My extremely unpopular opinion.

hiding

I expect to get trolled or unfollowed for this, but so be it.

I have a very unpopular opinion.  Some may call it Marxist or un-American (but in my opinion, it’s no more un-American than what’s going on right now in our government.).

Here it is.  Capitalism run amok (without controls and regulations to keep its excesses at bay) is worse than communism.  Unfettered capitalism is purely predatory.   It always leads to fascism.

Granted, communism is a terrible way to run a government (and has fallen out of favor in the developed world) because it’s extremely authoritarian and allows no real freedoms, no private property, there’s always the risk of food and other shortages, since the government, rather than private business, supplies everything.   But at least everyone has access to a first rate secular education (including higher education) and healthcare.  Those may be its only advantages but it least it has them.   The outcomes of communism have been terrible because it’s an ideology that just doesn’t work.    But neither does unregulated capitalism (except for corporations and the very wealthy).

If you look at the reasons why each ideology exists, communism at least had origins more noble and humane than the motive of pure greed that fuels capitalism.    Its core belief is that everyone is equal.  In the real world, of course, it doesn’t work, and communist governments always become corrupt with the leaders exploiting the populace and creating massive human suffering.   But unregulated capitalism is even worse because it’s basically a neofeudal system based on pure greed and the lust for power.  Without regulations put in place to protect the populace from its excesses, it rewards only the most predatory and sociopathic people, while exploiting everyone else and destroying the environment.    It punishes the most vulnerable and those with empathy while rewarding only people who have no issues exploiting others for their own gain.

So, as bad as communism is (was?), unregulated capitalism/neofeudalism like we’re heading toward here in America under Trump and the GOP is worse because it leads to fascism.  It leads to the oppression and the removal of basic rights and freedoms every bit as bad as those associated with communism.   It thrives on predation of the vulnerable and is therefore sociopathic and more evil than communism. There, I said it.

In my opinion, democratic socialism like they have in Scandinavian countries is the most ideal way to run a government.   People living in these countries score highest on the happiness index (even in spite of the endlessly dark and cold winters, which itself leads to depression and suicide), they have the longest life expectancy and the best health, there is the least inequality, and their people are far more likely to be prosperous then elsewhere (even though these aren’t the richest or most powerful nations).  Maybe such a system can only work in small countries with relatively homogenous populations though.

Short of that, humane democratic capitalist (capitalism can be balanced with enough socialism to make it humane and respectful of the earth — it used to be that way here, too) governments like Canada’s, that at least recognize the basic humanity of all its citizens, work best for average human beings.  Western Europe and most developed countries recognize this fact.  But in America, probably due to the Cold War, people are still terrified of the “S” word.  If they educated themselves on what it actually means (some people think the Nazi Party was socialist because it had the word in its full name — but it was actually fascist and not socialist at all) and stopped associating it with communism (which it isn’t), perhaps they would stop being so afraid of it.

*****

Further reading:

The Benefits of Socialism

 

 

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Political ideology and the Overton Window.

overtonwindow

I’ve realized over the past year that political ideology is not a straight line, but more of a circle.

If you move too far to either extreme, whether it’s the far left or the far right, you wind up in pretty much the same place:  an oppressive, centralized government, removal of individual freedoms and rights, and suppression of the free press and free speech.   Authoritarianism and totalitarianism is not limited to the far right (fascism).  It also occurs on the far left (communism, which is found in places like China and North Korea, and in the old Soviet Union).

The only difference between fascism and communism is that in fascism, the corporation, a religious organization, or a group of oligarchs become the government and set all the rules.  Dissent is not allowed.  There are signs of this happening in the United States today, and it has already happened in Russia (after a brief experiment with democracy once the Soviet Union fell).  Authoritarian Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran are also examples of fascist regimes, as was Hitler’s Germany.    Eventually, free enterprise is undermined or suppressed.  In communism, the government itself rules over everyone’s lives, all production is centralized, and free enterprise is not allowed.

