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The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis

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Tracing the emergence of Ayn Rands philosophy of objectivism in the 1940s to her present-day influence, Darryl Cunninghams latest work of graphic-nonfiction investigation leads readers to the heart of the global financial crisis of 2008. Cunningham uses Rands biography to illuminate the policies that led to the economic crash in the U.S. and in Europe, and how her Tracing the emergence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism in the 1940s to her present-day influence, Darryl Cunningham’s latest work of graphic-nonfiction investigation leads readers to the heart of the global financial crisis of 2008. Cunningham uses Rand’s biography to illuminate the policies that led to the economic crash in the U.S. and in Europe, and how her philosophy continues to affect today’s politics and policies, starting with her most noted disciple, economist Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve). Cunningham also shows how right-wing conservatives, libertarians, and the Tea Party movement have co-opted Rand’s teachings (and inherent contradictions) to promote personal gain and profit at the expense of the middle class. Tackling the complexities of economics by distilling them down to a series of concepts accessible to all age groups, Cunningham ultimately delivers a devastating analysis of our current economic world.


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Tracing the emergence of Ayn Rands philosophy of objectivism in the 1940s to her present-day influence, Darryl Cunninghams latest work of graphic-nonfiction investigation leads readers to the heart of the global financial crisis of 2008. Cunningham uses Rands biography to illuminate the policies that led to the economic crash in the U.S. and in Europe, and how her Tracing the emergence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism in the 1940s to her present-day influence, Darryl Cunningham’s latest work of graphic-nonfiction investigation leads readers to the heart of the global financial crisis of 2008. Cunningham uses Rand’s biography to illuminate the policies that led to the economic crash in the U.S. and in Europe, and how her philosophy continues to affect today’s politics and policies, starting with her most noted disciple, economist Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve). Cunningham also shows how right-wing conservatives, libertarians, and the Tea Party movement have co-opted Rand’s teachings (and inherent contradictions) to promote personal gain and profit at the expense of the middle class. Tackling the complexities of economics by distilling them down to a series of concepts accessible to all age groups, Cunningham ultimately delivers a devastating analysis of our current economic world.

30 review for The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    My high rating of this book partially reflects the fact that I agree with it. Somewhere down the line we, as a society, became so profit obsessed that we turned a blind eye to the fact we were building a financial house of cards. The book lays the blame on the criminals; those who perpetrated fraud by passing off stinky junk debt as secure, mortgaged-backed investments. The truth is the crime was systemic and we all, lefties and righties alike, allowed it to happen. I like the way the book My high rating of this book partially reflects the fact that I agree with it. Somewhere down the line we, as a society, became so profit obsessed that we turned a blind eye to the fact we were building a financial house of cards. The book lays the blame on the criminals; those who perpetrated fraud by passing off stinky junk debt as secure, mortgaged-backed investments. The truth is the crime was systemic and we all, lefties and righties alike, allowed it to happen. I like the way the book explains complicated financial stuff like collaterized debt obligations in an understandable way. I also like the focus on the psychological characteristics of conservatives and liberals, which, while certainly more approving of liberalism, does attempt to humanize the right instead of simply demonizing them. This is where Ayn Rand, the voice of unfettered capitalism, comes in. The book exposes the flaws in Rand's worldview, but it also shows her in a somewhat sympathetic way. She was shaped by her environment after all - even though she would have denied that. I would hope many people will read this book. It shows the importance of having regulation in our financial institutions, but also the importance of having kindness in our hearts.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    I especially enjoyed the first two sections and wasn't familiar with Rand's biography. It explains a lot and helps explain Greenspan's role in setting up the 2008 crash described in the second section. I was also surprised at how much the art added to the story. I felt the third section lost focus and fell into a false equivalence trap when it tried to describe the positive side of the conservative mindset. In the end, the third section in particular is clearly written from a certain political I especially enjoyed the first two sections and wasn't familiar with Rand's biography. It explains a lot and helps explain Greenspan's role in setting up the 2008 crash described in the second section. I was also surprised at how much the art added to the story. I felt the third section lost focus and fell into a false equivalence trap when it tried to describe the positive side of the conservative mindset. In the end, the third section in particular is clearly written from a certain political perspective (one that I happen to be sympathetic with), but fumbles when it tries to pretend that it's not. On the other hand, the attempt to come to a sympathetic understanding how the mind of a conservative works is admirable (and typical of a liberal--a real conservative would never go to the trouble).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Ouch! So the book I read before starting this one was a collection of LOLcat memes. I think I got mental whiplash. This is an excellent book! It begins with Ayn Rand and her disciples, and ultimately takes us through deregulation all the way up to Obamacare and beyond. Cunningham lays everything out with elegant simplicity. This is some of the most easy-to-follow economics I've ever read, not that I've had a wide experience reading such. I admire his ability to talk politics without belittling Ouch! So the book I read before starting this one was a collection of LOLcat memes. I think I got mental whiplash. This is an excellent book! It begins with Ayn Rand and her disciples, and ultimately takes us through deregulation all the way up to Obamacare and beyond. Cunningham lays everything out with elegant simplicity. This is some of the most easy-to-follow economics I've ever read, not that I've had a wide experience reading such. I admire his ability to talk politics without belittling the side he's arguing against. Indeed, one of my favorite parts of the book is his discussion of the differences between liberal and conservative mindsets, and the strengths of each. This is definitely a book worth reading.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    A fantastic book--the artwork complements the text perfectly, in that in this case, it enhances the subject rather than detracting from the prose. Because the history of Ayn Rand and her Objectivism, especially in connection with U.S. (and world--author is English and connects the dots between this predatory capitalism and UKIP), this is more relevant than ever, which is depressing since this book was written a few years ago. It's not a huge revelation the hypocrisy behind a lot of what Ayn A fantastic book--the artwork complements the text perfectly, in that in this case, it enhances the subject rather than detracting from the prose. Because the history of Ayn Rand and her Objectivism, especially in connection with U.S. (and world--author is English and connects the dots between this predatory capitalism and UKIP), this is more relevant than ever, which is depressing since this book was written a few years ago. It's not a huge revelation the hypocrisy behind a lot of what Ayn Rand wrote--the amount of help and loans she got in America, how she died friendless and in denial on Social Security, her demand for her acolytes' total obedience (it did feel like a cult), and her positions on a number of things (anti-draft, anti-Vietnam War, pro-choice, atheist, anti-Native American, anti-feminism) . When Atlas Shrugged came out, it flopped. Even conservative National Review's take on it: "From almost any page of "Atlas Shrugged," a voice can be heard commanding 'to a gas chamber--GO!'" Now of course, people read her books over and over and long for the Galtian life of isolated splendor I guess over the parasites--I personally found Atlas Shrugged both dull and mean spirited with a random romance shoehorned in and it's firmly in the column of "What is all the fuss about?" along with a lot of other books and movies. for me But Ayn Rand, you have to hand it to her, is still poisonously influential (Cunningham does a good job though of making you feel a little sorry for her)--through her "constant," Alan Greenspan and now newer fans Paul Ryan and the Koch Brothers. And here I was very happy this was a graphic novel, because it did help to illustrate just exactly what mortgage tranches are and Credit Default Swaps and just how the deregulation of the banking industry, paired with lax and basically complicit enforcement, has led to the economic state we are in now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brandi

