Creeping Corporate Capitalism
Creeping Corporate Capitalism …
The Pernicious Plutocracy…
The “Rand Syndrome”
(corollary to “The China Syndrome”)
Introduction by: Dusty Schoch, DI Foreign-Policy Editor — with featured article from Charlotte Observer writers, Pam Kelley and Christina Rexrode– and post-scripted comments by DI contributors, Foster Musgrove and Leonard Carrier.
With the sub-caption, “The China Syndrome” we allude to and invite you to review previous essays by Schoch (by using the “articles” link) on the topic of corporate America’s exporting jobs and industry to India and China.
My previous postulate was this: The China Syndrome (exporting America’s jobs and industry to China and other countries with “slave labor”) is exporting (destroying) America. Corporate greed and governmental laissez-faire policies coincide to fuel the China Syndrome, with Enron and Halliburton scandals being only the top of the catastrophic ice berg.
With the revelations that corporate-controlled Pentagon officials deceived us with false grounds for war (WMD’s etc) and further revelations that these same petro-munitions consortiums are guiding us to pursue our illegal conquest and occupation of Iraq, we saw Orwell’s nightmarish 1984 “fictional” forecast loom into actuality. “Big brother” and the “big lies” were in fact being told the American public by a neo-con manipulated press (and, let’s concede it – a dreadfully dumbed-down American press and …America).
My present postulate is this: Now the neo-cons are moving in for the final kill…that’s where (as Hitler burned the books in 1933) the neo-con corporate fat cat bullies are starting to change history. Not literally by burning books this time, but rather by a much more subtle, sinister and insidious manner…by controlling (that means revising) what is taught in our universities. By starting the propaganda in full force with our sons and daughters as they enter the cusp of the job market…as they begin to take over the leadership of our society.
If Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” became required reading at UNC Chapel Hill, would you be upset? OK. I’m telling you now, our University has now agreed to make required reading out of a book which I submit to you preaches a doctrine of capitalist fascism.
The scoop is the subject of a well-written (by Pam Kelley and Christina Rexrode) article appearing in the Charlotte Observer (March 23, 2008) available in full-print at this link:
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1010249.html and will be printed below.
Long story short – Fat cat neocon banker, John Allison, C.E.O. of BB & T has given the University of North Carolina a million dollars on the condition our students of the benefited universities read a book by Ayn Rand you may or may not have heard of entitled “Atlas Shrugged”. Our (publicly-funded) University has agreed to the deal.
Ayn Rand is, for those out of this particular end of the neo-con loop, is a recently disinterred poster-child capitalistic “intellectual” who wrote some very popular fiction a half-century ago entitled “The Fountainhead” (also a movie) and “Atlas Shrugged”. Both novels preached the same essential socio-economic sermon, coined “enlightened selfishness”. If Karl Marx and Lenin authored the “socialist” or “populist” end of the socio-economic spectrum of Twentieth Century ideology , Ayn Rand founded its “individualist” polar opposite.
The fat corporate cats of today are able and willing today to export America’s industry and jobs to foreign slave-labor (Indian and Chinese laborers earn the American equivalent of $30-$40 a month) centers in order to skim the profits while our country is tossed towards its second depression because of its blind adherence to Randian philosophy – that our government should do nothing…absolutely nothing to stand in the way of either its citizens’ creativity or their (corporate) productivity. This philosophy of unrestrained corporate dominance has given us terminal air and water pollution, global warming, war in Iraq and economic collapse. And now, the fat cats want that philosophy added to the required reading of any student who attends business school in our university system.
Sound like Hollywood mythology to you? Don’t really think that Orwell’s 1984 scenario can really come true? Think again. Not only is it possible–our university staff and boards of trustees are going along with it. Wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that every member of our University Board of Trustees is a corporate fat cat him/her self, and probably a dedicated disciple of Ayn Rand since his own college days (when reading her sophomoric crap was optional).
