George Monbiot on Ayn Rand

You knew that he wasn\’t going to get it quite right, obviously.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States.

Somewhere between 1917 and 1925 the existence of properous Russian families was extinguished.

Rand was born Alisa Zinov\’yevna Rosenbaum (Russian: ????? ?????????? ?????????) on February 2, 1905, to a bourgeois family living in Saint Petersburg. She was the eldest of the three daughters of Zinovy Zakharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum, largely non-observant Jews. Rand\’s father was a successful pharmacist, eventually owning his own pharmacy and the building in which it was located.[4] Rand was twelve at the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917, during which her sympathies were with Alexander Kerensky. Rand\’s family life was disrupted by the rise of the Bolshevik party under Vladimir Lenin. Her father\’s pharmacy was confiscated by the Bolsheviks, and the family fled to the Crimea, which was initially under the control of the White Army during the Russian Civil War. She later recalled that while in high school she determined that she was an atheist and that she valued reason above any other human attribute. After graduating from high school in the Crimea, at 16 Rand returned with her family to Petrograd (the new name for Saint Petersburg), where they faced desperate conditions, on occasion nearly starving.[5][6]

After the Russian Revolution, universities were opened to women, including Jews, allowing Rand to be in the first group of women to enroll at Petrograd State University,[7] where she studied in the department of social pedagogy, majoring in history.[8] At the university she was introduced to the writings of Aristotle and Plato,[9] who would form two of her greatest influences and counter-influences, respectively.[10] A third figure whose philosophical works she studied heavily was Friedrich Nietzsche.[11] Able to read French, German and Russian, Rand also discovered the writers Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Edmond Rostand, and Friedrich Schiller, who became her perennial favorites.[12]

Along with many other \”bourgeois\” students, Rand was purged from the university shortly before graduating. However, after complaints from a group of visiting foreign scientists, many of the purged students were allowed to complete their work and graduate,[13] which Rand did in October 1924.[14]

George again:

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced.

That \”postwar world\” is carrying a lot of weight there, don\’t you think?

Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru\’s philosophy to the letter, cutting taxes for the rich, repealing the laws constraining banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down.

And I\’m afraid that Greenspan never was actually \”in government\”. He was Chair of the CEA under Ford and then Federal Reserve Chairman. The first is an advisory post, the second a banking or monetary one. And he had no control over what tax rates were, Congress is who decides what laws are made or repealed and the Fed isn\’t even the bank regulator….the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, multitudes of State offices etc.

And derivatives trading didn\’t bring the system down either. Mortgages did. Which aren\’t regulated by the Federal Reserve either.

11 comments on “George Monbiot on Ayn Rand

  1. And seeing as Rand loathed Greenspan, even on one occasion tipping a plate of food over his head, I’m not sure she can be properly described as his “guru” either….

  2. Yes. Although if we were going to be making a list of people responsible for the crisis, Alan Greenspan is high up on the list – anyone remember the “Greenspan put”? Overly loose monetary policy designed to prop up asset prices.

  3. It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced.

    So let’s see – Maoism: 40 million dead. Pol Pot’s Communism: maybe 2 million dead.

    Ayn Rand: 0 dead.

    Yeah, I can see why George thinks that Atlas Shrugged is worse than the Killing Fields. Really I can.

  4. If anyone thinks that the world we inhabit now is any way an example of what Ayn Rand’s ideal society would be, they need their heads examining.

  5. You think the people of Cambodia and China were saying, “Well it could be worse, we could be living under objectivism.”

  6. To be absolutely fair, it’s difficult to describe Marx as ‘post war’. Mao and Pol Pot were just learning from the master; while I’m prepared to be charitable and describe what Rand did as ‘philosophy’, their work was just derivative communism.

  7. Andreas Paterson – “Let’s revist that question once some mad fool trys building a nation on objectivist principles.”

    Why? Rand has killed no one. There is no reason to think her followers are even likely to kill anyone. Unlike Marx’s. They are not fighting against reality in the way Marx’s are. People may die but naturally through neglect, not actively through bullets to the back of the head. So it is not worth the time bothering.

    8Adam Bell – “To be absolutely fair, it’s difficult to describe Marx as ‘post war’.”

    Good thing no one was.

    “Mao and Pol Pot were just learning from the master”

    That is highly debatable.

    “while I’m prepared to be charitable and describe what Rand did as ‘philosophy’, their work was just derivative communism.”

    And yet communism it was. And post-war communism at that.

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