Ryan And The Fountainhead
By Uri Avnery
Clearing House" ----
I was not interested in Paul Ryan, the man about to be nominated
by the Republican party for the office of vice-president, until
the name Ayn Rand popped up.
Ayn Rand, it was said, was one of the main inspirations for his
particular philosophy. Since Ryan is being represented not as an
ordinary, run-of-the-mill politician, like Mitt Romney, but as a
profound political and economic thinker, the inspiration
deserves some scrutiny.
Like most people in this country, Ayn Rand first entered my life
as the author of The Fountainhead, a novel that came
out four years before the birth of the state of Israel. It
quickly became a bestseller. The movie based on it, with Gary
Cooper playing the main role, was even more popular.
It is the
story of an architect of genius (roughly similar to Frank Lloyd
Wright) who follows his own individual style and disdains the
tastes of the masses. When his architectural design for a
housing project is altered by the builders, he blows the
buildings up, defending his actions in court in a stirring
speech in defence of individualism...
to read her second bestseller, Atlas Shrugged, in which
she set out her philosophy in detail. But I must confess, to my
eternal shame, that I never finished it. It bored me.
One day in
1974, my friend Dan Ben-Amotz called me and demanded that I
immediately meet a young genius he had discovered called Dr
He brought Kroy to my home and I was impressed. Here was an
unusually erudite 24-year-old youngster, already a lecturer at
Tel Aviv University, with thick glasses and very outspoken
It appeared that he was a true believer in the teachings of Ayn
Rand, which she called objectivism. This proclaimed that egoism
was the basic duty of every human being. Any kind of social
commitment was a sin against nature. Only by serving his own
interest and cleansing himself of any trace of altruism can a
person truly fulfill himself. Society at large can progress only
when it is based on such individuals, each one striving to serve
only himself (or herself).
Such an outlook can be hugely attractive to a certain kind of
individual. It provides them with a philosophical justification
for the extreme exercise of egoism, not giving a damn for anyone
Kroy, and of course Ben-Amotz, were religiously devoted to this
new creed. (This is, of course, an oxymoron, since Ayn Rand was
a total unbeliever, condemning any form of religion, including
the Jewish religion of her parents.) When I caught Ben-Amotz
doing something which could be construed as beneficial to
others, he went to great lengths in justifying it by proving
that in the long run it was to his own ultimate advantage.
himself was obviously a very disturbed being. At the age of 41
he committed suicide. I was not certain whether Ayn Rand
disturbed his mind or whether he was attracted to her because he
was disturbed to start with.
was born as Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg,
which later became Petrograd, which later became Leningrad. She
was 12 years old when the Bolshevik revolution broke out in that
city. The pharmacy of her parents was taken over by the regime,
and the bourgeois family fled to the Crimea, which was held by
White Russian forces. Later they returned to their native city,
where Alisa studied philosophy and even published a book in
Russian. In 1926 she reached the US, leaving her parents behind.
She adopted the name of Ayn (rhymes with “swine”, as she herself
was wont to explain). She probably took the word from the
Hebrew, where it means “eye”. The surname Rand may be a
contraction of her original German-Jewish family name.
Her early history may in some measure explain her abiding hatred
for Communism and any kind of collectivism, including social
democracy, as well as any kind of religion or statism. For her,
the state was the enemy of the free individual. This led her
naturally to embrace an unbridled laissez faire
capitalism ... and to reject any form of welfare state or safety
All this was well structured in her philosophy, which was
adopted by believers all over the world. She once called herself
“the most creative thinker alive”. On another occasion, she
asserted that in all the annals of philosophy, there were only
three great thinkers, all starting with an A: Aristotle, Aquinas
and Ayn Rand.
have been an unabashed racist, too: during the 1973 Yom Kippur
War she said that it was “civilized men fighting savages”,
comparing Israelis to the white Americans fighting the Red
that she posthumously became the darling of the Tea Party
fanatics who are now dominating the Republican Party. And no
wonder that Paul Ryan proudly cites her as one of his most
important mentors. (Ayn Rand herself died in 1982 at age 77. Her
funeral was attended by her devotees, including Alan Greenspan,
one of the gravediggers of the US economy.)
There is something in the teachings of this Jewish White Russian
preacher of extreme egoism that appeals to the primitive
American myths of rugged individualism, gun-toting Wild West
self-reliance, suspicion of the domination-hungry state (going
back to King George III). But this is not the 18th century, for
I never studied philosophy, though on my path I have picked up a
few dozen books about it here and there. But Ayn Rand’s theories
always struck me as, well, juvenile...
I have seen in my life innumerable acts of altruism, large and
small. Indeed, what is love, real love, but a pure form of
Sure, every person is, to some extent, an egoist. But every
person is also, to some extent, an altruist. Human beings are
social animals, their social instincts deeply imbedded in their
nature. Without them, human society could not function...
Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson – financier
of Netanyahu and Romney
Netanyahu is an American-style Republican, a strong supporter of
Mitt Romney... But not even he would advertise himself as a
disciple of Ayn Rand. He has, however, one thing in common with
Paul Ryan: both are pushed forward and financed by Sheldon
I can think of no purer personification of Ayn Rand’s vision
than this Casino billionaire. She would have adored him. He is
the perfect egoist. He has become super-rich by exploiting the
pitiful addiction of weak human beings. His business practices
have been questioned. Yet even here there is some room for
doubt: does Adelson spend hundreds of millions on people like
Romney, Ryan and Netanyahu only to further his own business
interests? Or do we detect even here a trace of altruism, a
desire to fulfill his national and social visions, objectionable
as they may be?
Rand was an atheist and abhorred anything that was not purely
rational, while the Tea Party is strictly religious (never mind
what religion), Ryan is now compelled to distance himself from
his mentor, who was also a militant advocate of abortion.
Actually, I don’t believe in either the intellectual prowess or
the political honesty of the man. He looks to me slightly phony.
I am not sure that Ayn Rand would have liked him either. If only
Gary Cooper could play him, he might look more convincing.
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