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Financization of everything in sight Libertarian Philosophy Deification of market Globalization of Financial Flows Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Neoliberalism credibility trap Greenspan humor Etc

"I baptise you in the name of the Rand, the Fama and the Holy Friedman."

Republican concept of  “small government” is a fake and 100% pure hypocrisy as they don't count the military and police as the part of “the government”. If you do not account for the size of military and intelligence agencies all talk about "small government" is a pure (aka "British elite style") hypocrisy.  There are about 5 million of American which have a security clearance w ith about 1.4 million of those have "top secret" clearance (Security clearances held by millions of Americans ):

Most, but far from all, security clearances are held by government workers. They hold 2,757,333 "confidential/secret" clearances and 791,200 clearances designated as "top secret." Contractors claim 582,524 "confidential" clearances and 483,263 "top-secret" ones. There is another general category of people who hold 167,925 "confidential/secret" clearances and 135,506 top-secret.

It’s hard to believe that conservatism in this country was once identified with an opposition to foreign entanglements and large military establishments. Now both Republican and democratic party both are extremely militaristic and jingoistic. The most recent candidate from Democratic Party -- Hillary Clinton was an unrepentant war hawk, which paradoxically was to the right of Donald Trump -- the candidate from the Republican Party and also far from dove. How you can talk about limiting the size of the government while increasing the size of Pentagon and 18 or so intelligence agencies is an interesting question to answer. The Reagan's agenda of “deregulation” and “privatization” was in essence the same kind of kleptocratic insider dealing that characterized Yeltsin’s Russia.

The hypocrisy that underlays the GOP's 'big government'-bashing has been noted before, but seldom so well explained, as by Dr. Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. Zelizer, author of forthcoming "Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security -- From World War II to the War on Terrorism" and other political science texts, puts it this way in his commentary "GOP's 'small government' talk is hollow" at CNN Politics.com:
After the past eight years in American politics, it is impossible to reconcile current promises by conservatives for small government with the historical record of President Bush's administration. Most experts on the left and right can find one issue upon which to agree: The federal government expanded significantly after 2001 when George W. Bush was in the White House.

The growth did not just take place with national security spending but with domestic programs as well. Even as the administration fought to reduce the cost of certain programs by preventing cost-of-living increases in benefits, in many other areas of policy -- such as Medicare prescription drug benefits, federal education standards and agricultural subsidies -- the federal government expanded by leaps and bounds. And then there are the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The conservative Cato Institute reported in 2005 that total government spending increased by a third during Bush's first term -- "the largest overall increase in inflation-adjusted federal spending since Lyndon B. Johnson."

Zelizer's article also notes the expansion of executive power under Republican rule, hardly commensurate with their advocacy of smaller government.

Fifty years of American history have shown that even the party that traditionally advocates small government on the campaign trail opts for big government when it gets into power. The rhetoric of small government has helped Republicans attract some support in the past, but it is hard to take such rhetoric seriously given the historical record -- and it is a now a question whether this rhetoric is even appealing since many Americans want government to help them cope with the current crisis.

Government-bashing is an ever-present staple of GOP propaganda.

Friedman's argument against social democracy was that it would not do the job -- that you would lose a lot of economic efficiency and some political liberty and in return get no equalization of economic power because the government would redistribute income and wealth the wrong way, and the beneficiaries would be the strong political claimants to governmental largess who would not be those with strong claims to more opportunity.

By the time you have resorted to arguing that "human existence in the shadow of a nanny state doesn't conduce to 'Aristotelian happiness'... because it strips human beings of the deeper sorts of agency and responsibility that ought to be involved in a life well lived..." you have lost the argument completely. And I have not even raised the point that Aristotle thought that Aristotelian happiness was possible only if you yourself owned lots of slaves:

Aristotle: There is in some cases a marked distinction between the two classes, rendering it expedient and right for the one to be slaves and the others to be masters.... The master is not called a master because he has science, but because he is of a certain character.... [T]here may be a science for the master and science for the slave. The science of the slave would be such as the man of Syracuse taught who made money by instructing slaves in their ordinary duties.... But all such branches of knowledge are servile. There is likewise a science of the master... not anything great or wonderful; for the master need only know how to order that which the slave must know how to execute. Hence those who are in a position which places them above toil have stewars who attend to their households while they occupy themselves with philosophy or with politics...

Andrew Sullivan is vulnerable to this slide into apriorism too: "The intervention of a government is like that of a loud telephone ringing in the middle of an engrossing dinner conversation. It is inherently offensive. It commands our attention, when we would much rather be doing something else," (Conservative Soul ch.6). More faithful legators of Burke or Adam Smith would understand the false lure of easy utopias -- this is the "man of system" in his libertarian shape.

The "grounded in greed" counterargument you see in the comment above is every bit as aprioristic. When you get to that point we're just yelling slogans at each other.

There was time when Republicans were a welcomed change from Democratic overuse of government .  As DAVID LEONHARDT noted in NYT on Oct 6, 2009 (Bruce Bartlett’s Argument to Improve His Republican Party)

Successful economic ideas usually end up being taken too far.

Democrats dominated the middle part of the 20th century, thanks in part to their vigorous response to the Great Depression. They used the government to soften the effects of the Depression and to build the modern safety net. But they failed to see the limits of the government’s ability to manage the economy and helped usher in the stagflation of the 1970s.

Ronald Reagan then came to power promising to cut taxes and unleash the forces of the market. And the Democrats spent the next dozen years struggling to absorb the lessons of their failures.

More than a few people believe the Republican Party is in a similar place today.

But, like most poisons, libertarian doctrine is useful only in very small doses and during a limited period of time. The Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in Moral Man & Immoral Society pointed out the blatant hypocrisy inherent in the fiction peddled by the Libertarian-Austrian-Neoliberal axis:

Thus, for instance, a laissez faire economic theory is maintained in an industrial era through the ignorant belief that the general welfare is best served by placing the least possible political restraints upon economic activity. The history of the past hundred years is a refutation of the theory; but it is still maintained, or is dying a too lingering death, particularly in nations as politically incompetent as our own. Its survival is due to the ignorance of those who suffer injustice from the application of this theory to modern industrial life but fail to attribute their difficulties to the social anarchy and political irresponsibility which the theory sanctions. Their ignorance permits the beneficiaries of the present anarchic industrial system to make dishonest use of the waning prestige of laissez faire economics….

When economic power desires to be left alone it uses the philosophy of laissez faire to discourage political restraint upon economic freedom. When it wants to make use of the police power of the state to subdue rebellions and discontent in the ranks of its helots, it justifies the use of political coercion and the resulting suppression of liberties by insisting that peace is more precious than freedom and that its only desire is social peace.

 


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[Sep 02, 2019] Questions Nobody Is Asking About Jeffrey Epstein by Eric Rasmusen

Highly recommended!
While details on Epstein death are not interesting (he ended like a regular pimp) the corruption of high level officials his case revealed in more troubling.
Notable quotes:
"... Epstein was released, and various lawsuits were filed against him and settled out of court, presumably in exchange for silence. The media was quiet or complimentary as Epstein worked his way back into high society. ..."
"... What would I do if I were Epstein? I'd try to get the President, the Attorney-General, or the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to shut down the investigation before it went public. I'd have all my friends and all my money try to pressure them. If it failed and I were arrested, it would be time for the backup plan -- the Deal. I'd try to minimize my prison time, and, just as important, to be put in one of the nicer federal prisons where I could associate with financial wizards and drug lords instead of serial killers, black nationalists, and people with bad breath. ..."
"... What about the powerful people Epstein would turn in to get his deal? They aren't as smart as Epstein, but they would know the Deal was coming -- that Epstein would be quite happy to sacrifice them in exchange for a prison with a slightly better golf course. What could they do? There's only one good option -- to kill Epstein, and do it quickly, before he could start giving information samples to the U. S. Attorney. ..."
"... Trying to kill informers is absolutely routine in the mafia, or indeed, for gangs of any kind. ..."
"... Famous politicians, unlike gangsters, don't have full-time professional hit men on their staffs, but that's just common sense -- politicians rarely need hit men, so it makes more sense to hire them on a piecework basis than as full-time employees. How would they find hit men? You or I wouldn't know how to start, but it would be easy for them. Rich powerful people have bodyguards. Bodyguards are for defense, but the guys who do defense know guys who do offense. And Epstein's friends are professional networkers. One reporter said of Ghislaine Maxwell, "Her Rolodex would blow away almost anyone else's I can think of -- probably even Rupert Murdoch's." They know people who know people. Maybe I'm six degrees of separation from a mafia hit man, but not Ghislaine Maxwell. I bet she knows at least one mafioso personally who knows more than one hit man. ..."
"... Or, if you can hire a New York Times reporter for $30,000 ( as Epstein famously did a couple of years ago), you can spend $200,000 on a competent hit man to make double sure. Government incompetence does not lend support to the suicide theory; quite the opposite. ..."
"... Statutory rape is not a federal crime ..."
"... At any time from 2008 to the present, Florida and New York prosecutors could have gone after Epstein and easily convicted him. The federal nonprosecution agreement did not bind them. And, of course, it is not just Epstein who should have been prosecuted. Other culprits such as Prince Andrew are still at large. ..."
"... Why isn't anybody but Ann Coulter talking about Barry Krischer and Ric Bradshaw, the Florida state prosecutor and sheriff who went easy on Epstein, or the New York City police who let him violate the sex offender regulations? ..."
"... Krischer refused to use the evidence the Palm Beach police gave him except to file a no-jail-time prostitution charge (they eventually went to Acosta, the federal prosecutor, instead, who got a guilty plea with an 18-month sentence). Bradshaw let him spend his days at home instead of at jail. ..."
"... In New York State, the county prosecutor, Cyrus Vance, fought to prevent Epstein from being classified as a Level III sex offender. Once he was, the police didn't enforce the rule that required him to check in every 90 days. ..."
"... Trafficking is a federal offense, so it would have to involve commerce across state lines. It also must involve sale and profit, not just personal pleasure. ..."
"... Here, the publicity and investigative lead is what is most important, because these are reputable and rich offenders for whom publicity is a bigger threat than losing in court. They have very good lawyers, and probably aren't guilty of federal crimes anyway, just state crimes, in corrupt states where they can use clout more effectively. Thus, killing potential informants before they tell the public is more important than killing informants to prevent their testimony at trial, a much more leisurely task. ..."
"... Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is the only government official who is clearly trustworthy, because he could have stopped the 2019 Epstein indictment and he didn't. I don't think Attorney-General Barr could have blocked it, and I don't think President Trump could have except by firing Berman. ..."
"... "It was that heart-wrenching series that caught the attention of Congress. Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, joined with his Democratic colleagues and demanded to know how justice had been so miscarried. ..."
"... President Trump didn't have anything personally to fear from Epstein. He is too canny to have gotten involved with him, and the press has been eagerly at work to find the slightest connection between him and Epstein and have come up dry as far as anything but acquaintanceship. But we must worry about a cover-up anyway, because rich and important people would be willing to pay Trump a lot in money or, more likely, in political support, if he does a cover-up. ..."
"... he sealing was completely illegal, as the appeals court politely but devastatingly noted in 2019, and the documents were released a day or two before Epstein died. Someone should check into Judge Sweet's finance and death. He was an ultra-Establishment figure -- a Yale man, alas, like me, and Taft School -- so he might just have been protecting what he considered good people, but his decision to seal the court records was grossly improper. ..."
"... Did Epstein have any dealings in sex, favors, or investments with any Republican except Wexner? ..."
"... Dershowitz, Mitchell, Clinton, Richardson, Dubin, George Stephanopolous, Lawrence Krauss, Katie Couric, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chelsea Handler, Cyrus Vance, and Woody Allen, are all Democrats. Did Epstein ever make use of Republicans? Don't count Trump, who has not been implicated despite the media's best efforts and was probably not even a Republican back in the 90's. Don't count Ken Starr– he's just one of Epstein's lawyers. Don't count scientists who just took money gifts from him. (By the way, Epstein made very little in the way of political contributions , though that little went mostly to Democrats ( $139,000 vs. $18,000 . I bet he extracted more from politicians than he gave to them. ..."
"... What role did Israeli politician Ehud Barak play in all this? ..."
"... Remember Marc Rich? He was a billionaire who fled the country to avoid a possible 300 years prison term, and was pardoned by Bill Clinton in 2001. Ehud Barak, one of Epstein's friends, was one of the people who asked for Rich to be pardoned . Epstein, his killers, and other rich people know that as a last resort they can flee the country and wait for someone like Clinton to come to office and pardon them. ..."
"... "intelligence" is also the kind of excuse people make up so they don't have to say "political pressure." ..."
"... James Patterson and John Connolly published Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him , and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein . Conchita Sarnoff published TrafficKing: The Jeffrey Epstein Case. I never heard of these before 2019. Did the media bury them? ..."
"... There seems to have been an orchestrated attempt to divert attention to the issue of suicides in prison. Subtle differences in phrasing might help reveal who's been paid off. National Review had an article, "The Conspiracy Theories about Jeffrey Epstein's Death Don't Make Much Sense." The article contains no evidence or argument to support the headline's assertion, just bluster about "madness" and "conspiracy theories". Who else publishes stuff like this? ..."
"... The New York Times was, to its credit, willing to embarrass other publications by 2019. But the Times itself had been part of the cover-up in previous years . Who else was? ..."
"... Not one question involving Maurene Comey, then? She was one of the SDNY prosecutors assigned to this case, and her name has been significantly played down (if at all visible) in the reportage before or after Epstein's death. That she just "happened" to be on this case at all is quite an eyebrow raiser especially with her father under the ongoing "Spygate" investigation ..."
"... As important as it is to go on asking questions about the life and death of Jeffrey Epstein, I have to admit that personally I'm just not interested. I've always found people of his social class to be vaguely repulsive even without the sordid sex allegations. Just their demanding personalities, just the thought of them hanging around in their terrycloth jogging suits, sneering at the world with their irrefrangible arrogance, is enough to make me shudder. I want nothing of their nightmare world; and when they die, I couldn't care less. ..."
"... We are supposed to have faith in this rubbish? The cameras malfunctioned. He didn't have a cellmate. The guards were tired and forced to work overtime. ..."
"... One tiny mention of Jewish magnate Les Wexner but no mention how he & the Bronfmans founded the 'Mega Group' of ultra-Zionist billionaires regularly meeting as to how they could prop up the Jewish state by any & all means, Wexner being the source of many Epstein millions, the original buyer of the NYC mansion he transferred to Epstein etc the excellent Epstein series by Whitney Webb on Mint Press covering all this https://www.mintpressnews.com/author/whitney-webb/ ..."
"... ex-OSS father Donald Barr had written a 'fantasy novel' on sex slavery with scenes of rape of underage teens, 'Space Relations', written whilst Don Barr was headmaster of the Dalton school, which gave Epstein his first job, teaching teens ..."
Sep 02, 2019 | www.unz.com

The Jeffrey Epstein case is notable for the ups and downs in media coverage it's gotten over the years. Everybody, it seems, in New York society knew by 2000 that Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell were corrupting teenage girls, but the press wouldn't cover it. Articles by New York in 2002 and Vanity Fair in 2003 alluded to it gently, while probing Epstein's finances more closely. In 2005, the Palm Beach police investigated. The county prosecutor, Democrat Barry Krischer, wouldn't prosecute for more than prostitution, so they went to the federal prosecutor, Republican Alexander Acosta, and got the FBI involved. Acosta's office prepared an indictment, but before it was filed, he made a deal: Epstein agreed to plead guilty to a state law felony and receive a prison term of 18 months. In exchange, the federal interstate sex trafficking charges would not be prosecuted by Acosta's office. Epstein was officially at the county jail for 13 months, where the county officials under Democratic Sheriff Ric Bradshaw gave him scandalously easy treatment , letting him spend his days outside, and letting him serve a year of probation in place of the last 5 months of his sentence. Acosta's office complained, but it was a county jail, not a federal jail, so he was powerless.

Epstein was released, and various lawsuits were filed against him and settled out of court, presumably in exchange for silence. The media was quiet or complimentary as Epstein worked his way back into high society. Two books were written about the affair, and fell flat. The FBI became interested again around 2011 ( a little known fact ) and maybe things were happening behind the scenes, but the next big event was in 2018 when the Miami Herald published a series of investigative articles rehashing what had happened.

In 2019 federal prosecutors indicted Epstein, he was put in jail, and he mysteriously died. Now, after much complaining in the press about how awful jails are and how many people commit suicide, things are quiet again, at least until the Justice Department and the State of Florida finish their investigation a few years from now. (For details and more links, see " Investigation: Jeffrey Epstein "at Medium.com and " Jeffrey Epstein " at Wikipedia .)

I'm an expert in the field of "game theory", strategic thinking. What would I do if I were Epstein? I'd try to get the President, the Attorney-General, or the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to shut down the investigation before it went public. I'd have all my friends and all my money try to pressure them. If it failed and I were arrested, it would be time for the backup plan -- the Deal. I'd try to minimize my prison time, and, just as important, to be put in one of the nicer federal prisons where I could associate with financial wizards and drug lords instead of serial killers, black nationalists, and people with bad breath.

That's what Epstein would do. What about the powerful people Epstein would turn in to get his deal? They aren't as smart as Epstein, but they would know the Deal was coming -- that Epstein would be quite happy to sacrifice them in exchange for a prison with a slightly better golf course. What could they do? There's only one good option -- to kill Epstein, and do it quickly, before he could start giving information samples to the U. S. Attorney.

Trying to kill informers is absolutely routine in the mafia, or indeed, for gangs of any kind. The reason people call such talk "conspiracy theories" when it comes to Epstein is that his friends are WASPs and Jews, not Italians and Mexicans. But WASPs and Jews are human too. They want to protect themselves. Famous politicians, unlike gangsters, don't have full-time professional hit men on their staffs, but that's just common sense -- politicians rarely need hit men, so it makes more sense to hire them on a piecework basis than as full-time employees. How would they find hit men? You or I wouldn't know how to start, but it would be easy for them. Rich powerful people have bodyguards. Bodyguards are for defense, but the guys who do defense know guys who do offense. And Epstein's friends are professional networkers. One reporter said of Ghislaine Maxwell, "Her Rolodex would blow away almost anyone else's I can think of -- probably even Rupert Murdoch's." They know people who know people. Maybe I'm six degrees of separation from a mafia hit man, but not Ghislaine Maxwell. I bet she knows at least one mafioso personally who knows more than one hit man.

In light of this, it would be very surprising if someone with a spare $50 million to spend to solve the Epstein problem didn't give it a try. A lot of people can be bribed for $50 million. Thus, we should have expected to see bribery attempts. If none were detected, it must have been because prison workers are not reporting they'd been approached.

Some people say that government incompetence is always a better explanation than government malfeasance. That's obviously wrong -- when an undeserving business gets a contract, it's not always because the government official in charge was just not paying attention. I can well believe that prisons often take prisoners off of suicide watch too soon, have guards who go to sleep and falsify records, remove cellmates from prisoners at risk of suicide or murder, let the TV cameras watching their most important prisoners go on the blink, and so forth. But that cuts both ways.

Remember, in the case of Epstein, we'd expect a murder attempt whether the warden of the most important federal jail in the country is competent or not. If the warden is incompetent, we should expect that murder attempt to succeed. Murder becomes all the more more plausible. Instead of spending $50 million to bribe 20 guards and the warden, you just pay some thug $30,000 to walk in past the snoring guards, open the cell door, and strangle the sleeping prisoner, no fancy James Bond necessary. Or, if you can hire a New York Times reporter for $30,000 ( as Epstein famously did a couple of years ago), you can spend $200,000 on a competent hit man to make double sure. Government incompetence does not lend support to the suicide theory; quite the opposite.

Now to my questions.

Why is nobody blaming the Florida and New York state prosecutors for not prosecuting Epstein and others for statutory rape?

Statutory rape is not a federal crime, so it is not something the Justice Dept. is supposed to investigate or prosecute. They are going after things like interstate sex trafficking. Interstate sex trafficking is generally much harder to prove than statutory rape, which is very easy if the victims will testify.

At any time from 2008 to the present, Florida and New York prosecutors could have gone after Epstein and easily convicted him. The federal nonprosecution agreement did not bind them. And, of course, it is not just Epstein who should have been prosecuted. Other culprits such as Prince Andrew are still at large.

Note that if even if the evidence is just the girl's word against Ghislaine Maxwell's or Prince Andrew's, it's still quite possible to get a jury to convict. After all, who would you believe, in a choice between Maxwell, Andrew, and Anyone Else in the World? For an example of what can be done if the government is eager to convict, instead of eager to protect important people, see the 2019 Cardinal Pell case in Australia. He was convicted by the secret testimony of a former choirboy, the only complainant, who claimed Pell had committed indecent acts during a chance encounter after Mass before Pell had even unrobed. Naturally, the only cardinal to be convicted of anything in the Catholic Church scandals is also the one who's done the most to fight corruption. Where there's a will, there's a way to prosecute. It's even easier to convict someone if he's actually guilty.

Why isn't anybody but Ann Coulter talking about Barry Krischer and Ric Bradshaw, the Florida state prosecutor and sheriff who went easy on Epstein, or the New York City police who let him violate the sex offender regulations?

Krischer refused to use the evidence the Palm Beach police gave him except to file a no-jail-time prostitution charge (they eventually went to Acosta, the federal prosecutor, instead, who got a guilty plea with an 18-month sentence). Bradshaw let him spend his days at home instead of at jail.

In New York State, the county prosecutor, Cyrus Vance, fought to prevent Epstein from being classified as a Level III sex offender. Once he was, the police didn't enforce the rule that required him to check in every 90 days.

How easy would it have been to prove in 2016 or 2019 that Epstein and his people were guilty of federal sex trafficking?

Not easy, I should think. It wouldn't be enough to prove that Epstein debauched teenagers. Trafficking is a federal offense, so it would have to involve commerce across state lines. It also must involve sale and profit, not just personal pleasure. The 2019 indictment is weak on this. The "interstate commerce" looks like it's limited to Epstein making phone calls between Florida and New York. This is why I am not completely skeptical when former U.S. Attorney Acosta says that the 2008 nonprosecution deal was reasonable. He had strong evidence the Epstein violated Florida state law -- but that wasn't relevant. He had to prove violations of federal law.

Why didn't Epstein ask the Court, or the Justice Dept., for permission to have an unarmed guard share his cell with him?

Epstein had no chance at bail without bribing the judge, but this request would have been reasonable. That he didn't request a guard is, I think, the strongest evidence that he wanted to die. If he didn't commit suicide himself, he was sure making it easy for someone else to kill him.

Could Epstein have used the safeguard of leaving a trove of photos with a friend or lawyer to be published if he died an unnatural death?

Well, think about it -- Epstein's lawyer was Alan Dershowitz. If he left photos with someone like Dershowitz, that someone could earn a lot more by using the photos for blackmail himself than by dutifully carrying out his perverted customer's instructions. The evidence is just too valuable, and Epstein was someone whose friends weren't the kind of people he could trust. Probably not even his brother.

Who is in danger of dying next?

Prison workers from guard to warden should be told that if they took bribes, their lives are now in danger. Prison guards may not be bright enough to realize this. Anybody who knows anything important about Epstein should be advised to publicize their information immediately. That is the best way to stay alive.

This is not like a typical case where witnesses get killed so they won't testify. It's not like with gangsters. Here, the publicity and investigative lead is what is most important, because these are reputable and rich offenders for whom publicity is a bigger threat than losing in court. They have very good lawyers, and probably aren't guilty of federal crimes anyway, just state crimes, in corrupt states where they can use clout more effectively. Thus, killing potential informants before they tell the public is more important than killing informants to prevent their testimony at trial, a much more leisurely task.

What happened to Epstein's body?

The Justice Dept. had better not have let Epstein's body be cremated. And they'd better give us convincing evidence that it's his body. If I had $100 million to get out of jail with, acquiring a corpse and bribing a few people to switch fingerprints and DNA wouldn't be hard. I find it worrying that the government has not released proof that Epstein is dead or a copy of the autopsy.

Was Epstein's jail really full of mice?

The New York Times says,

"Beyond its isolation, the wing is infested with rodents and cockroaches, and inmates often have to navigate standing water -- as well as urine and fecal matter -- that spills from faulty plumbing, accounts from former inmates and lawyers said. One lawyer said mice often eat his clients' papers."

" Often have to navigate standing water"? "Mice often eat his clients' papers?" Really? I'm skeptical. What do the vermin eat -- do inmates leave Snickers bars open in their cells? Has anyone checked on what the prison conditions really like?

Is it just a coincidence that Epstein made a new will two days before he died?

I can answer this one. Yes, it is coincidence, though it's not a coincidence that he rewrote the will shortly after being denied bail. The will leaves everything to a trust, and it is the trust document (which is confidential), not the will (which is public), that determines who gets the money. Probably the only thing that Epstein changed in his will was the listing of assets, and he probably changed that because he'd just updated his list of assets for the bail hearing anyway, so it was a convenient time to update the will.

