Ayn Rand Would Laugh At Him

Eric Burlison, a state legislator from Springfield, Mo., spoke at Saturday’s Joplin Tea Party rally.  During his speech he mentioned that he couldn’t wait to see the new movie, Atlas Shrugged, which was released last Friday.

As most of you know, Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, the pro-choice atheist philosopher whose childishly tidy philosophy argues that selfishness is a virtue and altruism is a weakness, a deadly weakness. 

I can’t be the only one who finds irony in the fact that a man like Eric Burlison—a “pro-life” Christian who advertises that he gives back to the community by “serving” and “volunteering“—is behind a podium at a Tea Party event extolling the philosophy of a godless “baby-killer,” who would openly ridicule and scorn Mr. Burlison’s work on behalf of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Ronald McDonald House.

Except that when you think about it, what is the Tea Party movement about, if not essentially about selfishness?  At the Joplin Tea Party event, the crowd was mostly made up of older folks, many of them, no doubt, on Social Security and Medicare, who nevertheless enthusiastically applauded speaker after speaker who spoke about a too-large government, a government that takes too much and redistributes it to those who don’t deserve it.  These folks essentially epitomize a version of Randian selfishness philosophy:  They’ve got theirs and to hell with everyone else.

Isn’t that what is happening in Tea Party America?

Just look at the Tea Party’s favorite candidate these days.  Donald Trump, the Ugly American, is riding high on a wave of paranoia, perverse pride, and petty grievances.  His appearance this past weekend at a Florida Tea Party event was both clownish and vicious, both absurd and revealing.

What Trump’s well-received appearance in Florida—as well as his other public statements that have impressed teapartiers—reveals is a disturbing development in American politics. That there are people who take this egotistical, uninformed fool seriously says more about America than I care to acknowledge.  The fact that he is cheered as he denigrates America and brags about his intelligence and his business acumen—despite much contrary evidence—is symptomatic of how far a significant slice of the American electorate has fallen into a sort of Randian trance, where all but the self-described “producers” are leeches who deserve an ill fate.

And here in Joplin I watched a conservative Republican from Springfield, a man who boasts of his volunteer spirit and his “pro-life” credentials, a man who claims he shows “humility and humbleness in an open setting,” salivate over the release of a movie based on the philosophy of a woman who would mock him and his Christian beliefs.

As I said, absurd and revealing.

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32 Comments

  1. I knew Rand was a militant atheist. Religion is I think a potential fault line between true Randians and “Christian” conservatives, that appears to be papered over for now in the tea party but I think may reopen at some point.

    Was Rand on record as pro-choice? I didn’t know that. It guesse it would follow from her version of feminism and sneering view of any kind of self sacrafice.

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    • Rand also advocated eugenics, which was all the fashion in the 30’s.

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      • Moe,

        I’m not that familiar with Rand and eugenics. I don’t recall reading that much about it when I was reading her philosophical writings, but maybe I just forgot. Where would I find something she wrote about it, if you know off the top of your head.

        Duane

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        • I can’t site anything in her writings, I just remember it in a general public knowledge kind of way. If it’s still around you might try looking for the Brandon or Branden institute – Nathaniel Brandon was Rand’s acolyte and set up the institute after her death.

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    • Bruce,

      If you think about objectivism, Rand’s name for her philosophy, doesn’t by its nature imply the pro-choice position? Any analysis would be grounded in her view that reason, not emotions, dictated any choices and that our “feeling” that the fetus was a person would have to give way to a sober and rational analysis that the nature of the fetus was not the same as the nature of a post-birth human being. In other words, potential human beings don’t enjoy the same rights as actual human beings no matter what your heart tells you.

      But most important, I think, given the nature of Rand’s selfishness-based philosophy, is that the arguments from “pro-lifers” often appeal to self-sacrifice and other altruistic motives, which, of course, her philosophy would not permit.