    I won a copy of Darryl Cunningham's "The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis" from the Goodreads.com website. As a political moderate (AKA - I don't trust ANY politician), I can definitely see the flaws in objectivist thinking as well as the negative impact it has on modern society. I believe the author could have taken it one step further, though. Many people promote objectivism at the expense of the middle class, yet others take it further by promoting objectivism I won a copy of Darryl Cunningham's "The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis" from the Goodreads.com website. As a political moderate (AKA - I don't trust ANY politician), I can definitely see the flaws in objectivist thinking as well as the negative impact it has on modern society. I believe the author could have taken it one step further, though. Many people promote objectivism at the expense of the middle class, yet others take it further by promoting objectivism over all lower classes, children, the environment and public safety. Some people (regardless of political views) have no qualms who they step on just so they can have more.... Overall, regardless of political viewpoint, I see no merit to objectivist thinking. I would recommend this book to those unfamiliar with the concept of objectivism as well as those unfamiliar with Ayn Rand's other philosophies and their effect on society. The book is well-constructed and attractive and would also make a fine addition to a reference library.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ishita

    I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of this graphic novel - Cunningham makes a convincing argument showing the influence of Ayn Rand and her disciples in fomenting what became the financial crisis. His illustrations make the complexities of derivatives and CDOs easy to understand, and provide a depth often inaccessible with just words. However, the third section on the "Age of Selfishness" was reductive in its analysis, and fell back on stereotypes on how liberals are "creative" and I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of this graphic novel - Cunningham makes a convincing argument showing the influence of Ayn Rand and her disciples in fomenting what became the financial crisis. His illustrations make the complexities of derivatives and CDOs easy to understand, and provide a depth often inaccessible with just words. However, the third section on the "Age of Selfishness" was reductive in its analysis, and fell back on stereotypes on how liberals are "creative" and conservatives "organized", weakening the impact of the argument Cunningham had built. Still, an enjoyable and informative read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John of Canada

