Thursday, April 03, 2014

Here we go gathering nuts

Speaking of magazine archives, I now have access to The New Republic's archive which goes back even further than the New Yorker's - all the way back to 1914 (the New Yorker was founded in 1925.)

I've never paid much attention to The New Republic - I've always preferred the Nation for politics and the New Yorker for the arts - although there is plenty of cross-over between TNR and TNY, especially via Hendrik Hertzberg.

But my general impression of the New Republic, especially during the Bush years was that it was centrist or even at times right-leaning. As anybody who reads this blog can tell, I am allergic to rightwingers.

So considering how lukewarm I am about the magazine, why did I subscribe? Because I just had to get access to a review of Ayn Rand's "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" which is entitled, irresistably "Here We Go Gathering Nuts."

I've been out of the Ayn Rand loop since my break with Daylight Atheism and its Social Justice Warrior censorship tendencies, but was brought back in thanks to the Mighty Krug-man, who referenced the Rand book in his blog post Obamacare, the Unknown Ideal. In addition to a jab at Ayn Rand the piece contains a smack-down of the always-deserving rightwing NYTimes op-ed columnist Ross Douthat:
No, I haven’t lost my mind — or suddenly become an Ayn Rand disciple. It’s not my ideal; in a better world I’d call for single-payer, and a significant role for the government in directly providing care. 
But Ross Douthat, in the course of realistically warning his fellow conservatives that Obamacare doesn’t seem to be collapsing, goes on to tell them that they’re going to have to come up with a serious alternative. 
But Obamacare IS the conservative alternative, and not just because it was originally devised at the Heritage Foundation. It’s what a health-care system that does what even conservatives say they want, like making sure that people with preexisting conditions can get coverage, has to look like if it isn’t single-payer.
It's yet another excellent mini-essay by Krugman, by all means go read it.

So Krugman provided a link to the Wiki of "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal", and the Wiki mentioned the New Republic review and with such a great title (I LOL'd when I read it) I knew I must read it without delay.

The New Republic archives has six articles that mention Ayn Rand. Curiously, it contains no reviews of Rand's fiction but does contain reviews of her essay collections, including The Romantic Manifesto and For the New Intellectual. I'm looking forward to reading them all. Especially since I want to get my money's worth, the review of Capitalism the Unknown Ideal, while good, is pretty short for a $20 subscription.

I've discussed the book on this blog before - "nutty" is a good way to describe it, but then, it's a good way to describe Rand's "philosophy" generally. The review, written by Honor Tracy (pseudonym of Lilbush Wingfield, a British travel writer and novelist) notes Rand's bizarre habit of quoting from her own novels to support her socio-political points.

...Does she, can she, really mean all she says? And does most of what she says mean anything at all? Take this vivid little sketch of our time:
"With most of the world in ruins, with the voice of philosophy silent and the last remnants of civilization vanishing undefended, in an unholy alliance of savagery and decadence, bloody thugs are fighting over the spoils, while the cynical pragmatists left in charge and way out of their depth are trying to drown their panic at Europe's cocktail parties where emasculated men and hysterical, white-lipped women determine the fate of the world by declaring that socialism is chic."
(Rand's description of European cocktail parties sound just like the parties in "Atlas Shrugged.")
Quite a lot of the book is as funny as this and one is repeatedly tempted to quote her. She evidently feels the same, as an extraordinary amount of space is filled by excerpts from, or references to, her earlier writings, with which she takes it for granted that all are familiar. "Do you remember that scene in Atlas Shrugged etc?" she will gravely inquirer, or "Consider the growth of socialized medicine throughout the world... then read the statement of Dr. Hendricks in Atlas Shrugged..." This instruction, by the way, can be ignored: it appears on page 157, by which time the reader will easily divine what Dr. Hendricks has to say on that or any subject without troubling himself to verify.
I'll definitely be checking out more of Honor Tracy's work.