By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: October 26, 2020 ~
On Friday, the print edition of the New York Times carried this headline over a column by Paul Krugman: “How Many Americans Will Ayn Rand Kill?” (The digital headline reads: “When Libertarianism Goes Bad.”) Krugman makes the following points: libertarian rhetoric is all about “freedom” and “personal responsibility.” Politicians in states filled with the Ayn Rand crowd refuse to issue mandates to wear masks, believing this comes under the Ayn Rand screed that individual choice must always triumph. Krugman correctly defines this failed logic as follows:
“Many things should be matters of individual choice. The government has no business dictating your cultural tastes, your faith or what you decide to do with other consenting adults.
“But refusing to wear a face covering during a pandemic, or insisting on mingling indoors with large groups, isn’t like following the church of your choice. It’s more like dumping raw sewage into a reservoir that supplies other people’s drinking water.”
Unfortunately, Krugman fails to make the essential connection between Ayn Rand, the brand of Republican politician that dominates now in so many state houses, and Charles Koch – the man who has been leading the billionaire network that has been funding this anti-government, anti-regulation movement for more than forty years.
This movement has very little to do with individual freedom and everything to do with Charles Koch’s freedom to have a net worth of $44.9 billion, achieved by polluting the air we breathe with his fossil fuels and chemicals empire called Koch Industries, while financing the political campaigns of people who will make sure he retains those rights.
Ayn Rand was a lousy writer. But the Koch network of corporate billionaires liked what she had to say so, for decades now, they have financed putting her books into high schools and colleges. Then the Koch money machine financed an operation to get economic professors to teach her nonsense that selfishness is good and helping one’s fellow human beings is evil. Then they financed a dizzying network of nonprofit think tanks to spread this drivel onto OpEd pages and news talk shows. After decades, we have full-scale brain washing among a significant part of the United States populace. (See related articles below.)
Ayn Rand’s philosophy is called “Objectivism” and it holds that big government is bad and obscenely rich corporate titans are the real heroes of society. Their success proves they’re smart so they should be listened to. The poor deserve their lot in life and should receive no tax support from other citizens.
We have a not-so distant reminder of how this philosophy played out in the Great Financial Crisis of 2007 to 2010. Alan Greenspan was an actual disciple of Ayn Rand and a member of her group in New York City. He wrote essays for her “Objectivist” newsletter and contributed articles for her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. One of Greenspan’s articles in the book is titled “Antitrust.” Greenspan makes the same deluded case as Rand that if government will only get out of the way, corporate leaders will move the country forward. Greenspan writes:
“The churning of a nation’s capital, in a fully free economy, would be continuously pushing capital into profitable areas — and this would effectively control the competitive price and production policies of business firms, making a coercive monopoly impossible to maintain…To sum up: The entire structure of antitrust statutes in this country is a jumble of economic irrationality and ignorance. It is the product: (a) of a gross misinterpretation of history, and (b) of rather naive, and certainly unrealistic, economic theories…No speculation, however, is required to assess the injustice and the damage to the careers, reputations, and lives of business executives jailed under the antitrust laws.”
At the end of this treatise, Greenspan writes, “I am indebted to Ayn Rand for her identification of this principle.”
Greenspan Chaired the Federal Reserve for an unprecedented 18 years, from August 11, 1987 to January 31, 2006, blathering idiocy for much of that time. Greenspan adopted the philosophy that the giant Wall Street banks didn’t need to be closely policed because they would follow their own self interest and prevent themselves from becoming insolvent. In fact, it was in the bank executives’ self-interest to loot the bank through obscene stock option grants while pumping up profits with paid-for AAA-ratings on subprime debt bombs doomed to eventual explosion.
On October 23, 2008, with century-old iconic Wall Street banks in ruins and the U.S. economy entering the worst crisis since the Great Depression, Henry Waxman, Chair of the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee, attempted to elicit an explanation from Alan Greenspan as to how the oversight of these banks by the Fed had failed so spectacularly. Greenspan explained:
“So the problem here is something which looked to be a very solid edifice, and, indeed, a critical pillar to market competition and free markets, did break down. And I think that, as I said, shocked me. I still do not fully understand why it happened and, obviously, to the extent that I figure out where it happened and why, I will change my views. If the facts change, I will change.”
But instead of changing, Greenspan went full-on greed. After Greenspan left the Fed, he collected fat fees as an adviser to John Paulson’s hedge fund, the epitome of selfish pursuit and unaccountability.
According to the Los Angeles Times, here’s how average Americans landed after Greenspan’s bubble blew up, causing the Great Financial Crisis: “Nearly 9 million people lost their jobs and at least 10 million lost their homes. Within four years, 46.5 million Americans were living in poverty.”
And here we are today with the Trump administration stuffed with people from Koch Industries and its law firm, Jones Day, and Koch’s front group, Freedom Partners, still pushing a hands-off, Ayn Rand agenda from the federal government during the worst pandemic since 1918.
Unless this situation changes fast, we are looking at a replay of the Great Financial Crisis — or worse.