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Rethinking Rand: "Going Galt" on The 1%

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Author 32945
Message Dan Mage

Ayn Rand, anathema to the left, despised by the religious right, quoted and revered by conservatives and "vulgar libertarians" (of which she, in her own words was neither), and generally hated and loved by people who really have no idea what she was actually talking about; the mere mention of her name sends some otherwise rational people into spasms of blind rage.

Paul Ryan's admiration of her, followed by a quick reversal to appease the anti-abortion and pro-war voters threw a special monkey wrench into the already bizarre dialectic of the 2012 general election. Mitt Romney's son Taggart "Tagg" Ryan is named after a main character in Atlas Shrugged, the tough and driven railroad mogul Dagney Taggart of "Taggart Transcontinental"

There are aspects of Rand that even her followers tend to ignore however. She was anti-war, anti-draft, pro-choice and while critical of labor unions, she defended their right to exist, and even praised them at times. She would have been appalled by the Iraq invasion, and the orgy of corporate welfare payments that followed the crash of "08. However flawed and distorted her views may have been, some of her prophecies have come to pass, side by side with Karl Marx's. Her works and those of Marx live side by side on my bookshelf, and when one looks closely, there are a large number of points on which Marx and Rand agree.

President Obama recently was quoted as saying "Ayn Rand is for misunderstood teenagers," and he's on target, at least about that issue. I was one of those "misunderstood teenagers." I was made aware of her work by a childhood friend's father, an eccentric classical composer, who lived in relative poverty and divorced his wife, a public school teacher with 5 children, to pursue his art. I read ""Anthem" "The Fountainhead," and "Atlas Shrugged," and while I seized on the idea of putting my own needs and self gratification before all other considerations, I  never converted to the gospel of industrial capitalism.

I did however "Go Galt," which, if one reads Atlas Shrugged on a less literal level, simply means to protest a society one finds repulsive, by refusing to do anything but manual labor. What Rand actual proposed was not simply a desertion of the working class by the ruling class, but also a general strike by anyone who knew how to think. I decided a long time ago, that I would give as little as I could, and while I regret the true "selfishness" I practiced for so many years, I do not regret that I have no sense of obligation to this ongoing orgy of atrocities and man-made disasters, that they ironically still call "society."

"Galt's Speech" cuts both ways. It is the "1%" who are truly unnecessary. How far out of your own comfort zone will you step, to deliver nothing of value, in labor, in money, and in intellectual capital to the "1%?"

We can complain all we want about social injustice;however(all but the most rational of) conservatives, and the pro-corporate Rand quoting "vulgar libertarians" believe they can live without us. That's fine with me, let them try. When day day comes when their imaginary money, or even hoards of precious metals can buy nothing for them, they may feel differently about it. The power of money as it is presently defined to destroy lives, its utility as a weapon of control and coercion, and the hoarding, speculation, and monopolization of necessities, all are derived from a "social contract," the agreement that numbers on paper and in digital devices have meaning and value.

The price of real resistance at any level is high, the risks grow greater on a daily basis, yet, the alternative, to try to "work within the system" and bring about change through a "democracy" that has all but vanished on the national level, is a liberal fairy tale. We can thank none other than president Obama for driving the final nail into the coffin of that one.

"But I have children to feed, a mortgage to pay, I need gas for my car, I have to keep the cable on, I'm still paying my student loans...." the excuses go on forever, and while some pay their taxes cheerfully, and pay homage to the democratic party, the unabated violence, the murder, rape and torture, the remote-control killings on the outer frontiers of the empire continue unabated. Women and gays can now "make the ultimate sacrifice," to make sure that any dictator who won't play ball will be replaced by one who will. You can feed your children while  your neighbor's children starve.

The hard-line left of the late seventies and early eighties, european anarcho-communists and American Marxist acidheads learned the hard way, of the futility of "small group actions" in a nation with an apathetic and/or hostile working class, and horrified middle class. "Class War," if taken literally, is still playing "their" game, by their rules, on their turf. However, there is in America an element of what Marx referred to as "the dangerous class," those who can think, but who will not obey. While many of us seem to have our roots in suburbia, downward mobility is the norm these days. The frustration of those still chasing the American Dream after it has been transformed into the "American Nightmare," is apparent.

As long as there has been a dominant culture, there has been a counterculture. Once one has tasted freedom, it is hard to forget, even after years of imprisonment followed by years of low wage labor while living in constant fear. To refuse to sell your mind will reduce your own value as a commodity drastically, in most cases. However, a revolt, strike, and desertion by what remains of the intelligentsia, and white collar wage slaves would be devastating.

The concept of political authority as the enforcer for global corporatism is not that difficult to grasp, or explain.  The coercive power of the money that Ms. Rand worshipped in  her distorted understanding of a tyranny that was, and continues to be entirely real, in fact derives from belief in an imaginary substance. 
However, when one digs a little deeper into Rand's works, particularly the her "Opjectivist Epistemology" one sees another picture than the one presented in her novels. There is a certain quality to her work that still brings me back to specific passages repeatedly, even now. The following is taken from a section of the Ayn Rand Lexicon* titled "The Benevolent Universe Premise." 

Rand: One feels "This injustice (or falsehood or terror or frustration or pain or pain or agony) is the exception in life, not the rule" One feels certain that somewhere on earth-even if not anywhere in one's surroundings or within one's reach-a proper human way of life is possible to human beings, and justice matters." (1)

It is this aspect of Ayn Rand's thinking that remains with me. To blame Rand for the current and clearly statist domination of of the subordinate classes by global monopoly capital, makes as much sense as blaming Marx for Stalinism. Both were thinkers, dreamers, self-absorbed and self-centered dogmatists who were so certain of the reasoning behind their vision, that still people cling to them, even as a technological and political complexity neither could have imagined surrounds us and threatens our the future of the entire species.

It's time to "Go Galt" on the 1%

(1)"The Inexplicable Personal Alchemy" The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution p.118 Quoted from:

*Ayn Rand Lexicon, 1988, Meridian, Penguin Group NY NY, Harry Binswanger, Ed. Commentaries by Leonard Peikoff


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I was born in NYC in 1959. I grew up in the DC area, the product of suburbia and liberal parents with doctoral-level educations. I dropped out of the public school system in eighth grade, and from all schooling by the age of 16. My life rapidly (more...)

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