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Article / 06 January 2014 at 11:38 GMT

What is the broader relevance of Ayn Rand for society?

Lars Seier Christensen Lars Seier Christensen
co-founder & CEO / Saxo Bank A/S
Denmark

In the last of his three-part series, Lars Seier Christensen focuses on the broader relevance of Ayn Rand in society today after the practical example covered in part two. You can read part two here and part one here.

First and foremost, Ayn Rand remains among the few that recognises with crystal clarity, that we will not win the battle through just proving that freedom and capitalism works. It has already been proven beyond discussion. Nevertheless, we are still facing new attacks on freedom every day.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to assume that rationality will prevail, that just through superior economic performance, freedom will capture enough peoples' hearts in a democracy to win the day. This creates a major problem for those of us that like to argue rationally, rather than emotionally.

It creates a major opportunity for politicians that intuitively know that in a rational world, there would be little demand for their services. Only in an irrational, emotional universe, where opportunists can gain access to media and visibility to express “feelings” and try to take the moral high ground, no matter how unfounded in reality it is — only in such an environment can you survive without having to produce practical, productive results, and instead prosper and benefit from empty talk and third-rate acting performances.

This tendency, unfortunately, has only strengthened during the recent crisis. There is often a complete disconnect between the reality and the words used to describe it, the actions pretending to deal with it. In particular, this is very noticeable in the Eurozone these days.

Secondly, Ayn Rand has gained renewed relevance and attention, because her predictions have been fulfilled in many different areas. This of course pleases and reconfirms long-standing admirers, but also bring many new supporters to the scene, looking for answers to the crisis we are in.

To name but a few predictions, clearly the dynamics of democracy and interfering politicians are very well described in Atlas Shrugged, where constant intrusive corrective attempts to fix a given problem leads to new, unforeseen problems that need additional correction. This triggers an endless series of correcting moves, where only two things are certain.

First, the politicians assign ever greater powers to themselves, as they manage to convince the citizens of the need for even more interference, although the problems are created by interference in the first place.

There are endless examples of this in both the US and the Eurozone, where one mistake invariably leads to call for even more powers, leading to new mistakes. The EU's standard answer to any of its own failures is that had it just had even greater powers, things would have been much better. The real question to ask here is not why it claims this, what else could it really do, if the only alternative is to admit incompetence and failure?


EU HQ
The European Union is a prime example of politicians enjoying too much power. Photo: Shutterstock.com


The real question is how do voters persist in managing to ignore the reality and believe in their politicians, rather than themselves?

Second, freedom and capitalism, the only real answer to the current crisis, gets ever more restricted and prevented from working efficiently, meaning that the underlying strength of human ingenuity and creativity is stopped from working and becomes increasingly powerless to pull us out of the morass we are in.

Another of Rand's predictions of business people using government favours in return for giving up their independence, has sadly been confirmed better than anywhere else in my own industry. It is embarrassing to see the extent the banking industry has relied on support from governments, and how ruthlessly it is currently exploiting the offers of cheap money available from the central banks.

Very little of the bailouts filter down to the real economy, as it is easier to hold onto safe returns in a variety of government paper, cementing the unhealthy relationship between banks buying government securities and in return being propped up by the same governments to secure them as an outlet for these very securities and their printing machines.

At the same time, banks are now in the firing line all over the world, helpless to resist an endless row of enquiries, fines, regulatory tightening and excessive compliance costs pushed onto their p/l sheets, hurting earnings, and making them ever more dependent on the state for support. It is a vicious circle for an industry if I ever saw one, and I fear that we are approaching the end of banking as a private industry. But once we have a government-controlled banking industry, our problems will really begin.

Pick-a-winner, corporate social responsibility, employment rules, affirmative action, the creation of fictional jobs and plain political popularity and obedience will then rule who prospers and survives in all industries, not just banking. Beware of this development, it is poison to capitalism, growth and to prosperity for all of you. The new central bank regulator, and the banking union, ultimately draining the sound banks for money to support the failing ones, could be the nail in the coffin coming from the EU to a bank near you soon.

