RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Reich writes: "Donald Trump once said he identified with Ayn Rand's character Howard Roark in 'The Fountainhead,' an architect so upset that a housing project he designed didn't meet specifications he had it dynamited."

Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Trump's Brand Is Ayn Rand

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

06 March 18


onald Trump once said he identified with Ayn Rand’s character Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead,” an architect so upset that a housing project he designed didn’t meet specifications he had it dynamited. 

Others in Trump’s circle were influenced by Rand. “Atlas Shrugged” was said to be the favorite book of Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state. Rand also had a major influence on Mike Pompeo, Trump’s CIA chief. Trump’s first nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, said he spent much of his free time reading Rand. 

The Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, required his staff to read Rand.

Uber’s founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, has described himself as a Rand follower. Before he was sacked, he applied many of her ideas to Uber’s code of values, and even used the cover art for Rand’s book “The Fountainhead” as his Twitter avatar. 

Who is Ayn Rand and why does she matter?  Ayn Rand – best known for two highly-popular novels still widely read today – “The Fountainhead,” published in 1943, and “Atlas Shrugged,” in 1957 – didn’t believe there was a common good. She wrote that selfishness is a virtue, and altruism is an evil that destroys nations. 

When Rand offered these ideas they seemed quaint if not far-fetched. Anyone who lived through the prior half century witnessed our interdependence, through depression and war. 

After the war we used our seemingly boundless prosperity to finance all sorts of public goods – schools and universities, a national highway system, and healthcare for the aged and poor (Medicare and Medicaid). We rebuilt war-torn Europe. We sought to guarantee the civil rights and voting rights of African-Americans. We opened doors of opportunity to women. Of course there was a common good. We were living it.

But then, starting in the late 1970s, Rand’s views gained ground. She became the intellectual godmother of modern-day American conservatism. 

This utter selfishness, this contempt for the public, this win-at-any-cost mentality is eroding American life. 

Without adherence to a set of common notions about right and wrong, we’re living in a jungle where only the strongest, cleverest, and most unscrupulous get ahead, and where everyone must be wary in order to survive. This is not a society. It’s not even a civilization, because there’s no civility at its core. It’s a disaster. 

In other words, we have to understand who Ayn Rand is so we can reject her philosophy and dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the common good.  

The idea of the common good was once widely understood and accepted in America. After all, the U.S. Constitution was designed for “We the people” seeking to “promote the general welfare” – not for “me the selfish jerk seeking as much wealth and power as possible.” 

Yet today you find growing evidence of its loss – CEOs who gouge their customers, loot their corporations and defraud investors. Lawyers and accountants who look the other way when corporate clients play fast and loose, who even collude with them to skirt the law. 

Wall Street bankers who defraud customers and investors. Film producers and publicists who choose not to see that a powerful movie mogul they depend on is sexually harassing and abusing young women. 

Politicians who take donations (really, bribes) from wealthy donors and corporations to enact laws their patrons want, or shutter the government when they don’t get the partisan results they seek. 

And a president of the United States who lies repeatedly about important issues, refuses to put his financial holdings into a blind trust and then personally profits off his office, and foments racial and ethnic conflict. 

The common good consists of our shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society. A concern for the common good – keeping the common good in mind – is a moral attitude. It recognizes that we’re all in it together. 

If there is no common good, there is no society. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+69 # Tsaddik 007 2018-03-06 14:26
What is most astonishing is that many of those people, particularly those in politics -- especially when campaigning for "conservative" support, profess to believe in the philosophical and moral constructs of Jesus and Ayn Rand. Concurrently. They do so with all their hearts and souls (if there are souls in there somewhere,) failing to recognize that the teachings of Rand and Jesus could not be more in opposition. How they reside in the same minds is clearly a form of moral schizophrenia which cannot be resolved.
+19 # PeacefulGarden 2018-03-07 05:53
Exactly! It is a form of collective psychosis, which is the monster we all fear, and have feared for thousands of years.

