Dissent has launched a new blog, "Arguing the World." I cited an item yesterday, and the blog is definitely worth bookmarking. Also on Dissent, historian Jennifer Burns, who's the author of a very good book on Ayn Rand that I used as a launch-point for a review essay last year, has a long, insight-filled post on Rand and the return of market fundamentalism:
Rand redirects conservative rage away from the more obvious targets on Wall Street and focuses it instead on the federal government. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, outrage against bankers and their outsize compensation packages was widespread among those on both the right and the left. But now the bankers have been rebranded as “John Galts” who are being punished for their virtues.
Rand’s dark vision of government matches the way many conservatives see the Obama administration’s policies, and her binary worldview of good and evil dovetails with the conservative mindset. Modern political conservatism emerged among widespread fears of Communism, often understood as a global battle between the forces of Christianity and atheism. Today, Rand enables pundits like Beck and Limbaugh to continue this familiar pattern and channel their moral outrage into economic terms. Instead of saints and sinners, it’s the producers against the moochers and looters.
Though she’s not a fan of Rand, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin strikes a similarly divisive pose when she praises “real Americans.” The precise identity of these “real Americans” is left vague, but it is a remarkably malleable term that can be attached to a variety of targets—from Wall Street bankers to beltway insiders.
"Real Americans," of course," brings to mind the idea that Obama is spreading the wealth from the white middle-class to the black underclass.
Burns also notes how the economy has refocused the right's attention on economic policy and away from social issues:
The crash of 2008 has recalibrated the balance of power between market fundamentalists and religious fundamentalists in the Republican Party and what we are now seeing is the rebirth of a potent strain of pro-capitalist, anti-statist thought. This aspect of the right has always perplexed liberals, and few expected its return in the wake of a crisis that did much to discredit free-market economics. And yet libertarianism has surged (and religious and cultural conservatism has faltered) as the economy has pushed economics back to the forefront of the policy agenda.
I think this is an incomplete explanation. To me, the main factor here is that President Obama has an ambitious economic agenda -- largely in response to the economic crisis -- and very little in the way of a social agenda. So that's where the attention lies. Anyway, I don't intend for my quibbling to give the impression that I disagree in the main with Burns' interesting perspective.