Trump’s “food boxes” program reeks of communism to me.    It’s the kind of thing you used to find in the old Soviet Union.   Rather than encouraging personal responsibility by allowing the recipient the dignity and empowerment of making their own food choices (at the same time, boosting the economy and business because food manufacturers and stores make money through SNAP purchases), it gives the recipient no choice and puts that choice instead in the hands of government bureaucrats.

There’s an interesting concept called the Overton Window. This means that as a society moves farther to the right (or the left), what seems to be the “middle ground” also moves farther to that extreme.   The Overton window slides along the scale as public attitudes change.  This is why extremist policies at either end begin to seem normal over time.   A policy that once seemed “radical” or even “unthinkable” begins to seem more acceptable to more people. At the same time, attitudes at the other end of the scale that were once deemed “popular” or “sensible” to most begin to seem unthinkable.  But no matter what extreme a society winds up adopting, tyranny and authoritarianism ensues, and even this can become normalized.

Over the past four or five decades, America has moved farther and farther to the right, and this includes Democrats, who have moved to the right as well.  In fact, today’s Democrats are much more like Republicans of decades ago.    FDR-type Democrats (common during WWII and the early post-war years) are rare today, and are often accused of being socialists.

OvertonWindow (2)

 

A healthy society is always a balance between the right and the left, though it may tend to lean slightly one way or the other.  Extremes on either side only lead to tyranny and misery for most people who have to live under such extremist regimes.   Democracy requires bipartisanship and cooperation between parties.   In my own opinion, a European or Canadian style of democracy works best, but you can be a little farther to the right and still have a healthy, prosperous, and vibrant society, the way America used to be not that long ago.

Extremes of any ideology never lead to prosperity and happiness.  They always cause a nation to eventually fall into tyranny and finally, ruin.

The benefits of socialism.

Twenty or even ten years ago, if you mentioned single payer healthcare, even to Democrats, people would look at you like you had three eyes.  Single payer healthcare, in case anyone doesn’t know, is the system the rest of the developed world enjoys — one that is more efficient, costs everyone less, covers everyone, is less complicated, and is far more humane than our profit-based system that relies on middlemen (the insurance companies) who interfere with and undermine the doctor-patient relationship (because they exist not to keep people healthy, but solely to make a profit off human misery — which is inherently immoral).  No one in the developed world envies our unnecessarily complicated, cruel, mercenary, immoral, and unfair “healthcare” system, in which the quality of care you receive (or if you receive any at all) depends on how much you can afford to pay.

But in 2017, things have changed.    Recent polls show that a majority of Americans (52%) support single payer healthcare, with 69% of Democrats, and 35% of Republicans supporting it (not a majority, but still pretty impressive).  Even CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations are beginning to wake up to how single payer would benefit them by freeing them of the obligation to provide healthcare to their employees or pay a penalty if they don’t.

As the hardline (“Freedom Caucus”) Republicans and the Trump administration double down on their efforts to repeal and replace Obama’s signature achievement (his attempt to make healthcare more affordable for more people), many people are finally waking up to the fact that single payer is really the only option we have left — and the only option that will actually work.   Obamacare is definitely an improvement over nothing at all and now more Americans are covered than were before 2010, but since it was originally a Republican plan developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation (and later used by Mitt Romney for his Massachusetts constituents), it still is based on a system of delivery where healthcare is funneled through profit-oriented insurance companies instead of the government, as it is in all other developed countries.

Now that Senator McCain has said he will vote “No” on the latest incarnation of Trumpcare (which means “no-care” to most of us), the GOP Senate is in full panic mode.  They’re so desperate for a win that they are trying to scare people into supporting their abomination of a bill.  Their latest scare tactic is to scream about “Berniecare” (a reference to Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill) being socialism and how it will destroy America.   They incorrectly insist that the ACA is a step toward socialism and a slippery slope to complete government control over our lives and everything we do.  They tell us that any kind of socialized healthcare or any socialism at all will lead to dictatorship and the removal of all our freedoms and the death of free enterprise.  They say that the only way to “freedom” is to kill the ACA and go back to the bad old days of having no healthcare plan at all where “personal responsibility” (code for ability to pay) was the only factor that decided whether you would receive care or not.

