Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, and Evil Greed: Objectivist Capitalism (by anon)

Objectivist economics is simple to understand: let the capitalists produce!  Part of the philosophy behind this is that capitalists fulfill the true potential of humanity – that of producing what one is led to produce out of rational selfishness.  To produce what one truly wants to produce is the height of being human.  Production is the origin of value itself.  Thus, capitalism, believed by Objectivists, is the consummate economic system that allows humanity to shine and bring forth rational value into our landscape.

However, if something hinders the free reign of capitalism, it is a mark against the rational value of humanity, and is thus something bad.  That is why Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivist thought, was against any kind of economic regulation.  In a 1959 interview, here was this interchange with Mike Wallace:

“Wallace: And you believe that there should be no right by the government to tax. You believe there should be no such thing as unemployment compensation, regulation during times of stress.

Rand: That’s right. I am opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute, laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy.”

For Rand, market regulation was evil, and that sums up the basic theme of her most famous book (a torturous read), Atlas Shrugged.  Market regulation was for the weak, socially-minded government bureaucrats, not the strong, confident capitalists.

This is the same position of Ron Paul, who is one of the most strident followers of Ayn Rand in politics (Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and Clarence Thomas would also be included here).  It is important to talk about this because not only is Ron Paul finally making a name for himself in the current GOP primaries, but Ron Paul’s politics are now riddled throughout most of the GOP in some form or another – which is to say that Ayn Rand’s philosophy has found a home with Republicans.  Ron Paul happens to be her biggest mouthpiece at the moment.

This is the problem.  Ayn Rand thought of humanity as a fairytale.  First, she envisioned her ideal capitalists as these men with powerful visions to create what they thought was beautiful in the face of those weak-willed buffoons who couldn’t distinguish between their heads and their asses.  These capitalists were the height of rationality, and when they were allowed to enact their rationality and production, the true good was unleashed.  They were able to produce without infringing upon anyone else.  And, second, if EVERYONE would follow their rational self-interests and produce according to their rational desires, everyone would live harmoniously in a new-founded utopia.  Since there is supposed to be only ONE rationality and ONE value system according to Objectivism, if everyone plugged in to this unity under the capitalist spirit, it would be like heaven on earth.  Everything and everyone would function in just the right way, like the way a solved puzzle is composed of many pieces fitting just the right way.

But all of that is a problem because of one base trait of humanity: greed.  Rand wants to solve the “greed” problem by claiming that capitalists shouldn’t operate according to bald selfishness, but rather rational selfishness.  But no one ever told them that!  And even if they were told that, they wouldn’t listen.  It’s time for a reality check!  Capitalists strive for one thing – more and more money.  That is why new businesses come to life, and the old one’s die because they fail to keep earning money.  Capitalists are not out to save the poor, heal the sick, or tend to the helpless.  They want money.  They want money for what they produce.  The value is not in the product itself, but in the price one can get for it.  And once one gets a taste of money, one wants more.  That’s the seed of greed.  That’s the growth of capitalism.  Thus, if capitalism is left unchecked, make way for unprecedented greed – we can call it “evil greed” because it will take over everything if it can regardless of whom it eats up.  This is the reason why Karl Marx said that capitalism would eventually destroy itself.

Therefore, Randian economics is bad economics that would probably send us into a depression if enacted.  But this is precisely what Ron Paul wants to do!  This is why this MUST be talked about.  Paul, in accordance with Rand, wants capitalism to flourish completely unfettered.  He wants no regulations whatsoever.  Nevermind that already-enacted gross deregulation was one of the primary factors precipitating the 2008 financial collapse, Paul wants the government to contract so much that it would be powerless to monitor and correct for the greedy excesses of Wall Street and big business.  The rich would become gods and the rest of us their servants.  Thus, let me be clear: Ron Paul’s Objectivist economics spells D-A-N-G-E-R.  If you have any sympathy whatsoever with the Occupy Wall Street movement, you’ll steer clear of endorsing Ron Paul.

I know there are many who like Ron Paul.  He has an attractive foreign policy for progressives – he wants to pull our troops out of every foreign land.  He has an attractive domestic policy for conservatives – he wants limited government and no income tax.  He is supposed to be a champion of freedom as a “libertarian.”  But for what might be good in Ron Paul, it is overshadowed by his naïve economics and Randian philosophy that selfishness is the ultimate value to uphold.  That value, formed in a completely deregulated capitalist society, would send us back to the dark ages.

