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Soul Friends or Arch Enemies?

It is doubtful whether Trump's presidency is based on Ayn Rand's philosophy.


During Obama, the tax burden was increased, regulations intensified, government borrowing / debt doubled, public offerings strengthened, and bureaucracy aroused. This policy had great support from the entire power elite: academia, press, bureaucracy, film industry and more.

Obama was not gracious in his characterization of dissenters: "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who are not like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." which was similar to Hillary Clinton's statement that half of Trump's supporters were "the basket of deplorables […] racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic."

Many people remembered an 50 year old book that had predicted such a development: Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged  (1957). The sale of Atlas increased strongly after 2009, and as one might expect, there was also a popular revolt against Obama. As president, the US chose in 2016 the complete outsider – a vulgar, wealthy businessman and TV star with no political experience (and former Democrat and Clinton friend): Donald Trump.

Rand paid tribute to contractors og capitalists, and did not have much good to say about the power elite. Is it true that Rand's ideals have begun to characterize the United States? Many claim this, including Cineaste Magazine's movie review of Fountainhead from 1949 (published in Norwegian translation in Ny Nids November issue), which claimed that Rand's "extreme individualist utopia has long since become a reality in the United States". Some top politicians like Rand's novels, but is the placement of Trump in the presidency a sign that Rand's philosophy has taken hold?

Rand admired entrepreneurs: They create products, optimize offers and offer things that the public buys because they make their lives better. They regard competition as a good that motivates improvements. Entrepreneurs create because they are creative. Steve Jobs is an example: iPhone, iPad and iTunes are found in countless homes. Jobs revolutionized several industries: the film industry (Pixar), the music industry and the computer industry. Jobs' motive was to create good products, not to make money.

Atlas you also find business people whom Rand does not admire: They ask the state for support and protection from competition, seek special benefits, buy politicians and get tailor-made regulations. Trump is one such type: he donated to politicians' campaigns (gave "bribes"), asked for special benefits and wanted protection from competition. Nobody beats Trump in showing his wealth in a vulgar way – something Trump Tower confirms. Howard Roark refused to design this building, while opportunist Peter Keating would happily take the job (characters from Rand's The Fountainhead).

Trump does not want freedom. He uses political power to support press groups. He says that "China steals our jobs" – even though international division of labor is an advantage that increases productivity and thus wealth. Trump wants to close the borders to keep strangers out, but the more people who do productive work in a country, the greater the production and prosperity. Rand supported freedom in both trade and immigration. Trump, on the other hand, has little respect for the individual's right to seek happiness wherever he / she wishes. Many people want to go to the United States because freedom is greater there – this is good for the United States, but not for countries of origin that lose resourceful people. IN Atlas Rand describes this phenomenon as "a drain of brains" (the term "brain drain" has been used more and more frequently since 1957).

Both Trump and other key figures have said that they admire Rand's heroic figures, but there is often a long way between words and action; one can admire Rand's ideals and at the same time be against the implications of those ideals.

Rand admired entrepreneurs: they create products, improve deals and offer things that the audience buys because they make their lives better.

Rand fled from the Communist tyranny of the Soviet Union in 1926, and came to the United States where she believed the ideas of freedom were strong. She was quickly disappointed: the 1930s were "the red decade" – a period when virtually all intellectuals paid tribute to the "noble experiment" of the Soviet Union and wanted a similar development in the United States. After first Hoover and then Roosevelt stepped up regulations with increased protectionism (the Smooth-Hawley Act passed in 1930; that it would come was known in advance and largely the cause of the crash in 1929), the prohibition on owning gold (inflation-proof money) for private individuals from 1933 as well as a number of other interventions. The economy went into a crisis. Few have learned from this period, and Trump is a protectionist.

The financial crisis in 2008–2009 was mainly caused by the US Central Bank having kept its interest rates artificially low for a period (including to boost business activity after 11 / 9-2001), and then implemented a significant interest rate increase in 2005-06 (the ratio of short-term interest rates to long loans turned around). Investments and loans that had been profitable with low interest rates and suddenly became unprofitable, and the bankruptcies came. A number of banks speculated on this, confident that if things went wrong, the state would rescue them (Obama supported the rescue packages). Support schemes lead to careless behavior, and this also affects business people. State bailouts saved some banks and firms from what the free market would have given them: bankruptcy. The cost of "bailouts" (and government debt) is charged to the taxpayers – all taxes are paid by the fact that ordinary people have to work more to earn what they buy; Business taxation is just an indirect way of taxing customers.

However, these measures happened before Trump, but would not have happened if Rand's ideas had stood firm: She supported full business freedom, including "free banking". This would provide stable monetary value linked to a gold standard, and an interest rate level determined by the market rather than bureaucrats. It would not have been a central bank that manipulates monetary value and interest rates and creates economic crises.

Rand's ideal is rationality – that one adheres to the facts, is logical, honest, principled, long-term, has integrity and thinks carefully before acting. Does this description fit Trump? His dealings with facts are limp, his countless tweets do not indicate that he is thinking through what he is saying, and he is changing his mind so quickly that he even puts professional politicians in the shade.

Trump and Rand are not in the same boat, they are not in the same ideological universe – they are practically opposite extremes. To claim that Rand's ideas have a significant influence on US politics today is just absurd.

Vegard Martinsen
Vegard Martinsen
Martinsen is the leader of the Liberal People's Party.

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