How is Ayn Rand elitist?
October 18, 2010 Leave a comment
In a recent Christian Science Monitor opinion piece, sociologist and author Vladimir Shlapentokh asks, “How is elitist Ayn Rand a tea party hero?” The real question should be instead, “How is Ayn Rand elitist?” I am no Rand scholar, but a cursory look at Atlas Shrugged clearly vindicates her as a logical champion for “anti-elitist” Tea Party circles.
Although Rand’s protagonists are rich corporate tycoons, they are not elites in the sense that Democrats and liberals love to invoke today. Rand crafts her heroes as being personally competent. They are geniuses, honest, strong, and dedicated laborers to boot. But they lack the social capital that brings power in their society. The villains Rand casts opposite them are the real elites, leveraging their positions in or connections to government better than anyone else. The bleeding hearts invoke guilt, the flunkies shamelessly beg, the ruthless politicos live by extortion, and the megalomaniacs wrangle for military power. All of these villainous types must get what they want by spinning reality, kissing up, or trading favors. And by contrast, the book’s heroes trade their labor with a cold dignity that stems from honest appraisals of material scarcity and the productive value of their fellow men.
The heroes of Atlas are left-brained people living in a world run by the right-brained. They are engineering and hard science majors that want to be free of the unsavory affairs of the communications majors that rule over them. Essentially, Atlas is a nerd-liberation manifesto overthrowing the urbane and the charismatic in favor of the earnest and the awkward. And those are the folks that are the rank-and-file of the Tea Party.