But they are gaslighting and projecting onto us.   It’s almost laughable how hypocritical these claims are.  It’s ironic that the party that is screaming about dictatorship and loss of freedom is the same one whose president is an intolerant, fearmongering demagogue who displays all the signs of being a budding dictator, who discredits and wants to silence the free press, who encourages police brutality and the militarization of police departments, who is backed by a party that is trying to roll back civil rights and freedoms, as well as consumer protections and protections for the environment. It’s laughable that the party that screams about freedom doesn’t want freedom for anyone but the rich, white, conservative, and Christian.   If you’re poor or even middle class, non-white, liberal, or don’t subscribe to a viciously authoritarian and aggressive form of Christian evangelism (Christian dominionism) that believes the “elect” have been favored by God with wealth and power (and aims to replace the Constitution with Old Testament law),  you aren’t worthy and you deserve to have all your freedoms and rights — or sometimes even your citizenship — taken away.

To these “federalists,” freedom means three things:   property rights, the right to bear arms, and “freedom of religion” (to them, this means not what the Founding Fathers — who were products of the Enlightenment and believed in the separation of church and state — meant by it, but the freedom to force your religious beliefs on others using the law to do so).   They talk about “small government” and believe the government should be responsible only for policing and the military (while closely monitoring and meting out punishment for the private behaviors of the people).   Concepts like freedom from harm, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” apply to them only.    If they had their way, they would outlaw any speech, press, or anything else that opposed their draconian, authoritarian, backwards views.  To them, freedom means if you’re wealthy, you shouldn’t have to pay taxes or contribute to the common good.   If you’re a corporation, it means you shouldn’t have to obey laws that require you to pay your employees a fair wage, not pollute the environment, or test products for safety before selling them to the public.

Capitalism works best when it’s leavened by socialism.   Uncontrolled capitalism quickly becomes tyranny.  What we have now is no longer a democracy.  It’s an oligarchy, where corporations are “people” with unlimited power, money is “free speech,” and the very wealthy and powerful are above the law and don’t have to abide by the same rules the rest of us do.  They can pollute, exploit, extort, abuse, and lie to the American people to their heart’s content.   They can infiltrate politics and buy votes.   That’s why the wealthiest .01% have so much power and we’re in the mess we’re in right now.   This sad state of affairs started insidiously with Reagan’s tax breaks for the wealthy, the war on labor unions, and removal of corporate regulations.   Now we have capitalism run amok, with our current government bought and paid for by the wealthiest corporate interests and assisted by an aggressive and powerful group of religious extremists.   Far from being a road to freedom, theirs is a culture of narcissism, entitlement, greed, and exploitation that oppresses everyone except themselves and their wealthy donors.

 

“The definition of fascism is the marriage between the corporation and the state.”

— Benito Mussolini

 

They have gaslighted us all along by convincing people the government is our real enemy, when all along it was the corporate and moneyed interests who were buying our government. Now we have all three branches of government hamstrung by the most hard right of Republicans to the point we are nearly a one-party country.

Think back to FDR and the New Deal.   After World War II, we became a world power like none before or since.  Of course, winning World War II helped our economy immensely, but had it not been for New Deal policies and labor unions that narrowed the gap between the richest and poorest, relieved people from the ravages caused by the Great Depression, and made it possible for young families to buy a home and move into the middle class (and also freed them from the burden of having to house and provide round the clock, at-home medical care to an aging parent thanks to social security and Medicare), I doubt we would have become as prosperous in the postwar years as we did and the envy of the free world.   These government programs and labor unions freed people from the burdens that kept people mired in toil, poverty, and hopelessness in the past, and allowed them to be able to move up into the middle class and even higher.    They allowed older people to live longer, which increased our collective life-span.   Hardliners rant about these programs being socialism, and they are right about that.  But these “socialist” ideas have helped millions of people live freer and healthier lives.