To be honest, I don’t worry much about Ron Paul because he acts too much like a crazy grandfather for mainstream America to buy into him.  I worry much more about his son, Rand Paul, and the Wisconsin Congressman, Paul Ryan, who are much better looking and better spoken than Ron Paul.  2016 is going to be really scary if either of them runs for president.


  1. Great post, whoever wrote this. I'm actually a believer in Randian economics. Well, theoretically at least. It's a system that works.

    You're right when you say the system doesn't work because people are greedy. I think it's important to make one note here though...

    People are greedy. People want more. People act in their self interest. What's missing from these premises though is that in our society, the only thing that does a good job of measuring this "more" is currency. I don't think people are not naturally greedy for bills and coins. If they were able to find other measurements of value and hold them up to the same level of reverence as their purchasing power, then the capitalistic economy would still work.

    These other measurements of value can be health, quality of living, emotional well being, etc.

  2. I'm going to point out an obvious truth that everyone seems to forget when talking about anyone becoming president. They become president not an all powerful emperor. If Ron Paul did become president and that's a big IF. He would just push policies. To think all regulations would just magically drop off and the income tax would disappear is pure ignorance.

    America is kinda of a funny place where capitalism and socialism collide. We don't have a pure capitalism or pure socialism. Both pure forms don't work for obvious reasons. Pure capitalism rich take over, pure socialism no one tries because no one owns anything. In America they collide (in many other contries as well) if we stray to far one way or the other they other side pushes back harder. This happens with republicans and democrats too.

    So have we gone to far capitalism or to far socialism? I'd argue that we gone to far socialism and if capitalism doesn't push back the hole might be to deep to get out of. But, we need both capitalism and socialism. To recap president doesn't equal dictator and for the best society possible we need both capitalism and socialism.

  3. I'm just waiting from that kid from the REa$on club to chime in. Whenever the mention of Ayn Rand is uttered, it's analogously like saying the word "voldomart" as the death eaters magically appear

  4. For what it is worth, this piece on Paul and Libertarianism is the best written of all the "Critically Pissed" entries. I wish the author would reveal himself/herself. I am a Progressive, but have a soft spot for Paul because of his foreign policies but also because of his fight for individual liberties in this country. This piece offers the other sobering truths.

  5. Paraphrase from my favorite movie:

    1: That industry's stock is overvalued and is due for a fall

    2: But there's safeguards in place

    3: Not against human nature. We're wired to overreach.

    That is what I like about behavioral economics-it pragmatically takes into account how humans DO behave, not how they SHOULD behave.

    P.S. I should note that Ron Paul actually likes altruism, so he doesn't talk about "rational selfishness" or any such nonsense, but economically it's close enough.

  6. Wow, I just made this connection, that Ron Paul probably named his son after Ayn Rand..

    1. Actually, his first name is Randal and he goes by Rand for short. I think his wife started calling him that.

  7. Mehul,
    As much as I'd like that to happen, I have my doubts. How would we check the negative effects of competition and growth in capitalism?

    If you have a successful business in your community, what's to stop someone else from doing it more efficiently and taking you out of business. In turn, the person who beat you must continue to grow, to cut costs or develop new products in order to beat their own competitors, who will henceforth sprout up. This is a reality today. Clearly we don't value our "neighbors at the local P&M" enough to pay the extra money to keep them in business vs Walmart.

    For me, it's hard to imagine capitalism without this scenario of constant competition and struggle to stay in business. How could we all agree on a time when a product is "good enough", and no one needs to compete with it, or try to sell it for cheaper? It sounds like a stretch at best.

    Unfortunately, competition and growth tends to lead to (among other things) dangerous (for us) changes in our planet's climate and the end of capitalism itself, re: Karl Marx, when through competition and growth, companies have become so efficient at production that people don't have enough money to buy the things they produce anymore.

    Maybe someday Ayn Rand's ideas would work, but in today's world, I just don't see us being able to pull it off any time soon. We still measure success in "stuff". I don't think the world could fit the mold that Ron Paul wants to place us in.

  8. Let me add that the name "Objectivism" comes from Rand's belief that there is an objective way of the world. There are the facts of the world no matter what one thinks, and among these facts is that there is one way of being correctly rational and one set of correct values. Rand removes subjectivity from anything philosophically significant. That is how she can claim that deregulated capitalism is great, because she believed it was in tune with the "objective" way of the world. Rand's philosophy is like a puzzle where all the pieces fit nicely together, and they form a pretty picture.

    It's just that that picture is a picture of the tooth fairy. There is not one rationality. There is no one value system. There is not one view of the world. Rand was supremely naive.