How Ayn Rand became the new right's version of Marx

Her psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats

Someday, you, too, will be old and sick...

by George Monbiot

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as "refuse" and "parasites", and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt.

The poor die like flies as a result of government programmes and their own sloth and fecklessness. Those who try to help them are gassed. In a notorious passage, she argues that all the passengers in a train filled with poisoned fumes deserved their fate. One, for instance, was a teacher who taught children to be team players; one was a mother married to a civil servant, who cared for her children; one was a housewife "who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing".

Rand's is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. Yet, as Gary Weiss shows in his new book, Ayn Rand Nation, she has become to the new right what Karl Marx once was to the left: a demigod at the head of a chiliastic cult. Almost one third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged, and it now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year.

Ignoring Rand's evangelical atheism, the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading "Who is John Galt?" and "Rand was right". Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has "distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose". She is energetically promoted by the broadcasters Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. She is the guiding spirit of the Republicans in Congress.

Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed, secondhand, by people who have never read it. I believe it is making itself felt on this side of the Atlantic: in the clamorous new demands to remove the 50p tax band for the very rich, for instance; or among the sneering, jeering bloggers who write for the Telegraph and the Spectator, mocking compassion and empathy, attacking efforts to make the word a kinder place.

It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victimhood. She tells them that they are parasitised by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments.

It is harder to see what it gives the ordinary teabaggers, who would suffer grievously from a withdrawal of government. But such is the degree of misinformation which saturates this movement and so prevalent in the US is Willy Loman syndrome (the gulf between reality and expectations) that millions blithely volunteer themselves as billionaires' doormats. I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and social security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill health.

But they have a still more powerful reason to reject her philosophy: as Adam Curtis's BBC documentary showed last year, the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal. Here, starkly explained, you'll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as "the 'greed' of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer". As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a "superlatively moral system".

Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru's philosophy to the letter, cutting taxes for the rich, repealing the laws constraining banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down. Much of this is already documented, but Weiss shows that in the US, Greenspan has successfully airbrushed history.

Despite the many years he spent at her side, despite his previous admission that it was Rand who persuaded him that "capitalism is not only efficient and practical but also moral", he mentioned her in his memoirs only to suggest that it was a youthful indiscretion – and this, it seems, is now the official version. Weiss presents powerful evidence that even today Greenspan remains her loyal disciple, having renounced his partial admission of failure to Congress.

Saturated in her philosophy, the new right on both sides of the Atlantic continues to demand the rollback of the state, even as the wreckage of that policy lies all around. The poor go down, the ultra-rich survive and prosper. Ayn Rand would have approved.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Objectivism serves the poor.

What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.

Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes.”

-Ayn Rand

What Is Soylent Green?

"Objectivism serves the poor. "

Translated into German

"Objectivism serves the poor." = Arbeit macht frei.

The go-to move

A conservative presents logical arguments based in reality. The "progressive" (i.e. communist) lacking any factual logic reverts to the only response they can think of: Oh yeah?....well....umm.......You're a Nazi!

You and your bossom buddy

"We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions."

-Adolf Hitler

Another Abusive, Trite, and Inaccurate Use of Semantics

George W. Bush = "compassionate"

Him too

"I can love Germany and hate capitalism. Not only can I, I must. Only the annihilation of a system of exploitation carries with it the core of the rebirth of our people."

"As socialists we are opponents of the Jews because we see in the Hebrews the incarnation of capitalism, of the misuse of the nation's goods."

-Joseph Goebbels

Inside the Mind of a Conservative. Got a Minute?

by Paul Buchheit

Unfortunately, a little well-placed progressive sarcasm can't compete with the ongoing 40-year right-wing campaign to capture the sympathies of an impressionable public. It's a remarkable accomplishment on their part. Even though just about every thinking being would agree that fortunes are made through the efforts of many people over a long period of time, and that a lot of income owed to the middle class has flowed to the top instead, many Americans still believe it's wrong to take their hard-earned money back. They're scared off by phrases such as "soak the rich," even though the rich are the ones doing the soaking.

Why are conservatives so successful at spreading their message? They believe that improvements in the individual will help society. Progressives, on the other hand, believe that improvements in society will help the individual.

Whereas the danger on the progressive side is that cumbersome social structures could stymie individual initiative, the danger on the conservative side is that stronger individuals will exploit weaker ones. Both are legitimate concerns. But the conservatives have been a lot noisier in making their case.

Linguist George Lakoff has written about the conservative response to the Vietnam War, when students were developing an anti-business attitude and many progressive goals were being achieved. The National Chamber of Commerce rallied the wealthy around the flag. Before long think tanks like the Heritage Foundation were set up, research assistants and media agents were hired, right-wing intellectuals were showcased in books and TV shows, and all the best business practices were followed to sell the product of information.

