Giles Fraser on Ayn Rand

Had I had popcorn in the house, I would have nuked a bag before I sat down to read this: Giles Fraser takes on Ayn Rand in CiF (via Paul Ryan):

Rand's cause was to celebrate what she called "the virtue of selfishness", to denigrate the poor as scroungers and to celebrate the muscular individualism of the creative heroes of capitalism.
Hmm, maybe the passage of time has clouded Fraser's memories. Certainly she celebrated the virtue of selfishness (as did no less than Adam Smith - "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest") and the muscular individualism of Hank Rearden et al, but she certainly didn't denigrate the poor as scroungers. Rather, if memory serves, it was the professional politicos, labour organisers, incompetent businessmen and lobbyists (Wesley Mouch and friends) whose relentless scrounging on and taxing of business profits led to everyone going John Galt. The poor barely got a mention, beyond suffering from the shut-down of factories in their towns and increasingly erratic power and transport systems.

Let's take Fraser's conclusion from this:

For Rand, the good Samaritan was not simply a chump: he was in fact doing something wicked. We are saved only by selfishness. So how can an American politician, who has described himself as a "staunch Catholic" and in what is supposed to be an electorate dominated by Christian values, side with one who so thoroughly rejected all the teachings of Jesus?
Well, Giles, if I came up with a conclusion that was at odds with the apparent well-established facts, the first thing I'd check would be my logic, and the second thing I'd check would be my assumptions. But then, I'm not a professional column writer. Would the good Samaritan be regarded as wicked by Rand? She may have regarded him as foolish (giving away his time and resources for free, in contrast to the philosophy in Galt's Gulch) but her view on wickedness seemed to me to be reserved for those who took what was not theirs. I also seem to recall Rearden and Dagny Taggart giving of their time and resources for others in trying to make their businesses work despite the repeated raids on their profits and forced repurchases by the aforesaid scroungers. (Incidentally, I don't see Giles commenting on Rearden and Taggart's unarguable sexual immorality as something for Ryan to repudiate. I wonder why?)

I'm also interested in Giles' leap of logic:

And Ryan's deeds, and in particular his budget plan for slashing the role of the state, are pure Rand, as a group of Jesuits from Georgetown University have insisted
That seems a bit dubious to me. I can see a Randian argument that taxes should not be taken from business and workers - is that what Giles is referring to? - but nothing specific about how governments should spend the money they have. If he is referring to Ryan's (rather optimistic IMO) plan to balance the budget then surely this has a far stronger Biblical backing: I can't see any theological justification for defaulting on loans, whether by explicit default or implicit in money printing. Remember that in Biblical times there was no welfare state - the poor were taken care of by family or private charity, if at all. The welfare state may or may not be a good idea but it's not strictly biblical.

So let's take Giles' conclusion:

As the Ryan case aptly demonstrates, the Christian right is neither: that is, Christian nor right.
If, by Giles' logic, Ryan is not Christian, then surely by definition you can't judge the rest of the Jesus-favouring Republican voters (assuming this is what Giles means by "right") by his beliefs? Giles has also failed to even try to construct an argument as to whether Ryan's belief are good or bad for the USA, he's just made a sweeping assertion that government spending less is a bad thing. Remember that any dollar taken from a taxpaying citizen is a dollar less for that citizen to spend on products and services provided by others. The reliance on any USA government spending that dollar wisely is... optimistic at best.

I'm now starting to think that the main reason for Giles Fraser's career in the CofE coming to a screeching halt wasn't just his support for Occupy trashing St. Paul's; the man can't even make a coherent argument.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are subject to retrospective moderation. I will only reject spam, gratuitous abuse, and wilful stupidity.