Did Epstein's veiled threat against DOJ officials in his bail filing backfire?

Epstein's lawyers wrote in his bail request,

"If the government is correct that the NPA does not, and never did, preclude a prosecution in this district, then the government will likely have to explain why it purposefully delayed a prosecution of someone like Mr. Epstein, who registered as a sex offender 10 years ago and was certainly no stranger to law enforcement. There is no legitimate explanation for the delay."

I see this as a veiled threat. The threat is that Epstein would subpoena people and documents from the Justice Department relevant to the question of why there was a ten-year delay before prosecution, to expose the illegitimate explanation for the delay. Somebody is to blame for that delay, and court-ordered disclosure is a bigger threat than an internal federal investigation.

Who can we trust?

Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is the only government official who is clearly trustworthy, because he could have stopped the 2019 Epstein indictment and he didn't. I don't think Attorney-General Barr could have blocked it, and I don't think President Trump could have except by firing Berman. I do trust Attorney-General Barr, however, from what I've heard of him and because he instantly and publicly said he would have not just the FBI but the Justice Dept. Inspector-General investigate Epstein's death, and he quickly fired the federal prison head honcho. The FBI is untrustworthy, but Inspector-Generals are often honorable.

Someone else who may be a hero in this is Senator Ben Sasse. Vicki Ward writes in the Daily Beast :

"It was that heart-wrenching series that caught the attention of Congress. Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, joined with his Democratic colleagues and demanded to know how justice had been so miscarried.

Given the political sentiment, it's unsurprising that the FBI should feel newly emboldened to investigate Epstein -- basing some of their work on Brown's excellent reporting."

Will President Trump Cover Up Epstein's Death in Exchange for Political Leverage?

President Trump didn't have anything personally to fear from Epstein. He is too canny to have gotten involved with him, and the press has been eagerly at work to find the slightest connection between him and Epstein and have come up dry as far as anything but acquaintanceship. But we must worry about a cover-up anyway, because rich and important people would be willing to pay Trump a lot in money or, more likely, in political support, if he does a cover-up.

Why did Judge Sweet order Epstein documents sealed in 2017. Did he die naturally in 2019?

Judge Robert Sweet in 2017 ordered all documents in an Epstein-related case sealed. He died in May 2019 at age 96, at home in Idaho. The sealing was completely illegal, as the appeals court politely but devastatingly noted in 2019, and the documents were released a day or two before Epstein died. Someone should check into Judge Sweet's finance and death. He was an ultra-Establishment figure -- a Yale man, alas, like me, and Taft School -- so he might just have been protecting what he considered good people, but his decision to seal the court records was grossly improper.

Did Epstein have any dealings in sex, favors, or investments with any Republican except Wexner?

Dershowitz, Mitchell, Clinton, Richardson, Dubin, George Stephanopolous, Lawrence Krauss, Katie Couric, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chelsea Handler, Cyrus Vance, and Woody Allen, are all Democrats. Did Epstein ever make use of Republicans? Don't count Trump, who has not been implicated despite the media's best efforts and was probably not even a Republican back in the 90's. Don't count Ken Starr– he's just one of Epstein's lawyers. Don't count scientists who just took money gifts from him. (By the way, Epstein made very little in the way of political contributions , though that little went mostly to Democrats ( $139,000 vs. $18,000 . I bet he extracted more from politicians than he gave to them.

What role did Israeli politician Ehud Barak play in all this?

Remember Marc Rich? He was a billionaire who fled the country to avoid a possible 300 years prison term, and was pardoned by Bill Clinton in 2001. Ehud Barak, one of Epstein's friends, was one of the people who asked for Rich to be pardoned . Epstein, his killers, and other rich people know that as a last resort they can flee the country and wait for someone like Clinton to come to office and pardon them.

Acosta said that Washington Bush Administration people told him to go easy on Epstein because he was an intelligence source. That is plausible. Epstein had info and blackmailing ability with people like Ehud Barak, leader of Israel's Labor Party. But "intelligence" is also the kind of excuse people make up so they don't have to say "political pressure."

Why did nobody pay attention to the two 2016 books on Epstein?

James Patterson and John Connolly published Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him , and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein . Conchita Sarnoff published TrafficKing: The Jeffrey Epstein Case. I never heard of these before 2019. Did the media bury them?

Which newspapers reported Epstein's death as "suicide" and which as "apparent suicide"?

More generally, which media outlets seem to be trying to brush Epstein's death under the rug? There seems to have been an orchestrated attempt to divert attention to the issue of suicides in prison. Subtle differences in phrasing might help reveal who's been paid off. National Review had an article, "The Conspiracy Theories about Jeffrey Epstein's Death Don't Make Much Sense." The article contains no evidence or argument to support the headline's assertion, just bluster about "madness" and "conspiracy theories". Who else publishes stuff like this?

How much did Epstein corrupt the media from 2008 to 2019?

Even outlets that generally publish good articles must be suspected of corruption. Epstein made an effort to get good publicity. The New York Times wrote,

"The effort led to the publication of articles describing him as a selfless and forward-thinking philanthropist with an interest in science on websites like Forbes, National Review and HuffPost .

All three articles have been removed from their sites in recent days, after inquiries from The New York Times .

The National Review piece, from the same year, called him "a smart businessman" with a "passion for cutting-edge science."

Ms. Galbraith was also a publicist for Mr. Epstein, according to several news releases promoting Mr. Epstein's foundations In the article that appeared on the National Review site, she described him as having "given thoughtfully to countless organizations that help educate underprivileged children."

"We took down the piece, and regret publishing it," Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review since 1997, said in an email. He added that the publication had "had a process in place for a while now to weed out such commercially self-interested pieces from lobbyists and PR flacks.""

The New York Times was, to its credit, willing to embarrass other publications by 2019. But the Times itself had been part of the cover-up in previous years . Who else was?

Eric Rasmusen is an economist who has held an endowed chair at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and visiting positions at Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, the Harvard Economics Department, Chicago's Booth School of Business, Nuffield College/Oxford, and the University of Tokyo Economics Department. He is best known for his book Games and Information. He has published extensively in law and economics, including recent articles on the burakumin outcastes in Japan, the use of game theory in jurisprudence, and quasi-concave functions. The views expressed here are his personal views and are not intended to represent the views of the Kelley School of Business or Indiana University. His vitae is at http://www.rasmusen.org/vita.htm .


Paul.Martin , says: September 2, 2019 at 3:54 am GMT

Not one question involving Maurene Comey, then? She was one of the SDNY prosecutors assigned to this case, and her name has been significantly played down (if at all visible) in the reportage before or after Epstein's death. That she just "happened" to be on this case at all is quite an eyebrow raiser especially with her father under the ongoing "Spygate" investigation

Apparently, there will always be many players on the field, and many ways to do damage control.

utu , says: September 2, 2019 at 4:43 am GMT

How easy would it have been to prove in 2016 or 2019 that Epstein and his people were guilty of federal sex trafficking?

It would be very easy for a motivated prosecutor.

Mann Act: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mann_Act The Mann Act was successfully used to prosecute several Christian preachers in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

So the problem was finding a motivated prosecutor in case of Jewish predator with very likely links to intelligence services of several countries. The motivation was obviously lacking.

Your "expertise" in game theory would be greatly improved if you let yourself consider the Jewish factor.

Intelligent Dasein , says: Website September 2, 2019 at 4:44 am GMT
As important as it is to go on asking questions about the life and death of Jeffrey Epstein, I have to admit that personally I'm just not interested. I've always found people of his social class to be vaguely repulsive even without the sordid sex allegations. Just their demanding personalities, just the thought of them hanging around in their terrycloth jogging suits, sneering at the world with their irrefrangible arrogance, is enough to make me shudder. I want nothing of their nightmare world; and when they die, I couldn't care less.
utu , says: September 2, 2019 at 4:46 am GMT

More generally, which media outlets seem to be trying to brush Epstein's death under the rug?

Not the National Enquirer:

Jeffrey Epstein Murder Cover-up Exposed!
Death Scene Staged to Look Like Suicide
Billionaire's Screams Ignored by Guards!
Fatal Attack Caught on Jail Cameras!
Autopsy is Hiding the Truth!

National Enquirer, Sept 2. 2019
https://reader.magzter.com/preview/7l5c5vd5t28thcmigloxel3670370/367037

Mark James , says: September 2, 2019 at 6:33 am GMT
I don't hold AG Barr in the high regard this piece does. While I'm not suggesting he had anything to do with Epstein's death I do think he's corrupt. I doubt he will do anything that leads to the truth. As for him relieving the warden of his duties, I would hope that was to be expected, wasn't it? I mean he only had two attempts on Epstein's life with the second being a success. Apparently the first didn't jolt the warden into some kind of action as it appears he was guilty of a number of sins including 'Sloth.'

As for the publications that don't like conspiracy theories –like the National Review -- they are a hoot. We are supposed to have faith in this rubbish? The cameras malfunctioned. He didn't have a cellmate. The guards were tired and forced to work overtime. There was no camera specifically in the cell with Epstein.
In the end I think Epstein probably was allowed to kill himself but I'm not confident in that scenario at all. And yes the media should pressure Barr to hav e a look in the cell and see exactly how a suicide attempt might have succeeded or if it was a long-shot at best, given the materiel and conditions.

SafeNow , says: September 2, 2019 at 6:49 am GMT
19. Why is the non-prosecution agreement ambiguous ("globally" binding), when it was written by the best lawyers in the country for a very wealthy client? Was the ambiguity bargained-for? If so, what are the implications?

20. With "globally" still being unresolved (to the bail judge's first-paragraph astonishment), why commit suicide now?

21. The "it was malfeasance" components are specified. For mere malfeasance to have been the cause, all of the components would have to be true; it would be a multiplicative function of the several components. Is no one sufficiently quantitative to estimate the magnitude?

22. What is the best single takeaway phrase that emerges from all of this? My nomination is: "In your face." The brazen, shameless, unprecedented, turning-point, in-your-faceness of it.

sally , says: September 2, 2019 at 7:32 am GMT
ER the answer is easy to you list of questions .. there is no law in the world when violations are not prosecuted and fair open for all to see trials are not held and judges do not deliver the appropriate penalties upon convictions. .. in cases involving the CIA prosecution it is unheard of that a open for all to see trial takes place.

This is why we the governed masses need a parallel government..

such an oversight government would allow to pick out the negligent or wilful misconduct of persons in functional government and prosecute such persons in the independent people's court.. Without a second government to oversee the first government there is no democracy; democracy cannot stand and the governed masses will never see the light of a fair day .. unless the masses have oversight authority on what is to be made into law, and are given without prejudice to their standing in America the right to charge those associated to government with negligent or wilful misconduct.

mypoint

Anonymous [425] Disclaimer , says: Website September 2, 2019 at 7:33 am GMT

https://www.youtube.com/embed/fMG8SVrqstg?feature=oembed

Brabantian , says: September 2, 2019 at 8:31 am GMT
There are big questions this article is not asking either

The words 'Mossad' seems not to appear above, and just a brief mention of 'Israel' with Ehud Barak

One tiny mention of Jewish magnate Les Wexner but no mention how he & the Bronfmans founded the 'Mega Group' of ultra-Zionist billionaires regularly meeting as to how they could prop up the Jewish state by any & all means, Wexner being the source of many Epstein millions, the original buyer of the NYC mansion he transferred to Epstein etc the excellent Epstein series by Whitney Webb on Mint Press covering all this
https://www.mintpressnews.com/author/whitney-webb/

Was escape to freedom & Israe,l the ultimate payoff for Epstein's decades of work for Mossad, grooming and abusing young teens, filmed in flagrante delicto with prominent people for political blackmail?

Is it not likely this was a Mossad jailbreak covered by fake 'suicide', with Epstein alive now, with US gov now also in possession of the assumed Epstein sexual blackmail video tapes?

We have the Epstein 'death in jail' under the US Attorney General Bill Barr, a former CIA officer 1973-77, the CIA supporting him thru night law school, Bill Barr's later law firm Kirkland Ellis representing Epstein

Whose Jewish-born ex-OSS father Donald Barr had written a 'fantasy novel' on sex slavery with scenes of rape of underage teens, 'Space Relations', written whilst Don Barr was headmaster of the Dalton school, which gave Epstein his first job, teaching teens

So would a crypto-Jewish 'former' CIA officer who is now USA Attorney General, possibly help a Mossad political blackmailer escape to Israel after a fake 'jail suicide'?

An intriguing 4chan post a few hours after Epstein's 'body was discovered', says Epstein was put in a wheelchair and driven out of the jail in a van, accompanied by a man in a green military uniform – timestamp is USA Pacific on the screencap apparently, so about 10:44 NYC time Sat.10 Aug

FWIW, drone video of Epstein's Little St James island from Friday 30 August, shows a man who could be Epstein himself, on the left by one vehicle, talking to a black man sitting on a quad all-terrain unit

Close up of Epstein-like man between vehicles, from video note 'pale finger' match-up to archive photo Epstein

Anon [261] Disclaimer , says: September 2, 2019 at 8:34 am GMT
The thing that sticks out for me is that Epstein was caught, charged, and went to jail previously, but he didn't die . The second time, it appears he was murdered. I strongly suspect that the person who murdered Epstein was someone who only met Epstein after 2008, or was someone Epstein only procured for after 2008. Otherwise, this person would have killed Epstein back when Epstein was charged by the cops the first time.

Either that, or the killer is someone who is an opponent of Trump, and this person was genuinely terrified that Trump would pressure the Feds to avoid any deals and to squeeze all the important names out of Epstein and prosecute them, too.

anonymous [340] Disclaimer , says: September 2, 2019 at 8:37 am GMT
The author professes himself "expert in the field of "game theory", strategic thinking," but he doesn't say how his 18 questions were arrived at to the exclusion of hundreds of others. Instead, the column includes several casual assumptions and speculation. For example:

As to this last, isn't "quickly [firing] the federal prison head honcho" consistent with a failure-to-prevent-suicide deflection strategy? And has Mr. Rasmusen not "heard" of the hiring of Mr. Epstein by Mr. Barr's father? Or of the father's own Establishment background?

I hope to be wrong, but my own hunch is that these investigations, like the parallel investigations of the RussiaGate hoax, will leave the elite unscathed. I also hope that in the meantime we see more rigorous columns here than this one.

Miro23 , says: September 2, 2019 at 9:45 am GMT

...Also, subsequently, it should have been a top priority to arrest Ghislaine Maxwell but the government, justice and media lack interest . Apparently, they don't know where she is, and they're not making any special efforts to find out.

Sick of Orcs , says: September 2, 2019 at 9:45 am GMT
Epstein had no "dead man's switch" which would release what he knew to media? C'mon! This is basic Villainy 101.

[Jul 06, 2019] In practice, the USSR behaved exactly like a brutal totalitarian theocracy

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Maher was right. I've been saying for decades -- since Brezhnev was still alive -- that the Soviet Union was a functional theocracy. ..."
"... In practice, the USSR behaved exactly like a brutal totalitarian theocracy would. They had an impersonal god (the theory of history that would lead inevitably to heaven on Earth) which the government treated as the source of their authority and their justification for everything they did in the name of the Revolution. ..."
"... They had a state church (the Communist Party -- no rivals allowed) that you needed to join to get anywhere in society. They had prophets (look what they did with Lenin after his death), saints (heroes of the Revolution), idols, sacred texts that could not be challenged, brutal suppression of other religions, witch hunts for heretics (anyone who opposed the Revolution). ..."
"... So yes: the USSR turned "communism" into their de facto state religion. ..."
Jul 03, 2019 | theamericanconservative.com

Douglas K 3 days ago • edited

To this day, Maher's response still leaves me dumbfounded: "I would say that's a secular religion." Before Douthat could ask what the hell a secular religion is, Maher changed the subject. The meaning of Maher's nonsensical statement was clear: everything Maher doesn't like is religion.

Maher was right. I've been saying for decades -- since Brezhnev was still alive -- that the Soviet Union was a functional theocracy. Sure, they didn't use God or angels or miracles in their rhetoric, but that's just surface trappings.

In practice, the USSR behaved exactly like a brutal totalitarian theocracy would. They had an impersonal god (the theory of history that would lead inevitably to heaven on Earth) which the government treated as the source of their authority and their justification for everything they did in the name of the Revolution.

They had a state church (the Communist Party -- no rivals allowed) that you needed to join to get anywhere in society. They had prophets (look what they did with Lenin after his death), saints (heroes of the Revolution), idols, sacred texts that could not be challenged, brutal suppression of other religions, witch hunts for heretics (anyone who opposed the Revolution).

So yes: the USSR turned "communism" into their de facto state religion. No, they didn't include personified invisible spirits in their ideology. But if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ....

[Jun 30, 2019] Last Men or New Men Nietzsche in the Global Age

With minor corrections
Notable quotes:
"... Insofar as many of us are caught up in a lifestyle of consumption and the cultivation of daily, small pleasures, we cannot view ourselves as unduly heroic or value creating. ..."
"... Even so, it will remain a question for some time yet whether or not those who are pursuing neoliberal dreams are the harbingers of the overman or the last instance of a neurotically self-preoccupied, overly self-satisfied, fantastically egoistic, petty, cowardly, morally small pipsqueak of a human whom Nietzsche assumed would eventually and permanently inherit the earth. ..."
Jun 30, 2019 | dissidentvoice.org

... ... ...

Nietzsche, similar to Tocqueville, Mill, and Mathew Arnold, envisioned a future where people would be culturally, politically, emotionally, and, philosophically castrated. Nietzsche referred to such pitiful creatures as the "last men" or "men without chests".

Individuals purely concerned with their material well being, believing themselves to be perfectly happy in the historically diminished possibilities of their lives. These future beings would be the antithesis to the hero and would experience the current existence of such a person among them as "mad".

In the future there are no great deeds, only herd like obedience. Aldous Huxley wrote an entire book about them: Brave New World .

But what of our world? Are we too "last men" or are we, instead, preparing for the arrival of the overman (Übermensch)? For Nietzsche, man was something that was to be overcome. He was a "rope tied between beast and overman–a rope over an abyss".

... ... ...

Insofar as many of us are caught up in a lifestyle of consumption and the cultivation of daily, small pleasures, we cannot view ourselves as unduly heroic or value creating. On the other hand, technological advances are slowly holding out the promise of physical transformation, of a human being qualitatively different from the one now existing.

Even so, it will remain a question for some time yet whether or not those who are pursuing neoliberal dreams are the harbingers of the overman or the last instance of a neurotically self-preoccupied, overly self-satisfied, fantastically egoistic, petty, cowardly, morally small pipsqueak of a human whom Nietzsche assumed would eventually and permanently inherit the earth.

Dan Corjescu teaches Political Philosophy and Globalization at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Read other articles by Dan .

[Jun 23, 2019] Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek, both worshipped by their Libertarian and conservative followers, and both massive hypocrites.

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

Asquith , 6 Mar 2012 01:05

Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek, both worshipped by their Libertarian and conservative followers, and both massive hypocrites.

http://www.thenation.com/article/163672/charles-koch-friedrich-hayek-use-social-security

Rand used Medicare under her husband's name (to evade being found out), while Hayek took hypocrisy to a whole new level; he not only had state provided healthcare in his native Austria, but also used it in the USA, too, after Charles Koch (who paid Hayek to advocate the abolition of such welfare) urged him to. So, Hayek is a far bigger welfare sponger than the people the Right so loves to deionize. Again, like Rand he did this secretly, never acknowledging that he used the system which he wished to deny to others. That is obscene dishonesty and conceitedness.

Then there's Milton Friedman, who, in the documentary The 1% , declared, with a straight face, that the wealthy could not bribe politicians and thus that there was no corruption in politics!

In the face of such hypocrisy and stupidity one can only assume their followers are egotists who only hear what they want to hear.

KarenInSonoma , 6 Mar 2012 00:49
I can hardly write, I'm so angry! This disgusting, and digustingly influential, woman signed on for Medicare and Social Security? I wish my husband could! He has suffered two massive strokes and is so severely cognitively impaired that I am dreading his return home from the hospital (where he's entitled to be right now because I pay nearly $2,000 a month in "Cobra" healthcare insurance). At 59, he's too young for Medicare, and because we were saving out of modest incomes for our pension-less retirement, we have more than the pitiful $3,000 in the bank that Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) allows. He needs to be watched 24 hours ALL the time. I won't go on; I feel guilty taking time out to read & comment.
HolyInsurgent -> Lollywillowes , 5 Mar 2012 23:27
Fascinating analysis. The fascist/dominatrix, messianic, and stereotype
(of people and the public and private sectors) in the writing dovetail into
a seemless motif. Quite a new perspective on niche-marketing. One can
see the market that the writing is being directed to and ultimately respected
by: people who demand simple solutions for complex problems.

There is the sense of her own triumphalist infallibility in the writing. Positively
creepy and eventually off-putting. Even Nietzsche had a sense of humour.

[Jun 23, 2019] Rand Objectivism become the solid framework around which an entire US conservative culture, from media to religion to education policy, has crystallised.

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

iruka , 5 Mar 2012 22:26

The popularity of Ayn Rand?

When less than half the eligible population votes, the most easily-led, easily-frightened, easily-lied-to segment of the population is an intrinsically much more valuable political asset.

The whole of North American right-wing thought is organised around this concrete, inescapable fact. It's become the solid framework around which an entire conservative culture, from media to religion to education policy, has crystallised.

This is why it really isn't always possible to make a great deal of sense of North American conservative culture -- a lot of it is simply redundant and empty, as inherently meaningless as a flag or national anthem shorn of all their ignoble associations.

The division of labour between leaders hungry to lead and followers desperate to be led is simply that well-entrenched. The meaning of texts and symbols -- arbitrarily and randomly seized upon and misrepresented by third rate intellects with enough of the psychopath in them to seem charismatic to suburban dullards and bigots -- is simply assumed ('x said it, so...'). Then meaning and context are left behind, while the tropes and images survive in the hearts of those for whom they're simply reassuring -- points of reference in a world they've been raised not to understand.

[Jun 23, 2019] Ann Rand book, her philosophy, and the followers are all frauds. In the current USA society the talent is only one and probably not the most important factor in social mobility

And joking aside, was her mind and her thinking not befuddled by the high manic state that results from amphetamine addiction. Puts her theories seriously into question doesn't it.
Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

Pangolinx , 6 Mar 2012 13:07

Millions of copies of Atlas Shrugged are purchased but very few are read and virtually all of them become landfill after a single college semester. Like every other college student I purchased the book because it was required reading and like 98% of U.S. college students I ignored the book and cribbed my assignments out of Cliff Notes.

It's drivel. It's beyond moronic because even the most cursory examination provides examples of inherited wealth and advantage that are almost impossible to overcome by labor and talent alone.

Even the "great" Bill Gates had the almost unique position of access to computers in his teens that most graduate students of the time would have envied and two parents working for IBM that fed him the critical contract that made him rich.

The book, the philosophy, the author, and the followers are all frauds.

Yevgeny , 6 Mar 2012 12:52
She's not even original. Her novella anthem is a complete rip off of a much better book "We" by Zamyatin

[Jun 23, 2019] Could it be that Langley and Jina Haspey are admirers of Ayn Rand?

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

Mendocino , 6 Mar 2012 13:01

Could it be that Langley and Jina Haspey are admirers of Ayn Rand?
tlsmith63 , 6 Mar 2012 12:19
Ayn Rand's philosophy is sick. I would say that it is just as sick as fascism. We on the left must do everything we can to stop the spread of this vile philosophy.

[Jun 23, 2019] People please realize that Randism is the philosophy of the ruling neoliberal elite. Wonder why the world is so fucked up? Psychopaths are in charge.

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

legalhigh , 6 Mar 2012 12:51

People please realize that these are the views of the real ruling elite. Wonder why the world is so fucked up? Psychopaths are in charge.
FarEasterner , 6 Mar 2012 12:31
One has to admire Rand for stating what Western government and large corporations are mafia par excellence but never admit this in public - their philosophy, their creed.

This mafia rules Western world through sham elections, putting copycat parties against each other on the ring while rooting out any viable alternatives. This mafia also wants to dominate the whole world via interventions, sanctions, threats. They diligently check voting track record of third world countries in UN and cruelly punish those who voted independently.

This plutocratic clique has monopolized media, controls largest social networks, through intelligence agencies organize bogus propaganda campaigns against dissidents

JoeStarlin , 6 Mar 2012 12:43
jessthecrip
6 March 2012 4:36PM
If Rand's ideas continue to spread I have little hope for the survival of the human race. Without co-operation our species will die out, probably taking many others with it.

Crap, Rand never proposed that people should not co-operate with each other. Only an absolute fool would say such a thing. Ayn Rand was many things, some of them very nasty indeed, but foolish was most certainly not one of them.

