The GOP Can’t Quit Ayn Rand

September 28th, 2011 at 1:19 am | 193 Comments |

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Two years ago, ask I began work on a book that was to examine the ideological roots of the 2008 financial crisis. Over time this became a broader examination of the radical right’s renaissance in America. For many months I’ve been eating, and sleeping and breathing Ayn Rand—and on February 28 the results of my journey will be published by St. Martin’s Press, in a book entitled Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul.

Ayn Rand’s spirit hangs over the 2012 presidential race like the aftermath of a bad meal that, for some reason, we’ve all forgotten that we’ve eaten. In the run-up to the financial crisis the markets became a kind of Fifth Estate, the ultimate arbiters of American society. This was not a Republican disease; some of the most voracious deregulation took place during the Clinton Administration. It was as if a moral choice had been made, substituting the “wisdom of the markets” for admittedly flawed and sometimes grossly inept regulators. It made perfect sense, especially in an era in which the stock market averages rose by as much as 40% in one year, but today we know, or should know, that untrammeled capitalism doesn’t work.

But you’d never know any of this when listening to the Republican candidates for president, especially the one who most overtly embodies Rand’s philosophy: Ron Paul.

Paul is by no means a card-carrying Objectivist—his embrace of religion, and his views on foreign policy, makes him anathema to Randian true believers. But his embrace of the most primitive, extreme forms of free-market, almost-zero-government capitalism comes closest to Rand’s belief system of any in the Republican field.

What’s remarkable about Paul is how effective he is at putting forward his views, extreme as they are. Indeed, the unyielding, unwavering non-flip-flopping character of his opinions is perhaps his greatest asset. He is the best friend free-market capitalism has at present, as can be seen by his recent debate performances and especially his recent triumphant appearance at Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. The man exudes small-town charm while at the same advocating positions that would make life into hell for the great majority of his followers and listeners.

I was struck by Paul’s appearance on the Daily Show because Stewart has taken a strong, sometimes angry position against Wall Street excesses. Yet no presidential candidate embodies the worst instincts of Wall Street—and is more aggressive at promoting the financial industry’s hopes, dreams, and hatred of regulation.

Like many on Wall Street, Paul is opposed to the very existence of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the only regulatory agency that stands between the Street and the American public. Now, let’s be clear on what that means. Many people, myself included, feel that the SEC has done an abysmal job of regulating the markets. It probably should be abolished—but replaced by a stronger agency, one with teeth and a culture of aggressiveness, not bureaucratic lassitude. But Paul wants it replaced by nothing. In 2009 he said,

For a good many years now, since the 1930s, every time a problem like this comes up, like in the Depression, we think that it is a lack of regulation, so we introduce regulatory agencies like the SEC, and, like after Enron, that was a major problem so we appropriate more money, and hire more people… that doesn’t do any good.

But this circumstance I think really makes my point, that the approach is completely wrong. [The approach] that the regulatory agencies are preempting people from doing bad things, just doesn’t work. There are millions and millions and millions of transactions. You can’t do it. All they do is give a false sense of security.

This is a perfect example of it. The SEC was involved with Madoff over the last decade. And that sort of gives the stamp of approval and says, “oh, must be okay”. So everybody’s guard is let down. This creates the moral hazard that allows people to make these mistakes and not to assume responsibility for themselves.

As I said earlier, Paul is not an Objectivist. But this eloquent exposition of unregulated capitalism is straight out of the Rand canon, specifically a 1963 essay by Alan Greenspan in her anthology Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. His essay was entitled “The Assault on Integrity.” Greenspan argued that “regulation—which is based on force and fear—undermines the moral base of business dealings.” Using very much the same rationalizations as was employed by Paul 46 years later, Greenspan argued for the entombment of every form of regulation, from local building inspectors to the Food and Drug Administration. Greenspan said, “It is precisely the ‘greed’ of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking, which is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.”

Needless to say, Paul did not invoke the despised Greenspan in his appearance on the Daily Show. Nor did he advocate ending the FDA and abolishing building codes, which might sound extreme to even his most dedicated supporters. Instead, in his charming and folksy manner, he appealed to his audience by invoking the corrosive effects of the war on drugs and the CIA.

Stewart did not seem convinced but was suitably impressed, as we all should be, by Paul’s candor. But yet there was an odor to the appearance that lingered. Perhaps it was the way he pandered to his audience. Or perhaps it was that he was repeating the same tortured reasoning that has proven so destructive to the financial system. Or perhaps it’s that Paul is in the forefront of a campaign to strip the public of its protections from the excesses of capitalism, out of a professed belief that the alternative is a government that is even worse than the worst excesses of business.

Yet it was business, not government, that caused the financial crisis—unless you believe, as does Paul and many on the far right, that the financial crisis was caused by government policies.

Recently there was an SEC action that should mean a lot to every Paul acolyte—or at least the ones that have a keen sense of irony. In July, the SEC brought fraud charges against a man named Jeffery A. Lowrance. The SEC said that Lowrance “defrauded investors by promising high fixed rates of return from foreign currency trading.” The SEC contended that Lowrence engaged in “affinity fraud” by targeting people who shared his belief—in Ron Paul. (H/T The Financial Arts blog.)

In the Randian world of laissez-faire capitalism, the markets would effectively police themselves, and be more effective than hard-pressed government bureaucrats. So don’t fix regulation. Don’t improve it; abolish it.

Ayn Rand believed that we all should pursue our own rational self-interests. When you hear the cheers that Paul gets when he manipulates his audiences, you have to wonder: Do these people understand their own rational self-interests?

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193 Comments so far ↓

  • Pavonis

    What is most shocking about the modern Republican Party is how much Ayn Rand Objectivism has been mixed with right wing Christianity. “Blessed are the meek” has been replaced by the prosperity gospel (“Screw the poor”?). It all makes a weird sort of psychological sense, however. Fundamentalist belief in the infallibility of the Bible translates easily into fundamentalist belief in the infallibility of free markets.

    • balconesfault

      What it really represents is a blending of Randism and Calvinism.

      Via Calvinism, we were instructed that God has pre-ordained who will be saved, and who damned … and that He grants material success on earth to those with spiritual superiority. Thus … in an unfettered free market God’s chosen will rise to the top, and man’s attempts to control the markets and to take positive steps to close the gap between the wealthy and the poor, is a perversion of God’s will since it limits the ability of God to demonstrate on earth that He has predestined success for the few.

      Blending Randism with this Calvinism we now can see that not only does regulation limit our ability to see WHO God has chosen … but in fact, to see WHAT His true will on earth is. The free marketplace should demonstrate what God truly wants, and human attempts to regulate the marketplace must then be a perversion … a corruption of God’s ability to demonstrate His plan.

      In a way, it kind of loops around and meets Rosseau on the other side of rationality, the same way that Ron Paul and Ralph Nader may form an alliance.

      • Demosthenes


        It is important to distinguish Calvinism from mainstream Christianity. One of the most important contributions of Christianity to Western culture was an ascetic ideal of renunciation. It was not by accident that Calvin targeted monasteries: in addition to being (as centers of political and economic power) an institutional threat to his reign, they also provided an extremely powerful counterpoint to his narrative of a purely rational Christianity, where worldly success in the form of power and gain was the direct and visible result of virtue. Some medieval monasteries were quite powerful, but many were not, and the ancient monastic or renunciate ideal precisely eschews power in the name of faith. This is not to comment on however well or ill individual monks and monasteries have lived up to that ideal, but rather to point out that the “Gospel of Wealth” and mainstream Christianity — particularly as expressed in the ideal of renunciation and solitary contemplation, which goes back to the very earliest days of the Church — are incompatible.

        • Primrose

          Agree with all of you. I had not realized Calvinism said that material prosperity indicated who was saved. I thought it was all unknown and to be revealed upon death.

          But this attitude certainly makes sense given their policies. So perhaps the reason the white working class votes against its interests is that it thinks it deserves the pain?

        • Banty

          The white working class aspires, individually, to wealth, and blames others, others not deserving, for not having obtained it. That’s where the tax aversion comes in. That’s why the CRA-dunnit narrative for the 2008 financial crisis took hold.

      • rubbernecker

        Hence the absolutism that has seemingly immobilized the government. It’s unfettered capitalism, or it’s tyranny, and Jesus brought a sword, you know.

      • indy

        Well, what I have difficulty with, on a purely abstract level, is the melding of a philosophy (a rabidly atheist one at that) whose primary assertion is that reward is undeniably justified by merit with a doctrine that stresses the absolute sovereignty of God and embraces the idea of a select few who are expressly chosen NOT based on merit, but rather solely on God’s mercy.

        • Primrose

          Yes, exactly. And I have a further problem with this attributing the religious part of this doctrine, to Jesus Christ who whether you agree, disagree or are non-aligned was clearly, and unambiguously talking of spiritual mercy, and spiritual salvation.

          I can’t help thinking of “A Fish Called Wanda” when Wendy tells Otto “The central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself.” I looked it up. ”

          They’ve put a lot of ideas in their head but have no capacity to understand them because all they are looking for out it is how does this help me (get rich, get powerful).

        • Chris Balsz

          They don’t meld; they intersect in agreeing that individual judgment (conscience) and responsibility and opportunity are essential for a functional society. A controlled economy requires submission to the judgment of higher authority, represses individual initiative, limits innovation to the imagination of the planners (a group which will purge itself down to the best politicians rather than the best producers), and excuses the bad results of this system as necessary “sacrifice” which the masses are obliged to endure for their own best interests, as defined by their superiors. Rand is appreciated for deconstructing this system, not for the ridiculous sexual morality or fantastic millenarian scenario at the end.

          Then again I hear Upton Sinclair was upset everybody read The Jungle for the bit about abominable food packaging and not the story of failed assimilation of immigrants.

        • indy

          So I guess you offer the answer to my confusion of how people hold two seemingly antithetical concepts together. They simply look at the results ignoring all else. That Rand postulates that rational self-interest dictates a mode of moral behavior that results in a certain set of actions and results, and that Calvinism, arising from a completely different foundation, also dictates a set of actions and results that, in a few surface ways seemingly overlap, makes them both acceptable I guess. In essence, it doesn’t really matter whether the results come from man or God: if you got it you deserved it somehow. That Calvin and Rand would find each others philosophical underpinnings revolting is simply immaterial. I admit it never occurred to me that they are viewed as reinforcing each other. Hey, two completely disparate philosophies came to a seemingly similar conclusion, hence the conclusion is all the stronger for it! They didn’t, of course. Not even close, but admittedly they can be seen as similar in the way you suggest. You ascribe to the results of the philosophy, not the philosophy itself. Thank you, that clarifies things a bit.

