Monday, April 18, 2011

Ayn Rand and Big Business

A question which needs to be asked: If Ayn Rand is simply an apologist for Big Business, why wasn't her most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, made into a movie long before now-- with major backing behind it, backing the just released version doesn't have?

It's because Rand celebrated free market capitalism, which is only tangentially related to the corrupted version we have now. Ayn Rand's greatest appeal has been to do-it-yourself entrepreneurs and would-be artists. (Her appeal to the artist is palpable.) In her books she attacked crony capitalism, the idea that a person could get ahead by connections and gaming the system while having little ability and no backbone. It's no accident that establishment literary critics, who exist through their willingness to be unquestioning members of a herd, have savagely attacked her and her books.

There is much about Rand's analysis of society that I disagree with. I've lived much of my life on the other end of the political spectrum. Yet at the same time I've always seen the power and appeal of her novels-- the presentation of ideas and the huge ambition of her narratives. I'd rather see a writer risk much and fall short, than the endless line of go-along-to-get-along scribblers who risk nothing and fear to look beyond what all other writers are doing. Current literature is unexciting-- it's unexciting for a reason.


D.L. Medley said...

I believe that one of the biggest misconceptions of Ayn Rand by many people is that she was an "apologist for Big Business" and simply "anti-government". Think about the villains in Atlas Shrugged. Sure, Wesley Mouch was the government facilitator of overbearing regulation, but the real bastard was James Taggart, the Big Business CEO.

Yes, Rand celebrated free market capitalism, but, in a nutshell, her mightiest hero was the Individual and the rights of the Individual. Her most loathsome of villains were those who take it upon themselves to forcibly help themselves to the rewards of the Individual.

Good post, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Here's some Ayn Rand news for you.,_hugely_popular_author_and_inspiration_to_right-wing_leaders,_was_a_big_admirer_of_serial_killers?page=entire

King said...

Note the technique with the previous "comment." An anonymous post about an attack on someone which is irrelevant to the discussion, and even if true, is one sliver of a remark by an individual noted for producing mass amounts of controversial opinions and remarks.
Quite a campaign to stifle "Atlas Shrugged," which as a movie is not at all bad. Watch for my review of the flick next week, as well as another essay,
"Dagny Taggart and Feminism."
(When people behave like the bad-guy characters in Rand's books, it does nothing but bolster her arguments.)

Frank Marcopolos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Why would an attack on Ayn Rand's positive association of individualism (and its consequent expression in the workings of "free market capitalism") with murderous sociopathy be "irrelevant"?

Besides, you talk about "gaming the system," and yet every time someone mentions a small press operating beyond the tendrils of "crony capitalism" you either (a) attack the small press, (b) attack the sort of fiction the small press, (c) evince total ignorance of both the small press and the fiction it publishes, or (d) all three of the above.

How is this "relevant"? Well, for one thing, when you attack the small press and its fiction, you're basically attacking something on the basis of taste. Wouldn't Rand -- casting her in the best possible light -- argue that the taste of the individual is an inviolable right, and that on that basis alone the small press, eschewing the bla bla and bla bla of crony bla bla, should be worthy of admiration?

By the way, all -- when and where did this "pure" form of capitalism instantiate itself? During the pre-industrial, feudal era? In the U.S., when "pure" agricultural capitalism was supported by slave labor and industrial capitalism was supported by unorganized labor working as wage slaves? In the gilded age? Or was "pure" capitalism when organized labor was in its heyday, and the apparently pure machinations of capitalism was hamstrung (undoubtedly so, in Rand's view) by regulations, and occupational health and safety laws, child labor protection, etc.?

Pure capitalism exists offshore, guys -- check the labels of your t-shirts and see which Asian or South Asian country it was manufactured in, and consider the age of the laborer who cut, sewed, or wove it, the number of hours he or she worked, the wages s/he earned for doing so. "Pure" and simple.

Frank Marcopolos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
King said...