She claimed that people should do what they liked free from force as much as is practical, if that meant freely choosing to co-operate with others for mutual benefit, then so be it. I hope you can see that this is a completely different kettle of fish. Co-operation is indeed what actually happens far more then it does not, even more so when the government is not forcing people to do things by the use of the criminal law.

This must be the case otherwise mankind would have always lived in isolated chaos, the evidence for which has never been found.

Have you ever tried to have sex without co-operating with someone else?

Oh yes, I am sorry, of course you have. Well, try not to do it anywhere near as often, you may go blind, or gain more hairy palms.

[Jun 23, 2019] Rand and Kant

Notable quotes:
"... Kant believed in the absolute wrongness of coercion and deception. Kant believed in never treating people as a means to your end. Kant believed reason and rationality to be the foundation of morality, and morality to apply to all people as rational agents. ..."
Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

Jaiysun44 , 6 Mar 2012 12:15

Rand thought Kant to be "the most evil man in history".

Kant believed in the absolute wrongness of coercion and deception. Kant believed in never treating people as a means to your end. Kant believed reason and rationality to be the foundation of morality, and morality to apply to all people as rational agents.

What's so wrong with that?

Hellzapoppin , 6 Mar 2012 12:12

Kant's idea of obligation is important. Humans have an evolutionary tendency for selfishness; to compete. But that is not to say what is natural is moral.

There is also evidence for an evolutionary tendency to alturism. I'm not sure you need even get as far as Kant, much of what Rand's arguing seems fundamentally unscientific, let alone immoral.

ChristianBenson , 6 Mar 2012 12:07
Should Rand have devoted any time/effort to the study of morality, she may have found the writings of Kant most useful; if not alternative .

Kant's idea of obligation is important. Humans have an evolutionary tendency for selfishness; to compete. But that is not to say what is natural is moral .
Kant argued that a moral act is one where the subject is obliged to do so - not where one does it for personal gain or enjoyment. This is not to say that morality should not be enjoyed per se but one should not solely act on the premise of enjoyment.

The prolific socialist and thinker, George Bernard Shaw, said An Englishman is only moral when he is uncomfortable'

There is some truth in this; Rand's idea that morality is selfishness, virtue is self interest and good is personal accumulation denies the collective nature of humanity.

Man is not an island.

Humanity has an obligation to others. The capitalist crowd purport that one is solely responsible for one's won gain. Not so. We live in a country that provides opportunity, those who succeed by that opportunity have not done so merely off their own back. They have done so in a particular society. You need look no further than the African continent to see that personal/material gain is not subject solely to the individual. The repressive and tyrannous society much of Africa plays down the effort of the individual, regardless of their admirable effort and determination.

I hope Kant may agree with me that Rand, the republicans and the ideological conservatives has an obligation to be quiet and sit down.

[Jun 23, 2019] Ayn Rand was a bitter, unhappy and twisted individual. That so many follow her is testament only to the power of the propaganda machine controlled by the elite.

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

sirmoonface , 6 Mar 2012 09:29

...Ayn Rand was a bitter, unhappy and twisted individual. That so many follow her is testament only to the power of the propaganda machine controlled by the elite.

This says it all:-
"I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and social security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill health."

It would be hard to find a better metaphor for our banking system.

[Jun 23, 2019] Rand as George Monbiot points out lacked subtely, irony and doubt that is essential for philosophical, political and social and economic analysis. Just like the Neo-Cons stilt by GeorgeMonbiot

Notable quotes:
"... In my opinion Ryan had no true understanding of the point of philosophical debate or that a system is meant to have a practical effect on all Society I mean that is the entire point of Plato in his Republic is to build a Just Society. ..."
"... I agree with Epicurus that a philosophy is truly worthless unless it heals your mind and your soul from misconceptions and false beliefs. ..."
Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

GeorgeMonbiot, 6 Mar 2012 09:19

One reason why Ayn Rand may be popular is that unfortunately to an increasing extent in Western philosophy today individualism is necessarily equated with selfishness. This is not axiomatic. Individualism would literally not exist and would be ineffectual in practice without the support of others, whether family and/or friends, education, technology, work and society and the state in general. Rand did not see the contadictions in her own life and not just at the end of it.

Although being Jewish and brought up in anti-Semitic Tsarist Russia (a prejudice not unknown in Bolshevik Russia to) she was allowed on the principle of all individuals have rights and was well off enough to go to university in what was then Petrograd.

Rand supported what was probably the most popular party in Russia, the Social Revolutionaries led by Alexander Kerensky.

If only he had been successful rather than Lenin the hard pressed Russian peoples may have been saved from all sorts of evils and the West too?

On emigrating to America she worked in Hollywood so benefiting from the new technology of film making, the climatic conditions that California provided so necessary for the industry's success, and capitalism that funded it. Capitalism cannot exist without myriad social interactions between individuals; even the self-employed need customers.

Rand as George Monbiot points out lacked subtely, irony and doubt that is essential for philosophical, political and social and economic analysis. Just like the Neo-Cons and their knee jerk opponents today.

epicurean27 , 6 Mar 2012 09:07
Her theories are based in her social class she never truly had to suffer it appears even in Russia. I do not call her a philosopher she is no true philosopher simply a rich person trying to work her views for the betterment of her social class.

I have read many of the Greek thinkers from Plato to Epicetius and no Greek thinker ever removed Ethics entirly from their systems. The Stoics for example taught Phyisics, Logic, and Ethics. Ethics is in fact a major part of Plato, Airstotle and the two other schools of Hellenstic times though the Skepics are an ouliner.

In my opinion Ryan had no true understanding of the point of philosophical debate or that a system is meant to have a practical effect on all Society I mean that is the entire point of Plato in his Republic is to build a Just Society.

I am a life long philosopher in training and I agree with Epicurus that a philosophy is truly worthless unless it heals your mind and your soul from misconceptions and false beliefs.

There was a essay I read at University that Rand makes me think about. It was titled Life Boat Ethics. It was an argument for the rich nations not supporting the poorer nations. The Argument was like this.

1st Principle Our world is limited in Resources.

Prismse A

Imagine all the world is made up of life boats. The rich have the best life boats in the seas of fate. They made them they protect them and improve them and attempt to keep them afloat through stopping infighting on board and keeping steady crew without over crowding.

Primse B

While the poor nations have basic life rafts that are made of the lowest quality and are sinking and leaving their crews and the mercy of nature.
Because of their lack of strict work ethic and willingness to trade long term goas for short term enjoyments and constant infighting for anamialistic lusts they are unwilling to create better life boats like the rich nations and control their populations on broad.

Primse C

Helping the poorer nations might seem face of it to be good but it is really fighting nature and that is truly wrong.

Primse D

The wise course is to allow the poorer nations to sink in th ocean and give the richer and indeed superior peoples more room to sail these harsh seas. To found new boats and new lives for they are the people that matter anyways.

Concluision

Rich nations out to have self interest as their drive for all things and ought to not care about those problems that do no directly effect their personal lives.

This essay I believe has become reality we here in Europe and accross the Sea in America are seeing this logic working out in real life and I believe the Left s no way to stop it at present but we better not stop or we will be the kids on a raft just wanting in a boat for simply a better life.

Philosophy as true power people ought to learn to resepect its force in our world I do.

[Jun 23, 2019] This precisely is where Ayn Rand kicks in.

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

murielbelcher , 6 Mar 2012 08:36

This is where Rand kicks in, I have no interest in your health and nor do I have a responsibility for it no matter what your chosen group of penny loafer-ed box checkers say

I have no interest in purchasing your latest nuclear weapons, defending your country, subsidising your royal family, bailing out your bankers, constructing and maintaining the pavements outside your house, lighting your street, subsidising your MPs, paying for your police call out when you've been burgled, sweeping your streets, subsidising the collection of your rubbish, oh and paying for that fire in your house to be extinguished no matter what your box checkers say. No interest whatsoever. This precisely is where Ayn Rand kicks in.

[Jun 23, 2019] According to Ayn Rand, we are supposed to consider the rich and successful as supreme individualists who are simply the fittest to lead in a dog eat dog world.

Notable quotes:
"... Curious that the Ayn Rand's of this world are always very keen on a socialized police force and armed services. Presumably, they consider these services the first line of defense against the starving mob. ..."
Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

brackley1 , 6 Mar 2012 05:36

Curious that the Ayn Rand's of this world are always very keen on a socialized police force and armed services. Presumably, they consider these services the first line of defense against the starving mob.

According to Ayn Rand, we are supposed to consider the rich and successful as supreme individualists who are simply the fittest to lead in a dog eat dog world.

However, looking at powerful individuals with their soft pudgy faces, their paunchy bodies and carefully groomed hair it is obvious that these people are not born to rule. Curiously, when they are threatened by an outside force, it is never them who serve but the useless poor who are expected to develop a sense of community, quaintly called patriotism, and defend them. Does anyone really imagine that in a true meritocracy these same people would survive and prosper.

[Jun 23, 2019] People who are drawn to Rand are drawn to her because they want to excuse their own selfishness as some sort of ideal.

Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

ArchibaldLeach , 6 Mar 2012 02:39

Rand is the Republican God...well, her and Jesus. They just love her love of selfishness. It's what the GOP thinks makes America great. They talk about individualism, freedom, and so on but it's really all about the rich getting to keep all their money. People who are drawn to Rand are drawn to her because they want to excuse their own selfishness as some sort of ideal.
redshrink , 6 Mar 2012 02:35
To describe Ayn Rand's ideas as philosophy really is gilding a turd. She may have called it "objectivism", but the -ism suggests an intellectual stringency, which it simply lacks. "Atlas Shrugged" is a work of badly written fiction, or propaganda rather, not a philosophical text, but that distinction is easily lost on a gullible American public. While it may now play the role of guiding text of the American right as opposed to Marx' writings for the left, Rand's preposterous ideology is more the intellectual and moral equivalent to "Mein Kampf" than to "Das Kapital". That such a nasty and amoral doctrine should find favour with a nation, which sees itself as "Christian", underlines how hollow that particular brand of Christianity has become.

[Jun 23, 2019] What are the chances that almost one third of Americans have read a book?

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

ohcomeoffit , 6 Mar 2012 08:36

"Almost one third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged"

Subs: surely that should be "... have read about Atlas Shrugged". What are the chances that almost one third of Americans have read a book?

[Jun 23, 2019] Unrestrained selfishness is like allowing people in a room to slash each other's throats-eventually the room ends up full of dead people-forgive the sarcam but is this a fantastic outcome that we should all aspire to!

Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

Aeschyluss48 , 6 Mar 2012 04:32

Policies like this will produce 1 rich person and approximately 999,999,999 poor people-if put into effect, yet remarkably are popular! I can understand millionaires and billionaires liking this philosophy but what about the normal people, the middle-classes who flock to this?

Either they think they are richer than they are-in which case a wake-up call is coming! Or they think they themselves will never need society's safety-net-in which case for many a wake-up call is again coming! Or they think that if they pull with the system one day they too will be rich-sadly becoming rich in Western society (US/UK) is like winning the lottery-"it could be you!"-yes it COULD be you, it probably won't be you, in fact it will almost certainly not be you-but yes we can't rule out the statement "it COULD be you!"-hoping for a 1 in a million, million chance in effect.

Unrestrained selfishness is like allowing people in a room to slash each other's throats-eventually the room ends up full of dead people-forgive the sarcam but is this a fantastic outcome that we should all aspire to! Condemning the majority of society to misery so a very few can live the high-life is no way to run a world-yes it is true that we in the west do this all the time-today countless unseen millions live on less than 2 dollars per day-human life and pecious (literally once in a lifetime) human potential wasted-utterly wasted!

As for the quote that Rand went onto Medicare etc towards the end of her life-if true this is yet another example of something I've often considered to be true-that those of extreme political views (be it right-wing or left-wing) are invariably selfish, egocentric hypocrites-and when you come to see this it is an ugly world! The bank-bail-outs are a prime example-we are preached about "taking responsibility" by our leaders but this only applies to unemployed people and the poor (or "feckless" to use the common parlance)-when very rich bankers mess up as a result of their own poor decisions they are bailed out by the very same government they previously professed to despise-yes that it taking responsibility in action isn't it?, that is being morally virtuous?-pure and utter distilled hypocrisy in action! As for Rand coming from a rich family-is thre anybody of a right ing viewpoin that wasn't born into money-have any of them knon the poverty (at first hand) that they are so quick to describe in unflattering terms!

[Jun 23, 2019] Rand provides the unifying ideology which has "distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose".

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

pretzelberg , 6 Mar 2012 07:49

Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has "distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose".

And don't forget: resentment.

Nietzsche would have had a field day with the superficial likes of Rand.

[Jun 23, 2019] Rand praises her creative geniuses as men who always pay their workers well in order to attract into their employment the best workers in the industry. This idea seems reasonable so why don't the current Randian devotees within capitalist corporations do it?

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

NIViking , 6 Mar 2012 12:05

Although I find the basic Objectivist philosophy objectionable there is one part of Atlas Shrugged that has always puzzled me.

Rand praises her creative geniuses as men who always pay their workers well in order to attract into their employment the best workers in the industry. This idea seems reasonable so why don't the current Randian devotees within capitalist corporations do it?

Anyway, the difference between Rand's capitalism and what we have today is that all her genius's own their own companies whereas that can't be said for most of the CEO s in the modern world. Arguably the working class now includes the highest levels of the boardroom and the directors are as much in thrall to their bosses as are the company cleaners.

Modern capitalism's fatal flaw is the shareholder who, in many cases, doesn't even know which company their investment/pension fund has invested in. We, the public, are the owners of these companies and it is up to us whether we ask our investments to behave as ethical organisations or whether we continue to let them pressure the boards of directors of the world into producing greater and greater returns.

Unless you own no products based on shares then YOU are the new boss and arguably you are worse than the old boss.

[Jun 23, 2019] Rand ideas

Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

wesg , 6 Mar 2012 07:19

Ayn's ideas - imo - were just elitist sentiment that leaned toward fascism, clearly she was watching to many movies (even way back then).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dictator_charlie5.jpg

Thats Chaplin in 'The Great dictator'.

"Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don't hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! " -Chaplin. (entire quote can be found here - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032553/quotes )

[Jun 23, 2019] The central flaw of objectivism - a kind of wishful-thinking moral alchemy where base selfishness somehow turns into something better

Notable quotes:
"... isn't unique to the 'right' by any means. identity politics is riddled with it, although they call it 'empowerment'. ..."
Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

inappropriate , 6 Mar 2012 07:32

The central flaw of objectivism - a kind of wishful-thinking moral alchemy where base selfishness somehow turns into something better - isn't unique to the 'right' by any means. identity politics is riddled with it, although they call it 'empowerment'.

[Jun 23, 2019] The obvious reason why Ann Rand took Social Security under an assumed name is that she knew perfectly well it wouldn't sit with the bollocks about 'rugged individualism' and it will be viewed as ranky hypocrisy.

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

Hellzapoppin , 6 Mar 2012 12:08

have no problem with Rand accepting social security payments, if she was legally entitled to them. That's what they are there for. But I wonder why she chose to do so under an assumed name, if that is correct. If she had wanted to make the point that she was taking back some of her own money, surely that point would have been better made by being open about it.

The obvious reason why she did it under an assumed name is that she knew perfectly well it wouldn't sit with the bollocks about 'rugged individualism', and wouldn't be seen as 'taking back her own money' (what if her medical care amounted to more than the portion of her taxes assigned to medicare?), but as ranky hypocrisy.

Not to mention it would be an intellectualy circle she could never square.

Hellzapoppin , 6 Mar 2012 12:01

Rand was a woman who, on her death bed, praised wealth and independence, while simultaneously begging charity and succor from the state.

That would be a flaw in the woman, not the ideology, lets stick to that eh?

No, absolutely a flaw in in the ideology. If it's creator wasn't prepared to see it through to the then, why think anyone would?

Any ideology that so fundamentally fails to understand human nature, our needs and desires, our flaws, our alturism, and that we're fundamentally social animals, shouldn't even be begun to be taken seriously.

The rank hypocrisy aside, what she did on her death bed was far more rational than the nonsense she'd been preaching her whole life.

Bourdillon , 6 Mar 2012 09:25

I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and social security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill health.

Probably wouldn't change anything. Cameron claimed the same Disability Living Allowance for his son that he is now taking away from disabled and terminally ill people in this country.

Greed is slowing evolution. We are deliberately cultivating a generation whose only purpose is to pay off the debts of the last one. Progress has stopped, so why are we continuing on the same course?

[Jun 23, 2019] Rand's philosophy is the philosophy of the psychopath, but you can see its appeal: it absolves her acolytes of the need to care.

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

iwouldprefernotto , 6 Mar 2012 11:33

Brilliant piece. Rand's philosophy is the philosophy of the psychopath, but you can see its appeal: it absolves her acolytes of the need to care. It must feel tremendously liberating, if you're that way inclined (i.e. a self-proclaimed ubermensch with a serious empathy deficit.)

I remember reading an interview with Harry Stein, author of 'How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy: And Found Inner Peace'. He said that becoming right-wing made him realise that he didn't have to worry about everything constantly. I'm fairly sure that you can be a liberal without perpetually flagellating yourself for the sins of the world.

OldHob -> postcolonial , 6 Mar 2012 11:32
Her writing may as well be used to legitimise the business methods of Montana in Scarface, and a loveley example of the Rand thought processes, here now, in the present day - The Russian version of capitalism......Gangsterism is about right. The morals of the shark tank.
tomcmc , 6 Mar 2012 11:22
"Rand's is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed."

In a nutshell, Mr Monbiot.

Her definitions and descriptions are certainly consistent with a clinical diagnosis of psychopathy.

Chilling to think that some policymakers treat this poison as a bible to inform their world view.

butchluva -> EnglishroG , 6 Mar 2012 11:13
I think she just hated herself and never grew up and projected that onto everyone else. (The teenage boys analogy is apposite.) It is central to right-wing (and ultra-religious) mindsets that everything that happens in the world is somebody else's fault, never theirs, they relinquish any responsibility for or role in any social problems or dynamics, especially and ironically those things to do with the way they are. They are the ultimate victims and this is a kind of psychosocial infantilism. They talk a lot about the need for 'personal responsibility' (in theory) because they don't have any, and act the opposite. They need a spurious 'objectivism' to hide behind, a 'reality' separate from human consciousness (as another contributor correctly identified) because of a crushing insecurity. Their superiority complexes are an ultra transparent and futile warding off of crippling feelings of inferiority. It is an abject, and dangerous state of mind. Fortunately many people who go through this phase grow out of it, they have a dark night of the soul, flashes of insight into themselves, are forced to face their shit and become better people or whatever. People like Ayn Rand, err, don't. Sad.
gixxerman006 -> Kairolocus , 6 Mar 2012 10:56
Opps, I'll try that again....


6 March 2012 1:55PM


Rand was a creep. Her personal life was a train wreck. Described in biographies as cruel, megalomaniacal, ungrateful and tasteless, she surrounded herself with a cult of loyal followers. She made a cuckold of her husband and humiliated him in public when he began suffering from dementia. She was addicted to amphetamines. By all accounts, she was not a very nice person. After William Edward Hickman kidnapped and dismembered a 12-year-old girl, she wrote admiringly of the state of mind that could engage in such an atrocity:

"Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should". Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people."

This echoes almost word for word Rand's later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: ' He was born without the ability to consider others .'"

It's amazing that this drug-addled, adulterous, cruel & utterly graceless individual is held in such regard by a significant chunk of right-wing America.
Her athiesism alone would bar anyone else from a moments consideration nevermind such veneration.

Her appeal it seems to me is in offering superficial answers in an utterly certain way that allows for no question or time spent (in Objectivist terms 'wasted') considering alternates (ie the pure demigogue).
Sadly that sort of rubbish has an appeal to a certain (usually male) adolescent mindset......and in a nation where the media is devoted to treating its populace as if they were late teen/early 20-somethings all their lifes it doesn't surprise me she has a small but noteable following.

Given the way the UK is being pushed to discard our own & embrace American 'pop' culture I wouldn't be surprised to see something similar begin here either.
Sadly.

weathereye -> Kairolocus , 6 Mar 2012 10:49

she wrote admiringly of the state of mind that could engage in such an atrocity:


it is striking that the human population appears to maintain a level of psychopathy, rather as some deleterious genes are persistent despite their selective unfitness for the group and their prtogressive removal and disappearance being advantageous. I guess that rather like e.g. haemophilia, psychopathy needs to be recognised for what it is, and its maladaptiveness treated and contained as well as possible. There is a lot of rather florid social-behavioural/economic-political disorder around at present in a very chaotic human environment. There are plenty more Rands waving their GOP flags right now.

Kairolocus , 6 Mar 2012 08:55
Rand was a creep. Her personal life was a train wreck. Described in biographies as cruel, megalomaniacal, ungrateful and tasteless, she surrounded herself with a cult of loyal followers. She made a cuckold of her husband and humiliated him in public when he began suffering from dementia. She was addicted to amphetamines. By all accounts, she was not a very nice person. After William Edward Hickman kidnapped and dismembered a 12-year-old girl, she wrote admiringly of the state of mind that could engage in such an atrocity:

"Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should". Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people."

This echoes almost word for word Rand's later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: 'He was born without the ability to consider others.'"

Nice!

[Jun 23, 2019] As for Rand the BBC need to repeat Adam Curtis' All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. Brilliant and shocking.

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

miked453 , 6 Mar 2012 08:58

Excellent piece as ever George. The BBC need to repeat Adam Curtis' All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace . Brilliant and shocking.

Irishscouser , 6 Mar 2012 06:10

If you watch Curtis' excellent 'All watched over by Robots of loving grace' you can see how utterly fraudulent Rand comes across, she seemed a bitter, lonely and pathetic creature whose petty and vindictive asides at society was one built on a complete insecurity complex, she was just acting out her own debauched fantasies and she found the right home (the US) to fulfill them.

It says something of a society, and inparticularly the utterly nutty 'Tea Party' to see Rand as champion of 'free will' and ' deregulation' in fact only in the US could her views be actually takens seriously, so much so they named a corporation after her.

Now that's scary!!!

NotWithoutMyMonkey , 6 Mar 2012 05:59

@romantotale17

Frighteningly I suspect that the autocrats-in-planning are reading Kurzweil lately, who combines the New Right with the Randian Silicon Valley cyber-utopianism of which Curtis describes in his doco.

Kurzewil is Rand's John Galt as cyborg.

[Jun 23, 2019] On quality of Rand writings

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

Fortress -> conanthebarbarian , 6 Mar 2012 11:01

She wrote on on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy and aesthetics to name but a few.

Lots of Cif commenters do that every day. Unfortunately, what they write is mostly crap.

[Jun 23, 2019] Rand and sexual selection

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

justaname -> EnglishroG , 6 Mar 2012 13:12

Rant's work has a special appeal to obnoxious teenage boys; friendless and unappreciated, toxic to girls, they take a special comfort in identifying with Rant's socially crippled isolated misunderstood geniuses and enjoy the rape scenes in the novels where the heroine enjoys the whole experience.

Interesting, and I'd say important comments... I think sexual selection is basically the issue. As much as I didn't like the film Happy Go Lucky I thought the Scott character was interesting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40Dw1Q2jvsY
how many 'creeps' are marginalised by crude sexual selection, blatant cruel discrimination, the willful flaunting of what is essentially genetic luck; what better to engender a zero sum sense of a world based on unfairness?

There have been experiments with depressed subordinate monkeys (Alpha males removed), one of which is given a serotonin boosting drug... (like MDMA I think) that monkey quickly rises to alpha male status.

If people, as they're so inclined to do, identify with their sexuality to the exclusion of virtue (after all what better than virtue, a conscience, to pour cold water on casual sex? hence the problem of binge drinking) they will in many cases derive enough narcissistic confidence to be 'successful' - in exactly the way that unscrupulous bankers would wish.

Many of the losers will turn to Rand... and far worse, I fear.

[Jun 23, 2019] The Tea Party loonies are modern ' Randies', and idolize John Galt [hero of Atlas Shrugged ]. Like malaria, this disease is highly resistant to eradication and still kills millions

Notable quotes:
"... In short, according to Mettler, the rich complain about the state while taking most of the benefits that the state provides. ..."
"... The Tea Party loonies are modern ' Randies', and idolize John Galt [hero of Atlas Shrugged ]. Like malaria, this disease is highly resistant to eradication and still kills millions. ..."
"... It proceeds in a more subtle way, showing that the rich and the affluent benefit from the state and benefit even more than the poorer. It's the rich that use the state for their benefit, not the poorer. ..."
"... Ayn Rand's objectivized nonsense, sought to treat humans as objects - see the experience of the farmed animal (similarly prosocial animals). ..."
"... it is a joke to take fools in much as Hubbard did when he created the Scientology cult. ..."
"... Democratic socialism has long been practiced and until the ascent of destructive neo-liberalism, was the pre-eminent political philosophy from 1945. ..."
"... "Capitalists believe economically that people should be free to choose how to use their capital, free movement of money, for both worker and owner." A position as idealistic and impractical as Rand's. It presupposes that both worker and owner as individuals have equal strength in any negotiation. It presupposes that ownership in itself is moral irrespective of how it was obtained. ..."
"... ...if she we're alive she wouldn't last five seconds on CiF. By modern standards, ironically, she's a light weight. ..."
"... Funny how those supporting this sort of 'philosophy' always see a role for a state to have an army and police force to protect their wealth - surely the true believer in Objectivism would not need such things and any person of money who was unable to protect themselves with their own resources would deserve whatever was coming to them? ..."
Mar 08, 2012 | www.theguardian.com
JohannesL -> murielbelcher , 6 Mar 2012 14:27
"Free society" is for these righty-wingers a society with unregulated corporate rule where democratic rule by the people for the people ("government") does not exist.

