As always, this is not a book report. Rather, it is an opportunity to discuss some ideas that stuck with me while reading “Goddess of the Market” by Jennifer Burns.
What Does Influence Mean?
I find myself fascinated by Ayn Rand. The fascination grows out of intrigue and not a devout belief in her ideas. I find Ayn Rand compelling for the same reason I find Scientology interesting; the fact that a movement was born in our lifetime is something that I find curious. Unlike Scientology, Ayn Rand’s ideas have taken hold on our society. While reading this book, I spent a lot of time thinking about the power she wields and wielded over her devotees. It made me question the very nature and meaning of influence. From genesis to widespread public support, what does it take for an idea to move masses? Is it timing? Circumstances? Luck? Or a combination? When you look at the entirety of her life, it is hard to believe that it isn’t some combination. More than anything, I believe this is the overarching point that this book tries to drive home.
A Cult of Personality
Reading this book, the devotees of Ayn Rand come across as fanatical. They swallow every word, clamor to be in her presence, and defend her honor without question. This forced me to spend some time thinking about a cult of personality and what blindly following someone does to a person. As a human being, I am prone to such a fault. I have aligned myself with people who see the world as I do, but rarely question where these beliefs I hold dear came from or how they became true for me. I see this as a cautionary sign to slow down, pause, analyze, and spend some time with what I truly believe.
In my mind, philosophy tries to find order in chaos. For Ayn Rand, Objectivism is an attempt to create order out of a past in communist Russia, the Great Depression, and the growing role of the government under President Franklin Roosevelt. While I disagree with the vast majority of Rand’s worldview, I do appreciate the attempt to bring some sense to the world. While I am no philosophy student, I hesitate to say that no philosophical idea has had a greater impact during my lifetime than those ideas expressed by Ayn Rand. How that makes us feel and what it means for our world is for us to decide.
I am not sure if the philosophy of Objectivism is built to last. Objectivists would argue that the world has never seen a capitalist system like the one proposed by Rand, therefore it is still too early to say. I do see a world where more and more wealth is concentrated at the top and the gap between the classes continues to widen. I can’t see how a system such as this can continue. This new economy is creating too many losers and too few winners. It is leading to increases in homelessness and a way of life that we hold as purely American to become further and further out of reach. The system has to either redistribute wealth in an effort to lift more ships up or it has to become fine with larger and larger amounts of people being left behind. Beyond those two ideas, I am not sure where we go from here, but it is something I would love to discuss with anyone that is willing.
Be good to each other,
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