Whither the ‘American’ John Galt? South of the Stupid Line: Where Jesus Met Ayn…

If you’ve ever wondered how a conservative Christian could claim to “know” Jesus and, at the same time, love the philosophy of that virtual prototype of amoral atheism,  Ayn Rand, you’ve probably been as frustrated as I have at the lack of coherent explanations.  They can enthusiastically back ghastly ideas like privatized prisons for Christian evangelism without the slightest glimmer that this would probably horrify Jesus AND Madison.  How can they stomach such an abomination (assuming for the moment they’re not just barefaced hypocrites or too dumb to notice the problem)?

It’s embarrassing enough for a Cato Institute slide whistle like Stephen Moore to fawn over her, — now that he’s supposed to be doing his patented thinking for the grown-ups — but the mental leaps and lapses necessary for an Objectivist to be born again just don’t seem to add up in the material universe. 

At least until now.  Hallelujah,  Newsweek has somehow coaxed mad, impetuous romantic, Jesus’ Family member, and still South Carolina governor  Mark Sanford into revealing all exploring addressing writing about the paradox in an essay humorously(?) entitled Atlas Hugged.  Though it starts off as a review of a new book about Rand, given Sanford’s dominionist Christianity, some sort of attempt at reconciliation could be expected.  Actually, an attack should be expected, but Sanford barely gives a whiff of his theistic faith, never mentioning Jesus or Christianity by name, and preaches for Rand’s cult instead.

Like apologists for all untestable faiths, he treats us to a stew of flowery words and bold statements that somehow manage (yet again) to add nothing that helps us understand anything.  The Answer, as always, stays just out of reach.

But I suppose if I’ve gone this far, I might as well hit a couple of the low lights.  The intro:

In my experience, people who’ve read Ayn Rand’s books either love them or hate them. I’m one of the few who fall somewhere in between. When I first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in the 1980s, I was blown away. Those books portray the power of the free individual in ways I had never thought about before. Since then, I’ve grown more critical of Rand’s outlook because it doesn’t include the human needs we have for grace, love, faith, or any form of social compact. Yet I still believe firmly that her books deserve attention, and in that regard, Anne Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made provides important and meaningful insight into the evolution of Rand’s world view.

Since I don’t know Sanford’s second birthday, let’s just note that he was at least in his twenties when he was “blown away” by Rand and move along:

The Fountainhead is a stunning evocation of the individual and what he can achieve when unhindered by government or society.

Oh yeah. Think how much better off we’d all be without those interstates, libraries and sewage plants getting in the way. It was probably his collectivist mailman that forced him (at registered gunpoint) to thwart his own dynamism and become a parasitic governor.

What strikes me as still relevant is its central insight—that it isn’t “collective action” that makes this nation prosperous and secure; it’s the initiative and creativity of the individual.

**slapping forehead** That is an astounding insight — that these two items are actually mutually exclusive! Why didn’t I notice before that they cannot possibly co-exist?  No way both of those things can be valid and useful.

Let’s just skip over the insights and go straight to his summary of Atlas Shrugged:

“Who is John Galt?” is the first line of Rand’s 1,000-page book, and by the end it’s clear she wants everyone to think, and act, as if they were him. Galt had been, as we discover only as the plot unfolds, head engineer at the Twentieth Century Motor Company, which had produced a motor powered by static electricity. His superiors, however, had decided to restructure the company along Marxist or “collectivist” lines, and Galt had left the company.

Just have to interrupt to note that this would have been a great point for Sanford to discuss the parallels here of his two favorite fables. First, “a motor powered by static electricity” is every bit as miraculous (preposterous) as the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection, and the part about the big corporation deciding to pass up huge profits for the greater good of humanity is a parallel to the account of the rich young man of Mark 10:21, and, by parallel, of course, I mean they are exactly the fucking opposite.

The plot thickens, like cold oatmeal:

He leads an effort to get the nation’s greatest business leaders to go on a kind of strike. One by one, they disappear, making their way to a hidden valley in Colorado and leaving the now increasingly collectivist U.S. government to try and preserve the country on its own, with no help from these giants of industry. What happens, of course, is that the government collapses, and Galt emerges to reorder society along strictly free-market lines [compare to Romans 13:1 — ed]

And everyone lives happily ever after. Of course. Lots more dreck about the brilliance of Rand’s philosophy, and how the nation would be better off if we followed her .. blah, blah.  Let’s jump to the end to see how Sanford reconciles his dual philosophies of total altruism and total selfishness.  He does finally try to draw a distinction between Christianity and Randism but, perhaps unsurprisingly, ignores myriad theological problems while making no sense at all.  The shocking conclusion:

There is one more major flaw in Rand’s thinking. She believed that man is perfectible—a view she shared with the Soviet collectivists she hated. The geniuses and industrial titans who retire to Galt’s hidden valley create a perfect society based on reason and pure individualism; and Galt himself, in the 57-page speech near the book’s end, explicitly denies the existence of original sin*. The idea that man is perfectible has been disproved by 10,000 years of history. Men and women are imperfect, or “fallen,” which is why I believe* … [in] limited government.

Oh, come on! Man’s fallen nature? This may be the only point where the priests of both faiths agree. The one thing they have in common is their position that people just suck. Always have sucked, always will suck,  and (aside from a chosen few) have no chance of ever not sucking.  In truth, Rand’s “philosophy” wasn’t nearly as groundbreaking as she imagined.  It was really just a romanticized rehash of already discredited Social Darwinism that claimed it was natural and right that an elite ruled over a permanent underclass.   It is ironic (and irritating) that the same Christian extremists who would ban scientific evolution from public schools tacitly support these soulless pseudo-scientific/philosophical justifications for selfishness.  Then again, consistency and intellectual honesty have never been prized by fundamentalists.

* emphasis mine