      I agree with you about the fault line between the libertarians-Randians and the Christian conservatives. Some Christian conservatives understand, I think, what’s going on here and some are ignorant of it. The libertarians in the Tea Party movement are using the evangelicals as a way to achieve power, but if they ever controlled the entire government, the fault lines would widen considerably, as the evangelicals would see their platform crumble beneath libertarian feet.

      Duane

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  2. The philosophical inconsistency between fundamentalist Christians and Randians is so bizarre as to invite analysis.

    It seems to me that American culture is marked by superficial distractions, at least outside the workplace. People don’t read as much as they once did and the entertainment (so-called) milieu of TV and social-networking gadgets leaves little room for thinking and conversation. Result: Cafeteria Christians motivated mostly by social interaction and groupthink.

    The same no doubt also accounts for the allure of celebrity, which is probably at an historic high. Snob appeal for products is another aspect of the same thing. Success in one endeavor is assumed for all endeavors. That’s why Tiger Woods was good at selling wrist watches and Buicks.

    Those in the Tea Party who do think, and there must be a few, are pretty clever because their plans, such as Rep. Ryan’s fiscal plan, are designed to take effect well after the next election. By the time reality hits the masses they will have forgotten what they voted for and will simply blame whoever is president when fit hits the shan.

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    • Jim,

      I like your analysis. When I was researching something, I found a review of Ayn Ran’s “Anthem,” written by a Christian conservative. I’m going to include the end of the review to show how some Christians understand the problem with Randian philosophy, but are willing to overlook it out of a strange hatred for Obama and a strange conception of what Obama is doing, in terms of stealing our liberty:

      As a Christian I am conflicted by Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Understanding that she was writing against Collectivism, Statism, the Soviet Union from where she escaped, she has a visceral hatred of tyranny. This book is vital for our day, and I do heartily recommend it, but as a Christian I must say her worship of man is misplaced. Man makes a pretty small god. She sees the abuses of religion that have always been with us.

      It is her observations of the effect of the worship of the state that are on target. The state makes just as bad of a god as man.

      In conclusion, this is a book for our time, for Statism is once again on the prowl looking for whom it may devour. We live in perilous times. We are a country at war, and experiencing the worst economic disaster since the the 1929 Crash and the resulting Great Depression. The hue and cry is for more State control of the economy, more power to the State. With the election of B Hussein Obama to the Presidency and the Demoncrat reign of Congress, with the fawning media and Hollywood elites, it looks like freedom is receding rapidly. America is now Amerika and freedom may take a long hiatus.

      Live free or die.

      Notice the use of “B Hussein” and “demon” crat and America with a “k.” And this is from a man who calls himself a Christian.

      Duane

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  3. Great post Duane – I just had a long round robin of emails with an old beau (Jim will no doubt like that word!). He’s an engineer and a striver and his best friend in the world manufactures guns. Lots of ’em.

    He saw AS and loved it. thought it was magnificent. I told him that I recently tried to rewatch The Fountainhead movie and was stunned by how cartoonish it was. He said he recently saw it and thought it as good as ever. I went back with but that stuff is juvenile (dont think I used that word with him). We just went round and round.

    We’re the same age, same backgrounds, same level of education, very similar life experiences. And yet . . . he thinks Dagney Taggart is real.

    Different strokes.

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    • Let me add he’s a very observant Catholic. I’m secular. So there it is again.

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    • OMG, Moe,

      Am I now considered retro?

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    • Moe,

      Not just the old movie, but the old philosophy seems cartoonish to me, although I know very well how seriously some folks take that stuff. It’s sort of like a Star Trek convention, I imagine. And let’s face it, there is something in her philosophy—and libertarianism in general—that appeals to the type of person you referenced. It just surprises me sometimes how that philosophy is embraced by Christian folks (that’s most of the folks around these parts) who either don’t understand it or are willing to subordinate their own beliefs because they see that philosophy as a necessary evil in the Age of Obama.

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      • Duane, I’m no longer surprised by Christian ‘folk’ in this country. In the cause of anti abortion and anti gay, they celebrate people who hold the very values Christ preached against.

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  4. Members of the Tea Party appear to be grasping for any semblance of philosophical intellectualism to support their rapacity, while ignoring that which contradicts their rapacious morality drowning in ignorance.