What has been the result over 40 years? Emotional phrases such as "death tax" and "class warfare" that disguise necessary revenue initiatives in ugly metaphors. Or glorious terms that would seem un-American to oppose, including "pro-life" and "free trade" and "tax relief." Or a rant against any phrase with the nasty word 'social' in it.

It goes beyond terminology, to conceptual claims that sound meaningful until subjected to reasonable scrutiny. For example, the claim that new faces keep appearing among the ranks of the wealthy. Both Thomas Sowell and James Q. Wilson reference a 2007 U.S. Treasury Department report about income mobility that states "Among those with the very highest incomes in 1996 - the top 1/100 of 1 percent - only 25 percent remained in this group in 2005." But they ignore the fact that nearly 9 out of 10 of those in the top 1% remained in the top quintile of earners over those ten years. Other reports make it very clear that the U.S. ranks near the bottom of developed countries in economic mobility.

Conservative claims are also framed in feel-good denials, such as the recent downplaying of global warming by the Heartland Institute. Just as absurd is inequality denial, based on the "decline in the prices of products that poorer consumers buy," and on a living standard among the poor that includes "a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave." The Economist calls inequality "a red herring" that obscures the real task of fixing economic and political corruption.

Worst of all is the suggestion that the poor should be blamed for their own misfortunes. American Enterprise Institute spokesman Charles Murray concludes: "Healthy men are supposed to work. In practice, though, that norm has eroded everywhere...Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms."

Lakoff has an explanation for what's been happening, based on the difference between the individual-oriented conservative and the society-oriented progressive. He describes the "strict father" conservative, the "moral authority" who uses strict discipline to teach independence to his children. Wealth is a measure of discipline. Social programs spoil the children, making them dependent.

The "nurturant parent" progressive, in contrast, is focused instead on community responsibility, and empathy for others. Proper care for others helps to develop the individual discipline that is part of the complete person.

Empathy is an interesting word and concept. It is defined as "identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives." Various studies have shown that the ability to empathize with others requires a higher level of abstract thinking, and that people of wealth have less empathy, tending instead toward greedy, and even unethical, behavior.

Conservatives may also be, to put it delicately, not smart. A Canadian study in the journal Psychological Science concluded that "individuals with lower cognitive abilities may gravitate toward more socially conservative right-wing ideologies that maintain the status quo and provide psychological stability and a sense of order."

It makes sense that less empathetic, stability-seeking conservatives would be more likely to use simplistic insults like "death tax" and "class warfare." And that their reliance on individual achievement would be challenged by the absence of economic mobility. And that, to them, inequality would not be an issue if people just worked harder.

Yet perhaps we progressives are the real dummies, for despite a self-perceived abundance of wisdom and compassion we've allowed the opposition to hijack the language of voters. We should be proclaiming the message we believe in: that America is not a collection of individuals, but rather a community of people who need each other to ensure health and education and a clean environment and job opportunities. As Lakoff says, "The Public is what makes The Private possible."

We shouldn't allow self-interest to guide our country's growth, or to use wealth as a barometer of human value, or to stand by as one man celebrates the "American Dream" by making enough money to pay the salaries of 100,000 teachers. We need to look into our own progressive minds to plan a better strategy for publicizing the important role of society in America.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at

In her own words on fascism

The difference between [socialism and fascism] is superficial and purely formal, but it is significant psychologically: it brings the authoritarian nature of a planned economy crudely into the open.

The main characteristic of socialism (and of communism) is public ownership of the means of production, and, therefore, the abolition of private property. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Under fascism, men retain the semblance or pretense of private property, but the government holds total power over its use and disposal.

The dictionary definition of fascism is: “a governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation (industrial, commercial, etc.), emphasizing an aggressive nationalism . . .” [The American College Dictionary,
New York: Random House, 1957.]

Under fascism, citizens retain the responsibilities of owning property, without freedom to act and without any of the advantages of ownership. Under socialism, government officials acquire all the advantages of ownership, without any of the responsibilities, since they do not hold title to the property, but merely the right to use it—at least until the next purge. In either case, the government officials hold the economic, political and legal power of life or death over the citizens.

Needless to say, under either system, the inequalities of income and standard of living are greater than anything possible under a free economy—and a man’s position is determined, not by his productive ability and achievement, but by political pull and force.

