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The End of Ownership and the Obsolescence of Ayn Rand

After returning home from 20 years of warring and wandering, the Greek hero Odysseus was confronted by his long-suffering wife, Penelope, who could not accept the homecoming of her husband without personal reassurance, so tested she had been by the gods and the years. So she called for their bed to be dragged from the bridal chamber, sparking Odysseus to shout,

Wife, I am much displeased at what you have just been saying. Who has been taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have found it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless some god came and helped him to shift it. There is no man living, however strong and in his prime, who could move it from its place, for it is a marvellous curiosity which I made with my very own hands.

There was a young olive growing within the precincts of the house, in full vigour, and about as thick as a bearing-post. I built my room round this with strong walls of stone and a roof to cover them, and I made the doors strong and well-fitting. Then I cut off the top boughs of the olive tree and left the stump standing. This I dressed roughly from the root upwards and then worked with carpenter’s tools well and skilfully, straightening my work by drawing a line on the wood, and making it into a bed-prop. I then bored a hole down the middle, and made it the centre-post of my bed, at which I worked till I had finished it, inlaying it with gold and silver; after this I stretched a hide of crimson leather from one side of it to the other. So you see I know all about it, and I desire to learn whether it is still there, or whether any one has been removing it by cutting down the olive tree at its roots.

A rooted tree, carved into a bed, with the room and home built up around it. This was the anchor of Odysseus and Penelope’s shared life, the source of knowledge exclusive to them, and the sign by which their marriage was restored after two decades of absence. That is the essence of property, which James Poulos describes [1] as the widely-understood foundation of liberty for the past several centuries.

Now, Poulos fears, property and ownership are going out of vogue, thus imperiling liberty. He says, “In our heart of hearts, and in our rational minds, we have replaced the right to ownership, and its accompanying yearnings, with the right to access.” George W. Bush’s “ownership society” policy push was doomed to failure from the outset, because the advent of the Internet obsolesced ownership, or at least accelerated the process.

The homes that decades of bipartisan policy subsidized were increasingly owned to be flipped, not occupied for the length of the mortgage. Music moved from records and CD’s carefully collected over the years to central databases that could be streamed from anywhere, thanks to Spotify. So with movies before them, with Netflix. Instead of owning cars, we can sign-up for ZipCar, or increasingly just ride in someone else’s via Uber and Lyft. Wireless Internet becomes [2] a “human right,” because it is the means by which we buy access to everything else.  It can also be seen as the logic baked into the welfare state, as one no longer needs to own stocks and bonds if one has access to Social Security.

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig picks at some of the main examples referenced in Poulos’s piece, writing [3] “It is not immediately clear to me how one ever owns healthcare, abortion, or the internet. This is because these are all services, not goods.” This is more to the point, however. For as MIT economist David Autor (whose significant recent paper I discussed earlier here [4]) described on a recent EconTalk podcast [5], increasing automation is moving the economic center of gravity for the average person from the production of goods to the provision of services. Capital-intensive factory work and the routinized white-collar work that supported it were the basis of the corporate-industrial economy of the past century. Those jobs, and any that can be routinized with any adequate success, are vulnerable to being replaced by computers and robots that do routine much better.

What is left are the competitive advantages of humans over machines: flexibility, sociality, and empathy. New services like TaskRabbit allow people to monetize their facility in running errands or performing complex tasks like janitorial work. Home health care is an exploding industry, both because of the aging of our population [6] and the economic priority we put on health [7]. What all these occupations share is a general resistance to being outsourced or automated. They are also the definition of unskilled labor. Because they rely, in essence, on the basic set of skills we inherit from being human, they can be done by almost anyone, leaving both wages and job security at a very low level.


If the vast majority of people have an economic future of unskilled service jobs ahead of them, while an increasingly select few program and own the capital-intensive, highly remunerative work of production, then our relationship with property is necessarily going to change. As Poulos wrote, “Policymakers, strategists, and citizens alike need to recognize that a major new political debate is emerging.”