        • Primrose

          Though you are quite right about the Jungle not being about the condition of food, though that is the legislation that came out of it, I am not sure the Jungle was about failed assimilation so much as terrible working conditions.

          I also think there has been a failure to distinguish between a regulated economy and a planned one. Regulation did not stop Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak or Bill Gates from innovating. Regulation did not stop Mr. Zuckerberg from creating Facebook or the internet leaving DARPA’s provinces.

          Regulation keeps anti-freeze from being used as a sweetener, and monopolies from crushing all competition. It is not the same thing as a planned economy where some desk jockey deciding that we need 4000 red shoes and 3000 green ones, but forgetting we need laces.

          Though, to be fair, even in a capitalist society, some desk jockey is making those decisions and then telling some salesmen to sell it. If it doesn’t sell, the first impulse is to create better ads. Xerox labs actually created the first Mac like computer but the marketing folks decided we didn’t need it. Netflix, to cite a recent example, decided to de-link its two services, on demand and movies so that subscribers have to go to two different lists. Upon being confronted with fierce discontent from its customers, did they change it? No. The CEO apologized for not communicating well.

          Business is not as responsive to customer demand as is often portrayed in these arguments, and economic texts. They are just as full of institutional inertia as any large organization.

      • hlsmlane

        +1 Interesting thesis!!

      • Houndentenor

        Thank you! I have been surrounded by this for months and have had a hard time describing it to others (including Republicans not in the Bible Belt). I think you sum it up accurately.

      • elizajane

        +1 to Balconesfault and also Demosthenes’ comment above. I’ve studied Calvin (though not the works of Ayn Rand) and this makes a lot of sense to me.

  • fyi4u

    “Yet it was business, not government, that caused the financial crisis—unless you believe, as does Paul and many on the far right, that the financial crisis was caused by government policies.”

    Pull your head out of the sand… Government toying with mortgage regulations and crony capitalism does not represent a free market model. In a true free market, No bail outs. Too big to fail would not exist. Let me put to you that if there was such big opportunity out there that only an AIG propped up by the government could do it, it should not be allowed to go forward. Government has no business in business. The Solyndra loan debacle partially makes my point here. Now if that same opportunity existed and the only way AIG could do the deal was to partner (not with the government) but with say, two or three similar competitors to realize a big opportunity, your regulation would be built in. “The three crooks would all be watching each other instead of one big crook just making sure he can out lobby the problem through a corrupt government partner.
    It is a simplification for expedience in making my point, but this basic premise extended through the economy is just what Ron Paul is talking about. Not so crazy to get the government (we pay for) out of the collusion business and let the chips fall where they may in the free market. Companies would definitely use more care if corrupt bailouts weren’t an option.
    As Americans we are being taught now to be afraid of self reliance and local governance this is not right.

    Do the American people really care if Goldman Sachs let’s General Electric (Obama/Biden) or Halliburton (Bush/Cheney “insert Perry or Romney here”) run the place this time? I guess that’s yet to be seen. But, I can tell you many of us traditionally Non-politicals are fed up with losing the essence of our great country to communists and carpetbaggers alike.
    Ron Paul is offering an alternative to the corporatist model that Eisenhower warned of, and has all but taken over already. A vanished free press has left us with the left and right media outlets complicit in keeping Paul’s message from a waiting public.
    If not Ron Paul we will surely end up with Clint Webb as president. So you must continue spread the word, educate your busy family, friends, and neighbors to spend an “honest hour” looking at Paul and convey the importance of Ron Paul getting that republican slot. Switch parties if you have to…

    “First they ignore you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    They are beginning to fight… Make no mistake this is a fight for your very freedom and the fate of American liberty.
    The Government has too much, does too much, and in our high tech world now, knows far too much about the lives of private citizens and we are paying for it all…
    This can not stand it is not necessary and the temptation for corruption is far too great.
    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    - Ben Franklin –

    • Primrose

      An untrammeled free market would not bring about freedom but totalitarianism because it says that the business sector should the total focus of our society. Totalitarianism did not work when religion was the focus, It did not work when the military was the focus. It did not work when the state was and there is no rational reason to believe it will work when business is there.

      Also, Mr. Rand on the Daily Show said socialism and Communism didn’t work. My question is compared to what?

      Communism compared unfavorably to a regulated capitalist society with a strong safety net, without question.

      But communism was a much better system than the feudalism it almost always replaced. (A fact that would have shocked Marx.) I think we can also conservatively say that had the Robber Barons of the 19th century not been reined in by the policies of the two Roosevelt presidents, the resulting system would have compared unfavorably to Communism, at least in the judgment of the majority of citizenry. The robber barons like the feudal lords would disagree.

      The Ayn Rand, no regulations advocates love to point to the fall of Communism as proof of their views. But they never remember what was the alternative “winning” system.

      Untrammeled Capitalism did not beat Communism but a regulated capitalist society with a strong safety net did. It is as if we gave medals not to the people who proved heroic but their siblings because they had the same name.

      Ron Paul may unusually honest about his views but those views are based on lies.

      • Demosthenes


      • elizajane

        Usually I agree with you (and your conclusion is fine) but I’m not sure what you even mean about the Communism that replaced Feudalism. If you are talking about Russia, what replaced the ruptured, semi-reformed Feudalism of the late Romanov period was a disasterous, murderous, totalitarian regime that, from about 1920 onwaryd, simply wiped out millions upon millions of former peasants and was like nothing that Marx ever envisioned.

        Just had to put that out there.

    • Sinan

      You say Solyndra is a great example supporting your thesis that government is bad and apparently screws things up. Have you ever worked at a VC funded startup that failed? Do you realize that most startups fail and that most of them are backed by private equity?

      • ottovbvs

        In the mind of these folks private investors never make bad investment decisions. Only govt. Tell that to Cerberus the private equity fund whose lost a lot more than $500 million over the past five years on failed investments. Or how about the dot com bust. Public money that was all lost in was it?

        • balconesfault

          This, btw, illustrates the problem I point out when people complain that bureaucrats are “rigid”, or that government isn’t “creative”.

          In many ways, flexibility and creativity are the reason a vibrant private sector is invaluable to human progress.

          And for risk taking, if you’re in some areas of the private sector if your risks pay off 50% of the time, you’re incredibly successful. In government, if your risks pay off 99% of the time, you have investigations and hearings on why you took a risk for the 1% that fail.

        • Primrose

          +1 We don’t get to see every misstep of a business and so have an unrealistic sense of its efficacy and intelligence.

        • armstp


          Let me remind FYI4u that government funding is responsible for much of the technological advance in the U.S. and the world over the last couple of hundred years; Internet, most drugs and pharmaceuticals, satellites, etc.

    • Political Orphan

      The Paulians are better than the Romneybots.

  • armstp

    It is funny or sad that even the “Maestro” and number one Ayn Rand disciple had to admit that he and Ayn Rand were wrong:

    ““You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of the committee. “Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?”

    Mr. Greenspan conceded: “Yes, I’ve found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I’ve been very distressed by that fact.”

    He noted that the immense and largely unregulated business of spreading financial risk widely, through the use of exotic financial instruments called derivatives, had gotten out of control and had added to the havoc of today’s crisis. As far back as 1994, Mr. Greenspan staunchly and successfully opposed tougher regulation on derivatives.

    But on Thursday, he agreed that the multitrillion-dollar market for credit default swaps, instruments originally created to insure bond investors against the risk of default, needed to be restrained.

    “This modern risk-management paradigm held sway for decades,” he said. “The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year.”

    Mr. Waxman noted that the Fed chairman had been one of the nation’s leading voices for deregulation, displaying past statements in which Mr. Greenspan had argued that government regulators were no better than markets at imposing discipline.

    “Were you wrong?” Mr. Waxman asked.

    “Partially,” the former Fed chairman reluctantly answered, before trying to parse his concession as thinly as possible.”

    But, the rest of these Republican nuts did not seem to learn the lesson or get the memo. They seem to think we need not more, but less regulation. And this is the irony of the Tea Bag nation. They want to blame Wall Street for the collapse (although most blame the government), but don’t believe in regulation.

    • GaryWeiss

      There’s considerably more on Alan Greenspan, and his Rand connection, in my book.

      • Primrose

        Please do remind us when it comes out on Amazon. I think we would all be interested in reading it.

    • Chris Balsz

      I have said before, I prefer Glass-Stengall’s “Thou shall not engage in risky banking” to the 21st century paradigm “Ok you can be risky, but you gotta file regular reports.”

  • armstp

    I think one thing to keep in mind is that guys like Ron Paul do not care what the damage is to society when there is no regulation of any kind. They believe that society will adjust and should not be restricted in any way. So what if a building burns down and kills 500 people because there is no fire and safety regulations. That is just the cost of doing business in living in the wild west. They think the costs of no regulation are worth it and that society will be better off.

    The question you should ask Ron Paul types, which gets them every time, is what do you do about pollution. If a factory is allowed to endlessly pollute and that pollution begins to impede on the property rights of others is that ok? Is it fair that a property owner is being impacted by a polluter? Doesn’t the property owner also have rights? What is their solution? They have no answer and this example begins to punch holes very quickly into their philosophy.

    • CautiousProgressive

      The rational capitalist approach to pollution is the following:

      If your factory releases pollution over 1 year that degrades the breathing of 10 million residents down-wind, then you are liable for the damage inflicted on them…. let’s say ~$150 in average health care costs.

      Hence a yearly tax of $1.5 billion (10 mil x $150) distributed to the down-wind residents, is entirely in line with the Randian idea that one of the government’s (only) valid roles it to collect punitive monies for damages inflicted.

      • humanoid.panda

        Let’s imagine that the good people of country X decide to reorganize their life according to Randian/Libertarian precepts. The first thing they do, is to embrace your proposal regarding regulating pollution.
        Initially all works well, but one day, a factory owner goes to court and makes the case
        that it is very difficult to trace every particle of pollution in your lungs back to a specific factory, making a legal proof personal damage very problematic.
        Unless the people of country X are willing to suffer indefinitely in the name of their principles, they will realize that the only solution here is collective- to gather money from all factories that create a specific type of pollution and disburse it among all potential victims of pollution. To do that, you have to create some kind of body able to collect information about the kind of damages industrial pollution causes, the factories in a given location that are creating pollution, and create a registry of people that might be in harm’s way.
        Since we all know that it’s fairly easy to hire someone to doubt any scientific finding, our hypothetical body would have to have authority to create binding decisions about pollution and its damages, even in the face of resistance from industry and its experts Since creating such a body for every single type of industry and any give locality is glaringly inefficient, so some kind of centralization is in order, so regional/national pollution compensation centers will arise. At some point, someone will point out that both public-health and industry-profits wise, prevention is probably better than paying out damages year after year. At this point, our compensation centers become regulatory agencies. To function properly, such regulatory bodies would need the coercive power of the state, to make sure even recalcitrant factories owners follow regulatory procedures. At this point the people of X will surely realize that they have recreated the EPA!
        Some will leave in disgust in search of purer utopia, others will muddle through, maybe grumbling we should privatize the pollution control centers and lower taxes, while some small proportion of the population might figure out why the regulatory state arose in the first place, and go about making sure food and drugs are safe.

