Plutocrats: Then & Now

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Gilded Age

New Gilded Age

The RichestJohn D. Rockefeller
Net Worth: $192 billion*
Bill Gates
Net Worth: $82 billion
NicknameRobber BaronsJob Creators
Biggest Money MakersRailroads, Steel, OilBanking, Computers, Oil
Favorite PhilosopherSocial Darwinism / Herbert SpencerObjectivism / Ayn Rand
Income Tax RateIncome taxes didn’t exist yet. (They were instituted in 1913.)Official tax rate: 35%; Effective tax rate: 17% (2007)
Political Parties that Protect Their InterestRepublicans & “Bourbon” DemocratsRepublicans & “Blue Dog” Democrats
TitansJohn Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Commodore Cornelius VanderbiltSheldon Adelson, Sergey Brin, Warren Buffett, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Koch Brothers, Larry Page
Political PuppeteerMark HannaKarl Rove
Favorite PoliticiansGrover Cleveland, William McKinleyRonald Reagan, George W. Bush
Political AnnoyanceWilliam Jennings BryanOccupy Wall Street
SatiristMark TwainStephen Colbert
The Publisher With Political AmbitionWilliam Randolph HearstMichael Bloomberg
MuckrakersUpton Sinclair, Lincoln SteffensMother Jones
Fictional HeartthrobMichael Crawley (Downton Abbey)Christian Grey (50 Shades of Grey)
How They See the Poor“Civilization took its start from the day that the capable, industrious workman said to his incompetent and lazy fellow, ‘If thou dost net sow, thou shalt net reap,’ and thus ended primitive Communism by separating the drones from the bees.” —Andrew Carnegie“Our problem, frankly, is as long as the President remains anti-wealth, anti-business, anti-energy, anti-private-aviation, he will never get the business community behind him. The problem and the complication is the forty or fifty per cent of the country on the dole that support him.” —Leon Cooperman
Preferred Mode of TransportPrivate Railway CarPrivate Jet
Where They SummerNewport, RITucker’s Town, Bermuda; The Hamptons
Where They EatDelmonico’sMasa
Where They LiveHearst Castle, Wyntoon, Cairnwood, Rosecliff, Marble House, The Elms, The Breakers, Nemours, Fenway Court, Biltmore, Kykuit, Whitehall, Villa Vizcaya, and Ca’d’ ZanVersailles in Orlando, FLVersailles, Xanadu 2.0 (Bill Gates), Woodside Villa (Larry Ellison), The Castle (Michael Dell)
*Net worth in today’s dollars

Principal sources

Illustrations by Joe Fournier
Gilded Age (l-r): John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, Cornelius “Commodore ” Vanderbilt
New Gilded Age (l-r): David Koch, Larry Ellison, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates

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  • Claude Debeaumon

    Corpocracy over the horizon, but advancing fast…..followed by increasing home security…leading to people surveillance.

  • FlatBaroque

    Genuinely piece of journalism excellence. Bill Moyers, you have brought me from the CIA Seret Government doc in 86 to Joe Campbell and the beginning of my spiritual journey on 90 and you continue to do the work that brings enlightenment. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Great stuff as usual by Bill Moyers! You are an inspiring figure for those devoted to real journalism, sir!!

  • Pat Elgee

    Still, I can not believe how many people are deceived into voting for people who represent the interest of the super-rich to their own detriment. It is said that in a democracy the people get what the people deserve. I really do not deserve to be victim of the blindness of others.

  • blair houghton

    Bloomberg? Not Ailes?

  • blair houghton

    AKA not Murdoch?

  • Carmen Markowitz

    Pat, thank you for your words. You could not have said it any better. I felt inspired to share your quote on my facebook page, giving you credit for what so many folks feel! Thanks

  • susanpub

    Scary thoughts. Nevertheless, it was another great program. I’m encouraging my friends to look at it.

  • Cece

    A libertarian friend of mine looked up the “Titans”, and discovered that many of them are Democrats. What should I say to him?

