Paul Ryan is just the latest Ayn Rand aficionado to try to use government to benefit the rich and to denigrate the poor. Former Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan, Alan Greenspan, was a huge Ayn Rand aficionado who took a flower arrangement in the shape of a dollar bill to her funeral. But who is Ayn Rand and why is she so influential? Ayn Rand was Russian born. She moved to the US in 1926. Her father's pharmacy was confiscated during the Russian Revolution. Ayn Rand's biggest successes were her novels, the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Her philosophy of extreme egosim and selfishness is solipsistic to the max, bordering on sociopathic. Rand and German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche both shared a fondness for "the Superman," the Ubermensch, and eschewed the ordinary Joe Blow. Her philosophy elevated the rich, the powerful, the brilliant, the talented above people who were only average or below average in their capabilities. The merely average she called parasites turning on its head Marx' philosophy which considered the wealthy class the parasites and the middle class the productive workers. To Rand the poor in all aspects were the parasites.
Is it any wonder then that Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan's budget attempts to balance the Federal budget on the backs of the poor while giving tax breaks to the wealthy? Certainly Alan Greenspan attempted the same thing in his advice to President Reagan. A handy device was raising social security taxes which had the effect of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. Reagan's 1984 tax reform act raised social security taxes by 50% on the self-employed. Rather than putting the $2.5 trillion raised by such a move in a "lock box" for future generations of retirees, it was just spent in the general fund with the result that the Social Security Trust Fund now containes $2.5 trillion of worthless IOUs, which now Republicans don't want to honor. As it turns out, surprise, surprise, it was merely a device to partially balance the budget on the backs of the working class poor without raising taxes on the wealthy. And remember it was Greenspan who got real concerned about inflation if working class wages started going up faster than he thought they should.
Ayn Rand based her main protagonist, Howard Roark, on a notorious serial killer by the name of William Hickman. Hickman kidnapped and killed a 12 year old girl and then extorted a ransom from her father who thought she was still alive. Rand admired Hickman's complete defiance of societal norms and complete disregard for anyone but himself. Rand considered Hickman a "Superman" because he lived only for himslf and had no empathy for anyone else. In other words he was a complete sociopath.
One reason most countries don't find the time to embrace Ayn Rand's thinking is that she is a textbook sociopath. In her notebooks Ayn Rand worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of "ideal man" she promoted in her more famous books. These ideas were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade, including the key architects of America's most recent economic catastrophe -- former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox -- along with other notable right-wing Republicans such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
The loudest of all the Republicans, right-wing attack-dog pundits and the Teabagger mobs fighting to kill health care reform and eviscerate "entitlement programs" increasingly hold up Ayn Rand as their guru. Sales of her books have soared in the past couple of years; one poll ranked Atlas Shrugged as the second most influential book of the 20th century, after the Bible.
Ayn Rand's philosophy represented a sort of bastardized Nietzscheism. Rand's philosophy mirrors Nietzsche's adoration of the "Superman" and his amorality as presented in his book, Beyond Good and Evil. Nietzsche's rejection of Judeo-Christian morality mirrors Rand's atheism. Republican budget whiz Paul Ryan is just a latter day reincarnation of Ayn Rand. He requires his staff to read her books. The lineage goes back to Nietzsche who also inspired Hitler in his rejection of conventional morality and admiration for the Superman whose "will to power" takes matters into its own hands without any consideration for the lives of others.
Nietzsche's growing prominence suffered a severe setback when his works became closely associated with Adolf Hitler and the German Reich. Many political leaders of the twentieth century were at least superficially familiar with Nietzsche's ideas, although it is not always possible to determine whether or not they actually read his work. Hitler, for example, probably never read Nietzsche, and if he did, his reading was not extensive, although he was a frequent visitor to the Nietzsche museum in Weimar and did use expressions of Nietzsche's, such as "lords of the earth" in Mein Kampf. The Nazis made selective use of Nietzsche's philosophy.
What Ayn Rand admired about her heroes was that they were sociopaths who had no regard for the feelings of others:
What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," she wrote, gushing that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and, with a consciousness all his own, he has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'"
In this she shared the philosophy of Neitzsche and Hitler. The Tea Baggers and Libertarians of today such as Alan Greenspan, Paul Ryan and Clarence Thomas share the same philosophy. It gets translated into a disdain for the poor and the middle class and an admiration of the powerful and the wealthy. This is the ideological basis of Republicanism circa 2011. They have no regard for the unemployed, the homeless, those struggling to make a living. They only admire those who have a "will to power" and are willing to cut corners and take ethical shortcuts to get there, no matter whom they trample in the process. These are the kinds of people Republicans seek to use government to protect and promote. This is at the heart of their efforts to destroy Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and turn them over to private interests, the interests of the ubermensch, and take them out of the domain of the pedestrian government bureaucrats.
Ayn Rand wrote in her notebook that Hickman represented "the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should." So her hero was a man lacking the slightest degree of human compassion or empathy, who used people to the maximum extent, and had absolutely no qualms about the suffering he caused others. Hitlerism exemplified exactly the same philosophy, which was mainly directed at the Jews, although Hitler also killed Germans who were mentally defective or homosexual. Ayn Rand, nominally a Jew herself, was just an equal opportunity persecutor to those at the bottom of the social pyramid, those she considered parasites. Instead of directing her philosophy against one ethnic group or another, her victims were all those who had some degree of human compassion and were not supermen willing to defy all social norms in order to promote their own solipsistic self-interest.
For Rand, Nietzsche and Hitler selfishness is a moral good, altruism a moral weakness. It's all basically the same philosophy. Who are the weak, the parasites? Those on welfare, basically. "What's really unsettling is that even former Central Bank chief Alan Greenspan, whose relationship with Rand dated back to the 1950s, did some parasite-bashing of his own. In response to a 1958 New York Times book review slamming Atlas Shrugged, Greenspan, defending his mentor, published a letter to the editor that ends: 'Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.'" So let there be no doubt where Alan Greenspan, Paul Ryan and other Republicans are coming from. They are out to screw the "parasites" whom they consider to be the lower classes and are out to reward the "supermen," who in today's world are the CEOs, hedge fund managers and the super wealthy. Their common ideological basis is Ayn Rand by way of Nietzsche and cousin to Hitler. By the way when Ayn Rand was dying of lung cancer she went on Social Security and Medicare, a concession of the ubermensch to the fact that we're all finally at the mercy of forces greater than the "will to power."