      • armstp


        Yes, that is rational. What you are describing is essentially “cap-n-trade”.

        However, you are bringing in rules and regulations into the equation, which is not very Ron Paul or Ayn Rand. You are forcing polluters to be responsible for the costs of their actions on society or other property rights owners.

        By the way how would you enforce such regulations? How would you measure the pollution? How would you determine what is pollution and what is not? What an acceptable level should be? How would you come up with the 10 million number or the $150 number? I am sure a polluter would say the number is actually 1 million and cost is $50.

        End of the day you just get back to the type of regulatory system we have to day. You get back to something that looks very much like the EPA.

  • zaybu

    What the Ayn Randists need to note is that absence of authority leads people to loot (commit crimes). For instance: in the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans, or when American soldiers entered Bagdhad — in both cases, ordinary people just went on ransacking the city. The major flaw in the Ayn Randist philosophy is that it perceives that humans act rationally in their self-interests, when in reality, we behave mostly either irrationally, or rationally from false premises.

  • ConnerMcMaub

    Great article. I’ve always found the embrace of Rand odd seeing as she was not just an atheist but more rabidly anti religious than Christopher Hitchens.

  • forgetn

    I watched Ron Paul’s pitch on the Daily Show, the unedited version that Jon was pushing, unabridged. The most amazing part of the interview is that it took place at all! In fact, that a “far right” politician can only get “air time” on a show such as the Daily Show is a real indictment of the MSM.

    Obviously, listening the Paul requires an adult audience in a sense he got that (not the audience obviously) but those who like me watch the whole thing. There is no doubt (I’m involved in the financial services) that the SEC does a terrible job — the Marcopolis episode is a smoking gun. Paul’s hatred towards the Feds is a similar problem, the gold standard would to tremendous damage to the U.S. economy — and mostly to the middle class.

    What the MSM (and FoxNews) have done is remove Paul from the conversation because he says what the other imply! That’s why he is ignored. Frankly, watching the show last night I though the opening sequence was possibly the strongest comment on the state of the GOP.

    • Richard Stands

      Bear in mind that while Paul favors something like a gold standard, he’s simply advocating the legalization of competing currencies absent legal tender constraints and taxation of gains against the Federal Reserve Note.

    • LauraNo

      MSNBC has Paul on all the time to discuss his views.

      • balconesfault

        Shhh …. conservatives all believe as part of their creed that MSNBC is akin to pure liberal propoganda, all the time.

        OTOH, they actually believe CNN is liberal. Go figure.

  • D Furlano

    Paul is a fanatical believer. He is also very good at manipulating and contriving stories that push forward his ideology.

    What it all lacks is proof. Since there are regulations finding fault is not all that difficult. But where is there any real evidence that free markets and Paul’s libertarian views actually work?

    Just about ever major regulation or regulatory body was born out of something going very wrong.

    • armstp


      You hit on the most important point of this whole discussion. The underlying belief that forms the basis of the entire liberaterian, Ron Paul or Ayn Rand philosophy is that regulations are bad for society, economies, corporations, job creation, etc.

      However, there is absolutely no proof to this. Regulations do not hurt the economy and jobs. In fact, you could easily argue the regulations help the economy and job creation (we certainly know that the lack of regulations of mortgages and derivatives killed the economy).

      There is absolutely no empirical evidence that shows societies or countries with more regulations are worse off or worse at creating jobs, economic growth or have a lower standard of living than countries with less regulation. In fact, generally the more regulated an economy and more government the better economically and from a standard of living point of view those countries are (compare say Mexico or Somalia with Finland and Japan).

      There is also no evidence that less regulated states do better than more regulated states. In fact, again, the exact opposite is likely true, as the less regulated states like South Carolina or Lousiana tend to be basket cases compared to the more regulated states like Washington or New York.

      And there is no evidience that historically during periods in history of less regulation there was better economic growth and prosperity than periods in history when there was more regulation.

      Here is a very comprehensive non-partisan study that says the whole GOP talking-point that regulation is causing job losses, slower job growth or hurts society is bullshit.

      “Regulation, employment, and the economy: Fears of job loss are overblown”

      or look at this:

      Liberaterians like Ron Paul cannot even prove the underlying premise of their arguments, which is that less regulation and less government is better.

      Can any of you give me any real significant examples of where regulations has resulted in any major job losses or has hurt society? Corporations just adjust. At most they pass on any extra costs to consumers. I have never seen a corporation say I am not going to hire because of those darn regulations. If the demand is there, they will hire no matter what the regulations.

  • ggore

    “This was not a Republican disease; some of the most voracious deregulation took place during the Clinton Administration.”

    Very true, but, which PART of the Clinton administration? When the Democrats were in control of Congress, or after the “Republican Revolution” and Contract with America? I think you’ll find that the deregulation of the financial markets occurred during that time period. The most egregious example being Sen. Phil Gramm’s (R-TX) bill deregulating the home mortgage process that brought about credit default swaps, etc that brought down the U.S. economy and almost brought down the economy of the entire planet.

    Blaming it on Clinton doesn’t cut it. Congress makes the laws, not the President, he only signs off on it, and if there are plenty of votes available to override a Presidential veto, it becomes law. Basic civics, people.

  • sinz54

    The basic assumption of laissez-faire capitalism is that each player is a rational being.

    Modern behavioral economics has refuted that–to my satisfaction anyway.

    The manias over the “” stocks in the late 1990s and real estate in the 2000s are just the latest example of wild irrationality, the descendants of the tulip bubble mania in Holland centuries ago.

    Psychologists have wondered why this occurs. In experiments with human volunteers, it appears that fear of loss is a much bigger psychological driver of human minds than enjoyment of gain. That is, humans will work much harder to avoid a 5% loss than to make a 5% profit.

    And experiments have also shown that fear of missing opportunities is an even bigger fear than fear of loss. Human beings will feel worse about having missed the opportunity to make a 10% profit, than they will feel about having incurred a 10% loss. Even though missing the opportunity to make a 10% profit still leaves you even, compared with losing 10%.

    In fact, experiments with chimpanzees have shown much the same thing.

    Thus we’re psychologically biased against cutting our losses. No one wants to realize a paper loss. They will continue to play in hopes of turning things around, even if they continue to incur losses.

    And we’re psychologically biased toward “getting a piece of the action.” We’ve all noticed that when a convenience store or other location sells a winning lottery ticket, sales of lottery tickets in that store will then rise sharply.

    Every casino in Las Vegas makes money on such players.

    And so did Wall Street.

    • indy

      Psychologists have wondered why this occurs. In experiments with human volunteers, it appears that fear of loss is a much bigger psychological driver of human minds than enjoyment of gain. That is, humans will work much harder to avoid a 5% loss than to make a 5% profit.

      And experiments have also shown that fear of missing opportunities is an even bigger fear than fear of loss. Human beings will feel worse about having missed the opportunity to make a 10% profit, than they will feel about having incurred a 10% loss. Even though missing the opportunity to make a 10% profit still leaves you even, compared with losing 10%.

      You are assuming this is, on its face, irrational behavior. It might be, of course, depending on your definition of rational. But a microeconomic theorist would start discussing indifference functions and utility curves. In essence, however, I think you are correct. All financial and economic theory is based on a simplifying set of assumptions about human behavior. The thing that emerges from a simplifying set of assumptions is a model of the real world. Financial types use a lot of math built on the resulting model. Of course, all of the math requires that the underlying assumptions be correct. That is something I think was refuted convincingly by the experiences of the last few years.

    • Primrose

      +1 (Sinz)

  • Solo4114

    As with most extremist utopian philosophies, Rand’s ideas are largely bunk when practiced here in real life. What I find interesting about her positions is the fact that they originally stood as a sort of polar opposite to totalitarian communism — which no longer really exists. Taken in their historical context, you can see the appeal of such an extreme philosophy in opposition to an equally extreme philosophy. But modern adherents hold to Rand’s beliefs in the face of nothing so extreme.

    This is a problem. A BIG problem.

    See, without the countervailing force of totalitarian communism, proponents of Rand’s beliefs are forced to demonize any belief system standing in opposition to Rand’s to be equally as bad as totalitarian communism. This is, of course, utter nonsense, but try telling that to people who subscribe to Rand’s beliefs. The real danger, however, is that followers of Rand’s philosophy (or the modern Paulist version of it) have found allies in media outlets which now act as propaganda centers. This is poisoning the debate to where moderate restraint on the worst, most base impulses of the greedy is treated as an abomination.

    I should note that I do not paint followers of Rand (or its modern form) alone with this brush. Again, utopian philosophies are, by their very nature, extreme. Thus, anything standing in opposition to it is anathema and must be fought against fist, tooth, and nail.

    The problem, however, is that in modern debate, the framing of the debate is critical. When the debate is framed as a battle of extremes, people may see the choice as one of “rock” vs. “hard place.” This requires those who are intellectually honest (as opposed to philosophically pure) to push back and frame the debate as one of “reasonableness” vs. “radicalism.” I do not see that argument being overtly made these days. Until it is made explicitly those who believe in reasonable, moderate principles are ceding ground and basically losing the debate from the outset.

  • me

    The radical right must be stop and hurts us all in countless ways. Here is an article with such powerful words I wish the whole word could read this:

  • JohnMcC

    Ayn Rand not only was vocal in rejecting religion, she also walked the walk. In the context of the 40s and 50s she was quite the libertine as well as libertarian. She stayed with her husband however — a forgiving gentleman named Frank O’Conner. Their last days happened — sadly for them — to coincide with a lack of interest in Objectivism and they were quite broke. So of course, Ayn Rand used her husband’s name and signed up for Social Security and Medicare. Just as I expect Dr Paul is not too good to cash those Medicare checks.

    • Oldskool

      Paul’s campaign chairman died of pneumonia in ’08 broke and uninsured at age 49. Which made his answer in the debate more disturbing.