  • StandOnMyOwn

    I find it interesting that this show blasts plutocrats but where was the criticism of the plutocratic union bosses that used fear and intimidation to keep union employees under their thumbs while they took the union dues and spent them on lavish vacations and union meetings in Vegas, while the workers were on the assembly line toiling away? And living in a union state, it’s common to hear that union employees are told to vote for a union friendly president that will keep their jobs from going away. But that’s not intimidation of the middle class? Mr. Moyers should also look at the failings of union friendly politicians and how they aided in keeping the middle class down. Unions keep people mediocre and discourage doing anything more than just enough. Well, the just enough mantra has caught up with us but it’s not our fault? We need to take a hard look at ourselves and recognize our own faults of being mediocre and doing just enough.

  • Anonymous

    The author is not correct when she says that Canada is the only G7 country that didn’t have to bail out its banks. Japan is the 2nd largest economy after the US in the G7, and they didn’t bail their banks out. In fact, their banks had little or no exposure to the financial crisis, and that’s why they are on a huge buying spree for foreign assets around the world, having spent $100 billion this year alone. How can the author not know this? I wonder what else she has overlooked.

  • Karen Clark

    It is astonishing to me how many Americans who have been spoon fed the nonsense about the Plutocrats being the “job creators” while their jobs have dissappeared will vote for Romney in this election.

  • Jim C.

    But Bill Gates is a liberal Democrat– in fact, he and his father are very much in favor of a confiscatory inheritance tax. Bad call on that one. When btw did Gates say that he was an ‘objectivist’?

    Same with people like Spielberg– who just gave a huge emergency sum of money to the Dems last week.

  • Gene Wohlsdorf

    Sometimes, we’re working two or more minimum wage jobs frantically trying to keep up, and we don’t have time to do better than mediocre. And yes, the unions did indeed resort to fraud, just as the plutocrats do now. And it took real courage to call them on it back then, but courageous people did, and it was a good thing that the circle of fortune turned on the unions, as it inevitably does.

  • sf

    I wish the wealthy today would care enough about America to want to
    See an industrious nation of yesteryear become one again. For the benifit
    Of all the people not just a few. To realize the people had a hand in
    them becoming successful. Remember we are all Americans rich or poor.

  • Anonymous

    A Democrat sold us NAFTA that destroyed our manufacturing base, A Democrat deregulated the Banking industry that brought us the present crash, a Democrat deregulated media ownership that has lead to total corporate controlled media in a tiny group of hands, A Democrat removed major safety nets for the poor and working class “welfare reform”… A Democrat referred to the men who bankrupted our economy as “Savvy Businessmen” after he bailed them out their criminal gambling debts with taxpayer money to the tune of 14 trillion dollars…this is not about parties… this is about the Ruling elite ownership of our Government.

    And a Democrat President and party will throw the middle, working class and poor off the “Fiscal Cliff” in service to those “Titans” and their fellow 1%. Just watch.

    The solution is not on Capital Hill in any form of political party, it is not on Wall Street in the form of “job creators” the solution is in the streets with our friends and neighbors as The PEOPLE.

  • MaxI

    I heart this page :-) Awesome job! Thank you Mr. Moyers.

  • Anonymous

    I think Pete Peterson should be on the list of “Titans”, especially considering Bill Moyers’ recent essay following the interview with Paul Krugman in which he discusses Peterson’s influence on contemporary policies and politics, using his vast wealth to wield that influence. And where are the parasitic gilded heads of Goldman-Sachs and the other Wall Street kings who are pulling the strings in the U.S.? As for “Mother Jones” being a “muckraker”, maybe moreso historically, but since David Corn became a mouthpiece and apologist for Obama, their muckraking value has declined. I love seeing Stephen Colbert’s name there as “satirist”; he is brilliant and witty and very, very much on point and his wit is as sharp to the powers that be as any vaunted satirist in history. Love him!