Why “sophomoric crap”? I’ll give you an example to illustrate. I read “The Fountainhead” when I was 20. My very intellectual mother was a real devotee of Rand. Rand is, if nothing else, a great story teller. But so’s Spephen King. You want Kujo’s creator ethically grooming your children? Back in Rand’s day, corporations were a lot better behaved, I’ll say in my mother’s (and Rand’s) defense. Back then, General Electric really did (occasionally) “bring better things to life”. Now the most important thing they bring to life is instant death (as the world’s largest supplier of nuclear warhead triggers); and by the way…GE has now exported (entirely) all its appliance service department to New Delhi. If your stove or refrigerator goes on the blink – sorry; there aren’t any GE repairmen in the U.S. They’ve been “down-sized” (fired) and their jobs exported to India and China.
This has happened because America is run by a government whose statesmen are on corporate payrolls (i.e., they don’t get elected without corporate campaign contributions, which is the same thing. The corporations get them elected; un-restricted corporate lobbyists then come straight to their (public) offices to collect the quid pro quo.
Now- back to the “example” (literary) in “The Fountainhead” that illustrates my designation of Randian Philosophy as morally bankrupt “sophomoric crap”. The “Fountainhead’s” hero is an architect named Howard Roark. He’s got the hots for the female protagonist, “Dominique Francon”. She doesn’t immediately have the hots for him in return, so he does his laizzez-faire thing and rapes her. She turns out liking it, but it was clearly rape being endorsed by this intellectually-pretentious excuse for the “great American novel” as the fat cat neo-cons call it.
But that’s not where the corporate megalomania ends. At the end of the book, Roark has designed and his client (big American city) has constructed a high-rise apartment complex for thousands of its middle class and poor. Millions of public and private funds have been invested. But midway in construction, because of cost and other factors, some of Roark’s original blue prints were compromised. The residents wouldn’t each have a balcony where they could hang out flowers and sit in the sun. Yes, this was a bad thing for the people and their visionary architect, but does Roark take them to court and make them fix what they’d done wrong? Nope. He torches the whole project. Yes sir; yes mam. His answer…and Rand’s philosophy is just that ego-centric and narcissistic. If the government steps in the way of its artists or architects, the answer is…burn the place down. To the ground.
In her novel, Ayn Rand makes Roark’s arson not only morally acceptable, but heroic. In the process, a nearly-complete habitat for thousands of the poor and middle class is torched because of the ego and pissed-off pride of a single man. Perhaps he was the original neo-con. Or perhaps Ayn Rand herself was. In her other book, “Atlas Shrugged”, the business fat cats quit their noble narcissistic pursuits and there’s “hell to pay”. Message – Do what the corporations say, or else.
Better watch out— Now– thanks to our fat cat corporate bankers–Ayn Rand is now required reading for your University of North Carolina student.
Read the following article with the insight—and fright—I hope it engenders in you. Fascism has many faces. Unrestrained corporate-controlled plutarchy is one of them.
Now to the beautifully-composed article by Kelley and Rexrode…
Gifts with strings a knotty issue -
Ayn Rand reading requirement compromises independence, UNCC faculty say
By: Pam Kelley and Christina Rexrode, The Charlotte Observer*
As a college student in Chapel Hill, John Allison stumbled across a collection of essays by Ayn Rand and was hooked by her philosophy of self-interest and limited government. As he rose over the decades to chief executive of BB&T, one of the country’s leading regional banks, Rand remained his muse.
He’s trying to replicate that encounter through the charitable arm of his Winston-Salem-based company, which since 1999 has awarded more than $28 million to 27 colleges to support the study of capitalism from a moral perspective.
But on at least 17 of those campuses, including UNC-Charlotte, N.C. State and Johnson C. Smith University, the gifts come with an unusual stipulation: Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” is included in a course as required reading.
The schools’ agreements have drawn criticism from some faculty, who say it compromises academic integrity. In higher education, the power to decide course content is supposed to rest with professors, not donors. Debate about the gifts, which arose at UNCC this month, illustrates tensions that exist over corporate influence on college campuses.
UNCC received its $1 million gift pledge in 2005, but details about the “Atlas Shrugged” requirement came to light as the school dedicated an Ayn Rand reading room March 12.