Under both systems, sacrifice is invoked as a magic, omnipotent solution in any crisis—and “the public good” is the altar on which victims are immolated. But there are stylistic differences of emphasis. The socialist-communist axis keeps promising to achieve abundance, material comfort and security for its victims, in some indeterminate future. The fascist-Nazi axis scorns material comfort and security, and keeps extolling some undefined sort of spiritual duty, service and conquest. The socialist-communist axis offers its victims an alleged social ideal. The fascist-Nazi axis offers nothing but loose talk about some unspecified form of racial or national “greatness.” The socialist-communist axis proclaims some grandiose economic plan, which keeps receding year by year. The fascist-Nazi axis merely extols leadership—leadership without purpose, program or direction—and power for power’s sake.

-Ayn Rand

Splendid Example

I realize you're doing your best to avoid engaging with the significant issues with Rand's philosophy in Monbiot's article. The idea that all those other folks are evil to various, vaguely defined degrees and that you have the only solution is indicative of some pretty closed minded logic.

That could be why Monbiot refers to Objectivists as constituting "a chiliastic cult"? I'm sure you'll give us another splendid example of why Monbiot seems to have that pegged. Faith and absolute certainty are the basis for many socially destructive beliefs, so keep on delivering more of that.

Amorality often makes those beliefs bloody. I guess the movie project proves that maybe things aren't gory enough yet for the return of your free market messiah? Or maybe the fact that this sort of thinking is at the basis of much of what's already been destroyed over the last 30 years is indicative of, if there is some Objectivist utopia, we're already there and people are starting to discover that they don't like it?

But the whole democracy thing is overrated in Rand's eyes anyway, right?

BTW, did you hear about the fellow who jumped ship from a very rand-ish corp today?

If your little cult has gotten a reputation to the point it can't successfully bribe people with million dollar bonuses to believe like you do, then how do you expect people to buy into it at the steep discount most of us would have to to create your little dystopia? Oh, right, there's that Republican thing. Guess they found the formula on how to do that. Try to hold it together, OK, because my mom told me being selfish and failing to acknowledge the concerns and needs of others is a sin, even though she is a card-carrying Republican. But that was before Reagan, so maybe being self-centered is OK now?

The world today

Monbiot's analysis of Rand brings to mind what a third grader's analysis of Shakespeare might be. A child trying to understand the mind of an adult and failing due to a lack of maturity and understanding of the real world. In the debate of capitalism vs. socialism the world speaks for itself.

Since the defining of the two schools of thought in the 20th century various nations have experimented with them. Socialism has brought the world the gulags of the Soviet Union, the death camps of Nazi Germany, the killing fields of Cambodia, the cultural revolution of China, the mass executions of Cuba, and starvation in North Korea. National Socialist Germany attacked Poland, the Soviet Union attacked Norway and Poland, communist North Korea attacked South Korea, and communist North Vietnam attacked South Vietnam. Nations that preach the gospel of socialism and talk of the "workers paradise" leave in their wake the beaten, starved, and murdered bodies of those that commited the sin of disagreeing. So far that wake contains an estimated 100 million victims and counting.

Capitalist nations have been the ones to rally to the defense of the victims of socialism. Western europe was freed from the Nazis and kept safe from the communists by capitalists. South Korea exists as a free nation today thanks to the armies of the capitalist nations. Sadly socialism remains a potent force in the world today and continues to, quite literally, line up victims against the execution wall.

Socialism spreads misery and suffering. Capitalism spreads freedom and peace. Sadly America, a once proud example of freedom and capitalism, has been on a steady march towards socialism for well over 70 years. The current economic downturn is a creation of our government. Had banks not been forced to give mortgages to people who would never pay them back we wouldn't be in our current mess. Wherever the government involves itself in economics the economy suffers.

Your Timeline Is Shaky

So you're arguing the government did not involve itself in the market before 1932?


The land grants to railroads?

The brutal crushing of strikes with troops and police?

The war contracts at guaranteed profits?

The original Supreme Court finding that corporations are -- somehow -- people with a claim on the Bill of Rights?

The dozens of military interventions in the name of "dollar diplomacy" protecting the financial interests of corporations in the Caribbean and Latin America?

The Federal Reserve?

Income tax?...

Obviously, your myopia about history is only exceeded by your weak grasp of macroeconomics in modern democracies. Because most of the 70 years after the above that you whine about "government involvement" in the economy has been at the behest of and profit to transnational corporations, who are more than happy to buy the best government money can buy.

I know if I could afford to buy as much government as those who practice your philosophy and have bought our politicians, even if they're unwilling to pay public lip service and royalties to Rand, I'd ask for something different. But like the rest of the 99%, the idea that more greed and less rule of law is going to be to my benefit is your nightmare vision, not ours.

World history

Capitalists build factories that hire workers who are there voluntarily.

