An Ayn Rand Train Wreck

Ayn Rand Hypocrisy

Ayn Rand

Imagine a 500-car train with radioactive cargo jumping the track at a high overpass near a nerve center switch-station, traveling through the air over a treacherous swamp and a commercial office complex, then landing at the edge of a cliff with the lead locomotive and a few cars dangling over the edge.

The runaway train, the second worst train wreck of the century, occurred because lobbyists got the restrictions removed from speed limits. The damage is so severe and the financial liability so great that thousands of stockholders lose their fortunes, thousands more individuals lose their jobs, and the staggering debt incurred for the cleanup threatens the very survival of the nation’s transportation system.

You step up to be the overseeing conductor charged with cleaning up, getting the useable cars back on track, and repairing the damage.

There are big obstacles in your way, however; you have to fight tooth and nail with the private landowners just to get your equipment onto the private property between the cliff and the tracks. And at the behest and frantic urging of the stockholders and government officials you arrange a loan of billions of dollars to keep the railroad company afloat.

The lawyers and judges who oppose you are in the pocket of the landowners, as are the politicians. It takes years, but gradually you succeed a few feet at a time until not only do you get the train cars off the cliff, but you get most of them near the track and you get a new lead locomotive into position. The public is still very worried, but some are beginning to think the railroad will recover and some of the former employees are being rehired.

You are getting close to success, in spite of the nearly insurmountable odds against you when the lawyers for the landowners, in collusion with your political opposition, serve you with court papers: You are being sued and blamed for the wreck.

Charles Hayes

You weren’t the conductor in charge of the train when the accident occurred, but they say that doesn’t matter now. You asked for the job, you haven’t restored the system as fast as was expected, you spent too much, even though the railroad and your political opposition thwarted your efforts at every possible juncture. Now they say it’s time to admit that the whole damn thing is your fault. If you were John Galt, they would let it slide. But you’re not. Your name is Barack Obama.

Charles Hayes


  1. Ellebean says

    Good one.  Ayn Rand was the Anti-Christ and I believe she’s working through Mitch Mcconnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and their ilk.  I have to believe TIME will take care of them just as it did for that lunatic Rand.

  2. dusty says

    A lot of the little people think that the image of the self sufficient mover and shaker somehow symbolizes the building of the virtue of America. Bull feathers — my folk crossed the mountains on the Cumberland Trail in 1804, after fighting in the War of 1776 (aka the War of Independence) and kept moving west building lots of things — but they didn’t do it alone, not at all, they were part of a people who shared and cared and worked together to build this nation. People of all color and religions, free folk and slaves, atheists, too, men and women did this work and many perished while doing it. Some who became rich like the railroad owners were given millions of acres of free land from the government as well as the financing to build and that story is true of much of the building of the superstructure of the nation and yet people from the ignorant right attack government. Oh, it should also be noted that many of these noble rich floated large amounts of worthless securities and took advantage of the hard working people of the new country. Ignorant people who refuse to think for themselves and comfort themselves with fairy tales and myths will be the downfall of democracy and the harbingers of totalitarianism in our fair nation. And this is says nothing that would or could excuse the almost extermination of the native Americans by the settlers.

  3. Mark Plus says

    Ayn Rand continues to annoy people on the left, despite her nuttiness and confusions, because they have to acknowledge that she presents a “coherent view of society,” as Jonathan Chait of “The New Republic” calls it, which many Americans find compelling and which stands in opposition to theirs. Moreover, this view has become influential in American culture by bypassing the left’s educational & propaganda channels based in elite universities, which must rub salt into the wounds. Rand went straight to the people to market her alternative humanism through her novels and other writings, shaped the thinking of Americans in the hinterlands for a couple of generations, and in the process created an effective source of resistance to progressivism. The left has lost control of the situation, and they don’t quite know how to frame a response to it which doesn’t deal with irrelevancies like Rand’s admiration for a murderer way back when. (Of course leftists never idolize murderers and sociopaths like Che Guevara. Why, I doubt you could even get a T-shirt with Che’s image on it.)

    The left especially fears Rand’s most interesting insight, at least as I see it: That the world’s most productive people should view governments as competing service providers, like competing hotels, and shop around for ones to live in and do business which offer excellent services, have reasonable house rules and charge competitive rates in the form of taxation. You wouldn’t stay at a hotel where the management runs it like a prison, spies on you, threatens to shoot you for not following arbitrary rules, confiscates your possessions when it feels like it and so forth; yet many of the world’s governments do exactly that to their business people, including the American government more times than we like to admit. Many of China’s new millionaires reportedly plan to get citizenship in other countries and move as much of their fortunes away from China as they can, because they live in a bad “hotel” managed by people they don’t trust, despite its current forbearance towards their economic freedom. If enough of the world’s alpha producers followed this example, they would deprive regimes which abuse business people of resources, even if these governments planned to use the confiscated wealth for “progressive” ends, so that their politicians would have to scale back their ambitions. Just from competition and freedom of movement you could get an Ayn Rand sort of world without needing to read a single page of her novels. 

    • says

      I don’t speak for the Left, but I will tell you what I fear and that is a large percentage of society that embraces ignorant assumptions about the nature of virtue. During the past half century research in psychology and neuroscience render Rand’s ideology absurd. They have pulled the rug out from under her fundamental assumptions about human behavior. That she still sells millions of books because of her appeal to adolescent aspirations is both undeniable and tragic.

      • Harry Binswanger says

        Mr. Hayes,

        As an Objectivist philosopher for 49 years, I have to disagree with (dare I say “take offense at”?) your claim that the appeal of Objectivism is to adolescents and that neuroscience (a field I have a little experience in) has refuted rationality as the primary virtue.

        Maybe you could name the aspects of Objectivism you find lacking. Is it the tenet that existence exists independent of any consciousness? That perception is the ultimate source of all mental content? That reason is the use of concepts to organize, integrate, and identify observed facts, by a logical process? That the operation of reason is volitional? That one’s basic choice is to live or not to live, and that if one chooses to live, a set of necessary means–i.e., virtues–follows? That rleason is man’s basic means of survival? That the initiation of physical force against others is anti-life? That every individual has the right to act without being subject to force, so long as he does not initiate force against another?

        • says

          Science reveals that Rand’s fundamental premise that man is first and foremost a rational creature is absurd. If you don’t know this you can’t be paying attention. I take offense at the very idea of Objectivism’s notion of creating a society based solely on the false notion of selfishness as a virtue. What I’ve said is that when a rush of adolescent hormones encounters an ideology that makes biologically self-centered and narcissistic inclinations seem glorious, critical thinking stops and notions of superiority blossom. Rand was in my view a borderline sociopath.

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