In fact, the undemocratic, power-grabbing, emotional, populistic Washington that takes over in Atlas Shrugged is today most closely resembled by the EU and the Eurozone in the real world.

It is quite frightening how much of the rhetoric in Bruxelles and some of the Eurozone countries resembles Ayn Rand's universe. Constant talk of solidarity, of progress under difficult circumstances and the need for more central power is almost taken directly from Atlas Shrugged. There is absolutely no connection with reality and no humility whatsoever in the face of near total failure. Absolutely no wish to face the public or give it a say in any of the major new initiatives and blunt direct intervention in national governments.

Arrogance in the extreme frequently manifests itself against deviating views of Europe such as those displayed by even a meek David Cameron. This organisation is failing big time, and its only response is to gather ever more power in the hands of Bruxelles, clearly against the will of the populations of Europe that are beginning to see that in fact, the euro may be the practical equivalent of Project X in Atlas Shrugged.

In France, we now have a President that by his own admission, hates the rich. So much so that he is trying to circumvent his own constitution to introduce punitive taxes on them, although illegal. And it is so much so that he drives relentlessly forward with proposals for a financial transaction tax that has been shot down by pretty much every historical experience and most economists as a massive own goal, damaging the very countries that deploy it.

Well, it seems that the rich also hate their president, judging by the number of them leaving — famously spearheaded by Gerard Depardieu — for places like Belgium, that amazingly actually acts as a tax haven for the French in spite of all the EU rhetoric, or Switzerland, where inflows of new immigration requests are, according to my sources, at record highs, particularly from Scandinavia, UK and France. Depardieu, of course, chose Russia, which speaks volumes as to the deep trouble Western Europe is in.

This leads to a very interesting question, a question full of hope. Is there indeed also a solution to the problem, such as the one Ayn Rand foresaw with the flight to Galts Gulch? It will be difficult to find a place entirely outside of the reach of aggressive governments eager for tax dollars, as Switzerland has learned to its misfortune. But is there a possibility for creating an area, so attractive and so successful that it will attract enough good and productive people to become a good example for other nations to follow? Unfortunately, not much points in that direction as most countries pursuing such strategies lack sorely in that other commodity, personal freedom and security from governmental abuse.

And the few places that try to provide both, such as Switzerland seem to also be contracting the malaise. I chose Switzerland as my country of residence a few years back, and I have not regretted it for a second.

With its effective tax competition between cantons, and very direct democracy, it has many features aimed at keeping the state under control. But I have been disturbed to see recent attempts at reducing this tax competition, introducing death taxes, and most recently, the infamous 12-1 proposal that seeks to limit executive pay to a maximum 12 times the lowest paid employees. While not likely to pass, I still know of several big companies preparing contingency plans for spinning off management teams into separate units, and laying off their lowest paid workers to instead use temps and insourced services. Talk about an own goal for both the strong and the weak — wasting all this time instead of focusing on business and creating jobs also for the low paid, instead of now laying them off.

So nowhere seems safe from populism and irrationality any longer. It is difficult to see the necessary reforms forthcoming, and sadly, we may have to go through a much more severe economic collapse before change will be forced upon us. Unfortunately, that change may also be totalitarian in nature, of course. In fact, that is the more likely outcome in the short run.

I don't believe the battle will be won by economic rationality. This goes out the door, once more than 51 percent of the voters live off the government — and probably even long before. We need to change the values, the morality, the misunderstandings, and to undermine the deliberate lies our politicians feed the electorate about what constitutes solidarity, justice and the common good. Is it solidarity to make people into losers and victims and leave them totally unable to care for themselves?

Is the common good to stop businesses and investors from creating wealth and prosperity? Is it justice to regulate every aspect of a normal person's life and continuously monitor his every move?

