Johann Hari writes:
She explained her philosophy at first through pot-boilers like ‘The Fountainhead’. One of her heroes boasts that he is the polar opposite of Robin Hood: “He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. I’m the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich, or to be more exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.” If you want a sign of Rand’s quiet victory, close your eyes and realise this could be Dick Cheney in one of his more candid moments, explaining the logic behind his massive tax cuts for the wealthy.
Rand’s morality was a perfect fit for the age of the celebrity billionaire. She conjures a world where the CEO is Messiah, where the sign of the Cross is replaced with the sign of the dollar, and where hideous penis-proxies like Trump Towers are the pinnacle of human achievement. In her novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’, the world’s billionaires – the Ted Turners and Donald Trumps – go on strike in protest against the “insane regulations” and “exorbitant tax” handed down from Washington D.C. The country quickly regresses into anarchy, with businesses collapsing, food distribution networks falling apart, and America becoming a wasteland – until finally the grateful populace welcomes back their economic Overlords and promises to never again pester them with wild notions like taxation or regulation.
Whittaker Chambers famously wrote in the National Review, “Just as her operatic businessmen are, in fact, Nietzschean supermen, so her ulcerous leftists are Nietzsche’s ‘last men’, both deformed in a way to sicken the fastidious recluse of Sils Marnia… [In her vision] resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and , in fact, reason itself enjoins them. From almost every page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding, “To a gas chamber – go!”” [...]
While Rand is (rightly) appalled when the state kills people, she considers businessmen taking risks with the lives of ordinary people or government bureaucrats to be actually heroic. In ‘Atlas Shrugged’, the heroic Nat Taggart “murdered a state legislator who attempted to revoke a charter granted to him” and (ho, ho) “he had no trouble with legislators from then on.” And that’s not all: “He threw down three flights of stairs a distinguished gentleman who offered him a loan from the government.” Anybody who tries to impose regulations to protect ordinary workers is “a louse”. This is partly because she really does seem to see the rich as more deserving of life than the poor. She refers to the rich as “really alive”, while ordinary people are described variously as “savages”, “refuse”, “inanimate objects”, “imitations of living beings”. Who cares if the Ubermenschen take risks with these creatures? Who needs regulation?
The Nazis found the dehumanizing Jews made it easier to kill them; dehumanizing others is often the first step in their elimination:
Indeed, her contempt for ordinary people extends so far that when a railway worker in ‘Atlas Shrugged’ decides to punish the wicked socialist government by making a train crash happen, Rand implies the passengers had it coming. She runs through the politics of the train crash victims, implying they were accessories to the socialist government that is being justly punished: “The man in Bedroom A, Car No One, was a professor of sociology who taught that individual ability is of no consequence, that everything is achieved collectively, that it’s the masses that count, not men… The woman in Roomette 10, Car No 3, was an elderly school teacher who who spent her life turning class after class of helpless schoolchildren into miserable cowards, by teaching them that the will of the majority is the only standard of good and evil, that they must not assert their personalities, but do as others were doing.” And so endlessly on, through over a dozen deserving victims. “There was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas,” she notes – so let them burn.
[I]n the end what Ms. Rand describes are aliens. They are not honestly human. The "bad guys" are so relentlessly incompetent and wrong in every choice. The heroes, despite their insistent on the rational/objective/concrete, experience an almost psychic bond symptomized with heart palpitations, swooning, a reeling of the mind; very romantic, this idealist meets idealist. [...]
I'm afraid her recommendations of no government oversight work only with CHARACTERS, not people. She can recommend no governing body for these paperdolls because they are firmly in her control. She can suggest no laws regarding commerce, because as the author, SHE herself is the law guiding her heroes to ethical business transactions.
Perhaps Rand and her followers have never realized this because they don't realize that real people aren't characters — their ideas about human beings are more caricatures than real-life understandings about how real-life people work.