SUMMER TRAVEL

Alan S. suggests:

1. go to google
2. click on “maps”
3. click on “get directions”
4. type “New York” in the first box and “London” in the second box
5. hit enter
6. scroll down to step #23

ATLAS SHRUGGED

The extremely estimable Less Antman: ‘Ayn Rand was NOT a libertarian and hated the libertarian movement. If you want to read a book about libertarianism, read Dr. Mary Ruwart’s Healing Our World In An Age Of Aggression. Radical libertarians are not apologists for big business: we are antiwar, pro-immigration, socially tolerant, and support a true free market (not privileges to government-favored powerful businesses). Here is what Ayn Rand thought of libertarians (‘a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people‘).’

☞ The Rutwart book gets a rave on Amazon from John S. Ryan, who writes (in part):

Ruwart carefully and compassionately explains why the libertarian approach is a better way to bring about the (entirely legitimate) goals of the more modern sort of liberal: for example, improving the quality and availability of medical care (including alternative medicines), reducing pollution, saving the environment, and so forth. . . . Ruwart’s outlook should delight everybody from Calvinists to Hayekians to Taoists. And there has never been a time at which it’s been more important to get the word out on liberty. Get this book at once and pass out copies to your friends; Ruwart’s libertarianism has something to say to people of every political and/or religious persuasion or none.’

Less went on to say – with a friendly wink – ‘As for creating straw men that are easy to refute, I bow to your expertise on the subject.’ So let me unpack what I was trying to say.

Atlas Shrugged appeared in 1957, not long after the McCarthy era. Ayn Rand left Russia for America in 1926, nine years after Lenin’s revolution. Her book is a polemic that devastates the underpinnings of Marxism and communism that were then intriguing (and enslaving) so much of the world.

So to those of you who are Marxists or communists – or who doubt the very substantial virtues of capitalism, low taxation, and the free market – I say: Quick! Start reading.

However, not knowing any Marxists or communists today, and not believing their influence was as pervasive or profound in America in 1957 as I suspect Ayn Rand thought it was, Atlas Shrugged reads to me like a comic book. The heroes are industrialist superheroes. The villains are caricatures, straw men – stupid, venal, pusillanimous, easy to loathe.

Which makes it great fun.

Rand’s economic philosophy seems largely to overlap that of libertarians (or vice versa – judging from that link, she was furious they stole her ideas without attribution).

My own view is that Marxism and communism are disasters, but that raw, unfettered capitalism is pretty disastrous, too. A balance is needed, with a role – but not too big a role – for government programs, progressive taxation, and enlightened regulation. Which of course is largely what we have. I just liked the balance better under Clinton/Gore than I do now, several clicks to the right, under Bush/Cheney. Let alone what I take to be the balance point desired by many of the (charming, highly intelligent) libertarians I know.

To me, FDR and other liberals are nowhere recognizable in the pages of Atlas Shrugged. Everyone but the superheroes are either morally bankrupt idiots (if they are in positions of power) or else decent working folks who understand on some gut level that things have gone terribly wrong.

Two-thirds of the way through the book, I am having a dandy time; have walked 80 miles; and have not changed my political philosophy (or, on economic issues, become a libertarian).

Have a nice weekend. Do your taxes.

 

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