Joshua Heath: More notes on Ayn Rand


In my previous column, “GOP’s Favorite Witch”, I discussed the amoral philosophy of Ayn Rand, with its obsession with selfishness as the virtue that should override all others. There were some points I wanted to include but did not, however, simply because I had to stay within my word limit.

Let me discuss them now. First, followers of Rand consider themselves fervent patriots. Go to any Tea Party rally, with its sea of American flags and funny hats, and you’ll see participants who can cite her works and ideas from memory. Little do they know, of course, that Rand’s philosophy is utterly incompatible with any sensible definition of patriotism one can think of.

According to Peter Edelman, a leading scholar of poverty at Georgetown University, if Rand’s vision were implemented and the safety net was destroyed, roughly 40 million citizens would be thrust into poverty. The situation faced by the poor in the US would be similar to what is seen in economically distressed nations like Ghana and Peru.

In what sane universe can an individual desire such an outcome and still claim they love their country? It’s time for folks to get a grip. You can follow Ayn Rand or be a patriotic American, but you can’t lay claim to both of those notions. Logical consistency still matters, even in the age of Donald Trump.

Now if Rand were reading this piece, she’d quickly point out that she believed private charity would pick up the slack after the welfare state was destroyed. But one need only look at the past to see that this thesis is nonsense. America has had a vigorous charitable sector for much of its history, but nonprofits have never been able to provide a safety net as effectively as the government.

We did not make serious gains against senior poverty until Medicare and Social Security, against hunger until food stamps and school breakfast programs, against college access until federal student loans and grants were created. Attacking those problems took vigorous action from the public sector, action demanded by the American people when they sent progressive leaders to the White House and Congress.

The truth of the matter is clear: an Ayn Rand world would contain infinitely more suffering than what we see today. Considering this, no person of conscience should support this woman or the politicians who sing her praises.

Stand instead with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Robert Kennedy, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt–the giants of our nation who recognized that a selfish life was not worth living, and represented a betrayal of our highest ideals and those who died for them.

Or better yet: vote the Democratic ticket in the fall.

Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party.

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