Capitalistic ventures and political season

Capitalism is, in this country, synonymous with American Christianity, specifically the kind that misquotes the Bible to say “if a man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t get any handouts from us.” Capitalism is, in theory, about a person’s merits and earning potential, about hard work, about rising up ahead of everyone else because your ideas or products are more sellable to the population at large than the next guy’s. Ayn Rand, the fair-weather darling of Republican ideology, is the high priestess of purist capitalism, where it’s every man for himself, because why take care of someone who can’t hack it? That’s welfare — that’s rewarding laziness.

Of course, many Americans who claim to support capitalism are a far cry from pure capitalists, and here’s why: they give a certain people handouts without them ever having come close to earning it — specifically their kids. People like Donald Trump are handed millions upon millions in inheritance, and somehow they conclude that they’ve earned this money because they were born into the right family. Take note that Ayn Rand did not encourage this kind of behavior at all, writing to her niece, “I want you to drop — if you have it in your mind — the idea that you are entitled to take money or support from me, just because we happen to be relatives… no honest person believes that he is obligated to support his relatives.” Furthermore, she demanded, on pain of writing her niece off as a “rotten person,” that her niece pay back $25 instead of accepting it as a gift.

Rand herself did not have children, explaining on multiple occasions that having children inhibited people’s ability to live life and prosper from their labor. She wholeheartedly supported abortion, saying that for young, ambitious parents, “pregnancy is a death sentence: parenthood would force them to give up their future, and condemn them to a life of hopeless drudgery, of slavery to a child’s physical and financial needs. The situation of an unwed mother, abandoned by her lover, is even worse.”

And, in fact, if the burden of raising children rests entirely on those who produce them, being a single mother to an unplanned, unfunded child is essentially impossible. You cannot actually work for a living while you’re puking from morning sickness, let alone taking care of an infant by yourself. Or at least you can’t if you’re working for a capitalist employer who expects to get an honest, full day’s work out of you, no excuses. Pure capitalism and the anti-abortion ethos are fundamentally opposed to one another, unless, as Ayn Rand proposed, you’re intent on creating misery for its own sake. This is probably one reason why socialist countries have lower abortion rates than countries where abortion is illegal.

Additionally, if you’re going to argue for capitalism on the merits of the individual, you have to refrain from giving your kids anything beyond basic sustenance. Otherwise it’s not capitalism — it’s class reinforcement, oligarchy, a hangover from the days of the monarchs. And, no, you are not a good judge of whether or not your kid is so amazing that he/she deserves a million dollars just for existing.

Given all this, I would argue that almost nobody wants the kind of world where pure capitalism is the law of the land. The world that Ayn Rand envisions is a cold, cruel, entirely mechanical one, where charity is a dirty word and the sole purpose of existence is getting ahead. Ayn Rand praises the kind of woman who looks at her children, her nieces or nephews, and says: you’d better work for this cracker, kid, or you’ll go hungry tonight. How about you sing the alphabet to me. Ok, now we’re going to put the video on YouTube and see if anyone will hire you to do acting work. Huh, looks like nobody liked the video. You suck, kid. You don’t get the cracker. Stop crying, weakling; I’m teaching you to sing better.

Nobody (or, at least, no sane, non-abusive person) does this with their own children. However, many are more than happy to do it to the children of strangers. These are the children who had better earn their lunches, earn their way to decent education, earn their way to an entry-level job. To offer them the same opportunities as your own children is terrible — it’s socialism.

I knew a family once that was Tea-Party level into conservative politics — Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin. The 37-year-old son had political aspirations, and wanted to take a hard line on being fiscally conservative, on cutting “entitlement” programs to nothing. Unsurprisingly, he was personally terrible with money, to the point that he was in debt and generally ignorant of his own bills. I once pointed out to him that he managed to be so lackadaisical because his mother bankrolled him, and told him this was the same thing as relying on welfare. He, of course, was not happy about the comparison, insisting that no, it was totally different! Because… it didn’t go through the government! Anyway, he really did earn his mother’s handouts: she was paying him $120,000 so that she could have a say in who he married. The law of supply and demand. He could supply her with a submissive, helpful daughter-in-law, or he could pick someone she hated.

This is the logical end result of pure capitalism, where money is the currency of everything, and where love is just an excuse to make poor business decisions. But remember, Christians: the love of money is the root of all evil, not giving too much to the poor or paying taxes.

So, as we round the corner into political season, remember this, particularly when some blowhard stands up and brags about making money by cheating widows out of their land. Remember this next time someone tries to vilify an opponent by calling them a “socialist” or claiming they want to tax millionaires. Their are worse things than wanting everyone to have a fair shot at life, regardless of their social status, income level or parenthood.

5 thoughts on “Capitalistic ventures and political season

  1. Having traced Ayn’s literary career and Objectivist ideology with some interest (including multiple readings of Atlas Shrugged), I was hoping to slip a pithy comment in edgewise. The author of your “writing to her niece” link, however, anticipated my sentiments with delightful precision:

    “This letter so perfectly encapsulates everything I find deeply endearing about this bloviating monster. It is 30% very good advice, 50% unnecessary yelling, and 20% nonsense.”

    Well said, Mallory Ortberg.

  2. I do believe in capitalism, and giving your kids money is choice, not something socialistic i.e. enforced by the govt. Plus Trump’s kids were hard workers for years and they are hard workers now. That’s the point of our society, our money is ours and not the state’s.

  3. You are absolutely correct about charity and many socialistic programs, so to speak, being necessary. It’s a lot to keep in mind. However, being a real hardcore socialist is just as faulty as being pure capitalist, as you say. We do not want to imitate Europe in becoming socialist. And socialist methods vs capitalist ones are the last thing I’m concerned with in this election.

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