      • Solo4114

        As I mentioned above, he’s a utopian. For folks like that, purity of belief trumps all. Sacrifices must be made in order to usher in the inevitable golden age that will follow if you just subscribe to the program.

        I’ll give the guy credit for being (mostly) philosophically consistent, but rigid philosophical consistency usually has precious little to do with the complexities of real life.

    • rubbernecker

      The obvious rejoinder would be that insofar as benefits are available it would be stupid not to take advantage of them.

      Still, priceless.

  • rockstar

    The difference is that Ron Paul is a very intelligent man of principle and Ayn Rand was a pseudo-intellectual 19th-century eletist fueled by impotent rage and fear. It’s unfortunate that they end up on the same side of the ideological spectrum, but they do so for opposite reasons. I would have infinitely more trust in a Ron Paul-led government than in an Ayn Rand-led one.

    • Watusie

      rockstar, I’ve got to challenge you assertion that Paul is a man of principle. Citing just the examples that are on the top of my head: He pals around with white supremacists, and used to send out newsletters ranting against blacks and gays. Now, maybe you’ll quibble that you could have “principle” and still do those things, but that doesn’t fit with my definition of the word. He has proposed term-limit legislation several times in his 11+ terms. And during the debate over ACA he told lie after lie after whenever he found a camera pointed in his direction. Remember 16,500 ARMED bureaucrats to enforce the mandate?

  • Graychin

    I don’t know of any other politically-oriented website where a discussion of this quality could be found.

    My thanks to all the FrumForum commenters for a stimulating read this morning, as well as to Mr. Weiss for kicking off the discussion. I look forward to reading Mr. Weiss’ book.

    • balconesfault

      I agree. None of the right wing sites come close – any dissent on any issue will pretty much get you kicked off, even if you’re in agreement with the host 90% of the time.

      On the left, DailyKos will certainly allow dissenting viewpoints, but there’s one helluva lot of “magic thinking” from a lot of the liberals there and the comments devolve into cheerleading of one form or another … which is of course what the site is designed for – it’s an activist site, not a “let’s have a sober forum to debate the future of liberalism”, and while right leaning commenters will be tolerated they’ll be pretty much marginalized.

      While some have compared this site to Huffington Post, by and large I don’t get it.

      • DeathByIrony

        The huffington post does have small islands of sensible debate, but they are very quickly devoured by a mountain of tribalist noise. That the noise is both red and blue colored does not forgive it.
        Likewise, Huffington Post has a very, very poor ratio of good articles to terrible/mediocre ones. The sheer amount of content scumming they do is beyond the pale.

      • ottovbvs

        “On the left, DailyKos will certainly allow dissenting viewpoints, but there’s one helluva lot of “magic thinking” from a lot of the liberals there and the comments devolve into cheerleading of one form or another”

        Ditto. They also have a worker’s and peasant’s soviet that issues warnings to right wingers who overstep the line. Believe it not I received one on one occasion. They’re certainly not in the league of right wing sites for unreality but there is quite a lot of it around when it comes to touchy subjects like business.

      • Primrose

        My objection to the Daily Kos is not magical thinking but too many really poorly written threads get put up. I guess by its nature, posters get to publish, but I don’t understand how some get pushed up front. As for the Huffington Post, the comments section is over-run with trolls.

    • LauraNo

      I have found many good discussions at The Atlantic, Megan McCardle’s posts especially.

  • rockstar

    Also, the point about Calvinism is that the Elect DO NOT KNOW if they have been chosen by God or not. An individual might think they’re among the chosen, but the individual has no way of being sure about that. Therefore, everyone needs to be on their best behavior at all times, in order to increase the likelihood that they are among the Elect. The point is that you need to do your best at all times and you will still inevitably be weighed in the balance by God and found wanting. At that point God decides who he wants to show grace to. Pretty severe, I know.

    On a related note, what we used to refer to as the Protestant work ethic derives from the Calvinist belief that we are meant not just to be lords over the earth, but that we are to cultiviate the earth and make it better than it is in its untouched, wild state. Its the opposite of Jesus dropping a bag of money at your feet because you spent too much on a house and now have to cover the mortgage.

    • Primrose

      I always understood that in Calvinist philosophy it did not matter what you did, thus you don’t have to be on your best behavior since either you are chosen or not. The town wife-beating, freeloading drunkard might be one of the elect and the most upright personage is not.

      • rockstar

        That’s theoretically possible, since salvation ultimately depends upon God’s grace alone. It’s possible that, for reasons we cannot fathom, God could choose to save someone who acts atrociously their whole life. However, it’s best to not bank the chance that you will be the exception to the rule(s). Straight is the gate and narrow the way, and all that.

  • Southern Populist

    I have always been willing to cut Ayn Rand some slack.

    She does have has some things to say of value despite the many absurd aspects of her general philosophy. Ayn Rand grew up in the Soviet Union under Stalinist Bolshevism, so her extreme views make sense as a reaction to that experience.

    This scene from the movie Atlas Shrugged captures the spirit of Ayn Rand in its depiction of the hypocritical and parasitical nature of a certain brand of leftist.

    - DSP

    • Watusie

      This map from Ezra Klein captures the spirit of modern conservatism in its depiction of the hypocritical and parasitical nature of the right:

      And may I point out that your example relies for its effect on a writer’s tortured dialogue and plotting – in other other words, a straw man?

      And, ripped from today’s headlines, here is another interesting tidbit: Eric Cantor, having held disaster funding hostage, is now complaining about the slow delivery of disaster funding to HIS district:

      Does the right like to retreat into Randian fictions because it just cannot handle the real world?

      • DeathByIrony

        To be fair, all fiction from that era had strawman villians. Science fiction especially.

      • Southern Populist

        That map has limited value because it does not show where the federal dollars are going or coming from. In the red states, those federal dollars might be funding welfare payments for the subset of blue state voters that exist within every red state. In the blue states like California, those taxes might be coming from red state voters who operate businesses and pay taxes rather than collect federal benefits, or from taxes paid by defense contractors and other entities who are funded with federal money in the first place. Or, it might be what it appears to be, an illustration of red state hypocrisy. Without more information, it is impossible to say.

        - DSP

        • ottovbvs

          “In the red states, those federal dollars might be funding welfare payments for the subset of blue state voters that exist within every red state.”

          DSP has the solution. Population transfers (aka. ethnic cleansing). We move silicon valley and the CA aerospace industry and all its workers to MS and we move oyster shucking to CA. Yes that sounds like another of DSP incredibly original and logical ideas. Bravo you have a great future as a thinker.

        • Watusie

          Well that is one of the more ridiculous hand waving arguments I’ve ever read. For starters, “subset of blue state voters that exist within every red state” is an oxymoron. The illogical nature of the rest of it – that there is a minority in almost every state that skews the result to the opposite of what you expect – is just too ridiculous for words.

        • Southern Populist

          Get back to me when you have some real granular data instead of meaningless aggregates.

          - DSP

        • ottovbvs

          “Get back to me when you have some real granular data instead of meaningless aggregates.”

          Why don’t you get back to us DSP when you move into the real world instead one of your own imagining.

        • Watusie

          Well, all I can do is say that you should get back to me when you’ve got some real world data and not a clip from a badly written movie of a badly written novel.

        • Southern Populist


          Two pretty strong ideologues reinforcing each others’ points while denying that aggregate data does give us any meaningful information about the issue at hand — wealth transfers to and from the federal coffers by red state and blue state voters.

          Not states, voters. We need the data on the voters to resolve this matter.

          - DSP

        • balconesfault

          Out of curiosity, are you claiming that economy of Florida, with their sizable elderly population, doesn’t benefit disproportionately from Medicare and Social Security … which pump money into circulation through the housing industry, through food industries, the medical industry, and the chotskies industry?

          Or that the red voters in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama don’t get a huge amount of value from the money regularly spent by FEMA in their disaster prone states?

          Or that all the white welfare recipients throughout Appalachia are hardcore Dem voters, and were all strong supporters of Obama in 2008?


        • Watusie

          You have the data on the voters. It is in the second map in the Klein article.

        • armstp

          S P,

          You want some data? Here you go:

          Here is all the data for military spending. Look at the Per Capita number for Red States. Blue states massively subsidized Red States just through military expenditures alone:

          Here is overall per capita Federal spending per state. Notice that the Red States are at the top of the list and Blue States at the bottom.

          Here is Federal per capita federal spending by state by big categories. Again, the Red States dominate compared to blue states.

          This chart says it all:

          Starting on Page 2 this report breaks down all federal government spending in detail by state. You can see exactly where all the federal spending in Red States occurs.

          There is no question that Red States benefit much much more than Blue States in Federal Funding. They get proportionally more in disaster relief, military spending, agriculture subsidies, transportation spending, energy spending, flood insurance, etc. etc. etc.

          I do not have a problem with this, but the last thing we need to hear out of Red States is how much they hate the Federal government when they get proportionally more out of the federal government than not only what they put in, but compared to Blue States. If they want to complain then we should just cut off the Red States and given them no more than what they put in in Federal tax dollars.

      • armstp


        Liberal state tax payers essentially subsidize the lifestyles of conservatives in Red State. Always good to know when you hear these Red States conservatives whinning….

        And no is is not all about the very small welfare checks given out in these states. The difference is in big government spending on the military, farm subsidies, transportation, etc. in these states.

        Red state conservatives love to whine about big government, but they benefit from it the most in the country. Bastards. If California, New York and Illinois withheld their tax payer subsidies to the Red States, these Red States would be screwed.

        • Chris Balsz

          It would be interesting to see how many more acres are being cultivated in farm states since the introduction of farm subsidies and the interstate highway system, as opposed to the unrestricted market and private railroad network 1860-1920. I don’t think it’ll be that much of an increase, if any.

        • Watusie

          If you think that would be “interesting” your mind would be completely blown by seeing the massive increase in acres being dedicated to the cultivation of corn in red states since the introduction of ethanol subsidies.

      • Chris Balsz

        That might demonstrate Cantor is an ass for abandoning the valid GOP line.

        • Watusie

          Well, you are going to have to explain to us WHICH of his contradictory positions is the one that is in violation!!

    • ottovbvs

      “Ayn Rand grew up in the Soviet Union under Stalinist Bolshevism, so her extreme views make sense as a reaction to that experience.”

      So ergo DSP therefore believes that Rand’s ideology makes sense in the context of the modern US. Yeah that’s entirely logical. Re Klein’s map, Paul’s own state is of course a welfare recipient.