Last week, Hunter Baker took to the pixels of The Federalist to make a charitable case for Ayn Rand [8], in which he argued,

The good society for an Objectivist is one in which a man stands or falls on his productivity. As Rand explained in her lectures on ethics, she saw production as the one great life-affirming activity. Man does not automatically or instinctively derive his sustenance from the earth or the sun. He must labor and produce.

Baker argued that Rand would see the industrious factory worker as more virtuous than a crony capitalist industrialist, and that valuing of work and productivity is a virtue that even Christians can admire in Rand’s thought.

The problem with rehabilitating Rand at this point in the course of human events isn’t that she was a militant atheist, a celebrant of narcissism, or any other of her manifestly evil qualities and positions. It’s that she doesn’t matter. Rand is an artifact of the industrial age, when Hank Rearden could smelt his steel with manly independence and grant himself delusions of standing apart from and above the world as a “maker.”

The economy of the 21st century looks increasingly likely to be an economy of service. Instead of “laboring and producing” his sustenance on this earth, man receives his goods from the machines that grow his food at astonishing efficiency, and produce his goods at previously unthinkable rates. What does he do with himself after that? Some on the left [9] would like to grant him a basic income, an annual cash grant to every person to liberate him from the tyranny of necessity. Others on the right continue to labor under the idea of entrepreneurial production, whereby a man will pull himself up by his bootstraps by producing. Neither of these options are suited to an economy of service.

Instead of dabbling in the dead philosophies of our industrial past, Christians and conservatives can begin to sketch out how the offering of ourselves to others in free exchange can take place in a cultural context that borrows heavily from the ideas of sacred service embedded in Christianity for the past two millennia. Plenty of economic structures will have to be worked out in a world where, as Autor notes, people will have more attenuated claims on the wealth still produced by the investment of capital by “superstars,” as Tyler Cowen puts it. But the mindsets and philosophies that guide those structures will also have to be reformed. The virtue of market exchange is that it drives us together, to offer what we have to one another. And the promptings of necessity are likely an essential glue to that virtuous system.

And yet, as Poulos points out, access to goods is not the same as property. What Odysseus and Penelope shared above is not accessible by means of Airbnb. Pre-industrial property grounds one in place, and family, and tradition. As Kate Benner describes [10] at Bloomberg View, TaskRabbit, Uber, and other on-demand services are by nature fleeting and relatively impersonal means of financial support. They can serve well to supplement some income around the margins, but they do not embed a person in a community in the same way as tending a storefront.

Even as we adapt to the latest set of disruptions and economic changes, even as we potentially can refashion our relationship to each other and our finances through ideas of sacred service, we should take care that we do not become so mobile and adaptable that we lose our traditions “by cutting down the olive tree at its roots.”

Follow @joncoppage [11]

42 Comments (Open | Close)

42 Comments To "The End of Ownership and the Obsolescence of Ayn Rand"

#1 Comment By S On October 13, 2014 @ 6:14 am

This essay, and Poulos’s, are awesome. My wife and I have long scoffed at the word “access”, and its increasing ubiquity, struggling to find some coherent logic behind it. There is no way I saw how that annoying little talking point represented a much larger cultural shift. Its like I finally found my car keys, sitting in my hand the whole time.

#2 Comment By HeartRight On October 13, 2014 @ 8:29 am

Excellent essay. Fascinating and worrying.

#3 Comment By brians On October 13, 2014 @ 8:47 am

So, How Much Land Does a Man Need?

Though I see the societal benefit, I still have trouble seeing property as a natural right, considering it’s nowhere to be found, as such, in written Revelation.

#4 Comment By IA On October 13, 2014 @ 9:44 am

You are comparing a man’s relationship with his wife to a person’s relationship with society?

#5 Comment By philadelphialawyer On October 13, 2014 @ 10:14 am

Lots of dubious notions here…many of the various services described depend upon having a good, ie a car, an apartment, etc, to rent out. And I fail to see how renting a room or a car or a ride in a car today is really all that revolutionary, merely because it is done by “app” or laptop rather than by phone or in person. And much the same from the other side of the deal…advertising your plumbing skills on “Taskrabbit” is no different than advertising them in the phone book.

