The reason that the American body politic is so hardy is its ability to metabolize bull-pucky. If Democracy is the average of all foolishness, we have prospered by learning to ruminate and digest our own excrement. We chew it again and again until even the most preposterous idea disappears into the soup. One example of such a piece of cud which we cough up from time to time and gnaw on is the idea that somehow rich people create jobs. We blithely refer to those whose only service to society is clipping their dividend coupons as ‘Job Creators,’ as if they were endowed by the majesty of their wealth with powers beyond those of mortal men.
This quaint piece of mythology relies on the basic human con that the rich are rich because they deserve to be. Monarchs, despots, priests and robber barons have been using this ruse for centuries. It’s an example of the ‘It is because it is’ fallacy. In its modern incarnation it originated with a Presbyterian reading of Ayn Rand’s hopelessly ponderous novels. In fact, the very first premise in her philosophical confabulation called Objectivism which is espoused in her book For the New Intellectual, is: “A is A” …..it is because it is.
As a teenager I read all of Ayn Rand’s books with special attention to her philosophical essays since I found her fiction to be largely trite and cumbersome. John Galt was a fashionable name to drop at parties for wannabe young student intellectuals in the sixties. I was stirred by the cold logic of the hundred page diatribe of Galt’s speech which was to become the manifesto for modern reactionary capitalism. For a short time I was captivated by the notion that the triumph of the individual was the path to social bliss. John Galt’s elaborate apologetics for greed which exalted avarice as a virtue, made twisted sense to my post-adolescent mind. It’s a philosophy which requires a selfish and immature intellect in order to prosper. I soon grew up enough to understand the fallacies of this philosophy when applied in real life. Plus, every time I met a dedicated adherent to Ayn Randism, they were singularly tight-assed, intellectually constipated and utterly humorless. These people grew up to be the political right in America.
Ayn Rand’s theories on government and economics are as valid as Jackie Collin’s theories on love, I suppose. They are both highly romanticized versions of reality. Which brings us back to the fantasy notion that the wealthy create jobs. It is a notion that was manufactured out of thin air and has no relationship to the real world. People become excessively rich in several time-honored ways. Most inherit it, many steal it, some gamble for it, fuck their way into it or marry it. Once in a blue moon you get a Henry Ford or Bill Gates (neither of whom were rich when they began) who have an idea that creates jobs but by and large, the rich don’t create jobs. Money itself may create jobs but the most useful and productive jobs are created by those who do them. They start from ideas, not from the largesse of the wealthy.
But as we enter the coming period of economic restacking and tax reform, we will hear over and over again, especially from the neo-con controlled media outlets, the phrase, ‘job creators,’ which is a code word for the corporate oligarchs. This meme, this repeated linguistic trick will insinuate itself into our thinking. Beware, my friends, it is a viral lie. Jobs are created by good ideas. Creativity creates jobs. Making quality, useful products creates jobs. Hunger creates more jobs than the wealthy do. But the lie that rich people create jobs will be chanted until enough will believe it and the plutocracy will remain intact. More wealth will trickle into the stagnant ponds of the very rich because our tax system will insure it.
In his recent declaration about the National Budget, Obama perfectly enunciated the crux and essence of the most vital question we are likely to encounter in our generation. As the president put it, the question is What kind of society we want to have? The choices are: A Compassionate society which cares for its weak, sick and elderly, the one that some like to disparage with the label Nanny State. Or do we want unbridled capitalism with no social compact, no safety nets, survival of the fittest, you’re on your own, suckah, too bad your daddy ain’t rich kind of world? Everybody can have all the medical care or justice they can afford. That’s what Ayn Rand’s little monsters want.
Now, The Poet’s Eye notices that a movie of Atlas Shrugged is being released. John Stossel who I once regarded as at least a clever and entertaining journalist has had a political conversion since being placed on the Fox payroll. He has become a total pimp for the ‘libertarian’ party line. In that capacity, he promotes the Ayn Rand cult. Naturally, he did a show to plug the Atlas Shrugged movie and interviewed the writers and producers and stars. After hearing the writer say that they had followed the book almost exactly, It was no surprise to learn that it will take three installments to tell this almost oppressive story. The first time I ever held a copy of Atlas Shrugged in my hand, the first thought that came to my mind was, “God, I hope I never have this much to say.” If the movie is faithful to the book, it will be mind-numbingly boring and pretentious. I’m sure it will be a delight to Ms. Rand’s cheerless disciples who are uniformly boring and pretentious themselves. I rarely slip to such ad hominem vulgarity when discussing philosophy but it’s just true, Randistas are among the stingiest, most ethically bankrupt and unpleasant folks I believe I’ve ever met. They have taken a fairly insignificant and romantic philosophical notion and converted it into a cult to their own bitterness and selfishness.
In his newly published book entitled Why Ayn Rand is Wrong (and Why It Matters), Levi Asher tries to explain in more pragmatic language why Randism, especially in its current political expressions is a failed philosophy. Check it out for a different look at the topic. President Obama’s simple but vital question, What kind of society do you want to create? perfectly frames the choice that we all have before us. Do we want a society that gives and cares or one where selfishness is counted as a virtue? The Poet’s Eye can easily see the sharp, cold logic in Randism, it’s fascinating the way a deadly weapon is fascinating. But I also have enough imagination to see where such a philosophy would lead if it were universally practiced. It’s definitely not the world I would want to create. Those who subscribe to that brand of intellectual chauvinism are the same ones who are trying to convince you of the fallacy that there is a job creating class who should be given special treatment by our tax system. Don’t go for it.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” –The Dalai Lama