The change must start with the changing the values. Focusing on the young that will get a terrible deal in the future. Focusing on the many SMEs and smaller entrepreneurs that create 80 percent of all new jobs in Europe today, but which get only paperwork and bureaucracy in return from their governments.  Focusing on micro rather than macro elements in the economy.

And when the message is values and fundamental change, no one is more powerful than Ayn Rand. Her books constitute an inspirational, understandable and practically-applied philosophy. Saxo Bank has given out more than 15,000 books in the past 10 years, and I hope that some of you here in the audience today will also feel inspired to help spreading her work among the receptive — the young, the entrepreneurs, the new political movements protesting EU excesses and against the growing lack of respect for the individual.

If we don’t succeed in changing the values and direction of at least the next generation, I fear the full prediction of Atlas Shrugged will become reality and while that may hold some promise for the distant future, it is not something that I think people of my age feel like going through if we can avoid it.

08 January
Chuck Smith Chuck Smith
Thanks for a well written article. Ian Rand was so insightful!
For your consideration: "We Are Your Enemy"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ombh0hP1Ug
08 January
Felix Brun Felix Brun
Thank you Mr. Lars Seier Christensen for saying the truth and defending our world against looters. I want my freedom above all. I have worked hard to gain that freedom (got a master from a Grande Ecole, passed the three levels of the CFA and the two parts of the FRM in three years). But being a French citizen, I realized that I will never get this freedom in my country: I will always be a hostage from the state and the retirement system is just a huge Ponzi scheme (cf Madoff) that destroys private savings (cf Feldstein). Sadly, I cannot see any country where governments aren’t extending their power. “Public Choices” (cf Mueller) has led us to take “the road to serfdom” (cf Hayek). This disgusts me and depresses me. And I don’t even know what to do… I feel like my generation (and I’m clearly not the only one among my French friends) is lost and that previous generation have bankrupt future generations (cf Cato Institute).
08 January
Felix Brun Felix Brun
I have finished reading Atlas Shrugged several weeks ago. This is definitively the best book I have ever read. So I began to recommend it to my relatives. Guess what? Not a single one of them knows this book or the author, Ayn Rand… And I really think that the public education is at the origin of this… I feel like I have been brainwashed with Keynesianism and Statism all my life: you learn at public school for instance that “the New Deal got America out of the great Depression” whereas you can only learn by yourself the quote from Morgenthau “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it doesn’t work”…
09 January
Klaas Klaassen Klaas Klaassen
As is the financial world, the media are being owned and ruled by the eight wallstreets financial elite families, the usa GoldMorgs. So the usa GoldMorgs, www.goldmorgs.com/d ,rule what the people know and believe and who the people vote. So the GoldMorgs rule the politicians, rule the world. Democracy? A usa GoldMorgs plutocracy. More and more info on the web elucidates that the usa GoldMorgs have been and are responcible for all big crises and wars. So explained Karen Hudes. http://deutsche-wirtschafts-nachrichten.de/2013/09/17/whistleblowerin-geheime-machenschaften-der-finanz-eliten-zerstoeren-die-welt/
Translations are easy with the chrome browser. So any warnings for a nuke 911 on Sochi won't be published. Neither were the warnings for an airborn attack on the twin towers. The GoldMorgs need a Sochi nuke to press forward total censorship of the web and again grab trillions on short crashing at the coming crash. Beware.
09 January
Klaas Klaassen Klaas Klaassen
More and more is on the web about multiple application of mininukes in Irak by the usa. Only recently isotope profiles have been analized for publication. DEPU does not explain the isotope profiles and the surge of genetic defects. They mach mininukes. The application of DEPU was just a cover. Was it not strange to attract the blame for DEPU by using DEPU where alternatives are very affordable? For more than half a century we in the west consume raised levels of uranium. Many syntetic fertilizer contains raised levels of U. U does not wash down deep fast. It remains near surface and is absorbed and accumulated in the consumable parts of the crop eg grain.potatoes, cabages. etc. No surge of genetic defects has yet been linked.
09 January
Klaas Klaassen Klaas Klaassen
The Snowden Tsunamied the news about the swiss asylum court session of David Chase Taylor. The Assagne Wiki Leaks feb 1 2011 tsunamied the jan 28 2011 warnings of Taylor, for a nuklear 911 on the superbowl Dallas TX feb 6 2011. https://sites.google.com/site/nukebible/ Rather coincidental, isnt it?