      • Chris Balsz

        Logical inference isn’t the test; the test is comparison of her hypothetical People’s State with “state capitalism” proposed by Democrats and their associated think-tanks. The NRLB move to stop Boeing from opening a factory in North Carolina as “unfair” to Washington’s workers, was straight out of Atlas Shrugged.

    • Primrose

      I’m not sure what this clip is trying to prove. Having worked in non-profits, I don’t know a single group that wouldn’t list its corporate donors happily. If they didn’t like the group, they wouldn’t accept the money.

      As for the rest, I didn’t see anyone on either side who seemed worthy of emulation.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    great article and great thread. I am glad to see the recognition that Conservatism and Libertarianism are far apart in many respects. Whittaker Chambers despised Rand, as did all of the influential Conservatives of that time. It is still a mystery to me how the Randians got to such a position of power, maybe it was the loss of prestige and power of NE Conservative intellectuals and the taking over the party by disaffected white southernors.

    • balconesfault

      I think Randians have gotten promoted within the GOP because supply side economics have been largely discredited by anyone in the reality-based community, and there needed to be a new ideology promoted to serve as a veneer for the true ideology of “society works best if wealth is allowed to concentrate upwards”.

      With supply side, you had the mythology that allowed to keep a larger portion of their income (no matter what the effect on the deficit) the wealthy would use that to create jobs and opportunities, rather than spending the money on bidding up real estate, hoarding silver and gold, building factories in China in order to provide maximum leverage for Corporate Executives to justify 8-figure salaries, and gambling on derivates and other “creative” financial instruments to double their wealth over a short term.

      But then we had the 00′s, kicked off by cuts to tax rates that would have made Reagan envious, and we saw all the above (except for creation of jobs and opportunities) take place as the percentage of wealth held by the wealthiest Americans moved ever upwards.

      With Rand you have the mythology that the unfettered marketplace is inherently “free” to all participants in the economy, and thus any instrusion by government removes freedom. It ignores the fact that great wealth can be used to purchase a tilted playing field that facilitates the concentration of more wealth among the few, and that the less advantaged – without the protection 0f government – can be forced to sell off their freedoms in order to survive.

  • ottovbvs

    “Do these people understand their own rational self-interests?”

    In a word no. The reality is that there exists in America a very large “fundamentalist” tendency. I’m not sure it has an equivalent in any other western society in terms of its size and influence. These fundamentalists are basically know nothings to whom simplistic, antique, and often paranoid, ideas about economics, international affairs, religion, human relations, American exceptionalism, government etc are enormously attractive because they appeal to the gut which is basically their reasoning apparatus. Attempting to explain to these folks that no we don’t have the greatest healthcare system in the world and it’s costing twice as much as anyone elses; and if they or a member of their family should fall seriously ill the costs to them personally would be devastating; and hence government need to reform the system; is an essay in futility. Paul who is a attractive homespun character is speaking to these people in a language they understand rather as people like Huey Long, Dr Townsend and Coughlin did in the 30′s. The fact it makes no sense whatever in the context of modern American society flies completely over their head. There is no rational explanation for this phenomena so with all due respect I think Mr Weiss is wasting his time trying to find one.

  • JimBob

    “Yet it was business, not government, that caused the financial crisis—unless you believe, as does Paul and many on the far right, that the financial crisis was caused by government policies.”

    Gawd where in the world does Frum dig these people up from. Government caused the housing meltdown. Not the private sector. Government brow beat banks to make loans to people that had no business getting them. Then it was the Federal Reserve that kept interest rates way to low thus encouraging malinvestment in home construction. Debt fueled consumption.

    • Watusie

      “Government brow beat banks to make loans to people that had no business getting them.”

      Really? Which piece of legislation mandated no-doc refi’s on McMansions in the far outer suburbs?

      Furthermore, the entire lifespan of the subprime mortgage bubble happened during the GWB administration. In 2000 subprimes were less than 5% of all mortgages issued. By 2004 they were more than 20%. So if you are going to blame this on “government”, why not do the honest thing and blame it on a Republican administration refusing to regulate the banks?

    • balconesfault

      Government brow beat banks to make loans to people that had no business getting them.

      Prove it. Give us just one example of government retaliation against banks for not lending money. I really don’t accept the thesis that bankers would have knowingly built ruinous loan portfolios simply because they were afraid of some government power that wasn’t explicitly described in statute and which had never been exerted.

      I do accept the thesis that bankers would have built ruinous loan portfolios because they made a bunch of money each time they made a loan, and believed they were some small portion of a huge financial scheme involving ever-increasing property values, and derivative packages that could be used to balance the risks of various loans, and “independent” ratings services that provided good information instead of essentially being captured by the industry they were supposed to rate, and large insurance houses that had adequate assets to cover any downside in one portion of the market or another.

      Why accept the risk? Once again – because they made money from doing so. A lot more money, at least in the short term, than they would have made by not doing so.

      • Chris Balsz

        I’ll see how quickly I can find the video of members of the Congressional Black Caucus complaining about banks “redlining” black communities, based on the fact that those communities had lower rates of mortgage application approval than other communities.

        • Watusie

          Which piece of legislation mandated no-doc refi’s on McMansions in the lily-white far outer suburbs?

        • Chris Balsz

          I live in Southern California, and I don’t know of any lily-white outer suburbs. Except maybe, Solvang? In the 1990s banks were glad to help families leave the “inner-city” for the high desert.

          If Congress begins to complain strict loan-processing policies have the appearance of racism, civil rights laws require that any applicant get the same “reformed” process regardless of race. And when Fannie and Freddie will buy the mortgage once you start it, there’s little reason not to loosen up–and even less if your Board notices you won’t and you’re losing market share to competitors who do.

          BTW “jumbo” loans in excess of $500,000 were a very small percentage of the mortgage business, even in California, so “McMansions” weren’t ever a core problem.

          @otto – I say they were a small percentage of the market, I don’t say “they don’t exist”.

        • ottovbvs

          “BTW “jumbo” loans in excess of $500,000 were a very small percentage of the mortgage business, even in California, so “McMansions” weren’t ever a core problem.”

          So how do your explain all those empty tower blocks in Florida where the typical price of condos was 750k upwards.

        • Primrose

          Chris Balsz, your numbers surprise me. How is it possible that jumbo loans were not part of the market in California when it is nearly impossible (even now in San Jose) to find a house under it in the major economic areas, San Diego, LA , San Francisco and San Jose?

        • balconesfault

          And if history has told us anything, it’s that the American business community is incredibly responsive to the dictates of the Congressional Black Caucus.

        • Primrose

          So it was black people getting loans that caused the housing crisis?

          If you, as I expect you will, say that isn’t what you meant, then the Black Caucus complaining about redlining, is irrelevant.

        • Chris Balsz

          No, that was offered as “one example” of government retaliation for not loosening lending standards.

          The housing crash was caused by:

          1. Loose lending practices that gave loans to people who couldn’t repay it.
          2. Allowing Fannie and Freddie to escape federal oversight because they weren’t backed by the government, while Fannie and Freddie operated on the assumption they were backed by the government.
          3. The public belief that housing values couldn’t drop, at worst they would only grow more slowly.
          4. Banks originating loans for the purpose of selling the servicing.
          5. Boards of directors who demanded increasing market share over solvency and accuracy.

        • Primrose

          I don’t disagree with your reasons basically. However. these reasons don’t support the idea of the government forcing banks to make bad loans, which as I understood it, was the reason you cited the Black Caucus complaints.

        • balconesfault

          I have to admit that I largely agree with Chris Balz here.

          I look forward to other such examples of agreement between us.

        • Watusie

          I had to read it through twice to find the bit that you consider “proofy”. And then I spotted it. You are relying for your “proof” on the fact that a USA Today reporter once provided a quick and sloppy definition of “subprime”.

          So firstly – lame. Secondly, where is the “government force”?

          Which piece of legislation mandated no-doc refi’s on McMansions in the lily-white far outer suburbs?

        • ottovbvs

          Well that’s an improvement on yesterday when Jimbo posted a link to some spinning article by a goldbug shill as “proof” that Zoellick president of the world bank had prophesied a return to the gold standard when Zoellick was mentioned NOWHERE…NOWHERE…in the entire piece.

        • JimBob

          Don’t Blame the Bankers

          You’re young and probably weren’t even born yet, but back in the early 1990s President Clinton’s Justice Department discovered that Asians had the highest rate of home ownership. Whites were a very close second. Bringing up the rear were Hispanics and Latinos. So with Janet Reno’s blessing Roberta Achtenberg a militant lesbian from San Francisco went around the country threatening banks to make more loans to people with bad credit. The Wall Street Journal ran one Editorial after another explaining that Banks make money off people that pay back loans. They don’t care what color you are. But to Janet Reno and Roberta Achtenberg banks weren’t lending to Hispanics and Blacks because they were racist.

        • balconesfault

          Ahh – a piece by Dennis Sewell, who has made other valuable contributions to the public dialogue, such as this one:

          “The naturalist outraged the church, prompting a bitter debate that still sets creationists against evolutionists. Now a sinister link has emerged between his work and the recent spate of high-school killings by crazed, nihilistic teenagers”


        • JimBob

          And what does that have to do with the mortgage meltdown??

        • balconesfault

          What that means is that I don’t find the rantings of Sewell … “So with Janet Reno’s blessing Roberta Achtenberg a militant lesbian from San Francisco went around the country threatening banks to make more loans to people with bad credit.” … any more persuasive than were Smarg to have written it.

          Sewell has shown himself to be a less than reliable source, and I demand a bit more proof than his own assertion before I believe anything he writes.

      • valkayec

        Jim Bob and Chris, if you’re willing to read this entire article ( I suspect your views may change.

        I remember reading several months after the fall of Lehman’s when the whole mortgage mess was being reported that Wall St.’s demand for mortgage backed securities was so great that they were pushing mortgage companies and brokers to sell, sell, sell. It didn’t matter to them if people had the necessary incomes or credit worthiness. All that mattered was getting more mortgages in the pipeline to slice, dice and bundle into securities to sell to anyone and everyone.

        Sure, the government made some mistakes. The Fed did too by not investigating the numerous fraud allegations going back as far as ~2004. Nevertheless, the financial services sector bears the greatest blame as has been recorded and reported in numerous financial papers’ and economists’ articles and the many books published on the subject.

    • indy

      Another priceless contribution Jimbob. A confusing array of rigidly held belief commingled with the slightest possible glimmer of accuracy.

    • armstp


      Here we go again with your bullshit.

      More than 35% of mortgage defaults are by people who simply refinancing their homes. These were not poor people.