It has to do with that psychological study with a small peer group pressuring a teenager into marking an answer on a test incorrectly; brilliant study. Why we do this as humans is bizarre. And it does point to Rand.

But a republicans read of Rand is pack with falsehoods. I don't think any of them have actually read the books.
+45 # Art947 2018-03-06 14:43
As I read this piece by the learned Prof. Reich, I couldn't help thinking that the demise of our American society corresponds to the growth of MBA programs and the vast increase in the number of lawyers in this nation. What are the tenets of ethical behavior that form the core of these areas of study? Situational ethics or an absolute value? Is Greed the underlying principle of corporate America?

In addition, one must examine the core of the Christianity that is preached and practiced in this nation. While the con-man-in-chie f complains that Happy Holidays pushed out Merry Christmas as a December greeting, his denial of the values that Jesus promoted makes a mockery of this bluster. His enablers, whether in the evangelical right wing pulpits or the halls of Congress and state legislatures, further questions what the actual American values mean.

How much further damage will this motley crew do to our nation before we finally put them out of their misery?
-69 # wantrealdemocracy 2018-03-06 14:47
I am a little tired of all the people who constantly trash our duly elected President. NEVER on the major media do we ever hear or see of any good this man has done, and is trying to do more to make America better. We have suffered, since the murder of President Kennedy, a general and steady decline in our living standards for the middle class.

Let's get over the trashing of Trump. We'd be in a nuclear war by now under Hillary. All this misinformation about the Russians getting Trump elected is pure nonsense. He won, by the latest investigations in to our voting system, BOTH the general popular count and the count of the Electoral College.

Most of us know that both of the major parties are fatally corrupt. It is up to us, the people of this nation, to vote for candidates who promise to truly represent the people of the district for whom they are supposed to represent. Can't say those creeps in office now do that. They vote as directed by their major donors (those that give them huge bribes and/or have evidence of something nasty in their past).
+9 # MidwestDick 2018-03-06 23:56
[quote name= He won, by the latest investigations in to our voting system, BOTH the general popular count and the count of the Electoral College.

Shocking contention, and dangerously deceptive. That tlcose overlooked it is a sinister omission
+7 # Observer 47 2018-03-07 11:22
You lost me in your second sentence, as "good" and "Trump" are oxymorons. Neither do I believe that the Dumpster won the popular vote.

However, I agree that electing sHillary increased the likelihood of a war with Russia. OTOH, Dumpster's saber-rattling at North Korea may or may not provoke actual hostilities, but our Resident's love for nuclear weapons is scary of itself.

Your concluding paragraph is spot-on, but claiming that Dumpster does "good," while simultaneously contending that the "creeps on office" are corrupt and don't represent their constituents... you contradict yourself.
+8 # Michaeljohn 2018-03-07 11:39
Perhaps, wantrealdemocra cy, you could spare a few moments to describe to us the real democracy your hash tag seems to indicate you believe in?
+8 # pmargaret7 2018-03-07 14:49
Methinks that 'realdemocracy' might be a "realbot". Language is somewhat stilted and the ideas are all over the place. To say that Drumph is "duly elected" is delusional, for one thing, and that he is trying to do more to make America better could not be more laughable. Drumph does nothing but cause chaos surrounding and about himself! Why the Democrats in Congress have not tried for impeachment is hard to believe. His whole idea about the tariffs is like an old man who sticks his heels in the sand and will not budge even though everyone around him says it is a bad idea. It is stupid, willful and vindictive and sooooo Drumph.
+2 # suzyskier 2018-03-08 08:50
The Democrats have tried to do something about impeachment, in fact just recently. Need a few more in congress to succeed.
+18 # dgillman 2018-03-06 14:51
I expect others will have remarked on this as well, but doesn't the notion of country depend on some common ideals? Based on the reaction (politically on the right)people had to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, it seems country is pretty important. Then, maybe Rand's philosophy is internally inconsistent and should be abandoned.
+27 # tsyganka 2018-03-06 15:10
So Trump (corporatist-fa scist & con man from hell), Tillersan (science denial by Exxon), Pompeo (foisted the DARK Act on us), and Ryan (requires his staff to read Rand crap) are all in love with Ayn Rand.