Do you like having a post office?  Do you like having access to libraries, parks, community pools, and museums, which are free to all?  Do you like the national parks and monuments that are the envy of the world and create a thriving tourism industry?  Do you like having bridges, tunnels,  interstate highways (instead of toll roads or dangerous makeshift dirt roads like they have in third world countries), police departments, fire departments, efficient air traffic control, and the assurance that your aging parent won’t have to move in with you and force you to quit your job so you can provide them round the clock care?   Do you like knowing that if your house is on fire, you don’t have to pay a private company to come put it out or watch it burn down and spread to other houses if you lack the money?  If you’re a person of limited or modest means, do you like knowing your child has access to a free public education?   Do you like knowing that the air you breathe and water you drink is safe, and that the food you eat is free of toxins that could kill or sicken you or your loved ones?   Do you like knowing if your area was affected by a natural disaster, that you and your family would receive help from the federal government to get back on your feet? Do you feel secure knowing that there are scientists doing research on deadly contagious diseases that could become plagues without their efforts to combat their spread?  Do you like the fact there are laws that keep factories from dumping toxic waste into your drinking water?  Do you like the fact that companies by law can’t make you work for whatever they want to pay, which might be a dollar a day?

“The test of our progress is not how much we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

–Franklin D. Roosevelt 

 

All these things are socialism.  Now try to imagine what things would be like if these services and protections didn’t exist, or if you had to pay a private company or individual to get any of these things.    Not very pleasant to contemplate, is it?  You’d be looking at a country with a quality of life more closely resembling countries like Cambodia, dictatorships in central Africa, or banana republics in South America than to any developed western nation.

Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland are the four happiest countries in the developed world.    They are also countries that are social democracies — which means they combine capitalism and socialism.  There is nothing wrong with capitalism as long as regulations to keep it contained exist, there is progressive taxation (the rich pay more), and there is a general recognition that not everything can or should be privatized.  Some things simply work better and are more morally sound when they’re not privatized and are administered by the government instead.  Things like police departments, fire departments, prisons, interstate roads, air traffic control, and the military  should never be privatized.  Some services (like long-term care for the elderly, treatment for serious chronic illnesses like cancer, and safety and environmental regulations) cannot be adequately administered by private charities either.

Healthcare and education should always have a public option, even if a private option is also available.  In America, we have both public and private education.   The right wing complaint about “school choice” is bogus, since no one is forced to send their child to a public school, if they’d prefer to pay for a private one, but the public option is available for those who choose it or cannot afford to pay for the private option.  And that is as it should be, even though our current government is actively trying to dismantle public education.  As for healthcare, in Germany, you can buy your health insurance on the private market if you wish, but most people opt for single payer.  Socialist policies keep countries humane and civilized, and they counteract the negative, oppressive, malignant effects of unbridled capitalism which eventually lead to fascism and tyranny, as it is right now in the United States.

I think the problem so many people have with socialism is they equate it with communism. The Cold War led many of us to take a dim view of communism, which was an extreme form of socialism in which people were not allowed to own private property and all services were centralized and run by the government.  So, instead of being able to choose a doctor and have the government pay the claim (as it works in social democracies who have single payer insurance), you’d actually see a “government doctor” in a clinic-like setting and receive less than ideal care.   You could only watch State TV or listen to state-run radio or read state-run newspapers.  You had to stand on long lines to obtain government issued food, and of course there were always shortages.  None of these things are the case with European-style socialism.

Some extremists on the far right argue that countries such as Canada with “socialized medicine” require long wait times and that people die before they get to see a doctor.  But this is a lie.     Most Canadians (and people in other countries with single payer healthcare) are happy with the care they receive and knowing they won’t go bankrupt or risk reaching a “lifetime cap” or be denied care at all because they have a “pre-existing condition.”    In fact, they laugh at us for being so backwards that we refuse to recognize that good health is a human right, and not a luxury that only the rich should be able to afford.   If there are “wait times” in social democracies, it’s for services like cosmetic plastic surgery, gastric bypass surgery, or hip replacements — procedures that aren’t life and death emergencies and where there may be less invasive options that can be explored.  In America, of course, there are long wait times too — even for medically necessary procedures in which you are forced to wait for a health insurance company that cares only about profit to “authorize” a procedure and possibly deny it.