The slave owners' freedom, in other words.

Kikinaskald , 6 Mar 2012 14:23
In short, according to Mettler, the rich complain about the state while taking most of the benefits that the state provides.
murielbelcher , 6 Mar 2012 14:23
Watching her 1959 interview, I am convinced that her extreme ideology is tangled up with her personal experiences and other psychological factors. She came across as cold and seemingly detached from the humanity around her.

She also appeared entirely untroubled by the fact that others might hold different views, so convinced was she of her rightness.

weathereye , 6 Mar 2012 14:22
The Tea Party loonies are modern ' Randies', and idolize John Galt [hero of Atlas Shrugged ]. Like malaria, this disease is highly resistant to eradication and still kills millions.
Kikinaskald , 6 Mar 2012 14:21
I didn't read the read I mentioned above. According to the book description and an article I read earlier about the book (as far as I remember), the book doesn't show simply that the state is good while the lack of state is bad and so contradict Rand directly.

It proceeds in a more subtle way, showing that the rich and the affluent benefit from the state and benefit even more than the poorer. It's the rich that use the state for their benefit, not the poorer.

This doesn't mean that the absence of a state would be the ideal situation. The rich want a state that works only for their benefit, what is necessary is a state that works for everybody, that diminishes inequality.

gixxerman006 -> EconomicDeterminist , 6 Mar 2012 14:13

EconomicDeterminist 6 March 2012 6:57PM Response to tom1832, 5 March 2012 8:35PM

The left is obsessed with trying to find the intellectual antecedents of the new right. Intellectual?

Indeed. I'm reminded of the outrageously behaved (& therefore isolated by the other kids) sociopathic brat continually being told by its doting mother "there there there, nevermind, don't listen to a word of it, they're only jealous"

Quite how the right-wing imagines anyone on the left does anything but point & laugh at their 'philosophical heroine' (!!?) beggars belief. Rand is simply a damaged intellectual pygmy offering a deeply unoriginal juvenile nonsense so obviously born out of her own refugee experiences.

Mankini -> Spoonface , 6 Mar 2012 14:10
"Rand grew up to be a selfish individualist who claimed both that altruism is harmful, and that human beings are fully rational, with infant and childhood experience exerting no influence on adult behaviour."
Spoonface -> Jaiysun44 , 6 Mar 2012 14:06

I think Rand's addiction to amphetamines over decades is a partial explanation for her sociopathic nature, or perhaps a symptom of it.

Another good explanation is the childhood trauma she experienced when her mother took away her toys for a year (to toughen her up or somesuch). At the end of the year, Rand, still a young child, expected her toys back, only for her mother to tell her that she'd given the toys to the local orphanage. Rand grew up to be a selfish individualist who claimed both that altruism is harmful, and that human beings are fully rational, with infant and childhood experience exerting no influence on adult behaviour.

Not that there's any connection, of course.

TempleCloud -> noiraddict , 6 Mar 2012 14:03

The lies she told came around and bit her in the arse.

A wonderful image. Do you think that's how she met her doom? Cause of death: Bitten to death on the arse by lies.

totemic , 6 Mar 2012 14:02

"The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion to the devaluation of the world of men. Labor produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity -- and does so in the proportion in which it produces commodities generally."

Marx's, Labour Theory of Value. An outstanding contribution to how social relations are corrupted within the social economy, through capitalist exploitation. But, communism meant elite prescription - social tyranny.

Ayn Rand's objectivized nonsense, sought to treat humans as objects - see the experience of the farmed animal (similarly prosocial animals).

All I wish to say is, thanks for the universal principle of human rights. And down with Financialization. Another thought provoking article from Mr Monbiot.

Pragmatism , 6 Mar 2012 14:00
I have not read Rand's work but the impression I get from your account of it is that it is a joke to take fools in much as Hubbard did when he created the Scientology cult.
tsubaki , 6 Mar 2012 13:59
and yet even Ayn Rand didnt think the police should be privatized. Well done, Dave!
paulc156 , 6 Mar 2012 13:57

Almost one third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged

...According to a Gallup poll done at the end of the twentieth century, about one third of Americans believe aliens have visited us. Hmm.

HarryTheHorse -> DaveG333 , 6 Mar 2012 13:57

Fine, I'll call it "Randism" and now she is all fine and Dandy too.

What are you talking about?

Democratic socialism has long been practiced and until the ascent of destructive neo-liberalism, was the pre-eminent political philosophy from 1945.

Randism is atavistic gobbledegook, that has never been implemented. In the degree to which it has influenced far right politicians in the US and UK, it has proved to be wholly negative.

NotWithoutMyMonkey , 6 Mar 2012 13:56
@DaveG333

"Capitalists believe economically that people should be free to choose how to use their capital, free movement of money, for both worker and owner." A position as idealistic and impractical as Rand's. It presupposes that both worker and owner as individuals have equal strength in any negotiation. It presupposes that ownership in itself is moral irrespective of how it was obtained.

TempleCloud -> NotWithoutMyMonkey , 6 Mar 2012 13:55

...if she we're alive she wouldn't last five seconds on CiF. By modern standards, ironically, she's a light weight.

Suraklin , 6 Mar 2012 13:55
Funny how those supporting this sort of 'philosophy' always see a role for a state to have an army and police force to protect their wealth - surely the true believer in Objectivism would not need such things and any person of money who was unable to protect themselves with their own resources would deserve whatever was coming to them?
RobspierreRules -> softMick , 6 Mar 2012 13:46
"Many of us it seems can no longer differentiate between 'right' and 'wrong' or see the importance of defending a sense of common humanity, with those who seek to protect the poor and vulnerable in society scorned and berated,..."

Well said, well written - but in order to turn this around we have to remember we are faced with the dictum "There is no society." The absolute belief in that nihilistic proposition leaves no ground for negotiation. Once again we ask, "What is to be done?"

[Jun 23, 2019] No daring escape - Rand was granted an exit visa in 1925. A staggering act of negligence for which I can never forgive the Soviets.

Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

Gingecat , 6 Mar 2012 13:19

And Ayn didn't dig her way out from underneath the Iron curtain. No daring escape - she was granted an exit visa in 1925.

A staggering act of negligence for which I can never forgive the Soviets.

[Jun 23, 2019] Those who espouse Ayn Rand s values would have been ostracised from groups of our ancestors as parasites.

Notable quotes:
"... When will the Right (especially the American Right) accept that their value system is diametrically opposed to the "Christian values" they apparently espouse. The Tea Party would stone "the Good Samaritan" for helping those in need ..."
"... Personally I think Thornstein Veblens philosophy, in Theory of the Leisure Class, one of the best. ..."
"... Rand's is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. ..."
"... I think the foremost expert on psychopaths today is Dr Robert Hare. He calls them humanity's "intra-species predator"... ..."
"... Psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis debated Nathaniel Branden in New York City in 1967. It was a heated debate. After it, Ellis wrote a short, but excellent book, "Is Objectivism a Religion?" ..."
"... Read, Is Objectivism a Reigion?, and you may understand what you are dealing with. ..."
"... Greenspan who sat at her feet and absorbed Ms. Rand's banal, childish bullshit for many years was the one to repeal the Glasse-Steagal Act at the behest of Citigroup as it later became, which is widely acknowledged as the one event which led to the CDO alphabet soup mania which brought about the credit crunch debacle highlighting the folly of allowing unfetterred greed a la Iron Rand and exposing the nonsense of her capitalist wet dream. ..."
"... Aftrer the crash Greenspan hilariously stated that he had no idea that this could have happened. Who woulda thunk it? He was only the top economist in the US and for decades had preached the Objectivist bullshit only to be shicked when faced with the shitstorm such juvenilia logically pruduces. ..."
"... Atlas Shrugged itself is unreadable (I have heard it described as Mein Kampf written by Barbara Cartland) and it says little for the US that it is such a best seller although I believe the Koch Brothers have bought up millions of copies and made it's study compulsory at colleges they fund. ..."
"... Ayn Rand is the right's Marx? Talk about philosophical degeneration ..."
Mar 08, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

uuuuuuu , 8 Mar 2012 05:43

When will the Right (especially the American Right) accept that their value system is diametrically opposed to the "Christian values" they apparently espouse. The Tea Party would stone "the Good Samaritan" for helping those in need.

Ronald Reagan and Rick Perry have both advocated the abolition of the welfare state.

Humans have evolved as a co-operative species. Those who espouse Ayn Rand's values would have been ostracised from groups of our ancestors as parasites.

wesg -> DanDownes , 8 Mar 2012 05:23
Ayn interview (being the student of 4 years that you are, i assume you have seen this)

Don't let George tell you whats what, listen to the crazy cows own tongue.

JaneBasingstoke , 8 Mar 2012 01:45
Of course in the Douglas Adams take on Atlas Shrugged they all ended up dying from a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSid-p0Xlk0

maybel , 8 Mar 2012 00:16
Personally I think Thornstein Veblens philosophy, in Theory of the Leisure Class, one of the best.
ValueCritic , 7 Mar 2012 16:21
" Rand's is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. "

He is comparing this to Marx's philosophy? The one that lead to the deaths of tens of millions and dozens of failed states and a century of stunted growth? Is that what George Manbiot calls "efforts to make the word a kinder place"? Well maybe we don't need that again. Maybe we don't need your 'kinder' death of tens of millions, George.

But George will not care what we want, if he is a consistent follower of Marx. He will have altruism, the moral sanction to do good stuff to us weather we want it or not. We can see that Rand was right on that count (among others).

NeilBradley , 7 Mar 2012 13:56
Great article George! I noticed that it was titled 'A Manifesto for Psychopaths' on your blog. Have you read Political Ponerology by Andrew Lobaczewski? He was a psychologist in post-war Communist Poland. Himself and some colleagues conducted painstaking research into psychopathy and uncovered some astonishing information which dovetails nicely with your observations.

I think the foremost expert on psychopaths today is Dr Robert Hare. He calls them humanity's "intra-species predator"...

JDReno , 7 Mar 2012 12:05
i will recommend to those who read books, one volume that has been overlooked, which, once read may explain the Ayn Rand movement.

Psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis debated Nathaniel Branden in New York City in 1967. It was a heated debate. After it, Ellis wrote a short, but excellent book,
"Is Objectivism a Religion?"

Dr. Ellis, a humanist was critical of dogmatic religions. He wrote an essay The case against religion, which stated his belief that elements of dogmatic beliefs were not in patient's self interest.

Read, Is Objectivism a Reigion?, and you may understand what you are dealing with.

I should add I met Ayn Rand when she made her pilgrimage to Boston's Ford Hall Forum. Rand, who was about 5'5", was mobbed by a crowd of admirers. I walked in, took her by the hand and moved her out of the building to a waiting limousine. It was an act of unadultrated altruism.

bighouse , 7 Mar 2012 10:39
Hooray for George Non-bio who once again hits the nail on the head. Just a small thing to add.

Greenspan who sat at her feet and absorbed Ms. Rand's banal, childish bullshit for many years was the one to repeal the Glasse-Steagal Act at the behest of Citigroup as it later became, which is widely acknowledged as the one event which led to the CDO alphabet soup mania which brought about the credit crunch debacle highlighting the folly of allowing unfetterred greed a la Iron Rand and exposing the nonsense of her capitalist wet dream.

Aftrer the crash Greenspan hilariously stated that he had no idea that this could have happened. Who woulda thunk it? He was only the top economist in the US and for decades had preached the Objectivist bullshit only to be shicked when faced with the shitstorm such juvenilia logically pruduces.

Atlas Shrugged itself is unreadable (I have heard it described as Mein Kampf written by Barbara Cartland) and it says little for the US that it is such a best seller although I believe the Koch Brothers have bought up millions of copies and made it's study compulsory at colleges they fund.

Thorning , 7 Mar 2012 09:42
Reader's Digest Book of the Month par excellence, popular like Leon Uris' Exodus and also unknown to official intellectuals.

Danish prime minister Fogh Rasmussen rose to general secretary of NATO brought up on its philosophy; it was about the only book they had on the shelf in his modest country home and "everybody in the household had to read it".

Like its obvious parallel - crowleyanism or even satanism - aynrandism is ignored by elite and media; they simply cannot understand it and know nothing about it. So thanks for this.

DeathbyThatcher , 7 Mar 2012 05:11
Ayn Rand is the right's Marx? Talk about philosophical degeneration
pconl , 7 Mar 2012 04:33
We in the UK have our own poundshop version of Ayn Rand in Jeremy Clarkson whose political philosophy is basically that evil is anything that stops him driving, eating, buying or doing whatever the hell he likes and good is anything that enables him to do whatever the hell the he likes whatever the consequences for others.

In various forms a remarkably popular belief set amongst those with higher than median incomes. See recent discussions on domestic servants for proof.

[Jun 23, 2019] Think We Live in Cruel and Ruthless Times 'Mean Girl' Says to Thank Ayn Rand by Jennifer Szalai

Notable quotes:
"... Rand's simplistic reversals -- selfishness is a virtue, altruism is a sin, capitalism is a deeply moral system that allows human freedom to flourish -- have given her work a patina of transgression, making her beloved by those who consider themselves bold, anti-establishment truth tellers even while they cling to the prevailing hierarchical order. Not for nothing does her enormous fan base include Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Tea Partiers, President Trump and innumerable adolescents. ..."
"... Duggan's short book includes a long section on neoliberalism ..."
"... Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University and the author of previous books about gender, sexuality and cultural politics, says that her "weird obsession with Ayn Rand began many years ago." She calls "Atlas Shrugged" "heavy-handed, hectoring, relentless," but allows that it is "also iconoclastic, sometimes surprising and even occasionally funny." ..."
"... What seems to fascinate Duggan most is how Rand -- with her unyielding worldview, her extreme, sweeping statements and her intolerance of dissent -- has somehow managed to be reclaimed by those she so cruelly deplored ..."
"... But this is what happens when you devise a philosophical system in which every human relationship is transactional: Before you know it, you'll get co-opted and commodified too. ..."
"... Duggan paints Rand as cynical and shrewd in some ways, and hapless and naïve in others. In 1947, Rand volunteered to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a friendly witness ..."
"... She developed a debilitating amphetamine habit. Her fictional heroes marched forth and conquered life, but real life kept throwing her for a loop. ..."
"... Rand was most successful as a fantasist and "propagandist," Duggan writes, who provided "templates, plot lines and characters" that gave selfishness an alluring sheen. In Rand's universe, capitalism was glamorous and liberating, with none of the mundane concerns -- haggling over health insurance, paying off student loans, scrambling for child care, managing precarious employment -- that consume so much of everyday American experience. ..."
"... Reading Duggan on Rand's current fans made me think of the 1946 preface to Rand's early novel "Anthem," in which she railed against "the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom." Surveying the wreckage, such people expect "to escape moral responsibility by wailing: 'But I didn't mean this !'" ..."
May 22, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

Books of The Times

'Mean Girl' Says to Thank Ayn Rand Think We Live in Cruel and Ruthless Times?

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Ayn Rand liked to see herself as an ardent custodian of truth, but in her own life she had a hard time abiding too much reality. The critical recognition she craved mostly eluded her -- her best-selling novels "The Fountainhead" (1943) and "Atlas Shrugged" (1957) were lurid, melodramatic, full of implausible characters and turgid harangues -- and as her fame and notoriety grew, she retreated to the safe harbor of her acolytes.

Or presumably safe. As Lisa Duggan explains in "Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed," when Rand's affair with a much younger disciple soured in the late 1960s, her Objectivist movement -- which venerated a single, knowable reality, rationally apprehended by gloriously self-interested individuals -- seemed on the brink of collapse. "Emotion," Duggan writes, "had brought down the house of reason."

It's the kind of strange, glaring paradox that makes Rand a useful emblem for our topsy-turvy moment, Duggan says. Rand's simplistic reversals -- selfishness is a virtue, altruism is a sin, capitalism is a deeply moral system that allows human freedom to flourish -- have given her work a patina of transgression, making her beloved by those who consider themselves bold, anti-establishment truth tellers even while they cling to the prevailing hierarchical order. Not for nothing does her enormous fan base include Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Tea Partiers, President Trump and innumerable adolescents.

But then her ideas are too rigid to be neatly amenable to any real-world programs. Duggan's short book includes a long section on neoliberalism that seems, for a while, to lose sight of Rand. Despite her mentorship of Alan Greenspan, who would eventually become the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Rand was "not exactly a neoliberal herself," Duggan writes. She also refused to support the election of Ronald Reagan, deriding him for succumbing to "the God, family, tradition swamp." She was an atheist and a fierce advocate for abortion rights.

Now, almost four decades after Rand's death in 1982, right-wing nationalism and evangelical Christianity are ascendant at the same time as economic globalization and the erosion of the welfare state. Is there anything that ties this turbulence together? Yes, Duggan says, but it isn't the vaunted rationality that Rand fetishized as much as it is the feelings she validated. "The unifying threads are meanness and greed," Duggan writes of the current moment, "and the spirit of the whole hodgepodge is Ayn Rand."

Rand wasn't an especially sophisticated thinker who delved into primary texts to elaborate her philosophical system; she did, however, have a flair for the dramatic. One of her first jobs after emigrating from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1926 was as a scriptwriter for Cecil B. DeMille. She brought that theatrical sensibility to novels like "The Fountainhead," which, in Duggan's astute appraisal, offers "numerous plot twists but no real surprises." In both "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged," Rand strenuously played to the aspirations and desires of her readers. "Ayn Rand made acquisitive capitalists sexy," Duggan writes. The novels "are conversion machines that run on lust."

As befitting machines, the novels seem less literary than engineered. The Randian heroine is a Mean Girl -- tall, svelte, severe. The Randian hero is a Mean Boy -- tall, muscular, severe. Her villains are short and doughy, cursed with receding chins and dandruff. The undeserving weak exploit the worthy and the strong. The United States she depicts is ahistoric and sanitized for her readers' consumption -- "a clean slate for pure capitalist freedom, with no indigenous people, no slaves, no exploited immigrants or workers in sight," Duggan writes. In "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" there's certainly sex but no pregnancies; nothing that might interfere with all the creative destruction her characters have to do.

Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University and the author of previous books about gender, sexuality and cultural politics, says that her "weird obsession with Ayn Rand began many years ago." She calls "Atlas Shrugged" "heavy-handed, hectoring, relentless," but allows that it is "also iconoclastic, sometimes surprising and even occasionally funny."

What seems to fascinate Duggan most is how Rand -- with her unyielding worldview, her extreme, sweeping statements and her intolerance of dissent -- has somehow managed to be reclaimed by those she so cruelly deplored. Rand described homosexuality as "immoral" and "disgusting," yet her "rages against the strictures of family, church and state appeal to many L.G.B.T.Q. readers." The younger generation of libertarians who approvingly cite Rand today might be surprised to learn that she derided their forebears as "hippies" and, with typical hyperbole, "a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people."

But this is what happens when you devise a philosophical system in which every human relationship is transactional: Before you know it, you'll get co-opted and commodified too.

Duggan paints Rand as cynical and shrewd in some ways, and hapless and naïve in others. In 1947, Rand volunteered to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a friendly witness, delivering histrionic testimony that managed to alienate everyone, suggesting that she "never fully grasped" how Hollywood worked, or how government worked, or how the balance of power worked between the two. She liked to affect a steely, imperious persona, but she was deeply insecure and easily wounded. She developed a debilitating amphetamine habit. Her fictional heroes marched forth and conquered life, but real life kept throwing her for a loop.

Rand was most successful as a fantasist and "propagandist," Duggan writes, who provided "templates, plot lines and characters" that gave selfishness an alluring sheen. In Rand's universe, capitalism was glamorous and liberating, with none of the mundane concerns -- haggling over health insurance, paying off student loans, scrambling for child care, managing precarious employment -- that consume so much of everyday American experience.

Reading Duggan on Rand's current fans made me think of the 1946 preface to Rand's early novel "Anthem," in which she railed against "the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom." Surveying the wreckage, such people expect "to escape moral responsibility by wailing: 'But I didn't mean this !'"

[Jun 23, 2019] How Ayn Rand became the new right's version of Marx by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
George Monbiot is right: Rand was probably a female sociopath...
Notable quotes:
"... Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as "refuse" and "parasites", and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax. ..."
"... Rand's is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. Yet, as Gary Weiss shows in his new book, Ayn Rand Nation, she has become to the new right what Karl Marx once was to the left: a demigod at the head of a chiliastic cult. Almost one third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged, and it now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year. ..."
"... the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading "Who is John Galt?" and "Rand was right". Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has "distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose". She is energetically promoted by the broadcasters Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. She is the guiding spirit of the Republicans in Congress. ..."
"... It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victimhood. She tells them that they are parasitised by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments. ..."
"... the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan , former head of the US Federal Reserve. ..."
"... As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a "superlatively moral system". ..."
"... 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. Much of this is already documented, but Weiss shows that in the US, Greenspan has successfully airbrushed history. ..."
Mar 05, 2012 | www.theguardian.com
Her psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats Comments 1,227 Illustration by Daniel Pudles I t has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand , who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as "refuse" and "parasites", and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt .

The poor die like flies as a result of government programmes and their own sloth and fecklessness. Those who try to help them are gassed. In a notorious passage, she argues that all the passengers in a train filled with poisoned fumes deserved their fate. One, for instance, was a teacher who taught children to be team players; one was a mother married to a civil servant, who cared for her children; one was a housewife "who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing".

Rand's is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. Yet, as Gary Weiss shows in his new book, Ayn Rand Nation, she has become to the new right what Karl Marx once was to the left: a demigod at the head of a chiliastic cult. Almost one third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged, and it now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year.

Ignoring Rand's evangelical atheism, the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading "Who is John Galt?" and "Rand was right". Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has "distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose". She is energetically promoted by the broadcasters Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. She is the guiding spirit of the Republicans in Congress.

Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed, secondhand, by people who have never read it. I believe it is making itself felt on this side of the Atlantic: in the clamorous new demands to remove the 50p tax band for the very rich, for instance; or among the sneering, jeering bloggers who write for the Telegraph and the Spectator, mocking compassion and empathy, attacking efforts to make the word a kinder place.

It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victimhood. She tells them that they are parasitised by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments.

It is harder to see what it gives the ordinary teabaggers, who would suffer grievously from a withdrawal of government. But such is the degree of misinformation which saturates this movement and so prevalent in the US is Willy Loman syndrome (the gulf between reality and expectations) that millions blithely volunteer themselves as billionaires' doormats. I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and social security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill health.

But they have a still more powerful reason to reject her philosophy: as Adam Curtis's BBC documentary showed last year, the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan , former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal . Here, starkly explained, you'll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as "the 'greed' of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking is the unexcelled protector of the consumer". As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a "superlatively moral system".

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. Much of this is already documented, but Weiss shows that in the US, Greenspan has successfully airbrushed history.

Despite the many years he spent at her side, despite his previous admission that it was Rand who persuaded him that "capitalism is not only efficient and practical but also moral", he mentioned her in his memoirs only to suggest that it was a youthful indiscretion – and this, it seems, is now the official version. Weiss presents powerful evidence that even today Greenspan remains her loyal disciple, having renounced his partial admission of failure to Congress.

