Since Alan Greenspan is now selling a book, his publicity crank
is turning fast and hard and his face is everywhere, a friendly
old mask as inscrutable as the syntax he was fond of throwing out
at the American public during his years as head of the Federal
The trouble with the way the media is now handling Alan Greenspan
is that commentators criticize his inconsistencies in economics
and politics without any apparent understanding that his supposed
inconsistencies are not inconsistent at all if you look at where Mr.
Greenspan is coming from.
Alan Greenspan (like the economist Milton Friedman) was one of
the original worshipers of Ayn Rand, and Mr. Greenspan has always
stated (and states again in his new book) that Ayn Rand was one
of the great intellectual and personal influences of his life.
It's therefore not a surprise that looking at Alan Greenspan's
political life as an economist and government official through
the lens of Ayn Rand's beliefs shows us there's really nothing
inconsistent about Alan Greenspan's supposed inconsistencies.
So who was Ayn Rand and what did she say and believe that's
Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was a Russian immigrant who arrived in this
country in 1926. After living briefly in New York and Chicago,
she moved to Hollywood to become a screenwriter. She met the
famed director Cecil B. DeMille, and he gave her a job as a movie
extra and then as a script reader. She also worked in the costume
department at RKO Studios. During the 1930s, Rand wrote
screenplays, novels, and stage plays, none of which had any
commercial success. Then, in 1943, her novel The Fountainhead was
published, and it soon became a bestseller and made Rand
Although she had no formal university training in economics,
politics, or philosophy, Rand had a strong political and
philosophical bent, and she infused her ideas (called
"Objectivism") into her fiction, especially in the novel Atlas
Shrugged (1957), an immediate bestseller.
Rand's fundamental philosophical idea of great relevance in
understanding the people who were and are her disciples is simply
stated: according to Ayn Rand, the moral purpose of any
individual's life is his own happiness.
Rand believed that the only moral social system is laissez-faire
capitalism -- the complete absence of any regulation of
According to Rand, "For a woman qua woman, the essence of
femininity is hero-worship - the desire to look up to man." She
believed that women are not psychologically suited to be
President and strongly opposed the modern feminist movement.
Rand's personal view was that homosexuality is "immoral" and
Rand defended the right of businesses to discriminate on the
basis of sexual orientation, race, or any other criteria.
Rand opposed the idea that charity is a moral duty, and she did
not consider charity a major virtue. She opposed all charity and
social programs by the government.
The general ideas of Ayn Rand about how people should behave as
individuals were put down in her 1964 nonfiction book, The Virtue
A rationalized individual selfishness is the fundamental creed of
Objectivism, and apparently the intellectual engine that has been
driving Alan Greenspan throughout his public and private life.
Alan Greenspan has been called inconsistent and murky by the
media, but after a close look at Ayn Rand, his professed
intellectual source, the murkiness vanishes and the
inconsistencies become recognized as a pattern.
Nothing surprising. It's unfortunate that the media is missing
the boat to understanding Alan Greenspan.