter, during the 1930's, was also a member of the Young Communist League, and later, a full member of the U. S. Communist Party.
"My fundamental reason for joining (the Communist Party)," wrote Hofstadter in Social Darwinism, "is that I don't like capitalism, and want to get rid of it."
For those who recognize the hypocrisy which runs amok within the Tea Party conservative movement, it is neither surprising nor ironic to learn that two figures of significance to conservative dogma -- one central to it, and the other related in an indirect way -- are guilty of behavior that is either anti-conservative (accepting federal government "handouts"), or have expressed support for economic concepts (communism) that are completely contrary to Tea Party conservative philosophy. And since cognitive dissonance in ideology has long been an issue for the extreme right, reaching the conclusion that contradictions such as those involving conservative heroes like Rand (and presumably, Hofstadter) simply don't matter is something that comes quite easily.
"The Republicans," as observed Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) during an early October interview on MSNBC's Politics Nation , "are torn between their ideology and reality."
Indeed, they are Congressman Frank.
Welcome to Hard Right Utopia.