January 31, 2011

Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them

Uh oh. Libertarians, watch out: your hero, Ayn Rand, was completely okay with making sure she grabbed up government benefits….as long as everyone else didn’t take them, that is.

The entire “I’ve got mine so you can go to hell” philosophy that Libertarian politicians and activists hold dear hinges on the belief that somehow, without any government intervention or even indeed without a government that everyone would behave in the most ideal fashion…that the free market and capitalism are the natural effects of a free society and that it’s in the best interests of the free market to not poison people with bad medicine or tainted food, to not under-employ poor workers or force them to work long hours without leave or benefits, or to discriminate against potential employees because of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. And yet – when left to its own devices, so-called “free” enterprise does all of those things.

Why? Because that level of Libertarianism, like most political and social methodologies that sound great on paper, only work on paper. And there’s proof positive that Ayn Rand, the Libertarian goddess herself who championed so many of those ideals, understood that fact so much that while she was railing against the government and their social assistance programs, she was ever so happy to shout about how awful they were…all the way to the bank with her government assistance checks.

Ayn Rand was not only a schlock novelist, she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well.

Her books provided wide-ranging parables of “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers” using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes’ labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O’Connor (her husband was Frank O’Connor).

As Michael Ford of Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream wrote, “In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.”

Wow, that actually sounds a lot like modern Libertarianism, frankly – not only hypocritical, but ostensibly only interested in the self. It’s the same childish mindset that we’ve seen throughout the ages – the difference is that most people tend to grow out of it – that in good times, the government is always so evil, so horrible, and so guilty of sucking up “my taxes” to fund things that they don’t dare try to understand….and then when times are hard or life gets rough, the same programs and policies that these people formerly dismissed are there ready and waiting to catch them when they fall.

One can only hope they learn their lesson. Ayn Rand certainly didn’t – but then, considering she went as far as to use a different name in public and then another when she cashed her checks, tells us that not only did she know better, she was doing it maliciously.

Evva Joan Pryor, who had been a social worker in New York in the 1970s, was interviewed in 1998 by Scott McConnell, who was then the director of communications for the Ayn Rand Institute. In his book, 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, McConnell basically portrays Rand as first standing on principle, but then being mugged by reality.

“Mugged by reality.” That’s a phrase I think is more than applicable to this brand of Libertarianism – even today.

[ Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them ]

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