    • Watusie

      What is the significance of that? How does it compare the many proposals for term limits that he has introduced during his 11 terms?

    • valkayec

      Do you really think that Dick Armey’s Freedom Works has an credibility? It’s a front organization. A political organization. A lobbying organization. It’s not a reputable research and reporting organization.

    • ottovbvs

      “The fact it makes no sense whatever in the context of modern American society flies completely over their head. There is no rational explanation for this phenomena so with all due respect I think Mr Weiss is wasting his time trying to find one.”

      Living proof…Jimbo…Balsz (who wants to live Somalia!)

      • Watusie

        Can I post some clips from “The West Wing” wherein President Bartlett absolutely kicks Speaker Haffley’s ass to support whatever argument I might care to make?

        • Chris Balsz

          Only if you add a graph of the costs of the Bush tax cuts from 2020 to 2030.

        • Watusie

          First I’m going to need a graph from you plotting how you got from there to there – I am utterly mystified at what possible connection there might be between your comment and mine.

        • Chris Balsz

          A graph that combines data points that have occurred with data points that didn’t happen is as much a work of invention as an episode of West Wing.

  • dante

    Ayn Rand is sort of like the polar opposite of Charles Dickens. To view either of them (and their views on Socialism and Capitalism, respectively) solely through their books without looking into the context in which they were written does both authors a massive disservice. One was about unfettered government run amok, and the other was about unfettered, unregulated capitalism run amok…

    • ottovbvs

      “Ayn Rand is sort of like the polar opposite of Charles Dickens.”

      In more ways than one since Dickens is arguably one of the five greatest ever authors in the English language. Where would one put the tedious outpourings of Rand?

      • DeathByIrony

        He’s not saying she writes particularly well. But hyperbole can exist with or without good wordsmithing.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Government brow beat banks to make loans to people that had no business getting them.

    omg, that is such rubbish. There are a host of banks, small and medium sized ones, that had no liquidity problems because, in fact, the government did not browbeat them to make loans to people who had no business getting them. The problem was when big banks were allowed to diversify into speculative areas. When they did so they should have waived all FDIC protection or not have been allowed to do so.

    Here is something that maybe even Jimbob can understand. If you tell me that I can make commissions packaging up loans and selling them on the market and that the government will bail me out if the loans all go bad. On one hand I was guaranteed to win, and on the other guaranteed not to lose, and looking at Lehman brothers (explain to me exactly how the government browbeat them now?) which did not have that explicit government protection yet piggybacked on the market and which it itself assumed a bailout (and Fuld was shocked when none came) and you can see what caused the meltdown.

    If there had been no deregulation of the financial sector (which small banks did not have to ability to branch off into) there would have been no economic crisis.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Jimbob stands in front of the ocean yelling at the tide to go back, I think as a child he must have gone there once and did so when the tide was starting to recede and thinks he caused it and ever since then he keeps repeating and repeating the same thing believing that by doing so reality will somehow match his fantasty. Ayn Rand was a truly stupid woman, her books are unreadable (I tried reading one, such turgid prose, I have read better high school essays) and outside of her cult in the US her philosophy is completely unacknowledged in the rest of the world. Say the name Ayn Rand to a Japanese person or a Polish person and they will have never heard of her. It must frustrate Randians whenever they travel abroad (though I doubt most do, imagine the nerve of those countries not speaking English)

    • Primrose

      I agree completely on her writing, truly awful and unreadable. I’m not sure I ever got through the Fountainhead.

    • Chris Balsz

      Poles were not free to read criticism of communism until 1989.

      I admit I can’t see anybody risking the gulag to smuggle a thousand pages of Ayn Rand into Poland. Or memorizing it.

  • JimBob

    It’s so obvious even Saturday Night Live knew it. Too bad the regular lefties on this forum just don’t have a clue

    But only one member of Congress warned the American people about the impending disaster government was creating.

    • Watusie

      Really, JimBob, I don’t think anyone on your side wants to be pushing the idea that clips from SNL are to be used as definitive proof.

      • ottovbvs

        It’ll be Marx Brothers jokes about FDR next.

      • JimBob

        The skit so outraged Democrats that they pressured NBC to pull they skit and they did. Thankfully astute bloggers make copies so it’ll never vanish.

        And the writers and SNL had it right. Government pressured banks to make loans to people that had no business getting them.

        • Watusie

          My God, JimBob, what ARE you talking about? Your own link is to that skit on Hulu! Hu-lu. Hoooo-looooo. Owned by NBC Hulu. Owned by NBC who owns SNL Hulu. Owned by NBC who owns SNL and therefore only offers officially authorized content Hulu.

          Clip not posted by astute bloggers in tricorn hats bravely defending our liberties. Clip posted by NBC.

          Get it?

        • JimBob

          It vanished into thin air after Democrats pressured NBC. After it kept popping up on the Blogosphere NBC gave up and put it on HuLu

        • balconesfault

          From (ugh) Malkin:

          Over the weekend, I watched a hilarious, dead-on, and surprisingly honest skit on Saturday Night Live about the craptastic bailout and its Democrat roots.

          Ummm … if she watched it on SNL … doesn’t that mean it was … ummm … aired on SNL?

          And the PROOF that NBC pulled it in response to Democratic pressures?

          Malkin: I have a theory.

          Ahhh … JimBob rises to his normal level of proof. If some right wing hack, somewhere, said it in print … it must be fact.

          For the record, most Democrats I know would be quite happy to see the fingers for the meltdown pointed squarely at the Sandlers in the investment community.

          Who incidentally had NOTHING to do with any theoretical pressure by the Democrats on banks to make loans to unqualified lenders.

          But why worry about a consistent, coherent narrative, when there’s so much more fun to be had in throwing around innuendo?

          Malkin: ACORN (a group that has very close and long lasting ties to Barack Obama and has a long history of engaging in voter fraud

          Actually, ACORN has no history of engaging in voter fraud. Certain employees of ACORN acting as independent contractors actually defrauded ACORN via voter registration fraud, and when discovered ACORN actually reported these incidences of fraud, and supported the prosecution of said individuals.

          But once again, Malkin said it (along with other right wing hacks), so for JimBob it’s creed.

        • Watusie

          Seriously, JimBob, what you are arguing is just so nonsensical it is making my head hurt.

          If NBC thought it was important that this skit never be seen again, why wouldn’t they (a) not post it to Hulu and (b) get it yanked off of YouTube for copyright violation? Your argument that NBC caved to the enormous pressure of the conservative biosphere is just so obviously made up on the spot to cover your embarrassment that it defies belief that you think someone would fall for it.

          Oh, and this new bit of “proof” you offer? Here is what the guy says: “Any attempts to upload the forbidden SNL bailout skit …will likely be squashed. ”

          Will. Likely.

          In other words, look at me, bravely defending your liberties from a hypothetical threat that I made up in my head.

  • Margie

    Mortgage brokers that signed sub-prime loans made a fortune by bundling the loans and selling them off in pieces. Although, there was some fraud by the borrowers, there was very little vetting since it was a win/win for both parties. The borrowers paid interest only for 5-7 years anticipating that their home would only go up in value. The brokers didn’t care once they signed on the bottom line whether the foreclosed or not. They got their fees and moved on. When the housing bubble burst and the loans started to collect on the principle, borrowers couldn’t pay – they never expected they would have to pay. They thought they could sell their house for a profit and do it all over again. I don’t think those brokers felt “brow beaten” to do what they did.
    On another note, I know that people think the government should get out of the loan business and we should get rid of Fannie and Freddie. However, F&F will give 30 year mortgages. I would be amazed if private mortgage companies would have any interest in signing for 30 years. Families like mine would never be able to save enough to put down 22% on a house and we would be renting forever.
    Finally, about Ayn – loved “The Fountainhead” (artist integrity and all that). Wish I could say the same about “Atlas Shrugged”.

    • libarbarian

      ” Although, there was some fraud by the borrowers, there was very little vetting since it was a win/win for both parties.”


      It wasn’t just the borrowers that committed fraud. Lenders did as well. Numerous cases have been found where lenders actually went in with white-out and changed accurate income information put in by the borrower in order to make the loan look better. Furthermore, it was even more common for lenders to instruct borrowers to lie .. even when the borrower expressed hesitation. For example, see this clear example: :

      Borrower: “I have the following concerns with the documents you sent me:
      (1) I do not make $34,000 per month nor anything close to this figure. I am not
      comfortable signing a document with a number I cannot document in some form.”

      JPMorgan Senior Loan Office: ” This is a stated income deal. We had to state an amount that will be consistent through each deal. There are certain ratios that have to be met for income to debt… This is the figure that made the ratio fit. Since you have ample equity and assets , along with great credit, this is where the luxury of a stated program comes in. It will not need to be documented. There is a form 4506 in the package that needs to be signed, it is only to verify that you FILE your taxes.”

      There is no way to blame this on a lying borrower and a lack of vetting by the lender. It was the lender that put in the fraudulent income on the forms and then asked the borrower to sign them. Then, when the borrower expresses hesitation and explicitly tells the lender that he doesn’t make that much money, it is the lender that tells the borrower “We need to say you make this much in order to get the loan approved and no one will check on it so just go ahead and sign”.

  • SteveT

    The Gold debates were great. It’s amazing how the right worships it. I don’t quite understand, but it fits their worldview somehow.

  • Watusie

    Remember this guy?

    Farmer who put up sign claiming Democrats are ‘party of parasites’ has taken $1 million in farm subsidies.

  • Carney

    I’m no Randian, but Randians don’t assert the impossibility or non-existence of fraud.

    Nor do they even defend it or seek to legalize it.

    • ottovbvs

      No they merely seek to create the conditions in which Fraud can flourish undetected. You could call it the three monkey approach. This would appeal to you I can see.

  • Carney

    That’s a bad-faith, illogical, impossible standard to demand of others.

    It might make sense if people could get their taxes cut in return for eschewing future or current benefits.

    But what you are in fact insisting on is that people let themselves be taxed to fund programs they oppose, and then when they fail in a good-faith effort to abolish those programs, refuse money they remain legally entitled to, even though such refusal would not result in a reduction in their tax burden.

    In other words to speak out against benefit programs you demand that people deliberately cheat themselves.

    No thanks.

    • balconesfault

      I actually agree. The argument “if you don’t like Social Security or Medicare, you shouldn’t accept anything from them” neglects that these programs represent a social contract, and all are due their benefits whether they oppose them or not, particularly if they contributed to them.

      It reminds me of the “if you think taxes should be higher, then you should just write an extra check to the government” argument – sidestepping the real principle at work, and therefore wholly unproductive to the discussion.

