It takes real talent to meld the atheistic philosophy of Ayn Rand with that of evangelical Christianity, but over the last thirty years or so it’s exactly what the capitalist moguls of the United States have managed to do.
A BBC interviewer once asked the head man of an evangelical Christian organization, who had just alighted from his private jet: “Jesus said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven. How do you equate that with your lifestyle?”
The man replied with a huge grin, “Not in America, my friend. That doesn’t apply in America.”
There were probably only four individuals initially responsible for putting into practice the grotesque idea that Capitalism and Christianity could be combined. They probably had no idea the result would be a combination of the very worst aspects of both.
Ayn Rand was not one of those individuals. For her, the very word ‘religion’ was anathema.
Ronald Reagan is hailed by the US political right as a demi-god of the Republican Party. Margaret Thatcher holds a similar position in the hearts (if they have any) of the British conservative right wing. They’ve recently unveiled a bronze statue of her in the Houses of Parliament
In 1987, Reagan nominated Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the federal reserve. Greenspan remained in that office for nineteen years, until January 2006. He served (if that’s the right word) under Reagan, George Bush 1, Clinton, and George Bush 2.
Greenspan was Ayn Rand’s chief disciple. She called him ‘the undertaker’ due to his reserved nature and his liking for dark suits. Greenspan’s long tenure at the FED provided ample opportunity for his incorporation of Rand’s economic philosophies into US economic policy, including of course, the gradual deregulation of the financial industry – a freeing up of the ‘free market’ – free, that is, from any effective government regulation.
Greenspan was Reagan’s man. Margaret Thatcher was Reagan’s woman.
It was Milton Friedman who enthralled Thatcher and Reagan with his
‘monetarist’ philosophy. Although not one of Rand’s close circle like Greenspan, her influence on him is best exemplified by the obituary published by the Atlas Society on their website when Friedman died in 2006.
With his wife Rose, Milton Friedman helped produce a 10-part TV series in 1980 called “Free to Choose” with an accompanying book that popularized free markets as Ronald Reagan was coming to power with his free market policies and mantra that “Government is the problem, not the solution.” The leaders of free market revolutions in communist countries often looked to Friedman for their inspiration. Friedman’s works were especially popular in China…Milton Friedman was one of the most intelligent and articulate voices for economic liberty. He will be missed.”
Friedman is a more difficult man to decipher than Greenspan. His economic philosophy of ‘monetarism’ certainly captured Thatcher and Reagan. It’s likely he truly believed free capitalism to be a liberating power. It seems unlikely he was welded to Rand’s beliefs as much as Greenspan, though he once described Rand as, “an utterly intolerant and dogmatic person who did a great deal of good.” Friedman was undoubtedly a libertarian and saw his monetary policies as a means to greater individual freedom.
Much has been made of Friedman’s association with the Chilean regime of Augusto Pinochet. There is no doubt Friedman took much criticism for his ties with Chile, though his only meeting with Pinochet lasted no more than forty-five minutes. Margaret Thatcher was far more of a pal to the brutal dictator. It’s unlikely the British would have been so successful in the Falklands War were it not for Chilean radar warning them of imminent attacks from Argentinian warplanes.
While there is no proof Thatcher ever became a devotee of Ayn Rand, there is ample evidence to show she held similar views on the burden to society of the poor and underprivileged. Pinochet’s brutal tortures and mass killings of his own countrymen obviously held no distaste for Thatcher. The two were firm friends. They would often take tea together when Pinochet visited the UK.
Reagan was not the most intelligent of men, though he managed a BA in economics and sociology. His legend has certainly been stretched to the point of incredulity by history. While supporters will rant of his great victory over communism, it was the forward thinking Gorbachev who probably deserved a lion’s share of the praise. Reagan’s most notable achievement was to turn America sharply to the political right. It’s really for this alone that he continues to be lauded by Republicans.
