Random Rand: America’s Persecuted Minority
I’ve been reading Nathaniel Branden’s “My Years With Ayn Rand”. I’ve been reading it for quite some time now, in limited doses, for one of the same reasons as I can’t watch Obama on TV: I find Branden to be overbearingly pretentious and egotistical. So, it has been slow going. I generally read a couple of pages at a time, then need to put it down whilst muttering “what an utter ass”.
Today, though, I came across a snippet from a lecture Ayn Rand gave in 1961, at the Ford Hall Forum called America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business and it really struck a chord with me. While I liked and agreed with most of the premises found in Atlas Shrugged , I found it a bit tedious and self-aggrandizing. However, I did love The Fountainhead and We The Living. I’ve also enjoyed many of Rand’s speeches and lectures and find her to be frighteningly prescient.
As she was here:
“If a small group of men were always regarded as guilty, in any clash with any other group, regardless of the issues or circumstances involved, would you call it persecution? If this group were always made to pay for the sins, errors, or failures of any other group, would you call that persecution? If this group had to live under a silent reign of terror, under special laws, from which all other people were immune, laws which the accused could not grasp or define in advance and which the accuser could interpret in any way he pleased—would you call that persecution? If this group were penalized, not for its faults, but for its virtues, not for its incompetence, but for its ability, not for its failures, but for its achievements, and the greater the achievement, the greater the penalty—would you call that persecution?
If your answer is Yes, then ask yourself what sort of monstrous injustice you are condoing, supporting, or perpetrating. That group is the American Businessman.
“Whenever, in any era, culture, or society, you encounter the phenomenon of prejudice, injustice, persecution, and blind, unreasoning hatred directed at some minority group—look for the gang that has something to gain from that persecution, look for those who have a vested interest in the destruction of these particular sacrificial victims. Invariably, you will find that the persecuted minority serves as a scapegoat for some movement that does not want the nature of its own goals to be known. Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation’s troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen.”
Now let me define the difference between economic power and political power: economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman’s tool is values; the bureaucrat’s tool is fear.
“What is economic power? It is the power to produce and to trade what one has produced. In a free economy, where no man or group of men can use physical coercion against anyone, economic power can be achieved only by voluntary means: by the voluntary choice and agreement of all those who participate in the process of production and trade. In a free market, all prices, wages, and profits are determined—not by the arbitrary whim of the rich or of the poor, not by anyone’s “greed” or by anyone’s need—but by the law of supply and demand. The mechanism of a free market reflects and sums up all the economic choices and decisions made by all the participants. Men trade their goods or services by mutual consent to mutual advantage, according to their own independent’ uncoerced judgment. A man can grow rich only if he is able to offer better values—better products or services, at a lower price—than others are able to offer.
“Wealth, in a free market, is achieved by a free, general, “democratic” vote—by the sales and the purchases of every individual who takes part in the economic life of the country. Whenever you buy one product rather than another, you are voting for the success of some manufacturer. And, in this type of voting, every man votes only on those matters which he is qualified to judge: on his own preferences, interests, and needs.”
“A businessman’s success depends on his intelligence, his knowledge, his productive ability, his economic judgment—and on the voluntary agreement of all those he deals with: his customers, his suppliers, his employees, his creditors or investors. A bureaucrat’s success depends on his political pull. A businessman cannot force you to buy his product; if he makes a mistake, he suffers the consequences; if he fails, he takes the loss. A bureaucrat forces you to obey his decisions, whether you agree with him or not—and the more advanced the stage of a country’s statism, the wider and more discretionary the powers wielded by a bureaucrat. If he makes a mistake, you suffer the consequences; if he fails, he passes the loss on to you, in the form of heavier taxes.
“A businessman cannot force you to work for him or to accept the wages he offers; you are free to seek employment elsewhere and to accept a better offer, if you can find it. … A bureaucrat can force you to work for him, when he achieves the totalitarian power he seeks; he can force you to accept any payment he offers—or none, as witness the forced labor camps in the countries of full statism.”
The entire lecture, in audio, which I highly recommend, can be found here:
The above really hit home regarding all business as a whole, but particularly now. First with the “pitchfork wielding” frenzy against corporate bonuses – and sure, some were perhaps arguably undeserved as the businesses were failing. That is up to each BUSINESS to decide. But mostly, the outrage was spurred on as a way to scapegoat and to pit people against “Big Business”. Start your own successful business and then you can set bonuses that you perceive are “fair”. Next came the demonizing of pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies. (as well as a new persecuted group; “Tea Baggers”, as those who simply question their Government and bureaucrat messes are now called)
I’m not an idiot. I know that insurance companies aren’t my best buddy. I know they aren’t perfect and all warm and fuzzy. A large part of the problem is too much Government /Bureaucratic interference as it is in the form of “mandated coverage” for every little thing under the sun. But they also aren’t *supposed* to be warm and fuzzy and perfect. They are run by humans, their consumers are humans. Humans are flawed and far from perfect. The market (a truly Free one), the people, CAN, and HAVE, adjusted and evolved to fix those kinds of flaws. Freedom isn’t supposed to be Utopian either. Frankly, I’m annoyed that we even have to try to define Freedom; it just *is*.
Of one thing I am certain, however. Bureaucracy isn’t adaptable nor does it ever evolve.