Monday, March 25, 2013

The Triumph of Ayn Rand

There is an interesting internet fight because noted liberal blogger and purveyor of general awesomeness Matt Yglesias is getting criticized cause he and his wive recently purchased an expensive condo.  Well sort of expensive, 1.2 million for a three bedroom three bath join in Logan Circle.  To us peasants in the Midwest this might look unseemly, but that's how ridiculous property prices are in DC (because "historical preservation" is more important that economic development, but that's another story).  But ANYWAY conservatives are outraged because Matt and his wife bought a nice home.

The interesting thing I find here is the belief from conservative blogs and news organs that this thing is some sort of hypocrisy or outrage.  How dare some liberal be rich!  Of course these are statements of profound ignorance when it comes to American History.  FDR was as loaded as you could ever wish and the Kennedy's were not far behind.  Heck even Obama is a millionaire largely do to his book deals.  So why are people freaking out about the fact that a liberal blogger bought a house instead of living in the gutter?  I'd argue that it really doesn't make much sense at all our side of the ideology of Ayn Rand.  It's completely reasonable for conservatives to argue they don't think taxes should be higher or to end things like the Earned Income Tax Credit.  But such a conservative shouldn't automatically think that all rich people must believe these items of conservative dogma.

Rand is a very important figure in the development of 20th Century conservative thought that can still be felt to this day. None other than Paul Ryan has cited her as an important inspiration in his own political career (he has walked these comments back to some degree). Back in 2009 Jonathan Chait wrote a great article linking the emergence of new types of rhetoric in the age of Obama directly to Rand:
It [tea party rhetoric] expresses its opposition to redistribution not in practical terms--that taking from the rich harms the economy--but in moral absolutes, that taking from the rich is wrong. It likewise glorifies selfishness as a virtue. It denies any basis, other than raw force, for using government to reduce economic inequality. It holds people completely responsible for their own success or failure, and thus concludes that when government helps the disadvantaged, it consequently punishes virtue and rewards sloth. And it indulges the hopeful prospect that the rich will revolt against their ill treatment by going on strike, simultaneously punishing the inferiors who have exploited them while teaching them the folly of their ways.

There is another way to describe this conservative idea. It is the ideology of Ayn Rand.

I won't go into the whole story of Rand here, it's much to long and much to boring for longwalkdownlyndale, but her core belief that rich people who don't become libertarians are some sort of hypocritical "class traitors" is one of the few ways to explain the anger against Yglesias.

If you do want to learn more about the weird world of Rand, I would recommend that Chait piece or this great film about her and her relationship with Allen Greenspan and other apostles of the Church of the Free Market. 

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