Authoritarianism has no ideology.  It can arise on the left or the right.  Communism is on the extreme left; fascism is on the extreme right.  Socialism (or social democracy, if you prefer) is more in the middle of the scale, although more to the left than capitalism.  Extremes of any ideology lead to tyranny and oppression.   Socialism taken to its extreme becomes communism; capitalism taken to its extreme becomes fascism. Both are caused by (and lead to) government corruption and both lead to the same terrible outcome:  short and brutal lives dominated by oppression, hopelessness, fear, illness, violence, and widespread poverty.   Balance is necessary for a system to work, and for a capitalist society to work for all its people, it must be balanced with socialism.   Other developed countries recognize this, and until the Reagan years changed everything, so did we.

Supporters of unbridled, unregulated capitalism like to tell us “the markets” will fix everything, but this is not true.  It has only led to disaster in the past, the most recent one being the housing crisis of 2008.   The markets are not God, and leaving the markets alone to fix themselves only leads to both economic and social ruin.

When people scream about socialism, I wonder if they’ve ever been to western Europe, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand — countries which may not be world powers, and where people may have to pay higher taxes (but not as high as you might think), but where there is more equality, more tolerance of diversity, and where people enjoy better health, live longer lives, get paid a living wage, and are never burdened with the possibility of bankruptcy or being denied coverage should they or a loved one become seriously ill.   Countries where people are generally happier, have more peace of mind, and where there is less hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, and selfishness. Countries where the common good is still valued more highly than power and greed.  Countries that don’t deny scientific fact or the right of its people to have a free education, clean air and drinking water, and basic no-cost healthcare from cradle to grave.

People in these countries can start companies and engage in free enterprise and with a lot more ease too because they’re not burdened with the fear of losing their insurance if they quit a job to start their own business.  They can leave a job they hate for a better one without fearing a “gap in coverage.”   They are still just as “free” as we are, if not more so (and now they are leaving us behind as they move ahead in the global economy because they recognize that sustainable industry that respects the planet and all life is the wave of the future).  The difference is they recognize what real freedom and real morality is — not the fake version of “freedom” that has come to mean “I got mine, so screw you,” and the fake version of “morality” that condescendingly tells us, “I’m better than you, so the rules I impose on you don’t apply to me.”

The one personality trait that explains why some people love Donald Trump.

I know I said I’d try to avoid any more Trump posts, but I found this really interesting so I’m going to share it here.

Someone asked this question on Quora:

“Why do some people hate Donald Trump and others like him?”

The question was asked on September 24, 2016, before he got elected.

In response, someone posted a study, that came to the following conclusion: the surprising truth is that it isn’t race, income, social class, or even political party that determines whether someone likes Donald Trump or hates him. The answer is level of authoritarian traits. People who score high in authoritarian traits (as opposed to egalitarianism) tend to support Trump. People who score high in egalitarianism tend to dislike Donald Trump.

authoritarianism

Why Do Some People Hate Donald Trump and Others Like Him?

https://www.quora.com/Why-do-some-people-hate-Donald-Trump-and-others-like-him

Answered by Yegor Tkachenko, MS in Operations Research, Stanford University

Let’s focus not on why Trump is a monster, or on why Trump is a saint, but on why there is such a split in American society in attitudes when it comes to Trump.

To assure everyone that the split exists, the most recent Rasmussen reports survey indicates that there is a 38%-38% match-up between Trump and Hillary if the national election happened now [Trump 38%, Clinton 38%].

As evidenced by many answers to this question, there is a large group of people who believe Trump is a liar, bigot, racist, con-artist, and also not good on foreign policy (on foreign policy, Trump has often avoided details and has offered some radical and not broadly accepted ideas – such as giving nuclear weapons to Japan and South Korea).

This group of the US population would agree that he is completely unpresidential, very offensive, and some might even think he would bring about the end of the world if elected [Introducing the Trump Apocalypse Watch] or could be a new Hitler.

In the eyes of this group, the fact that 38% of voters in the US support Trump might be quite unexplainable, or the explanation is that those voters are uneducated, gullible, racist, bigoted, hate women, hate minorities, or are simply nuts. In contrast, those who oppose Trump, are the sane ones and have seen through his lies.