  • Anonymous

    You are clearly referring to Bill Clinton. As any thinking person should know, Bill Clinton is a Democrat in name only. He was, and is, only about self-advancement and self-aggrandizement. His policies as President were co-opted from the Republicans at the time – the despicable Newt Gingrich – and that clever, Machiavellian ploy conceived with Terry MacAuliffe accomplished many things that Clinton and MacAuliffe envisaged: it castrated the growing appeal of the Republican spiel of the time, voiced by Gingrich; it diverted all that corporate money that had been going largely to Republicans until then over to Democrats; it broadened Clinton’s personal popularity and wealth among the wealthy and powerful. Bill Clinton did enormous harm to the Democratic Party and to America, but his misdeeds paled in comparison once Bush-Cheney came to power and did misdeeds so far beyond imagining that Clinton looked cherubic in retrospect. Democrats who have been snowed by the Clinton cult of personality still worship him. The Obama cult of personality is just as blind when it comes to how Obama has actually performed as a “Democrat” (ersatz). Democrats have forgotten the values and philosophy of the (once) Democratic Party and now Democrats and Republicans are just one: Oligarchs for Plutocracy. But try to criticize Obama or Clinton anywhere on the internet and you will get blasted with vitriol accusing you of being a “troll”, a Republican, a “tea bagger”, and worse. Again, Democrats have forgotten the values and philosophy of being a Democrat and have supplanted it with being members of the cults of personality of Clinton (and Hillary and Chelsea are part of that “beloved” dynastic impulse) and Obama. They seem to satisfy some Americans’, including Democrats, longing for an aristocracy, no matter how badly they have sold us down the (polluted and oil-soaked and drying up) river.

  • TedCab

    The corruptors go wherever the money is. Yes, the union movement was badly hurt by all the corruption, but like democracy, which is being destroyed by the plutocrats of big business, they are both still indispensible good ideas if they are allowed to function the way they were originally intended to function.

  • TedCab

    Cece, tell him that it’s not about Republicans and Democrats. That distinction has long passed. It’s about a filthy rich plutocracy who don’t care a fig about political parties and have “owned” both parties for a long time now.

  • William R. Mcbride


  • John

    Bill I love your show, but find myself extremely depressed after listening. Plutocracy is what we have in this country now. I feel the true key to change is throwing out the whole election system we have and starting over, with individual donations of less than $2000, no corporate donations and no super-pac’s. Until we change how our politicians are elected I’m afraid nothing will change and our country will continue it’s downward spiral. I think most American’s believe money+politics=bad government. Until we change this I fear we are stuck with a broken government. It seems as if things are going in the opposite direction of reason.

  • Gloria Burns Enoch

    Isn’t this just basic CAPITALISM?

  • Anonymous

    No, this is capitalism run rampant.

  • Larry Walton

    This is definitely a light touch article regarding the way the above groups used the political system . And to Gloria Burns Enoch, CAPITALISM does not, ideally, and theoretically include the ability to buy government. These 2 groups of individuals represent the PERVERSION (emphasis intended) of capitalism.

  • Anonymous

    We cannot continue in this manner, there is neither grace nor honor to continue this way.
    No longer can we say that we are not every man’s brother, that our plight is not the plight also
    of those most oppressed by a cancerous economic system of unchecked capital
    greed which denies so many in our country a meaningful job through which their
    families may be sheltered, clothed and fed whilst all the while filling the
    coffers of the wealthy for a short term gain by plundering the resources of the
    world which belong to the peoples of the world. We must abandon the common
    theory of Capital as was espoused in detail by Boehm-Bawerk and put into
    practice by the oligarchs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Unfortunately this
    model of capitalism did not fall with that empire; but became, in practice, the
    basis of modern economic theory practiced by the robber barons of the 19th
    century with full LAISSEZ-FAIRE complicity of the new industrial nation-states of the time and is continued
    today as an absolute dictum through its many transmogrifications as a
    “causa-sui” by nearly all modern economists. It put’s one in mind of the Thomas
    Theorem, which posits That “If men define situations as real, they are real in
    their consequences.” This informs the broad but unwarranted belief in present
    structures or rather mythologies of capital by otherwise rational and,
    theoretically, educated individuals, economists among them, whose perception of
    the mythology of capital and the nation state have been accepted with a
    zealots’ belief, whilst lacking in objective reality.

    The mythology of the modern nation state we face an
    is an ideational fiction by which a whole
    generation of Harvard and Yale economists have given weight and substance to
    the global phenomena of transnational corporations.

