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Welcome to Ayn Rand Planet: Why the Rich Prosper from the Stock Market While We Get Screwed

On Planet Rand, the stock-market boom is a wonderful thing precisely because it rests upon the recent rise in corporate profits.

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Let me repeat: on Planet Rand, there is no common good, there is no altruism, there is no whining about CEOs and Wall Street barons. There is only individual self-interest and the crusade against government.

Democrats Become the Old Republicans

Here's the scary part. The more the Randian philosophy infects the Republicans, the more the Democrats move to the right. As President Clinton sarcastically quipped in 1993, "Where are all the Democrats? I hope you're all aware we're all Eisenhower Republicans...Here we are, and we're standing for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn't that great?"

President Clinton was onto something. Aren't President Obama and a large chunk of the Democratic Party still "standing for lower, deficits and free trade and the bond market"? (BTW, when President Clinton reappointed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1996, did he know or care that Greenspan had been among the most loyal members of Ayn Rand's inner circle?)

The Randian Antidote: Movement-Building

It's almost a cliché now to suggest that we need to build a progressive populist movement if we really want to do something about increasing inequality, unemployment, the student debt burden, and the continuing Wall Street rip-offs. Nevertheless, it's still true. Nothing much will happen if all we do is put forth wonky policy proposals from our many 501c3 non-profit organizations.

Also, hoping that a few solid Democrats can do it all for us is a pipe dream. For more than a generation progressives have been trying to put more people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders into Congress, and we're still going backward.

Both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street proved that mass mobilization can dramatically shift the terms of debate. Yes, the Tea Party has some very rich donors, but I doubt that money alone accounts for the success of that formation, or for why no sustained progressive movement has emerged. But this much is clear: If we want out of the Randian economy, we need to break out of our separate issue silos to form a common vision and organization that can take back America from its corporate rulers. For most Americans, the spirit of solidarity, community and commonwealth trumps greed and selfishness. They are waiting for a way out of Planet Rand.

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute in New York, and author of How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America's Wealth (J. Wiley and Sons, 2013).


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