With Whom Do I Agree?

I was asked today by a coworker whether I am a die-hard democrat.  I laughingly answered, "no!" and proceeded to clarify that I'm not a die-hard anything, and that I disagree wholeheartedly with almost all political actions that are taken (or not taken).  The resulting question, after a short pause, was "well, what do you find so objectionable about Objectivism, then?"

Oh, boy.  I was somewhat blindsided by this, because as I see it, I'm diametrically opposed to Ms. Rand's philosophy on life, its celebration of selfishness, and its equating of personal pursuits with the common good.

To those uninitiated, Ayn Rand was a nutjob.  Perhaps that's a bit inflammatory, but I really, vehemently dislike her writing, her philosophy, and her premises.  This isn't going to be a discussion of her, though.  It's an introspection on why at first glance I appear to be in accordance with her.

I don't have faith in the system.  In fact, I see the system as being a complicator and a hindrance that contributes to the suffering (mental, physical) of everyday people.  Regulatory law is extremely convoluted and written to reward certain (seemingly arbitrary) interests and punish others.  Tax policy seems designed to allow for loop-holes, and the criminal justice system seems set up to encourage racism, prejudice, and the propagation of the almost exclusively white male-run society we live in.

Whoa, that actually jives with Rand a lot!  She railed against the bullshit thrown at us by our governments, stating that individuals should be free to pursue their own interests, and the only good government is one that protects a person from other people who intend to infringe upon that pursuit.  Good so far.  She believed that this would manifest itself as an entirely laissez faire capitalist economy.  Oops.  There I go, swimming for the shore.  I've jumped ship.

And that's because, from this point onward, Rand is justifying a system that already has tried to exist, and is rearing its ugly head again, in effect making the jobs of already-corrupt politicians even harder while making it easier for them to provide handouts for constituents and supportive business interests.  The final word on this is, pure capitalism doesn't stick around for long.  How many years did it take from our country's inception for business to find itself under the sway of the federal government?  Even Jefferson, the historically pro-capitalist anti-conflict-of-interest 3rd president couldn't keep us away from regulation or meddling with the affairs of the average citizen.

So, I'm not too hot on capitalism or its relatives.  It just seems too much like a breeding ground for greed and unbridled ambition, which inevitably lead to attempts to destroy the system they purport to support.  The system is broken.  That much is obvious.

What's more, when I state that the government is corrupt beyond all measure, I mean that the people in positions of power abuse that power, and we ENCOURAGE them to do so.  Time after time we vote them back into office because their campaigns have shinier ads or we feel less "afraid" of them, and they feel absolutely entitled to do as they please.  These politicians haven't been led astray by visions of power so much as they have been told that they are expected to do so.  Our measure of propriety when it comes to politicians seems to be, "If you haven't slept with someone who isn't your wife/husband, you can keep your job."

What bullshit!  The results of this are health care reform bills that benefit the insurance companies that got us into the mess in the first place, finance reform that funnels billions back into the institutions that just failed, and a system of government where the most Randian has the most say as to how to best keep the little guys' hands away from the levers of power.

And no, I don't think it's a conspiracy.  It's a well-oiled machine that works because we pay for it to work.  It ceases to capture our attention because it is so mundane, so usual, and so regular that we simply don't notice it.  We're trapped by our own acceptance of a system Rand wrote about some 70 years ago.

I don't have answers to someone who asks me how to fix the country, but I can point out the problems (don't you love the liberal arts education?).  And the biggest problem that I see is that rather than being a radical alternative to where we are now, Rand's Objectivism is in the end-game stage as we speak.  It has won us over so completely we don't even see it there.  And it's failing is what it always has been:  it can only succeed for the handful of over-motivated, over-greed-driven individuals who happened to be at the right place at the right time.

That felt good.


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A blog about social change, written from Brooklyn, New York. Currently looking for contributors.