‘Reaganomics’ set the stage for a steep decline in corporate and financial regulation. It gave Greenspan and his financial buddies the opportunity to milk the US economy over the next thirty years, having ensured there was no efficient regulating body to prevent them.
Meanwhile, in Britain, Margaret Thatcher was busy copying the Friedman/Greenspan initiative. Deregulation, privatization, and stifling trade unionism were her goals, just as Reagan’s government was committed to similar in the US (the firing of 11,345 US air traffic controllers in 1981 sent a clear message to the private sector that unions were no longer to be considered a problem).
Reagan is championed for lowering taxes during his terms in office. It only applied to the rich. In 1981 the top tax bracket was reduced from 70% to 50%. The lowest bracket was reduced from 14% to 11%, but by 1986 the top bracket had been reduced further to 28%, while the lowest was increased to 15%. Reagan’s ‘Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982’ was described by Forbes as the “largest peacetime tax increase in American history.”
Margaret Thatcher introduced the Poll Tax as her means of milking the less well off in favor of the wealthy. Couched under the term, “Community Charge”, it replaced a rating system based on the value of one’s dwelling house. The Poll Tax was based on the number of people living in a household, and was heavily biased against the less well off, though the very poor did receive some reduction.
Unlike Americans, who seem to suffer fools gladly even when the fools are leading them, the British rightly rebelled against Thatcher’s tyranny, and public opinion eventually forced her to relinquish her role as Prime Minister in 1991.
It’s a measure of the woman that she then took a job with the notorious tobacco company, Philip Morris, as a ‘geopolitical consultant’, (otherwise known as a lobbyist), for an annual salary of $250,000
Ironically, both Thatcher and Reagan eventually succumbed to Altzheimers Disease.
There can be no doubt a battle is raging on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s not obvious warfare. There are those who would vigorously deny its existence. They have their heads firmly entrenched in the sand.
The Ayn Rand philosophy of unregulated greed and selfishness works only for the wealthy, or the criminal who lives by stealing from others. Indeed, the definition of one defines the other.
The remaining majority are what has lately become known as the ninety-nine percent. It is this majority that do battle with the rich and powerful who would subjugate them and enslave them, to better control them.
Ayn Rand despised the poor and unsuccessful. She was too short-sighted to realize that the capitalism she worshiped must create poverty and failure as an incidental byproduct.
The capitalist moguls of America went one step further than Rand. They saw the devout moral structure of America as a means to further their greedy ambitions, in a way that could never be done in secular Britain.
By marketing their own brand of Christianity, ignoring the New Testament Gospels and publicizing the hellfire and damnation of the Old Testament, coupled with the unfathomable, crazed, ramblings of Revelations, they created a whole new method of control over the populace and are making lots more money in the process.
The new American brand of Christianity allowed the rich to become richer and still go to Heaven. Let the poor go to Hell. In America a camel could pass through the eye of a needle. Heck, if necessary we’ll just make bigger needles.
By marketing this new brand of Christianity, many Americans were eventually persuaded to put aside the old ‘Christian’ ideas, though the corporate bosses ensured their media always ended a news show with heart-felt stories of Americans helping each other. There’s nothing like a nice ‘feel-good’ factor.
In Britain, Prime Minister Cameron struggles to replace the old socialist system, set in place after the second world war, with the New World’s free-capitalist society. He’s finding it difficult. The British know what freedom means. They fought long and hard, paid a high price, to keep their small island free of Hitler’s invaders. They earned the right to free healthcare, proper state pensions, and welfare entitlements when times get hard. They’ll not give it up easily for a ‘winner takes all’ society.
But in America the Ayn Rand philosophy, combined with ‘Christianity’, has certainly proved a winner, at least, for the fortunate few.
It’s ironic that Rand will be spinning in the grave at the realization her self-beloved philosophy is working hand in glove with the very religion she so deeply despised.
 “Milton Friedman: 1912-2006” Atlas Society, November 16th 2006