“It’s going to make us look like a rinky-dink university,” UNCC religious studies professor Richard Cohen said Thursday after UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois told the faculty council about the gift. “It’s like teaching the Bible as a requirement.”
Dubois, who learned of the book requirement this month, says it was ill-advised. He may ask Allison to reconsider it, he told faculty.
Allison has been surprised that the gifts can generate controversy. He says he simply wants students exposed to the late author’s ideas, which he thinks the academic community has largely ignored. He welcomes opposing ideas.
He also points out that the schools approached the foundation, not the other way around.
“We obviously can’t make anybody teach something,” he says. “We wouldn’t want to, we wouldn’t try to. These are professors that want to teach this.”
“Atlas Shrugged” tells of an America where the most gifted industrialists and creators go on strike. The book, more than 1,100 pages long, showcases Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, which says individuals have the right to live entirely for their own self-interest.
An atheist, Rand criticized government regulation of business.
Her followers “regard her as the greatest thinker to have graced this earth since Aristotle and the greatest writer of all time,” Reason Magazine wrote in 2005. “Mainstream intellectuals tend to dismiss her as a writer of glorified pulp fiction and a pseudo-philosophical quack with an appeal for impressionable teens.”
Allison discovered Rand as a business major at UNC-Chapel Hill in the late ’60s. “Atlas Shrugged” remains his favorite book.
“Most of the defenders of free markets mostly do it from an economic perspective,” Allison says. “They argue that free markets produce a higher standard of living, which is certainly very good. But Rand makes a connection to human nature and why individual rights and free markets are the only system consistent with human nature.”
BB&T officials say they never made a specific decision to spread the gospel of ethical capitalism and Ayn Rand.
But in 1999, Duke University received money from BB&T to support the teaching of values and ethics in business. The gift didn’t require that Duke teach Ayn Rand. Her work was already being taught there.
As word spread of that gift and others, more colleges approached the foundation with proposals. Allison shared his interest in Rand with them.
At least one school, UNC-Wilmington, offered to make “Atlas Shrugged” a requirement, figuring “our proposal might be more favorably received” if it were part of the package, officials said in an e-mail to the Observer.
Wilmington got a commitment of more than $1 million. But unlike at most campuses, the faculty voted to approve the proposal first.
Companies have long endowed college professorships and programs that fit their areas of interest. Sometimes, schools reject gifts if they can’t live with a donor’s conditions.
But as states reduce higher education budgets, business is playing a bigger role, experts say.
“They’re so desperate for funding sources that they’re willing to take more money with strings attached,” says Jennifer Washburn, author of “University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education.”
*All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.
From Foster Musgrove*
I read your essay with great interest and cannot believe that as a condition of a gift a university board would consent to making Rand’s book (or any book) required reading. Having so said, I put this question to you – Is the banker the culprit here? Did he not merely voice his preference for Rand’s works as I might for Penn Warren and certain of his works. Was it not the Board that advanced the proposal to include the book as required reading? All Allison (or the Foundation) ever wanted to do was to “support the teaching of values and ethics in business”. As a banker, Allison is certainly The Authority on the subject of values and ethics or the lack thereof in business. I would be interested (simply curiosity) to know if there were any educators on the board and whether the vote was unanimous.
Another question for you – Assume that the $1 million was the difference between keeping the university open or it closing for good. Would refusing the money be in any way akin to Roark’s torching of the high rise? Would the university be “cutting of its nose to spite its face”?
Now, as you have taught me, I am going to step outside the box. If as you opine Rand’s works are “sophomoric crap” that a bunch of fat cat neo cons have foisted upon the academic community, does this not present the professors with the perfect storm for teaching values and ethics in business (and vice versa). Think of it – The professor tells his students – you must read this book and here are the facts as to how it became required reading. On the other hand, I suppose one could opine that having other than the professor dictate course materials is the first step down the slippery slope (whether or not he is able to turn the sow’s ear into a silk purse, which, upon reflection, is the ultimate act of capitalism).
