Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Banality of Rand and Greenspan

Andrew Ferguson mocks tales of purpose-driven selfish and rational heroes triumphing over the parasites who always threaten to drag them down. (Thanks to Rob Jeffrey.)

Discussions - 12 Comments

Can someone explain the appeal of Rand? I mean to grownups. I think I understand why teenagers are drawn to her heroes.

Perhaps someone should ask Mr. Ferguson what evidence he has for his assertion that the archetype of the consumer of Ayn Rand's writings is a "pimply teenage boy...[reading] in the dreamy moments between fits of social insecurity and furious bouts of masturbation".

One might also ask if it had occurred to him that the public statements of the Federal Reserve's Governors might have feedback effects on the financial markets, and thus have to be carefully calibrated; or what basis he would have as a journalist for critiquing the level of ambiguity in their public statements necessary toward the end of such calibration; or what basis he would have for critiquing of the content of remarks which contain technical lingo indigenous to economic theory and econometrics?.

Do you think perhaps Mr. Ferguson mocks because that is the skill he possesses?

An interesting article. Is Furguson trying to say that Alan Greenspan only achived what he achieved because he took the path of Peter Keating instead of that of Howard Roark? It seems that this is what Andrew is saying...but I would say that from Ayn Rand's perspective Greenspan is much closer to being a third character in the Fountainhead...Gail Wynand. I think Art Deco raises some good points in 2. I also think that a lot of this discussion would depend upon the extent to which Machiavelli is understood. Personally I believe that Alan Greenspan is a Machiavellian prince in a way that a lowball like Peter Keating or Andrew Ferguson never could be. Just as the opinions of architecture proffesors never got in the way of Howard Roark's visions, so did Alan Greenspan never really compromise his views. In order to believe something Alan Greenspan had to understand it first.

What I think is most interesting about this article is Ferguson's attack on Greenspan's "constructive ambiguity". Indeed if Greenspan is as Ferguson says "objectively anti-objectivist" which I think is correct, then the basis of this rests in a profound disagreement over the nature of what can be known. Interestingly enough Ayn Rand in the New Intellectual goes after David Hume...on the basis that his epistemology prevents one from ever really being able to say that anything is absolutely true. She says it is intellectually and morally disarming and calls him the voice of Attila the Hun. Her critique of David Hume parallels completly the critique that Ferguson levels on Alan Greenspan's "constuctive ambiguity".

In the end howhever I think Alan Greenspan parted ways with Ayn Rand because he figured that just because there were consequences to not being able to know something, it did not follow that one could know something. If to the best of ones knowledge all one can say is: "I would venture to say, Senator, that the various dynamics in question might negatively impact the relevant probabilities." Then that is what is said. In Ayn Rand's construction Alan Greenspan took David Hume's side on epistemology. If you listen to almost all of Greenspans questions or statements you will find that he is always asking to know how something is known. And he extremely skeptical of what counts as knowing something because he understands that people in a rush to know things for utilitarian reasons make up causal connections, that may or may not exist. They are indifferent to truth because they are worried about the consequences.

In some sense then Alan Greenspan is just as heroic as Howard Roark...neither sought to compromise what they knew or in Greenspan's case the limits of what could be known.

That WAS fun. I liked, No Washington hostess has ever struck a name from a guest list for excess banality. Sometimes it helps.

I think the best one can say about Alan Greenspan when he was in office is that he remembered to think like an economist while in there. Perhaps, given the things Ferguson says about him, that was heroic.

As to Ayn Rand and who likes her, I have friend who is a devoutly dogmatic Baptist lady who simply adores Rand and quotes her next to Jesus, which I find unsettling and inconsistent. I am boggled by the secondary adoration, but she does teach Middle and High school students, so maybe the affinity comes in there, having spent so much of her life with the pimply.

Well I would say that there are a good number of Adults who take Ayn Rand seriously. For evidence of this check out Some of those who have been inspired by Ayn Rand have even started up a college. For more on this check out
Kate can rest easy...Ahmadinejad and his ilk will never be invited.