The only property actually put at risk by the internet is intellectual property, and that was always a dubious species of it. Odysseus’ tree, his house, his land, etc, would still belong to him under the law today just as they did 3000 years ago. A slight change in the music-movie-writing-journalism-entertainment complex of industries has been caused by the internet and computers because of the difficulty they created in enforcing copyright property. And that’s about it. Otherwise, real property, chattel property, intangible property (stocks, bonds, etc), and money as property, are all still the same as they ever were.

It is true that automation and computerization are rendering more and more traditional jobs nugatory, and can, and do, produce an abundance, indeed, an overabundance, of goods. Of course, technological improvements have been doing that for decades, if not centuries, but whatever. The point is, yes, there is going to have to be some sort of rethink of the place of the individual in the economy, when, on the one hand, the goods he needs can be produced almost for nothing, thus eliminating unmet needs, while, on the other hand, only a few folks will have skills that either can’t be replaced by a robot or are so common as to command only very low wages. But I’m not quite sure how the third to last paragraph, with its emphasis on Christianity and “sacred service” is going to solve that problem.

#6 Comment By AnotherBeliever On October 13, 2014 @ 11:19 am

Property ownership, in the form of land or real estate, has rarely been widely available to wide swathes of society. It likely hit its high point in this country a generation ago. Besides, realistically, what percentage of ” homeowners” own their houses free and clear? Mainly the old and the wealthy. The rest of us are in hock to a big bank, really.

As income continues to flatline, and rent seekers continue to extract both profit and state largesse from health care and education, to say nothing of finance, regular people will be in less and less a position to capitalize (excuse the pun) on the ownership society. They will adjust by sharing both goods and services. Which demand the market will meet. Take the example of a car. It can cost up to $8,000 a year to operate including fuel, financing, insurance, and maintenance. Your average worker between the age of 20 and 24 has some college but no degree, and earns about $18,000 a year. There’s very little give in that budget after rent. Internet-mediated car sharing is a nearly inevitable outgrowth of those economic pressures.

This will have political ramifications. Will there be a new trust busting populist push against our modern day robber barons? A return to labor power? Would either of those work a second time? Or will something completely different emerge? Certainly the conservative viewpoint will have to adjust to new realities. Makers and owners are on track to be a shrinking portion of the population.

#7 Comment By mike On October 13, 2014 @ 11:40 am

Rearden’s success was the power of his mind- not his muscles smelting metals. He was a fictional demonstration of (almost perfectly) applying Rand’s timeless principles that frequently drive the success of technological industries in our modern world today. (I say ‘almost perfectly’ because that is the fun of her book – to observe his flaws and learn as he does). Rand’s writings have a lot more to do with good life than economics and good railroads.

#8 Comment By Maryallene Otis On October 13, 2014 @ 11:52 am

Ayn Rand doesn’t need any rehabilitating; her ideas just need to be represented honestly, which this author does not do. Yes, she placed a huge value on production, and she had tremendous admiration for industrialists. But she abhorred what this article calls “crony capitalist industrialists.” Crony in this context means government welfare to business, which is socialism, not capitalism.

The author does not seem to have heard of intellectual property. The laws surrounding it may be more complex than those for physical property, but it is still property.

There is no right to wireless internet, any more
than there is a right to have someone pick your cotton.

#9 Comment By Jon Wos On October 13, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

What a shallow interpretation of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and production in general.

#10 Comment By David Naas On October 13, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

Objects are made somewhere. They are not merely “provided”.
This essay, and the one by Poulos, typify the problem of disconnection. The US, indeed the whole West, sits on top of the world’s economic pyramid, and its denizens have lost connection with the toiling and producing base of society (currently “outsourced” and “offshored”.)
It is what I think of as the “Upstairs, Downstairs” problem. The Patricians who reside Upstairs have no idea how the things they use are created and do not care so long as Downstairs continues to make them available. It is an unreality which will rebound on the heads of those who mistake the nature of things with fire and slaughter (to give all due to Rudyard Kipling).