Socialists build slave labor camps where people are beaten and worked to death in sub-human conditions. That is if they aren't executed upon arrival.

Capitalists encourage good work with paychecks and benefits.

Socialists encourage good work with whips and clubs.

Take a minute to learn some world history and you'll discover the true nightmare vision.

Rand's Got a Hammer -- and nutting Else

"Capitalists encourage good work with paychecks and benefits."


So that's why they're always absconding to foreign shores, because they're on a mission to reward all those folks -- but not good ol' Americans?

And benefits?

In the USA, until it changes (please, please, please, change) your main benefit other than Social Security tied to your job is healthcare. Yet good ol' capitalists apparently don't think people get sick anymore, because they seem to take every opportunity to drop their workers' health care.

And that's with health insurance being a for-profit enterprise.

Please, don't give me any of that "government regulation" nonsense to account for this. Capitalists bought and paid for the recent "reform" -- because any sensible modern nation has national health care, not a giant subsidy system for a capitalist for-profit program that we have had here, long, long before the Clintons or Obama showed up to make things worse by doing exactly what the Objectivists love -- making the individual responsible for it without making anyone else responsible for getting that person a job that will pay enough to cover it.

BTW, I am curious about how Rand's preaching to give into avarice and pride is related to her atheism? Because if there's no sin, it would certainly explain a lot about her -- and those who use her ideas. Certainly, the average Tea Partier nodding at the "Who Is John Galt?" signs doesn't realize she marches in lcokstep with the Soviets in denying any morality outside the crudest form of self-serving rationalizations, whether it's Rand or Lenin. But maybe someone should ask Eric Cantor about that? Or Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul -- all of whom have invoking Rand literally or in obvious spirit in forming policies meant to appeal to a base that...might just have a problem with that.

There you go, let's explain that conspiracy.

Oh, and if you have any faith in game theory and, well, games, it may amuse some to find out that what results when you play by Rand's sadistic logic has already been plumbed:

Greed is evil, whether or not you believe in a god.

Video games are not reality

"she marches in lockstep with the Soviets in denying any morality outside the crudest form of self-serving rationalizations"

Oh really?...

Sweep aside those parasites of subsidized classrooms, who live on the profits of the mind of others and proclaim that man needs no morality, no values, no code of behavior. They, who pose as scientists and claim that man is only an animal, do not grant him inclusion in the law of existence they have granted to the lowest of insects. They recognize that every living species has a way of survival demanded by its nature, they do not claim that a fish can live out of water or that a dog can live without its sense of smell—but man, they claim, the most complex of beings, man can survive in any way whatever, man has no identity, no nature, and there’s no practical reason why he cannot live with his means of survival destroyed, with his mind throttled and placed at the disposal of any orders they might care to issue.

Sweep aside those hatred-eaten mystics, who pose as friends of humanity and preach that the highest virtue man can practice is to hold his own life as of no value. Do they tell you that the purpose of morality is to curb man’s instinct of self-preservation? It is for the purpose of self-preservation that man needs a code of morality. The only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live.

- Ayn Rand

You have no understanding of what Capitalism actually is and you've obviously never read any of Rand's works. Take a minute and go to and actually read her opinions on various subjects. You might be suprised.

Also I feel the need to keep pointing out that socialists build slave labor camps and death camps. The Soviet Union had numerous slave labor camps in the Kolyma region where political prisoners were forced to mine gold by hand in temperatures as low as 60 BELOW ZERO! The prisoners always knew when it was that cold because at 60 below zero your spit freezes solid in midair. Prisoners that didn't meet daily work quotas were beaten and denied food; which made them even weaker and less able to work. Most of them froze or starved to death within a few months. The socialist "workers paradise". And you complain because you might only get a social security check when you retire. It must be nice to have a life so good that you have to find things to complain about. 30 million dead Russians wish they could have had a tenth of what you have right now.


You're pretty good with strawmen, so I guess you've about exhausted your defenses, leaving any real conversation out in the cold...but I'm sure that warms your heart.

Last time I checked, capitalists were firmly entrenched at the levers of power in this society...

From our Goldman Sachs file...

Progressive Review, September 2008 - We find it interesting that the media is ignoring the fact that the Treasury Secretary controlling the bailout of the American financial interest was formerly the head of one of the major money machines: Goldman Sachs, as was his predecessor, Robert Rubin. In other contexts, this would be considered a major conflict especially since Goldman Sachs has a huge interest in the bailout of Fannie and Freddie and far less interest in the success of Lehman Brothers, which Henry Paulson let fail.

