The Cult Of the Cougar Goddess

by digby

Those who read this blog regularly know how I feel about adherents of Ayn Rand. But just to recap, I think they are the most immature political thinkers among us, seduced by Rand's sexy Supermen (and the superwomen who love them) and her celebration of adolescent selfishness. Indeed, in all the recent eulogies for Salinger, it occurred to me that this country is made up of far too many people who stopped developing after they read Atlas Shrugged or Catcher In The Rye (the latter of which is at least a work of literary genius, unlike the former which is a turgid, overwrought romance novel.)

In any case, one can be sure that anyone past the age of 19 who adheres to the silly notions set forth in Rand's novels cannot be taken seriously. Imagine my surprise (not) to find out that the blue-eyed, boy wonder of the new generation of Republicans is a very serious Randite:

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) determination to privatize Social Security and dismantle Medicare -- what he calls a "collectivist system" -- comes, at least in part, from his longstanding devotion to the works of Ayn Rand.

Rand developed the objectivist philosophy, which values the self, capitalism and laissez-faire economics. Ryan, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, reportedly requires staffers and interns to read her opus, Atlas Shrugged, and gives out copies as gifts.

In his keynote address to CPAC last year, Ryan said Obama's policies sound "like something right out of an Ayn Rand novel."

Fearing political suicide, Republican leaders have tried to distance themselves from Ryan's "roadmap" budget proposal, which calls for privatizing Social Security. But Ryan is upfront about it.

At a 2005 celebration of what would have been Rand's 100th birthday, Ryan called for reforming the "collectivist system" of Social Security by changing it to individual savings accounts.

"If we actually accomplish this goal of personalizing Social Security, think of what we will accomplish. Every worker, every laborer in America will not only be a laborer but a capitalist. They will be an owner of society," Ryan said at the 2005 event, according to a profile written last year in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

In interviews, he has said Republicans should frame the choice between "collectivism" and capitalism as a moral choice.

"We have an opportunity to make a choice clearly once and for all in the next two elections, and we owe it to the American people to give them a clear choice: Do you want a collectivist welfare state or do you want to get back to being a free market? We need to make a moral, not just practical or statistical, case," he told Reason, a libertarian magazine, in December.

In last year's CPAC address, he claimed the White House had blamed the free market for the financial crisis, then used the crisis as an "excuse to impose a more intrusive state."

And despite GOP attempts to frame these entitlement reforms as something other than privatization, Ryan has been clear on the point.

"Rather than depending on government for your retirement and health security, I propose to empower people to become much more self-dependent for such things in life," he said in a speech to the Hudson Institute last June.

This thinking is exactly what brought us to the brink. Exhibit One, from the man who sat at the foot of the chain-smoking, dexi-popping cougar goddess of selfishness herself:

"I have found a flaw" in free market theory, Greenspan said under intense questioning by Representative Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the Government Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives. "I don't know how significant or permanent it is," Greenspan added. "But I have been very distressed by that fact."

Pressed by Waxman, Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Greenspan said.

Waxman pushed the former Fed chief, who left office in 2006, to clarify his explanation.

"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

He's only 80 something, so it took him a while. But he finally looked away from Dagny's heaving bodice long enough to notice that unbridled greed and selfishness makes people reckless. Good for him. Too bad for us.

But little Ryan is still in thrall to this puerile fantasy. (As is Rand Paul, GOP front runner from Kentucky who wasn't actually named after the cougar goddess, but likes her a lot.)

To learn more about little Paul Ryan, this post at Down With Tyranny tells the tale. I too wonder why the Democrats think it's ok to let this fellow run unopposed. With the Ayn Rand cult passing out millions of books to high schools every year for free to indoctrinate the young, it's a mistake to underestimate the power of this sexually charged pseudo-philosophy, especially now.