By John Lawrence
I was startled into wakefulness by the ghost of Ayn Rand, she the author of the Virtue of Selfishness and sundry other solipsistic tomes.
Unlike Scrooge, she is not the least bit repentent. She told me of her new concept of Country Club America. Not everyone deserves to be a member. It’s sort of a metaphysical walled community in which some people get to join; others are left out. Only the Best, the Brightest and the Most Beautiful can be members.
The rest – the homeless, the hoi polloi, the common people, vagabonds, hippies, the proletariat, rabble and riffraff cannot be members.
As for immigration, the basic idea is to only accept the Best, Brightest and Most Beautiful people from all over the world while keeping the commoners out. PhD students, entrepreneurs, people who can start businesses or people bringing with them great wealth are acceptable. Everyone else gets filtered out. No longer will Country Club America accept the poor “huddled masses.”
Emma Lazarus wrote “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The ghost of Ayn Rand made it clear that her followers wanted no homeless, no “wretched refuse” – no cast-offs from the societies from which they emanated. Country Club America didn’t want the Worst, the Dimmest the Ugliest. Au contraire, only the Best, the Brightest and the Most Beautiful would be accepted. In fact certain words are to be air-brushed out of Emma Lazarus’ famous poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.
In their place, the words “Give me your energetic, your rich, your exceptional students yearning to compete for wordly gain, the best and brightest of your teeming shore. Send these, the gifted, the noble, the beautiful, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden [and I repeat golden] door.”
So I asked what would happen to all those who didn’t qualify – those whose imperfections made them less than her demanding criteria required. “Well,” she said, “there would be no need for the gulag or concentration camp to get rid of them.”
She mentioned a concept developed by one of the greatest semantic architects of right wing rhetoric – Richard Nixon. He called it “benign neglect”. This is as opposed to “malign neglect” which would include torture, imprisonment, the gulag etc.
It’s just that the non-qualifiers for Country Club America wouldn’t be encouraged in any way. Some of them by dint of their own hard work and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps might some day even hope to actually make it into Country Club America. The rest would be left to their own devices and devil take the hindermost.
Those with money and lots of it automatically qualify for Country Club America because they have proved that they are the best, ipso facto, no matter how they acquired it. Those with genius or near genius IQs also are readily accepted for membership. But since Country Club America is a private club, not all can be expected to join. There are no guarantees.
Model quality women will not find it too hard to get in since the best and brightest men will naturally want to date them and only them. There are already dating sites for men who just want to date model quality women. Their advertising pitch goes something like this: why date 4s, 5s and 6s when you can date 8s, 9s and 10s?
For men to qualify for admission they must have a net worth of several million dollars and be in the top ranks professionally (and, of course, they must pay), but women get in for free – the right women that is. And then there are the dating sites that are just for the Ivy League. Community college graduates need not apply.
I broke in to argue that civilizations had been built on just the opposite values. In fact much of Western Civilization was built on the values of the Peace Prince who was a champion of the poor and dispossessed. Wasn’t it he who said, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth?”
“No, no,” said the ghost of Ayn Rand. “It’s just the opposite. Not the meek but the powerful shall inherit the earth. You don’t see any meek people who are successful on Wall Street. The Captains of Industry, the entrepreneurs, the upper 1%, they are inheriting the earth, not the meek. Those who start businesses, the job creators, the risk takers – they are not meek. They are self-confident, bold, brash – anything but meek. Meekness is for losers.”
Well, I said, this is certainly a departure from the values of “give me your huddled masses” and from the “preferential option for the poor” that one of our great church people opined about. The ghost of Ayn Rand replied. “Yes it is. We espouse a preferential option for the rich. You know the rich got there by out-competing their peers. They are the winners.
They’re the ones we want in Country Club America and by extension (since the rest of the world emulates us) in Country Club Earth. In competition there must be winners and losers and to the winners belong the spoils.”
“But wouldn’t cooperation advance the interests of the human race more than competition?” I asked naively. “Competition leads to war; cooperation leads to peace and to the consideration of all interests equally and to the recognition of everyone’s human dignity.” “You liberals are always talking about equality when what is really important for the advancement of the human race is the emergence of great men (and women). Nietzsche called it the emergence of the ubermensch.
This superior man would not be a product of long evolution; rather, he would emerge when any man with superior potential completely masters himself and gets rid of conventional Christian ‘herd morality’ in order to create his own values, which are completely rooted in life on this earth. The only way this happens is through competition.”
“So how would you deal with global warming, a problem that requires a high degree of cooperation among all the peoples of the earth?” I asked.
“It’s more important that the Best, the Brightest and the Most Beautiful pursue their own selfish interests than to spend any time worrying about a problem that will mainly create a hardship for the non-Alphas of the world. The rich will always be able to buy their own personal mitigation. Besides global warming has not yet been proven. I don’t think it is really happening. It’s liberal propaganda.”
“It sounds like you want to honor and encourage and support only the rich and powerful and those favored by nature with a great brain or a great body.”