    Change the systemic inequalities? No! I would posit that the functional inequalities of capitalism are an organic outcome of its very function and nature. Change the system! We do not live in an egalitarian people based world. the
    mythology of the state, the causu sui assumption that so called
    “democratic capitalism ” has anything other than the interests of
    omnipresent money-oligharchs/plutocrats as it’s base motivation is a mythology
    that dominates the world, oppresses hundreds of millions of people and is the
    prime cause of hunger, poverty and conflict throughout the world. This must
    change and yet the people are blocked at every avenue by exponents of the
    modern nation state, the mythology of the state and the willingness of all the
    industrialized countries of the world to support the transnational corporate
    infrastructure at the expense and well being of the people of the world. There
    will be and is a revolution against this tyranny starting world wide, whether
    it becomes violent or remains peaceful depends on how willing the modern nation
    states are to divest themselves of power and to stop lending support to global
    corporate structures and the less than 1% that control resources that are , in
    truth, humanity’s birthright.

  • rebellious akamai

    Wil Petrich, Your comment is what I would have loved to have parted my own lips.. but I do not have the gift of writ and could not possibly said as much as you did in three paragraphs. I hope you don’t mind that I copied and pasted your comment on my F.B. page all the while giving you proper and all due credit.

  • Steven Kuchinsky

    Yes, the unions are ironically part of the capitalistic problem. They are mirror images of the corporations that they fight. Whenever you make fighting an adversary the most important thing you begin to mirror that which you fight. Socrates said that change happens when we focus on what we want to build rather than on what we want to fight.

    For example, if people came together to create self-sustaining communities, making our own food, and not buying all the many things in the market that we don’t need, the clothes and toys we don’t need, the toxic food we don’t need, etc. the system the 1% depend on would collapse without a fight. It will collapse, but if it collapses through violence, we will replace it with an equivalent. Non-violent revolution is simply choosing to live the life that really makes sense for us without the propaganda. That life includes caring for ourselves and others.

  • Diana

    Yep, unregulated. Greed unfettered. Why can’t we have balance?

  • Anonymous

    No worries, spread the word.

  • Larry Coleman

    There is a big difference between the wealthy. Some want to give back (bill gates and others) while some want to get more or all of the rest like ( Kochs brothers, Sheldon Adeleson and others).

  • Oscar Lacat

    We need to start celebrating success. Stop portraying success as evil. This class warfare is bad for everyone. We need inventiveness and creativity which is inspired by the quest for success and all that success brings. I wonder why Al Gore’s beach front house and Al Geezra money was left out. No mention of George Soros. It’s OK to be rich as long as you are a liberal elitist. Look into President Obama’s partner Tony Rezco. Rezko, after all, built part of his fortune by exploiting the black
    community that Obama had served in the state Senate, and by milking
    government programs meant to benefit black-owned businesses. But Obama
    took Rezko’s money even after the businessman was sued by the city of
    Chicago for failing to heat his low-income apartments, and even after
    Rezko was caught using a black business partner to obtain a minority
    set-aside for a fast-food franchise at O’Hare Airport.

  • Steven Pallesen

    The word plutocracy is almost always used as a pejorative to describe or warn against an undesirable condition,[2][3] and throughout history political thinkers such as Winston Churchill, 19th-century French sociologist and historian Alexis de Tocqueville and 19th-century Spanish monarchist Juan Donoso Cortés have condemned those they characterize as plutocrats for ignoring their social responsibilities to the poor, using their power to serve their own purposes and thereby increasing poverty and nurturing class conflict, and corrupting their societies with greed and hedonism.[4][5]
    Plutocracy (from Greek πλοῦτος, ploutos, meaning “wealth”, and κράτος, kratos, meaning “power, dominion, rule”), also known as plutonomy or plutarchy, is rule by the wealthy.
    The key words here are “dominion” and “rule”. To have dominion over another requires deception and/or fear. To govern is to have dominion, the people relinquishing both their sovereignty and self-governing nature.
    The so-called plutocrats are the deception.
    That which has dominion over the people and rules is the law or so-called law, the “rule of law”. This so-called law is the adversarial system, the ADVERSARY. And the ADVERSARY rules what? HELL. Does the ADVERSARY forgive? Does the ADVERSARY turn the other cheek? Does the ADVERSARY treat others as it would like to be treated?
    Consider this story:
    In the beginning GOD COMMISSIONED the courts, knowing the LAW (which is Christ Jesus) was dear to the hearts of all humanity, to teach GOD’s LAW to the people of earth. This LAW is MERCY and TRUTH. This for the DIGNITY and CELESTIALIZING of humanity, earth and all it’s inhabitants. MERCY refers to SELF-GOVERNMENT, the only form of government that dignifies all humanity, and TRUTH is the environment of safety known as SOVEREIGNTY. Thus, the courts are to teach the people the art of self-government, honoring the sovereignty of each being. This they are to do by EXAMPLE and counsel in WORD. The courts turned from GOD and instead set out to have dominion over the earth and all it’s inhabitants, including humanity. In doing so we have the ADVERSARY as described in Isaiah 14, who set to establish it’s throne above GOD and the people, that is to govern.
    Scripture speaks of money being the root of all evil. Well, money is the fruit of evil as money is what governs the people, as much so as the rule of law. Evil really isn’t about money. Evil is about enslaving humanity, nothing more and nothing less. To strip us of our sovereignty and convince us we are incapable of self-governance. Namaste :) Love and Peace

