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Irrelevant Rand
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Sales of "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand's vision of a utopia based on "rational self-interest" have been brisk during the recent economic downturn. The fictional nature of that vision was conceded by Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, when he testified before Congress that he was mistaken in thinking that "rational self-interest" would protect the markets.

That had to be a hard admission after 40 years as a disciple who touted faith in "rational self-interest."

Make no mistake, siding with Rand's vision is a matter of faith. There is almost no evidence that people ever act with "rational self-interest" and a good deal of evidence to the contrary.

Consider the Bernie Madoff investors. Any "rational" person knows that a deal, that is too good to be true, is just that, not true. Or the banks that invested in securities that cannot be valued. Or Standard and Poor's using economic models that didn't allow for falling housing prices. None of that sounds "rational."

Rand is irrelevant in addition to being fictional. The main characters in "Atlas Shrugged" all believed in a meritocracy. If you did well, then and only then, were you rewarded. In the debate over the AIG bonuses, did anyone hear the bonuses defended as merited?

Industry CEO's believe in entitlement, whether they perform or not. They condemn entitlement programs for the elderly, ill and poor, just not for themselves.

If Wall Street wants a meritocracy for schools, health care and government, let's give them one with a vengeance. On behalf of shareholders, taxpayers and the consuming public.

Patrick Durusau is a resident of Covington. His column regularly appears on Fridays.