The White House comment line is 1-202-456-1111, and the congressional switchboard is 1-202-224-3121.

While you're there, you might also tell Trumpie to direct the US Forest Service to stop Nestle from pumping over 150 million gallons of water per year out of California's San Bernadino National Forest. Nestle is doing this on a permit that expired 30 years ago. CA's Water Board has directed Nestle to stop; and, in true Randian fashion, Nestle's fascists have merely sneered and continued.
+42 # suzyskier 2018-03-06 15:17
Any Rand is a terrible influence but she fits right in with the Republican Party as it stands now. The party of greed, selfishness and lack of humanity.
+13 # DongiC 2018-03-07 04:46
The party from hell if there ever was one. Being a good republican and a good christian is like squaring the proverbial circle. It can't be done
+8 # krazykwiltkatt 2018-03-07 17:53
I have always wondered why the fundies who got their knickers in a twist over the moon & stars logo of Proctor & Gamble a decade ago have not noticed the reversed five-pointed stars (pentagrams) on the Official Republican Elephant logo. If ever there were a party from Hell, a down-ward pointing pentagram would identify it. and Jared Kushner owns a building at 666 5th Ave. Just coincidence, I'm sure. But the Ayn Randian philosophy seems to be 'Sod you, I've got mine' which is the very opposite of the so-called Judeo-Christian foundation of modern society. Meanwhile the Theocrats are moving ahead with locking into place a punishing set of rules, the opposite of what their gospels teach. Great future in front of us, eh?
+34 # janie1893 2018-03-06 15:22
World events over the past 75 years have proven that Rand and Strauss were both wrong in thinking selfism and greed were correct principles by which to operate. If we had spent the same amount of time ensuring that everyone had something, it would be a much more pleasant world than we have today.
-19 # Depressionborn 2018-03-06 21:38
Quoting janie1893:
World events over the past 75 years have proven that Rand and Strauss were both wrong in thinking selfism and greed were correct principles by which to operate. If we had spent the same amount of time ensuring that everyone had something, it would be a much more pleasant world than we have today.

sure, except that your "ensuring that everyone had something," has no good end. Something has to come from somewhere.
+8 # Michaeljohn 2018-03-07 11:37

sure, except that your "ensuring that everyone had something," has no good end. Something has to come from somewhere.

Apparently, you've never had the experience of working with someone to create that 'something that has to come somewhere'
Sad ....
-33 # Depressionborn 2018-03-06 15:22
Ayn Rand saw the evil of socialist Russia. She became psychotic about the church involvement and turned atheist. An individualist, she was all for self and selfishness. She probably thought the "common good" was a fraud and excelling to one's ability the only virtue.

Read Atlas. Your half way there now.

I say read Atlas and go Galt. john
+2 # Salus Populi 2018-03-10 00:03
She was all for selfishness, except when she needed something; then she demanded help from the despised government.

She was a home wrecker (so much for family), since her amoral pathology held nothing but contempt for such values as loyalty to one's spouse.

Her family, as I recall, was white Russian, the counter-revolut ionaries who invited in 19 countries' armies to help them with their bitter fight to restore the Tsarist system that gave them their privileges.

As for her turgid writing, it really is almost unreadable. Her fanatical need to impress everyone with the purported "depths" of her shallow philosophy -- which amounted to the demand of a spoiled two-year-old for everyone's attention and everything she wanted -- led her to create cardboard characters with wooden dialogue that no real person would speak, with all the heroes resembling Rand herself.

I read "Anthem," an early effort that was only a hundred or so pages long, as part of an assignment for a philosophy class and, short as it was, it was almost impossible to get through it without either choking with laughter and ridicule or just falling asleep with boredom.

Someone once wrote that Rand was exciting to young teenage boys. That pretty much sums up her cheerleaders and followers.
+30 # Skeeziks 2018-03-06 16:22
"If there is no common good, there is no society."

