For a man who ran for president on a supposedly populist platform, Donald Trump sure has appointed a lot of extremely wealthy businesspeople to his administration.He explains to his followersat his ostentatious victory rallies that hes doing this because he wants people that made a fortune because now theyre negotiating with you, adding, Its not different than a great baseball player or a great golfer.
The truth is that nobody really understands why Trump is choosing the people hes choosing, not even him. Reports indicate thatits a capricious process,and no one is sure if theres even a cursory vetting of the choices. Because so many of these people have no government experience there is little sense of the worldviews and philosophies that guide them.
On Tuesday, however,James Hohmann of The Washington Post identified a common threadamong the businessmen, including Trump, which should have been obvious from the beginning. They are fanboys of Ayn Rand, the patron saint of selfish adolescents and titans of industry. Hohmann reported that Trumps choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who bears a Randian name if there ever was one, is a big fan of the Objectivist magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, whichhe told Scouting magazine was his favorite book. Tillerson explained that he believes volunteering is not just good for the individual but good PR for acompany,a notion thatRands manly hero John Galt would undoubtedly approve of.
Andy Puzder, the nominee to be secretary of labor, is also a Rand fanatic who reportedly reads the bodice-ripping novels over and over again in his spare time. The parent corporation of his fast food restaurant company, CKE Enterprises, is calledRoark Capital Group, in tribute to Howard Roark, the hero of Rands The Fountainhead.
And Rep.Mike Pompeo, Trumps choice to head the CIA, has said, One of the very first serious books I read when I was growing up was Atlas Shrugged, and it really had an impact on me.
Then there is Trumps new BFF, House Speaker Paul Ryan,a well-known Rand acolytewho makes all his staffers read Atlas Shrugged when theygo to work for him.
Finally, Trump himself has claimedto be a Rand follower, as he discussed with Kirsten Powers in aUSA Today interview:
Trump described himself as an Ayn Rand fan. He said of her novel The Fountainhead, It relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to . . .everything. He identified with Howard Roark, the novels idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.
The macho architect-builder and anti-Establishment hero also rapes the female protagonist. So you can see why Trump would relate to him.
You will have to pardon my skepticism that Trump has ever read that book. Its not just the puerile description, but the fact that there is no sign anywhere in his homes or offices that books even exist except forthe story that Paramounts Marvin Davis once gave him a volume of Hitlers speeches,which his first wife claimed he kept by the bed. (Id still bet that he never read them.) The only thing he reads are stories about himself in the newspapers. That doesnt mean, however, that he doesnt subscribe to Rands philosophy; its just unlikely that heknowshe does.
Hohmann also mentioned that Trump has huddled with one of the most important Rand propagandists in the country, John A. Allison IV, chief executive of the banking company BB&T Corp. The Wall St Journal blandly describedAllison as distributing copies of Atlas Shrugged to his senior officers and funding classes about the moral foundation of capitalism at various colleges. In fact,Allison has given more than $30 millionto various academic institutions, with the demand that they include Rands turgid fiction as part of the required curriculum. What role Allison might play in the Trump administration is unknown, but you can be sure that he will bring his dog-eared copy of Atlas Shruggedto the office with him.
Of course, Ayn Rand aficionados are hardly unknown in the high reaches of government. The most powerful one of all was the man who bears much of the responsibility for the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed, former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan. He was even a member of Rands inner circle in his youth andfamously wrote a letter to The New York Timesduring that period expressing his anger at a negative review of Atlas Shrugged:
Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.
Many young people are taken with Rands books when they first read them, for obvious reasons. Her novels offer a romantic glorification of self-centered narcissism, a perfect adolescent worldview. Some people never grow out of that and quite a few of them end up running businesses.
Rand believed that the government was basically an evil force that stood in the way of mans destiny and only existed to take from the creators to give to the parasites and moochers. A businessperson who has imbibed that philosophy can want to join the government only in order to destroy it from within.
Paul Ryan is a perfect example of someone who is systematically working to dismantle the redistributive functions of government and end all regulations that protect the common good.He once declared, The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.
As I said earlier, I seriously doubt that Donald Trump is really a fan of Ayn Rand. Her books may be juvenile and shallow, but theyre way too deep for him. Still, Trump is definitely narcissistic and almost pathologically self-confident hes like John Galts id, without knowing it. He certainly subscribes to Ayn Rands personal credo: What is good for me is Good! It appears hes found a group of like minds to help him ruin the country.
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