“Isn’t that the way to progress the evolution of the human race? Yes, some people are Alphas, as Aldous Huxley wrote, and the rest are Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons. We only want Alphas in Country Club America. The rest don’t qualify for admission. They will be filtered out. They are basically takers while the alphas are the makers. Of course we can’t in all honesty say any more that they are ‘job creators’ because all the jobs are being performed by robots these days. Automation has made it unnecessary to have a working class.”
“So what happens to all those who are disenfranchised because they aren’t sufficiently qualified to make it into Country Club America?,” I again asked.
“Benign neglect,” she repeated. “Don’t worry. They won’t be tortured or sent to the gulag unless they are caught with illicit drugs. Illicit drugs will be the right of everyone inside Country Club America, but anyone on the outside, they will have to obey the law.”
“Everyone needs to compete and then the losers get filtered out. It’s important to have a filtering out procedure. Otherwise, the values of the Best, the Brightest and the Most Beautiful get vitiated, compromised, watered down. We won’t tolerate anything less than excellence. We are trying to create, well not exactly a master race here, but evolution should favor the highest specimens of humanity we have available. The rest should quietly live out their miserable existences and eventually die off.”
The ghost of Ayn Rand was quick to follow up this tirade with “I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not like that. Country Club America is an equal opportunity privatized American club. We don’t have to cater to the least common denominator. However, we are open to all – regardless of race, religion, national origin or ethnicity. We don’t discriminate based on the color of your skin or anything else. That other guy, what was his name, tried to just advance the interests of one certain ethnic group while malignantly neglecting certain other ethnic groups. Country Club America is not like that at all. It’s just that we have the highest standards of excellence for membership. Not everyone gets in. No pikers here.”
“You seem to advocate that society should only encourage and support the Best, the Brightest and the Most Beautiful, but the Peace Prince advocated for helping the poor, the homeless, the starving. In fact he said that was the only way you could enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Here, read this”:
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
“What claptrap,” the ghost of Ayn Rand replied. “Stuff and nonsense. Nobody believes in that crap any more. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the greatest of these my brethren, then … inasmuch as … stuff and nonsense …”
Her voice trailed away, and then the ghost of Ayn Rand disappeared.
Ayn Rand faux Christmas cards via akadjian at Daily Kos, and these’s lots more to see there.
Scott Pearce says
Great article, thanks.
One little correction: “Benign Neglect” was a product of the Nixon administration, but it wasn’t a phrase Mr. Nixon came up with. Actually it was the work product of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, who was “urban affairs adviser” to the Nixon administration.
“The rest – the homeless, the hoi polloi, the common people, vagabonds, hippies, the proletariat, rabble and riffraff cannot be members.”
Don’t forget the punk rockers, tho by virtue of being punk rockers they have no desire to join the club to begin with.
John Donohue says
What percentage of “the poor, the homeless, the starving” actual could become self-sustaining, fed and housed, but due to their own rejection of responsibility to do so, demand sacrifice of those that do?
These are the ones Ayn Rand condemns, not those that absolutely cannot make their own way due to some circumstance beyond their control.
Moreover, she condemns institutions that glorify the sacrifice of the productive to the willfully non-productive, such as Jesus Christ and followers.
John Lawrence says
Ayn Rand idolized killers and other sociopaths because they had the guts to ignore conventions and create their own morality:
One reason why most countries don’t find the time to embrace her thinking is that Ayn Rand is a textbook sociopath. Literally a sociopath: Ayn Rand, in her notebooks, worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of “ideal man” that Rand promoted in her more famous books — ideas which 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.
Here’s the link.
John Donohue says
Here is the actual ink that destroys this tired smear. Please get new ammunition, this is so old, lame and destroyed.
Ayn Rand, far from being a sociopath, was the greatest champion of humankind in the 20th Century.
And…just because someone read Ayn Rand and professed affinity, this does not make Ayn Rand responsible for their future errors. This includes everyone in your post.
bob dorn says
Uhhh…. I went to the site to check out your heroine… a Diane Hsieh, who bills herself as a philosopher in the “rationally selfish” movement, and here’s what she says at 3:44 and half a minute more about “what interested Ayn Rand about William Hickman… It wasn’t the killing and dismemberment of a 12-year-old girl… Instead, what Ayn Rand was interested in was that this man was indifferent to the demands of society, that he was willing to be absolutely extreme.”
Who cares if you have to kill and eat children. What matters is that you’re a true individual? Some philosophers you might want to read also talk about the good and the just and the true, and I don’t think they include killing 12-year-olds in their search.
John Donohue says
Even when handed to you in full explanation, you not only don’t get it, you twist it. In full context this phrase: ‘this man was indifferent to the demands of society, that he was willing to be absolutely extreme’ does not equate to killing and eating children. It refers to the independent individualist who revolts against non-criminal cultural mores and coercive demands of others. The non-conformist. The courageous striver. The man of independent mind and judgement.
bob dorn says
Come on, Donohue, dismemberment of children is an unwanted consequence of will? That’s like saying I don’t hate you, I hate your behavior.
