Jeff Madrick, (Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow, Director of the Rediscovering Government initiative and author of Age of Greed), has typed a scathing indictment of those glossy false icons on the right, while at the same time warning against blind hero worship and succumbing to demagoguery on the left. We know that the philosophies of historical figures like Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand turned out to be toxic, even to those in the lower classes who still idolize them, but Madrick argues that their memories have been obfuscated by myth.
via The Next New Deal:
The right then goes on to mythologize and entirely distort the Reagan years. Under Reagan in the 1980s, wages stopped growing, productivity grew at historically slow rates, investment was soft, and the deficit never came down to the levels promised. That deficit was an albatross around the neck of George H.W. Bush, his successor. Meanwhile, deregulation was unloosed, only to be given further impetus by the Clinton administration. The right goes so far as to attribute the productivity boom of the second half of the 1990s — that is, after the Clinton tax hike — to Reagan. How can we take such claims seriously?
As for why the left doesn’t have an Ayn Rand, I say thank goodness it doesn’t follow a great over-simplifier like her. Her sexually charged novels focusing on an individualist hero appealed to adolescents or those who still yearned for those years. Her economics were derived from her individualism. A Russian by birth, her thinking was animated by her loathing of Soviet totalitarianism — certainly understandable. But she became an ideologue, not a disinterested intellectual. She had no serious friendships with the likes of Hayek and collaborated with few schooled economists other than Murray Rothbard, who later left her circle. She was really more a cult leader than a thinker.
While major Occupy figures and literature are newly emerging, remember that we should ever strive for better and “avoid drawing the wrong conclusions from the right’s past success.”
Read more at The Next New Deal.