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Blaming Ayn Rand for the 2010 Financial Crisis

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The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis by Darryl Cunningham (Abrams, 2015) is a closely written and tightly integrated misinterpretation of Ayn Rand’s life, her works, her philosophy of Objectivism, and the causes of the market collapses of 2007-2010. This book is a graphic novel because Cunningham is a cartoonist. His drawings can be crude, but are often essentialist and representational. He does sublimely capture people, often through their coiffeur and stance. But his work is never fine, detailed, or realistic. This book is largely a running monologue that needed no illustrations. The author claims that the popularity of Ayn Rand’s ideas among American (and British) conservatives caused the mortgage meltdown and subsequent bailouts.

Cunningham takes the time to make his case. The 231 pages begin with Ayn Rand’s life (Part One), explain the details of the financial contractions (Part Two), and then tie the first to the second (Part Three). His sources include biographies of Ayn Rand by her nominal admirers, Barbara Branden, Ann Heller, and Jennifer Burns. Ultimately, the thesis is not supported because the summary rests on omissions, flaws, and fallacies. Of necessity, the author contradicts himself. 

Cunningham does nod to the virtues of traditional conservatism, though he finds them not as powerful and promising as progressive liberalism. We need to be conservative in order to preserve the family, social order, and the freedoms we enjoy in our democracies. He presents World War II as an example of that. The error here is that Ayn Rand was not a traditional conservative. (And she was not alone in being less than sanguine about America's role in World War II.)  She called herself a “radical for capitalism” explaining that capitalism rests on a foundation of reason in acknowledgement of reality. Cunningham admits that Rand was opposed to the war in Vietnam, the draft, and laws against abortion. He fails to identify Rand as having been as “liberal” as she was “conservative.”  It would be possible to criticize Rand’s novels and her philosophy as an expression of unbridled liberalism.

Her heroes are socially disruptive. In Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, the bad guys are the people in power who fear change. In the last two, the wealthy and powerful are mediocrities. The heroes also achieve wealth, but do not pursue power. (In The Fountainhead, the pursuit of power destroyed Gail Wynand who “was not born to be a second-hander.”) Her heroes famously stand on their own, especially in confronting adversity, a virtue that Cunningham identifies with children who grow up to be self-identified political liberals. 
 

Full review here: https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/2018/05/blaming-ayn-rand-for-2010-financial.html

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