While browsing recently in the fiction section of a San Diego bookstore 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 Ayn Rand, I abhor that woman, but there it was. I wouldn't call it a God moment; especially given that Miss Rand 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 Miss Rand had to say. I was especially interested in the thoughts of Patricia Neal, the celebrated actress, who had played opposite Gary Cooper in Fountainhead, a movie based upon Ayn Rand's other "major" novel by that name; 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, but Gary Cooper as Harold Roark blowing up buildings to prove fidelity to principle, stayed with me -- not the violence but why principles matter.
Ms. Neal said she didn't like Miss Rand, didn't care for her philosophy as reflected in her fiction and in the real life she lived, but said Gary Cooper and Ayn 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 Miss Rand's most devoted acolytes. Of course he was there, and while I didn't count the page citations, there were more on Greenspan -- and then some.
So I randomly selected from 1000 Voices the name of 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 (Ayn 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 Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and George W. Bush, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States was Alan Greenspan, a man loved on Wall Street and lionized by national media, but who more than any other person made possible the meteoric rise in wealth of what became America's one-percenters, and in time would result in the most terrifying financial crisis since the Great Depression -- but 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 Mr. 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 cumulative pages now cluttering our historical archives, that question was never asked.
Had even one member asked -- say Chris Dodd in the Senate or Barney Frank in the House, perhaps? -- then perhaps the myth of Alan Greenspan's "genius" might have been shredded and exposed, as he should have been exposed, the disciple of a woman whose economic theories and views of humanity strike at the very heart of American idealism and the promise of the Constitution -- that all men are created equal. (My only concession to Miss Rand is, having been born in Russia 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 Mr. Greenspan on his devotion to Miss Rand and her destructive economic theories, and it was disgraceful, I have no less contempt for media, which let Mr. Greenspan continue with his twisted views of markets and men without holding him accountable.
How did he escape mainstream media's accounting? How did hundreds and hundreds of Washington journalist's miss the Greenspan/Rand connection? Because Mr. Greenspan and his wife, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, form one of Washington's leading power couples, and specifically because Ms. Mitchell, held in high regard by her colleagues, provided her husband with a media free pass -- a 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 Ayn Rand, but you can't embrace both. The more I have come to understand Miss Rand, the more persuaded I am she was Lucifer come to earth as an angel of economic salvation, when in fact she was nothing less than an angel of darkness bent on economic ruin for poor and middle class Americans; an angel of darkness whose powers of persuasion seduced in mind if not in body too many men -- not least Alan Greenspan.
I do not believe the former Fed chairman is evil, however great his devotion to Ayn Rand, but of her evil I have no doubt.
That's it -- all occasioned by drop in at a bookstore. You should try it some time.