#11 Comment By C. R. Wiley On October 13, 2014 @ 12:53 pm

Most people don’t know the difference between personal property and productive property. The acquisition and stewardship of productive property has historically been an intergenerational enterprise. It still is.

#12 Comment By Tom On October 13, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

Great essay, but what I often wonder is where we are heading, with all these idle hands. We have more and more people on this earth, and yet machines are capable of doing more and more of the work. It is the greatest aspect of Western ignorance our omission of population control. It seems here in America, the idea of limiting anything, especially family size is truly antithetical to our corporate consumer society. When it comes to people, less is more, and I would say America was a far better place in the 70’s than it is now. I would also say that only problems technology corrects are the problems technology creates. We are on the fast track to self-destruction, and we choose to do nothing about it.

#13 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On October 13, 2014 @ 2:44 pm

The good society for an Objectivist is one in which a man stands or falls on his productivity. As Rand explained in her lectures on ethics, she saw production as the one great life-affirming activity. Man does not automatically or instinctively derive his sustenance from the earth or the sun. He must labor and produce.

Each time I read the name Rand or the term “objectivism” my first impulse is to call on people to read up on Marxists for starters. The quote above is not about Rand’s idea, it is about Marxist view of the labor as historical category. Many people, it seems, are absolutely oblivious to the fact that Rand literally transplanted (including this “objectivism” term) whole pieces of Marxism in hr so called philosophy.

#14 Comment By Harry Huntington On October 13, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

Private property is a legal fiction in America. No where in the Constitution does it mention that one has a right to own property. All the Constitution does is guarantee one a bit of due process before one may be deprived of liberty or property interests. At bottom the easiest way to see that one merely “rents” is the “property tax.” What happens if you paid off your mortgage and think you own your home? Every year the local government sends you a rent statement; the local government calls it a property tax bill. What happens if you fail to pay the rent? The local government auctions what you thought was your property to a tenant who is more willing or able to pay the rent.

What happens to what you think is your property when you die? The sovereign takes a bunch of it back with something called the inheritance tax. The sovereign, depending on political winds, may let heirs keep using some of the property you used. But there is nothing written in the Constitution that says the sovereign needs to let your heirs have anything at all.

Bottom line, Mr. Coppage’s article points out merely that society is learning how best to leverage a world in which at law you don’t actually own any property. You merely use whatever property the sovereign permits you to use.

#15 Comment By T. Sledge On October 13, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

I recall an old Mike Royko column, where he related a story of some Brit Muckety Muck, looking down his long “noble” nose at the mud soaked GIs returning from battle with the Nazis.

As only Royko could put it, those mud soaked GIs were the only thing that kept Hitler’s hordes from marching up to that snob’s manor, slapping his wife on the rump, using his polo ponies for plow horses, and guzzling his brandy.

Once the only property owners are the 1 percent, how long do you think the 99 percent are going to continue to fall for that patriotic drivel, and serve as cannon fodder for the interests of the 1 percent?

As has been pointed out many times, only a small percentage of the men who served in the Confederate army ever owned a slave. But many of those men owned farms (however small) and had a basis for thinking they had a stake in preserving a system in which most did not participate.

How long will people, who know that the only thing that they can look forward to is renting a tiny apartment at $500 per month ( in a 4-apartment house for which the landlord only paid $40k and put in $10k in improvements ) be willing to send THEIR kids into this nation’s endless wars to protect the interest of that land lord and his ilk?

It’s one thing to keep the janitor happy because he has the illusion that one day he’s going to own the factory. It’s quite another when he not only knows that he won’t, but his college educated daughter won’t be earning much more than he does as the janitor.

These aren’t serfs who will consider this as just their lot in life. And reminding them that software developers who earn not only nice salaries but also get stock bonuses from their companies are service employees too, isn’t going to cut it. They know damn well everybody can’t work at Facebook or Microsoft.

