The Capitalist As Heroic Ideal In Randian Thought


One of the most outstanding promulgators of Randian thought was Nathaniel Branden. This was, of course, before his break with Rand’s cultish following. In his essay Common Fallacies About Capitalism, Branden writes that… “since the start of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism, wage rates have risen steadily as an inevitable consequence of rising capital accumulation, technological progress, and industrial expansion.”


Notice: he doesn’t say anything about the millions of people working together, generation after generation, sacrificing uncountable life-hours to MAKE such an economy possible– people sacrificing blood, sweat, and tears, oh-the-tears.  No. Not a whisper, not a phrase concerning these inestimiable contributions. Why?


Because Randians see the Capitalist as their Heroic Ideal. When they look at leading businessmen, they do not see greedy, one-dimensional cut-throats throwing anyone they can overboard so they can dominate more of the ship (a ship, it is worth mentioning, built by the whole community, and over numerous generations). They see in a Capitalist a thing of beauty, a sublime beast and rightful king of the jungle.


When Branden gushes that “the market is ruled by a single moral principle:  Justice”– he actually believes it.  As if justice has anything to do with the price of tea in China.


When Rand contends that progress comes only from “the creative overabundance” of men of genius and ability… she evidently does not consider as worth-mentioning all the individual surpluses of product produced by each worker, surpluses which sum to the total value-added to the raw materials turned into final products. Nor does she mention how the men of genius and ability at the top of the economic hierarchy siphon their profits precisely from that difference between what the workers are presented and what they turn out. No, she credits the results of an entire network of production to one man with a penthouse view.


In reality, the production of even the simplest goods can require, and in a sense contain, the work of thousands of people– from the design and supply of the mining equipment, to the mining of the raw materials, to the transportation of the materials, to the factory’s recombining and reworking of the materials, to the farther transportation, to the stockers, to the salesmen, to the people building the stores and communities allowing for shoppers… hell, I’ll stop there, for the chain of teamwork not only extends indefinitely through the world, but it goes back in time, to the first trail-blazers and ship builders and community leaders– all those who in big and small ways made the present-day market possible.


When Branden disparages the productivity of the worker and instead gives all credit for productive capacity to “the tools and machines with which he works,” we suspect that he honestly believes that each invention is the work of a single man– or at most a team. Whereas truly, behind every invention there are a thousand preliminary discoveries and inventions, and most of those were made possible by the common action of a whole community of people striving day in and day out to keep their community healthy and honest and safe and with a minimum of drudgery so that individuals CAN have access to the time and materials they need in order work on their inventions and pursue their dreams.  Or maybe just write a blog after a hard day’s work.


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