Ayn Rand Got Government Money, and the Tea Party Should Therefore Fold…?
January 29, 2011 11 Comments
Alas, another human being flawed! Another hypocrisy to rip with edgy ad hominem knives, and then zip away to new targets! Ayn Rand obtained social security and Medicare payments after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Oh the delicious irony of it! And (putting to one side the horrible misery of lung cancer), oh the delightful opportunity to flay the Tea Party.
Here’s what boingboing.net posted:
Noted speed freak, serial-killer fangirl, and Tea Party hero Ayn Rand was also a kleptoparasite, sneakily gobbling up taxpayer funds under an assumed name to pay for her medical treatments after she got lung cancer.
An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand’s law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand’s behalf she secured Rand’s Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O’Connor (husband Frank O’Connor).
As Pryor said, “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out” without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn “despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently… She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”
But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so.
Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. That’s rich.
Sorry, again, to be the killjoy, because I know how much fun these “gotcha” moments can be. But I have several problems with this post. It’s an emblem of the breezy decline of political discourse on so many levels.
First, please weigh in with facts about Rand’s writings, fictional or otherwise, but I’m not aware of anywhere where she said it’s wrong ever to accept government money pursuant to a program to which you validly qualify. Certainly concerning social security and Medicare — to which one has paid directly throughout one’s employed life –getting the benefit back of one’s own money to which one has paid one’s own money, after getting lung cancer, might not be so hypocritical.
Second, I haven’t studied Ayn Rand’s biography, but I’m certainly open to the proposition that she could be remarkably unpleasant. And her unpleasantness, whatever forms it may have taken, had exactly what to do with what? Mahatma Gandhi had this to say at an early point in his life: “We believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do. … We believe also that the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race.” What the man nevertheless accomplished was profound and inspiring. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and may have fathered a child from one of them. I do not, and Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly did not, discredit the Declaration of Independence as a consequence. Human beings are deeply flawed, and nevertheless capable of greatness.
Third, the point of the boingboing post is plainly to say the asserted “Tea Party hero,” and the Tea Party by extension, is hypocritical — and therefore, what? Even if Ayn Rand were hypocritical, and even if Ayn Rand mattered in some iconic way to most Tea Party members — how would that differentiate the Tea Party from every movement and revolution in history, including the American Revolution, with its “hypocritical” founding fathers speaking of equality? Confront the Tea Party on the merits — but do not assume that it’s intelligent engagement simply to slam a long-dead woman on false grounds whom you insist, with a single picture of a sign, must represent the Tea Party. That’s not disagreeing with the Tea Party. That’s adolescent “gotcha” politics on an embarrassingly flimsy basis.
Fourth, there is a deep confusion in our political dialogue between hammering the person who speaks and believing the speech itself has been successfully hammered. Boingboing’s lustiest ad hominem — “serial killer fangirl” — is a perfect case in point of repugnant ad hominem politics.
“Serial killer fangirl” refers to a 1928 Ayn Rand journal entry, where she quoted the statement, “What is good for me is right,” from William Edward Hickman, and then wrote: “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard.” William Edward Hickman was a particularly grisly serial murderer.
The essay purporting to condemn Ayn Rand for this 23-year-old horror, concludes, “it seems to me that Ayn Rand’s uncritical admiration of a personality this twisted does not speak particularly well for her ability to judge and evaluate the heroic qualities in people.” Really? Possible, isn’t it, that Rand didn’t actually admire Hickman at all, much less “uncritically”? Possible, isn’t it, that Rand seized upon a line at age 23 that appealed to her, a line, not a man? Possible, isn’t it, that Rand wasn’t actually a “fangirl” of “serial killer” William Edward Hickman?
Fifth, what has any of this to do, really, with the basic proposition of limited government? Are we to conclude that Ayn Rand accepted certain government benefits, therefore government benefits are good? Are we to conclude that Ayn Rand accepted certain government benefits, therefore skepticism about big government is bad?
No, we continue to debate, on the merits, the proper role of government, and how to pay for it, without recourse to sideshows about the personal lives of people who may have contributed to the debate.