I point to the NOVA presentation "Mind of Money" which shows how human "irrational" behavior around money has caused the booms and especially the busts of the past including 2008, 1029, and the Dot Com bust of the late 90's. The question is "Why do Americans behave so irrationally?" We are like a bunch of children who haven't a clue what it means to be rational and reasonable.
Author Ayn Rand touted rational self-interest as a philosophy. I believe it to be the only truly universal aspect of human behavior. Unfettered by social constraints, the majority of people naturally demonstrate responsible action, as they pursue self-interest. This pursuit is a survival trait that cannot be denied. Suppressing it creates problems. The bank bailouts are an obscene result of corporate collusion with government. The situation illustrates clearly the fact that corporations and banks are not people. Functioning in faceless hordes, most people go along with the herd. We could benefit from more individual self-interest.
One of Ayn Rand's seminal works, The Virtue of Selfishness, seems more in tune with today's economic situations. We need to maintain a certain degree of selfishness in order to survive, like less charity and more saving in other currency types (like gold and silver). Money does not grow on trees we can harvest.
While everyone was waiting around New Orleans waiting for the government to come in waiting for help, thousands ending up dying. While thousands lined up for section 8 housing in Atlanta, few actually gained these free/reduced price housing government housing options. When they found that they wouldn't be getting a piece of the "free" pie, they started rioting. Interestingly enough, those same illegal immigrants that are supposed "parasites" to the system are the ones working hard, paying for their own way and working their way up the income ladder far quicker than anyone on government assistance ever could.
I think the rise and prominence of the Tea Party is clear evidence that Americans are once again taking a look at their own self-interest and taking a stand against the government's spending problem. The Tea Party quickly gained a national footing on the premise that government spending is out of control, and the ones who suffer are the everyday Americans.
The only part of this idea I question is man's ability to make rational judgments for himself. The need to realize that your own self sufficiency relies on others is key to this theory, and most people find themselves believing that dominating, or taking advantage of others is ultimately in their best interests, when in fact, as seen with the government bailouts, helping others has benefited the country at large, and in the end the individuals who are part of that country. The laissez-faire part of the argument, however, may be obsolete today, as we must realize the institution of government is a representation of the desires of the people, not a separate being.
Ayn Rand's philosophy of rational self-interest is certainly being put to the test today, as the government is rescuing banks and companies from their poor financial decisions. It could be said that the government is looking out for its self-interest. Also, the banks are happy to receive financial help, as that assists them greatly in getting back on track. There are plenty of examples to go around that demonstrate how relevant Ayn Rand's philosophy is today.
Unemployment is officially around 10% with nearly that many legally disabled, not counted because they gave up looking for work, or have been unemployed to long to count. This is not even including 10-15 million illegal aliens who are here to work and do not count in employment statistics. Yet society has only slowed down. Where are those unemployed and under-employed managing to support themselves? How can they do so? They are working under the table. They are working at day labor centers or for family and friends, paid cash or in barter. They are adding to an underground economy.
Now add in the drop in income taxes among the highest income earners. They haven't received many more tax breaks. They are working less and earning less because the marginal cost of that extra labor exceeds 50%.
Atlas is shrugging as regulation and taxes have weighed him down. The highly productive are working less or just retiring. The working class are working but outside the system that hampered them.
Her idea of a revolt of the productive is including not just the doctors and lawyers but the brick layers and construction workers.
Don't forget that Ayn Rand's philosophy was ETHICAL rational self-interest. There were no reasons why the government had to get involved in the bailouts. Their actions were unwarranted and unprecedented. It's unfortunate that the leaders who made the decisions did not adhere to Rand's philosophies. If they did, they would have understood better why the decisions they were making were inappropriate for this country.
Rational self interest is more important now than at any other time in the history of our nation. We cannot afford to become a welfare state or have a an entitelment mentality. These policies do not work as evidenced by the economic coolapse in Greece. Our national deficit is at the highest point of all time and must be reduced. Americans need to rely on themselves and not on the government.
In every recovery the government spends to help private enterprise. Ayn Rand was a great thinker but she was essentially selfish in her ideas. We had to help the banks. Our only mistake was in not regulating them to assure that they didn't act in their own best interest instead of their clients and that of the country.
Ayn Rand's objectionable philosophy, one of "rational self-interest", is not relevant to the downturn in today's economic climate, other than the idea that it is an underlying cause of the downturn itself. Greed, callousness, and an I've-got-mine attitude are hallmarks of the Wall Street class, which have led to the widening gap in income in our society.
While every school of philosophy can be held relevant in it's own way, I do not believe that the recent events make any one school of thought any more or less relevant. I do, however feel that more people may be taking Rand's words to heart now that the bailouts and collapse have occurred.
If Ayn Rand's rational self-interest theory was completely valid, we would never have had the Great Depression. Prior to the 1920's and 30's when the Depression was at its "peak" there were quite literally NO controls--no laws--in place that put the brakes on greed. It seems evident that our recent little "mini depression" took place in part for the same reason. Uncontrolled greed by the few.
If rational self interest would automatically kick in whenever an individual accumulated wealth and/or power, it would be just wonderful.
Fortunately, we have our Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and Paul Newman and many others who do evidence rational self interest in a positive and even noble manner.
We have others who apparently believe that they are acting in their own rational self interest: the leaders of Enron, the controllers of hedge funds who destroyed thousands of lives, and of course, the poster boy--Bernie Madoff. These people all are examples of rational self interest at its worst.
The problem is, we will always have the best of humans as well as a healthy sprinkling of the worst of humans, ALL acting in what they perceive to be in their own rational self interest.
Many of the people who guided the economy through the late '90s and early '00s were devotees of Ayn Rand, particularly the former chairman of the federal reserve. The devotion to those principles led to under-regulation in our financial and housing sectors, which eventually led to the sort of bright, self-interested people taking advantage of weak, easily misled sheep like people. The result? The economy is now in shreds, not flourishing because of these bright, self-interested people's contributions.
Why would anybody want to embrace the selfish interest atheism of Ayn Rand? Solely for their own selfish purposes, that's why. Being an atheist is not more relevant today. There are always going to be people who deny God, but so what? Atheism and worshipping reason and self-interest is not relevant to me and I would never want it to be relevant. It's something we should all hope to repel from our lives, not to embrace. The government bailout situation is all about greed. Worshipping the dollar. If Ayn Rand got her kicks from spouting that vitriol so be it, but she is not relevant and never will be.
Karl Marx essentially forwarded a philosophy of rational self-interest, in which people put aside their greed for the sake of the collective whole, and yet Marxist has turned out to be a pragmatic failure. The five communist countries in the world are poor and have a bad history of human rights violations.
On the outside and at first reading, the philosophy of Ayn Rand sounds like it has something to offer. But when you dig deep, you find out that she really had little empathy for anyone who was not achieving like herself. Our whole culture can not be run on this model or we lose our humanity.
Ayn Rand did not have a philosophy of rational self-interest. If you look at her actual philosophy, she based capitalism on greed/selfishness. Huge difference. I agree with capitalism, the consequences of leaving capitalism and rational self interest, but to say Ayn Rand used the theory of rational self-interest is completely and utterly wrong.
The philosophy of rational self-interest is what got our economy in this mess today. It was the substantial lobbying efforts of Citigroup and major financial institutions during the late 90's which led to the repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act. This repeal started the unraveling of our global economy in spite of the lessons learned during the Great Depression and the need for regulation of the banking and financial industry. People acting on self-interest are self-destructive with no interest for the collective good. Without regulation and government intervention, our economy would be dominated by monopolies which do not serve the best interest because power would be concentrated in a few people.