  • Joel Siebold

    I think this is brilliant! I would add Bill Moyers to the list of Muckrakers.

  • Rose Marie Araya

    Enough of this.

  • Peter Douglas Anger

    Bill r we not forgetting that the military is, and has been the most profitable business ever…???? Banking, oil and computer just drive the business of FIGHTING!

  • Chris Twanya Schmidt

    Vote Green Party Greens are good for us!

  • Henry B Murphy Jr

    Absolutely, Jim. Ditto Warren. Think “The Buffett Tax”. There are tons of plutocrats. These three are for us, the common man. Author either ill-informed or intentionally deceptive.

  • cgmcle

    Classical capitalism, with its emphasis on free markets (“the invisible hand” Adam Smith wrote about), has evolved into a convergence of the power of capital and political power. We are now a nation in which corporate leaders, either directly or through their proxies, work cooperatively with political leaders to give primacy to corporate concerns. One outcome of their cooperation is the diminution of free markets. There was a time when the federal government acted against the creation of monopolies. Now, too big to fail seems to be the goal.

  • fmendoza

    I eco rebellious comment. but I would like to add the closer we are to truth. the closer we are to GOD. from your comments. I can feel a sense of brother hood. blessed be the martyr’s and the saints.

  • Anonymous

    You are clueless. Nobody is portraying success as evil. What they are portraying is those that use their success to hold other people back as evil. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates aren’t decried regarding their actions or begrudged what they have. Only people like the Koch brothers who use their money to buy politicians to prevent the government from giving a helping hand to anyone in need are worthy of derision. You can tell where you are coming from when you bring up George Soros. George may give to political campaigns, but he doesn’t try to manipulate the law lie many of the others mentioned. His goal is socail welfare, unlike many of the new robber barons.

  • Scott Stelle

    Why is the magazine Mother Jones listed as a modern muckraker and not individual journalists, like the original muckrakers Upton Sinclair and Lincoln Steffens?

  • Anonymous

    PEACE ON EARTH – GOODWILL TO ALL. We want 572 US billionaires to start paying Federal Income Tax and to stop doing everything in their power not to pay Federal Income Tax! We want 572 US billionaires to pay 5% in Federal Income taxes, saving 222 million from hunger,
    homelessness, and poverty. We want the rest of the world’s 1426+ billionaires to stop hoarding their money and pay 5% annual taxes to save the world from destruction and bring billions out of extreme poverty living on less the $1.25 a day.
    We want Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All.