      OTOH, if you’re out there protesting “Obamacare = Socialism, and Socialism is Evil, and Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare” you deserve to have your lack of intellectual honesty (or rigor) pointed out.

      And in the case of a very prominent opponent to the social state like Rand, I think there was a moral obligation on her part to go public with her acceptance of public healthcare assistance, and to (if she desired) write on why she decided to accept public support despite her aversion to the concept.

      Instead, she clearly was going to lengths to hide the fact that she was relying on public assistance, and that alone casts doubt on her own beliefs in her professed ideology, if she was unwilling to defend her circumstances in the court of public opinion.

      • SpartacusIsNotDead


        Although I almost always agree with your responses and the responses of Watusie, Armstp and Ottovbvs to JimBob, Sinz, Balsz, Carney et al, I do feel a little sadistic. It’s like watching the intellectual equivalent of someone pulling the wings off a helpless insect.

    • Bebe99

      I have to agree. It is also the same kind of bad argument the others make that those wealthy individuals who would like their taxes raised ought to just go ahead and pay more to the government and leave the rest of the top 1% out of it. To live within the system we have, but we ask that it be reformed seems reasonable.

  • LauraNo

    I wish FrumForum would put up an open thread once in a while. I want to complain about the comment section (atrocious!) and the log in system that does not take you back to where you


  • indy

    This disappearing comment thing is getting way the f*ck out of hand.

  • valkayec

    Here is Will Wilkerson’s description/review of Ron Paul:
    A Libertarian’s Lament: Why Ron Paul Is an Embarrassment to the Creed

    Wilkerson is certainly no liberal, having worked for the Cato Institute, and he holds Paul to be a libertarian charlatan…and purveyor of a false ideology.

    • Primrose

      That is an excellent article Valkayec with a fine degree of nuance. I really appreciate reading it.

  • Bebe99

    I find Ron Paul to be consistent in his beliefs over time, but more admirable for today’s politics is that most of his positions are not in logical opposition to one another. Paul is unique on the Republican side by favoring low taxes and low defense spending rather than low taxes and heavy defense spending, which aren’t compatible. However, I can’t say I find his beliefs grounded in the real world of human behavior or historical example, or even of any modern moral code, but from a utopian ideal of a free market no one has ever seen.

  • budgiegirl

    OK SOMEBODY has to stick up for Ayn Rand, and I guess it’s going to have to be me – and ironically, I’m about as left wing as you can get! First, even if you don’t agree with her philosophically, I beg you to read or re-read The Fountainhead. She can write! That is the beauty of Rand – even though I disagree with some of her conclusions (i.e. all government is bad), I delight in the way she illustrates her points. OK I’ll grant you that Atlas Shrugged could have been about 500 pages shorter – but blame the editor. You can read Anthem for 75 pages (probably free on kindle) and get the gist.
    As I said, I’m an unashamed lefty – but I don’t walk around with my head in the sand. She makes a valid point that there is lots of absolute stupidity in government. I’m a physician in the VA healthcare system (so I am a federal employee), and I want to poke my eyes out at some of the decisions handed down to us by bean counters in Washington. Rand makes some pretty good points about how stupid the government can be.
    Rand’s fundamental premise is that individuals who “are capable” should be left unbridled, so that their success benefits not only themselves, but society in general. We should not be so fearful of free thinkers, and we should not feel the need to be mindless sheep following the flock. These were her fundamental beliefs which I wholeheartedly embrace, and I would think anybody who believes in individuality would embrace these ideals- it’s a very liberal premise, actually. IMHO Rayn would be horrified at her cult-like status with the Tea Party – since they do not embody her ideals of individuality, but instead they are rather group-think in their approach, which she despised.
    Where Rayn goes astray is her blind belief that everybody who “is capable” is also completely ethical, and honest – which is unfortunately untrue – hence the need for some government oversite. Also Rayn seems to overlook the fact that even the most industrious brilliant individual can be hit by a drunk driver and be unemployed and in need of healthcare. Anyones life can change in a heartbeat, and Rand does not really address that to my satisfaction. So yes, from the liberal’s point of view, she is flawed.
    But if you can look past her flaws, and appreciate her absolute belief in the potential of man (maybe not mankind, but of individual men and women), then one can appreciate why a non-conformist lefty like me would think she is the Bomb! Plus if you couldn’t get through The Fountainhead, I suggest you were given it when you were too young to really appreciate it. It’s not nearly as good in high school, as it is when you have spent some time out there in the real world… please try it again!

    • GaryWeiss

      I agree that there are definitely positive elements in Ayn Rand’s works. One thing I do in my book is to encourage people to read Rand, even if they disagree with her views on the markets.

    • Primrose

      But the idea that government can do stupid things is not exactly a new or startling insight, and FYI so can business. I can’t think she’d be opposed to a cult since she essentially ran one in her lifetime.

      And her inability to see how these geniuses did not come full-fledged out of capitalism’s head like Athena from Zeus is a major flaw. We all should get of their way? If we did that, they wouldn’t exist.

      Nothing she said was new or original, even her selfishness maxim came before, by the founder of Satanism. (Sorry I can’t provide the name. I don’t feel like wading through the truly weird stuff that would ensue from such a search. Perhaps Beliefnet has it.)

      And so if she has made no original points, then that leaves her style. And I found it very dreary.

      • indy

        Rand’s critique concerning government were not (primarily) directed at its inefficiencies. Rather they involved its proper role within the moral framework of pursuing rational self-interest she established. Without getting too mired in details, she believed that the only proper role of government was to ensure that an individual’s labor—intellectual or physical—were never appropriated by someone else. This led to the obvious conclusion that the only proper function of government is police, armed services, and courts to settle disputes.

        There isn’t anything particularly revolutionary about much of her stuff, you are right. In many ways, it is a philosophy that stretches back to de Vattel and beyond (I’d never heard of it attributed to the founder of Satanism before, though) . She simply removed the justification that many of these philosophers relied on—God—to make their work palatable to society and threw in some sex for good measure.

      • budgiegirl

        Ayn Rand would agree with you about business – in Atlas Shrugged – she depicted both good and bad businessmen (and business women). I don’t think she was pro-business. To me, she was pro-individual. You may be correct that nothing she espoused was new – I’ve read 4 Ayn Rand novels and have never bothered to read the details of Objectivism because I don’t really care about whatever that is. I understand the premise of her books – which is there is a small subset of people who can think and do for themselves, and then there are alot of other kinds of people – who I think she would consider to be inferior and “less alive”. I’m not saying I agree with that, but I know what she is getting at. There is a very small segment of the population that has the inner strength to be their own inner guide and compass. Those are the individuals Ayn Rand respected. She also could not stand false modesty or even humility. She wanted to let this small segment of achievers know that it is OK to be strong and able and admit it and do something with it. Frankly I found this philosophy inspiring. Maybe that is not a “new philosophy” but she certainly had a colorful way of illustrating it and making it accessible with her characters. I stopped recommending The Fountainhead long ago when I realized not everybody had the same response to it as I had. Once I realized people preferred Twilight over The Fountainhead, I pretty much shut up about it- but thanks for letting me just get my pent up frustration out here! i had to say it at least once!!

    • SteveT

      What other writers do you think are high quality?

      • budgiegirl

        Uh oh… I will answer this – and you can rip me apart because I don’t profess to be a literary type at all. But my other favorite books include Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) and Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut). I can come up with some more, but whenever people ask me my fav’s, it’s The Fountainhead, and the two I just listed…
        Don’t know if they are high quality, but I sure enjoyed them and would read them again!

        • SteveT

          I can’t stand Ayn Rand’s writing and I have read The Fountainhead. I never liked Vonnegeut either but I give him a break because: He’s certifiable, and he doesn’t think he writes well himself.

          I’m not going to rip you apart however because of the very pleasant way you expressed yourself. Nice to see something stated here without ego or putdowns.

          I’m sure the late Ayn Rand would be very pleased that someone likes her writing.

        • budgiegirl

          Thanks! That was also very pleasant of you! So your turn, which authors do you like? I won’t rip you apart either. Also I should say that out of modern authors, I enjoy John Krakauer (Into Thin Air ,and Into the Wild)… if you like more non-fiction.

          Also – I wanted to add on here somewhere – my daughter came home last night with a sheet from her teacher that said on top, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” This is the kind of thing that would make Ayn Rand roll over in her grave. Before reading Rand – I would not have thought anything about it, but now it kind of creeps me out too.. I mean, what exactly is the message we want to send our kids? It’s an interesting debate.

        • SteveT

          I have to reply to my own statement Budgie, because at some point the reply button disappears to make the threads less crazy.

          I like Sophocles, Proust, John Donne, Tolstoy, Balzac, Twain. I also really like Phillip Roth, Peter Mathiessen, and Robert Caro –the author of the LBJ biographies. My favorite filmmaker is Godard, so some might consider me elitist.

          I think what the teacher wrote on your daughter’s paper is a pretty typical homily for a teacher to write. They have a classroom full of kids they want to get along after all and in addition to teaching them knowledge and how to think, teachers want to produce solid citizens and decent people. A smart kid who beats people up and steals from their lockers is not a good outcome. I think most teachers do a great job.

          Here’s my two cents, take the paper and cross out the first line. “Together we can do so much” is left. Not so bad, right?

        • budgiegirl

          OK I am pretty new to the forum concept, but I believe the proper etiquette at this point is for me to write: +10 SteveT because you whoop me in Arts and Literature. (I will say that as a child, A CT Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was one of my favorites and still is…)

          Anyways – yes I agree with you – together we can do so much is a nice mantra. It’s odd that I am even arguing on behalf of Rand because deep down I pretty much consider myself a socialist. I’d happily increase taxes to pay for proper education, healthcare and infrastructure. It’s just that I can see what she was trying to say…before she went off the deep end. I think what she wanted to convey is that it is OK to believe in yourself, and not have to owe it all to God or deny your own abilities. I once saw a T-shirt that said, “I read The Fountainhead when when I was in eighth grade and now I’m a total a**hole.” And I loved it because I sort of identified with it! Maybe i’m a heartless socialist, i don’t know!

    • balconesfault

      Hmmmm … I’ve certainly heard less laudatory descriptions of Rand’s prose, so I suspect I’ll continue to skip over her on the library shelf.

      That said, I really don’t need any prose, excellent or turgid, to convince me that there are certainly some inefficiencies and flaws to government.