Saturated in her philosophy, the new right on both sides of the Atlantic continues to demand the rollback of the state, even as the wreckage of that policy lies all around. The poor go down, the ultra-rich survive and prosper. Ayn Rand would have approved.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at www.monbiot.com

[Jun 15, 2019] The Persistent Ghost of Ayn Rand, the Forebear of Zombie Neoliberalism by Masha Gessen

Ayn Rand deserves a good take down, particularly because of the role her acolytes have played and are currently playing in imposing economic policies that are so blatantly spurious and harmful to the public good (yes--there is such a thing as the public good). Think Ryan. Think Greenspan.
Rand's answer to this challenge differs from more mainstream versions of secular humanism because she emphasizes different values which prioritize the self over others. She assumes that observably superior individuals would benefit by acting on these values, and that they should have the freedom to do so because the rest of us benefit indirectly from their best efforts - innovative new architecture, efficient rail service, transformative inventions and so forth. Rand would argue that it provides social advantages which outweigh the costs. She's the awful thombstone to neoliberal policies that undergird our lives. Contemplate that. In horror.
Notable quotes:
"... And, of course, the spirit of Ayn Rand haunts the White House. Many of Donald Trump 's associates, including the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have paid homage to her ideas, and the President himself has praised her novel " The Fountainhead. " (Trump apparently identifies with its architect hero, Howard Roark, who blows up a housing project he has designed for being insufficiently perfect.) ..."
"... Their version of Randism is stripped of all the elements that might account for my inability to throw out those books: the pretense of intellectualism, the militant atheism, and the explicit advocacy of sexual freedom. From all that Rand offered, these men have taken only the worst: the cruelty. They are not even optimistic. They are just plain mean. ..."
Jun 06, 2019 | www.newyorker.com

Rand's novels promised to liberate the reader from everything that he had been taught was right and good. She invited her readers to rejoice in cruelty. Her heroes were superior beings certain of their superiority. They claimed their right to triumph by destroying those who were not as smart, creative, productive, ambitious, physically perfect, selfish, and ruthless as they were. Duggan calls the mood of the books "optimistic cruelty." They are mean, and they have a happy ending -- that is, the superior beings are happy in the end. The novels reverse morality. In them, there is no duty to God or one's fellow-man, only to self. Sex is plentiful, free of consequence, and rough. Money and other good things come to those who take them. Rand's plots legitimize the worst effects of capitalism, creating what Duggan calls "a moral economy of inequality to infuse her softly pornographic romance fiction with the political eros that would captivate a mass readership."

Duggan traces Rand's influence, both direct and indirect, on American politics and culture. Rand's fiction was a vehicle for her philosophy, known as Objectivism, which consecrated an extreme form of laissez-faire capitalism and what she called "rational egoism," or the moral and logical duty of following one's own self-interest. Later in life, Rand promoted Objectivism through nonfiction books, articles, lectures, and courses offered through an institute that she established, called the Foundation for the New Intellectual. She was closely allied with Ludwig von Mises, an economist and historian who helped shape neoliberal thinking. When Rand was actively publishing fiction -- from the nineteen-thirties until 1957, when "Atlas Shrugged" came out -- hers was a marginal political perspective. Critics panned her novels, which gained their immense popularity gradually, by word of mouth. Mid-century American political culture was dominated by New Deal thinking, which prized everything that Rand despised: the welfare state, empathy, interdependence. By the nineteen-eighties, however, neoliberal thinking had come to dominate politics. The economist Alan Greenspan, for example, was a disciple of Rand's who brought her philosophy to his role as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Gerald Ford and, from 1987 until 2006, as the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Duggan doesn't blame Rand for neoliberalism, exactly, but she spotlights the Randian spirit of what she calls the "Neoliberal Theater of Cruelty." This theatre would include players we don't necessarily describe as neoliberal. Paul Ryan, the former House Speaker, is a Rand evangelist who gave out copies of "Atlas Shrugged" as Christmas presents to his staff and said that she "did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism." When the Tea Party came out in force against the Affordable Care Act, in 2009, some of its members carried signs reading "Who Is John Galt?," a reference to "Atlas Shrugged."

Rand's spirit is prominent in Silicon Valley, too: the billionaires Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Travis Kalanick, and others have credited Rand with inspiring them. The image of the American tech entrepreneur could have come from one of her novels. If she were alive today, she would probably adopt the word "disruption."

The collapse of the subprime-mortgage market and the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 should have brought about the death of neoliberalism by making plain the human cost of deregulation and privatization; instead, writes Duggan, "zombie neoliberalism" is now stalking the land.

And, of course, the spirit of Ayn Rand haunts the White House. Many of Donald Trump 's associates, including the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have paid homage to her ideas, and the President himself has praised her novel " The Fountainhead. " (Trump apparently identifies with its architect hero, Howard Roark, who blows up a housing project he has designed for being insufficiently perfect.)

Their version of Randism is stripped of all the elements that might account for my inability to throw out those books: the pretense of intellectualism, the militant atheism, and the explicit advocacy of sexual freedom. From all that Rand offered, these men have taken only the worst: the cruelty. They are not even optimistic. They are just plain mean.

[Jun 14, 2019] Mean Girl Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed by Lisa Duggan

Notable quotes:
"... From the 1980s to 2008, neoliberal politics and policies succeeded in expanding inequality around the world. The political climate Ayn Rand celebrated—the reign of brutal capitalism—intensified. Though Ayn Rand’s popularity took off in the 1940s, her reputation took a dive during the 1960s and ’70s. Then after her death in 1982, during the neoliberal administrations of Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, her star rose once more. (See chapter 4 for a full discussion of the rise of neoliberalism.) ..."
"... During the global economic crisis of 2008 it seemed that the neoliberal order might collapse. It lived on, however, in zombie form as discredited political policies and financial practices were restored. ..."
"... We are in the midst of a major global, political, economic, social, and cultural transition — but we don’t yet know which way we’re headed. The incoherence of the Trump administration is symptomatic of the confusion as politicians and business elites jockey with the Breitbart alt-right forces while conservative evangelical Christians pull strings. The unifying threads are meanness and greed, and the spirit of the whole hodgepodge is Ayn Rand. ..."
"... The current Trump administration is stuffed to the gills with Rand acolytes. Trump himself identifies with Fountainhead character Howard Roark; former secretary of state Rex Tillerson listed Adas Shrugged as his favorite book in a Scouting magazine feature; his replacement Mike Pompeo has been inspired by Rand since his youth. Ayn Rand’s influence is ascendant across broad swaths of our dominant political culture — including among public figures who see her as a key to the Zeitgeist, without having read a worth of her writing.’’ ..."
"... Rand biographer Jennifer Burns asserts simply that Ayn Rand's fiction is “the gateway drug” to right-wing politics in the United States — although her influence extends well beyond the right wing ..."
"... The resulting Randian sense of life might be called “optimistic cruelty.” Optimistic cruelty is the sense of life for the age of greed. ..."
"... The Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged fabricate history and romanticize violence and domination in ways that reflect, reshape, and reproduce narratives of European superiority' and American virtue. ..."
"... It is not an accident that the novels’ fans, though gender mixed, are overwhelmingly white Americans of the professional, managerial, creative, and business classes." ..."
"... Does the pervasive cruelty of today's ruling classes shock you? Or, at least give you pause from time to time? Are you surprised by the fact that our elected leaders seem to despise people who struggle, people whose lives are not cushioned and shaped by inherited wealth, people who must work hard at many jobs in order to scrape by? If these or any of a number of other questions about the social proclivities of our contemporary ruling class detain you for just two seconds, this is the book for you. ..."
"... As Duggan makes clear, Rand's influence is not just that she offered a programmatic for unregulated capitalism, but that she offered an emotional template for "optimistic cruelty" that has extended far beyond its libertarian confines. Mean Girl is a fun, worthwhile read! ..."
"... Her work circulated endlessly in those circles of the Goldwater-ite right. I have changed over many years, and my own life experiences have led me to reject the casual cruelty and vicious supremacist bent of Rand's beliefs. ..."
"... In fact, though her views are deeply-seated, Rand is, at heart, a confidence artist, appealing only to narrow self-interest at the expense of the well-being of whole societies. ..."
Jun 14, 2019 | www.amazon.com

From the Introduction

... ... ...

Mean Girls, which was based on interviews with high school girls conducted by Rosalind Wiseman for her 2002 book Queen Bees and War/tubes, reflects the emotional atmosphere of the age of the Plastics (as the most popular girls at Actional North Shore High are called), as well as the era of Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, whose motto is “Greed is Good.”1 The culture of greed is the hallmark of the neoliberal era, the period beginning in the 1970s when the protections of the U.S. and European welfare states, and the autonomy of postcolonial states around the world, came under attack. Advocates of neoliberalism worked to reshape global capitalism by freeing transnational corporations from restrictive forms of state regulation, stripping away government efforts to redistribute wealth and provide public services, and emphasizing individual responsibility over social concern.

From the 1980s to 2008, neoliberal politics and policies succeeded in expanding inequality around the world. The political climate Ayn Rand celebrated—the reign of brutal capitalism—intensified. Though Ayn Rand’s popularity took off in the 1940s, her reputation took a dive during the 1960s and ’70s. Then after her death in 1982, during the neoliberal administrations of Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, her star rose once more. (See chapter 4 for a full discussion of the rise of neoliberalism.)

During the global economic crisis of 2008 it seemed that the neoliberal order might collapse. It lived on, however, in zombie form as discredited political policies and financial practices were restored. But neoliberal capitalism has always been contested, and competing and conflicting political ideas and organizations proliferated and intensified after 2008 as well.

Protest politics blossomed on the left with Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in the United States, and with the Arab Spring, and other mobilizations around the world. Anti-neoliberal electoral efforts, like the Bernie Sanders campaign for the U.S. presidency, generated excitement as well.

But protest and organizing also expanded on the political right, with reactionary populist, racial nationalist, and protofascist gains in such countries as India, the Philippines, Russia, Hungary, and the United States rapidly proliferating. Between these far-right formations on the one side and persistent zombie neoliberalism on the other, operating sometimes at odds and sometimes in cahoots, the Season of Mean is truly upon us.

We are in the midst of a major global, political, economic, social, and cultural transition — but we don’t yet know which way we’re headed. The incoherence of the Trump administration is symptomatic of the confusion as politicians and business elites jockey with the Breitbart alt-right forces while conservative evangelical Christians pull strings. The unifying threads are meanness and greed, and the spirit of the whole hodgepodge is Ayn Rand.

Rand’s ideas are not the key to her influence. Her writing does support the corrosive capitalism at the heart of neoliberalism, though few movers and shakers actually read any of her nonfiction. Her two blockbuster novels, 'The Fountainpen and Atlas Shrugged, are at the heart of her incalculable impact. Many politicians and government officials going back decades have cited Rand as a formative influence—particularly finance guru and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who was a member of Rand's inner circle, and Ronald Reagan, the U.S. president most identified with the national embrace of neoliberal policies.

Major figures in business and finance are or have been Rand fans: Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Peter Thiel (Paypal), Steve Jobs (Apple), John Mackey (Whole Foods), Mark Cuban (NBA), John Allison (BB&T Banking Corporation), Travis Kalanik (Uber), Jelf Bezos (Amazon), ad infinitum.

There are also large clusters of enthusiasts for Rand’s novels in the entertainment industry, from the 1940s to the present—from Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and Raquel Welch to Jerry Lewis, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Rob Lowe, Jim Carrey, Sandra Bullock, Sharon Stone, Ashley Judd, Eva Mendes, and many more.

The current Trump administration is stuffed to the gills with Rand acolytes. Trump himself identifies with Fountainhead character Howard Roark; former secretary of state Rex Tillerson listed Adas Shrugged as his favorite book in a Scouting magazine feature; his replacement Mike Pompeo has been inspired by Rand since his youth. Ayn Rand’s influence is ascendant across broad swaths of our dominant political culture — including among public figures who see her as a key to the Zeitgeist, without having read a worth of her writing.’’

But beyond the famous or powerful fans, the novels have had a wide popular impact as bestsellers since publication. Along with Rand’s nonfiction, they form the core texts for a political/ philosophical movement: Objectivism. There are several U.S.- based Objectivist organizations and innumerable clubs, reading groups, and social circles. A 1991 survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that only the Bible had influenced readers more than Atlas Shrugged, while a 1998 Modern Library poll listed The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as the two most revered novels in English.

Atlas Shrugged in particular skyrocketed in popularity in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. The U.S. Tea Party movement, founded in 2009, featured numerous Ayn Rand—based signs and slogans, especially the opening line of Atlas Shrugged: “Who is John Galt?” Republican pundit David Frum claimed that the Tea Party was reinventing the GOP as “the party of Ayn Rand.” During 2009 as well, sales of Atlas Shrugged tripled, and GQ_magazine called Rand the year’s most influential author. A 2010 Zogby poll found that 29 percent of respondents had read Atlas Shrugged, and half of those readers said it had affected their political and ethical thinking.

In 2018, a business school teacher writing in Forbes magazine recommended repeat readings: “Recent events — the bizarro circus that is the 2016 election, the disintegration of Venezuela, and so on make me wonder if a lot of this could have been avoided bad we taken Atlas Shrugged's message to heart. It is a book that is worth re-reading every few years.”3

Rand biographer Jennifer Burns asserts simply that Ayn Rand's fiction is “the gateway drug” to right-wing politics in the United States — although her influence extends well beyond the right wing.4

But how can the work of this one novelist (also an essayist, playwright, and philosopher), however influential, be a significant source of insight into the rise of a culture of greed? In a word: sex. Ayn Rand made acquisitive capitalists sexy. She launched thousands of teenage libidos into the world of reactionary politics on a wave of quivering excitement. This sexiness extends beyond romance to infuse the creative aspirations, inventiveness, and determination of her heroes with erotic energy, embedded in what Rand called her “sense of life.” Analogous to what Raymond Williams has called a “structure of feeling,” Rand’s sense of life combines the libido-infused desire for heroic individual achievement with contempt for social inferiors and indifference to their plight.5

Lauren Berlant has called the structure of feeling, or emotional situation, of those who struggle for a good life under neoliberal conditions “cruel optimism”—the complex of feelings necessary to keep plugging away hopefully despite setbacks and losses.'’ Rand's contrasting sense of life applies to those whose fantasies of success and domination include no doubt or guilt. The feelings of aspiration and glee that enliven Rand’s novels combine with contempt for and indifference to others. The resulting Randian sense of life might be called “optimistic cruelty.” Optimistic cruelty is the sense of life for the age of greed.

Ayn Rand’s optimistic cruelty appeals broadly and deeply through its circulation of familiar narratives: the story of “civilizational” progress, die belief in American exceptionalism, and a commitment to capitalist freedom.

Her novels engage fantasies of European imperial domination conceived as technological and cultural advancement, rather than as violent conquest. America is imagined as a clean slate for pure capitalist freedom, with no indigenous people, no slaves, no exploited immigrants or workers in sight. The Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged fabricate history and romanticize violence and domination in ways that reflect, reshape, and reproduce narratives of European superiority' and American virtue.

Their logic also depends on a hierarchy of value based on radicalized beauty and physical capacity — perceived ugliness or disability' are equated with pronounced worthlessness and incompetence.

Through the forms of romance and melodrama, Rand novels extrapolate the story of racial capitalism as a story of righteous passion and noble virtue. They retell The Birth of a Ntation through the lens of industrial capitalism (see chapter 2). They solicit positive identification with winners, with dominant historical forces. It is not an accident that the novels’ fans, though gender mixed, are overwhelmingly white Americans of the professional, managerial, creative, and business classes."


aslan , June 1, 2019

devastating account of the ethos that shapes contemporary America

Ayn Rand is a singular influence on American political thought, and this book brilliantly unfolds how Rand gave voice to the ethos that shapes contemporary conservatism. Duggan -- whose equally insightful earlier book Twilight of Equality offered an analysis of neoliberalism and showed how it is both a distortion and continuation of classical liberalism -- here extends the analysis of American market mania by showing how an anti-welfare state ethos took root as a "structure of feeling" in American culture, elevating the individual over the collective and promoting a culture of inequality as itself a moral virtue.

Although reviled by the right-wing press (she should wear this as a badge of honor), Duggan is the most astute guide one could hope for through this devastating history of our recent past, and the book helps explain how we ended up where we are, where far-right, racist nationalism colludes (paradoxically) with libertarianism, an ideology of extreme individualism and (unlikely bed fellows, one might have thought) Silicon Valley entrepreneurship.

This short, accessible book is essential reading for everyone who wants to understand the contemporary United States.

Wreck2 , June 1, 2019
contemporary cruelty

Does the pervasive cruelty of today's ruling classes shock you? Or, at least give you pause from time to time? Are you surprised by the fact that our elected leaders seem to despise people who struggle, people whose lives are not cushioned and shaped by inherited wealth, people who must work hard at many jobs in order to scrape by? If these or any of a number of other questions about the social proclivities of our contemporary ruling class detain you for just two seconds, this is the book for you.

Writing with wit, rigor, and vigor, Lisa Duggan explains how Ayn Rand, the "mean girl," has captured the minds and snatched the bodies of so very many, and has rendered them immune to feelings of shared humanity with those whose fortunes are not as rosy as their own. An indispensable work, a short read that leaves a long memory.

kerwynk , June 2, 2019
Valuable and insightful commentary on Rand and Rand's influence on today's world

Mean Girl offers not only a biographical account of Rand (including the fact that she modeled one of her key heroes on a serial killer), but describes Rand's influence on neoliberal thinking more generally.

As Duggan makes clear, Rand's influence is not just that she offered a programmatic for unregulated capitalism, but that she offered an emotional template for "optimistic cruelty" that has extended far beyond its libertarian confines. Mean Girl is a fun, worthwhile read!

Sister, June 3, 2019

Superb poitical and cultural exploration of Rand's influence

Lisa Duggan's concise but substantive look at the political and cultural influence of Ayn Rand is stunning. I feel like I've been waiting most of a lifetime for a book that is as wonderfully readable as it is insightful. Many who write about Rand reduce her to a caricature hero or demon without taking her, and the history and choices that produced her seriously as a subject of cultural inquiry. I am one of those people who first encountered Rand's books - novels, but also some nonfiction and her play, "The Night of January 16th," in which audience members were selected as jurors – as a teenager.

Under the thrall of some right-wing locals, I was so drawn to Rand's larger-than-life themes, the crude polarization of "individualism" and "conformity," the admonition to selfishness as a moral virtue, her reductive dismissal of the public good as "collectivism."

Her work circulated endlessly in those circles of the Goldwater-ite right. I have changed over many years, and my own life experiences have led me to reject the casual cruelty and vicious supremacist bent of Rand's beliefs.

But over those many years, the coterie of Rand true believers has kept the faith and expanded. One of the things I value about Duggan's compelling account is her willingness to take seriously the far reach of Rand's indifference to human suffering even as she strips away the veneer that suggests Rand's beliefs were deep.

In fact, though her views are deeply-seated, Rand is, at heart, a confidence artist, appealing only to narrow self-interest at the expense of the well-being of whole societies.

I learned that the hard way, but I learned it. Now I am recommending Duggan's wise book to others who seek to understand today's cultural and political moment in the United States and the rise of an ethic of indifference to anybody but the already affluent. Duggan is comfortable with complexity; most Randian champions or detractors are not.

[May 31, 2018] Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent's Stealth Takeover of America by Lynn Parramore

Highly recommended!
This looks like Ann Rand philosophy: "The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged "prey" of "parasites" and "predators" out to fleece them."
Notable quotes:
"... By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
"... The Limits of Liberty ..."
"... Property as a Guarantor of Liberty ..."
"... Brown v. Board of Education ..."
"... Calhoun, called the "Marx of the Master Class" by historian Richard Hofstadter, saw himself and his fellow southern oligarchs as victims of the majority. Therefore, as MacLean explains, he sought to create "constitutional gadgets" to constrict the operations of government ..."
"... She argues out that unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability. ..."
"... Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions -- all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge. ..."
"... MacLean observes that the Virginia school, as Buchanan's brand of economic and political thinking is known, is a kind of cousin to the better-known, market-oriented Chicago and Austrian schools -- proponents of all three were members of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international neoliberal organization which included Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. But the Virginia school's focus and career missions were distinct. In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), MacLean described Friedman and Buchanan as yin and yang: "Friedman was this genial, personable character who loved to be in the limelight and made a sunny case for the free market and the freedom to choose and so forth. Buchanan was the dark side of this: he thought, ok, fine, they can make a case for the free market, but everybody knows that free markets have externalities and other problems. So he wanted to keep people from believing that government could be the alternative to those problems." ..."
"... Buchanan's school focused on public choice theory, later adding constitutional economics and the new field of law and economics to its core research and advocacy. The economist saw that his vision would never come to fruition by focusing on who rules. It was much better to focus on the rules themselves , and that required a "constitutional revolution." ..."
"... MacLean describes how the economist developed a grand project to train operatives to staff institutions funded by like-minded tycoons, most significantly Charles Koch, who became interested in his work in the '70s and sought the economist's input in promoting "Austrian economics" in the U.S. and in advising the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. ..."
"... With Koch's money and enthusiasm, Buchanan's academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan's ideas -- transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents -- could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a "revolution" in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable. ..."
"... At the 1997 fiftieth anniversary of the Mont Pelerin Society, MacLean recounts that Buchanan and his associate Henry Manne, a founding theorist of libertarian economic approaches to law, focused on such affronts to capitalists as environmentalism and public health and welfare, expressing eagerness to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as well as kill public education because it tended to foster community values. Feminism had to go, too: the scholars considered it a socialist project. ..."
"... To put the success into perspective, MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. "40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary," writes MacLean, "had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum." ..."
"... Buchanan's role in the disastrous Pinochet government of Chile has been underestimated partly because unlike Milton Friedman, who advertised his activities, Buchanan had the shrewdness to keep his involvement quiet. With his guidance, the military junta deployed public choice economics in the creation of a new constitution, which required balanced budgets and thereby prevented the government from spending to meet public needs. Supermajorities would be required for any changes of substance, leaving the public little recourse to challenge programs like the privatization of social security. ..."
"... The Limits of Liberty ..."
"... MacLean is not the only scholar to sound the alarm that the country is experiencing a hostile takeover that is well on its way to radically, and perhaps permanently, altering the society. Peter Temin, former head of the MIT economics department, INET grantee, and author of The Vanishing Middle Class ..."
"... The One Percent Solution ..."
"... She observes, for example, that many liberals have missed the point of strategies like privatization. Efforts to "reform" public education and Social Security are not just about a preference for the private sector over the public sector, she argues. You can wrap your head around, even if you don't agree. Instead, MacLean contents, the goal of these strategies is to radically alter power relations, weakening pro-public forces and enhancing the lobbying power and commitment of the corporations that take over public services and resources, thus advancing the plans to dismantle democracy and make way for a return to oligarchy. The majority will be held captive so that the wealthy can finally be free to do as they please, no matter how destructive. ..."
"... MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers "to control the resultant popular anger." The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right's aggressive use of state power. ..."
"... They could, and have ..."
"... Getting it done ..."
"... Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative ..."
May 31, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
May 31, 2018 By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual lynchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean

Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America's burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you've taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.

The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.

That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains , a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump's chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.

An Unlocked Door in Virginia

MacLean's book reads like an intellectual detective story. In 2010, she moved to North Carolina, where a Tea Party-dominated Republican Party got control of both houses of the state legislature and began pushing through a radical program to suppress voter rights, decimate public services, and slash taxes on the wealthy that shocked a state long a beacon of southern moderation. Up to this point, the figure of James Buchanan flickered in her peripheral vision, but as she began to study his work closely, the events in North Carolina and also Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker was leading assaults on collective bargaining rights, shifted her focus.

Could it be that this relatively obscure economist's distinctive thought was being put forcefully into action in real time?

MacLean could not gain access to Buchanan's papers to test her hypothesis until after his death in January 2013. That year, just as the government was being shut down by Ted Cruz & Co., she traveled to George Mason University in Virginia, where the economist's papers lay willy-nilly across the offices of a building now abandoned by the Koch-funded faculty to a new, fancier center in Arlington.

MacLean was stunned. The archive of the man who had sought to stay under the radar had been left totally unsorted and unguarded. The historian plunged in, and she read through boxes and drawers full of papers that included personal correspondence between Buchanan and billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. That's when she had an amazing realization: here was the intellectual lynchpin of a stealth revolution currently in progress.

A Theory of Property Supremacy

Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University who later attended the University of Chicago for graduate study, started out as a conventional public finance economist. But he grew frustrated by the way in which economic theorists ignored the political process.

Buchanan began working on a description of power that started out as a critique of how institutions functioned in the relatively liberal 1950s and '60s, a time when economist John Maynard Keynes's ideas about the need for government intervention in markets to protect people from flaws so clearly demonstrated in the Great Depression held sway. Buchanan, MacLean notes, was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?

In thinking about how people make political decisions and choices, Buchanan concluded that you could only understand them as individuals seeking personal advantage. In interview cited by MacLean, the economist observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly assumed that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. Buchanan vehemently disagreed -- that was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to "tear down." His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as "public choice."

Buchanan's view of human nature was distinctly dismal. Adam Smith saw human beings as self-interested and hungry for personal power and material comfort, but he also acknowledged social instincts like compassion and fairness. Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest. Crediting people with altruism or a desire to serve others was "romantic" fantasy: politicians and government workers were out for themselves, and so, for that matter, were teachers, doctors, and civil rights activists. They wanted to control others and wrest away their resources: "Each person seeks mastery over a world of slaves," he wrote in his 1975 book, The Limits of Liberty .

Does that sound like your kindergarten teacher? It did to Buchanan.

The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged "prey" of "parasites" and "predators" out to fleece them.

