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Too Righteous for Facts

Michael Lind is a smart guy, but he’s also an ideologue so hellbent on the righteousness of his social-democratic worldview that he doesn’t let niggling things like facts get in the way of his proclamations. In his amusingly titled “Bring it on, Ayn Rand geeks [1],” Lind tells us Ron Paul is such an acolyte of the Atlas Shrugged author that he “named his son Rand Paul.” Devastating, except that Randal Paul, known to his family as Randy, isn’t actually named after Ayn [2], and while the Pauls may appreciate the novelist, the Texas congressman’s plan for transitioning away from the welfare state [3] hardly evokes the pitiless ethos of  Objectivism. Lind is also determined to anoint Rep. Paul Ryan, the darling of the neocons [4], as an entitlement-scrapping hardcore libertarian. Never mind that Ryan boasts of voting for the prescription drug add-on to Medicare [5]. The Wisconsin congressman’s latest proposals may seem like austerity measures, but let’s be honest: they’re austerity measures proposed for a Democratic government. With a Republican in the White House, would you want to wager on Ryan humming the same tune?

Lind argues that the neoconservatives are discredited and the religious right is failing. But neoconservatives still supply the Republican Party’s foreign-policy vision, as a look at Mitt Romney’s new book will show. And while the religious right may be keeping its profile low, megachurches continue to turn out a lot of Republican primary voters and sizable enough masses in general elections. (Just ask Bob McDonnell [6].) What establishment conservatives are doing now, however, is giving rein to libertarian and populist discontent in the form of the tea parties in order to encourage the delusion that Obama is substantially more pro-big-government than the likes of Bush, McCain, or Romney. This is an old trick: whenever the GOP is out of power it assumes populist and libertarian camouflage, as it did in 1994. That’s an effective way of harnessing opposition to statist Democratic policies while diverting attention from the vast expansions of government power that regularly occur with Republicans in office. We have the GOP to thank, after all, for wage and price controls under Nixon; the Americans With Disabilities Act under Bush I; and two wars, No Child Left Behind, the prescription-drug benefit for Medicare, and the bank bailouts under Bush II. Yet all the propagandists insist this is the anti-government party.

The American electorate is not too thrilled with the establishment in either party right now — either the warmongers and Wall Street lobbyists-in-waiting in the GOP or the welfarists in the Democratic Party. The entrenched interests in both parties get to stick around, however, by affecting to give a damn about the little guy every time they’re out of power: Republicans suddenly become pitchfork-wielding anti-government populists and Democrats become deeply concerned about civil liberties and responsible government. Lind should know better than to play along with this charade.

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#1 Comment By Adam Rurik On March 16, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

You lost me with the first sentence, Dan, as I do NOT believe Michael Lind to be a smart guy!

#2 Pingback By Rand Rules the Right, Right? – Hit & Run : Reason Magazine On March 16, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

[…] American Conservative is cutting on Lind's overestimating the Randianism of even Paul and Ryan, and of falling for the old GOP two-step of pretending to […]

#3 Comment By Andrew Watson On March 17, 2010 @ 2:43 am

There seems to be a premptive strike going on in the blogosphere which seeks to identify libertarians with the most brutal aspects of Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

#4 Comment By SteveM On March 17, 2010 @ 4:08 am

Re: “Wall Street lobbyists-in-waiting in the GOP or the welfarists in the Democratic Party.”

To be complete, there are plenty of Wall Street lobbyists-in-waiting in the Democratic Party too.

See the $18M Rahm Emanuel made in only two and a half years as an “investment banker”. I.e., he was incubated and shoveled cash for just showing up. Or the 2 mil a year Tom Daschle made for “strategic advice”. And don’t forget the Goldman-Sachs plutocrats currently embedded in federal agencies.

Nope, the DC-NYC two-way corporate crony pipeline is well oiled by both Parties.

#5 Comment By Dennis Tuchler On March 17, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

I wonder if there isn’t room for an old-Liberal party, sort of like the German FDP, that stands for office on merit, protection of property rights and individual liberty, and free trade (although not all 19th Century liberals were strong on trade). The party would attract practical libertarians like Megan McArdle and Richard Epstein, and might even peel away conservatives who are tired of culture wars, from the Republican Party. No “blue dog” Democrats would join, probably.

The idea would be to seek only legislative office and make a difference by providing majorities on particular issues. Such a party would never have a president or governor, but would have cabinet members. It would also capture the imagination of secular conservative intellectuals and corporate leaders.

This would involve an effort that would probably outlast my lifetime but it would be a worthy, indeed a noble effort to bring some reason to the excesses of democracy.

#6 Pingback By Randinetics: The Modern Science of Permanent Adolescence | The Partially Examined Life | A Philosophy Podcast On March 17, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

[…] Daniel McCarthy also counters Lind: “What establishment conservatives are doing now, however, is giving rein to libertarian and populist discontent in the form of the tea parties in order to encourage the delusion that Obama is substantially more pro-big-government than the likes of Bush, McCain, or Romney.” […]

#7 Comment By alano On March 19, 2010 @ 11:02 am

I see Mr. Lind’s piece not as an attempt to portray what’s really going on in the world but rather as an attempt to instill the perception among his readers that Ms. Rand has somehow become the intellectual leader of the American right.

Although he has probably never sat down and seriously read any of Ms. Rand’s books (most liberals are afraid to; she messes with their heads), he probably considers her such an unsavory character that he thinks it would be a boon for the left if the perception took hold that the GOP was moving towards Ms. Rand.

I suspect that Lind might have miscalculated. In my experience, very few people who actually read the Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged walk away thinking that Ms. Rand was a horrible person or that they should continue voting for politicians who do nothing put promise free cash and prizes in exchange for votes. In fact, the opposite tends to be true. Rand is the ultimate “gateway drug” for right-wing intellectual thought. She is brilliant and turning dapper young liberals into frothing conservatives.

In other words, I think the liberals are shooting themselves in the foot by writing all these articles trying to link the GOP to Ms. Rand. They’re only succeeding in making more people interested in reading her books, which is not good for the left in the long run.