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Smith Recommends…

September 15, 2009

I would highly recommend that you read Jonathan Chait’s review of two recent Ayn Rand biographies. While Chait provides a useful introduction to Rand’s life and works, what makes this review a must read is its third section, in which Chait launches a devastating critique of the Rand-inspired argument that the wealthy are more virtuous than the rest of us. I have made similar critiques of the wealth equals merit argument as expounded by Glenn Beck and Dennis Prager (see here and here), but Chait offers a much more thorough and incisive analysis.

I do dissent somewhat from Chait’s framing of the conservative position. Chait writes:

The current era of Democratic governance has provoked a florid response on the right, ranging from the prosaic (routine denunciations of big spending and debt) to the overheated (fears of socialism) to the lunatic (the belief that Democrats plan to put the elderly to death). Amid this cacophony of rage and dread, there has emerged one anxiety that is an actual idea, and not a mere slogan or factual misapprehension. The idea is that the United States is divided into two classes–the hard-working productive elite, and the indolent masses leeching off their labor by means of confiscatory taxes and transfer programs.

What Chait characterizes here as an “idea,” I would call a slander against poor people.

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