While browsing recently in the fiction section of the Adams Avenue Book Store in Normal Heights I came across a book about Ayn Rand, although the book I pulled from the shelf was not fiction, but was leaning against “Atlas Shrugged.”
I wasn't looking for a book by or about Rand -- I abhor that woman -- but there it was. I wouldn't call it a God moment; especially given that she was a notorious atheist who thought people of faith weak-minded and contemptible (and so I would have been judged), rather a happenstance. The book was entitled: “1000 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand.”
I thumbed through its pages, reading here and there what people who knew Rand had to say. I was especially interested in the thoughts of Patricia Neal, the celebrated actress who had played opposite Gary Cooper in “The Fountainhead,” a movie based on Rand’s other major novel and a film I watched as a kid at the North Park Theater on a Saturday afternoon in 1949.
Even as an eighth-grader at Roosevelt Junior High School, the movie made an impression on me, although I’m quite sure its subliminal message passed me by. The image of Cooper as Harold Roark blowing up buildings to prove fidelity to principle stayed with me – not the violence but why principles matter.
Neal said she didn't like Rand, didn't care for her philosophy as reflected in her fiction or in the life she lived, but said Cooper and Rand got along very well. It was not a bad fit – Cooper, the rugged individualist and Rand, the Monarch of Me.
But then I turned to the index; looking for a name I was certain I would find – Alan Greenspan, one of Rand’s most devoted acolytes. Of course he was there, and while I didn’t count the page citations, there were many.
So I randomly selected from “1000 Voices” the name of economist Kathryn Eickhoff, who was asked by the book’s editor, Scott McConnell, "What was Miss Rand's influence on Mr. Greenspan?"
"Very profound”, she said. “Of course by the time I knew him he had been an avowed Objectivist (Rand's philosophical dialectic with Judeo/Christian values) for quite a number of years, but I think her views gave a foundation to his own views on economics and broadened those views, giving him a philosophical underpinning that they didn't have. And Objectivism gave him, I think, a better appreciation of people and their motivations. Also, it certainly provided him with a methodology for thinking. In fact, that’s the thing I personally find the greatest benefit of Objectivism; it gives you a way of coming at problems that is rather different from that followed by other philosophies…"
I offer no greater indictment of America’s economic policy these past 25 years than the fact that for 19 years under three presidents -- George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush -- the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank was Greenspan. This economist, loved on Wall Street and lionized by national media, made possible more than any other person the meteoric rise in wealth of what became America’s 1-percenters. In time, those policies would result in the most terrifying financial crisis since the Great Depression that, in the longer reach of history, shall be judged even more devastating because unlike the Great Depression, the economy is never coming back to what it was. Ever.
Almost from the beginning of Greenspan’s domination of the Fed, I dreamed of being a member of either the House or Senate finance committees, for one reason, to ask this question:
“Mr. Greenspan, would you please tell the members of the committee why you worship Ayn Rand?”
In all those years, in all the testimony given by the Fed chairman, in the thousands of pages now cluttering our historical archives, that question has never been asked.
Had even one member asked – say Chris Dodd in the Senate or Barney Frank in the House – then perhaps the myth of Greenspan's genius might have been exposed as the disciple of a woman whose economic theories and views of humanity strike at the heart of American idealism and the promise of the Constitution that all men are created equal. (My only concession to Rand is, having been Russian and coming from a czarist/Communist state, she had no clue as to the Framers’ intent.)
As disgraceful as I found the failure of Congress to confront Greenspan on his devotion to Rand and her destructive economic theories, I have no less contempt for the news media, which let Greenspan continue with his twisted views of markets and men without holding him accountable.
How did he escape the mainstream media’s accounting? How did hundreds of Washington journalists miss the Greenspan/Rand connection? Because Greenspan and his wife, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, form one of Washington’s leading power couples, and specifically because Mitchell, held in high regard by her colleagues, has provided her husband with a free pass that permitted his unchallenged rise as the Great Oracle of United States and world economic policies.
And you thought Karl Marx was a threat to capitalism.
I once wrote that you can embrace Judeo/Christian ethics or you can embrace Rand, but you can’t embrace both. The more I have come to understand Rand, the more persuaded I am she was nothing less than an angel of darkness bent on economic ruin for poor and middle-class Americans; whose powers of persuasion seduced too many men – not the least of whom was Greenspan.
I do not believe the former Fed chairman is evil, however great his devotion to Rand, but of her evil I have no doubt.
All of this was occasioned by dropping in a bookstore. You should try it some time.
Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader.