Monday, November 21, 2016

Ayn Rand Institute on Trump

One Small Step for Dictatorship, by Onkar Ghate; posted at the Ayn Rand Institute site.

There are many points on which I agree with the author.  Instead of writing these again, I will offer that my agreement can be found in this post, beginning with the section entitled “The Next Four Years” and continuing through the end of the post.  To summarize: I don’t really know what Trump will do on many topics; I do know he will do many things that both libertarians and objectivists will agree are harmful to liberty; I agree that the danger is in what follows Trump more than the danger of Trump himself.

At the same time, there is much that I take exception to in this opinion piece.  In the interest of (reasonable) brevity, I will expand only on two points.


On November 8, 2016, the United States took its first step toward dictatorship.

Ghate offers that it is not that Trump will act the dictator; it is the reasons people voted for Trump that lead him to this statement.  I suggest: whatever one believes to be the reasons people voted for Trump, it doesn’t square that his election represented the “first step toward dictatorship.”

Let’s unpack this a bit:

Dictatorship is a form of government where a group of countries (or Country) is ruled by one person or political entity, and exercised through various mechanisms to ensure that the entity's power remains strong. (Emphasis added)

A dictatorship need not be led by one individual.  A single political entity is also a form of dictatorship.

The most general term is despotism, a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group, as in an oligarchy. (Emphasis added)


Oligarchy, is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by nobility, wealth, family ties, education or corporate, religious or military control.

The United States is ruled by an oligarchy.  Don’t believe me?  Want to try two professors, one from Princeton and the other from Northwestern?  Argue with them.

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination….

An elite oligarchy – just another form of dictatorship.

Trump may or may not represent a step in this journey toward dictatorship. But it cannot be denied that the first step was taken long ago.  It would be easy to make the case that the establishment of the Federal Reserve was the first step; one is free to argue that it was Lincoln’s war to prevent southern secession or even the replacement of the Articles of Confederation by the Constitution.

I will stick with the Fed.  It is a slam-dunk case to state that this was a step taken toward dictatorship.  Read the definition of oligarchy and understand the role of the Fed.  What conclusion would you draw?

Not enough to convince you that the road to dictatorship was started long ago?  Further: a one-party state is a form of dictatorship:

A one-party state, single-party state, 1-party state, one-party system, single-party system, or 1-party system is a type of state in which one political party has the right to form the government, usually based on the existing constitution. All other parties are either outlawed or allowed to take only a limited and controlled participation in elections.

A one-party state: to make this claim regarding the United States, one need demonstrate two things: first, there is little if any meaningful difference between the Democratic and Republican parties; second, that it is difficult, bordering on impossible, for a third party to gain any traction in an election.

To the first: wars, spending, deficits, regulations, control.  All have increased regardless of the party label applied to the president or members of congress.  It is a challenge to identify meaningful difference of type or even degree.

To the second, a few barriers to entry for third parties: winner-take-all vs. proportional representation; ballot access laws; debate rules.  All stacked against third parties in the United States. 


Per Ghate, religion holds an especially grievous place in this election, with fundamentalist Christians blindly supporting Trump:

Trump’s call for blind, unquestioning followers, his trafficking in conspiracy theories and disregard for facts and science, his claim that we are close to the end of days and that he, unerring and alone, can save us, his promise of miracles like building a wall and making Mexico pay for it—all of this and more should be seen as attractive to a religious mindset, especially of a fundamentalist variety.

I have no idea how big a role fundamentalist Christianity played in Trump’s election; it is not unreasonable to conclude that there was some pushback by Christians regarding the entire cultural-Marxist agenda – a vote against Clinton more than a vote for Trump.

I have written my share on the wrongheadedness of many who call themselves Christian – primarily in the area of supporting war (Laurence Vance is the expert on this).  But this is not the drawback of religion referenced by Ghate or Rand.

The contempt that Rand held for religion is well-known – certainly central to her objectivism.  Here is Rand on religion:

PLAYBOY: Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?

RAND: Qua religion, no—in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason.

I offer two thoughts.  First, something will bind people together into community.  It has never been demonstrated that Rand’s laissez-faire capitalism alone can do this.  Religion has often played this role.  It is why tyrants will often eliminate the church in order to eliminate the competition.

Second, for all of recorded history, religion has been a reality.  It doesn’t get more objective than that.  Any philosophy that ignores or derides this human reality is a useless philosophy for human life on earth. 


It is interesting to me, this intersection of Rand and libertarian thinking.  She abhorred the label “libertarian” and those who wore it, yet many libertarians will tell you “it all started with Ayn Rand.”

This piece written by Ghate offers a further example of why this connection and gulf both exist.  Libertarians and objectivists can share many concerns about Trump’s election – even a minarchist libertarian has reason to be concerned about many of Trump’s statements.

At the same time, libertarians (at least the more thoughtful and consistent ones) acknowledge two realities that are dismissed in Ghate’s piece: first, the road to dictatorship in the United States began long ago, and second, it takes something more than an idea or a market to hold a people together.

The more thoughtful libertarians also acknowledge a reality ignored in Ghate’s piece – ignored, perhaps, because Randians believe the state can be rehabilitated: the phenomenon that is Trump represents a major loss of credibility for authoritarian control.  This is an absolute good.


