idealism politics

Ayn Rand Institute on the Dole

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum, or Ayn Rand, as you may or may not know, is an atheist responsible for extolling her invented philosophy called “objectivism”, as detailed in her doorstopper work of fiction called Atlas Shrugged. Her nonfiction works included titles such as “The Virtue of Selfishness” and “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”. While objectivism never worked as a serious branch of philosophy, her philosophy of “what’s good for ‘me’ is good for mankind” resonated with those invested in capitalism. In recent decades many in American government saw it as a way of promoting themselves to say that they had read Ayn Rand. By far the most notable American politician who claims to have read any of her works is American congressman Paul Ryan, who claims it formed the basis of his entire political career, according to a speech he made to the Atlas Institute in 2005, the 100th anniversary of Ayn’s birth. Senator Rand Paul, contrary to rumors, wasn’t named after Ayn’s pen surname (his full name is actually Randal Paul, with one “l”), but is also another big fan of the late Ms. Rand since his teen years. Both elected officials extoll “free markets” and decry “socialism” in all of its forms, in the spirit of Ayn Rand. Another prominent supporter of Ayn Rand was Alan Greenspan, who chaired the Federal reserve between 1987 and 2006. None of these people have any significant background in philosophy.

Ayn was in the twilight years of her life ironically making use of medicare and social security after suffering from medical problems related to her smoking habit. She died in 1982 at age 77.

A week ago, Reuters reported that the Ayn Rand Institute was among those who applied for the American government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which under the current pandemic, gives it access to up to 1 million dollars of government money. It is indeed ironic that an institute dedicated to “ending the welfare state” would find it within their philosophy to actually embrace the welfare state as they do here. Oh, and they embrace this wholeheartedly, making it a “matter of moral principle”. The argument is roughly: because we pay taxes, we therefore must all apply for any handouts we can get our hands on as a form of restitution for the theft of taxation. On the other hand, those who support the welfare state have no right to claim such access to handouts, since they are in support of theft (taxation), and therefore lack any moral justification to be so compensated. This means that, according to the website, the fault lies in the contradictions of the welfare state, and not in the Ayn Rand institute, who merely claim what was taken from them.

It is very convenient that members of the Ayn Rand Institute do not feel the need for living up to their own convictions. The institute is not out to make a profit; indeed it is a right-wing think tank that receives private donations, and as such it is registered in Irvine, California as a nonprofit organization (under tax code 501(c)(3)), thus avoiding taxation altogether. It has no real moral claim to restitution of any such government thievery, since nothing was ever taken from them. Nope. They’re just sponging off the government.

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Debt freedom is a lot of work

A while ago, I posted that I finally saw, for the first time in 5 years, $0 owing on both my credit card and my line of credit. The battle is never over, however. Unless I want to completely free myself of the luxury of a credit card and line of credit, there will always be the slow creep of regular payments, and short-term borrowing ($100 here, $200 there), which in my situation are unavoidable occurrences.

So, I will always have to pay down between $200 and $300 on any given 2-week period to maintain the zero balance. This is in stark contrast to the prospect of running up all of my credit in all of my cards (credit, store cards, etc), where I know I could be easily $25000 in debt in a week, should I be silly enough to do such a thing.

But there are other issues with money. In my opinion, credit is too damn easy to get. I really shouldn’t have access to $25000, because I know that paying back would be nearly hopeless. I would have to work past my retirement to do that.

In addition, we have grown too accustomed to people pushing product in our face. I have been working for weeks trying to cancel my cell phone contract. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to shake a salesperson off my leg from Bell, trying to push cell phones on us, both on the phone and in person. I have been alive for 45 years without the need of the ball-and-chain of a cell phone, I will live another 45 damn years without it. It is cheaper to use a pay phone. Way cheaper. Even at 50 cents a call.

The pushing of product in the form of a pressure sales job is a rising trend that I find alarming. I think we are at a point where we are buying so much stuff that we can’t pay for, that I find it hard to believe that it will be easy to come out of the recession. Pressure sales, to me, applies to any attempt to sell to you anything you were not considering buying before the sales pitch.

We all like to prioritize our spending to suit our purposes. Pressure sales is a disruption to that purpose. It throws you off-focus. The only possible answer must be “no” to these people. You have to have a steely resolve that they are wasting their time and effort on you. And so what if they think you are a jerk? To them, the only people who are not jerks are people who buy their stuff, so who needs the high regard of people with such shallow values? On the other hand, if your purchasing decisions are deliberate, then you can walk into the store, and give the salesperson the easiest payday they ever had. You get exactly what you want, and the salesman still makes money.

We live in a society utterly awash in the sales pitch, so it is easy to miss the fact that you are not anything but a wise spender if you just say “no”. Make every purchase decision a planned, deliberate one. It takes a great deal of mental discipline to do this. You need to separate yourself from the competitiveness and the materialism of society to be such a person.