Will Sochi be the replacement target? Bilderbergers cancelled visiting Sochi, so called because of russian LBGT discrimination. Will any Bilderberger visit Sochi? The german kanzler Merkel probably won't. So called she has a fractured pelvis. Some ranking Saoud has threatned the president of the russian federation by proposing that he could prevent terrorism, in exchange for . . . If I was a leader I would let them have it and blame the Saoudi threats for cancelling Sochi. That has better effects than bombing Riad and Doha.

Important is that exactly the Euro can be used to solve the so called Euro-, banking- and national debts crisis, www.goldmorgs.com/d
09 January
Mike Cain Mike Cain
This 3 part series was an inspiration for me, especially coming from a leader of the banking industry. One could say that it has given me new faith in the human race! I would like to salute the author for his honest and rational thinking in a seemingly more and more desperate Fascist establishment. This proves to me that there are more people on this level in society that are on the right side of this crisis. People that are willing to stand up for what is right in this ever increasing statist nightmare.

Thank You!
09 January
Malone Ducklo Malone Ducklo
Ayn Rand's worldview is based on the fallacy that we are a genuine meritocracy. in fact we are ruled by bloodline and secret society machinations.
09 January
heinrich heinrich
it is easy for you high class sadists to sit in your ivory towers and throw stones at the general public who are not nearly as "educated" as you are...
09 January
heinrich heinrich
Your wonderful free market policies and relentless privatisation of every commodity on this planet to the air we breathe im sure soon has lead to millions of people starving every day... so please excuse me but your article inspires nothing but offense and disqust in me where a rich white suit has the ordasity to complain that executive salaries which are way over what they should be could possibly be capped, oh no how could this be... these are off course the same rich white suits that foreclose on people's homes after charging them increasingly exploitive interest on the loans for them to have shelter for themselves and their families... while getting loans from the terrible goverments of the countries you operate at next to nothing on interest and creating money practically out of thin air...
09 January
heinrich heinrich
No sir your article inspires nothing but the blood that already pumps in my veins that you and your breed will one day fall and understand why that old cliche of "sharing is caring" will bite you so hard in your rear... i hope that when the revolution comes you will have learnt that wealth and prosperity is a ridiculous farse that only holds for certain people in this world where the income distribution gap grows wider by the day and all projects in absolute free market exploitation were proved to be horrible failures that only created more rich suits and more shanty towns... Though I beg you to think of this while you sit in your ivory tower... If the progress that we have seen in this world has been growing at an exponential rate with the limited opportunity that is available to only the few.. Imagine where we would be today if every man, woman and child had access to free education, healthcare and shelter, just a basic life of dignity... The terrible socialistic view of the world...
07 February
rogerharris rogerharris
"freedom and capitalism, the only real answer to the current crisis"

this is what led to the current crisis, somebody explain the logic where more of an unregulated system which does not work is better ?
07 February
rogerharris rogerharris
"Pick-a-winner, corporate social responsibility, employment rules, affirmative action, the creation of fictional jobs and plain political popularity and obedience will then rule who prospers and survives in all industries, not just banking. Beware of this development, it is poison to capitalism, growth and to prosperity for all of you"