I will even go one step further. If one does not accept some of Ayn Rand's premises one ends up with a world in which one must adjudicate between a host of competing irrational cheerleaders...or to put it another way the fundamental reality is the perpertual and continuous war between competing lawgivers each seeking dominion over the hearts and minds of humanity.

I am not letting this go by unchallenged. For an example of Ayn Rand's influence check out Thomas Sowell's article in Capitalism magazine on "Mindless Tribalism"(Ayn Rand's construction) in Jena...oh wait I think Julie posted about this first hereand in reply to Steve Thomas...the steel that he seems to admire in the soul of Justice Clarence Thomas no doubt derives partially from his agreements with Ayn Rand. What do adults see in Ayn Rand? A Novelist with a soul of steel, in whose heart ore is smelted, the complete rejection of crunchiness...a swift slap to the face of Rousseau's noble savages and his hippie progeny who seek to elevate mud huts...bearded cave dwellers and isothymic ambitions above twin towers of trade and prosperity. If Ayn Rand is the pimply kid, she is the pimply kid pointing out that the emperor is naked.

"I have friend who is a devoutly dogmatic Baptist lady who simply adores Rand and quotes her next to Jesus, which I find unsettling and inconsistent."

Well Kate that would be unsettling and inconsistent in most traditional ways of thinking about the distinctions between them. In fact Ayn Rand would be horrified. But the baptists I know are all fierce defenders of the state of Israel...and I know a few...(my father is a baptist preacher by the way, parents were missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ.) Lo and behold Ayn Rand was a fierce defender of Israel, and capitalism magazine is one of its fiercest defenders. Cox and Forkum who in my opinion come up with some of the best no holds bared political cartoons and unequivocally the best hawkish ones are incredibly influenced by Ayn Rand.

Little Green Footballs and Instapundit are also heavily influenced by Ayn Rand, so is Daniel Pipes, Mark Steyn and Victor Davis Hanson. I don't think I could sit down on my computer and enumerate everyone who owes something to Ayn Rand.

So Kate if you pay attention to what counts as an argument among political commentators...I think you would be ammazed by how much of Ayn Rand's thought you are actually in agreement with.

John Lewis - My admiration for the steel in Justice Thomas' soul owes nothing, I assure you, to Ayn Rand! (Of course, if she once said October 1, 2007, will fall on a Monday, I would agree with her. I am sure she said many true things, even philosophically true things.)

According to family legend, when my grandfather took up Latin in the local grammar school in Wisconsin, his Welsh-speaking father was amazed to discover that Latin must derive from the Welsh because, he said, of all the cognates he found. Genealogy sure is complex.

John Lewis, I know you are right that I agree with what you say that I would agree with much of what Rand said about politics. Where I do disagree is with what she said it is to be human and we ought to relate to other human beings. That relates to the Christianity Rand loathed and in which my friend was absorbed.

I am putting that badly and have to be off to begin another too busy day. I'll try to come back and argue properly later, John. I'm sorry not to be properly engaged right now.

John, my non-denominational and deeply disorganized church is also a strong supporter of Israel on Biblical grounds. Ayn Rand has nothing to do with it.

You may be, probably are, right about people influenced by Rand. When I first became conservative, many years ago, I read some of Rand's novels because I thought I had to. Everyone else who was a conservative seemed to have done so. However, I just find tedious those novels where you can't like any character in the story for almost any reason. The "noble" self-centeredness of the protagonists in Rand's just made me want to kick them. When I worked with my friend, that Baptist lady, she always seemed to use Rand as a defense against her disappointments in real people who had some weakness or other that was an offense to her Christian dogma, which was mighty short on forgiveness. To say that people are going to be rotten, self-centered, behave frightfully towards us and we might as well expect that, summed up her Christianity and her agreement with Rand. Maybe that is a way of describing the basically sinful nature of man that Baptists take such delight in, one way or another?

The last Randian book I read was the Buckley novel, Getting it Right , which was not exactly sympathetic.

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