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Posted by on Jan 16, 2011 in Markets, Opinion, TG Roundup

Focus on the “Cult of Ayn Rand”

Do you know – Alan Greenspan could be characterized as No 1. Randian and he tried to implement his interpretation of Rand’s ideology into controlling US economy? “Controlling interest rates” in itself defeats the very logic he was purporting to inject into markets, which he called “free markets.”

You might recall from some of my previous arguments via comments about this very topic. Rao garu (probably a Randian) insisted that one should look at Greenspan’s legacy through his actions (i.e. controlling interest rates, there by messing with “free markets”) rather than what he said he believed (i.e. Rand’s ideology). According to Rao garu, the failure of Greenspan’s policies, therefore, is not a failure of Rand’s ideology. “If implemented correctly, Rand got it right…” or so the Randian arguments go.

My take is simple. It is very very hard for any individual or a government to implement any ideology without injecting individual interpretations of that ideology. With each failure of implementation, a convenient excuse emerges from the followers – saying, “if only it was implemented correctly.” As a matter of fact, Marxists would argue that Soviets implemented the Karl Mark’s socialist ideology incorrectly and therefore it failed.

On TG, our good friend Chakravarthy keeps discussing a lot about the virtues of “Free Markets” (as seen by Ayn Rand). You may also recall that, in March of 2010 on one of my MMGL shows Chakravarthy and I had a 1 hour discussion on Free Markets. The fallacy in his arguments is three-fold:

  1. Over simplification: everything that works is a triumph of the free-markets and everything that failed is the failure of the government.
  2. Failure to adequately acknowledge the existence of rampant fraud in the private sector and blind faith in the non-existing ability of free markets to fix themselves.
  3. Failure to recognize that either the government or the corporations are a bunch of people and they bring to the table their own corrupt behavior everywhere they conduct business. It is extremely unlikely for people in politics to be corrupt and all entrepreneurs to be the responsible citizens.

Sure – these three points are constantly being denied, but the continued anti-government rhetoric doesn’t give any merit to those denials.

In contrast to this “Randian” rhetoric, I condemn corruption in every walk of life. Example – I see Wall Street corruption as a handiwork of the government and the fat-cats on the street (and some of them call themselves innovators – innovators of what?). You cannot box me into the left or right category as I refuse that labeling. For, I strongly believe that all of us or either on the right or left based on the issue at hand. Nonetheless, I too am a self-proclaimed capitalist. Mind you, capitalism cannot be mistaken for Ayn Rand’s version of lesez fair free markets.

My view point on free markets is very simple. The concept (at least the Ayn Rand’s version) is simply a fantasy. In the history of world, there never was a corruption-free free market and I don’t think there will ever be one. By corruption, I mean not just corruption in government – corruption by people.

In my 16 years of bulletin board/blog participation, I butted heads with a few Randians before. My experience is that most Randian arguments are “cultish.” I started this post with the intention of laying out my philosophical arguments to calling Randians a Cult. Do a Google search on the phrase “The Cult of Ayn Rand” you get about 137,000 hits and you get to read some fascinating stuff there. [In the “how is that for a pun” department – one could call this cult, “The Galt of Ayn Rand!” :)]

Side note: Devout Christians often ask themselves, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” Devout Randians keep asking themselves, “What would (John) Galt do?” FYI, Jesus is a historical figure and Galt is pure fiction.

In the 1990s, I read a number of articles and books about capital markets, Austrian School etc. I used to read articles put out by the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Center for Libertarian Studies and those articles did have an influence in my thinking. There, I came across some pieces by Murray N. Rothbard, who was considered the Dean of Austrian School of Economics. Murray, a self proclaimed Libertarian, is exceptionally thorough in his articles. But as a force in the Libertarian movement, he rejected the cultish influence of Ayn Rand disciples in that movement. In my next post, I will link to an article by Murry on the Cult of Ayan Rand.

All these years later,  I only  pay attention to what people are saying. I don’t follow a person or a leader. I judge people by what they do and what they should be doing as their sworn responsibility – not by what they would have been doing under different circumstances. In my mind, this is the very essence of  freedom. That is, freedom to think for myself without the cult-like influence of some other person’s thoughts on me.

Don’t take this as an attack on a person or a group of people. Rather, see  this as a philosophical difference of opinion from a recovering Libertarian. FYI, my current idea of libertarians is the same as this cartoon depiction.

Christopher Hitchens is a flamboyant and outspoken journalist who vociferously defended George Bush. This is what he has to say succinctly about the virtues of “selfishness” preached by Ayn Rand.

I know this is heavy stuff. Let the ideas flow..


    • I saw that.