Trump supporters would largely ignore the accusations of racism. Where the jaws of the Trump opponents drop when they hear Mexicans called criminals, Trump supporters are quick to point out that Trump’s anger overall is directed not at all of Mexicans (as it may often seem from his words), but only at those who are in the US illegally. In such a case, why would someone not condemn the violators of the law?

Trump supporters, while not necessarily believing that the wall between the US and Mexico will be built, find it to be a beautiful symbol and a smart negotiation tactics to force Mexico officials to help crush the drug traffic into the US, whereas Trump opponents ignore the potential benefits of this idea in negotiations and instead focus on how hard it would be to do economically.

When Trump suggests that he could develop good relations with Russia and Putin in particular, Trump opponents are not really impressed (they might view Putin as mainly a journalist murderer [The complicated reality behind Trump’s claim that there’s no proof Putin had journalists killed]).

However, Trump supporters might see in this a chance to finally normalize the relations between 2 leading world powers, which could have immense impact on the world stability (it is true that a lot of progress could be made on many of the world problems if the US and Russia stopped blocking each other’s proposals in the UN security council using their veto rights [Russian vetoes are putting UN security council’s legitimacy at risk, says US, ‘US has been veto champion in UN for decades’ – Chomsky to RT ]).

The list goes on.

The truth is, Trump supporters do not care about offensive language and about the face-value of Trump ideas, and are always able to give a positive twist to what Trump says, focusing not on the details in his words, but on their perceived purpose.

Trump supporters are also enamored by his ability to say what he thinks, even if it offends someone, and by his ability to preserve and accumulate wealth despite multiple setbacks. Trump supporters are attracted to his leadership skills (Trump has employed thousands of people), and the fact that he has so much money (be it 2 bln or 10 bln) that it would be harder for lobbyists to influence him as a President.

Finally, where Trump opponents view Trump presidency as a disaster and the end to the US as we know it, Trump supporters hope for the creative destruction in the government, where Trump won’t have enough power to do real damage to the country because of the limits on executive power, but will be able to stir everything up enough to bring about some change.

As can be seen from the above, neither group is irrational.

One group values civility, respect, politeness above all – and for them Trump is unacceptable.

This group also tends to take Trump’s words literally at their face value and detests the idea that Trump might be saying something that he does not actually think in order to achieve his goals. For this group such behavior is lying.

The group of Trump supporters views economy to be the most important thing for the US and is of the opinion that too much politeness in political discourse leads to groupthink and lack of progress.

Instead, they want more straight talk even if it offends someone – for even if someone is hurt by the words, they can get over it, but at least politicians can start discussing the issues they were afraid to touch before because of the political correctness police.

This group tends to be ok with not taking Trump’s words literally – they understand that a person can say something he does not really think in order to achieve his goal – and in their opinion it is a smart PR strategy. (For example, a claim that President Obama was not born in the US – how much free media has this claim earned Trump? And do you thing Trump really believed it?)

The existence of these 2 camps that view and value things differently explains why there are so many Trump haters and so many Trump fans at the same time.

Neither group is dumb (although there are some not very intelligent individuals in both groups), and each group is quite diverse in terms of age, race, gender, education, and income levels.

Addressing and challenging the views of either of these camps is something campaigns on both sides will have to do to defeat Trump or bring Trump to victory.

The Psychopathy of Ayn Rand

Ayn_Rand1
Ayn Rand1” by Phyllis Cerf (April 13, 1916– November 25, 2006), permission obtained from her son Christopher Cerf[…]Richard E. RalstonPublishing ManagerThe Ayn Rand Institute”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Ayn Rand, the author and philosopher who The Tea Party seems to worship with the same reverence they worship Jesus Christ (which is highly ironic, because Rand was an atheist and her values diametrically opposed to Christianity). Certain conservative pundits in recent years have twisted Rand’s ugly philosophy of selfishness (“objectivism”) into their “Christian” right-wing political agenda, and Bill O’Reilly even went so far to say that Jesus would not want to help the poor and homeless because it’s their own fault they don’t have enough to eat. These right wing pundits and politicians never stop to consider that it was the poor and homeless who were Jesus’ disciples and friends, not the rich and powerful. Rand believed that empathy and altruism were the greatest evils to beset mankind, and her childhood hero was a serial killer. She said “she liked the way his mind worked.”