John Donohue says
As explained in both 1) Ayn Rand’s journal entry; and 2) Dr. Hsieh’s video, Ayn Rand was in the process of inventing the core essence of a character. Writers do this, sometimes, by extracting characteristics of this person and that, taken from life, and reassembling. I write fiction. I do this myself.
Rand did this, exactly. She condemned Hickman’s core, as well as his act, but identified ONE CHARACTERISTIC, isolated it and extracted it devoid of any trace of the monster-hickman. The characteristic she isolated and extracted was: independent individualism revolting against non-criminal cultural mores and coercive demands of others. The non-conformist. The courageous striver. The man of independent mind and judgement.
This event happened when Rand was twenty-three years old, Rand explicitly condemned the murderer, the journal entry is a tiny isolated chunk out of an entire literary lifetime, Rand did not publish the story with the invented character, and the process she deployed is common to authors.
Moreover, one of the reasons Ayn Rand is popular is: She DID finally give the world examples of the man of independent mind and judgement.
Justin Wisniewski says
You have obviously never read anything by Ayn Rand.
Philly Joe Swendoza says
Great piece! In the guise of “rugged individualism,” Rand was in fact a stealth totalitarian. She really never threw off the totalitarian chains that bound her in her native Russia. Her books are historical literary baubles that glitter only through green-tinted glasses. Granted, her influence is remarkable & demands ongoing refutation. I suggest starting by reading Gore Vidal’s historical novels & starting a Vidal literary movement to challenge Rand’s confederacy of dunces. Only dunces could swallow her embrace near death of Social Security & Medicare & still deem her a “rugged individualist.” Rand’s views boil down to privatize the wealth, socialize the fall from affluence. In a way, she mirrored the American way without accepting the actual mechanisms that made it work–architect Howard Roark without the scaffolding.
Michael Clyburn says
I read “Anthem” not long after I read “1984”, when I was a teenager in the mid 1970s. Coincidentally, Rush came out with their 2112 album not long after . While I found Anthem a good read, I found “Atlas Shrugged” to be a bit boring. Especially the middle few chapters with her admiration for what’s his name.
Reading some of the bio of Rand, she seemed to be the antithesis of the Libertarian Goddess she is made out to be especially with her love of Abortion. She was nowhere close to a champion of humankind, and I will never read another sentence from her. She was an upper crust snob, an elitist, and Atlas Shrugged is a waste of time.
Anthem by Rush; “Know your place in life is where you want to be
Don’t let them tell you that you owe it all to me
Keep on looking forward, no use in looking ’round
Hold your head above the ground and they won’t bring you down
Anthem of the heart and anthem of the mind
A funeral dirge for eyes gone blind
We marvel after those who sought
New wonders in the world, wonders in the world,
Wonders in the world they wrought
Live for yourself, there’s no one else
More worth living for
Begging hands and bleeding hearts will
Only cry out for more
Well, I know they’ve always told you
Selfishness was wrong
Yet it was for me, not you, I
Came to write this song”
I never read anything by Rand but I wonder if this song was some kind of tribute to her? Anyway Rush is a scary band irrespective of their politics but just their painfully annoying music.
Then again, Neal Peart is apparently renounces in interest in her:
John Donohue says
Ayn Rand did not love abortion. She abhorred the moral failing of humans becoming pregnant through irresponsibility and then resorting to abortion. What she loved was freedom and the absolute right of a human to own and control her own life. Therefore, although morally heinous in all cases except true accident, she rejected abortion made illegal.
Philly Joe Swendoza says
Becoming pregnant with or without responsibility did not begin in a church or in accordance with any moral or legal code. Adam & Eve were not married when their children arrived. Jesus was born in a manger of a “virgin” mother, making him arguably an illegitimate child born of a maybe married couple. For centuries, only blood line aristocrats & significant property owners were much concerned about “responsible” pregnancies. In any case, pregnancy is the ultimate individual choice, responsible or otherwise. The church may deem some pregnancies “immoral,” but only the state can make them “irresponsible.” God may condemn & forgive immoral acts, but the state alone can attach responsibility for their consequences. Rand tried to ride both of these one-trick ponies in two different directions.
John Donohue says
Aside from forced or fraudulent insemination, pregnancy is a choice. Therefore, the individuals are responsible. If full, adult, legal and emotional care for a child is not desired, then sex without birth control is irresponsible and abortion to “remedy” irresponsible pregnancy is horrific. It does not take God or the state to establish this: it is the human condition.
Michael Clyburn says
John’ good article…..Merry Christmas to you.
Michael Clyburn says
Anthem may have been a related tune. 2112 is definitely based on the works of Rand.
Yeah I looked it up and sure enough Neal Peart himself said as mucg about 2112. He now suposedly denounces her. As I said before, I never read any of her work and was not really a Rush fan but I find it interesting that so much of their lyrics were imspired by her.