Through all this I’ve been reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I like tomes, and this is about average. Not the best written by far, but a readable story. Ayn Rand is another thing. She paints caricatures of characters. They, be they Capitalists or Progressives, are so distorted as to be laughable.
After nearly three hundred pages, I suddenly sat back and went, “Whoa, this is the bible that people like Rand Paul and Paul Ryan demand their staffs read!” I mean, it’s laughable and scary at the same time. The Capitalists are brilliant and virile, the progressives are dull and soft. How anyone could base a political and economic philosophy on such fantasy is beyond me.
Yet, I recognized too that there is a deep and ultimately traversable chasm between most Democrats and most Republicans. We don’t see the world at all the same. And it is this divide, strengthened by the extreme right who are wickedly ill-informed yet ideological fanatics, that makes governing a near impossibility.
Rousseau talked about a “social compact” between government and the people:
Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.
The devil is of course in the details. Republicans would argue that any such contract is merely for those services that individuals cannot do themselves, since as defense from foreign countries, and provisions for a monetary system, mail, and roads. Beyond that Republicans prefer that all people are free to create a livelihood and make individual agreements as they wish without government interference. If government does anything, it protects the right of business to operate unfettered by loathsome state or local regulation.
Democrats, I believe, see the compact as much more. Protection is not limited to merely physical defense, but involves a duty to take care of its vulnerable citizens such that the great worth of the state is used in part to protect those who are unable to successfully compete in the market place. Part of who they protect against is the insatiable greed of business.
No doubt the purist system that Republicans so love, once worked perfectly. We had the exactly perfect mix of farming/manufacturing/services ratio. We had the right amount of untamed, open land to explore and settle in. But all too soon our cities grew, and business ran up against competitions, and entrepreneurs looked for ways to get an edge. The easy choices were wages and working conditions. As the poor grew in size, government stepped in to regulate and then protect those who individually had no leverage against big business.
Republicans call Democrats “bleeding liberals”. One of the reasons the debt ceiling crisis careened perilously close to the edge was that Republicans knew that Democrats would protect the “nanny state” items of social security, medicare and so forth in return for giving in on taxing the most wealthy at a fair rate. And they were mostly right in this.
Republicans see the state of our country much as Eisenhower viewed the European theater before Normandy. The war was going badly, and we were on the brink of losing. Only a major strike, accepting severe losses could turn the tide. Republicans see the state of the US much the same. Hopelessly mired in a welfare mentality, with increasing numbers dependent and expecting the government to support them, they are willing, to accept the high “losses” that will accrue via draconian cuts in welfare “entitlement” programs. They see them as necessary pain to be endured. Of course the pain is not going to be born by them.
They of course cannot voice this Republican truth. To do so would be to court annihilation at the ballot box. That is why you hear the perverse crap of “in a recession you cannot raise taxes.” Nobody ever bothers to stop them there and ask why. No economist backs them up on this. Taxes up or down don’t correlate to the economy quite simply. And worse, the Bush tax cuts never created a single job. Where were all those “job creators” the GOP speaks of?
No, the mantras of no taxes in a recession, and “we have a spending problem” are simply untruths used to avoid the philosophical position that the only way to right the ship of state is to dismantle all social programs. Surely a bloodbath of misery will follow, but when the dust settles and the sun returns, we will have a country reduced to able-bodied and Protestant work-ethic workers, ready to dig in and make America great again.
That is pure Ayn Rand. It is fantasy. It is not even good fantasy. It is not rational economics 101. It is not good political theory. It is nothing but the wilful desire of business interests who have paid for their politicians, their twisted think tank “reports”, and ultimately their puppet TeaPeople who like lap-dogs, scurry around the table looking for the scraps that are always promised but never appear.
It is greed, unbridled, bloodthirsty, take no prisoners greed. Who says that Corporatocracy was not just another word for ARISTOCRACY. Let them eat cake!