I was going to write an article today about Rand’s obvious psychopathy, but someone has already done it for me. Everything I’d want to say is already here, so I am just going to reblog their excellent article, which uses the items on Hare’s psychopathy checklist to pulverize Ayn Rand because she fit every one of them (these are highlighted in bold).

THE PSYCHOPATHY OF AYN RAND
From Prophet 451’s Journal [link not available]
(stolen from Democractic Underground)
http://www.cwporter.com/psychorand2.htm

randkikestar1
Czar of all the “Rationalists”

You’ve probably heard of Ayn Rand. Most people have these days. She was the author of such inexplicably widely-read “novels” (really, barely-disguised political diatribes) as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. Her books are currently enjoying something of a boom among those who misguidedly believe they would be in the self-righteous community of “Atlases” at Galt’s Gulch. The novels themselves are of only passing interest, being long, melodramatic and mediocrely written. Rather, it is the “philosophy” at the core of the novels which bears attention.

Hear ye, hear ye, I come to bury Rand, not to praise her. While numerous conservative thinkers (and, oddly, Neil Peart) have lauded Rand as a philosopher, few academic institutions include Rand or Objectivism as a philosophical discipline. Conservatives, such as Chris Sciabarra, tend to believe that the academic left decries Rand due to her anti-communist, pro-capitalist slant. Like much of the witterings of conservatives who presume to know what the left thinks, that presumes firstly, more power than the academic left has had in decades; secondly, assumes that the left was universally pro-communist and anti-capitalist, something which has never been true and thirdly, that Rand was saying anything worth studying. She wasn’t. Rand’s “philosophy” was the same defence of endless greed which mankind has been engaged in for eternity, the same attempt to place a moral cover on pure selfishness that has long been pursued by any number of exploiters down the centuries. Nietzche was, and is, pilloried for saying “God is dead”, Rand is lauded for effectively saying “the self is God”. There is nothing new here, save perhaps for the self-delusion that allows so many professed “Christians” to adhere to a philosophy that glorifies greed and athieism. There is also a cult-like deification of Rand by her followers and “swarming” of those who dare criticise her which reminds one very strongly of Scientology (and Glenn Beck followers but that’s another matter).

There is another name for those who hold that the only proper moral consideration is the happiness of the self; for those who view empathy and compassion as weakness; who view selfishness as the only virtue: Psychopaths.

Contrary to popular belief, the psychopath is not automatically violent. Rather, the psychopath is defined by a near-complete lack of empathy. Robert Hare (who created the widely used “Hare Psychopathy Checklist”) describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators” who use a combination of charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexuality and violence to satisfy their own desires. The more human qualities of conscience, empathy, remorse or guilt are either completely absent or extremely limited. It must be repeated that the psychopath is not necessarily violent. Indeed, many are not because their lives have never placed them in a position where violence was the only means to satisfy their desires. Many businessmen (and therefore, many politicians) profile as psychopaths because they exhibit the core characteristics or some section thereof. Ayn Rand should also be considered a psychopath.

Hare’s checklist lists certain personality factors as indicative of psychopathy. The average person will perhaps exhibit one or, at most, two. The psychopath will exhibit all but one or two.

In no particular order, these items are: Glibness/superficial charm.

After her writings became popular, Rand collected around herself a group of cultists who virtually worshipped her. However, Shallow affection, the psychopath’s charm is only ever superficial. As one comes to know and understand the psychopath more fully, the charm which initially attracted one to them is revealed as only skin-deep. In this, Rand was entirely textbook. She was described by most who knew her best as a bitter, friendless child who grew into an equally bitter and acidic woman.

Grandiose sense of self-worth would certainly fit Rand. A woman who names her beliefs “Objectivism” out of a belief that any reasoning person who observes the objective truths of the world would necessarily come to full agreement with her would probably qualify. The fact that her little cult were required to memorise her works and discounted as “imbecilic” and “anti-life” if they asked questions simply seals the deal. Her sincere belief was that thinking freely would automatically lead to total agreement with her views.

The ruthless policing of her cult would also qualify her under the Cunning/manipulative qualifier.

