Ayn Rand sees it coming

image001

For many decades, Ayn Rand has been an icon of the libertarian right in the USA.  Novelist, philosopher, economist, commentator, critic, she argued for what became known as “Objectivism”.  In a nutshell (and if I’ve understood it correctly), she argued that if we all stick to the knitting and plough our own furrow, then everyone concerned — we ourselves, our associates, customers, supply chains and society in general — will do better than if we all go round deferring to the interests of third parties, and, by implication, put our own interests second.  Or to quote her own book title, she believed in “The Virtue of Selfishness”.

Perhaps those who agonise today about “Corporate Social Responsibility” would do well to read her work.  A corporation discharges its social responsibility by providing goods and services, creating jobs, paying wages and pensions, and paying taxes — not by running youth clubs and charities.

Ayn Rand’s greatest work was her last and longest novel, “Atlas Shrugged” . Just about every libertarian undergrad you meet in America will have read it.

So I was ashamed that I myself had never read it.  But I was gratified, during the holiday month of August, that at least I made a start.  It’s a big project.  I have the Signet anniversary edition from 2007, given me a couple of years ago by an American intern in Brussels.  It’s in paperback.  It’s in what looks like about eight-point type, densely packed.  No pictures!  And it runs to 1067 pages.  It’s a bit daunting as a holiday read.

So far I’m at about page 200 or so.  But already I’ve come across passages that resonate very loudly in 2015.  The story centres on a young woman corporate executive called Dagny Taggart.  (Whoever heard of a girl called Dagny?  Come to that, whoever heard of a girl called Ayn?).  She runs a railway, and is determined to use an innovative alloy in place of steel for her rails and bridges.  So of course she meets massive resistance from the entrenched makers and users of steel.  There’s a vicious smear campaign against the new technology, with rail unions threatening to boycott it.  It reminded me of the hysterical propaganda we’re seeing today against shale gas.

Two particular passages stick in my mind.  The CEO of the company making the alloy is visited by a slightly sinister bureaucrat from the “State Science Institute”.  He has no evidence against the new alloy, but he comes up with phrases like “The State Science Institute does not hold a favourable opinion of {the alloy}”.  And a little later, “The State Science Institute represents the best brains of the country, Mr. CEO”.  When I read those words, I thought immediately and with great affection of the IPCC.  Heaven knows why.

Our heroine Dagny then goes to see the head of the State Scientific Institute.  He prevaricates for a long time, but finally admits that he has not read his own Institute’s report, and accepts that he knows nothing to the detriment of the new alloy.  But he finally admits that has come under pressure from legislators, who in turn are responding to the interests of existing industry players who are threatened by the innovation.  He fears that he will lose the funding for his Institute unless he publishes a report rubbishing the new alloy.

Ayn Rand had an extraordinary premonition of the way in which science can be corrupted by commercial and political interests.  If she were alive today, she would be saddened but unsurprised by climate alarmism, and the way in which a small group of “experts” have been allowed to hi-jack the IPCC, and to cause many billions of dollars’ worth of economic damage to be done to Western economies.

I look forward to reading the rest of Ayn Rand’s masterwork (though heaven knows when I’ll get time).  She’d have been 110 this year, if she’d lived.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Ayn Rand sees it coming

  1. Ex-expat Colin says:

    And:
    Frances Oldham Kelsey

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/08/science/frances-oldham-kelsey-fda-doctor-who-exposed-danger-of-thalidomide-dies-at-101.html?_r=0

    Plenty of good girls and boys around but whats stuffed in our faces now is not so much!

  2. Jane Davies says:

    Propaganda definition. “Official government communications to the public that are designed to influence opinion. The information may be true or false, but it is always carefully selected for its political effect.”
    To quote you Roger in your piece above….”There’s a vicious smear campaign against the new technology, with rail unions threatening to boycott it. It reminded me of the hysterical propaganda we’re seeing today against shale gas.”
    You know my views on one aspect of shale gas extraction but I object to being described as “hysterical”. Propaganda works both ways and in the political arena it does not always reflect the truth.
    Oh and I’m not against shale gas per se.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      No offence, Jane. But when I get letters from voters saying “I don’t want my house destroyed by fracking” (yet no house anywhere, ever, has been destroyed by fracking), I think that the term “hysterical” is not entirely fanciful!”

  3. Eric Worrall says:

    Be careful Roger, it’s life changing.

    By the time you read to the end, you will understand why I left the EU – and why you should too.

  4. davidbuckingham says:

    Roger I’m delighted you’ve discovered her. Douglas Carswell hosted a talk by Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute at the Commons a couple of years ago. Without wishing to brag I read Atlas Shrugged on a two week family holiday many moons ago when I was about 19 – the most anti-social two weeks I’ve spent no doubt – so it can be done! In the USA only the Bible is more influential than Atlas Shrugged according to the national poll. The Tea Party had been strongly influenced by her and Obama makes oblique references. Over here she’s hardly known – The Guardian make the occasional vitriolic sallies against her in the manner of the New York Times; she’s more popular in Norway and India than in the UK – and ARI Europe has just been set up in Copenhagen not London. I envy you the reading you have in store.

  5. omanuel says:

    I have not read her book, Atlas Shrugged, yet but I see that Ayn Rand recognized the danger of The State Science Institute – described by George Orwell as the Ministry of Truth and better known today as the 97% Consensus Science Community.

  6. Richard111 says:

    Do read Anthem. First published in England in 1938. A small book. 105 pages.

  7. Chris Morrison says:

    You’ve just stumbled onto a neglected gem. I came across it by accident in a library 5 years ago and never looked back. I’ve just done a stint at Harvard this summer and practically all of the high achievers I came across over there mentioned her in general and the book in particular as a pivotal influence on their lives and motivations.

  8. anthem2013 says:

    Atlas Shrugged is as prescient as ever. Ayn Rand did not write it as some kind of prediction, more as a warning. Reading the book it is uncanny how so much of what she wrote about 60-70 years ago is now right there before our eyes in the form of the EU.

    Throughout the book, read Brussels as Washington and it’s uncanny.

    As a libertarian it goes against the grain to say this but I do believe that Atlas Shrugged should be required reading for… well… everyone.

  9. patryk says:

    There are more things that you guys in ukip can learn from Ayn Rand.
    http://openborders.info/ayn-rand-immigration-obvious/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s