    Leave your critical faculties at the door,Darryl Cunningham will do your thinking for you.Just reading the preface and introduction is evidence that the book is a hatchet job.Simplistic invented conversations,talking buildings,"research"galore although Darryl never identifies where it came from.Oh!There are widely accepted scales by psychologists,yes psychologists,to explain his views.Darryl just wants us to trust him. The part on the Crash wasn't bad,which is why this gets 2 stars.Reading Leave your critical faculties at the door,Darryl Cunningham will do your thinking for you.Just reading the preface and introduction is evidence that the book is a hatchet job.Simplistic invented conversations,talking buildings,"research"galore although Darryl never identifies where it came from.Oh!There are widely accepted scales by psychologists,yes psychologists,to explain his views.Darryl just wants us to trust him. The part on the Crash wasn't bad,which is why this gets 2 stars.Reading Michael Lewis would be a better idea.Also there were the usual shots at Ann Coulter,Fox News and the drawings of Ayn Rand were very unflattering.I am awarding myself 5 stars for finishing this and not flinging it in the fireplace.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emilia P

    A crisp, biting bio of Rand, an excellent explanation of the origins of the global financial crisis of 2008, and a HORRIBLE attempt to tie them together with a laundry list of "liberals are this way, conservatives are this way" that did not deliver a convincing argument, own up to its bias, or convince me I should oppose a Randian conservativism (even though I am SUPER-anti-objectivist! Yeesh!). Plus the illustrations are great in themselves, but become superfluous and repetitive as the book A crisp, biting bio of Rand, an excellent explanation of the origins of the global financial crisis of 2008, and a HORRIBLE attempt to tie them together with a laundry list of "liberals are this way, conservatives are this way" that did not deliver a convincing argument, own up to its bias, or convince me I should oppose a Randian conservativism (even though I am SUPER-anti-objectivist! Yeesh!). Plus the illustrations are great in themselves, but become superfluous and repetitive as the book plods along. It's too bad, because I'm basically on Cunningham's side, and, well, this doesn't do us many favors.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I learned a lot about Ayn Rand from this book. I also learned a lot about finance and financial markets. The book almost makes me want to re-read Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead- almost! The artwork is great and makes optimum use the limited color palette.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    The Age of Selfishness is a graphic novel that illustrates (of all things) the life of Ayn Rand, her influence on acolytes like Alan Greenspan, the rise of deregulation and free market fundamentalism and the economic collapse of 2008. The book is illustrated with simple, angular line drawings and connects the dots between Rands philosophy of objectivism and the morally bankrupt, short-sighted, winner-take-all mentality that nearly destroyed the global economy. Rand possessed the personality of a The Age of Selfishness is a graphic novel that illustrates (of all things) the life of Ayn Rand, her influence on acolytes like Alan Greenspan, the rise of deregulation and free market fundamentalism and the economic collapse of 2008. The book is illustrated with simple, angular line drawings and connects the dots between Rand’s philosophy of objectivism and the morally bankrupt, short-sighted, winner-take-all mentality that nearly destroyed the global economy. Rand possessed the personality of a cult leader and created an insular environment where she was able to foment her ideas without risk of dissent. This is the only environment in which objectivism could ever be taken seriously, since it fails to hold up to the mildest scrutiny (it’s telling that no modern scholars give credence to her ideas). The obvious flaw in Rand’s dime-store philosophy is routed in human nature. “Enlightened self-interest” always degenerates into corrupt, sociopathic, insatiable greed unless checked by a higher power (usually the state, in the form of laws, a mechanism of enforcement and the criminal justice system). This explains why ‘small government’ is so important to right-wing Randian ideologues. While they may frame their arguments in terms of increased personal liberty that would be achieved by reducing governmental ‘interference’. Their true, blatantly transparent aim is simply to remove every obstacle that seeks to restrain their inexhaustible avarice. Rand’s stunted world-view is embodied in Gordon Gekko (i.e. “greed is good”) and is the practical equivalent of the moral philosophy of a 2-year old who is incapable of thinking beyond their own selfish desires. Although libertarianism is childishly impractical (which, of course, is why no government founded on libertarian principles has ever existed, anywhere in the world, at any time in history) some of its precepts have taken hold in the minds of small-government, free-market fetishists who push for deregulation and an end to corporate transparency and regulatory oversight. When bad ideas are put into practice, tragedy and failure inevitably result … and of course that is exactly what occurred in 2008 (the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression of 1929). Alan Greenspan has been quoted as saying, "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms." Of course, this ‘mistake’ was obvious to many economists who warned of the destabilizing effects that deregulation would have on the economy. Taking stock of Greenspan’s little error: - The financial crisis cost the U.S. an estimated $648 billion due to slower economic growth. - Government spending to mitigate the damage cost taxpayers $73 billion. - The U.S. lost $3.4 trillion in real estate wealth from July 2008 to March 2009. - The U.S. lost $7.4 trillion in stock wealth from July 2008 to March 2009. - 5.5 million American jobs were lost due to slower economic growth. {* Analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts} Mistakes occur when decisions are based on ideological grounds instead of facts and evidence. However, in a world where bad ideas exist in abundance, there are few ideologies so tragically flawed as to create consequences of the magnitude summarized above. Randianism just happens to be one of them. Though I’m not a graphic novel fan I found The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis to be a fascinating little book that does a great job explaining the 2008 economic crisis for those that have a few hours to spare.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Very well-done, clear and concise explanation of the financial catastrophe that culminated with the economic meltdown of 2008, and its roots in Rand's philosophy of Objectivism - which is (very simplistically) a belief in hands-off capitalism and individual rights at the expense of all else, and everyone else. Alan Greenspan was a disciple, and so are the Tea Partiers, the Libertarians, and the right-wing conservatives, which makes the current fad for promoting personal gain at the expense of Very well-done, clear and concise explanation of the financial catastrophe that culminated with the economic meltdown of 2008, and its roots in Rand's philosophy of Objectivism - which is (very simplistically) a belief in hands-off capitalism and individual rights at the expense of all else, and everyone else. Alan Greenspan was a disciple, and so are the Tea Partiers, the Libertarians, and the right-wing conservatives, which makes the current fad for promoting personal gain at the expense of everyone who isn't rich and powerful suddenly make a lot more sense. The artwork in this graphic novel is deceptively simple and very powerful, and after reading it I actually understand what happened and how it happened when the financial markets collapsed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Page