Most people who come from a middle class background are just finding out the damn system is totally rigged. Oh I suspect they have long resented that they were being soaked to support the underclass, but I don’t think they truly grasped how much THEY were held in contempt by their “betters”.

#16 Comment By balconesfault On October 13, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

I agree with those who note this is an excellent reflection. I’ve been arguing the exact point about what we consider “productive labor” – we are going to be more and more in a service economy, and we should simply embrace that and use it as a tool for putting as many people to work making life better for others as possible.

One of the complaints I kept hearing about the ACA was that it would create a shortage of medical workers, by removing financial barriers to many seeking helpful (and sometimes necessary) treatment. I also ofter hear about the “drag” that increasing healthcare expenditures causes for our economy.

If we’re facing a structural labor glut due to the factors the author notes, why is increasing healthcare expenditures a bad thing, as long as that increase is going into expanding the healthcare labor pool? I’d damn well rather have more staffers reducing wait times at the local clinic and cleaning bedpans in assisted living centers than more people on welfare.

I also agree with brians about the idea of property as a natural right. The big falling out I have with most libertarians is over the idea of personal ownership of real estate – which I believe actually extra responsibilities for the property owner versus his fellow man.

Ownership of real estate can take place via two ways – one, what you can protect with your own fences and guns (including hired ones) … two, what the government protects for you.

Real estate isn’t made (aside from a few artificial islands off Miami or Dubai). It is fenced and improved. Societally, we see benefits to private ownership of land, and so we budget money in government for recording boundaries and sales and providing police protection against squatters and adjudicating disputes. But without some form of big government – big enough to conduct these functions – landowners would be left to defend their fencelines with their guns. Which I think most of us would agree would be a significant drag on economic stability and progress.

Because government creates for the property owner the ability to own real estate in peace … it flows that property owners owe something special back to society in return.

#17 Comment By Frank Stain On October 13, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

Most people who come from a middle class background are just finding out the damn system is totally rigged. Oh I suspect they have long resented that they were being soaked to support the underclass, but I don’t think they truly grasped how much THEY were held in contempt by their “betters”.

The ‘middle class’ in the United States is psychologically too weak and subservient to challenge the existing power structure. That’s why you get a lot of anger directed at people that don’t have any wealth or power (viz. immigrants). The ‘middle class’ may feel bad about the contempt of the educated classes, but they are never going to channel that anger into demanding a stake of wealth and power from people that actually have the wealth and power. Rigid beliefs about hierarchy and general attitudes of deference towards the powerful make that impossible.

#18 Comment By John Blade Wiederspan On October 13, 2014 @ 7:05 pm

Ann Rand and ownership of property are interesting topics. The point brought up that should really puzzle and concern the left, right and center is the continuing replacement of man with machine. “Labor Saving Devices”; how many good middle class jobs have been lost and how many will be lost? Before one scoffs at such a Luddite sentiment remember, the next job lost may be yours.

#19 Comment By Justin Raimondo On October 13, 2014 @ 7:15 pm

Have to say I’m getting sick and tired of Christian writers for this site displaying their ignorance of Rand — and their vicious streak. I also find it somewhat amusing that an advocate for a dead — or dying — mystic cult proclaiming the death of industrialism. Especially while he’s claiming that “machines” — produced by whom? — will provide for all our needs in the future.

#20 Comment By Jonathan On October 13, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

To assert that machines are replacing labor is an oversimplification of the technological changes that occurred in the past 100 years or so. Jobs are being displaced. Jobs are changing. And new jobs are emerging. It is not that manufacture has been supplanted by the service industries. It is that manufacture has been exported abroad. Many factory positions still exist abroad and far from us.

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 13, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

“But many of those men owned farms (however small) and had a basis for thinking they had a stake in preserving a system in which most did not participate.”

