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November 14, 2009

Ayn Rand and ATC Facilities

I've written previously about the cult of Ayn Rand, and I've also written about the Reason Foundation's NextGen marketing campaign to invest in new technolgies by moving ATC to a Corporate model.

I'd like to, if I may, take the time to connect the dots between Ayn Rand, her disciples, and the air traffic control system. And then I'd like to wrap it into a philosophical meta-question and ask: who do you trust more, Government or Corporations? (Or perhaps, who do you distrust least?)

The United States currently has the finest aviation system, and the finest air traffic control system, in the world. It routinely accomplishes tasks that other ATC systems cannot. It handles a volume that no other system can.

The primary challenge to the existing US air traffic system (the world's finest, I'll repeat) is Corporatisation, a ten-dollar-name for moving the ATC function out of government and handing it over to Corporations. The choice of words is always critical - are you pro-abortion or pro-choice - and so the industry chooses to use soft terms like "Privatise". I'm going to refer to it as Corporatise.

The aviation-industrial complex sees a high-value-added government activity that the industry would prefer to have as their own profit center. They see that there is profit to be made (money taken out of the population), and currently nobody is taking that profit. They want it.

The industry has rented a think-tank to generate a plausible rationale for their takeover. As this blog has discussed earlier, the role of a think-tank is to generate messages (propaganda) that move the Overton window, moving things that were once unthinkable into the range of the acceptable. Think tanks do this by planting marginally extreme messages that make the previously unthinkable seem reasonable by contrast.

The ATC industry's mouthpiece is the Reason Foundation and Robert Poole. Robert Poole is the poster child of Corporatization, and the industry funnels money into him so that he will do their work. The Reason Foundation and Poole are shills, advancing the industry's message under the guise of putting America back on track.

Ayn Rand was a Hollywood novelist who wrote epic fictions of heroic individuals, bodice-ripping romance, and a marriage-free, childless future driven by amoral, selfish self-interest. She was an illegal immigrant, an atheist, and perhaps the original Cougar. (NTTAWWT). Let me be clear that I have nothing against novelists, but I wouldn't use Richard Bach to develop an essential safety system, and I wouldn't use Ayn Rand's books either.

Within Rand's worldview, government should have very few functions (defend the borders); individuals should decide what's best for themselves. For instance, Rand felt that the government shouldn't staff police departments as it gave them a monopoly on the means of legal violence; she preferred to leave it to individuals to make their own arrangements (ie,militias). Also, Rand holds that government should not establish paper currency because it's an intrusion into the private arrangements of individuals. (I'd like to know how many Randians are eschewing their government-developed flu shots on principle.)

As Whittaker Chambers said, "Since a great many of us dislike much that Miss Rand dislikes, quite as heartily as she does, many incline to take her at her word." Rand condemned so many bad things (Communism, Stalinism), you begin to think you agree with her. But when you look at what she advocates, there's often no common ground.

In this YouTube video developed by the Reason Foundation, Robert Poole explains how Ayn Rand's version of extremely limited government drives the "philosophical" justification for the Reason Foundation:

Robert Poole identifies Ayn Rand's work as the basis for the Reason Foundation's claim to legitimacy. The temptation is to regard that as a point that might be examined and discussed, and if the Reason Foundation were a true well of discourse that would be true. I believe, however, that the Reason Foundation is just a useful front, and that the sloppy Randian rhetoric provides a dense intellectual cover for their corporate takeover of an inherently government function.

I think we should keep Ayn Rand and Robert Poole out of our ATC facilities.
(Hat tip to Don Brown for the video!)


Mark Arsenal said...

This explains why Rand is such a common affectation of young idealistic college students. Activist student types very often identify with what they oppose, and Ayn Rand opposed lots of stuff.

In my last years of regularly reading her stuff, I did find that there was little practical positive advice in anything she wrote. Lots of condemnations, most with a moral absolute at their nexus. I later realized that I was tainted to the point that I couldn't make a logical argument without reducing it to one or another moral absolute, which rankly makes one question whether that's a logical argument.

Anarcho-capitalism would be all well and good if you felt comfortable in that environment, but creating it out of the current social cloth of America would be quite a feat, and none of the libertarian right ever have many suggestions on this front short of revolution.

And frankly, I'm too wussy for all that.

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