Oh there's a society alright. Only the common good is as we see now with the Republican control of Congress and the White House. It, the "common good" relates only to the wealthy, wealthier and wealthiest among us.

That's what happens when those who are "leaders" lead only for the caste they belong to.

They get their wealth from doing the bidding of those even more wealthy than they, but the "leaders" all the while, hope to be equal to those who who give them the "money means", to do the wealthier's bidding.
+17 # tedrey 2018-03-06 16:32
Yes, but this carcinomic malady is rooted far deeper than Trump, or than the Republican Party; it is the resurgence of a disease endemic to democracies for which we shut our eyes to the remedies. Why? Because the cures are costly and we are short-sighted and cheap.
+24 # moreover 2018-03-06 16:48
Reich should have also listed Alan Greenspan who was under her spell big time. Here's a source listing how deep:
+18 # AlexG 2018-03-06 17:51
Ayn Rand (Alyssa Rosenblum), was born in St. Petersburg Russia, and as a youth, experienced the worst aspects of the Bolshevik takeover of the anti-Tsarist Russian Revolution.
She was clearly hystericalized by the experience -- the absurdly anti-individual ist, almost fascistic excesses of the resulting Leninist-led Soviet Communist Party -- and soon fled to the USA, where she used her writing talents, coupled with her undiminished personal hysteria, to ironically create an absolutist corpus of ideas & literature that absurdly damned virtually ALL forms of human collectivism (no matter how voluntary or democratic), while extolling virtually ALL forms of individualism (no matter how sociopathic or dysfuntionally narcissistic.)
She never transcended her hysteria-rooted . normatively-abs olutist, one-dimensional view of the [obviously deeper and more complex] Human Condition.
Yet Rand's emotionally-ill writings gradually came to find wide, if often unspoken, support among many Libertarians and Republicans in USA, who had, Since the FDR era, been searching for a new way to publicly-philos ophically "justify" their own, rotten, Anti-Enlightenm ent beliefs in Slave/Master
structures of human political economy.
You don't need to be a gooey leftwinger to see the entropic pathology in Rand's kind of thinking.
+6 # Observer 47 2018-03-07 11:26
Excellent analysis! Thanks for the background.
0 # draypoker 2018-03-16 10:27
What I find "interesting" is the fact that so many Americans - surely nobody outside of America? - find her so interesting. What does that say about the situation in America? Is America on the brink of fascism? Did this liking for her lead to Trump? How will those of us outside of America deal with a fascist regime in one of the richest countries on earth?
+3 # jwb110 2018-03-06 18:11
Ayn Rand also said that a President with a religious agenda (Bush 2) would be the ruination of the Country. No conservative ever quotes that.
The White House is full of anarchists and once anarchy prevails they all volunteer army and FEMA and the rest of the Alt-Right drivel will be activated and a dictatorship will become the norm.
And all the AR-15s in the country won't be able to stop it.
The People of this Nation are choosing sides already. Decide now what means most to you and your progeny because in one generation the Greatest Governmental Experiment in Democracy will cease to even be a memory.
Maybe the Progressives should stock up on their own AR-15s. It could easily come to that. When the Republican congressman who asked the question of how many Jews went to the ovens because they weren't armed may have provided a historical perspective for all.
+3 # Observer 47 2018-03-07 11:33
"And all the AR-15s in the country won't be able to stop it."

"Maybe the Progressives should stock up on their own AR-15s. It could easily come to that."

