by Michael Nachbar | The Party must adopt values of America's greatest thinker.
“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose--because it contains all the others--the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.”
An immigrant from Communist Russia, Ayn Rand expressed in her novels and essays the ideals that made America the world’s greatest nation. She praised the selfish desires and virtues of the individual and sharply criticized the notion that they should be subjugated for the “greater good.” This philosophy, Objectivism, fell in line with the historical American narrative of pioneers who set off for a mysterious land, risking starvation for the freedom to own their own land and live with their own religion and values. Though not embraced by the popular media, Rand’s teachings represent the beliefs of many Americans, and the Republican Party would be wise to adhere more closely to the principles she espoused.
Randians have reason to grieve the direction of America. More and more frequently, Americans’ belief in self-reliance is being replaced by a sense of entitlement. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness no longer suffice—Americans now demand the right to health care, a cushy retirement, and a comfortable standard of living. Many Americans do not believe that they need to work to earn these things, but that they should be given them by virtue of simply being born in such a wealthy country. Rand celebrated wealthy individuals, and the creativity, energy, and efficiency needed to create wealth. She recognized that the innovators set America’s economy apart from other nations’, and created the fantastic standard of living to which all Americans enjoy access.
In her novel Atlas Shrugged, America’s best workers, tired of being taxed and regulated for the sake of less able workers, decide to go on strike and stop contributing to the American economy, causing it to break down. Though an extreme example, it provides an important lesson about the structure of American society. As Democrats continue to demand higher taxes on the rich to “spread the wealth around” and fund socialized health care, rationalizing that it is unfair for the rich to pay fewer taxes while the poor suffer, Americans should remember that entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Pierre Omidyar are responsible for the innovations that set America apart from other nations. The greatest periods of prosperity for Americans occurred in eras such as the 1920’s and 1990’s in which the richest Americans saw exorbitant gains but a majority shared in the boom. Too many Americans forget this during recessions, losing faith in the free market and advocating a protectionist, socialist agenda that sacrifices long-term growth for the mirage of stability. A glance at France, whose massive welfare state and restrictions on layoffs have led to a stagnant economy with unemployment approaching double digits should warn people of the folly of abandoning the free market. Republicans have historically supported the economic policies most conducive to growth, and must remain steadfast in their principles, rather than swaying with shifts in public opinion that are as volatile as the market itself.
To support the free market, however, poorly run businesses must be allowed to fail, regardless of the short-term consequences for the economy. The bailouts that have occurred this year should infuriate Randians. The concept of taking money from hard-working Americans to subsidize the irresponsible business practices of failing enterprises contradicts every free-market notion Rand preached and that Republicans claim to uphold. A majority of Republican congressmen sided with their principles and their constituents voting down the bill, but the party’s leadership allowed itself to be swayed by fear mongering about the possibility of another Great Depression. Two months later, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has announced that none of the $700 billion in bailout money will actually purchase troubled assets as planned, banks coerced to take government loans by favorable terms have used them to pad their dividends, companies from American Express to General Motors are staking their claim to a handout, and the stock market remains in the tank. Had the Republicans clung to their free-market principles, they could have scored a major political victory, attracting Americans who did not want their tax dollars to fund a blank check to failing Wall Street institutes. Instead, they hedged their bets and half-heartedly supported the measure, selling out laissez-faire principles while still appearing in the pocket of big business.
One of McCain’s most significant advantages of the election came in the form of “Joe the Plumber,” who articulated the anti-capitalist slant of Obama’s increased taxes on the rich. Though McCain failed to further this argument in his own words, it resonated with American people. While liberals will push for our economy to become more similar to France’s and Germany’s, most Americans recognize that free markets provide the prosperity that has increased the quality of life of so many citizens. When recessionary fears cause Americans to doubt laissez-faire economics, Republicans must continue to support the effective, profit-driven capitalism that has made America the nation it is.
Mr. Nachbar is a senior majoring in Quantitative Economics.