Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ayn Rand: Is there a Humanist Antidote to her Kool-Aid of "Objectivism". Market Worship. Inheritance Limits.


Update. Ayn Rand as new icon of the Tea party, subject of column by Maureen Dowd, NYT opinion, Maureen Dowd on Ayn Rand and the Tea Party, Atlas Without Angelina.  The A's have it. Ms. Dowd points out that the Adulation grows despite Ayn Rand's Approval of Abortion, Atheism, and Amoral sexual relationships.


 Explore Novelist-Theorist Ayn Rand's Ideas 
of Self-Interest and Justified Accumulation. 

Accumulationism as Market Worship.
Andrew Carnegie's Idea of Inheritance Limits.

Politics, theologies, mindsets.   
Bring Ayn Rand Out Into the Open

The Chairman of BB&T, a banking company, is John A. Allison IV - that IV means he is the third to follow an original ancestor, John A. Allison the n-number, who had a Junior who became II when Sr. died, then had a son III, and now we have great grandson of the original son of a gun, IV.  All this signifies, if not Blue Blood in a red family, at least the trappings of it.

John A. Allison is like many in charge of our financial and political worlds, we are finding.  He is a devoted devotee of Ayn Rand - anti-government where government is doing anything to help the undeserving weak.  Says he: Don't hurry to fix anything.  It will fix itself - just ignore all those people under the bus.  See article at  New York Times August 2, 2009, Give Him Liberty, but Not a Bailout, by Andrew Martin, //www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/business/02bbt.html?pagewanted=all/.  Market worship.  All for the market. And the holder's share of it.

Ayn Rand.  In the hearts and minds of me-firsters everywhere.

We see Ayn Rand and her books continuing to attract followers, finding solace in putting self first, regardless of anybody else's need, desires, background in why that person is so far behind (rule of tough) (their fault for being run over).

The Ultimate Entitlement:  I want, I can, I will, and I do.

How does a pluralistic society handle that kind of exclusionism, and for how long. And, how to measure what people think in the first place.

One answer may lie with the long-dead Andrew Carnegie, who proposed that taxes be abolished, but that noone can bequeath more than a reasonable maintenance amount to dependents for their lifetimes.  The rest, get this:  Either the person arranges for its disposition before the person's death, divesting himself-herself of control of it; or anything left in his or her name, not needed for the dependents' maintenance, goes to the government.  Who would want that?  Nobody.  So, everybody is incentivized (dreadful word) to divest before death as he or she desires and directs. Read the Gospel of Wealth, the Hymn to Wealth. Sometimes called The Gospel According to Andrew Carnegie.  See ://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5767/.

Would this work?  Shall we poll?  What good are polls on this or any topic.  Polls merely measure the extent to which the lines being fed out from the belief-shaper trawlers are being swallowed.  If the poll is unsatisfactory to one position, the poll shows where to buttress the hook. Polls do not measure thought, only the parroting. Is that so?

Regardless of ability to measure, we look at the beginnings of exclusionism, then its manifestations, in order to see what can be done. And arrive, we think, at Andrew Carnegie.

The agenda:

1.  Ayn Rand, who says:  Economic Egoism Wins; I do, I keep. See its manifestation in cultural anomalies that attach to religious groups,  like

2. Washington's C Street, invisible army for Christ exclusive fraternity.  C Street says this:  That God ordains my Egoism; therefore I do, I keep.  can do as I like; I do, I keep.*  Ayn Rand would not put the God in there. Then move to another angle:  

3. The Gospel of Wealth: Andrew Carnegie 1889.  He says, if you do, you keep; but only until the instant of your death.  Therefore, enjoy egoism, but divest yourself of your goods before the bell tolls; or lose it.
I do, I keep, but then I must also manage its divestment out of my hands, during my life, for good.

Andrew Carnegis's idea of inheritance limits may be the answer.  Taxation won't do it; exhortations to do the right thing will flop; but provide that your legacy depends on what you divest before you die, and we may have an incentive for a common good..
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No posts here are an easy read. This is no sound bite.  But the issues are serious.  So follow along.
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1.  AYN RAND.

Suppose that the apparently vast network of prophets and disciples of Aynism, The Religion, or "Objectivism," prevail in our society. Ayn Rand, and C Street, and others hidden and disclosed, prevail in their persuasion.

Political battle lines include her philosophy, We do elections in this country, and those ideas may win out.  Malware often succeeds.

Ayn Rand was a novelist and political and economic theorist whose ideas include fostering untrammeled accumulation of wealth, the individual's self-interest as the greatest good, and do whatever is needed to keep government and its fostering of losers at the expense of winners, out.  Is that roughly it? She has an extensive following, see current overviews and comment at Ayn Rand, Aynism, Objectivism. See FN 1
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If these Accumulationists, or Objectivists, or other title (labels count) prevail even more than they have already, and pass more laws to free themselves from traditional morality and any altruism, demonize the public good.  What is an appropriate counterbalance? Do review the company website, one of them at ://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=index/  This comes across as downright benign, and maybe that is so. We are still figuring it out, and had not come to that conclusion for the common good. It may be benign for the successful, but not for the needy. A difference in "objective".