Pathological lying is one that Rand is probably innocent of. So far as we know, there is no reason to believe she was a pathological liar.

Lack of remorse or guilt and Callous/lack of empathy could be described as “Ayn Rand syndrome”. These two qualifiers are really the core of her books, philosophy and worldview. In one of her books (“The Fountainhead”), her “hero”, Howard Roark, blows up a housing project he designed when a minor alteration is made and then orders the jury to acquit him (the fact that, as an architect, Roark was presumably contracted for his work and therefore, it wasn’t “his” anymore piddles all over the supposed respect for property too). [I will add here that there is a scene in “The Fountainhead” in which Roark rapes a leading female character, and Rand defends his crime because it gets him what he wants–Lucky Otter].

In “Atlas Shrugged,” her ode to the super-rich which imagines them going on strike against progressive taxation, Rand describes the rest of the world (without whom, let us not forget, the super-rich would be unable to make anything) in such niceties as “savages”, “refuse” and “imitations of living beings”.

When one of the strikers engineers a train crash (because they don’t just strike but commit acts of terrorism too), Rand makes it clear that she believes the murdered victims deserved their fate because they supported progressive taxation. A stewing hymn of Nietzchean will-to-power, misanthropy, failure to understand economics, feudalism and sexual politics verging on the obscene, “Atlas Shrugged” is full of this stuff. Her heroes spend their time both insisting that they are the heroic producers (and without labour, what are they producing exactly?) and bemoaning that others do not worship them as such. In her spare time, Rand was an admirer of serial killer William Hickman (I’ll spare you the details of his crimes save to say that they were brutal even by serial killer standards), describing him as “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy”; “other people do not exist for him and he does not see why they should” was her evaluation of his crimes and Rand considered this worthy of praise.

Finally, on the personality factor, there is Failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Since our record of Rand’s life isn’t fully detailed, it’s difficult to say how much she satisfied this one. Certainly, when her lover Nathaniel Branden found another partner, she blamed him rather than herself or her increasingly poisonous views. We shouldn’t sympathise with Rand as injured party too much here, she was herself married to someone entirely different and cruel enough to carry on the affair without regard to discretion. Indeed, if the only duty of the superman is to please himself, Branden was acting according to Rand’s ideals and she should have applauded him. She once said the USA should be a “democracy of superiors only” with “superior” being defined as “rich”. One scarcely needs to point out that such a system wouldn’t be democracy at all but oligarchy and interestingly elitist for all her followers’ claim to despise elitism.

One doesn’t need to work very hard to diagnose Rand. Her life and writings paint a vivid picture of psychopathy so clear and obvious that it is only surprising so many miss it. She was a phenomenally damaged woman for whom one can feel an element of pity (an emotion that disgusted her) even while aware of how terrifically dangerous she and her philosophy was and are.

Rand herself died alone except for a hired nurse. Her deranged views had driven away anyone who might have been close to her. Like L. Ron Hubbard, however, her lunatic ideas have spawned a cult that would turn all of us into happy little psychopaths; a cult that includes many of the world’s foremost economists, politicians and rabble-rousers (Beck again, although “intellectual terrorist” might be more appropriate). Like George Orwell, Rand imagined a dystopian world characterised by the powerful’s exploitation of the powerless. Unlike Orwell, Rand wanted to live there.

…..

I suppose I should add here that Rand was also a hypocrite. Decrying government support systems and safety nets as “coddling the incompetent and undeserving,” she unflinchingly collected both Medicare and Social Security when she contracted lung cancer late in her life. I suppose she thought she was a “deserving” exception to her own ugly philosophy of selfish callousness?

It’s still Kool-Aid no matter what side you’re on.

My son posted this and I think it’s great. He refuses to identify with any major political party. I’m realizing I don’t really have a political affiliation either. I’ve always identified as a liberal Democrat but sometimes I’m conservative too. Maybe I’m really just in that gray area.

I try to keep an open mind about anything political and I’ve never been one to judge others by their political affiliation or religion. You miss out on meeting so many amazing people if you do that. Some of my favorite people are on both sides of the political spectrum.

gray_area
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