*Foster is a previous DI contributor residing in Mableton, Georgia. With a career background and world of experience in the realms of law and business, Foster is also an accomplished (if reluctant) writer of poems and essays.
Leonard Carrier (DI In-House Historian and Philosopher)
Anchors the responses to Dusty’s rant on Rand becoming
I think the UNC trustees have made a terrible decision. Throughout my teaching career I have encountered a handful of Ayn
Rand devotees. These were invariably intelligent students with a quirk. That quirk was an inability to think outside the box that Ayn Rand and her so-called philosophy of ”objectivism” provided them. I took the time to read through the objectivist principles and found them to be a mish-mash of half-baked ideas culled helter-skelter from various philosophers, without much insight into what the philosopher’s thought processes were. For every philosophical question, objectivism had a pat answer. There was no emphasis on thinking for yourself, just a rote exercise in finding which pigeon hole to place the question, and then crank out the answer.
The bare bones of the philosophical underpinning of Rand’s novels is this. Human nature is selfish, but this is a good thing. Only when the individual truly frees himself from the bonds of society do great things get accomplished. The entrepreneur is glorified, and the common man is vilified. Those who champion community are depicted as being weak. The strong person is able to break free from the rules that society in its weakness fashions for itself and thus further the progress of the human race. When transported to the marketplace this view naturally favors unfettered, free-market capitalism.
This Randian philosophy is flawed from the start. Human nature is selfish to the degree that each of us needs some measure of sustenance and security. There is no natural drive to acquire more than necessary, and those who do so are simply greedy. For the Randian, however, “Greed is good.” Yet we need only point to the myriad of scandals that this outlook has caused lately to see that it is not only nonsensical, but criminal. What Randians have done is to take a simple proposition such as “Everything one rationally does is self-motivated,” and interpret that to mean, “Everything one does is for oneself.” The former proposition means only that our voluntary acts proceed from our own desires and beliefs and not from someone else’s. Some of these desires and beliefs involve doing things for others, and so the second proposition is clearly false.
Ayn Rand’s philosophical outlook can be found in the so-called “neoconservatives” who still dominate President Bush’s official family. These are intelligent men and women who view themselves as “elites” who can break away from the herd mentality and lead the country to the pre-eminent position it deserves. Because they believe human nature is selfish, they think other countries are out to dominate us; and so we should have no qualms in waging preventive warfare whenever we can do so without too much cost. These neocons believe that through pre-emptive action they can create a “new reality”–and a new morality–in which an individual state can break free of such things as the Geneva Conventions and the disapprobation of other nations in order to “come out on top.” As in the Randian philosophy, winning is its own reward. The fact that a premier university such as UNC would submit to having what is essentially an immoral outlook become required study–and doing it just for the money–shows how insidious the corporate influence has become in academe.
I hope that it’s not too late for the UNC trustees to change their minds. If not, perhaps there is a way to mitigate the damage. One solution would be to have Orwell’s 1984 also made required reading in the same course in which Atlas Shrugged is required.
Incidentally, Dusty, I would recommend only one change in your foreword to The Observer article. You mention in passing that Rand’s work was “sophomoric Aristotelian elitist crap.” All those things apply, except for “Aristotelian.” Aristotle’s view was that the best government was that of a polity, in which people ruled and were ruled in turn. His doctrine of “the golden mean” was meant to guide people to follow the path of moderation so as to live in harmony with others. This is a far cry from the “winner take all” pronouncements of Ayn Rand.
Thanks again, Len and Foster, for the great elucidations—which put me back into the perspective I’d lost. It would have been totally foolish to eschew that corporate money on “principle”. Throwing out bullion with bath water. In view of what you’ve said, I’m now thinking both Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Hitler’s Mein Kampf should be made required reading at all secondary school venues. With photos of Auschwitz and American homeless juxtaposed on the shelves and lectern film projectors. Lest we forget. Lest we, especially neglect to heed Neitzhe’s admonition – “Let’s keep our allies close, and our enemies closer.” Lest we forget.