2.  WASHINGTON'S C STREET HOUSE

They force us to bring in theological terms. Consider the transgressions of the elected. Do we continue to accept their philosophy that they are the chosen here.  And we are the fodder. Here, an update, October 2009, about John Ensign.  See ://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2009/10/02/sen-john-ensign-scandal-gets-deeper-with-allegation-of-lobbying-misdeeds/
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3.  ANDREW CARNEGIE and INHERITANCE LIMITS

We suggest, idea from Andrew Carnegie, that they have their accumulations, build the bigger barns for their goods all they like, but then comes the balance. We set up a tax structure, beef up escheat, or other mechanism, so that the person is highly motivated to implement himself or herself what is desired as to disposition of property, and before death.  Carnegie lived before income tax, so he did not envision a tax structure.  We have that tool.
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Why worship "rights" of heirs, worship "inheritance" of estates.  Time for a change. Arrange it so the person simply arranges for the reasonable support of or gifts to whomever he likes, but has to part with the property and its income to do it before he or she dies.



Upshot:  Accumulationists * should not get free accumulation and long-term lifestyle at our expense; and then get broad rights to bequeath, inheritance for their heirs, as well. Take your pick. If they get the first, the Big Barn for their goods; make it in their interest to divest themselves of it, voluntarily, with themselves at the helm if they like, and before they die.

* Call Ayn Rand's followers "Randists" if you like, and that might fit because she named herself after Rand of typewriter industry fame.  But it sounds too specific to Ingersoll Rand, see http://company.ingersollrand.com/Pages/default.aspx/. We prefer Aynists because it has no prior associations.And she also made up the name "Ayn". See Aynism site.

This rambles.  So be it. We edit over time.
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We can absorb the Accumulationists, 
but it takes a U-Turn, and Looking Back to Andrew Carnegie. 
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Counterbalance with restricted estate-disposition rights

Absorbing the malware ideas of Ayn Rand takes a shift in the track, or at least a 180 degree reversal.
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Ask: Where does the right to bequeath property come from? Ideas of property and its disposition are cultural. Laws are set in place that effectuate cultural mindsets about property.  Those can be changed, and, with more difficulty, the mindsets as well.  Are we entitled to inherit?  Why not instead let the dear departed make that decision, about who gets what, and simply require that it be done before he or she dies.
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Andrew Carnegie had that idea.  Read his Gospel of Wealth at ://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1889carnegie.html/.  He actually did it himself - voluntary divestment before death. Hello, Carnegie Library, Carnegie Hall, the old Carnegie Tech now Carnegie-Mellon University.  Is Dale related? No idea.

ANDREW CARNEGIE.

Absorbing the accumulationism of Ayn Rand takes the counterbalance of Andrew Carnegie.  It takes taking Andrew Carnegie, once the richest man in the world, seriously.  See his Gospel of Wealth, Hymn to Wealth, and comments at Gospel of Andrew Carnegie, Victorian Everyman. Take that philosophy and see how it fits with today.  We can even amend it to include Subsequent Generation Generosity or Subsequent Generation Altruism, if we like  SeeAltruism: Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

His gospel of wealth, hymn to wealth, leads Carnegie to do the expected, to advocate and praise free accumulation during life; but he goes further.  Do the accumulating freely, but nobody can pass it on at death - except for enough that can be carved out for reasonable needs of dependents. Otherwise, heirs are on their own.  The heir just went out of their tires.

Do it with tax. Keep the gift tax laws in place during life, reduce the income tax. And tax the dickens out of property at death. The will comes too late.  The property has to be disposed of during the person's life.

Carnegie lived before income tax. So he had a lot. His ideas about it count.

Will somebody now do a review, objectively, for Objectivists, on the effect of increasing inheritance taxes while reducing present income taxes.  There are sad tales in Britain of heirs who are reduced to putting in tea rooms in the parlor to serve the few tourists who may find the house in the woods, or who have to turn over the place to the government.  But if the originator had set the perpetuation of the mansion up himself or herself, as the best managers around, problem solved.


That is one of a million impersonators, but the question still applies. What good is it to be an enabler of ease, the great dis-ease.  A reasonable looking-after is sufficient, then provide for the better lifetime disposition of funds. And that will be better done by the person who had the guts and chutzpa to accumulate it.  That move frees up the otherwise hangers-on to get out there and do their own accumulating. How many third generation heirs are worth much in terms of societal contribution. Or is managing an inherited portfolio sufficient for continuing privilege. That is purely cultural, taught.
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Or is Ayn right, and societal contribution is an evil because it encroaches on accumulations. Fine, let the accumulator accumulate. Then be done with it.

TODAY - A BAT'S CHANCE OF DOING THIS?

We can afford, as a nation, and philosophically, to allow anyone to accumulate as much wealth as he or she can.  We already know how to do it.

There was once a game show about that. Imagine the shopping carts dashing frenetically up and down the aisles - grab all the cart will hold, you lucky person, you.