      I guess if I had the sense that Rand was proposing constructive means for improving the regulatory state, rather than just taking a broadsword to it, I might be more inclined to take the plunge. But barring that, I’m reading a very enjoyable Joyce Carrol Oates novel … “The Falls” … right now, which has quite surprisingly just taken a turn towards dealing with the Love Canal lawsuits. There are about 3 or 4 other books I have currently queued up I’d like to wade into. I fear I already know far more about Ms. Rand’s works than I really care to.

      • budgiegirl

        Ha, that made me smile :-) .
        Like I said, I stopped recommending The Fountainhead because it broke my heart when friends did not like it. That being said, if you did find yourself stuck with a pile of Ayn Rand books in front of you, go Fountainhead. It’s really not an anti-government book (that would be Atlas Shrugged)… Fountainhead is a better book and one that I philosophically can agree with. I did not agree with the anti-government sentiment of Atlas Shrugged – and it is a long book to plod through if you don’t care for her writing. I do think good ol’ Ayn formed some wrong conclusions about capitalism and her perceived threats of socialism – like anybody who forms extreme opinions, they usually miss the mark. But I still enjoyed her. It kind of kills me that the Tea Party has laid a claim on her… but that’s another story.

      • indy

        Nope. Her belief system led her (and anyone that cared to come along for the ride) to the inescapable conclusion that unadulterated laissez-faire capitalism was the only possible ‘moral’ economic system. Government interference of any kind, including taxes, was an excursion into the immoral, where force was used to unfairly separate people from the products of their labor.

        I think they are worth reading simply to understand a) where much of the rhetoric comes from, and b) how it has been mangled into a mess by people who really don’t understand it. It kinda falls into the ‘useless knowledge’ category though, since it is really difficult to find any discussions that don’t devolve immediately into name calling, at least outside of academia.

        • budgiegirl

          Just for the record, I have spent my share of time criticizing Rand and her conclusions, because they are so clearly faulty. Obviously, socialism does not lead towards an inevitable path of a welfare state, and unfettered capitalism will not be nirvana. Those experiments have been done and answered. So clearly, Rand was more than a bit misguided in her governmental conclusions. I do appreciate that she formed all her opinions from watching the Russian Revolution unfold as a youth – another extreme situation – so I can see why she fears any sort of society where the government has too much power to redistribute wealth… but that is due to her own stark experiences. Like I said – when it comes to her ideas about government, I think she is way off. But when it comes to celebrating individual excellence – this concept is so progressive- that I find it funny nobody can see that about her. She can’t stand religion, she can’t stand a small-minded mentality, or anything that would really be considered “status quo”. I think she had some good ideas about striving for one’s personal best- as a reward in itself – but unfortunately she got a bit “off track” in her conclusion, and her faulty conclusion has been put to use by the extreme right – but she was no Republican. I suppose she is more fairly considered a Libertarian, which is why I can’t agree with her convictions, even if I do understand the reasons that propelled her there.

        • Chris Balsz

          She also didn’t make any allowance for the proliferation of corporations. It is a little hard to proclaim free enterprise as the expression of the full dignity of the soul of the individual, which must not be repressed by any regulation, if Hank Rearden or Dagny Taggart or Francisco D’Aconia is just a mercenary hireling, agent for the real owners, who would just as soon get fired for a fat parachute than defy the government.

  • Southern Populist


    [blockquote]DSP: Two pretty strong ideologues reinforcing each others’ points while denying that aggregate data does give us any meaningful information about the issue at hand — wealth transfers to and from the federal coffers by red state and blue state voters.

    Not states, voters. We need the data on the voters to resolve this matter.[/blockquote]

    [blockquote]balconesfault: Out of curiosity, are you claiming that economy of Florida, with their sizable elderly population, doesn’t benefit disproportionately from Medicare and Social Security … which pump money into circulation through the housing industry, through food industries, the medical industry, and the chotskies industry?

    Or that the red voters in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama don’t get a huge amount of value from the money regularly spent by FEMA in their disaster prone states?[/blockquote]

    No, I’m claiming there is no evidence that red voters, as opposed to states, are taking more dollars than they put in.

    Most of FEMA’s Katrina money, for example, was used to rebuild New Orleans, a city that is overwhelmingly blue, even though the state as a whole is red.

    - DSP

    • balconesfault

      Most of FEMA’s Katrina money, for example, was used to rebuild New Orleans, a city that is overwhelmingly blue, even though the state as a whole is red.

      Now your conclusions require the same sort of granularity in data that you’re demanding.

      Because I’d like to see your evidence that most of the *wealth* bound up in property improvements in New Orleans (which after all is really what FEMA spending was paying to rebuild) was held by blue voters, and not red.

      My experiences tell me that the wealthiest landowners in New Orleans tended to be overwhelmingly conservative Republicans. And if FEMA pays for rebuilding a large apartment complex, for example, it is not the blue inhabitants of said building that receive the benefit, but rather the red owners.

  • Southern Populist

    One should note that despite all the saber rattling about “the rich” Barack Obama has not done much to stand up to Wall Street or the banks that did the most damage.

    There are millions of people “under water” in their mortgages.

    What has Obama done to alleviate this fundamental problem? Nothing.

    A true representative of the middle and working class would use governmental power to compel the banks to make principal adjustments. Obama is not doing anything to force the banks to eat the losses. Instead, Obama pays lip service with rhetoric about “the rich” while allowing the super-rich to foist their losses on the middle and working class.

    - DSP

    • balconesfault

      That’s a very legitimate criticism.

      Now, I’m not sure what power Obama actually has to force banks to make principle adjustments. Maybe you can elaborate more on where that power would come from, and how it would be managed.

      I do suspect that it might take some kind of legislative action to empower him to do so, and that the process would be filled with screams from the right about Obama being a tyrannical communist out to destroy the free market. But I’ll agree that it would be useful had he ignored that inevitable whining and pushed through such a plan. Unfortunately, I doubt that he had the political clout to do so, however.

      • Southern Populist

        He needed to do it before 2010. He could have.

        • ottovbvs

          “He needed to do it before 2010. He could have.”

          Tell us how? It would have required legislation that couldn’t have been passed and even if it had been it would undoubtedly have been challenged in the courts. But give us some of your famous granularity.

    • Watusie

      “A true representative of the middle and working class would use governmental power to compel the banks to make principal adjustments. ”

      What legal theory does your assertion rest on? What mechanism does the government have to compel the banks in this manner? And what formula is used to determine the size of the principal adjustments?

      Also, why just “middle and working class”? Last year Moody’s reported that the delinquency rate for small and jumbo mortgages were exactly the same – 28% Don’t the McMansion buyers get some love from you, too?

      This is why stupid people like GWB should never be elected to high office – some of the messes they make are impossible to clean up.

      “He needed to do it before 2010. He could have.”

      Yeah, right. Remember how ape shit the Right went Obama made the entirely reasonable statement that BP was legally responsible for the mess it had made in the Gulf and was going to have to pay for it? And THAT was just a simple statement of fact based on existing laws. So how on earth would he have been able to compel the banks to take a haircut when there is no existing legal authority or tradition that empowers him to do so?

      You are criticizing Obama for not being the cartoon wild-eyed lefty that you pretend that he is.

      • Chris Balsz

        Congress considered and specifically rejected giving bankruptcy judges this authority over senior mortgage liens back in 2005, which is why the Courts don’t allow it.

        That could be changed by an act of Congress.

        At present in California, a bankruptcy court CAN strip a junior mortgage lien in a Chapter 13, with conditions.

    • ottovbvs

      “A true representative of the middle and working class would use governmental power to compel the banks to make principal adjustments.”

      Another of DSP’s ridiculous notions. This time that Obama should act illegally to force the banks to make principal adjustments. Needless to say were he to do so, DSP would be amongst the first to accuse him of illegality.

  • ottovbvs

    “I beg you to read or re-read The Fountainhead. She can write!”

    Never read it but on the evidence of Atlas I’d say not. She can write in the same way the G. K. Chesterton the author of the other most tedious novel I’ve ever read (The Napoleon of Notting Hill) can write. Which is to say, at length and tediously. Twain’s aphorism about Wagner’s music is perhaps appropriate “It’s better than it sounds.” The Fountainhead was also the basis for just about the worst movie Gary Cooper ever made.

    • budgiegirl

      I saw that movie!!! My friends gave it to me for Christmas as a joke because I made them all read the book- and I agree – it was right up there with Rocky Horror Picture Show. Audience participation is almost essential. It’s much better if you have had a few drinks and are eating popcorn with friends laughing hysterically at the bad acting!

  • TJ Parker

    Dude, Rand was a balls to the wall atheist. She’d be horrified by today’s GOP.

  • "Vulgar Liberalism"

    [...] which is blaming the free market for such a state of affairs. Here is an example: The GOP Can’t Quit Ayn Rand | FrumForum In the run-up to the financial crisis the markets became a kind of Fifth Estate, the ultimate [...]

  • Argy F

    Ayn, nein

  • jg bennet

    Like I have said many times the Republicans are not Republicans……………

    In 1957, Buckley published Whittaker Chambers’s review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, ostensibly “reading her out of the conservative movement”.


    Buckley and his editors used his magazine to define the boundaries of conservatism—and to exclude people or ideas or groups they considered unworthy of the conservative title.

    Therefore he attacked Ayn Rand, the John Birch Society, George Wallace and anti-Semites.
    When he first met philosopher Ayn Rand, according to Buckley, she greeted him with the following: “You are much too intelligent to believe in God.”

    In turn, Buckley felt that “Rand’s style, as well as her message, clashed with the conservative ethos,” and he decided that Rand’s hostility to religion made her philosophy unacceptable to his understanding of conservatism. In 1957, Buckley attempted to read her out of the conservative movement by publishing Whittaker Chambers’s highly negative review of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

    In 1964, he wrote of “her desiccated philosophy’s conclusive incompatibility with the conservative’s emphasis on transcendence, intellectual and moral,” as well as “the incongruity of tone, that hard, schematic, implacable, unyielding, dogmatism that is in itself intrinsically objectionable, whether it comes from the mouth of Ehrenburg, Savonarola–or Ayn Rand.”

    • Gus

      Can’t read that Buckley passage without thinking of Joe Flaherty doing a hilarious Buckley on SCTV.

  • Montag46

    Weren’t the principals involved in the Hillsdale College Tragedy – a real live ancient Greek tragedy of death and vengeful furies – also devotees of Ayn Rand?

    George Roche III, the college president, had an affair with his daughter-in-law for years, ending in her suicide and the discovery of the affair.

    I remember an article [b]Death at the Gazebo:Conservatism In Extremis at Hillsdale College

    I seem to recall Mr. Roche was a fan of Ms. Rand’s.

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