The problem here as wit many of capitalisms complainers is really a problem with capitalists, who routinely manipulate the process. Buying on time, is not new, it has been the enabler of many of people without to have. The various home loan programs in the US, including the land grants of the late 1800’s which brought people to occupy the territory saving the US tax payer no small fee has been a slice of security that has funded retirements, medical care, and college educations, etc. The fact that taxes are levied against the land which in turn are used to fund community services does not diminish one’s ownership. The borrower cannot come and confiscate your property if attend to the contract. The government is supposed to have cause/warrant to enter one’s property, you can defend both property and person upon intrusion on one’s property.

I am pro-ownership. I am pro-ownership of physical and intellectual property. I am a firm believer that to use either, one must do so by agreement of the owner. This practice is time honored beyond the time shield of the US. The issue has long been that property is an extension of sorts of self, so powerful id the concept that even people who live in rented spaces are protected from intrusion, so much so in any cases, that protection remains in force even if one does not pay their rent. The space of the individual as to identity is what drives the concept of my castle. The optimum word is not castle, but the term ‘my’ and what that means to the individual. It represents the single most valuable possession each of us seeks to protect and control — the self.

Minus any diminution of self — private property isn’t going away.

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 13, 2014 @ 8:22 pm

When I read this article this morning, I thought it was going to be the back door to a discussion about copyright laws.

#23 Comment By VikingLS On October 13, 2014 @ 10:27 pm

“What a shallow interpretation of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and production in general.”

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is inherently shallow, that’s not Coppage’s fault.

#24 Comment By HeartRight On October 13, 2014 @ 10:39 pm

brians says:
October 13, 2014 at 8:47 am

Though I see the societal benefit, I still have trouble seeing property as a natural right, considering it’s nowhere to be found, as such, in written Revelation.
It’s not just private property that this threathened. Public property is threathened by the same pressures and changes.

And you know, granting everybody access to a pool of water can be a bit of a problem once everybody includes those who wish to unload effluents. At some point, practical CONTROL over some things – such as a pool of water – is a necessity.

#25 Comment By Gene Callahan On October 14, 2014 @ 12:29 am

“Instead of dabbling in the dead philosophies of our industrial past, Christians and conservatives can begin to sketch out how the offering of ourselves to others in free exchange can take place in a cultural context that borrows heavily from the ideas of sacred service embedded in Christianity for the past two millennia.”

Well put!

#26 Comment By Gene Callahan On October 14, 2014 @ 12:35 am

By the way Philly Lawyer, since you have not been back to the comment thread on my Hayek / immigration piece: You simply don’t know what you are talking about when it comes to my neighborhood and double-parking:

No one EVER gets ticketed in my neighborhood for double parking during street cleaning time, for the ten years that I have been here.

#27 Comment By Viking On October 14, 2014 @ 1:47 am

Very interesting article, Jonathan, thank you for it. I have a particular interest in such matters, given that I consider myself a distributist of sorts. So far, the two rather long replies by philadelphialawyer and T. Sledge are the best IMO, particularly the latter’s. The biggest problem is the increasing concentration of wealth, which trend started some years before the birth of the young people at whom Poulos casts his blame. (Although I read and enjoyed his article; I just disagree with his assignment of the blame.)

Philadelphialawyer, I hope your saying that IP is “dubious” doesn’t mean that you think it’s dispensable. Even if it affects relatively few livelihoods compared to other forms of property, I find it impossible to imagine how a free press could be maintained without some form of IP. The adequate remuneration of genuine creativity in the literary and cinematic arts is also very difficult without it, in my estimation.

The Bush “ownership society” was a good slogan, but the execution was very poor. For one thing, abandoning inheritance and estate taxes on even large properties is far more likely to perpetuate our modern day feudalism than reverse it. The giving of artificially low terms on home ownership was also a bad idea. Too many such would-be house residents were simply poor credit risks, which soon became clear. And the replacement of Social Security by stock-and-bond ownership was bound to create opposition, as there seemed to be no “bottom” for the latter, and many people are simply not that savvy about these markets. Too bad about these, especially the home ownership idea, as the relatively fly-by-night culture we have now is probably incompatible with wise stewardship.

