Happy Labor day, Ayn Rand! Love, the Cheese Chasers

Ah, labor day, when a hard-working American’s fancy turns to thoughts of Ayn Rand.

You remember Ayn. She was the one who wrote those crashingly tedious novels about awful people being awful and then rewarding themselves with awful sex. It was long, long ago that I slogged my way through Atlas Shrugged, so I looked up a sample of her writing. Here’s one passage I found, much-liked by her fans:

People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked.

No, it was written in English. Not a bad translation. That’s how she actually writes.

As one can see, one subscribes to the “Needs a Little Oil” school of literature, in which one mirrors the slow crumble and collapse of civilization with a graceless, arhythmic series of participle phrases that grind and rail against the ear like so many ill-matched cogs in a machine designed to drive you completely cuh-razy!

But my memory is poor, as I’ve said. It may be a swell book. I do remember thinking, “Boy, for a book with a lot of sex in it, this is really just not a sexy book.” Regardless, Rand spent a good part of her life smoking two packs a day and railing against the ludicrous hoax that tobacco was bad for you, until she got lung cancer and needed surgery. Which, it turns out, is expensive.

What’s a poor objectivist to do, especially a poor, actually-kind-of-really-rich objectivist who’s made a nice career out of despising parasites, moochers, and thieves who steal money from taxpayers to fund their own pathetic survival when they get lung cancer?

You use your less-famous name and you go ahead and take welfare, that’s what you do. Oh, yes. Under her married name of Ann O’Connor (she was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, but became “Ayn Rand” because it looks nicer. It just does, okay?) she helped herself to both Social Security and Medicare at the end of her life, despite sitting on an estate of $500,000 (the equivalent of about $1.5M in today’s money).

I says to myself, I says, maybe there’s more to this story. This couldn’t just be such a tidy and revolting tale of bald hypocrisy.

Here’s a defense I found from aynrand.org, in an article promisingly titled The Myth About Ayn Rand and Social Security:

Precisely because Rand views welfare programs like Social Security as legalized plunder, she thinks the only condition under which it is moral to collect Social Security is if one “regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism” (emphasis hers). The seeming contradiction that only the opponent of Social Security has the moral right to collect it dissolves, she argues, once you recognize the crucial difference between the voluntary and the coerced.

Social Security is not voluntary. Your participation is forced through payroll taxes, with no choice to opt out even if you think the program harmful to your interests. If you consider such forced “participation” unjust, as Rand does, the harm inflicted on you would only be compounded if your announcement of the program’s injustice precludes you from collecting Social Security.

This being said, your moral integrity does require that you view the funds only as (partial) restitution for all that has been taken from you by such welfare schemes and that you continue, sincerely, to oppose the welfare state.

In contrast, the advocate of Social Security on Rand’s view is not the victim but the supporter of legalized plunder, whether he realizes it or not. This fact morally disqualifies him from accepting the spoils “redistributed” by the welfare state.

This one really isn’t in English, so I’ll translate it for you:

She didn’t believe in welfare, because welfare is obvs stealing, and she was therefore just taking back what was stolen; whereas people who do believe in welfare are stupid suckers who don’t even realize they’re being robbed, so something something something they should die. But Ayn Rand is now doubly awesome, as demonstrated by the use of italics.

Being a rationalist devoid of sentimentality and weakness, one merely needs to firmly hold the right attitude in mind (you whisper “I’m a victim!” three times and blow a kiss in the direction of the federal reserve), then the check in the mail magically transforms from plunder into restitution.

It’s rational. Say it’s rational, or I’ll cry.

As one can see, this theory derives from the Confounded Bulldog School of Economic Theory, in which one frantically taps numbers into the adding machine, one pulls out a long strip of printed figures, and then one pursues voluntary incarceration at the local canine containment facility, because it just don’t add up.

But it’s all moot at this point because Ayn has long since gone to her reward and the Social Security fund now has $23.88 left in it (yes I know that’s not how it works). My personal plan is to become a full time cheese-chaser who has no bad habits and dies of some completely other kind of cancer, comforted by the knowledge that nobody is reading The Fountainhead anymore because nobody knows how to read. Cheers!


Ayn Rand WEARING BUCKSKIN FRINGES FOR SOME REASON photo colorized by Julius Jääskeläinen (Creative Commons


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5 thoughts on “Happy Labor day, Ayn Rand! Love, the Cheese Chasers”

  1. Simcha, This was hilarious! And that picture! I just want to be on record as saying no serious thought crossed my mind when reading this post. My favorite part – the Confounded Bulldog School of Economic Theory. You have a way with words and your humor is yours alone.

  2. I’m just here to say ACT’UALLY you can identify as politically conservative, have serious reservations about a welfare state, AND think Ayn Rand is full of shite.

    I suffered through Anthym in High school. That was enough, thanks.

  3. Not an Ayn Rand fan but do detest and mistrust big government (of which SS is an integral part) more and more each day. Like Ayn, I fully intend to take SS and we will be forced to take Medicare (not sure if she was forced to). God knows our payments (as we’ve paid both employer and employee) into the system over these many years would have returned in the millions had we been allowed to invest the money ourselves.

    There once was a wealthy Philadelphia Catholic man who for years signed over his SS check to my husband’s huge family. They mostly used the money for things like food and shoes. They were very poor and very grateful for it. Each month my MIL sent him a thank you note letting him know how she had spent his gift. As the oldest kids grew up and got jobs and spending money, her thank you notes began to say things like “this month we took the eight youngest kids to the zoo.” Eventually the day came when my MIL got a letter that said, “I found another young Catholic family who needs the money more than you.” My MIL prayed every day of her life for that man and the family who “needed it more.”

    I know my husband would love to pay this tremendous act of generosity forward but with food, gas, and utilities rising and the dollar poised to lose its crown as the world’s reserve currency, who knows if we’ll be able to donate our SS, let alone if we’ll ever see a dime of it.

  4. Social Security: the ultimate “pay it forward” system to unite the generations.

    A young person entering the labor force starts out by supporting retirees in his grandfather’s generation. As time goes by, he is helping out members of his mom’s generation. If he is lucky enough to live to retirement, he or she will receive some limited comfort from the generations that include their children and grandchildren.

    This “diabolical scheme” was crafted this way to insulate it from the expected (and then actual and ongoing) attacks from those who call themselves “conservatives” (actually pawns of concentrated wealth or slaves to self denigrating resentments). It was crafted this way out of political, more than economic considerations. There were and are more “economically efficient” ways of funding a retirement insurance system. Here is what FDR said:

    “I guess you’re right on the economics. They are politics all the way through. We put those pay roll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program. Those taxes aren’t a matter of economics, they’re straight politics.”

    Yes, politics! And I like to imagine FDR cackling a bit in satisfaction at the way the Social Security system was devised to confound attacks by those he called “malefactors of great wealth”. But the “pay it forward” apparatus generates attitudes of entitlement and mutuality which FDR quite rightly labeled “moral” in the face of strained objections of the congenitally hostile.

  5. Thank you for pointing out the hypocrisy in such an entertaining way. Ironically, many faithful Catholics swear by Ayn Rand.

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