    A well-researched graphic work that links Rand to the financial meltdown of '08. The back is full of citations, so you have a reasonable assumption that while Cunningham's opinions are present in the book (this is not a straight report), that they are well-researched. The drawing style is very simplistic, and I wondered about the benefit of that (aside from the usual "this book is long, so I made simple drawings so I could actually finish it" argument).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Bartsch

    This is an excellent and nicely simplified assessment of how our country got into its current shambles. I highly recommend reading it, and also recommend slyly leaving it out somewhere where your conservative uncle/parent/grandparent/friend might stumble upon it. This book should be required reading for high schoolers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maxine CD

    The three chapters, which are on three distantly related topics, are interwoven perfectly. Ayn Rand's influence on Alan Greenspan and the economic policies that followed demonstrate the extent to which selfishness has been taken up, as a guiding virtue in the economic system. This helps explain the mechanics behind the 2008 financial crisis, discussed in part two of the graphic novel. I loved this section because I have struggled so much to understand how the crisis occurred and it was able to The three chapters, which are on three distantly related topics, are interwoven perfectly. Ayn Rand's influence on Alan Greenspan and the economic policies that followed demonstrate the extent to which selfishness has been taken up, as a guiding virtue in the economic system. This helps explain the mechanics behind the 2008 financial crisis, discussed in part two of the graphic novel. I loved this section because I have struggled so much to understand how the crisis occurred and it was able to explain a lot of the structural flaws in the American banking system that led to it. However, as someone who has absolutely no knowledge of economics I still found some concepts very difficult to understand.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    When I think of Ayn Rand devotees, what jumps to mind are people who pretend to be far richer than they actually are and who attempt to find philosophical meaning in cheating on their spouses. This book is divided into three sections: a biography of Rand herself, an examination of the factors leading to the 21st-century financial crisis/housing collapse, and an examination of the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. The illustrations are the weakest link in this book. When I think of Ayn Rand devotees, what jumps to mind are people who pretend to be far richer than they actually are and who attempt to find philosophical meaning in cheating on their spouses. This book is divided into three sections: a biography of Rand herself, an examination of the factors leading to the 21st-century financial crisis/housing collapse, and an examination of the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. The illustrations are the weakest link in this book. Seriously, they are bad. The people tended to be squarish doodles with no sense of form or perspective. Rand was what one may have expected: a tyrannical narcissist. The financial crisis, despite being explained in an elementary fashion, is still difficult to grasp, like most concepts in economics. The psychological look at liberals and conservatives was most interesting to me, if oversimplified. Surprisingly, research indicates that political leanings actually develop in childhood, long before a child has much concept of politics. Children who prefer rules and order tend to grow into conservatives, whereas those with a more free-form, less structured approach tend toward liberalism. I remember observing this in my own art classes in elementary school. (Art was always my favorite and best subject.) Some kids would make their art project exactly like the teacher's example with no deviation. Others would follow the basic idea, but would add their own creative touches, to which the more conservative kids would usually respond with "I'm telling." I can't tell you how many times I got "told on" for doing things like perching a bee on a pilgrim's shoulder or making cats in clown costumes instead of straight-up clowns. P.S. My husband (who wasn't wearing his glasses at the time) glanced at the cover of this book and asked me why I was reading a book about "selfies." I'm thinking that the current obsession with selfies is just another example of our selfishness!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Austin Storm