And, in many ways, the non-accumulators do benefit, depending on how the accumulators invest, spend. So, this is a time, place and manner analysis - divest and plan for it now, do it; and do it now.

But if you hoard, your heirs won't get it. Set it up so they use their money now, or lose it.  Use it or lose it. What happens to their estates after the Accumulators die is appalling anyway.  Noblesse oblige, even a sound wit, rarely makes it to the third generation. Otherwise the Randian-Aynist acquisitionism is sheer malware.
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So, summing, we say,with Andrew Carnegie, you can make it, you can store it, you can use it, but you can't pass it on.  Nope. That means that anything that remains in your name, where you have any degree of control over the property's disposition, at the nanosecond of your death, goes to the government. If you don't want the government managing your stuff, and don't trust it, if government is alien to your own philosophy, that means you have to divest yourself voluntarily before you die.

We can accommodate a modicum to support spousal and minor dependents of the deceased, carve out of the estate enough for that. But if you want a legacy, your "heirs" have no right to what you earned (or inherited if you did) at all.  Your legacy is in how you managed and planned for the longterm life of your estate.  Or its dissipation.

Your heirs have every right to earn, accumulate on their own.  Go!  And the rule applies to them when they die.  They can have all their barns while they are alive, but are well-advised to invest it and arrange its management to do your wishes after they go.

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 FN 1  If this topic of the new rugged individualism is new to you, Ayn Rand,1902-1982,.was a novelist and economic and other theorist who espoused a kind of purist's capitalism where wealth accumulation is life's highest calling, and the successful must be protected in their privileges allowing them ot operate outside a moral sphere, and are justified in following their self-interest without regard for others' need. Her movement was called "Objectivism,"  Her economic ideas and social theories entrench powerful wealth-accumulators as an elite, justify their pursuit of self interest regardless of a common good, and demonize regulation and government interfering with "free" machinations in the market that perpetuate the long-term moral-free (that is, traditional morals) lifestyle of the privileged.  Her background and an overview of her thinking and its current application is at Ayn Rand, Aynism, Objectivism.  See also FN 1.

Can we set aside for the moment, an analysis of whether her ideas of entrenching and justifying an economic elite regardless of how they got there (the Being of Successful makes it right) or the impact on others, are good or bad for
a) democracy,where votes are votes until they are stolen or prevented or diverted
b) "we, the people" as we pursue our own lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness, or
c) the individual's greater good.

Maybe not. How can responsible people do that, set aside the ideas.  They may prevail in derailing any effort to provide economic, health, education floors - basics for everyone before an elite can go through the stratosphere.  

Ayn Rand's background is one of a minority, and maligned, who perhaps decided at an early point that no longer would she be #2, a member of an unbeloved minority, Jews in Russia,  to the majority the mainstream whites and red Russians of the time.

She was born and was raised in revolutionary Russia, as Alyssa Rosenbaum, in a Jewish family, father a pharmacist. She is not a Marxist. She was a graduate of the University in Leningrad, along with many distinguished others, and was an immigrant here in 1924.

Her ideas of untrammeled self-interest as serving the greater good, that one group's need does not justify intrusion into another's wealth,  have motivated oeople in high places for decades, and to the present. CEO's, high government officials in past decades, and to  all who see the accumulation of wealth as the main event in life. Ayn Rand, Aynism, Objectivism,

These ideas have risen to the level of a kind of religion, Aynism.  Aynism is more appropriate than "Objectivism" as an identifier of a religion.  A religion is a hehavior-advocacy system, or at least behavior-modeling.  Most western religions proseletyze and crusade, whether among a secret elite or the masses.  Aynism has a personal-interest compass for morality. It has its own dogma, prophets, disciples, and crusade-stimulating capability to weed out nonbelievers. By now, it has a large, and largely secretive, following.

Transparent mindsets can be coped with; but as always, it is the secretive that undermines the rest of us best.

See site:  ://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/rad/nonserv.htm/
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* Washington's 'invisible army' for Christ, see ://www.theweek.com/article/index/98841/DCs_invisible_army_for_Christ/.  The C Street Gang. Adultery is fine because it is in the Bible and King David did it, so go and do thou likewise? Example only.  Malware?  Or benign? Malware if you think. Read the whole article. You have time.

What about JC is in any of that C Street agenda??  Asks the curious citizen whose education, after all, is paltry, and she herself is not among the chosen, and must be mistaken.

Ayn Rand was a novelist and political and economic theorist whose ideas include fostering untrammeled accumulation of wealth, the individual's self-interest as the greatest good, and do whatever is needed to keep government and its fostering of losers at the expense of winners, out.  Is that roughly it? She has an extensive following, see current overviews and comment at Ayn Rand, Aynism, Objectivism. See FN 1
.
If these Accumulationists, or Objectivists, or other title (labels count) prevail even more than they have already, and pass more laws to free themselves from traditional morality and any altruism, demonize the public good.  What is an appropriate counterbalance? Do review the company website, one of them at ://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=index/  This comes across as downright benign, and maybe that is so. We are still figuring it out, and had not come to that conclusion for the common good. It may be benign for the successful, but not for the needy. A difference in "objective".