Five ways Ayn Rand predicted America’s political crises, from parents spurned to the rise of cancel culture
‘Atlas Shrugged’ author saw that growing influence of ‘rotten ideas’ would create ‘rotten outcomes,’ social upheaval
By Kerry J. Byrne – July 25, 2023
Many foundational pillars of society in the United States appear to be crumbling right now before our eyes, weakened by an erosive array of social, economic and political forces.
The deterioration of traditional cultural norms and the social upheaval that’s followed — from the living room to classroom the boardroom — is no surprise to Ayn Rand scholars.
The celebrated Russian-born American author and philosopher predicted with haunting accuracy many of the nation’s current crises.
Among her observations: Government would encroach on parental rights, stifle academic and scientific research, and fuel a dangerous mentality of victimhood.
“She understood that history is moved by ideas and if you have rotten ideas you have rotten outcomes,” Yaron Brook, chairman of the California-based Ayn Rand institute, told Fox News Digital.
“She understood that culture, society and politics are shaped by philosophy and when she saw the philosophical trends of the 1940s and 1950s she knew where it would eventually lead.”
The fact that she saw a troubled future amid the euphoric post-World War II glow of America’s global hegemony makes her insight even more remarkable.
“She understood that history is moved by ideas and if you have rotten ideas you have rotten outcomes” — Yaron Brook
The groundbreaking thinker was born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905.
She was just 12 years old when Russia exploded in Marxist revolution.
She moved to the United States at age 21, founded the philosophy of objectivism, authored groundbreaking books such as “Atlas Shrugged” in 1957 — and today stands as a powerful advocate of individual liberty and America’s foundational ideal.
Even her biggest fans might be surprised at her prescient insight into the state of America today.
- Rand foresaw America’s tragic failures in education
Centralized educational bureaucracy has reached deeply into local education in recent decades — to the quantifiable detriment of the system and the nation’s schoolchildren.
The creation of the federal Department of Education in 1979, to cite one example, has been followed by a massive reduction in the number of local school districts and local power over education.
Students and parents rally at the Ohio Statehouse in support of possible changes that would increase eligibility for taxpayer-funded school vouchers to K-12 students statewide on May 17, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. Advocates applaud the changes as expanding school choice but opponents say such programs divert funding from public schools and violate Ohio’s constitution. (AP Photo/Samantha Hendrickson)
The promise of centralized education took money out of local communities, funded a massive bureaucracy and gave back pennies on the dollar but with the authority to influence local policy through federal purse strings.
“Everyone knows that American schools are failing, that they cannot even teach children to read,” said Brook.
“It’s no surprise that kids grow up feeling anxious, helpless, and act out — and that parents are frustrated. The problem goes back more than a century to the injection of a corrupt philosophical approach to education — and Ayn Rand exposed this problem long ago.”
- Rand warned against government encroaching on parental rights and authority
Government has stepped between parents and children in ways Americans until recently never dreamed possible.
“The government has no right to interfere in the upbringing of a child, which is entirely the responsibility and the right of the parent.” — Ayn Rand
School boards and bureaucrats openly silence parents trying to maintain a voice in public education.
Legislators are actively working to remove parents from making life-altering medical decisions for their children.
“Since the child is dependent for his survival on the parents, the government can see to it that the child’s life is safe,” Rand said in “Ayn Rand on Campus” in 1962.
“But this does not extend to intellectual issues,” she added.
“The government has no right to interfere in the upbringing of a child, which is entirely the responsibility and the right of the parent.”
- Rand predicted the intellectual dangers of victimhood
American culture once prized the universality of potential: Anyone can succeed regardless of identity.
Disparities in results are irrefutable, but the successes of maximized opportunity for everyone in America are irrefutable, too.
People of all races, creeds and colors flooded the world’s greatest immigrant nation to chase opportunity they did not have at home — and still do today.
The rise of victimhood culture has erased this opportunity for millions of Americans.
It’s convinced them that society is hopelessly stacked against them, effort is futile and dependence is freedom.
“The academia-jet set coalition is attempting to tame the American character by the deliberate breeding of helplessness and resignation — in those incubators of lethargy known as ‘progressive’ schools,” Rand wrote in an essay that appears in her 1971 anthology, “The New Left: The Anti-American Revolution.”
These schools, she noted, “are dedicated to the task of crippling a child’s mind by arresting his cognitive development.”
Said Brook, “Equality of outcomes is an evil idea. It’s a metaphysically impossible idea.” He wrote about the topic is his 2016 book, “Equal is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality.”
- Rand warned that ever-larger government would stifle intellectual freedom
Science, academia and the arts have become increasingly dependent on government largesse in recent decades.
Intellectual and creative freedom that made the United States the global leader in research and popular culture has been replaced by conformity.
“Government grants to the arts are a horror. They make it harder for artists who lack political pull and do not share in contemporary esthetic tastes,” Rand said in a 1976 lecture.
“No whim is more ugly and revolting than the esthetic whim of some bureaucrat. All an artist can do in this context is be a spiritual bootlicker.”
The danger to science is something else again.
“The government has created a situation wherein there is little private industry research … therefore scientists have no choice but to apply for government grants.”
The dangers of government-controlled research became brutally apparently during the COVID-19 pandemic, when lives and careers were destroyed simply for challenging politically motivated policies passed off as science.
“Psychologically, this is the cultural atmosphere of a society living under censorship,” said Brook.
- Rand argued capitalism would perish in a society cowed by cancel culture
American-style capitalism produced wealth and opportunity never before imagined in human history.
Rand argued that leftists of her time were morally corrupt for advocating utopian philosophies and pushing the United States toward stateism.
But she was even more critical of conservatives and traditionalists who failed to fight back.
She appeared to predict that they would be cowed by public pressure or what we now call cancel culture.
“Capitalism is what the ‘conservatives’ dare not advocate or defend,” she said.
“They are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: the morality of altruism.”
The power of political altruism, the belief that government can provide happiness, has only grown in the decades that have followed.
“Altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value.”
She sensed that the fight between capitalism and altruism could tear apart the nation.
“Capitalism and altruism are incompatible … They cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society,” she said.
Kerry J. Byrne is a lifestyle reporter with Fox News Digital.