It's a little like the situation with the sainted Alan Greenspan of whom the French economist Patrick Artus said, "He created four major crises: savings and loans, [Long-Term Capital Management], new-technology shares, and subprime mortgages." He then was "congratulated for his role as fireman, but he's the one who started the fire."

Progressive Review, 1995 - According to the New York Post, an extraordinary 100 FBI agents are working on the Whitewater affair in Little Rock. That’s more than were used in the John Gotti investigation.

Among other finds by the New York Post: in Sept. 1992, just before the election, an auditing firm issued a confidential report saying that the Arkansas Development Finance Authority “was not complying with its board approved policy regarding loan review.” The firm pointed to four loans that were made without any documentation as to why they were “approved over the staff’s recommendation.” The NY Post also notes that ADFA in 1986 borrowed $5 million from a Japanese bank so it could buy stock in a Barbados reinsurance firm -- Coral Reinsurance -- that is managed by American International Group, an insurance company whose board Lloyd Bentson just joined. The deal was put together by Goldman Sachs, former home of the current treasury secretary, Robert Rubin. The SEC is looking into the mysterious Coral.

Arkansas Connections - 1984 - Foreshadowing future Wall Street interest in Clinton, Goldman Sachs, Payne Webber, Salomon Brothers and Merrill Lynch all show up as financial backers of the governor. Also on the list: future king-maker Pam Harriman. But Bill Clinton's funders include not only some of the biggest corporate names ever to show an interest in the tiny state of Arkansas but some of the most questionable. A former US Attorney will later tell Roger Morris, "That was the election when the mob really came into Arkansas politics. . . It wasn't just Bill Clinton and it went beyond our old Dixie Mafia. . . This was eastern and west coast crime money that noticed the possibilities just like the legitimate corporations did."

Sam Smith, Shadows of Hope, 1997 - Early in the Clinton administration, the new national economic adviser Robert E. Rubin wrote numerous clients of his former firm, Goldman Sachs, inviting them to stay in touch. Rubin, who had been one of Wall Street's "four horsemen" of leveraged takeover arbitrage, and who would shortly submit a financial disclosure form listing an estimated income in 1992 of $26.5 million from his GS partnership, wrote:

I hope I can continue to rely on your interest and support as I move from Broad Street in New York to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC., and would be grateful for whatever suggestions you would offer.

The story appeared on the front page of the New York Times. The Times quoted a federal lawyer who declared: "It doesn't strike me that there's anything there that would raise any kind of specter of a violation of law or regulation." A former Bush Administration ethics official, while insisting on anonymity, told the Times: "Assuming severance of all financial ties, there is no legal prohibition to dealing with former clients and employers, but we always tried to negotiate a grace period of a year or so" before resuming contact. By Washington standards the exculpatory quotes of the anonymous federal and Bush administration officials had cleared Rubin and the story died.



No matter which puppet they have propped up in front of things, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck...yep, no sign of those 'evvvvvvvvil' socialists, but you can't throw a bar of gold at the US government and not hit a capitalist.

Your slavery to the Rand cult is obvious, because you're expecting folks to miss the obvious. You don't want to talk about what actually happens to pay and benefits for the average person under the current regime, let alone one that goes beyond that and has the "Crazy" box ticked off on everything on your checklist of trite, shallow and ahistorical musings of Rand.

And you don't want to talk about how Rand's worship of amoral self-interest undercuts the possibility that a good society could result from such assumptions about humans. Assuming a society that celebrates greed and pride -- in other words, something like what we have now -- also assumes that these same morally suspect motivations could somehow result in a social good...well, sounds like the devil talking to me, because only he would believe that he can sell such an obviously fraudulent scheme with shame -- except for his few supporters among the Randists.

So a honest discussion about Rand's atheism and its role in her beliefs is something you're similarly avoiding.

On the other hand, I believe that the real nature of humans is that they value their social connection with others, are basically good, and see the importance of cooperation between humans as the basis for any decent society. Something you find no joy in in even acknowledging, let alone coming to grips with in how it undercuts Rand's sociopathic message.

As for games, yep, not reality. However, they are often based on the logic, philosophy and rules drawn from real life, applied through game theory. I'm actually very skeptical about game theory, in part because any "science" that purports to reduce to a simplistic set of ideas in describing human behavior is usually wrong -- like Rand.

But I'm sure you missed the philosophical irony of that...

Behind Another Rampage Massacre

Work-place and college-campus slaughters have become a regular feature of America’s harsh economic landscape the past few decades, as Ayn Rand-style policies sharply divide the nation into a few heroic “winners” and many hapless “losers,” a factor Mark Ames examines in the latest college bloodbath.
by Mark Ames

I was working on an article about last month’s rampage massacre in Afghanistan that left 17 villagers dead, when news hit of this past Monday’s massacre at an Oakland, California, religious college, leaving seven dead. In both cases, the shooters survived and face a possible death penalty — which is rare: Usually these rampage killings end with self-inflicted bullet in the mouth.