In 1965 the economist launched a center dedicated to his theories at the University of Virginia, which later relocated to George Mason University. MacLean describes how he trained thinkers to push back against the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate America's public schools and to challenge the constitutional perspectives and federal policy that enabled it. She notes that he took care to use economic and political precepts, rather than overtly racial arguments, to make his case, which nonetheless gave cover to racists who knew that spelling out their prejudices would alienate the country.

All the while, a ghost hovered in the background -- that of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, senator and seventh vice president of the United States.

Calhoun was an intellectual and political powerhouse in the South from the 1820s until his death in 1850, expending his formidable energy to defend slavery. Calhoun, called the "Marx of the Master Class" by historian Richard Hofstadter, saw himself and his fellow southern oligarchs as victims of the majority. Therefore, as MacLean explains, he sought to create "constitutional gadgets" to constrict the operations of government.

Economists Tyler Cowen and Alexander Tabarrok, both of George Mason University, have noted the two men's affinities, heralding Calhoun "a precursor of modern public choice theory" who "anticipates" Buchanan's thinking. MacLean observes that both focused on how democracy constrains property owners and aimed for ways to restrict the latitude of voters. She argues out that unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability.

Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions -- all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.

Gravy Train to Oligarchy

MacLean explains that Virginia's white elite and the pro-corporate president of the University of Virginia, Colgate Darden, who had married into the DuPont family, found Buchanan's ideas to be spot on. In nurturing a new intelligentsia to commit to his values, Buchanan stated that he needed a "gravy train," and with backers like Charles Koch and conservative foundations like the Scaife Family Charitable Trusts, others hopped aboard. Money, Buchanan knew, can be a persuasive tool in academia. His circle of influence began to widen.

MacLean observes that the Virginia school, as Buchanan's brand of economic and political thinking is known, is a kind of cousin to the better-known, market-oriented Chicago and Austrian schools -- proponents of all three were members of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international neoliberal organization which included Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. But the Virginia school's focus and career missions were distinct. In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), MacLean described Friedman and Buchanan as yin and yang: "Friedman was this genial, personable character who loved to be in the limelight and made a sunny case for the free market and the freedom to choose and so forth. Buchanan was the dark side of this: he thought, ok, fine, they can make a case for the free market, but everybody knows that free markets have externalities and other problems. So he wanted to keep people from believing that government could be the alternative to those problems."

The Virginia school also differs from other economic schools in a marked reliance on abstract theory rather than mathematics or empirical evidence. That a Nobel Prize was awarded in 1986 to an economist who so determinedly bucked the academic trends of his day was nothing short of stunning, MacLean observes. But, then, it was the peak of the Reagan era, an administration several Buchanan students joined.

Buchanan's school focused on public choice theory, later adding constitutional economics and the new field of law and economics to its core research and advocacy. The economist saw that his vision would never come to fruition by focusing on who rules. It was much better to focus on the rules themselves , and that required a "constitutional revolution."

MacLean describes how the economist developed a grand project to train operatives to staff institutions funded by like-minded tycoons, most significantly Charles Koch, who became interested in his work in the '70s and sought the economist's input in promoting "Austrian economics" in the U.S. and in advising the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Koch, whose mission was to save capitalists like himself from democracy, found the ultimate theoretical tool in the work of the southern economist. The historian writes that Koch preferred Buchanan to Milton Friedman and his "Chicago boys" because, she says, quoting a libertarian insider, they wanted "to make government work more efficiently when the true libertarian should be tearing it out at the root."

With Koch's money and enthusiasm, Buchanan's academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan's ideas -- transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents -- could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a "revolution" in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable.

MacLean details how partnered with Koch, Buchanan's outpost at George Mason University was able to connect libertarian economists with right-wing political actors and supporters of corporations like Shell Oil, Exxon, Ford, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, and General Motors. Together they could push economic ideas to public through media, promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.

At the 1997 fiftieth anniversary of the Mont Pelerin Society, MacLean recounts that Buchanan and his associate Henry Manne, a founding theorist of libertarian economic approaches to law, focused on such affronts to capitalists as environmentalism and public health and welfare, expressing eagerness to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as well as kill public education because it tended to foster community values. Feminism had to go, too: the scholars considered it a socialist project.

The Oligarchic Revolution Unfolds

Buchanan's ideas began to have huge impact, especially in America and in Britain. In his home country, the economist was deeply involved efforts to cut taxes on the wealthy in 1970s and 1980s and he advised proponents of Reagan Revolution in their quest to unleash markets and posit government as the "problem" rather than the "solution." The Koch-funded Virginia school coached scholars, lawyers, politicians, and business people to apply stark right-wing perspectives on everything from deficits to taxes to school privatization. In Britain, Buchanan's work helped to inspire the public sector reforms of Margaret Thatcher and her political progeny.

To put the success into perspective, MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. "40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary," writes MacLean, "had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum."

MacLean illustrates that in South America, Buchanan was able to first truly set his ideas in motion by helping a bare-knuckles dictatorship ensure the permanence of much of the radical transformation it inflicted on a country that had been a beacon of social progress. The historian emphasizes that Buchanan's role in the disastrous Pinochet government of Chile has been underestimated partly because unlike Milton Friedman, who advertised his activities, Buchanan had the shrewdness to keep his involvement quiet. With his guidance, the military junta deployed public choice economics in the creation of a new constitution, which required balanced budgets and thereby prevented the government from spending to meet public needs. Supermajorities would be required for any changes of substance, leaving the public little recourse to challenge programs like the privatization of social security.

The dictator's human rights abuses and pillage of the country's resources did not seem to bother Buchanan, MacLean argues, so long as the wealthy got their way. "Despotism may be the only organizational alternative to the political structure that we observe," the economist had written in The Limits of Liberty . If you have been wondering about the end result of the Virginia school philosophy, well, the economist helpfully spelled it out.

A World of Slaves

Most Americans haven't seen what's coming.

MacLean notes that when the Kochs' control of the GOP kicked into high gear after the financial crisis of 2007-08, many were so stunned by the "shock-and-awe" tactics of shutting down government, destroying labor unions, and rolling back services that meet citizens' basic necessities that few realized that many leading the charge had been trained in economics at Virginia institutions, especially George Mason University. Wasn't it just a new, particularly vicious wave of partisan politics?

It wasn't. MacLean convincingly illustrates that it was something far more disturbing.

MacLean is not the only scholar to sound the alarm that the country is experiencing a hostile takeover that is well on its way to radically, and perhaps permanently, altering the society. Peter Temin, former head of the MIT economics department, INET grantee, and author of The Vanishing Middle Class , as well as economist Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon and author of The One Percent Solution , have provided eye-opening analyses of where America is headed and why. MacLean adds another dimension to this dystopian big picture, acquainting us with what has been overlooked in the capitalist right wing's playbook.

She observes, for example, that many liberals have missed the point of strategies like privatization. Efforts to "reform" public education and Social Security are not just about a preference for the private sector over the public sector, she argues. You can wrap your head around, even if you don't agree. Instead, MacLean contents, the goal of these strategies is to radically alter power relations, weakening pro-public forces and enhancing the lobbying power and commitment of the corporations that take over public services and resources, thus advancing the plans to dismantle democracy and make way for a return to oligarchy. The majority will be held captive so that the wealthy can finally be free to do as they please, no matter how destructive.

MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers "to control the resultant popular anger." The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right's aggressive use of state power.

Could these right-wing capitalists allow private companies to fill prisons with helpless citizens -- or, more profitable still, right-less undocumented immigrants? They could, and have . Might they engineer a retirement crisis by moving Americans to inadequate 401(k)s? Done . Take away the rights of consumers and workers to bring grievances to court by making them sign forced arbitration agreements? Check . Gut public education to the point where ordinary people have such bleak prospects that they have no energy to fight back? Getting it done .

Would they even refuse children clean water? Actually, yes.

MacLean notes that in Flint, Michigan, Americans got a taste of what the emerging oligarchy will look like -- it tastes like poisoned water. There, the Koch-funded Mackinac Center pushed for legislation that would allow the governor to take control of communities facing emergency and put unelected managers in charge. In Flint, one such manager switched the city's water supply to a polluted river, but the Mackinac Center's lobbyists ensured that the law was fortified by protections against lawsuits that poisoned inhabitants might bring. Tens of thousands of children were exposed to lead, a substance known to cause serious health problems including brain damage.

Tyler Cowen has provided an economic justification for this kind of brutality, stating that where it is difficult to get clean water, private companies should take over and make people pay for it. "This includes giving them the right to cut off people who don't -- or can't -- pay their bills," the economist explains.

To many this sounds grotesquely inhumane, but it is a way of thinking that has deep roots in America. In Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative (2005), Buchanan considers the charge of heartlessness made against the kind of classic liberal that he took himself to be. MacLean interprets his discussion to mean that people who "failed to foresee and save money for their future needs" are to be treated, as Buchanan put it, "as subordinate members of the species, akin to animals who are dependent.'"

Do you have your education, health care, and retirement personally funded against all possible exigencies? Then that means you.

Buchanan was not a dystopian novelist. He was a Nobel Laureate whose sinister logic exerts vast influence over America's trajectory. It is no wonder that Cowen, on his popular blog Marginal Revolution, does not mention Buchanan on a list of underrated influential libertarian thinkers, though elsewhere on the blog, he expresses admiration for several of Buchanan's contributions and acknowledges that the southern economist "thought more consistently in terms of 'rules of the games' than perhaps any other economist."

The rules of the game are now clear.

Research like MacLean's provides hope that toxic ideas like Buchanan's may finally begin to face public scrutiny. Yet at this very moment, the Kochs' State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects corporate agents to conservative lawmakers to produce legislation, are involved in projects that the Trump-obsessed media hardly notices, like pumping money into state judicial races. Their aim is to stack the legal deck against Americans in ways that MacLean argues may have even bigger effects than Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling which unleashed unlimited corporate spending on American politics. The goal is to create a judiciary that will interpret the Constitution in favor of corporations and the wealthy in ways that Buchanan would have heartily approved.

"The United States is now at one of those historic forks in the road whose outcome will prove as fateful as those of the 1860s, the 1930s, and the 1960s," writes MacLean. "To value liberty for the wealthy minority above all else and enshrine it in the nation's governing rules, as Calhoun and Buchanan both called for and the Koch network is achieving, play by play, is to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form."

Nobody can say we weren't warned.

[Apr 23, 2018] On Rand and Nietzsche

Notable quotes:
"... Ayn Rand's mythology also included a very strong emphasis on personal honor, high integrity and principles, and remaining true to one's commitments and promises (or how else can businesspeople trust one another without recourse to the use of force?). ..."
"... Her aestheticization of capitalist accumulation as the expression of a great and noble soul, as opposed to the embarrassing compulsion of the avaricious soul, is what gives her protagonists the illusion of something like heroic gravitas. Just my opinion. ..."
"... Yes, brain washed foot soldiers of Ayn Rand's mythology and Milton Friedman's theory, MBAs, have destroyed North America with their idiotic cost-minimizing, short-term profit-maximizing approach! ..."
"... Could you comment on Ayn Rand receiving social welfare payments and going on Medicare to help support her during her treatment for lung cancer near the end of her life? ..."
"... There are also many rumours flying about on the Internet that in the 1920s Ayn Rand was impressed by the serial killer William E Hickman (who kidnapped a banker's 12-year-old daughter, killed her and disembowelled and dismembered her) to the extent that he became a model for an early character in an unfinished novel. ..."
Apr 23, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

karlof1 , Apr 23, 2018 12:14:34 PM | 109

ralphieboy @108--

More specifically, it's the ascendency of Ayn Rand's mythology, its brainwashed economist priests and their politico allies while dumbing down and hypnotizing a majority of the citizenry that are responsible for quite a bit of the current malaise. But as I noted above, the seed was bad from the outset.

Charles R , Apr 23, 2018 1:56:43 PM | 116
Ayn Rand's mythology also included a very strong emphasis on personal honor, high integrity and principles, and remaining true to one's commitments and promises (or how else can businesspeople trust one another without recourse to the use of force?).

Her villains are not merely weak in terms of their personal and economic influence but morally weak in their character, which is why they take over the government's monopoly on force (and also symbolically why they tend to be physically described as amorphous, soft, and fleshy).

I think it's fair to acknowledge this in what she was arguing in her works. Perhaps a number of us will agree that the problems we often observe don't result from specific government systems but rather the pervasive ease with which humans across cultures and societies indulge in power, corruption, and short-sighted justifications of long-standing vices. And where humans hold one another accountable and work to support one another's moral development towards justice, peace, and mutually reinforced respect, it might matter less and less how we shape our governments.

Not really a Rand apologist, though. I'm always looking for ways of understanding similarities across worldviews.

WJ , Apr 23, 2018 2:26:26 PM | 119
Charles R @116,

The mythology of your first paragraph is not Rand's, but Nietzsche's; or rather, it is first of all Nietzsche's and is secondarily Rand's interpretation of Nietzsche. The difference between Nietzsche's "supermen" or "overmen" and "last men"--as allegorized in Thus Spake Zarathustra, eg.--is taken over nearly exactly into Rand's imaginary social world.

The main difference here is that for Rand the industrialist-tycoon was the paradigmatic instance of the overman we were all to aspire to become, whereas for Nietzsche such a tycoon represents simply the tumorous magnification of bourgeois individualism.

This is why Rand tries to depict her heroes as much as "artists"--in the romantic and to some extent Nietzschean sense of TSZ--as capitalists.

Her aestheticization of capitalist accumulation as the expression of a great and noble soul, as opposed to the embarrassing compulsion of the avaricious soul, is what gives her protagonists the illusion of something like heroic gravitas. Just my opinion.

ex-SA , Apr 23, 2018 2:49:58 PM | 121
@ ralphieboy | Apr 23, 2018 11:36:50 AM | 108 & karlof1 | Apr 23, 2018 12:14:34 PM | 109

Yes, brain washed foot soldiers of Ayn Rand's mythology and Milton Friedman's theory, MBAs, have destroyed North America with their idiotic cost-minimizing, short-term profit-maximizing approach!

Charles R , Apr 23, 2018 4:03:19 PM | 122
WJ, maybe you're on to something, but I'll also point out that the Luciferian and Promethean allusions throughout Atlas Shrugged themselves point to an older pattern of thinking about divine usurpation than Nietzsche, where the New Creators surpass the old, buried gods by bringing metal and oil and fire together into new forms of life. When Hank and Dagney finally embrace and reveal their passion for one another, they are deep in the engine room of the locomotive, with all its pistons and steam and heat and steel.

My point, though, was just to say that it's helpful to remember that even Rand encouraged justice and honor and personal integrity. You might say that Rand, given her admiration for the One True Philosopher in her reckoning -- Aristotle -- thought moral character important as something objective...

S , Apr 23, 2018 6:34:58 PM | 135
@WJ

Glad that people here see through Alisa Rosenbaum's bs.

Regarding Turkey, what they mean is that Turkey may deny the use of its airstrips to NATO forces (reneging on its NATO commitments), hence the need for an aircraft carrier as a (partial) replacement.

Jen , Apr 23, 2018 6:38:52 PM | 136
Charles @ 122:

Could you comment on Ayn Rand receiving social welfare payments and going on Medicare to help support her during her treatment for lung cancer near the end of her life?

http://www.openculture.com/2016/12/when-ayn-rand-collected-social-security-medicare.html

There are also many rumours flying about on the Internet that in the 1920s Ayn Rand was impressed by the serial killer William E Hickman (who kidnapped a banker's 12-year-old daughter, killed her and disembowelled and dismembered her) to the extent that he became a model for an early character in an unfinished novel. Could you comment on those rumours?

Why would Rand choose a serial killer (of all people) as a model for a "lone wolf" character at odds with conventional society?

[Jun 08, 2017] What is the Last Man (Nietzsche) - Apotheosis Magazine

Jun 08, 2017 | www.apotheosismagazine.com
The glorious German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zaratustra brought up the concept of the Last Man. Trawling through the internet you will hear about the Last Man constantly, but no accurate definition or statement about what a Last Man actually is. So this article will discuss the character traits of the Last Man – let's just hope that the Last Man does not remind you of yourself.

The Last Man is primarily characterized as the type of individual that is fat, lazy and falls asleep watching TV after over indulging in junk food. This clearly denotes the type of man that is content with living a life whose primary and only purpose is to exist in a perpetual state of comfort, security and pleasure. This is a value system that does not idealize or extol higher values, challenging circumstances or hard work.

Zarathustra after descending the mountains is trying to deliver a sermon to a crowd of people that are hanging around the marketplace. Individuals that normally hang around a marketplace are typically known as commoners – especially in Nietzsche's time – and their primary concern is grotesque entertainment, gossip, manners and commerce.

After delivering his sermon about the Overman/Superman (or Ubersmensch) Nietzsche receives an apathetic and mocking response. One must imagine how extremely jarring this was for Zarathustra considering he has just descended from his sojourn in the mountains to proclaim this message. Rather comically, you can imagine Nietzsche's Zarathustra as the typical hobo you hear in the town centre raving about God or some other incoherent babble, whilst others walk past laughing, scared or neutral. Except this raving mystic is much more coherent than usual and is delivering some badass Nietzschean theory.

Nietzsche: " There they stand; there they laugh: they do not understand me; I am not the mouth for these ears They have something of which they are proud. What do they call it, that which makes them proud? Culture, they call it; it distinguishes them from the goatherds. They dislike, therefore, to hear of "contempt" of themselves. So I will appeal to their pride.
I will speak to them of the most contemptible thing: that, however, is the Last Man !"

Contempt here is being used in its typical notion, the feeling that something is worthless and should not be considered. Here, as suggested by the text, Nietzsche will appeal to their "pride" by talking to them about what he believes is the most contemptible thing – The Last Man . This Last Man is the embodiment of their culture. So, Nietzsche is clearly telling us that the Last Man is valueless and worthless.

What is the Last Man :

Nietzsche: "I tell you: one must still have chaos in oneself, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: you have still chaos in yourselves.
Alas! There comes the time when man will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There comes the time of the most despicable man, who can no longer despise himself.
Lo! I show you the Last Man ."

The Last Man cannot despise himself. That is, he cannot feel or understand that his actions, values or decisions may under some or all circumstances be lacking in value. This is important. To not have the orientation that your actions may be lacking, be worthless or unsubstantial entails that you do not have any serious self-reflective capacity to evaluate your actions. The Last Man we can reasonably assume acts in a manner that is contemptible and embarrassing for a culture to promote. So the fact that the Last Man does not have the consciousness nor the insight to evaluate his actions as lacking value or real meaningful substance means that he is unable to change them in a positive manner and be something other than the Last Man . Only the Last Man can be the type of man that lacks insight to such degree that he finds it not only acceptable, content, but also agreeable to be the Last Man.

Nietzsche: "What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?" -- so asks the Last Man, and blinks. The earth has become small, and on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest."

The Last Man according to Nietzsche's rendering of him is the type of individual that does not care or even remotely try to answer the questions of his existence, those that profoundly affect and determine his life. The Last Man , by this characterization, is neither a romantic, a philosopher, a scientist or a poet.

And due to the unquestioning nature of this type of man, the world has been made small and manageable. According to this type of man, the striving, the ambition, the determination to battle against hardship and the desire to become more than we currently are is a deterrent to happiness.

Nietzsche: "The earth has become small, and on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest.

Yet despite all of this, the Last Man , due to his security, comfort and pleasure believes:

Nietzsche: ""We have discovered happiness" -- say the Last Men, and they blink."

Nietzsche goes on to discuss the herd-like collective behaviour and the smug mentality of this group that dogmatically and unquestionably believes the man of the present to better than the men of the past. If this is true, then the values and behaviors that instantiate the Last Man are, according to him, to be preferred over all other values. Once again, the Last Man is unwilling to question his values against any other lifestyle or generational values, due to their inability to evaluate values that should guide their or others' behaviour.

Nietzsche: "No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wants the same; everyone is the same: he who feels differently goes voluntarily into the madhouse. Formerly all the world was insane," -- say the subtlest of them, and they blink.

Despite Zarathustra's attempt to shame the market crowd with a contemptible notion of their culture through the concept of the Last Man , the crowd continue to mock him by clamoring to become the Last Man . As we can see, they have truly misunderstood Nietzsche's message and this market crowd is the collective manifestation of the Last Man .

--

If you're interested in buying Thus Spoke Zarathustra please use the link below to support and improve Apotheosis Magazine

[Jul 18, 2015] Growth Fantasy of Tax Cuts and Small Government - Noah Smith

[Jul 18, 2015] Needed: More Government, More Government Debt, Less Worry

Brad DeLong (the full post is much, much longer):
Needed: More Government, More Government Debt, Less Worry: **Introduction**

Olivier Blanchard, when he parachuted me into this panel, asked me to "be provocative".

So let me provoke:...

It makes sense to distinguish the medium from the short term only if the North Atlantic economies will relatively soon enter a régime in which the economy is not at the zero lower bound on safe nominal interest rates. The medium term is at a horizon at which monetary policy can adequately handle all of the demand-stabilization role. ...

As I see it, there are three major medium-run questions that then remain...:

To me at least, the answer to the first question–what is the proper size of the 21st-century public sector?–appears very clear.

The optimal size of the 21st-century public sector will be significantly larger than the optimal size of the 20th-century public sector. Changes in technology and social organization are moving us away from a "Smithian" economy, one in which the presumption is that the free market or the Pigovian-adjusted market does well, to one that requires more economic activity to be regulated by differently-tuned social and economic arrangements (see DeLong and Froomkin (2000)). One such is the government. Thus there should be more public sector and less private sector in the 21st-century than there was in the 20th.

Similarly, the answer to the second question appears clear, to me at least.

The proper level of the 21st century public debt should be significantly higher than typical debt levels we have seen in the 20th century ... *unless interest rates in the 21st century reverse the pattern we have seen in the 20th century, and mount to levels greater than economic growth rates*.

This consideration is strengthened by observing that the North Atlantic economies have now moved into a régime in which the opposite has taken place. Real interest rates on government debt are not higher but even lower relative to growth rates than they have been in the past century. Financial market participants now appear to expect this now ultra-low interest-rate régime to continue indefinitely (see Summers (2014)).

The answer to the third question–what are the systemic risks caused by government debt?–is much more murky. ...

The question ... is:... How much more likely does higher debt make it that interest rates will spike in the absence of fundamental reasons? How much would they spike? What would government policy be in response to such a spike? And what would be the effect on the economy?

The answer thus hinges on:

* the risk of a large sudden upward shift in the willingness to hold government debt, even absent substantial fundamental news.

* the ability of governments to deal with such a risk that threatens to push economies far enough up the Laffer curve to turn a sustainable into an unsustainable debt.

I believe the risk in such a panicked flight from an otherwise sustainable debt is small. I hold, along with Rinehart and Rogoff (2013), that the government's legal tools to finance its debt via financial repression are very powerful, Thus I think this consideration has little weight. I believe that little adjustment to one's view of the proper level of 21st-century public debt of *reserve currency-issuing sovereigns with exorbitant privilege* is called for because of systemic risk considerations.

But my belief here is fragile. And my comprehension of the issues is inadequate.

Let me expand on these three answers...

Posted by Mark Thoma on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 09:00 AM in Economics, Fiscal Policy | Permalink Comments (23)

[Aug 05, 2013] Columbia Economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs speaks candidly on monetary reform

Level of corruption of the system is just staggering...

From the event at the Philadelphia Fed on April 17th, 2013 (04/17/2013) conference segment "Fixing the Banking System for Good" .

Republicans The Fake Party of Small Government " Little Alex in Wonderland

17 July 09 | C4SS

People who vote Republican in the belief that the GOP is the party of small government need to get out of their codependent relationship.

Republicans claim to be the party of the head rather than the heart, the party that never lets wishful thinking trump the law of unintended consequences - unless, of course, proper reverence for the Flag or Fatherland is involved. And recognizing that actions have consequences, in the realm of foreign policy, is just a fancy way of saying "defeatism."

Come to think of it, there really seems to be a lot of messy Freudian stuff lurking beneath that Republican facade of stern common sense, doesn't there? Just consider how prominently accusations of being "soft" on this or that, or "getting tough" on something or other, or "showing them" or "teaching them a lesson", figure in their rhetoric. The Republicans: party of penis envy?

Republican claims to be the party of small government are equally nonsensical.

First of all, it's a rather odd conception of "small government" that doesn't count the military and police as part of "the government". It's hard to believe that conservatism in this country was once identified with an opposition to foreign entanglements and large military establishments, or that the perpetual warfare state was originally created by liberals. In fact, the legal precedents and constitutional arguments that the neocons appeal to in order to justify their wet dream National Security State all come from paragons of conservatism like Lincoln, Wilson and FDR.