  1. As I see it, Trump is no more, or less of a dictator than _any_ of his predecessors- starting with Washington.

    It's just that as governments grows, the "dictator aspect" becomes more and more obvious, untill its staring even the average doofus booboisie right in the face,[ and he/she actually sees it].

    Example: the Ayn Rand guy.

    So here we all are :-)

    Harry Browne in his excellent, short book "Why Government Doesn't Work" covered this topic well:

    "If You Were King (The Dictator Syndrome)":

    "Government grows also because well-meaning people like you and me believe it should do certain things that seem beyond controversy -- find a cure for cancer, stop air pollution, keep violence off television, hold back an aggressor in the Middle East -- something that everyone seems to agree should be done. Whatever the goal, it's easy to imagine that a single-minded government could achieve it.

    I call this The Dictator Syndrome. You see suffering or danger, and in your imagination you see a government program eliminating it. But in the real world the program would operate as you expect only if you were an absolute dictator -- having at your disposal all of government's power to compel everyone to do things your way........."

    Regards, onebornfreeatyahoo

  2. Libertarian goddess Ayn Rand, true name Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, was a Stalinist according to
    “Ayn Rand: Engineer of Souls,” Anthony Daniels

    Like Robert Ringer another libertarian biggie, they want (wanted in her case) their GROUP to be as they are in Israel, where the government gives DNA tests to potential immigrants to ensure they are, in fact of that ethnic group, but damned American Whites for wanting their nation to be as it had been.

    I've seen the LP HELP the Democrats beat incumbent Republican Senators and congressmen by siphoning off enough votes, and then those democrats STAYED in power. Now I am no fan of the Reppublicans, but at least, prior to Trump, were pretty good on the 2nd Amendment but when it came to replacing the Founding Stock of America they were as bad as the democrats.
    Libertarians, with few exceptions, and I used to be one,
    are generally for OPEN BORDERS.

    The NRA will fall. It’s inevitable. Just look at the demographics.
    The Washington Post, October 19, 2015
    by Adam Winkler professor UCLA School of Law

  3. Anonymous said: "Libertarians, with few exceptions, and I used to be one, are generally for OPEN BORDERS."

    Fact [of life]: the government is not capable of closing the borders, no more than it is capable of finding a cure for cancer, increasing prosperity for the average joe, stopping air pollution, make cities safe from terrorists, or _anything else_ .

    Government fails at everything it does [outside of brainwashing people and enriching its members and associated sycophants].

    Fact: Illegal immigration has proceeded at the same rate for decades, despite government laws/programs supposedly aimed at curbing it.

    Fact: there are no government solutions for _anything_ - never have been, never will be.

    Therefor, if you imagine/fantasize that government can/will "close the borders", then I'm afraid that you[ like most] are suffering from what Harry Browne aptly named "Dictator Syndrome" :- ) .[ see my previous post for more on that.]

    Regards, onebornfreeatyahoo

  4. BM:
    I am glad you wrote this article. These Rand Folks seem to go off the rails even more than Trump himself the difference is of course that Trump is probably not interested in what he is saying but in the reaction it provokes. The Rand Folks on the other hand believe it but seem to forget the wild claims of the other candidates for POTUS.

    On the topic of religion, I agree with what you said and would add what Rothbard noted in several articles that Hillary was/still is a member of a radical Christian group that not only wanted to bring the Kingdom of God in the next world but bring it into this one as well. My part is that democratic socialism or any kind of socialism is the perfect vehicle to bring this about. So it is odd that the Rand Crew would have any faith at all in the side opposing Trump.

    You are absolutely correct that the USA has been in a switch from being one of if not the freest place ever to an autocratic oligarchy. And Trump will at worst be able to accelerate this process but even that is questionable given the very real actions of Clinton and her friends to create misery both home and abroad.

  5. The nonsensical statement that "it all started with Rand" has annoyed me since the first time I heard it. Rand was a mediocre writer using ideas derived from the works of people who actually had talent.

    Her silly little novels are unreadable to many readers of fiction because her storylines are unbelievable and her characters are one-dimensional. I never understood the attraction of liberty minded people to Rand.

    The only thing that "started with Rand" was her cult of objectivists. The defining characteristic of an objectivist, for me, is that he is an insufferably opinionated and humorless drone.

    That is not to say that there are no libertarian objectivists, but just that I have never met one.

    1. The point isn't about libertarian objectivists.

      It is undeniable that many who have found value in libertarian political philosophy began their intellectual journey via Anthem or Atlas Shrugged.

      Your opinion about the value of her novels is irrelevant to this reality.

  6. "Second, for all of recorded history, religion has been a reality. It doesn’t get more objective than that. Any philosophy that ignores or derides this human reality is a useless philosophy for human life on earth."

    A 'reality'? Not an entirely subjective, self-confessed blind faith in whatever magic? Not a divisive social control mechanism, with its own arcane language and power structures? Not a relevant 'reality', me old Mossie.

    1. Protest as you might, one need only observe the human "reality" of acceptance of and even desire for religion.

      Your calling it "magic" won't sway the believers.

  7. Do not be dismayed by election rhetoric.
    Having said what would play to rouse the rubes & herd them into the voting stalls, Trump can wad it all up and pitch campaign promises in the trash and resume being a typical Joo Yawkuh once seated, profiteering from endless interventionist expansionism for the new Khazar empire.