Saturday, December 10, 2011

Walking in the Cinders of Ayn Rand

There's a funny musical video now circulating (see below) on the internet that was originally published in December 2008. Both the Big Picture and Naked Capitalist have posted it. It's about Alan Greenspan, as Fed chairman and his relationship with Ayn Rand.

Unfortunately, the production mis-states a few facts. It charges Greenspan with being for self-regulation, against government oversight and a libertarian. This is an absurd case to make since Greenspan was head of the Federal Reserve, which is all about government mass manipulation of the economy. This is about as far as you can get from government non-interference.

Barbara Walters, who was dating Alan Greenspan when he took the position as Fed chairman got this. In her book, Audition, she writes:
How Alan Greenspan, a man who believed in the philosophy of little government interference and few rules or regulations, could end up becoming chairman of the greatest regulatory agency in the country is beyond me. It was a big issue when Alan was first appointed...
Greenspan  has never been noyhing but a tool of the interventionist establishment elitists. This becomes clear from an understanding of who Greenspan's "friends" really were.

He writes in his memoir, The Age of Turbulence:
Even so, I did build up a wonderful circle of friends, Barbara [Walters] threw me a fiftieth birthday party. The guests were people I'd come to think of as my New York friends: Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Oscar a, Henry and Louise Grunwald and David nd Annette de la Renta, Felix and LIz Rohatyn, Punh and Carol Sulzberg Henry and Louise Grunwald and David Rockefeller. I am still friendly with many of these people today,more than thirty years later.
Rockefeller, Rohatyn, Sulzberg? How much more establishment can you get?

Murray Rothbard was unlikley to have known who Greenspan had as his "NYC friends", but as usual Rothbard instincts were right on. In 1987, he wrote:
Greenspan’s real qualification is that he can be trusted never to rock the establishment’s boat. He has long positioned himself in the very middle of the economic spectrum.
As for the Greenspan relationship with Rand and what that meant for Greenspan in terms of realeconomik, Rothbard had that nailed also:
There is one thing, however, that makes Greenspan unique, and that sets him off from his Establishment buddies. And that is that he is a follower of Ayn Rand, and therefore “philosophically” believes in laissez-faire and even the gold standard. But as the New York Times and other important media hastened to assure us, Alan only believes in laissez-faire “on the high philosophical level.” In practice, in the policies he advocates, he is a centrist like everyone else because he is a “pragmatist.”

As an alleged “laissez-faire pragmatist,” at no time in his prominent twenty-year career in politics has he ever advocated anything that even remotely smacks of laissez-faire, or even any approach toward it. For Greenspan, laissez-faire is not a lodestar, a standard, and a guide by which to set one’s course; instead, it is simply a curiosity kept in the closet, totally divorced from his concrete policy conclusions.

Thus, Greenspan is only in favor of the gold standard if all conditions are right: if the budget is balanced, trade is free, inflation is licked, everyone has the right philosophy, etc. In the same way, he might say he only favors free trade if all conditions are right: if the budget is balanced, unions are weak, we have a gold standard, the right philosophy, etc. In short, never are one’s “high philosophical principles” applied to one’s actions. It becomes almost piquant for the Establishment to have this man in its camp.


  1. Megalomaniacal sociopaths do indeed have their pragmatism; which always seems to equal murder, theft and plunder. It is always these that "rule" over the mass of humanity. I prefer to call it what it is -- evil...which is the absence of philosophy.

  2. When I went through my Randian phase (apparently something many Rothbardians go through), I had hopes that Greenspan was secretly "our guy."

    Fortunately, my eyes were cleared, both of Randianism & that silly Greenspan idea.

  3. Chris, what made your Randian phase end? Rand's writings are the foundation of my entire philosophy. Her writings opened my eyes, and eventually led me to Mises, Hayek, and many others. I still read Man's Rights about once a year and am always electrified by her words. Why do so many Austrians look at her as someone they once admired but have grown out of. I'm not asking as a criticism...I just honestly don't know what the problem is.