    What a great idea for a comic book. Ayn Rand is already a larger-than-life villain, seemingly directly motivated by trauma she experienced early in life and completely uncompromising in her advocacy of 'selfishness'. The book is divided into three parts. The first is a biography of Rand, which does a decent job of condensing things. The second is an overview of the 2008 financial collapse, which is also great. Where things fall apart is in the third section, which attempts to be balanced in its What a great idea for a comic book. Ayn Rand is already a larger-than-life villain, seemingly directly motivated by trauma she experienced early in life and completely uncompromising in her advocacy of 'selfishness'. The book is divided into three parts. The first is a biography of Rand, which does a decent job of condensing things. The second is an overview of the 2008 financial collapse, which is also great. Where things fall apart is in the third section, which attempts to be balanced in its presentation of the differences between liberals and conservatives, but feels forced and odd - like he's trying to assure us that he really understands conservatives so that he can lay the blame for the entire financial crisis at their feet. It's frustrating because there are so many great contradictions in the life of Rand - her fierce advocacy for abortion (in the name of self-interest, of course) and her denunciation of feminism. And in the financial crisis - the selfishness of bankers, and the selfish entitlement of the 'American dream' of home ownership. But the author is ultimately too ideological to get beyond white hats and black hats. Finding ideology in your comics is like getting unsweetened shredded wheat as your breakfast cereal. The worst part of the book, unfortunately, is the format. This didn't need to be a comic book. Apart from a few standout moments, it's just narration. The compositions are all the same, and are very flat. I wasn't expecting the comic version of the 9/11 commission report, but this could've been so much better. I get the need to be reductionistic, but there's so much pathos in the life of Rand. This attempts to get at it in a few places (her husband's marginalization) in a Chris Ware-esque way, but it's unsuccessful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Well, it probably won't sway any Tea Party sympathizers, but an old liberal like me found Cunningham's book presents its facts in a clear manner, explains the vagaries of banking scams clearly and examines the psychological differences between liberal and conservative mindsets in a fairly even-minded way. The art isn't anything to write home about, but it's clear and conveys the necessary information.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    A great investigation of Ayn Rand's life and ideas, how they influenced a lot of today's society, and the negative consequences of that. Well-researched and very thorough. The last chapter suffers a bit when the author goes out of his way to try to seem "balanced", but it doesn't compromise the whole. A great read!

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Purcell

    A necessary reminder of the need to pull together to protect the values and rights many of us hold dear. Clear, concise and informative, The Age of Selfishness is a book the young need to read, the old need to read and the bastards need to read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    This is a highly-accessible, cause and effect explanation of the global financial catastrophe of 2008. I enjoyed the research shared in the third part of the book on ways in which liberals and conservatives are different. I highly recommend this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    My review of this book is now up at The Comics Journal: http://bit.ly/1KzN4Hd

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Vpactionranger

    Clarifying, but depressing. It's nice to see a description of the housing bubble crisis that is understandable to the average schmoe.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    Excellent overview of Ayn Rand and her influence on (in particular) economic policy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Anything that skewers Ayn Rand is a great book. I can't stand that self-centred bitch

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carol Tilley

    Readable, informative, insightful! Cunningham does a splendid job of dissecting the current neoliberal / libertarian / Tea Party economics rhetoric and its consequences.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Webcowgirl