One last thing, of a perhaps frivolous nature. In the ’70s, IIRC, there was a Jim Poulos who played football running back for the University of Georgia, and was nicknamed The Greek Streak. Anyone know if there’s any relationship between him and this James Poulos who wrote the cited article?

#28 Comment By Aaron On October 14, 2014 @ 8:07 am

As someone above said, “Ayn Rand doesn’t need any rehabilitating; her ideas just need to be represented honestly, which this author does not do.”

Coppage seems embarrassingly determined to have vociferous opinions of topics he knows little about.

#29 Comment By philadelphialawyer On October 14, 2014 @ 11:11 am


Perhaps IP is not dispensable, but its diminishment via the internet has not seemed to harm society very much. The free press, on balance, has been helped, not harmed, by the internet. As for creative and literary endeavors, I don’t think that a set of laws capable of perfect enforcement is absolutely necessary. Folks will write, and write and play music, and so on, even if the ability to cash in has been lessened some.

Anyway, my main point is that most forms of property, including the most important forms, have not been changed at all by the internet or computers.

Gene Callahan:

I have now answered you on your own thread.

#30 Comment By PermReader On October 14, 2014 @ 11:14 am

State-Church division is the obvious reality in the West, but the capitalism-church division is difficult for understanding for the author.So, the Ayn Rand`s tearing away and her compicity in the housing crises is evident!

#31 Comment By grumpy realist On October 14, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

Ayn Rand’s writings show little knowledge about how science and technological developments work, let alone how businesses are run.

I amuse myself sometimes with the image of all the self-identified “going Galt” people taking off to some mountain in Montana…and quickly discovering that nobody cares, the businesses that they were employed at quickly replace them, and the whole world hums along just as it did before.

Anyone who thinks he’s indispensible to the world? Good riddance.

#32 Comment By ADM64 On October 14, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

Property rights matter as much in a post-industrial “service” society as in an industrial one. Either you own your labor, services and the property that supports them (and someone will be making the “machines from which we get our food”) or you don’t. Coppage seems to know little about Rand and much of his article amounts to assertions unsupported by any facts.

#33 Comment By Reinhold On October 14, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

“Many people, it seems, are absolutely oblivious to the fact that Rand literally transplanted…. whole pieces of Marxism in hr so called philosophy.”
More precisely, she simply reversed his categories and values: where Marx saw the exploited working class as the makers of society producing goods and services for the idle capitalist to take the value of, Rand saw the capitalist as the true working producer and the workers as just so many parasites on his accomplishment. Of course, they both have a point here: it’s really the total dependence of capital and labor on each other, with their genuinely opposed interests, which causes such evaluative conflicts (Marx on the workers’ side, Rand on the capitalists’)––problem is, with an irreducible conflict like this, there’s no neutral rational ‘right side,’ so Rand’s whole emphasis on ‘reason’ just obviously telling us to take capital’s side is pretty stupid. On the other hand, Rand has interesting points, and I don’t write her off by any means.

#34 Comment By JLF On October 14, 2014 @ 4:45 pm

Well, Reinhold almost gets it. Marx’s workers and Rand’s propertied class are at war, though their need for each other is not equal. The workers’ need for property from which to produce trumps the propertied class ownership in the absence of a government willing to protect property rights. An architect might be able to imagine the building, but he can’t build it by himself. And it should come as no surprise to anyone who has been around construction for any time, anyone with a hammer is a carpenter, any carpenter with a truck is a contractor, and every contractor imagines himself an architect.

#35 Comment By Samson Corwell On October 14, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

Despite the continual furor over the subject, I have yet to see why property rights are so interesting. I think the real locus of the arguments center around business, not property. Laws against using your stuff in a certain way don’t negate ownership. Private property is the exception: it exists as a tributary to the public realm.

#36 Comment By DJ On October 14, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

The author’s representation of Rand’s philosophy is flawed at best, and dishonest at worst. Regardless of the truth of his overall point, how he deals with Rand is unworthy of a high quality outfit like the American Conservative.