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    • HLG,

      The fact that Donald Trump is rising on the Tea Party Right is beyond even what I thought was an already bankrupt intellectualism.

      Duane

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    • Donald Trump has one underlying talent that’s caught the attention of the Tea Party. He’s learned to communicate to the hopelessly ignorant and the chronically stupid. In our last discussion regarding Donald Trump I was just hoping that he would run thinking no one could possibly elect him, but now I’m concerned that I was wrong. Let’s hope that I am wrong, this time.

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  5. Jane Reaction

     /  April 18, 2011

    I took a long week to work on my tan in S. Texas. Missed some excellent posts and comments.

    About Atlas Shrugged, I was interested in the book mostly because it involved a railroad. Dagny Taggart was my heroine. I don’t want to see the movie because nobody could live up to my imagination of her.

    As for The Trump, somebody should remind people that he filed for bankruptcy twice. His advice would rival twice-bankrupt ‘money maven’ Suze Orman who still shows up on the PBS telethons saying do as I say, not as I did.

    Great job. Thanks for going after Bozo the 7th District rep.

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    • Jane,

      I have either heard or read that his business went bankrupt THREE times, but I haven’t bothered to check on that. All I know is that a man who has to constantly tell us how successful he is probably isn’t. And even though he constantly tells us how smart he is, it is painfully obvious that he is not. He is a fool and I cringe every time someone takes him seriously.

      Duane

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      • as jamesb said at my place, if he actually runs, he’s going to have to make public his financial side. Wheeee!

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        • Moe, HLG

          I remain utterly convinced that he has no real intention of running. The daily orgy of Donald-love this morning on Morning Joe notwithstanding, not only would Trump’s finances prove a nightmare, not only would his past love-life prove a problem, but his actual policy positions—I have listened to drunken high-school dropouts give a more coherent understanding of the world and how the U.S. should act in it—would be his undoing.

          When Savannah Guthrie asked him about the right to privacy, he did not understand what the right to privacy had to do with Roe v. Wade. He had never thought about it for one second. I encourage anyone who thinks Donald Trump is a serious candidate to watch that one minute clip. That kind of stuff will dog him every step of the way and while he’s not the smartest guy in the world, he is smart enough to know that.

          Duane

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    • “I encourage anyone who thinks Donald Trump is a serious candidate to watch that one minute clip.”

      I don’t think for an instance that he’s a serious candidate, but I am concerned that there’s enough stupid people out there who just might think that he is, enough to convince him that he is. He could easily become intoxicated with himself if the Tea Party keeps buying him shots.

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      • HLG,

        You’re right about that, for sure. He is already intoxicated with himself and the fact that a large number of foolish teapartiers are getting him even more intoxicated—and thus generating in him some passing thought to actually run—is probably right.

        Duane

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  April 19, 2011

    To all,

    Lest anyone forget, Atlas Shrugged was written in the 50’s. What during that time was the GREAT divide in the world’s political systems? Communism vs. Capitalism was the big argument.

    Now go read Atlas Shrugged with that political conflict as background. It begins to make a lot more sense than when trying to use it as a basic poltical philosophy today. I know that is the “light” in which I first read the book while in High School in the mid/late 50’s. I was not even sure at that time what Socialism was, much less a “social democracy”.

    Given that view, I believe Rand is dated today. Good philosophy must withstand the test of time. Plato in my view has much more relevance today than Ayn Rand, just as an example. Same for Rawls.

    Now the question becomes is Ryan dated as well? Certainly the first should not be used to judge the second.

    Anson

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    • Good point anson – we are the same age and I thrilled to those books in hgh school and find them simplistic and archaic now.

      Oddly thought, the Fountainhead movie – what, 50 years ago? – featured very Soviet design imagery – triumphant, modernist, spare. Much was shot from almost floor level so people and buildings soared to whatever Rand’s idea of ‘heaven’ was. Very reminiscent of the Communist Party propaganda posters used in Russia at that time to inspire hte populace.