  • John Lowmaster

    No one thinks themselves the villain. The “robber barons” of this age see themselves as driving the economy and providing for their workers. Without them where would those workers be? The more they make the more they can employ. Of course there is some truth there, but it is not the whole truth.
    The poor see themselves as manipulated by the system that is designed to advantage the privileged. That the doors that once gave them access to a “middle class” life are closing largely due to corporate interests unwilling to pay their fair share of taxes that would allow those doors to remain open, and driving up the price of entry into the middle class (particularly the defunding of public education and the rise in the price of a college education). Of course there is some truth there, but it is not the whole truth either.
    The rich see the poor as slackers who are willing to live on the “dole.” While the poor see the minimum wage being so low that even if they work full time and hold down two jobs they still qualify for food stamps. (The “dole” ending up as a backdoor way to subsidies businesses from having to pay their workers a living wage.)
    The poor see the rich as lazy inheritors of their position and power who got lucky and ended up on the top of the pile. While the rich see themselves as hard working and “self-made.”
    What is the truth? That pure capitalism is a pyramid scheme that left to it’s own allows few to rise to the top while most sink to the bottom. It gives the hope that anyone could rise to the top, but those that do will inevitably make it harder for others to do so to preserve their own position. Capitalism is an a-moral system. It doesn’t care who is on top an what happens to those on the bottom. If government does not redistribute wealth from the top back down to the bottom to give those at the bottom a chance to rise into the middle class the middle class will eventually disappear. Capitalism is not self-correcting. Without government balancing it will socialism that looks out for the needs of the poor and middle classes the abuses of capitalism turn the majority of the population into little more that economic surfs.

  • Sam Duncan

    “Class warfare?” I always find it baffling, and more than a little disconcerting when one uses that term to describe any effort to bring attention to the rampant inequality that not only represents a threat to the promise of a livable wage and life without want, but also threatens the very functional viability of a democratic republic. To use that term as you do is the most vile and mind-numbingly oblivious understanding of the historical developments that have shaped the last 40+ years. In that time, GDP and worker productivity has increased, yet wages have stagnated (fluctuating mildly between 1967 and today, but generally have remained flat). And even as more women have entered the workforce and homes became 2 income households, the runaway cost of childcare has erased any gains made by having two incomes. The promise of public education has eroded under an onslaught of privatization efforts, and higher education has become far less accessible for most Americans (thanks to the withdrawal of public investment in our college and university systems), even as it has become more important for employment. All of this has happened while top marginal tax cuts and capital gains cuts have allowed the amassing of the nations wealth in the hands of a very few, even as they ship jobs overseas. How that is not “class warfare” to people of your ilk is beyond me.

  • Anonymous

    Your description is accurate, but I don’t really think it is the government “redistributing wealth from the top back down to the bottom.” It is more that the government has to put in place rules that account for the inequities in the system that tends to create an uneven playing field to level out the playing field. This is done through government regulations and taxation that create disincentives to do things that hurt the majority in favor of a small minority.

  • Michael E. Russell

    If they only had the merit of the self-made men of the past, perhaps they would understand that Objectivism is a philosophy of justice, a secular ethics based upon meritocracy where creative and productive action (i.e. labor) creates wealth and the value is put upon self-reliance of the individual, not the corporate welfare state.

  • John Lowmaster

    Perhaps in a healthy economy you would be correct. However, at the current time so much of the wealth has been redistributed to the top that there isn’t enough wealth in rest of the system for government to be effective. Government policies have been responsible for creating the vast discrepancies between rich and poor through deregulation of so much of our economy. That deregulation is responsible for redistributing wealth to the very, very top. Just fixing those policies is not going to balance the system. If a billionaire had to pay a 40% tax instead of a 15% tax, what wouldn’t they be able to buy with $600,000,000 that they can’t buy now with $850,000,000? But that $250,000,000 would allow us to increase funding for education.

  • JonThomas

    And let us not whitewash Objectivism too much by limiting its antipole to the “corporate welfare state”.

    The praised objectivist tenet of a so-called ‘meritocracy’ was conjured in a fictional world that ignores the lottery of birth.

    Following through the logical conclusions of Objectivism, anyone born with, or in, less than perfect conditions (and thus leading to handicaps) through some sort of merited deficiency, does not deserve to live in dignity.

    “If they can’t earn it, they don’t deserve it!”

    Objectivism has some good aspects, but its an incomplete philosophy that woefully ignores the realities of human existence, and lacks the deeper understandings of community and even… love.

  • Menagerie

    Call it what you will but the simple terminology is down-right “GREED.” Heroin has the same effect.

  • Chris Boese

    Did y’all mean to leave out HL Menken? Or was he later in your Gilded Age timeline?

  • Anonymous

    There’s an important difference between the two nicknames. The second is the name the titans gave to themselves, and unlike the term Robber Barons, Job Creators is doublespeak.

