Center for Ethics and Leadership

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Cultural Change in American Life?

Ayn Rand has been a significant figure in American popular culture and ethics. Her position of rational self-interest is well known as is the caustic nature of her remarks about those whom she judges not to have met her definition of the heroic person. Her close circle of associates in Manhattan in the 60s and 70s included long-time Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who used his position to see if Rand's theories worked in practice. They did not, as Greenspan remorsefully told Congress last fall.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and its clear proof that communism did not work, there has been a timidity in American intellectual life to criticize the laissez-faire capitalism for which Rand stood and which Greenspan implemented. It is good to have him admit that the philosophy had a "flaw."

A promising young Mennonite philosopher, Darrin W. Snyder Belousek, has explained "Greenspan's Folly" in a recent issue of America. Belousek looks to Catholic social teaching and its idea of the common good as an antidote to Rand's "Virtue of Selfishness."

Perhaps one good that will come from this severe economic recession is a rethinking of the meaning of the word freedom in the concept of a free market.


  • Ayn Rand, and her unbridled capitalists that somehow held on to their moral compass. The laissez-faire system has been tarnished before: the fall of the great international trading companies, the Progressives Era of the early 19th century, the New Deal, and again today. Somewhere in the not too distant future, someone will again pull the ideas of deregulation off the shelf, polish them up again and the next bubble will begin.

    Rather than rethinking freedom, perhaps we should reevaluate the ideas of oppression, worker oppression, taxpayer oppression, and economic oppression in general. It there any think 'right' about a system that continues to benefit the few at the expense of many?

    Capitalism as an ideal, held a 'natural level' of profits somehow reliant on the moral compass of individuals. Time and time again, we see that there is no natural limit to greed, yet we as a society continue to suggest that free enterprise is 'better' than government regulation. There seems to be a pattern, regulation are reactions to sometimes creative individual abuse.
    The goal of the current generation should be to devise a system that controls abuse without stifling individual creativity; a system where the accomplishments of all benefit at least most of the rest of us.

    By Blogger kobe2, At April 9, 2009 11:58 AM  

  • It was within 24hrs of leaving this comment that I received on my email the following link:
    (check it out) it is a 10 minute overview of political ideology that in the last 15 seconds equates political tyranny with economic tyranny - and there is a difference.

    The political right is not the only extremist position out there; influential congresswomen spoke very unkindly about this week's tea parties.

    In every criticism there is usually a kernel of truth....anyone for routing out some truths here?

    By Blogger kobe2, At April 19, 2009 6:20 AM  

  • Capitalism as an ideal, held a 'natural level' of profits somehow reliant on the moral compass of individuals.

    By Anonymous gadgets, At May 26, 2009 3:24 PM  

  • There has to be a balance between free enterprise and government regulation. May be some of both is the recipe for success...

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