    A brilliant expose of the rottenness at the heart of her philosophy and the international capitalist conspiracy of greed.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Michael Goodwin describes the fiction of Ayn Rand as "cartoonish," and Cunningham shows this is quite apt. It's pure fantasy that a court, at least in Rand's time, would have dismissed the charges against Howard Roarke. Perhaps now, if he were rich enough, they would have. Cunningham makes Rand a pathetic figure, duped by her dishonest mother into giving away her toys on the false promise that they would be returned to her, kind of like when Congress, under the influence of Rand, took away Michael Goodwin describes the fiction of Ayn Rand as "cartoonish," and Cunningham shows this is quite apt. It's pure fantasy that a court, at least in Rand's time, would have dismissed the charges against Howard Roarke. Perhaps now, if he were rich enough, they would have. Cunningham makes Rand a pathetic figure, duped by her dishonest mother into giving away her toys on the false promise that they would be returned to her, kind of like when Congress, under the influence of Rand, took away people's social security to give it to billionaires. Rand claims, "No one helped me, nor did I think it was anyone's duty to help me" (9), but Rand was lying through her teeth. She was helped by many people during those early years. She stayed with her relatives in Chicago for six months. She failed to repay, or even offer to repay, small loans given to her. The family, through their connection with a film distributor, managed to supply Rand with a letter of introduction to the DeMille organization in Hollywood. They also paid for her train fare to California and initial living expenses. None of this help was acknowledged by Rand in her later years. (9-10) Ecven though a script reader accurately found her stories "far fetched" and characters "not human enough," DeMille, having met Rand and cast her as an extra, hired her anyway (12), and she wrote and was paid for an unproduced screenplay called Red Pawn (12-13). Talk about privilege! She wrote crap no one wanted to produce and got paid for it, all because of a family connection, while I, with a master's degree in film, get stuck in a homeless shelter. Where is the justice in that? Her books are fantasies of individual achievement, by and for, Goodwin argues and Cunningham implies, people who want to believe they have achieved things on their own and generally have not. The book contains graphic synopses of both The Fountainhead, which seems considerably stupider than the 1949 King Vidor film I saw in 2006 and which, Cunningham notes, Rand disowned, and Atlas Shrugged, which I won't go into, other than that he makes it appear that they have zero literary value and are only of interest because of their influence. Even conservatives of the day were outraged by Atlas Shrugged when it first appeared. Whittaker Chambers of National Review, which now seems fringe in its right-wing extremism said, "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard... commanding: 'To a gas chamber--go!", which seems in line with the objectivist trolls on Twitter who tell me I should kill myself because I can't find a job. Robert Kirsch of The Los Angels Times is also quoted, "It would be hard to find another such display of grotesque eccentricity outside of an insane asylum. John Galt is really arguing for a dictatorship. Cunningham tells us that Rand had not expected her work to be compared to fascism, and "fell into a deep depression," which further suggests that Rand was dishonest, even to herself, or incredibly unintelligent. It is unfortunate that she got her wish to "profoundly change the American political scene" not long after her death (the above all cite p. 37). Although I completed the first draught of my play, Misused Minds: Curse of the Educated Youth in 2004, I got the impression from Cunningham that I was intuitively parodying Rand based on his retellings of her work. Much has been made of the fact that Rand sought and received social security toward the end of her life. She is accused of hypocrisy, of being one of the very moochers and takers she so despised. But it was her view that this was a system she had paid into against her will and that she was merely taking back what was hers to begin with. In other words, it was exactly what the majority of people do when they apply for social security or any other welfare benefit, yet Rand still thought of herself superior to the masses she saw all around her. Rand's life was full of such contradictions. Her novels were high-minded and philosophical, yet also full of soap opera trashiness, overwrought emotion, and thin characterizations. she trumpeted the virtue of reason or emotion, but was unable to rise above jealousy and was unforgiving toward anyone she believed had slighted her. She upheld an individual's freedom above all else, yet ran her immediate circle of friends like a small dictatorship, where opposing views were not allowed and where dissent was punished with expulsion. Rand prided herself on the ability of her senses to discover the truth of the world, yet she failed to see through her lover's deceit, even though the evidence had been in front of her for years. It did not concern Rand that the economic system she promoted would enrich only the few at the expense of the majority. For her, unrestrained free-market capitalism was a moral system in which the undeserving poor suffered the consequences of their own inaction. It was only right and proper that those who made no effort in life should live in poverty. 63-66) Cunningham proceeds to describe how Rand's so-called morality allowed Libertarians and the Cato Institute to "live guilt free with their indifference to those with fewer opportunities than themselves" (67). The next section details how that economic crash of 2007 was caused by exactly the values that Rand espoused, such as the push from the right to ensure that derivatives went unregulared, on the grounds that it would be a hindrance to the free market--"if derivatives were regulated, capitalism would fall apart, [Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers] warned. There would be market turmoil and risk couldn't be managed effectively. They made the claim that by even talking about regulation, [Brooksley] Born was threatening the stability of the market" (98). "The phone call may have been illegal, as the [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] is an independent body" (99). On pages 100-101, Cunningham quotes Greenspan's (who was part of Rand's circle) 1957 review of Atlas Shrugged at length: "Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting,. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy... Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should." This mentality is astonishingly dishonest when it is applied to people who have been to college studied what they considered was their purpose and can't find a job. In 1966, Greenspan wrote three essays for the Rand anthology, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal in which he equated government regulation with a breakdown of society's morals. In his view, there was no need for the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the Food and Drug Administration. All regulations that protect the public from unscrupulous businessmen, even building codes, are unnecessary, he argued. the potential damage to a reputation is enough to keep a contractor from building unsafe structures. Greenspan goes on to say that it is a businessman's greed that protects the consumer. The reputation of a company is often its major asset. If a business isn't trusted, then it cannot prosper. this is even truer for a securities firm. Securities worth hundreds of millions of dollars are traded every day over the telephone. the slightest doubt as to the trustworthiness of the broker's word or commitment would put him out of business overnight. It is clear from these essays that Rand profoundly influenced Greenspan's economic thinking. It also explains why, once he became chairman of the Federal Reserve, he took a hands-off approach to the regulation of derivatives--a decision that was to prove catastrophic to the world. (100-101) Anyone who can take Greenspan's claims seriously is a blithering idiot. Even Greenspan no longer can: "I have made a mistake in presuming that self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms." You found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working. "That's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for forty years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well." Did Greenspan genuinely believe that an unregulated financial sector pursuing self interest would lead the U.S> economy to a stable and optimal equilibrium? He did, and he held fast to these beliefs long past the point where the evidence should have alerted him to the truth. Selfishness is not a virtue to be embraced. Self-interest does not work to bring about human happiness on a global scale any more than it achieves it for people on the small interpersonal level where we all live our lives. The details of Ayn Rand's life demonstrate this last point very effectively. (141-142) On pages 133-137, he details the involvement of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which Fox News demonizes as the major culprit, and thus blame the financial crisis on the government rather than private business, but notes that the flaws in this argument are that a) both companies were private businesses with shareholders that have only quasi-governmental ties, and b) that they were latecomers who did not contribute to the crash any more than the other players. The events leading up to the 2008 crisis should have destroyed the fantasy that an unregulated financial industry will naturally channel money to its best uses, or that bankers' concerns for their reputations will prevent them from placing their institutions or customers at rick. Sadly, this has not proved to be the case. There is still a strong belief on the right that the free market can solve all problems and that the financial crisis was caused by the last vestiges of regulation and government interference. They claim that only with the total repeal of interventionist laws and regulatory agencies can markets find their true value, so that people can prosper. this clearly flies in the face of reality. If the last thirty years have shown us everything, it is that free markets lead not to personal freedom, but to corporate freedom--a freedom that has been embraced countless times to pollute, steal, and oppress. (139) The shrinking away of the state is a long-held libertarian dream, but one that can only continue the process of handing power over to unaccountable corporations--a prospect even worse than state tyranny, because, in a democratic government at least, the public has some kind of role. (147) The next section of the book deals with the differences between conservatives and liberals based on how much like or unlike the Ayn Rand mentality they are. This section is probably the most problematic, because Cunningham spends a significant amount of space (194-203) praising the Affordable Care Act without a peep about single payer, which makes me wonder if he is in the pocket of big pharma. I put his How to Fake a Moon Landing back on the shelf when browsing because he argued unconvincingly and contrary to my experience that medication is better for back pain than chiropractic. Cunningham's comparisons of conservatives to liberals on pages 151-153 seem to be a comparison between an unintelligent person and an intelligent one. To "have little problem dismissing any science that runs counter to their beliefs, no matter what the evidence is, or how well argued" (151)is part of his definition of a conservative. It is also a key factor in defining a stupid person. So is a belief that "the poor and ordinary are best motivated by less money" (151), while "the bedrooms used by liberals contained a greater number of books" points toward making liberal and intelligent synonymous, as does "a larger variety of types of music" (153), and "conservative offices were less stylish and less comfortable than those used by liberals" (153) again points to lack of intelligence. Paul Ryan would certainly qualify as an example, for denying he made a speech saying he makes all his staff read Rand that was recorded (I saw it myself on the Young Turks, and you can too, right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fojrl...) only to claim it was an urban legend (179). The best example of conservative stupidity is Tea Party founder Rick Santelli: "in his anger, Santelli had conveniently forgotten that it was the government's nonexistent regulation of the derivatives market along with the greed of bankers and those in the mortgage industry, not government intervention that had cause the catastrophe in the first place" (184). Of course, this is the same group that started using "tea bag" as a verb and "tea bagger" as a self-described appellation until they learned that it had connotations of a non-reproductive sex practice. He shows how "corporate America has coerced the Tea Partiers to act against their own interests by having them vote into office politicians who openly favor big business and Wall Street over the people in their own communities who have lost jobs and homes" (187). This is the warped morality of Ayn Rand followers. "It is certainly wrong for anyone to live at the expense of another," Cunningham says. "Unfortunately, right-wing politics often fails to make any distinction between freeloaders and the poor. The unemployed are treated with suspicion, while working people are increasingly denied a decent level of earnings" (192). "The tens of thousands who turned out to call for a reduction in government spending and taxation do not want to fall into poverty and have their children receive a poor-quality education and inadequate health care, but this is what a smaller state would mean. Tea partiers are unwittingly pushing the selfish interests of giant corporations, not people" (218). It's hard to see how a rational person could disagree with Cunningham's conclusion: Ayn Rand dreamed of a world unhindered by regulation, government, or concern for the disadvantaged. Many of the people who follow her philosophy don't appear to realize, or perhaps care, that these ideas would create a grotesquely unfair society. America today has a shrinking middle class, an increasingly dominant billionaire elite, and a government corrupted by vast amounts of money. All of the ingredients are in place to create a new gilded age in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties (219). Ayn Rand was wrong. Selfishness is not a virtue. Altruism is not a moral weakness. Taxation is the price we pay for civilization. It's time we rejected this selfish philosophy. (222-223) The book contains an excellent bibliography of 47 sources, which Cunningham recommends reading in their entirety, although I don't think I could stomach reading Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and We the Living, which are all included, although he does not summarize the latter. Rand biographers he cites include Barbara Branden, Jennifer Burns, Anne C. Heller, and Gary Weiss, as well as Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence. Apart from the aforementioned glowing appraisal of the Affordable Care Act, the main fault I found with this book was with the artwork. The best artwork in the book is obviously lightboxed, while the characters are little more than stick figures with lower case bs for eyes. The image of Rand on the cover is reused several times for close-ups, with blatantly digital zooms, such as on page 7. Alan Greenspan is one of the few figures who doesn't look completely generic. When I criticize an illustrator like Rob Liefeld, it's in comparison to other illustrators, but most of the time I felt I could draw the scenes better than Cunningham, and I don't even attempt to try to pass myself off as a professional line artist. I really feel the book would have been even more effective had Cunningham found a better illustrator and kept to the writing of the book. Moe Tkacik, who wrote the excellent article for Reuters explaining why the law preventing the discharge of student loan debt in bankruptcy is unconstitutional, once told me that the only real way to succeed in white collar work, the only sort I can physically do, apart from in the arts, is to be "malleable, sycophantic, and shallow," which she went on to say is "impossible to fake." Rand herself "could only bear the company of sycophants who repeated her opinions back to her," (Goodwin introduction, IV), and it seems these sycophants have taken over the business world with their perverse ideas, keeping millions of potentially excellent employees, especially young people, out of work, then blaming their situations, such as my homelessness, on the victims. If only they could see through to their own shallowness and foolishness, society could work so much better for all.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric Piotrowski