  • Michael E. Russell

    From what I see here is that those who judge the “New Gilded Age” oligarchs to be ‘bad’, and ascribe upon them the philosophy of Any Rand’s Objectivism, don’t seem to understand two things: 1) that most of the new rich don’t claim Ayn Rand as inspiration, 2) of those that do, they warp her philosophy to reverse the cause and effect (merit and wealth), and thus actually ascribe to the opposite of Rand’s secular ethic.

  • JonThomas

    I have read Ayn Rand. In fact, I have read nearly everything she has published… and I repeat… Objectivism has some good aspects, but it’s an incomplete philosophy that woefully ignores the realities of human existence, and lacks the deeper understandings of community, and even… love.

    Rand, or O’Conner (or whichever… self-defined realities to fit your rationalizations) as you say, does exalt the individual, but she does so while disregarding the concept of community. In a way, it’s not entirely her fault. She was raised in a country which claimed community values, but was a oligarchic nightmare of hypocrisy. Her mistake was going to the extremes of hubris.

    However, there are no egalitarian ethics in the U.S. Saying that there are, without any substance behind such a claim, does not make it true.

    The U.S. may claim to idealize ‘egalitarian ethics,’ or… equality of opportunity… but this falsehood is the same type of hypocritical claim as was the U.S.S.R.’s claim to communistic equality. Both Nation’s claims are/were myths.

    I won’t even go into the phrase… “Corporate Bureaucrats that create government monopolies…”

    The human creature is influenced by the outside world. It’s subjective view of reality is dependent on both it’s perspective, and it’s environment. If a child is raised in an abusive condition, for one example, its ability to properly respond to environmental conditions is affected. There is no objective condition which would make egalitarian promises manifest.

    Another example (among many, many others) lies in the conditions surrounding psychopathic, and sociopathic disorders. Without the ability to act rationally, and objectively, along a range consisting of degrees of health and normalcy (which is an unknowable quantum,) subjective views of ‘self’ and ‘self-interest’ * are not in any way part of a standardized perspective of reality, nor apply to virtuous measures of action.

    The point is… there is no ‘objective’ standard of measure available to a human. The ‘self’ is a limited condition which has no way of determining the outcome of its actions. To exalt the self, in the vacuum which is individuality, is literally the definition of irrationality. Her theories were aberrant and only reach sane conclusions when described and exercised in fictional, sanitized, Deus ex machina narrations of supposed realities.

    Its easy to accuse a person of mistaken premises. All you have to do is see the world differently and ignore the virtue of the other’s perspective. To a person standing on an apex, the world is a self-centered space. To a person who understands that the human self is not an end, but is part of a continuum, the world is a shared setting in which context exists within a spectrum of understanding. One person’s view of the world is just that… their view. Just because a person can effect the world of others, does not mean it is to the benefit of others. And since the view is from a ‘self’, it is, at best, subjective. To claim objective understanding of the world is the worst of folly.

    Just as the civilizations of the past built entire empires upon their obtuse understandings of their world, and what they thought was their objective reality, so too are today’s efforts… a passing chimera, a folly of self-centeredness.

    Is there an objective reality? Yes… but the ‘self’ has little means to discern it. Without understanding, or respect for the perspective of others, the ‘self’ is an ignorant, imperceptive, near-sighted blob of matter.

    Did the ‘self’ discern and process language on its own? Did the ‘self’ suck the breast of rocks? Did the ‘self’ learn social behavior from the rain? Did the ‘self’ wish itself into existence, then by sheer will continue forever? Does it wipe its own butt at the beginning and end?

    To exalt the ‘self’, or ‘individualism’ is to accept the concept of spontaneous generation, then praise the misconception.

    Arrogance and hubris is the worship practices, and the adoration of fools.

    We do have agreement in your final paragraph, but that is just one more area in which Ayn Rand fell far short. Have Objectivist thinkers pushed the boundaries of her ideas? Yes, but as I said… while there are benefits to some of its understandings, because of the limitations of the self, Objectivism is, at best, an incomplete philosophy.

    * Mrs. O’Connor’s definition of selfishness is down-right laughable – – – ‘Let’s redefine words so that our misconstrued ideas will make Escheresque sense to an Escheresqued mind.’ – – – in other words… ‘let’s change meanings to fit our narrative so to manipulate perspective.’ In any case, her continual misuse of language alone makes her work, as a whole, irrational and unsound.