These “going postal” rampage killings like the one that just took place at the Oikos University campus happen so often and with such relentless rhythm, a lot of people might easily assume that these mass-shootings at American schools and workplaces have always been with us.

It’s not true, of course — as I wrote in my book Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion — it’s an exclusively American phenomenon specific to our time. The first post office rampage killing took place in Edmond, Oklahoma, in the mid-1980s, at the height of the Reagan Revolution’s war on the American worker.

Those post office massacres quickly migrated into private workplace massacres by the end of the 1980s, where they’ve become a regular rhythmic staple of our murder culture ever since – and from the adult workplace, the massacres migrated to our schools.

We’ve had mass-killings before; and every now and then, you’ll read about a rampage killing in some other country. But only in America, and only since the mid-1980s, do American employees attack their own workplaces and offices, and middle-class students attack their own schools, with such consistency, year after year.

It was only after the crash in 2008 that some Americans began to accept the obvious: That the cruelty, predation and concentration of wealth and power introduced by the Reagan Revolution sparked a new type of murder that has more in common with insurgency violence or rebellious peasant violence than, say, the psychopathology of a serial murder.

Like so many school rampage killers, last Monday’s alleged murderer, One L. Goh, was reportedly bullied and mistreated at his nursing school program at the small Korean Christian nursing program he enrolled in. Bullying also was blamed for the high school rampage killing a few weeks ago in suburban Cleveland that left three students dead and five wounded.

The gruesome details about the way Goh is said to have lined up and executed his victims, the way he apparently singled out women, make hard not to caricature him as a monster, a demonic psychopath — and yet, without excusing Goh’s killings, one should try to make sense of what happened to him, the downward-trending bleakness, the slow water-torture of low-five-figure debts, the broken marriage, the $23,000 tax bill owed to the IRS.

Losing Hope

In the Naughts, One L. Goh helped run a construction company. But construction collapsed as an industry in 2006-7; and unless you were Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozillo, you’d have nothing to show for the few good years.

In late 2007, Goh moved into the Yorkview Apartments complex in Hayes, Virginia — a bleak, prefab looking structure in a rural corner of Virginia. By the following summer, One L. Goh found himself unable to cover his $575 rent payment two months in a row. He was evicted; but before they evicted him, creditors took his car

The future rampage-murderer took it all stoically, even politely, according to one of Goh’s apartment complex neighbors, Thomas Lumpkin. Goh “was always neat, wore nice clothes,” Lumpkin said. “You would never expect it out of him. He just don’t seem like that type of person.”

Lumpkin also recalled the day Goh was evicted, saw his Nissan pickup repossessed and departed by cab. I tried to imagine what that cab ride felt like for One L. Goh, a pudgy 40-something Korean-American dweeb, stewing with resentment, in his nice neat clothes. How far did he go in that cab — and where to?

Eventually he wound up with his father on the West Coast. Goh’s father lives in an Oakland housing project for senior citizens run by a Christian non-profit. Goh found work in a San Mateo warehouse, he doubled as a mover.

It’s not a good place to be if you’re a middle-aged failure: San Francisco has so much obscene wealth, and smug beauty — to be a fat 40-something nerd working with your father in a grocery store in Daly City, in the shadow of San Francisco, is some kind of Hell, a Hell for failures.

And then last year, Goh’s brother, an Iraq War veteran and Special Forces hero, died in a freak car accident when his Toyota slammed head-on at 70 mpg into a “multi-ton” boulder lying on a Virginia road. The photos of the accident scene look almost unreal, almost staged. The news was a blow to One L. Goh’s mother; she died within a few months after the brother.

This is the backdrop to Goh’s fateful decision to pull himself out of a years-long rut, and to start a new career for himself as a nurse. It may have been the shock of the back-to-back deaths in the family — or maybe it was his father who encouraged him, or the experience of living with his father in a building for the elderly.

Whatever the case, his widower father supported his son with a $6,000 loan to pay for the vocational nursing school tuition. But after a few months, One L. Goh was out of the program, bitter and vengeful, dead set on murder; and his father was out $6,000, thanks to his son’s bad bet.

Ignition to a Massacre

What set Goh off? Why did he leave the nursing school so early? Most reports say he was teased by his classmates for his age, 43, and his accent. Which is odd, considering most of the students are foreigners and Koreans.