    As someone who has studied the 2008 crash for years, I didn't expect to learn much from this book. I was familiar with Rand's story and felt confident that I would breeze through this text quickly. While I did pat myself on the back several times when I reached something about which I already knew (Greenspan's "Flaw", for example), I learned plenty from this book, and enjoyed it tremendously. Cunningham's art style is simple, but potent. He uses color imagery here to accentuate the elements of As someone who has studied the 2008 crash for years, I didn't expect to learn much from this book. I was familiar with Rand's story and felt confident that I would breeze through this text quickly. While I did pat myself on the back several times when I reached something about which I already knew (Greenspan's "Flaw", for example), I learned plenty from this book, and enjoyed it tremendously. Cunningham's art style is simple, but potent. He uses color imagery here to accentuate the elements of each section to provide visual coherence. He's done his homework, and he tells the stories in a way that is both enlightening and entertaining. My one reservation is the somewhat scattered nature of the third section, where he goes wide with the overreaches of both conservatives and liberals. I think the book would have been best served if it stayed focused on Rand's influence. Of course, that would leave the microscope solely fixated on conservatives, thus offering no chance for the expected "equal time" clause that most intelligent commentators hold themselves to, even while broadcast journalists ditched it long ago. (To say nothing of the false equivalence it can foster in many circumstances.) Regardless, this book provides an important throughline from Rand's "philosophy" to its catastrophic consequences in the 21st century. The great tragedy is how little conservative thinkers have learned from the failures of Randian acolytes, and how tightly millions of people still cling to her ideology. Must-read material.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Keshav

