Monday, June 06, 2011

Jesus Christ or Ayn Rand - The economic conservative's conflict

Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand follower and former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, uses a passerby's back to write a note May 19, 2011 inside Union Station, Washington D.C. 
      Many Republican Conservatives claim to be very religious - they spouse the evangelical Christian faith or publicly embrace traditional values.   This crowd has really taken to Ayn Rand lately.  Rand was known for writing racy novels and "The Virtue of Selfishness."  She isn't taken seriously by philosophers, although she did try to create a philosophy based on selfishness, which she called "objectivism."  Rand used objectivism to promote her belief in unregulated markets and total laissez-faire free market capitalism.
      Followers of Rand's objectivism believe if their actions benefit themselves, it is morally acceptable. Objectivism gives people permission to be utterly irresponsible for others. As Cain once asked "Am I my brother's keeper." Rand's answer is a resounding no. 
     I thought it might be helpful for conservatives to see the contrast between the teachings of Jesus on self, money, and the concept of eternal life with those of Ayn Rand.  Christ seems beyond politics. I would not hang a label on him. He is neither conservative nor liberal. Yet his teachings make it clear that we are our brother's keeper.  

The values of Jesus Christ vs. The values of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand wrote:
Jesus Christ says:
Ego“I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” (Atlas Shrugged)“I am not seeking glory for myself” John 8:50

“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45.
Eternal Life“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves - or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth”“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John11:25

“What good can it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul? For what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am my servant will also be. My father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12: 26
Money“Money is the barometer of a society's virtue.”

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter.”
“Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:14

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

“No man can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and serve the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despite the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:15

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you will go hungry.”  Luke 6:24-25

“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:23
God“Do you believe in God, Andrei? No. Neither do I. But that's a favorite question of mine. An upside-down question, you know. What do you mean? Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they'd never understand what I meant. It's a bad question. It can mean so much that it really means nothing. So I ask them if they believe in God. And if they say they do—then, I know they don't believe in life. Why? Because, you see, God—whatever anyone chooses to call God—is one's highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life.”  
Source: We The Living Part One Chapter 9
“God is spirit and his followers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24

     How is Ayn Rand's philosophy of selfishness having an impact on our society today?  Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, embraced this philosophy and was a devoted personal acquaintance of Rand. (See "All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis" by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, p.85)  Despite repeated warning about excess credit, the credit bubble,  and horrible abuses in mortgage lending, Greenspan declined to take any action.  Many of his decisions to avoid regulation can be attributed to his adherence to Rand's teachings.  Paul Ryan, the Republican trying to eviscerate Medicare for our seniors, is another of Rand's devotees.   Rand prioritized property rights equally with human rights.  In Rand's eyes, if humans suffer, so be it, they have to rescue themselves or perish.  Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, is a devotee (he has told a number of magazines and written about it in his autobiography), as is his wife Virginia, a Tea Party Queen and anti-universal health care lobbyist. 

     If anyone would like to add quotes or comparisons to the chart above, please feel free. Thanks. 

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