(Another Korean-American rampage-killer was teased over his voice: Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui. As another Virginia Tech student told reporters back in 2007, “As soon as [Cho] started reading, the whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, ‘Go back to China.’”)

Goh enrolled in what must have been one of the very worst nursing programs in the entire state of California: the vocational nursing program at Oikos University, a fundamentalist Korean-American Christian school in Oakland.

The school’s nursing program is accredited, which is important of course if you want your for-profit school program to make money. To comply with the accreditation, Oikos U. had provide a “2010 Performance Sheet” summing up its students’ performances both on the national nursing exam and, once licensed, in the job market.

The “performance” is abysmal, to the point where you almost wonder if it’s even statistically possible to fail as spectacularly as Oikos University’s nursing students. Of the programs 28 graduates from the Spring 2010 – 2011 term, only 11 of those 28 managed to pass the national nursing exam. That’s a 29 percent pass rate, almost unheard of.

According to a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, it makes Oikos among the state’s very worst programs — the average success rate for graduates of other programs is 75 percent. (An Oakland Tribune article puts Oikos U’s exam pass rate at 41 percent of students who took the test, but the actual Performance Sheet gives a lower 29 percent pass figure — either way, both are awful).

Oikos University failed to prepare its students for the test, and it failed those who passed when they turned to the job market. According to the same Performance Sheet, of the school’s 11 students who passed the exam, eight found paying jobs as nurses, with salaries ranging as low as $5,000 per year to the one lucky top salary earner who earned up to $35,000. That’s in the Bay Area, the most expensive region in America.

In sum: One L. Goh could not have chosen a worse nursing program to pin his personal hopes on. This nursing program was all but guaranteed to fail him.

Fundamentalist Mission

One thing Oikos University does fairly convincingly is fundamentalist evangelical Christianity for Korean-Americans. Students at Oikos U. are required to attend regular church services; the pious language of evangelical Christianity frames everything.

The school’s president, Rev. Jongkin Kim, says his goal is “to foster spiritual Christian leaders who abide by God’s intentions and to expand God’s nation through them.” Under the university’s “Our Vision” it reads:

“The vision of Oikos University is to educate emerging Christian leaders to transform and bless the world at every level – from the church and local community levels to the realm of world entire.”

And then there’s the reality, revealed in a lawsuit filed last month by a former staffer of Oikos University named Jong Cha, who says the school cheated her out of $75,000 in salary and expenses, and stiffed her on a $10,000 loan that she personally gave to the Christian college in 2008.

Viewed from this angle, One L. Goh might have come to the conclusion at some point that he’d taken scarce funds from his poor old widower father, and handed it over to religious hucksters running the Golden State’s worst nursing program.

One thing to keep in mind here: It’s easy to see why Oikos University introduced a nursing vocational program. If you get it accredited, these nursing programs are guaranteed cash-cows. Most of the big for-profit education predators like Kaplan Inc. (which owns—and subsidizes— the Washington Post) are in on the vocational nursing for-profit gig.

You can charge students insane tuitions, hire hacks as teachers, pocket the difference, and dump the unpaid loans on the government in exchange for 100 cents on the dollar.

The Reverend who founded Oikos University certainly understood this — his good friend told the New York Times that Rev. Kim “had established the nursing school to support the school’s department of religion.” The cash must have rolled in quickly, because within a year after launching its nursing program, Oikos doubled its size — meaning doubling revenues.

And yet even with all those new revenues coming in, the school couldn’t figure out a way to raise its graduates’ test results out of the failure category. The school appears to have stiffed one of its top staffers out of her pay and her loan, suggesting, in the words of the Oakland Tribune, “that the school may have fallen on hard times.”

I wonder if this is what set off One L. Goh a few months after he enrolled — the realization that he’d been fleeced, that he enrolled in the wrong program on his father’s money. The year 2011 had already taken his brother and his mother.

A Dashed Last Hope

There is something in between the lines that suggests his plan to become a nurse, worked out with his father’s assistance a kind of desperate last attempt to turn everything around in the proverbial One Bold Swoop.

He would do something practical, and morally good, helping the elderly, people like his father — and earn a steady income that would allow him, at last, some dignity and some chance to start paying off his debts.

It was as though Goh pinned everything on this plan to reinvent himself as a nurse — and according to all our cultural propaganda, all the Hollywood movies and newspaper bromides, Goh would be rewarded for undertaking this self-transformation. It was guaranteed to change everything.

And for a brief while last year, Goh’s mood was transformed, he really did think he had a great future ahead of him. One of Goh’s former employers at a food warehouse described Goh as “upbeat” when he ran into him last year in Oakland — a change from the usually quiet, sullen Goh he’d known.

