Monday, June 24, 2013

Greedy Bastards

Chris Kluwe, the former placekicker for the Minnesota Vikings, is also a very good writer.  In his new book Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies, excerpted in Salon, he takes on Ayn Rand and libertarians.

So I forced myself to read “Atlas Shrugged.” Apparently I harbor masochistic tendencies; it was a long, hard slog, and by the end I felt as if Ayn Rand had violently beaten me about the head and shoulders with words. I feel I would be doing all of you a disservice (especially those who think Rand is really super-duper awesome) if I didn’t share some thoughts on this weighty tome.

Who is John Galt?

John Galt (as written in said novel) is a deeply flawed, sociopathic ideal of the perfect human. John Galt does not recognize the societal structure surrounding him that allows him to exist. John Galt, to be frank, is a turd.

However, John Galt is also very close to greatness. The only thing he is missing, the only thing Ayn Rand forgot to take into account when writing “Atlas Shrugged,” is empathy.

John Galt talks about intelligence and education without discussing who will pay for the schools, who will teach the teachers. John Galt has no thought for his children, or their children, or what kind of world they will have to occupy when the mines run out and the streams dry up. John Galt expects an army to protect him but has no concern about how it’s funded or staffed. John Galt spends his time in a valley where no disasters occur, no accidents happen, and no real life takes place.

John Galt lives in a giant fantasy that’s no different from an idealistic communist paradise or an anarchist’s playground or a capitalist utopia. His world is flat and two-dimensional. His world is not real, and that is the huge, glaring flaw with objectivism.

John Galt does not live in reality.

In reality, hurricanes hit coastlines, earthquakes knock down buildings, people crash cars or trip over rocks or get sick and miss work. In reality, humans make good choices and bad choices based on forces even they sometimes don’t understand. To live with other human beings, to live in society, requires that we understand that shit happens and sometimes people need a safety net. Empathy teaches us that contributing to this safety net is beneficial for all, because we never know when it will be our turn.

I once tried to read Atlas Shrugged and gave up pretty quickly.  Not only did I find it turgid in ways that brought new meaning to the word “heavy” that we used to bandy about in high school English when we really didn’t get what the author was talking about, it was whiny and boring, much like the people who think that Ayn Rand is the inspiration for their political movement.

What it comes down to is that Randians and so-called “libertarians” are in it for themselves.  They think of themselves as so wonderful and smart that the world owes them a living and anyone who has a problem, be it a natural disaster or some other flaw of disease or disability, should just tough it out or get out of the way.  Greed is the creed and all this crap about We The People is just a slogan aimed at getting those who could never achieve greatness think they can so they’ll shut up and stop complaining about what they haven’t got.  And the best examples of libertarians that we have out there are folks like Rand Paul who are fine with letting people fend for themselves in the name of freedom as long as they don’t have a uterus to monitor or a same-sex wedding to go to.

I can’t wait to read the rest of Mr. Kluwe’s book.

6 barks and woofs on “Greedy Bastards

  1. Libertarianism as practiced by the Randians is not merely unabashed self-centredness: it’s also the license to bash others for their choices. Invest in a company’s stock and watch it fare poorly? You should have done better research on your investment before you plunked down the cash. Lose your house to a hurricane/tornado/earthquake/bombing? You shouldn’t have decided to live near weather/tectonics/terrorists. Get sick/injured from your job? You should have picked a different career. Upset with your kids’ schooling? You should have sent them elsewhere. How one would do any of these things never enters the conversation. And in each case, you’ll note that there’s no suggestion that bad corporate governance, employer greed, poor school funding, Acts of God or other misfortune is never, ever to blame – there’s only the individual’s choices, the individual’s fault, and whether or not the individual deals with those things. And your lawyer, doctor, accountant, auto mechanic and anyone else you pay for services are all blameless, because you paid them to do something you didn’t want to do yourself: so as an employee you’re on your own, as an employer or customer you’re on your own as well, and as a citizen you’re… well, you get the drift.

    There’s a certain responsibility for one’s actions that is required of any adult. And then there’s Randian Libertarianism, which requires a level of “personal responsibility” so vast that actually living is impossible while attempting it, failing it is predictable, and assessing blame for the consequences of that failure anywhere except upon the unfortunate is impossible.

      • Aw shucks [blush].

        But isn’t it true? “Well, you’re in [insert difficulty here] because you didn’t [take some related preventative action].” The “so there” is audible even if they never say it. There’s a secular holiness in their worldview that seems to have supplanted the Reformed Protestant holiness of previous centuries. And you’ll note that they never own up to any major misfortune that’s presumably caused by their own actions: they may have missed an investment opportunity, or paid a little too much for their house, or be struggling losing “a few pounds” – but bankruptcy, or getting had by a builder, or life-threatening health issues just doesn’t come up (and certainly never with an “it’s my own fault” admission attached).

        The thing that burns me most about them is that, for all their “personal responsibility” carping, tort reform is one of their pet projects. Seems that you can be impoverished and fired and left to die of something preventable because you’re somehow responsible for your own ill-fortune, but no business should ever be held liable for something it did. That double standard bothers me more than any single other component.

  2. Awesome take-town of an idiot who doesn’t deserve a fraction of the attention she gets. I read one of rand’s books, and resolved that woman is not stealing any more of my minutes.

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