Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ayn Rand answers Barack Obama – again

It’s been 55 years since Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged – and yet the 1957 epic seems to have anticipated every argument that Barack Obama is using in the presidential campaign of 2012. Which just goes to show how stale his arguments are.

Ayn Rand, Barack Obama
Photo sources: Wikipedia, White House

Rand’s answer to “You didn’t build that” has already been making the rounds of the Internet. Now the president has brought Robin Hood into the debate, accusing “Romney Hood” of reversing the usual formula by stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. There was a character in Atlas Shrugged who did exactly that. The pirate Ragnar Danneskjöld become the terror of the seas by capturing government aid ships. Here’s what Danneskjöld had to say about Robin Hood in a conversation with steel magnate Hank Rearden:

        “I’m after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men’s minds, we will not have a decent world to live in.”
        “What man?”
        “Robin Hood.”
        Rearden looked at him blankly, not understanding.
        “He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I’m the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich—or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.”
        “What in blazes do you mean?…”
        “It is said that [Robin Hood] fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. He became a justification for every mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, has demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters.”

A “mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, has demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters?” And to think Rand never even met Obama.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

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