Once upon a time a Russian expatriot who hated the Soviets because they destroyed her father’s pharmaceutical business emigrated to the United States and wrote a few books about how wonderful money and the people who make it and spend it are. She postulated a “philosophy” called “Objectivism” that 15 yr-olds with untreatable acne and rich people who fancied themselves Masters of the Universe found fascinating and rewarding. This “philosophy”, by her own definition, was one that was built around the concept of man as a heroic figure as long as he was making a lot of money and a useless wimp who was a boil on the ass of the universe if he wasn’t. Perhaps that explains its appeal to the two groups mentioned above.
Especially since many of those pimple-pussed 15-yr-olds of the 1950’s and 60’s (and 70’s and 80’s…) grew up to be rabid conservatives who worshiped the very ground money walked on and cheerfully volunteered to lick the boots of anybody who had it. But an irrational belief in the power of Green Paper to somehow matter in the Grand Scheme of Things was not, it turned out, confined to two narrow groups of self-absorbed Junior Bill G-man wanna-be’s. It seemed that once the idea of how rich was good and poor was baaad got around, everybody wanted to be John Galt.
John Galt is the hero – sorry – THE HERO! of her “greatest” (certainly her looooongest) novel, Atlas Shrugged, a powerful[ly silly] story about how all the rich corporate types get ticked off that nobody appreciates them enough and Galt throws a tantrum and decides for them that they should all go and hide out in the mountains because they’re so important surely the world will grind to a halt without them and all these other M’s of the U are such bleepin sheep they go and bi-gawd everything does fall apart.
This is called “Fantasy”.
In the real world, of course, no one is indispensible, especially the kind of rich corporate “geniuses” who developed the likes of derivatives, American Idol, and toxic waste dumps, and other less touchy people would certainly come forward to take their places – and their salaries. Life, iow, would go on.
Oddly, however, there were many members of American society who cherished just such notions about themselves. They saw their 8th-grade-level insights as critical to society’s survival and got all hot and wet thinking about how if they went away the whole world would just collapse and it made them feel good down deep in their jammies. In fact it seemed to spread like a plague across the country. No one appeared to be immune. Lawyers, health care execs, blow-hard neoconservative pundits, dentists, Greyhound station managers, even politicians began whining about how their great expertise wasn’t appreciated and they weren’t paid enough and they were going to “Go Galt” and let the country go to hell in a handbasket.
Everyone, it seems, has the same idea: that they are indispensable. Except the actual workers, of course. The only ones who are truly indispensable because they create, well, things we actually need, are instead treated as disposable objects of which there is an infinite supply. Real reporters, for example, are thrown on the ashheaps of journalism in order to make room for wide-eyed Objectivist neophytes from Moo U (via AEI) who can be counted on to push the Randian Line and savage “outsiders” like Seymour Hersh and Bill Froomkin while being paid like 19th century Russian serfs.
In fact, at times it feels as though our entire society is now centered around, well, what the M’s of the U wanted and strangely, it hasn’t worked out so well. For anyone other than the M’s of the U.
Here’s the problem, I think. Everybody forgot that one of Rand’s key assumptions – the assumption that makes the fantasy work – was that these rich corporate HEROES, at least the ones in her books, are, you know, super competent. What these guys are is super greedy, super ideological, and super moronic. I think we all ought to give some thought to dumping Randianism until we can replace our Mr Magoos with her Gandalfs. Then they could Go Galt and somebody would notice.