Today, we're constantly reminded by self-described "conservatives" that loyal Americans rally around their "Commander-in-Chief" in wartime, and "politics stops at the water's edge." Sean Hannity got his knickers in a twist because some Democratic senator accused "our Commander-in-Chief" of lying–in (gasp) WARTIME! Not only does "politics stop at the water's edge" for Republicans, but apparently Acton's Law stops there as well. Seems to me that if patriotic Americans are required to suspend their normal distrust of government in wartime "for the duration," that's a mighty powerful incentive for the "Commander-in-Chief" to STAY at war as much as possible. As Dubya said some time or other, 'it's a lot easier when you're a dictator'.

(Ever notice, by the way, that the same people so outraged that Pelosi would accuse the "heroes" in the C.I.A. of lying were themselves making the same accusation back when it involved Valerie Plame and Doug Feith?)

It's also an odd conception of "small government" that tasks it with making sure no two people with the same kinds of pee-pee get married, that nobody sees Janet Jackson's tit or hears one of George Carlin's "seven words", and that everybody "Just Says No" to drugs (other than Ritalin and Gardasil).

But even stipulating that "small government" principles only refer to domestic economic and regulatory policies that don't involve drugs or genitalia, the Republicans' "free market" rhetoric is a bunch of buncombe. The Reaganite agenda of fake "deregulation" and "privatization" usually involves, in actual practice, the same kind of kleptocratic insider dealing that characterized Yeltsin's Russia. The GOP's "small government" economic policy, when you get right down to it, is even more corporatist than that of the Democrats–and you've got to go a ways to beat them.

What about the Republicans as the party of "strict constitutionalism" and "original understanding"? What that translates into in plain English, Jeffrey Toobin says, is "a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society". Chief Justice Roberts, in every major case, "has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff". And come to think of it, I don't recall Madison and Jefferson advocating a set of Executive "national security" prerogatives as unbounded as those of Charles I.

(Did you notice, by the way, that these enemies of "judicial activism" were pressuring Sotomayor to discover a new fundamental right–the right to keep and bear arms–among those incorporated in the Fourteenth Amendment?)

You folks out there with "Democrats Care" bumper stickers shouldn't be enjoying this overmuch. Behind all the crap about "America's working families", the Democrats are really just the other corporatist party. Democrats need to get over their own codependent relationship. But that's another column.

C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy and Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, both of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.

The Appeal to "Undecidability" as Last Gasp

Ross Douthat:

The Case For Small Government: I think the argument suffers from a problem that's common to both sides in the debates over the desirability of European-style social democracy - namely, the hope that what's ultimately a philosophical and moral controversy can have a tidy empirical resolution.... [T]he philosophical case for limited government - that human existence in the shadow of a nanny state doesn't conduce to "Aristotelian happiness"... because it strips human beings of the deeper sorts of agency and responsibility that ought to be involved in a life well lived - he's on firm (if obviously arguable) ground. But when he segues into the possibility that the emerging science of human nature will "prove" the limits of welfare-statism, and force liberals to give ground... there's an unwarranted hope that the right facts and figures can settle a debate that ultimately depends on the philosophical assumptions that you bring to it...

Matthew Yglesias calls bullshit:

Matthew Yglesias: Crippling Poverty is Not Service to Family: Left out of here is what the right always loves to leave out of discussions of economic policy choices: interest. If you're poor in the United States and you live in a neighborhood where poor people can afford to live, you will almost certainly be living in a neighborhood that's much more dangerous than the neighborhoods in which poor Dutch people live. You'll also find yourself living in a country that's much less friendly to the interests of people who can't afford a car than is the Netherlands.

Conversely, if a European executive meets an American executive and feels a twinge of jealousy, it's not for the American's greater level of "entrepreneurship" it's for the fact that the U.S. social model leaves top executives much richer than European executives....

[I]ncome level is fairly predictive of voting behavior and this is neither a coincidence nor the reflection of an abstract disagreement about the value of "voluntarism." It reflects the fact that politics is, among other things, a concrete contest over concrete economic interests.... I don't think, for example, that America's high child poverty rate reflects American preference for "service to one's family" over "ease of life"...

As Milton Friedman put it back in 1953:

The basic objectives, shared, I am sure, by most economics, are political freedom, economic efficiency, and substantial equality of economic power. These objectives are not, of course, entirely consistent.... I believe -- and at this stage agreement will be far less widespread -- that all three objectives can best be realized by relying, as far as possible, on a market mechanism within a "competitive order" to organize the utilization of economic resources...

" [T]he philosophical case for limited government - that human existence in the shadow of a nanny state doesn't conduce to "Aristotelian happiness"... because it strips human beings of the deeper sorts of agency and responsibility that ought to be involved in a life well lived "

He is having a bit of trouble staying oriented as between the philosophical and the empirical here. I claim that this is a piece of (bad) armchair psychologizing.

But his philosophical position is clear: each man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost. But he does say it in such a flowery way that it is almost possible to overlook what it comes to.

His (absurdly false) dichotomy between health-care access and health-care innovation is more concrete, but no less revolting.

"that Aristotelian happiness was possible only if you yourself owned lots of slaves"

I have no doubt in my mind that true libertarians/economic liberalists are entirely in favor of legalizing slavery...

"Hence those who are in a position which places them above toil have stewars who attend to their households while they occupy themselves with philosophy or with politics..."

or derivatives trading.

In any case, Pareto efficiency is no way to judge whether free market outcomes are good for society, to the extent that free market outcomes exist at all in the real world. Cheap shots on Aristotle are easy. A guy living 2400 years ago defended slavery!?! SHOCKING. Everything he says with respect to happiness (and everything else for that matter) must be way off base.

Less easy is responding to Douthat's point (Murray's point, actually) that part of what makes humans happy is a sense of personal responsibility and accomplishment and that to the extent that government starts to infringe on aspects of life that used to be an individual's responsibility - people will experience less of a sense of achievement - hence less happiness.

I hope that 100 years from now religion will be viewed as slavery is today. I further hope that people will not be so obtuse as to claim that everything religious people have said in the history of man should be discounted... because they were religious.

Hah, happiness is an empirical question that can be addressed with data. For example, http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/lif_hap_net-lifestyle-happiness-net

I suspect Iceland is no longer number 1. The US is #13, lucky us. Everyone above us is more socially democratic. With the possible exception of Iceland. And maybe Australia, though I bet they have universal health care.

That's because true rugged individuals run the survey-takers off with a shotgun, Dr. J. In doing that, they experience a level of personal responsibility and accomplishment that you or I cannot even imagine. "[T]he philosophical case for limited government - that human existence in the shadow of a nanny state doesn't conduce to "Aristotelian happiness"... because it strips human beings of the deeper sorts of agency and responsibility that ought to be involved in a life well lived"

Hmm. I take it that Ross Douthat has not read Malcolm Gladwell's _Outliers_? But, for christs sake, do you need Gladwell to tell you that, if you are struck with a childhood disease because of a crappy health system, or are given a lousy childhood education, or can't get a job at a certain company because you have the wrong color skin, then you DON'T HAVE MUCH of that precious agency that Douthat thinks is so important.

How about it Ross? Willing to come out squarely on the side of more government involvement in child healthcare, in education, in undoing the damage of past and current discrimination? Don't tell me, let me guess: Mr "screw agency for Asians and women" doesn't really give a damn about Aristotle except insofar as he can be used to extend the arguments of the plutocracy.

Ed quotes this definition of libertarian:

Libertarianism is a term adopted by a broad spectrum[1] of political philosophies which advocate the maximization of individual liberty[2] and the minimization or even abolition of the state.[3][4] Libertarians embrace viewpoints across that spectrum, ranging from pro-property to anti-property, from minarchist to openly anarchist

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian

1. Since the effective liberty of most people would be diminished if not completely destroyed as the "state" is diminished (not that many are capable of liberty either way), even in pure liberty terms this is already really might makes right, right of the stronger, and "libertarian" is simply a fancy, dishonest word to dress up that fact.

Still, beyond the terminological dishonesty, might-makes-right in itself can be an internally consistent view.

2. But where they bring "property" into it is where we know the whole thing is a scam. Property and wealth accumulation (let alone all the bells and whistles of banks and stock markets and so on) of course cannot exist at all without a strong, aggressive government aggressively dedicated to those things.

It's absurd on its face to say "get rid of government" and yet say "I have property rights!"

"Property" and "rights" - one has to be doubly an aggressive statist.

So there's where we KNOW "libertarian" is just a stalking horse for the brutal, direct dictatorship of big corporations and the rich.

Law is the order of the land and its inception was to protect *property* from the mob (see the poor) by landed army's aka the Authoritarian system. We have evolved socially from feudal to monarchy to peoples forms of governance.

Democracy is an attempt to equalize societal pressures with regards to concentration of wealth and power by the few over the many (see Rome).

Now sorry for the 101, but what are we really debating here libertarian vs socialist vs free market vs ??????. I thought the Constitution said WE the people not some fence in the mind that has so many gray areas multiplied by the number individuals present in the republic at one time. Hence we all have different interpretations of definitions regardless of what wiped says.

I fear Democracy is under the knife by forces which would concentrate power for their benefit and not that of the people as a hole. Call that what you may, but remember the club of I over US has ramifications and one should consider fully their impact.

Hell lets all just get big stamps on our foreheads and call a spade, a spade and respond accordingly to their ideology with out interference.

Every system of governance I have studied evolves and then devolves to a basic state of community if not over whelmed by another budding system of youthful expansionist exuberance.

We are some where on that historical trajectory and need to sort out who we really are ie: a group of citizens ready to learn from our mistakes or a rowdy group of individuals ready to cut each others throats for our individualistic/ idealogical needs, especially when none can lay claim to fact, but merely see truth in own minds.

Skippy...sorry just so sick of the crap: see extremism.

Stephen Roach The case against Bernanke

naked capitalism
depresso said...
Nakedcapitalism and Stephen Roach are spreading LIES!
Bernanke is NOT and never was "an ultra-free market Libertarian".
Libertarians and proponents of free-markets believe in sound money, gold standard and want the Federal Reserve to be abolished.

I am tired of all the libertarian-bashing and free-market-bashing. Bernanke is no more a Libertarian and free-market believer than Roach/Yves is a radical communist.

Edward Harrison said...
depresso,

I happen to be a Libertarian myself albeit not as much a believer in the unadulterated form of the free markets espoused by some.

How would you describe Bernanke?

And do think we are spreading lies or giving opinion because it seems that it is obviously the latter?

Edward (the writer of the post)

roger said...
It is strange to me to look at Japan's lost decade, when we have our own staring at us in the face. The 00s were characterized by the worst employment figures, month by month, of any decade since the forties, the worst income figures for the medium household since the thirties, and an amazingly flabby technology sector - that is, in terms of innovation. What is really different about 2009 from 2001 or 2000? Youtube? From 2000, 1990 looked positively primitive. One could go decade by decade looking at major techno changes - but not the "lets spend money on the Mcmansion" decade. Although I'm forgetting the innovation in the "financial industry" - so excellent! of such social benefit! Like, oh, the invention of three card monte.

The Japanese slough is already here, and its been here since 2001.

moslof said...
A good article but I disagree with labeling Bernanke a Libertarian. Most Libertarians are for "sound money" in my view. Bernanke may well be our last Fed Chairman. The greatest cycle of real economic growth in history occurred in Hong Kong with no central bank.
We need to try it here because the short sighted knee jerk policies of the Fed have needlessly distorted the natural swings of the business cycle since day one.
Edward Harrison said...
Here's a definition of Libertarianism that I agree with:

Libertarianism is a term adopted by a broad spectrum[1] of political philosophies which advocate the maximization of individual liberty[2] and the minimization or even abolition of the state.[3][4] Libertarians embrace viewpoints across that spectrum, ranging from pro-property to anti-property, from minarchist to openly anarchist

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian

The key thing that binds us Libertarians is a desire for individual liberty over power of the state. Otherwise, there are many different flavors.

depresso said...
If you use the proper definitions of terms, then you could call Bernanke a fascist (fascism is the merger of state and private interests).
The vast majority of libertarians I know were highly critical of Greenspan, Bernanke and Fed's policies and predicted the inevitable crisis that would result form their activities. So, calling Bernanke a libertarian is an insult to them. A very high number of libertarians are proponents of sound money and gold standard or at least favor very strong restrictions on fiat money creation. That would be the opposite of what Bernanke and Greenspan did and are doing.

I am not interested in what Bernanke supposedly or really says. I am interested in his actions. And his actions have nothing to do with libertarian principles, unless you happen to be a libertarian basher, liar or a simple ignorant.

Edward Harrison said...
Depresso, that's absolute rubbish. The seminal moment in Bernanke's tenure was his decision to let Lehman Brothers fail, a decision which was driven by free market thinking.

Use silly terms like basher, liar and ignorant all you want, they are not in any way adding strength to your argument.

Clearly Bernanke had 'libertarian sympathies' until the moment of truth post-Lehman.

Edward Harrison said...
This from Alan Blinder two years BEFORE the crisis:

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2005/05/02/8258489/

He's very driven on the inside, but comes across as a very calm personality--strong-minded, but not argumentative. Like Greenspan, he never raises his voice," said Princeton economist and former Clinton-appointed Fed vice chairman Alan Blinder. "I worked with him for years before I even knew he was a libertarian-leaning Republican."

Again, I certainly don't agree with much of what Bernanke did as Fed chairman, but in policy circles he is considered to be a Libertarian.

depresso said...
I don't give a damn about the "policy circles". Bernanke is not and never was a libertarian and anyone who says otherwise is a liar or ignorant. Considering the ongoing statist campaign against libertarians, I believe that the former is more true than the latter.

A person who is responsible for manipulating the interest rates and money supply, creating and popping bubbles, creating an alphabet soup of funny facilities, etc. can not be a libertarian by definition.
It does not matter how much the liars and libertarian-bashers say that black is white, they will not change this simple fact. They can however influence the public perceptions and that is their real agenda, the real reason why they falsely blame the libertarians and free markets for this crisis.

And, by the way, I also don't give a damn about you getting offended by "silly terms" like basher, liar, etc. The statist campaign is reaching gigantic proportions and I don't see a reason why I should restrain myself in the face of all this obnoxiousness coming from the "circles".

Edward Harrison said...
depresso, yours is not a well-reasoned argument. It's an entirely emotional response. And whether Bernanke is a Libertarian is irrelevant as it has nothing to do with whether he will be a good Fed chairman.

You have your view. I have mine. Let's just leave it at that.

Yves Smith said...
depresso.

Ad hominem attacks are against this blog's comment policy. If you want to disagree, that's fine, but abuse and name calling is not.

bob said...
"A person who is responsible for manipulating the interest rates and money supply, creating and popping bubbles, creating an alphabet soup of funny facilities, etc. can not be a libertarian by definition"

Nonsense. If its yours why can't you manipulate it? That is the heart of libertarianism.

Is it your assertion that I could not sell my gold for more (or less) than what it was going for in another market?

Who enforces libertarianism? By your definition, they would not be libertarian.

Its a word. An adjective. Hitler was libertarian compared to Stalin.

What you seem to be advocating is anarchy.

Where does this free market exist? Point to one example of it anywhere in the history of the world.

Edward Harrison said...
When it comes to Bernanke (and Greenspan), I think moslof has it right about the subversion of Libertarian ideas and makes criticism I can accept:

"...I disagree with labeling Bernanke a Libertarian. Most Libertarians are for "sound money" in my view. ...short sighted knee jerk policies of the Fed have needlessly distorted the natural swings of the business cycle since day one."

depresso said...
Yves, I consider calling Bernanke a Libertarian an ad hominem attack on all Libertarians.

Bob said: Nonsense. If its yours why can't you manipulate it? That is the heart of libertarianism.

Bob, that would be true if fed wasn't a state enforced monopoly. However, the Fed is a state enforced monopoly and thus is anti-libertarian.

Yves, feel free to block my access and/or delete my comments. It is your blog and you have a right to do as you wish here (unless a "libertarian" makes it illegal). I admit that my comments are partially emotional. I am simply sick and tired of all the nonsense that is nowadays coming out from the mainstream and from blogs like nakedcapitalism (which I used to like...).

Edward Harrison said: ...I think moslof has it right...

Interesting that you say this because before moslof said what you claim to agree with, I said: Libertarians and proponents of free-markets believe in sound money, gold standard and want the Federal Reserve to be abolished.

Bernanke is NOT libertarian, never was, never will be.

bob said...
You seem to have a monopoly on the word libertarian, who can use it and how they can use it.

That is anti-libertarian.

depresso said...
Very funny bob. Feel free to believe that a government monopoly is libertarian, up is down and black is white. As you can see on this blog, you will not be alone in your beliefs...
attempter said...
Ed quotes this definition of libertarian:

Libertarianism is a term adopted by a broad spectrum[1] of political philosophies which advocate the maximization of individual liberty[2] and the minimization or even abolition of the state.[3][4] Libertarians embrace viewpoints across that spectrum, ranging from pro-property to anti-property, from minarchist to openly anarchist

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian

1. Since the effective liberty of most people would be diminished if not completely destroyed as the "state" is diminished (not that many are capable of liberty either way), even in pure liberty terms this is already really might makes right, right of the stronger, and "libertarian" is simply a fancy, dishonest word to dress up that fact.

Still, beyond the terminological dishonesty, might-makes-right in itself can be an internally consistent view.

2. But where they bring "property" into it is where we know the whole thing is a scam. Property and wealth accumulation (let alone all the bells and whistles of banks and stock markets and so on) of course cannot exist at all without a strong, aggressive government aggressively dedicated to those things.

It's absurd on its face to say "get rid of government" and yet say "I have property rights!"

"Property" and "rights" - one has to be doubly an aggressive statist.

So there's where we KNOW "libertarian" is just a stalking horse for the brutal, direct dictatorship of big corporations and the rich.

Prashant said...
I don't know about the definitions, but Bernanke, Greenspan and Co. are definitely no believers in Free markets.
All said and done, it is just another variant of Crony Capitalism that is practised in the United States despite what it preaches to the rest of the world.
skippy said...
Law is the order of the land and its inception was to protect *property* from the mob (see the poor) by landed army's aka the Authoritarian system. We have evolved socially from feudal to monarchy to peoples forms of governance.

Democracy is an attempt to equalize societal pressures with regards to concentration of wealth and power by the few over the many (see Rome).

Now sorry for the 101, but what are we really debating here libertarian vs socialist vs free market vs ??????. I thought the Constitution said WE the people not some fence in the mind that has so many gray areas multiplied by the number individuals present in the republic at one time. Hence we all have different interpretations of definitions regardless of what wiped says.

I fear Democracy is under the knife by forces which would concentrate power for their benefit and not that of the people as a hole. Call that what you may, but remember the club of I over US has ramifications and one should consider fully their impact.

Hell lets all just get big stamps on our foreheads and call a spade, a spade and respond accordingly to their ideology with out interference.

Communists can have one small room like all the others and rationing of all worldly goods.

Socialists can have an egalitarian world, little bits of everything the good and the bad ie: nobody really happy or completely fulfilled ideologically.

Free Marketeers can get screwed and screw over each other till one person owns it all, the hole planet.

Every system of governance I have studied evolves and then devolves to a basic state of community if not over whelmed by another budding system of youthful expansionist exuberance.

We are some where on that historical trajectory and need to sort out who we really are ie: a group of citizens ready to learn from our mistakes or a rowdy group of individuals ready to cut each others throats for our individualistic/ idealogical needs, especially when none can lay claim to fact, but merely see truth in own minds.

Skippy...sorry just so sick of the crap: see extremism.

PS. Have a good trip Ted K. you tried to do good things.

skippy said...
@above shez....wiped should read...wikipedia.

amends

stylerspeakslife said...
i guess you can never please everyone in Washington, and this Bernanke mess is no different. Obama and his supporters are confident that he can come in and save the day, but others think he helped cause the mess in the first place! http://www.newsy.com/videos/ben_bernanke_is_here_to_stay
Siggy said...
Roach wrote a very good piece. Bit of a realty check. A hugge amount of pointless parsing of libertarian/socialist/fascist here.

Why the reliance on democracy? We are a Constutionally Empowered Federal Republic! When we consistently mis-identify our political system as being a democracy, we erode the contract that was the great gift of our nations founders.

What Roach has clearly pointed out is that the extension of Bernanke's term was a choice of lessor evils, the devil we know.

Dave Raithel said...
Ed Harrison and all re "Libertarian" and "Libertarianism" etc.: So how come John Rawls wouldn't be called "Libertarian", since his first principle of justice is (paraphrased): Each person is to have the broadest degree of liberty consistent with a like degree of liberty for each other person...

Because he had no gold fetish, and was for redistribution (as needed to improve the circumstances of the representative least well-off person ...)

But all that is a mostly a digression from the main point of the argument: "The world needs central bankers who avoid problems...", which returns us to the whole foreknowledge problem I've lately been tasking myself about. Sure, but how much are you going to pay them? Has to be more than they can make in the private sector (with proper utility considerations for power and prestige.)

Granted, there's some limiting point at which past choices preclude one from future participation. (Imagine Goerring or Borman genuinely confessing that the whole kill the Jews thing was a terrible policy - doesn't seem to work.) On the other hand, for all I know - since I don't live and work in Financelandia - Bernanke is rational, and he's gotten past the errors of his previous ways. Reality has been the experiment, and it just didn't work out as predicted.

Or not. Here's an aspect of reality that persists as much as my extraordinary disappointment in Obamaman - somebody, somewhere, made money (and somebody lost some) because of how they speculated on who'd be running the Fed a year from now.

Bernanke is, at worst, a symptom.

attempter said...
Dave says:

Ed Harrison and all re "Libertarian" and "Libertarianism" etc.: So how come John Rawls wouldn't be called "Libertarian", since his first principle of justice is (paraphrased): Each person is to have the broadest degree of liberty consistent with a like degree of liberty for each other person...

Because he had no gold fetish, and was for redistribution (as needed to improve the circumstances of the representative least well-off person ...)

Just yesterday I was flipping through an Ayn Rand tome and chuckled to see her referring to the rather innocuous (a word I'm not using as a compliment) Rawls as "evil" and "malevolent".

Now I wonder what would inspire her to such a seemingly disproportionate response? Could it be that Rawls really does represent a kind of capitalistic liberty philosophy, exactly what she lyingly claimed to represent?

Edward Harrison said...
I have added this paragraph to the end of the post: Update: I wouldn't characterize Ben Bernanke as "cut from the same market libertarian cloth," as Roach does. I would suggest he has Libertarian leanings, but was probably the least inclined between himself, Paulson and Geithner to let Lehman fail.

Another thought: as to whether Bernanke would be the best choice, I think this is largely a political calculation (do we go with an unknown and roil markets/do we change horses mid-stream). Obama plays it safe when it comes to these kinds of decisions. His Biden pick reflects this. It was unlikely he was going to select anyone other than Bernamke, Summers, or Yellen, Although one or two other names have come up.

VangelV said...
"Bernanke, like Greenspan, is an ultra-free market Libertarian who believes markets always are better informed than regulators..."

So much for Roach's credibility. How can anyone who has the job of being a central planner and is arrogant enough to believe that the economy can be managed by pulling strings and pushing buttons be considered a 'libertarian?' It seems to me that those that favour meddling, as Roach seems to, do not blame the system of regulations that created the mess in the first place but the regulators for not doing enough meddling.

If Bernanke were a true libertarian he would resign his position.

Edward Harrison said...
Vangel,

I am pretty much sick and tired of people acting as if there is some absolute to being a Libertarian. It's utter rubbish.

I think you have a fairly narrow view of what it means to be Libertarian. In an ideal world, many believe the central bank shouldn't even exist. But Roach is NOT talking solely about monetary policy when he uses the word Libertarian, he's referring to Bernanke's belief in market forces in the financial sector a.k.a. de-regulation.

When I refer to the word Libertarian I mean to invoke the concept of liberty in a general sense. This would a believe in individual freedom, free markets, civil liberties, and so forth.

For instance, the Libertarian Party platform mentions all of these things but nowhere does it explicity state that it wishes to abolish the Federal Reserve, though it does call for the repeal of income taxes. The party does abhor "inflationary monetary policies" and calls for a repeal of legal tender laws.

Being a Libertarian or having Libertarian leanings is not just about monetary policy.

One final word: anyone who is foolish enough to believe that self-regulation in finance works - that allowing an economic ecosystem to flourish without the government enforcing law and acceptable codes of behavior - is either an anarchist or not particularly realistic.

[April 27 2009] How libertarian dogma led the Fed astray by Henry Kaufman

April 27 2009

The Federal Reserve has been hobbled by at least two major shortcomings that were primarily responsible for the current and several previous credit crises. Its failure to spot the importance of changing financial markets and its commitment to laisser faire economics were big mistakes and justify a fundamental overhaul of the Fed.

The first of these shortcomings was its failure to recognize the significance for monetary policy of structural changes in the markets, changes that surfaced early in the postwar era. The Fed failed to grasp early on the significance of financial innovations that eased the creation of new credit. Perhaps the most far-reaching of these was the securitisation of hard-to-trade assets. This created the illusion that credit risk could be reduced if instruments became marketable.