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    • Anson,

      Paul Ryan’s budget proposal—which is now hanging around the neck of nearly every Republican—is not so much dated as dead on arrival. Everyone knows that. It was never a serious legislative proposal, what with its advocacy of even more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and its decimation of Medicare and Medicaid.

      Duane

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  April 19, 2011

    To all,

    I have been too busy in the “bowels of the bureaucracy” for two weeks to have read or considered either the Obama or Ryan budgets. But never fear I will get into them after I finish up some loose ends related to Japan.

    And of course given my long standing views on the use of nuclear energy, you may see my column in Sunday’s forum on that subject as well.

    But of course that has nothing to do with Ayn Rand’s work as a substantial political philosophy or simply a great novel at a crossroads of political upheaval.

    But for sure I will watch the movie simply to see if holds true to the book and the times depicted in the book or instead tries to make the book a platform for a Republican campaign. in today’s world.

    Anson

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  8. He is already intoxicated with himself and the fact that a large number of foolish teapartiers are getting him even more intoxicated—and thus generating in him some passing thought to actually run—is probably right.”

    It’s all about how things are framed. A fact that the Republicans have learned all too well. A good ad agency and a repetitive and a dumbed down message targeting the masses seems to be working for them over the Democrats message of hope. Let’s just hope we don’t get “Trumped.”

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  9. Janice Reed

     /  April 22, 2011

    I tend to find that if someone has to tell you how humble and smart they are, they probably are not. And here in SW Missouri, I regularly hear people who are supposed to be so religious, praising politicians who have no interest in helping anyone but the wealthy and lining their own pockets. It appalls me but Republicans in this area tend to do this. I don’t know why or how people can praise things so contrary to their own interersts and the interests of those they claim to care about, but I hear it all the time. It is appalling. Smacks of ignorance. But is not surprising.

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    • Janice,

      It is appalling. And it is really sad, as I have witnessed now at three Joplin Tea Party events, to hear local folks cheer at the sound of someone championing tax cuts for the wealthy or cuts in government programs that benefit all of us.

      I hope it is ignorance, which can be cured.

      Duane

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  10. ansonburlingame

     /  April 22, 2011

    Janice.

    For many conservatives that are in no way interested in “lining their pockets”, they are very opposed to continuing debt and deficits, period.

    To accuse such folks of greed, selfish greed is a political “song” from the left that is very old and stale.

    Any compassionate conservative would like nothing better than to care for those in need. And don’t try to argue that no conservative can be compassionate. That is just tripe.

    But until the left stands up and says with real clarity just how much money is needed to provide such care, many will view their call with great suspicions and even disdain.

    Had Obamacare addressed AND mitigated the COST of medical care as well as providing MORE medical care for some, there would be little argument against it, in my view, and that is just an example of concerns about liberalism run wild today.

    As much as some may want something there is always the concern about cost for anyone with any sense. When people consider cost to some degree, well those folks make up a lot of “rich” people.

    Anson

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  11. “Any compassionate conservative”

    Sorry but that’s an oxymoron. I am certain however that there are some conservatives that are truly compassionate, but unfortunately they’re not in control of the Republican party. For instance I believe that Charlie Christ was a compassionate conservative. Unfortunately for him it was his compassion that caused the republican party to desert him and left him running as an independent.

    Many of the “Old School Republicans” are rejecting the current direction being taken by contemporary republicans who’ve taken control of the party.

    “Last night Sen. John McCain’s daughter Meghan addressed the Log Cabin Republicans. In her speech, which barely made mention of gay issues, she spoke about how old school Republicans are scared shitless about the future. She called for Republicans to stop embracing divisive issues and become more progressive.”

    http://www.politicususa.com/en/McCain-GOP-Scared-Shitless

    The reality is that the current republicans aren’t representing compassionate conservatives, they’re representing corporate greed and power through the control of America’s “bigoted.” Even still many of those who might think of themselves as compassionate conservatives’ still blindly vote for what can best be described as a growing American Aristocracy, which is everything that turned the stomachs of our forefathers.

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