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Fountainhead Shrugged

David Sirota has a really good column in Salon today: “Ayn Rand is for children” that explores the mystery of why some people think the fiction of Ayn Rand actually describes a reasonable political ideology. And his argument of why it does not can also serve as a 12-step guide to how to grow out of an immature belief in her ideological sham.

One of Sirota’s arguments rings particularly true with me — that part of the problem with Americans is that we don’t travel. We don’t ever see those parts of the world that are living in the Randian world of rampant, unregulated capitalism, with “no obvious environmental, public health, or workplace safety laws”, where there is no social safety net, and the poor don’t look like the “takers” or “moochers” that American politicians accuse them of being.

According to government data, only 30 percent of Americans even possess a passport (which is a very low rate compared to citizens in other industrialized English-speaking countries). Additionally, of those who do, only a fraction use their travel papers to visit parts of the developing world that perfectly spotlight the failures of the Rand vision.

Sirota also experienced the same thing as I did, when on visiting China realized that it is communist in name only, and “as some American CEOs will openly admit, if you want to see a more purely Randian version of a socially darwinist free market than exists in America, head straight across the Pacific Ocean to China.” Where hopefully you won’t get sick from the massive pollution problems they are having.

Sirota’s bottom line?

To be a Rand groupie is to flaunt your immaturity, your ignorance, your desperation to justify greed or your lack of international travel. It is, in other words, to admit your blindness to how so much of the world already lives, and to ignore what America would look like if “Fountainhead Shrugged” was seen as a public policy manual rather than what it really is: a dangerous farce.



  1. Don in Waco wrote:

    Oh, now, you’re messing up the plans for Beckistan.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Richard wrote:

    Well said.

    Americans need to travel more to ANY country outside the US, not just developing countries. Yes, China is the perfect antidote for a Randian vision but how about the Scandinavian countries as a great model for excellent social services like healthcare, or the UK for their ban on guns, or India for it’s chaotic numerous political parties (instead of two entrenched ones).

    My extensive travel has been my best education, by far.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
  3. Dave, TN wrote:

    The dramatic effect of nearly no environmental controls or restrictions in China is not only directly causing problems there but also in neighboring countries. Link below.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Peter wrote:

    […] only 30 percent of Americans even possess a passport (which is a very low rate compared to citizens in other industrialized English-speaking countries).

    I’m suddenly curious: Who are these other Industrialized English-speaking Countries?

    Well, let’s see…there’s England, obviously. And…Scotland? Ireland? Okay, that’s three, kind of. What other ones? Canada? Anyone else?

    Now, figure that to get to England, the people of Ireland have to drive for about 8-10 hours–at worst. Figure about 6 hours from Scotland to England. So you have three English-speaking countries within a reasonable drive. So it would be reasonable to have a passport.

    Canadians that wish to visit the United States–and keep in mind that something like 75% of Canadians live within a two hour drive of the U.S. border–need a passport. Compare that to the percentage of Americans living within a two hour drive of the Canadian border.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the premise of the article. But I’m not sure this statistic has any real meaning. A trip to a foreign country for a majority of Americans involves airplanes and more expense than a trip to a foreign country would for Europeans.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Peter, you are totally cracking me up. Were you trying to be ironic?

    Europeans formed the European Union a while ago; European citizens don’t need a passport to travel between countries. Yet more of them have passports anyway. And in case you haven’t heard, even before that, Scotland, England, Wales, and a few other places were all part of the United Kingdom, roughly analogous to the United States (no passport required there either). Scotland is not usually considered a separate nation. Plus, to drive from Ireland to England, you would get VERY wet (however, from Ireland you could get to Northern Ireland by car, and it is part of the UK).

    Want a better example? 60 to 70% of Australians have passports, and they are an isolated island. The closest other English-speaking country to Australia is New Zealand, around 1000 miles away (over water). And the people of New Zealand even beat Australians — 75% of them have passports.

    And you don’t seem to realize that up until a few years ago, Canadians were not required to have a passport to visit the US, and yet more of them (53%) had passports anyway.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  6. Duckman wrote:

    This argument might of been relevant 30 years ago, but you can very easily go on the internet to see and read about pollution anywhere in the world today.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  7. ebdoug wrote:

    India was a possession of England. Speaks English. Many former members of the UK speak English and have deteriorated once they got their freedom. How about Sierra Leone?

    Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  8. ebdoug wrote:

    Sorry, you said “industrialized”. Does the diamond industry count?

    Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink
  9. Techiedev wrote:

    Unless you’ve actually experienced real pollution, e.g. the Chinese one, you cannot know how relevant this article is. And by experience, I mean breathed it, tasted it, and lived it all the time, not just read about it while sitting in a clean and very comfortable environment.

    Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    Good point TechieDev. And not only do we “just read about it while sitting in a clean and very comfortable environment” we gladly buy all those inexpensive products produced by companies that are doing the polluting.

    Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  11. Duckman wrote:

    Well unless we have all been in politics I guess we cannot know the relevance of any political arguments. I guess since I haven’t seen a mass murder than I cannot know the relevance of gun right/control articles.

    You base opinions on what you know, living it boosts it and creates

    Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  12. Michael wrote:

    Duckman, meet my good fried, Availability Heuristic. You may not have seen a mass murder, but you have seen plenty of images of Newtown residents crying. Now, how many images (not text…images are significantly more powerful) of suffering caused by environmental damage have you seen on mainstream news outlets in the U.S.? I’m not talking about vague images of smoky/smoggy days. I’m talking about something like children victims of Napalm attacks.

    Until Americans see compelling images, they will do nothing to change.

    Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  13. Duckman wrote:

    Someone doesn’t use the internet much

    Monday, January 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink