A new book by Gary Weiss details Ayn Rand’s profound influence on generations of right-wing ideologues. Her most prominent contemporary acolyte might be the smug U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, whose goals include abolishing Medicare and Social Security.
However, I’m guessing the most interesting stuff in Weiss’s book focuses on further revelations about Rand’s guru-like power over the now discredited Alan Greenspan. In a recent article, Pam Martens notes that Greenspan…
… the man who chaired the Federal Reserve Board for 18 years, guiding U.S. monetary policy under four presidents, was a member of Rand’s Collective in New York City, which Weiss likens to a cult: “For much of its existence the Collective was for all intents and purposes a cult. It had an unquestioned leader, it demanded absolute loyalty, it intruded into the personal lives of its members, it had its own rote expressions and catchphrases, it expelled transgressors for deviation from accepted norms, and expellees were ‘fair game’ for vicious personal attacks.”
More troubling about Greenspan, who during his term as Fed Chair, aided in the gutting of critical Wall Street regulations, including the repeal of the depression-era Glass-Steagall Act which barred the merger of insured deposit banks with investment banks and brokerage firms, was his blind loyalty to Rand’s cultish propaganda.
Weiss produces a gem from The New York Times Book Review from 1957. Greenspan was defending his idol after her most famous work, Atlas Shrugged, had been thrashed in multiple reviews. Greenspan dutifully makes his case in Randian-speak: “Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness,” he wrote. “Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.”
Rand wrote bad fiction and invented a faux philosophy that touted the “virtue of selfishness” and laissez faire capitalism. Greenspan is living proof that Rand was a much more dangerous hustler than Charlie Manson or even Jim Jones. It’s largely thanks to her that Greenspan became a zealot for the unregulated free-market economy that has brought “Main Street” America to its knees.