Moreover, elaborate new techniques employed in securitisation (such as credit guarantees and insurance) blurred credit risks and raised – from my perspective, many years ago – the vexing question, "Who is the real guardian of credit?" Instead of addressing these issues, the Fed was highly supportive of securitisation.

One of the Fed's biggest blind spots has been its failure to recognise the problems that huge financial conglomerates would pose for financial stability – including their key role in the current debt overload. The Fed allowed the Glass-Steagall Act to succumb without appreciating the negative consequences of allowing investment and commercial banks to be put together. Within two decades or so, financial conglomerates have come to utterly dominate financial markets and financial behaviour. But monetary policymakers failed to recognise that these behemoths were honeycombed with conflicts of interest that interfered with effective credit allocation.

Nor did the Fed recognise the crucial role that the large financial conglomerates have played in changing the public's perception of liquidity. Traditionally, liquidity was an asset-based concept. But this shifted to the liability side, as liquidity came to be virtually synonymous with easy borrowing. That would not have happened without the marketing efforts of large institutions.

My second major concern about the conduct of monetary policy is the Fed's prevailing economic libertarianism. At the heart of this economic dogma is the belief that markets know best and that those who compete well will prosper, while those who do not will fail.

How did this affect the Fed's actions and behaviour?

By guiding monetary policy in a libertarian direction, the Fed played a central role in creating a financial environment defined by excessive credit growth and unrestrained profit seeking. Major participants came to fear that if they failed to embrace the new world of securitised debt, proxy debt instruments, and quantitative risk analysis, they stood a very good chance of seeing their market shares shrink, top staff defect, and profits dwindle.

Ironically, the problem was made worse by the fact that the Fed was inconsistently libertarian. The central bank stuck to its hands-off approach during monetary expansion but abandoned it when constraint was necessary. And that, in turn, projected an unpredictable and inconsistent set of rules of the game.

We should, therefore, fundamentally re-examine the role of the Fed and the supervision of our financial institutions. Are the current arrangements within the Fed structure adequate – from its regional representation to its compensation for chairman and governors to its terms of office for governors? How can the Fed's decision-making process be improved? If we were to create a new central bank from the ground up, how would it differ? At a minimum, the Fed's sensitivity to financial excesses must be improved.

The writer is president, Henry Kaufman & Company

"Libertarian Dogma and the Fed"

hari says...

Old Henry is the master bond dealer of his time.

What he is saying is further confirmation of Waldman/MT on another link today. He's explaining the mindset of Fed when it comes to (ideological) policy orientation under Greenspan/Bernanke.

I don't think you can re-educate them...It's too late!

If you take Henry/Waldman links together, Geithner/Summers policy prescription is a very costly affair for taxpayers - and directly benefits WS Barons who inflicted the serious catastrophe.

It would be next to impossible framework of policy in Germany/France and rest of ECB-16. And for good political-economic reasons to boot.

bakho says...

Blaming "Libertarian tendencies" is a polite way of saying they took a chainsaw to regulations.

ken melvin says...

Part of reform should include driving a stake throught the heart of libertarianism. Generally, I believe in freedom of religion, but the worship of such false gods must henceforth be forbidden, and straight to the gallows with anyone who claims that the markets know best.

8 says...

Libertarianism in the Fed and deregulation was a response to the failed socialism/progressivism of 1910-1978. If we want to get rid of the false gods, we'll have to rip out everything since Teddy Roosevelt.

Patrick says...

"Libertarianism in the Fed and deregulation was a response to the failed socialism/progressivism of 1910-1978"

Not even wrong.

Brooks says...

Just a side note: Funny thing is, many (perhaps most) of the capital "L" Libertarians are the biggest Fed-haters in the nation, and many would like to see the Fed abolished. So when I saw the title of this post "Libertarian Dogma and the Fed" I thought it would be about those "Ban the Fed" types who constantly rail against "fiat currency".

Can Structured Finance Survive?

October 28, 2007 That is this week's question from Prudent Bear's Doug Noland. As for me I have decided to take a "wait and see" attitude-since I don't have faith in anyone's ability to know the future- and since my long-term approach of living frugally, saving some small sums (in part by investing a bit in things I hope offer a bit of an "asset inflation" hedge), and staying debt free for the last 20 years will MAY allow us to weather whatever storms may be on the horizon. Too many others, however, ought to be rightfully much more worried than I am by Doug Noland and others' gloom and doom forecasts. Here is a shortened form of Noland's latest:
Structured Finance Under Duress, Doug Noland, Credit Bubble Bulletin, Oct 26: The market may be been perfectly content to brush it aside. It was … a brutal week for "contemporary finance." Merrill Lynch, a kingpin of structured Credit products, shocked the marketplace with a $7.9bn asset write-down - up significantly from the $4.5bn amount discussed just two weeks ago.… Street analysts have already warned of the possibility for an additional $4bn hit. Merrill is not alone.

Also hit by sinking CDO fundamentals, Credit insurer Ambac Financial reported a third-quarter loss of $361 million - it's first-ever quarter of negative earnings. The company posted a $743 million markdown on its derivative exposures, "primarily the result of unfavorable market pricing of collateralized debt obligations." Credit insurance compatriot MBIA also reported its first loss ($36.6 million), on the back of a $352 million "mark-to-market" write-down of its "structured Credit derivatives portfolio." …

MBIA and Ambac combine for about $1.9 Trillion of "net debt service outstanding" - the amount of debt securities and Credit instruments they have guaranteed, at least in part, to make scheduled payments in the event of default. Throw in the Trillions of Credit insurance written by the mortgage guarantors and you're talking real "money." Importantly, the marketplace is beginning to question the long-term viability of the Credit insurance industry, placing many Trillions of dollars of debt securities in potential market limbo.

With recent developments - including the monstrous write-down from Merrill Lynch, the implosion in the mortgage insurers, and the losses reported by the "financial guarantors" - in mind, I'll revisit an excerpt from a January article by the Financial Times' Gillian Tett: "…Total issuance of CDOs…reached $503bn worldwide last year, 64% up from the year before. Impressive stuff for an asset class that barely existed a decade ago. But that understates the growth. For JPMorgan's figures do not include all the private CDO deals that bankers are apparently engaged in too. Meanwhile, if you chuck index derivative portfolio numbers into the mix, the zeros get bigger: extrapolating from trends in the first nine months of last year, total CDO issuance was probably around $2,800bn last year, a threefold increase over 2005. These startling numbers will certainly not shake the world outside investment banking. For, as I noted in last week's column, the CDO explosion is occurring in a relatively opaque part of the financial system, beyond the sight - let alone control - of ordinary household investors, or politicians."

Subprime and the SIVs are peanuts these days in comparison to the gigantic global CDO and Credit derivatives markets. CDOs may lack transparency, trade infrequently, and operate outside of market pricing ("mark-to-model"). Nonetheless, CDO exposure now permeates the entire global financial system - exposure that regrettably mushroomed in the midst of the most reckless end-of-cycle mortgage excesses imaginable. Rumors this week had major insurance companies suffering huge CDO losses. To what extent the big insurance "conglomerates" have exposure to CDOs and other Credit derivatives is unclear today, but there is no doubt that the global leveraged speculating community is knee deep in the stuff. Importantly, as goes the U.S. mortgage market, so goes the CDOs. I'm not optimistic.

I don't want to place undue weight on one month's data, but the California statewide median home price sank $58,140 over the month of September (down 4.7% y-o-y to $530,830). This was by far the largest monthly decline on record and the first year-over-year fall "in more than 10 years." September California sales were down 39% from a year earlier. Weakness was statewide ….;

We've definitely reached a critical point worthy of the question: Can "structured finance," as we know it, survive the California and U.S. mortgage/housing busts? I don't believe so. For one, the historic nature of the Credit Bubble virtually ensures the collapse of the Credit insurance "industry" (companies, markets, and derivative counter-parties). The mortgage insurers are now in the fight for their lives, while the "financial guarantors" today face an implosion of their "structured Credit" insurance business. Worse yet, major problems in municipal finance (certainly including California state and municipalities) are festering and will emerge when the economy sinks into recession. It is worth noting that California revenues were $777 million short of expectations during the first fiscal quarter ….

Returning to the vulnerable CDO market, some key dynamics are in play. With California now at the brink, uncertain but huge losses are in the pipeline for jumbo, "alt-A," and "option-ARM" mortgages - loans that were for the most part thought sound only weeks ago. The market began to revalue the top-rated CDO tranches this week, a process that should only accelerate. "AAA" is not going to mean much. If things unfold as I expect, a full-fledged run from California mortgage exposure could be in the offing. And as the dimensions of this debacle come into clearer market view, the viability of the Credit insurers will be cast further in doubt … with ramifications for Trillions of securities and derivatives. General Credit Availability would suffer mightily.

With global equities markets in melt-up mode, it might seem absurd to warn that a troubling global financial crisis is poised to worsen. But Structured Finance is Under Duress. The entire daisy-chain of liquidity agreements, securitization structures, Credit insurance and guarantees, derivatives counterparty exposures and, even, the GSEs is increasingly suspect. Trust has been broken and market confidence is not far behind.

The big global equities and commodities surge over the past few months certainly has been instrumental in counteracting what would have surely been a problematic "run" from the leveraged speculating community. How long this spectacle can divert attention from the unfolding mortgage/CDO/"structured finance" debacle is an open question. I can't think of a period when it has been more critical for stocks to rise - and rise they have. Yet I suspect recent developments will now encourage the more sophisticated players to begin reining in exposure.

The nightmare scenario - where the market abruptly comes to recognize that the leveraged speculating is hopelessly stuck in illiquid CDO, ABS, MBS, derivative and equities positions - doesn't seem all that outrageous or distant this week. [emphasis added]

October 28, 2007 at 03:18 PM in Asset Bubbles, Credit Bubble, Economic Indicators, Federal Reserve, Risk/Derivatives | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

[Oct 26, 2007] In Defense of Government

I'm heartened to note an upwelling of support for government, finally, in the blogosphere I read. And heartened to see that the strident defense of Free Market Fundamentalism has waned in the wake of recent market/political aberration and scandal. Here are snips from four recent pieces talking about support for govenment and/or reasons for such support. One is from Paul Krugman, as interviewed by Ezra Klein from The American Prospect suggesting that a new dawn may be breaking for "progressives". One is from George Monboit, framed in the context of the Northern Rock bank meltdown, suggesting that "libertarianism" is a belief-system that can only survive when "perpetually subsidized by responsible citizens" of structured governments. Two are from Douglas Amy, as published on his recently renowned, Government is Good website:
TAP [Ezra Klein] Talks to Paul Krugman, The American Prospect, Oct 25: … EK: … [O]ne of the things you mention [in The Conscience of a Liberal] is that [tmes] have changed, and they've changed in part because the forces that kept egalitarian norms and egalitarian culture in place have dissolved. And to some degree, to put it in Galbraith's terms, the countervailing powers have receded, you don't have the government in the same way, the unions in the same way, you don't have the media channeling outrage on this. But how did we get to the place where we've accepted it?

PK: Well I think the outrage is starting to happen now. It takes a while, and part of it is just people … I have the sense that a lot people don't understand how rich the rich are. For the middle-class, it's a lot of the frog in the slowly warming pot syndrome. That year to year the fact that you're falling behind, that you're not getting anywhere despite a growing economy, is not that obvious, and you can chalk it up to your individual experience. But you look back at 35 years of technological progress, rising productivity, and at best arguable gains for the median family, then you can really see it. And the forces at the top are so large that, in a way, they're unimaginable, it's hard to get people focused on it. People at the [NY Times], when I did an article on inequality for the magazine five years ago, and they had artwork illustrating mansions, which I talked about in the article, but what they showed were not. Those were big new McMansions, $3 million dollar, 6,000 square foot homes. But they weren't what the truly rich were building. So people don't have a sense of how far it's gone.

EK: And you talk in the book a lot about political culture, and you touch a little bit on culture culture, but I want to focus on that. We've had "greed is good," Alex Keaton, corporate social responsibility … There's been this real move, not just in the politics and the taxes and so forth, but in the culture, to say, this is ok, even virtuous.

PK: It's the twenties all over again. We can think about what the cultural roots of this would have been, but I think the Great Depression and the war, and the fact that you had a powerful union movement, that forces of equality were big players in the society created a culture where people could say with full-throated voices we did that. …

PK: … [T]here's a progressive movement where there wasn't one before. Clinton came in when the Democratic Party was basically an uncoordinated coalition of people with their own special interests. There is a real progressive movement now. They've learned something from [particularly, the recent health care] debate. …

EK: Toward the end of [The Conscience of a Liberal], you define a liberal as someone who believes in these ideas, and you differentiate that from a progressive as someone who takes action on these ideas. I'm curious where you got that, because I haven't heard it before.

PK: Yeah, it's my own. A lot of people use progressive because liberal has become a bad word, and I don't think that's ultimately a strategy that is going to work, so you might as well adopt the traditional label. But I think in terms of movements a lot. Movement conservatism is a very real force, and movement conservatives, which are by some standards not true conservatives whatever that means. Now we do have a movement, and progressive is mostly used to denote that movement. The American Prospect or the Center for American Progress are clearly progressive movement institutions. That seems to me to be a natural distinction. The values they're exposing are clearly those that have been traditionally associated with liberalism, but the progressive movement is something new. If we had that movement in 1991, as Trent Lott would say, "we wouldn't have all these problems today."



Libertarians are True Social Parasites, George Monboit, Oct 23: … Wherever modern humans, living outside the narrow social mores of the clan, are allowed to pursue their genetic interests without constraint, they will hurt other people. They will grab other people's resources, they will dump their waste in other people's habitats, they will cheat, lie, steal and kill. And if they have power and weapons, no one will be able to stop them except those with more power and better weapons. Our genetic inheritance makes us smart enough to see that when the old society breaks down, we should appease those who are more powerful than ourselves, and exploit those who are less powerful. The survival strategies which once ensured cooperation among equals now ensure subservience to those who have broken the social contract.

The democratic challenge, which becomes ever more complex as the scale of human interactions increases, is to mimic the governance system of the small hominid troop. We need a state that rewards us for cooperating and punishes us for cheating and stealing. At the same time we must ensure that the state is also treated like a member of the hominid clan and punished when it acts against the common good. Human welfare, just as it was a million years ago, is guaranteed only by mutual scrutiny and regulation. …

Unless tax-payers' money and public services are available to repair the destruction it causes, libertarianism destroys people's savings, wrecks their lives and trashes their environment. It is the belief system of the free-rider, who is perpetually subsidised by responsible citizens. As biologists we both know what this means. Self-serving as governments might be, the true social parasites are those who demand their dissolution.



Government is Good, Welcome: … This site challenges many of common criticisms of government - that it is massively wasteful, incompetent, the enemy of economic prosperity, etc. An objective examination of the actual record of government reveals that most of these charges are exaggerated, misleading, or simply wrong. This is not to deny that American government has its problems. For one thing, it is certainly not as democratic and accountable as it could be, and special interests have way too much political power. Such problems need to be fixed, and this site identifies several needed reforms. Nonetheless, whatever drawbacks this institution has right now are far outweighed by the enormous benefits that we all enjoy from a vast array of public sector programs. On the whole, government is good.

Government is Good, Introduction: We Need to Stand Up for Government: We need to better understand the indispensable roles that government plays in our society, and we need to come to the defense of this unfairly maligned institution.

One reason why conservatives have been winning their ideological war against government is that too few people have been vigorously defending this institution. When was the last time you heard someone offering a positive vision of government - government as a good thing? To their credit, many centrist and liberal politicians have tried to defend various public sector programs - such as environmental protection and Social Security - from the conservative onslaught. But what they have rarely done is to defend the idea that government itself is valuable and beneficial. So while conservatives have been fighting on two fronts - attacking government programs and government itself - the defenders have been fighting back mostly by trying to protect programs. They have not been making the positive case for a healthier and more active public sector. …

This retreat from government must stop. Clearly many centrist and liberal lawmakers understand the valuable and indispensable role that government plays in our society, but they seem to believe that if they too jump on the anti-government band-wagon, this will take the issue away from the conservatives. But this strategy has utterly failed. It has only added fuel to the anti-government fire that Republicans have been stoking for years. Far from abandoning this issue, the right has only pressed harder in their efforts to delegitimize government and create the minimal state. What we need instead is a reasoned and vigorous counter-attack against the anti-government juggernaut - one that champions the vital roles that public sector plays in our society. That is what this website provides - it makes the case that government is good. …

[Oct 22, 2007] "Conservative" Economic Policy Dies a Timely Death

Obituary: Conservative Economic Policy, Jared Bernstein, TPM Café, Oct 19: Conservative economic policy is dead. It committed suicide.

Its allegiance to market solutions, tax cuts and spending cuts, supply-side nonsense, manipulative and corrosive ties to industry and the rich, have left it wholly unable to cope with the challenges we face. Its terribly limited toolbox simply cannot address the economic insecurities and opportunities generated by today's global, interconnected, polluted, insecure, dynamic, bubble-prone economy.

What's more, progressives have developed an alternative policy set with the flexibility to combine market forces with the necessary regulation and redistribution to address these challenges. Whether that agenda will ever see the light of day is another question.

… The fundamental flaw with conservative economic policy is its reliance on markets for problems that markets can't solve. It is widely recognized, for example, that consumer-driven health care … does not begin to address the challenge of health care reform. Similarly, while we can all agree that globalization has many positive attributes, simply calling for more "free trade" doesn't address either pervasive income losses to many Americans or the unfulfilled promise of trade to the poor in developing countries.

A related flaw is the inability of the empty conservative toolbox to deal with the critical economic questions of the day. How much regulation is necessary to both foster growth and innovation while avoiding the rampant speculation that has infected key sectors, such and housing and financial markets? The conservative answer is "none," and that's obviously wrong. The last two economic recoveries have been crippled by bursting speculative bubbles. But the trick, of course, is correctly calibrating the regulatory agenda.

On inequality, … [There is] nothing in [conservative ideology's] toolbox to address inequality. To the contrary, their tax policies exacerbate it.

And while education provides a critical leg up, it cannot be the sole policy solution for inequality …. When the benefits of (accelerated) productivity growth are flowing almost exclusively to a narrow sliver at the very top of the wealth scale, something else besides "enhanced returns to skills" is going on.

… Too much power rests in the hands of too few right now, and they have used their political and financial power to pursue violent, shortsighted foreign policy, steer the lion's share of growth their way, and avoid dealing with the challenges of global warming, health care, and inequality.

So we are left with a riddle: how can conservative, economic elites be both powerful and dead at the same time?

It's because they are zombies: their ideas that are dead but their political and economic clout remains prodigious and threatening. They can still win elections. But they cannot govern-they're proving that with every new failure of the government they demonize but still dominate. … Yet zombies are always dangerous, and while the tide appears to be turning against them, their defeat is by no means a sure thing. …

In my decades of life as a progressive economist, I've never seen such an outpouring of good ideas. … But good policy solutions by themselves won't win the day. I remain deeply nervous that progressives will fail to tap this uniquely clear moment of the failure of conservative policy. And the stakes are very high. If we squander this opportunity-if we fail to get the majority of the electorate behind the progressive ideas touted above, or we fail to push wavering centrist democrats toward these ideas-we may not be able to repair the damage. I don't mean to be alarmist, but we must stop the zombies before it's too late.


October 22, 2007 at 03:27 PM in Government, Markets | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

[Oct 14, 2007] Two Minsky Disciples Differ on Bernanke's Leadership

Paul McCulley is once-again preaching the gospel of Keynes/Minsky. McCulley believes Fed Chairmam Bernanke is well aware of stumbling blocks and pitfalls in the path forward. While also preaching Keynes/Minsky, Doug Noland is, as usual, much less favorably inclined toward Bernanke's abilities/penchants to steer a thoughtful course forward. I'm still inclined to follow McCulley's bet on Bernanke.
A Reverse Minsky Journey, Paul McCulley, Oct 7:Double Bubbles … Keynes … words some 70 years ago… are near-perfect, and prescient description of what undergirded dramatic United States growth in recent years: (1) asset securitization, notably of subprime loans, and (2) the shadow banking system, defined as the whole alphabet soup of non-bank levered intermediaries. … The joint growth of these two beasts into double bubbles was grounded in the irrational belief, nay exuberance in:

Those two presumptions, or conventions, in Keynes' lexicon, did indeed provide, as he intoned, "a considerable measure of continuity and stability." Conventional wisdom Rule 1 held that rising home prices would cover all lax, even fraudulent mortgage underwriting sins. Conventional wisdom Rule 2 held that the "depositors" of the shadow banking system, more properly known as asset-back commercial paper holders, would forever roll their investments, content and confident in the low default experience of shadow banks' assets, per Rule 1.

In 2007, facts inconveniently neutered both of these Rules …

Just as Keynes predicted, when the conventional basis of valuation for the originate-to-distribute (to the shadow banking system) business model for subprime mortgages was undermined, the asset class imploded "violently." And the implosion was not, as both Wall Street and Beltway mavens predicted, contained. Rather it has become contagious, first on Wall Street, with all "risk assets" re-pricing to higher risk premiums, frequently in violent fashion, and now on Main Street, where the housing recession is taking a new leg down, with debt-deflation accelerating in the wake of a mushrooming mortgage credit crunch, notably in the sub-prime sector, but also up the quality ladder.

Yes, we are now experiencing a reverse Minsky Journey…, where instability will, in the fullness of time, restore stability, as Ponzi Debt Units are destroyed, Speculative Debt Units are severely disciplined, and Hedge Debt Units make a serious comeback (remember, in Minsky terms, Hedge Units are the good guys!). Meanwhile, rather than speaking of endogenous containment of the bursting of the double bubbles, the mission of policy makers, notably monetary policy, is to exogenously contain the contagion - cutting off the fat tails of systemic risk on Wall Street and of recession on Main Street.

Bottom Line… I have high confidence that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke understands every Keynesian word quoted above! I also have high confidence that he fully understands that a reverse Minsky Journey lowers the neutral real Fed funds rate, in mirror image of how a forward Minsky Journey lifts it. He and his colleagues demonstrated that understanding in the most powerful way possible: deeds, not just words, with a 50 basis point cut in the Fed funds rate to 4¾% two weeks ago, when the Street consensus was for only 25 basis points.

There are many, many basis points of easing to come, as time and credit market dynamics prove that liquidity is indeed a state of mind, not some abstract measure of the money stock or pool of money putatively on the sidelines, ready to be put to work. Liquidity is all about the appetite of investors to assume risk with levered money and the appetite of savers to provide such investors the leverage they seek.

And until the housing sector recession - with inventories half the distance to the moon … and prices deflating in most major markets …, with debt-deflation/defaults in the wake - has run its course, liquidity will remain both scarce and expensive, even if it notionally remains plentiful.



Not So Benign Neglect , Doug Noland, Oct. 12: … The serious issues associated with the current "reflation" are many. For one, the dollar is structurally quite fragile while the most robust Inflationary Biases are in non-Dollar Asset Classes. Previously, Fed reflationary policies provided a competitive advantage for U.S. risk assets that worked to incite sufficient financial flows to support or even boost the greenback. This proved a huge ongoing advantage for our expansionary Credit system. Today, the negative ramifications associated with dollar weakness more than offset the Fed's capacity to inflate U.S. securities prices. The Fed's recent rate cut proved a bonanza for most foreign markets (currencies, commodities, equities, bonds, etc.), especially relative to dollar-denominated mortgage securities (the previous Bubble asset class of choice).

The Flow of Finance will now pose extraordinary challenges and risks. The unfolding mortgage crisis (especially in "private-label"and jumbo) will prove stubbornly immune to "reliquefication" benefits. This dynamic places home prices, the consumer balance sheet, and the general U.S. economy in harm's way. At the same time, there are the stock market Bubble and an acutely vulnerable dollar. I will presuppose that the Fed is hopeful to ignore equities and currencies, while operating monetary policy with a focus on the Credit market and real economy. Such a policy course, however, implies at this point much greater currency, market instability, and inflationary risks than our central bankers seem to appreciate.

I would furthermore contend that the nature of current Risk Intermediation is seductively problematic. On a short-term basis, enormous bank and money-fund led financial sector expansion has been sufficient to over-inflate non-mortgage Credit. It's been too easy - and Credit to sustain the boom too risky. Meantime, post-Bubble risk aversion festers in mortgage-related finance that will creep ever-closer to spilling over into an economic downturn and a reemergence of financial turbulence. We can expect foreign demand for our risk assets to remain tepid at best.

Despite current market euphoria, these processes are significantly elevating the systemic risks associated with today's ballooning financial sector balance sheet. A stock market Bubble beset by destabilizing speculative dynamics only compounds systemic vulnerabilities. Such a backdrop seems to beckon for a currency crisis, a risk that leaves our Federal Reserve policymakers with much less flexibility than they or the markets today appreciate. There are major costs associated with Not So Benign Neglect. The Fed had better at least start sounding like they've thought through some of the issues.

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