You really need to someday distinguish, Mr. Anonymous, between differentiating underground from small press "literary" writing, which I'm guilty of doing, and "attacking" the small press. As you know, my main targets have been the cronyists published by the Big Six.
(I wonder why you're still frantic, when the ULA no longer exists. Still worried?)
Re Capitalism.
Yes, there is a difference between a fair version of capitalism, and monopolistic versions.
Monopolies tend to come about through government-- zoning laws; government contracts, subsidies, and the like. The Bigs can afford stables of lobbyists.
That companies today are allowed to trade with non-capitalist slave economies like China's, with a distinctly UNlevel playing field, isn't an argument against a free and fair market.
In the same way, the North went to war with the South 150 years ago in part because of the problem of dealing with a feudalist slave economy.
This is a huge subject difficult to get into here. I'd suggest, Mr. Anonymous, that you do some reading of the strongest proponents of pure capitalism, namely the so-called Austrian economists. You'll find volumes of arguments addressing these very questions.
Keep in mind, concerning literature, I've done nothing but argue for a level, fair playing field. I've not argued to exclude anyone. Some people tend to think that if you argue against their having 100% of the pie, you're trying to exclude them. This sophistry was used against myself and the ULA many times. See even my last real ULA act, the radio interview I did with WHYY in '07, in which the moderator bizarrely accused me of wanting to exclude Jeffrey Eugenides-- as if I had the power! At the time I was sleeping on someone's couch and quite powerless. My own style of polemical, naturalistic writing, if not completely excluded, is all but.
Keep in mind also that those small press outfits you laud are for the most part nonprofit tax shelters, regulated by the government, and subsist through donations from the affluent. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's not the same who try to survive within the bounds of the market.
I'd argue that NOT existing in the marketplace is ultimately bad for an art-- witness classical music-- but that's a whole other topic.

King said...

(I'd wager that if we knew "Anonymous"'s identity, we'd find he's very similar to the evil cronyists Rand mocks in her books.)

King said...

(I'd also wager that if we knew this person's identity, we'd find he came from the same exploiting class he's talking about.
On the other hand, my people were the very wage slaves he references. My father worked his life away in giant factories, and it's what I began doing out of high school. The changing Detroit economy caused me to change my thinking about a lot of things.
I was told, more than once, as all working people were told in Detroit the last couple decades,
"Change or die."
The businesses and unions themselves didn't take this to heart until it was too late.
I've seen the changes wrought by capitalism in as visceral way as possible. My friends and families-- and myself-- were among the displaced and destroyed.
Yet what's the alternative?
Socialism doesn't work.
The Soviet Union which Ayn Rand so hated-- not without cause-- didn't work.
I could get nostalgic about the union halls my old man would take me to when I was child. To what end?
We're stuck with Capitalism, at least in our lifetimes.
The task is to make it more equitable for everyone.
To cut the special treatment for the privileged.
It's what I've tried doing regarding literature.
Instead of being applauded by the likes of this "unknown" person and his ilk, I've been relentlessly attacked.
This is what anyone should know about such persons:
They are complete and utter frauds.
Which is why, of course, they remain anonymous.

Anonymous said...

"Obviously, I was referring to a theoretical form of pure Capitalism, Mr. Anonymous."

Oh, of course. Theoretical pure free market capitalism, aka "The Good Kind." The bad kind is practiced by the cronies, the insiders -- most of whom of course would have been thoroughly excluded from the upper orders of the previous societal structures I mentioned. Which says something about the nature of capitalism, that these former members of the lower classes, now masters of the universe, failed to endow us with a kinder, gentler capitalism. Wonder why.

Yearning after theoretical forms of purity, of course, is a hallmark of fascist thinking, as is identifying a scapegoat on whose shoulders all blame for the ills of the world can be placed. For some, it's MFAs. For others, Jews.

Frank Marcopolos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
King said...

Hysteria. Hysterical.
Again, typically twisted logic.
If one argues that not ALL writers have MFA's, then suddenly they're being excluded-- or worse.
This distorted thinking, of course, is used to exclude certain writers.
Is Anonymous so incapable of thinking clearly that he believes his own argument?
By the way, historically-- as opposed to hysterically-- fascism was a symbiotic relationship between Big Business and Big Government. The very thing Ayn Rand attacks in her book.

King said...

Let me add that I became disillusioned with the Left for a v ariety of reasons, not least because it's dominated by aristo phonies. Arianna Huffington and her $300 million payoff simply the tip of the iceburg.
The mainstream media is completely fraudulent.
Do you know that worse atrocities have been carried out by the U.S. military in Afghanistan of late? Decapitations, behavior exceeding anything at Abu Ghirab or Gitmo.
Where's the nonstop media outrage?
Ayn Rand was an idealist with a naive belief in what capitalism could achieve. Yet we should never stop fighting for the ideal.
The ideal America, if you will.
Because the ideal is elusive-- possibly unattainable-- doesn't mean you give up.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your John Galt fantasy. Go on strike, withdraw to the wilderness, and deprive the world of the fruit of your mind.

King said...

Or what? Lose my integrity and my soul?

Anonymous said...

Exactly. That's the choice.