Monday, March 29, 2021

America's Great Moral, Aesthetic, And Operational Delusion

There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today.”  Arthur Jensen

nautil |  The hero of Atlas Shrugged is John Galt, a supremely self-confident inventor. He has figured out a way to turn static electricity into an inexhaustible source of clean energy. But Galt and his kind are living in an America veering toward the kind of ham-fisted socialism that Rand escaped when she immigrated from the Soviet Union in 1926. Galt brings about a rebellion of the “producers” of the world, like the mythical Atlas shrugging the earth from his shoulders, so that the “looters” and “moochers” can be brought to their senses. The centerpiece of the novel is a speech that Galt delivers to the world by taking over the airwaves with his technical prowess.

Whether conveyed through philosophy or fiction, Rand’s worldview couldn’t function as a moral system if the pursuit of self-interest didn’t end up benefiting the common good. That’s where the invisible hand of the market comes in, a metaphor that was used only three times by Adam Smith in his voluminous writing, but was elevated to the status of a fundamental theorem by economists such as Milton Friedman and put into practice by Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan, who served as Chair of the United States Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Everything of value can be represented as a dollar value and therefore can be compared to anything else of value by their relative prices. Making money is the surest way to provide value to people because the best way to make money is to provide what people are most willing to pay for. The system works so well that no other form of care toward others is required. No empathy. No loyalty. No forgiveness. Thanks to the market, the old-fashioned virtues have been rendered obsolete. That’s why Milton Friedman could make his famous claim in 1970 that the only social responsibility of a business is to maximize profits for its shareholders. In Ayn Rand’s fictional rendering, the word “give” is banned from the vocabulary of the Utopian community founded by John Galt, whose members must recite the oath: “I swear by my life and love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.”

My sequel to Atlas Shrugged is titled Atlas Hugged and its protagonist is John Galt’s grandson. Ayn Rand was not a character in her novel, but since anything goes in fiction, I could transport her into mine as Ayn Rant, John I’s lover and John III’s grandmother. Rant’s son, John II, parlays her Objectivist philosophy into a world-destroying libertarian media empire. John III rebels against the evil empire by challenging his father to a duel of speeches. In the process, he brings about a worldwide transformation based on giving. Atlas Hugged is so anti-Rand that it isn’t even being sold. Instead, it is gifted for whatever the reader wishes to give in return. Eat your heart out, Amazon!