Column by Bob Wallce.
Exclusive to STR
What a philosophy claims and what it delivers are often two different things. Marxism was supposed to create a heaven on earth but instead created a hell. I think Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, would also create a hell on earth.
Rand divided people into two groups: her perfect John Galtian heroes, and everyone else – whom she described as “sub-humans” living in “a hell.” She projected all “evil” onto her “looters” and “parasites” and reserved all goodness for her heroes. Such a division does not exist in real life.
In fact, this division into human/sub-human is one of the foundations of all wars. This all-good/all-bad split is also the basis of all propaganda, which is why Atlas Shrugged is in many ways a vast propaganda tract. (A good current example of propaganda was when the terminally addled George Bush claimed “the Evil Ones” attacked the United States “for our goodness.”)
Rand apparently truly believed when the world collapsed after her two dozen or so heroes withdrew into Galt’s Gulch, they would emerge to rule over the ruins. Would they rule benevolently and establish a permanent free market?
The answer: no.
The only true, eternal social division that exists is between the “elites” (I use that term neutrally) and the “masses.” I believe it is far more fundamental than “left” and “right.”
I’ve heard this split defined as “ranchers” and “cattle.” For thousands of years, way back to Jesus and Aesop, it’s been called “wolves” and “sheep.” Vilfredo Pareto referred to the elites as “wolves” and “foxes.”
The purpose of the elites is to maintain their economic and political power – to maintain what James Burnham in his book The Machiavellians called their “power and privilege.” This means using the power of the State to exploit the masses, which are mostly inert until pushed too far by the elites’ lust for blood, power and money. Then many times there is violent payback.
All politics is based on force and fraud. As such, the elites will always use those two weapons against the people to maintain their position – force is violence and fraud is lies and propaganda. All States are founded on, and run on, lies and violence.
Could Rand’s “perfect” elites be trusted to rule? No. They would use their political power to exploit everyone else to enrich themselves. Her perfect heroes are purely fictional – they don’t exist in real life.
This exploitation of the masses by the elites using the power of the States has been the history of the world. Even if Rand’s heroes established the free market, their descendents would overturn it.
I am reminded of Lord Acton’s saying: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I prefer the saying, “Power intoxicates, and immunity corrupts.”
As Dostoevsky put it in The House of the Dead, "Tyranny . . . finally develops into a disease. The habit can . . . coarsen the very best man to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate . . . the return to human dignity, to repentance, to regeneration, becomes almost impossible."
Political science (perhaps political economy is a better term) should start with how things are, not how scholars and writers want things to be. By starting with how things are, political economy becomes a science, and being a science, cures or prescriptions can be formulated.
In physics and chemistry, scientists start with how things are. Yet, in economics and political science, thinkers/tinkerers often start with how they want things to be, or how things will be if their prescriptions are followed. It’s why there exists that old saying, if you took every economist in the world and laid them end to end, they’d all point in different directions.
Rand did not start with how things are. She started with how she wanted things to be. Like all leftists (and she was in many ways a leftist, in addition to being a narcissist), she did not understand human nature, which is why she thought a vanishingly small minority could rule over humanity, permanently establish political and economic liberty, and not become corrupted by unlimited power.
This is why there is a very strong probability Objectivism would turn into a fascist State.