Thursday, October 29, 2009

Philosophy in America Ia

It says something about my education that one of the most influential (at least in America) philosophers of the twentieth century was somebody I never heard of. Alisa Rosenbaum was a Russian Jewish emigre who came to America, became a successful screenwriter and novelist, and eventually the favorite philosopher of the right wing nutbaggery. She is in the news a bit these days because Anne C. Heller has written a new biography and is flogging it on some of the better book venues.

Except for a short excerpt or two, I haven't read any of her stuff, but that little was enough to provoke a visceral dislike. She wrote novels of ideas, which is to say novels where characters give long ideological lectures. Perhaps the most famous is here. The frank worship of Mammon has made her popular with the greedy ever since, despite some flaws of logical coherence and disdain for history. By positioning herself in direct opposition to 1 Timothy 6:9-10 - choosing the role of anti-Christ in the most direct way possible, she proclaims a radically anti-Christian ethic, but one well suited to certain investment bankers.

Never mind that her arguments hardly stand up to casual scrutiny.

Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes.

Of course if you recall enough history to know that the generator was created by the thought of those who never made any money from it, Francisco's logic looks a bit tenuous.

In the time of Jesus as well as our own, though, much of the time money flows to rentiers of various types - often those who persuade the government to grant them some sort of charter to extract money from everybody else.

Ayn Rand - that's what she changed her name to when she went Hollywood - was clever, but there doesn't appear to be much room for such subtleties in her monomania. Some inventors do profit handsomely, of course, and big chunks of wealth sometimes flow to the creators.

(Links to Francisco's money speech and 1 Timothy via Alex Tabarrok).