So being socially responsible and having fair rules for employees is a poison ? You might as well just declare open season on yourself with such statements. Good capitalists are supposed to be good at hiding such facts of their operation that I have to wonder if this article is what it claims to be.
07 February
rogerharris rogerharris
As for all the stuff about moving nations, something we never hear from capitlalists is how the majority of our taxes supports them not the people. It is business which benefits the most from a nations infrastructure. i.e. roads, Cities, Power, communications, education system for its workers etc etc. Then they complain about wanting to move somewhere else where they can use more taxpayers money to operate.
07 February
rogerharris rogerharris
“I don't believe the battle will be won by economic rationality. This goes out the door, once more than 51 percent of the voters live off the government — and probably even long before. We need to change the values, the morality, the misunderstandings, and to undermine the deliberate lies our politicians feed the electorate about what constitutes solidarity, justice and the common good. Is it solidarity to make people into losers and victims and leave them totally unable to care for themselves?”

Translate from capitalism to regular speak - let the masses starve while unemployment due to mass automation or bankers destablization to the economy increases
07 February
rogerharris rogerharris
“Is the common good to stop businesses and investors from creating wealth and prosperity? Is it justice to regulate every aspect of a normal person's life and continuously monitor his every move?”

Translate from capitalism to regular speak - Wealth and prosperity cannot be for everybody so leave us alone while we feather our nests.
07 February
rogerharris rogerharris
“The change must start with the changing the values. Focusing on the young that will get a terrible deal in the future. Focusing on the many SMEs and smaller entrepreneurs that create 80 percent of all new jobs in Europe today”

Translate from capitalism to regular speak – Focus on the young because they are more impressionable to our methods while most adults can see us for what we are.
07 February
rogerharris rogerharris
idea for a new google phone app. A capitalism to regular speak google translator...lol.
11 February
darcy_2k darcy_2k
I agree with fractions of this article. However, it is deeply, deeply flawed thinking. It's implied that economic rationality is somehow a 'true' or 'pure' kind of thought. As soon as I hear these kind of things I think only one simple thing......The irrationality of rationality.......Rational facism. Economic totalitarianism. Blindness. Welcome to market 'democracy', where markets create their own authoritarian rule through the double speak of 'freedom' and 'democracy'. The reality is that government has done everything possible to facilitate market predominance. Markets are but a fraction of the human character. How can preaching the teachings of one person - Ayn Rand - lead us to be our own masters?
11 February
darcy_2k darcy_2k
Markets are government. Markets are our philosophy. Therefore, Markets are the totalitarianism this article warns of. Any power, no matter if its wielded by government, markets, unions, or people themselves, can become totalitarian. The task of society is to re-establish what we truly value as a civilization, and thus re-assert said values without manipulation or distortion from dominant interests. We must decide what our basic shared goals should be. We must work out how to enable a properly informed populace to participate in decision making. And most importantly, we must figure out how to mitigate the damaging effects of concentrated power
11 February
darcy_2k darcy_2k
Tradingfloor.com Terms & Conditions = You MUST tick the box which allows us or our affiliates to contact your by phone or e-mail, or you CANNOT contribute to this website or allow your voice to be heard on this platform....... Do you accept these terms? ........ Sounds familiar doesn't it
20 February
truthliestruthagain truthliestruthagain
well if it is all about truth- ? why not more transparency? re who wins and who actually loses on your platform ?as life is all numbers - how about Real statistics / so more understand what a mugs game or not? as many like fairdinkum and a fairly level field to shoot !
20 February
truthliestruthagain truthliestruthagain
sometimes swede and US genes are too alike and too much about self interest over others
24 February
torocity torocity
Alan Greenspan here we go again?!. Why are bankers are still trumpeting Ayn Rand? If trickle down voodoo economics worked, and if financial institutions were rational, I'd buy it. But it doesn't and it isn't. Rand's thesis draws from her experience living in the totalitarian Soviet state. Put in that context, her work is illuminating, but certainly not justification for tyranny of another sort. Bankers used to be a quiet reliable sort who knew me by my first name and weren't using my money to dabble in activist philosophical causes . What's going on?

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