    Good birds eye view summary of the financial crisis, glass steagall, and Alan Greenspan's earlier intellectual fertility with Rand's libertarianism. A comment on how Ayn Rand's emphasis on individuality leads to the absurd outcome of conformity due to selfishness as the primary virtue was interesting. Towards the end there are some sweeping generalisations on fitting the OCEAN personality model on Conservatives vs Democrats (and back home on UKIP/Tories vs Labour) and how Conservative values can Good birds eye view summary of the financial crisis, glass steagall, and Alan Greenspan's earlier intellectual fertility with Rand's libertarianism. A comment on how Ayn Rand's emphasis on individuality leads to the absurd outcome of conformity due to selfishness as the primary virtue was interesting. Towards the end there are some sweeping generalisations on fitting the OCEAN personality model on Conservatives vs Democrats (and back home on UKIP/Tories vs Labour) and how Conservative values can be useful in crises such as war, vs Liberals who are painted as indecisive. These sure are popular labels but IMO it undercuts the veracity of some of the more serious points raised by the book. Very approachable and can be finished in a single sitting.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    Well, I wrote a great review (trust me!) which was erased... Three parts...one a bio of Ayn Rand who is still bedeviling our country, years after her death...one a detailed (yet understandable) analysis of financial practices that are directly based on her philosophy...one a supposed analysis of the difference between liberals and conservatives. The first two were strong...enlightening. The third was liberal=good. Conservative=bad. I recognized some of Haidt (THE RIGHTEOUS MIND) here, but he's not Well, I wrote a great review (trust me!) which was erased... Three parts...one a bio of Ayn Rand who is still bedeviling our country, years after her death...one a detailed (yet understandable) analysis of financial practices that are directly based on her philosophy...one a supposed analysis of the difference between liberals and conservatives. The first two were strong...enlightening. The third was liberal=good. Conservative=bad. I recognized some of Haidt (THE RIGHTEOUS MIND) here, but he's not listed in the works cited. And his analysis is much more value-neutral. Cunningham lost me in this section. But I learned so much. An interesting companion piece to DEMOCRACY IN CHAINS.

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