#37 Comment By Christopher On October 14, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

Either you own your labor, services and the property that supports them (and someone will be making the “machines from which we get our food”) or you don’t.

God willing we’ll live to see the day when we own our labor, services and property, but that’s not actually how it works in the real world.

I’ve long wondered (Not enough to actually read Atlas Shrugged, mind you) how Rand addressed the fact that Reardon isn’t actually hand-crafting each girder himself. His steel company doesn’t, and can’t, exist without a bunch of laborers who are, I imagine, paid somewhat less than Reardon himself.

And of course, the scientists working for Reardon to make new steel formulas are going to have a contract which makes anything they invent not their own, but the property of Reardon Steel. Their salaries will stay the same or receive a modest bump as their invention makes billions for the company.

Reardon Steel can afford to lose an individual steel-worker much, MUCH more than that steel-worker can afford to lose his job, which puts the company at a serious advantage compared to the individual worker, which means the company can get a great deal, paying the worker a lot less than they’re actually worth.

Then, of course, there’s the whole web of government regulations about where and when you can work.

#38 Comment By Mick On October 14, 2014 @ 7:26 pm

For anyone wondering why Rand keeps getting misrepresented, but keeps coming back despite the resistance in the establishment. Here is why:


#39 Comment By Tzx4 On October 15, 2014 @ 10:50 am

@ T.Sledge
“Most people who come from a middle class background are just finding out the damn system is totally rigged. Oh I suspect they have long resented that they were being soaked to support the underclass, but I don’t think they truly grasped how much THEY were held in contempt by their “betters”.”

You omit the fact that they are also being soaked to support the upper-class as well.

#40 Comment By Rick Johnson On October 16, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

Ayn Rand was born in 1905 in Russia. During her early formative years she experienced the onset of WWI, the Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Russian Civil War all before she emigrated to the U.S. in the early twenties. The intellectual ferment was all around her, and dominated her life’s thoughts.

In REDOUBTS:Paleopopulism at Twilight,the idea is expressed that she adopted the Hegelian dialectical scheme in Marx’s formulation of Dialectical Materialism.The difference is that where Marx favored the proletariat as history’s favorite, Ayn Rand chose its alleged antagonist, the bourgeoisie, or rather a Super Bourgeois Randian man as her champion. At its core and true essence, her philosophy was but Right Wing Marxism.

#41 Comment By Reinhold On October 18, 2014 @ 7:29 pm

“Well, Reinhold almost gets it. Marx’s workers and Rand’s propertied class are at war, though their need for each other is not equal.”
Well, the capitalist can’t produce what he wants to without workers, but workers can’t live without employment––IN the capitalist system. Of course I agree with you, though, that ultimately, the workers don’t need the capitalists––they could organize it all themselves.

#42 Comment By XSA On November 19, 2014 @ 5:05 pm

This one wins: Bottom-Right: a local for-benefit orientation, this characterizes the Resilient Communities approaches

“This one is also emerging big time, localised with resilience. Many of the people who think we are entering an age of resource and engine scarcity are thinking oh my god we need to protect ourselves against the decomposition of the global system. How do you do that? By relocalizing our productive capacities. And they do that with a community orientation. I don’t know if you know John Robb from Global Guerrillas, this is typical of this, and he would say very flatly: I don’t believe in politics. So it is all about lifeboat strategies. Relocalization as a survival strategy, transition tasks. And definitively for-benefit oriented, community oriented, but what is lacking for me –and this is why we have a fourth- is an orientation towards the global commons, in other words, an orientation towards deep economic and social change.”

The people that own here and don’t live here are going to go broke. Focus on liquidation and cheap easily replaced resources or keep depending on China and communism. Government is basically a broker in pillage as we see in Detroit. You’ll be getting higher water bills and bills for air to fund some failed program or school that should of been abandoned years ago. The city is taking a museum inventory to sell off the art to keep city hall payrollers rolling. We keep them rocking. Buy chairs.