Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Atlas Sure Did Shrug

I know the set-up for contemporary political discourse:

  1. If you are conservative, libertarian, Tea Party, or pro-business you look up to Ayn Rand and the ideals presented in Atlas Shrugged.
  2. If you are urbane, liberal, socialist, progressive, gay, non-white, Catholic, or progressive you are supposed to see Ayn Rand and the ideas promoted in Atlas Shrugged as a kind of cancer that attacks the delicate social contract that makes cooperative civilization run smoothly.

Both of the above are the dominant but wrong interpretation of Atlas Shrugged. I have a non-standard, but more correct, view of Atlas Shrugged. I'm an urbane, progressive, Obama-supporting Scandanavian-style socialist....that truly admires Ayn Rand and her Atlas Shrugged.

If the book's fictional scenario was a reality I lived in, then yes I would absolutely support the heroes in her story. She presents a dystopian USA filled with a new wave of political agenda in which wealth, status, and respect are taken from the hardest working, smartest, and most proficient and redistributed to the feeble, mediocre, idiotic, and low-functional. Rand's heroes, e.g. Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden, are great heroes. They are not just wealthy leaders of corporations, they are engineers who work long hours into the night doing what it takes to make a better product. They are high functional, hard workers, smart, and deliver something (in the book: train service and better steel tracks that make trains run faster and safer) the public can use. To take from these high functional individuals, and to undo their offering of a superior "product" to consumers, is a wrongheaded and foolish political paradigm.

But real America has at its top of its corporate and economic pyramid characters who are anything but Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden. Think of the antebellum plantation house, with owners who never touched the crops, did not pursue modernization of the equipment nor infrastructure. A lazy and un-technological class with power locked into place by the accident of birth. Plantation aristocracy did not stay up late working on the math that would produce better train service or better steel.

America has a cancer of plantation aristocracy running throughout its economic leadership, a lazy and inept people who keep themselves in their beautiful comfortable lives by keeping others broken, addicted, ignorant and immobile. One person I know calls this elite "takers", as opposed to industrial society's "makers".

Today's conservatives, from Alan Greenspan to Rand Paul to FoxNews, have misappropriated the ideals and heroes of Atlas Shrugged. Republicans/Conservatives/TeaParty agendas more times than not promote a no-leash law for plantation aristocrats, and a leash law for workers, makers and innovators.

Today's conservative movement in the USA work to undo the efforts of real world Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden. In the early to mid 20th century maybe the enemies of innovation and wealth were Soviet type ideals. News flash: the Soviet Union collapsed, and the threat to Ayn Rand's ideals and heroes are coming from South Carolina, not Moscow.

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