Mutually exclusive propositions here. Ten million hard-core resisters, all armed with assault weapons, are still no match for a mechanized, technologically advanced military. You were right in the first place.
+28 # draypoker 2018-03-06 18:22
As a non-American I am always amazed that such a bad writer and horrible person as Ayn Rand is so admired by so many Americans (she is hardly ever mentioned in Britain). I read one of her novels while I was in Saudi, where there seemed to be many of her fans among American oil workers. Why can't her readers understand how obnoxious her world view is? In Europe the people closest to her views were the Nazis and fascists.
0 # dbrize 2018-03-07 13:20
Quoting draypoker:
As a non-American I am always amazed that such a bad writer and horrible person as Ayn Rand is so admired by so many Americans (she is hardly ever mentioned in Britain). I read one of her novels while I was in Saudi, where there seemed to be many of her fans among American oil workers. Why can't her readers understand how obnoxious her world view is? In Europe the people closest to her views were the Nazis and fascists.

Of course there is no shortage of "...horrible persons..." either currently or in posterity. The lefts oft anointed one Marx, was a world class grifter, constantly living it up with money donated, borrowed and begged from family and friends.

Rand's mediocre writing abilities are acknowledged, as we should acknowledge Marx frequent descent into incomprehensibl e verbiage. This leads to the thought that writing style be less significant than the ideas being conveyed. To this extent both can be rated successes in that their ideas have retain attention.

Rand initially at least, spoke directly and somewhat courageously against the prevailing thought that collectivism was the wave of the future. She, Hayek and a few others were among the few that saw behind the curtain of collectivism the subjugation of human spirit and creativity necessary to its rule.

Later, her cult-like Objectivism with it's dogmatic pronouncements enhanced by excommunication s, saw her justifiably condemned and her legacy diminished.
+5 # suzyskier 2018-03-08 09:21
I totally agree with you, she was awfull. I don’t get it either. I tried reading one of her novels and just had to return it to the library after less than a chapter. I hesitate to say this as I am an American but I’ve noted a trend towards selfishness and greed in this country since the late 1980’s. It is particularly noticeable in the extremely wealthy and in Republicans in Government. It’s very depressing and very bad for the country.
+9 # 2018-03-06 19:04
Perfect analogy. The Spoiled Brat in action
Nice post Mr. Reich!
+8 # janla 2018-03-06 21:07
I didn't know that Trump could read.
0 # Catskinner 2018-03-09 09:32
Who really believes the use of the word "read"? Available through Audible for those incapable of reading, for whatever reason.
-3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-03-06 21:25
Finally, we have found the collusion between Trump and a Russian. Ayn Rand was Russian, born Alyssa Rosenblum, a Russian Jew.

Russiagate is vindicated. Clearly it was she who brainwashed the "deplorables" who voted for Trump. She did not need to use social media, though many may have picked up her thought via social media. Her writings have been preparing the way for her puppet Trump since the 1950s.

I hope Mueller will exhume her body and interrogate her fully under oath. Finally, Hillary has been proven right -- she said last week, "the Russians are still coming." Now we know she was channeling Ayn Rand.
+8 # boredlion 2018-03-06 22:03
Yes. A very apt post, Mr. Reich (Better late than never).

Ayn Rand was a very tweaked and twisted fascist fellow traveler, as mentioned above. Not unlike many US political operatives in our government and economy today. Her works were even embraced by right-wing big studio Hollywood filmmakers during the McCarthy era.
It even led to a pretty good Gary Cooper-Patricia Neal movie, "The Fountainhead" (1949), a sexy epic about architecture.

But, she was a pretty bad writer and not much as a political or economic thinker. It's a sad commentary on our current political environment when a sort of fascist pornographer is the favored philosopher of our nation's leaders.
+10 # DongiC 2018-03-07 04:56
If you hate the world and the people in it, honor Ayn Rand. She means to be mean; her banner is misery. For the vast majority, now and forever.
+14 # Realist1948 2018-03-07 06:43
As a real estate and casino developer, Trump apparently had contempt toward his subcontractors and investors. This attitude may have helped him take financial advantage, but did nothing for his popularity in metropolitan New York.

If Trump has supporters from the New York business community, or from Wharton alumni, or his former neighbors, they have been a reticent bunch. In the 2016 election, Trump lost Queens by a 3-to-1 margin. With the exception of Staten Island, metro New York voters rejected Trump decisively. In other words, the people who saw him close-up for the longest time rejected him.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.