Concerning “Election Must Not Be The Day ‘America Shrugged:’” (Sept. 8) Orson Swindle’s column begs research. Are we to share his prediction of our nation’s demise based on “Atlas Shrugged,” a fictitious novel by Ayn Rand (1957)?
At age 26, she came to the U.S. from Russia, apparently bringing some of the dark side with her. She also wrote “The Virture of Selfishness — A New Concept of Egoism” (1961), a book left to me by a hippie in the early 1960s. Until now I ignored it. I wonder if it inspired the self-indulgent “Me” generation, “don’t trust anyone over 30,” and disrespect for the ethical mores of society and government — maybe “God is Dead.” It is hardly relevant in our politics today, nor acceptable in America any time.
Paul Ryan praised Any Rand as his mentor until news that she was an atheist; he then recanted. She called religion “mysticism,” writing: “Today the world is facing a choice: if civilization is to survive, it is the altruist morality that men have to reject” (page 35).
Should we really reject caring for others, the essence of all religions, the moral code that civilized mankind in the first place? Who believes that?
On capitalism (page 33), Rand wrote: “When I say capitalism, I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-fair capitalism — with separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as separation of state and church.” So, do we want financial institutions as sacred as churches. Maybe Wall Street does?
On government (page 112): “The proper function of a government falls into three broad categories ... the armed services to protect from foreign invaders, the police to protect men from criminals, and the law courts to settle disputes ...” Nothing else? Conservatives seem to think not.
As for “Atlas Shrugged,” Rand reprints these remarks she gave to John Galt: “Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required. You have damned man, you have damned existence, you have damned this earth, but you never dared to question your code ... You went on crying that your code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it. And no one rose to ask the question: Good? — by what standards?”
Maybe it was the standard of civilized society that demands respect for others. Who really cares why Atlas shrugged?
If Any Rand’s belated admirers think her calloused value code is relevant to our political system and should influence our vote, it isn’t; nor can it ever compare with “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We certainly do have a choice and, thank God, the right to make it!
Doris S. Stevenson is a resident of Albany.