This new “upbeat” One L. Goh boasted to his former employer “about how he had returned to school to become a nurse and help elderly people.”

The idea that you can reinvent yourself, that your fate is in your own hands, that you have the power inside of you to make yourself a winner (and if you fail, it’s all your own fault) — this may be America’s most toxic cultural snake-oil. And yet it never fails to find takers.

Of course, nothing changed — except that Goh had been conned out of his dad’s money. As his former employer put it: “Not many people go back to school at that age. He was trying something new and it wasn’t working.”

It didn’t take long for him to figure it out. Just a few months after enrolling, One L. Goh dropped out of the Oikos University program. When he dropped out of the program, he asked them to refund his father’s $6,000 that he paid for tuition. He was denied. He fought with the administrators, but they didn’t budge. This was what made him snap.

The administrator, whom Goh fought with for his tuition refund and whom he came to kill that day, has now come forward. Her name is Ellen Cervellon. She was gone on the day of the massacre because she also teaches nursing to students at California State University at East Bay.

Now she will have to wonder, why didn’t she just approve the refund to a desperate man? What if she had approved it? Her argument was that he’d already spent several months in the program. According to a friend of Ellen Cervellon’s, Linda Music, she even denied Goh his last reasonable request, to prorate the refund.

As Matthai Kuruvila reported at, Goh had asked Ellen Cervellon for a full refund of his tuition and when he was denied suggested prorating the tuition refund. Cervellon said no, Music said.

That meant he threw his father’s money away: He had nothing to show for the $6,000 given to the university; he would never be able to pay his father back; and he would never be able to borrow a sum like that from him again. That was it, the final act. The jig was up for him.

Lack of Empathy

Why? Why couldn’t Cervellon meet this desperate failure half-way? What was in it for Cervellon? What’s with the Ayn Randian lack of empathy in this country among the non-oligarchy caste?

Cervellon seems to be asking herself this same question: “In talking to several of the students and faculty who were there, I think he was looking for me. I have that weight on my shoulders and I don’t know what to do with it,”

School officials have been painting a portrait of One L. Goh as a psycho and a freak, using phrases like “behavioral problems” and calling him “angry” and “paranoid.” There must be truth to that; nice, normal people in a healthy state of mind don’t rampage-massacre others.

But the intended target, Ellen Cervellon, disputes that: “He was never forced out, he showed no behavioral problems, and he was never asked to leave the program. He decided on his own to leave the program.”

The depressingly familiar dead-end life that One L. Goh found himself in — surrounded by petty scams as revealed in the ex-staffer’s lawsuit and the bleak performance of the school’s graduates, combined with the back-to-back deaths of two family members — could make a lot of sane people desperate and enraged and suicidal. Not to mention the larger context of an inequality-ravaged America where opportunity and dignity are scarcer and scarcer.

On top of all this, as he complained often, students at the nursing program wouldn’t talk to him. That could be traumatizing even under better circumstances, but under his conditions, being mocked and ignored by fellow fundamentalist Christians for being an aging loser, would be devastating.

One of Goh’s teachers continued criticizing Goh even after the massacre: “I always advised him, ‘You go to school to learn, not to make friends.’” More great advice from the Oikos University folks.

After quitting the nursing program, One L. Goh spent the last few months working with his father at the Daly City supermarket. He was back at square one: A failure, swindled, condemned to work in a shitty job beside his struggling father whom he’d let down.

You might say that One L. Goh snapped because for once, he saw things as they really were, stripped of hope, stripped of fantasies about self-improvement or self-transformation.

He failed at everything; he was one of those faceless, anonymous losers. But there was one thing he could still excel at, something that could get him attention, something that this country perversely celebrates: mass murder in a blaze of anti-glory. So long as you’re ready to make that transformation-of-character into a death row inmate, that option is always available here.

Last Monday, according to police accounts, One L. Goh armed himself with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol and showed up at the Oikos school for his final act. But the plan failed from the start: The administrator he was after was gone. So the target became the entire setting, Oikos University, as it so often happens in these “going postal” rampage killings.

There’s a section on the Oikos University website about the 11 beliefs that the University holds to — they call it their “Doctrinal Statement” and it’s the last belief, Number 11, that sums up the malevolence of it all:

“We believe in the existence of a personal, malevolent being called Satan who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom the place of eternal punishment was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.”

© 2012 Mark Ames

Mark Ames is a writer known for his work as a Moscow-based expatriate American journalist and editor. He is the founding editor of the satirical biweekly the eXile in Moscow, to which he regularly contributed before he returned to America. He is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (Soft Skull) and (with Matt Taibbi) The eXile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia (Grove)

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