Obama vs. Rand on what made America great
So President Obama has read Ayn Rand.
Contrasting his ideas with what he takes to be Rand’s outlook, he tells Rolling Stone: “That view of life—as one in which we’re all connected, as opposed to all isolated and looking out only for ourselves—that’s a view that has made America great.” Though I don’t think President Obama understood Ayn Rand’s ideas (based on his description of them), it’s clear that he and Ayn Rand would have fundamentally disagreed about the source of America’s greatness.
A summary of Rand’s thoughts about, and reverence for, America can be found here, but let me highlight this one statement by her:
The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law. The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system—as a limitation on the power of the state, as man’s protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right. The United States was the first moral society in history. All previous systems had regarded man as a sacrificial means to the ends of others, and society as an end in itself. The United States regarded man as an end in himself, and society as a means to the peaceful, orderly, voluntary co-existence of individuals. All previous systems had held that man’s life belongs to society, that society can dispose of him in any way it pleases, and that any freedom he enjoys is his only by favor, by the permission of society, which may be revoked at any time. The United States held that man’s life is his by right (which means: by moral principle and by his nature), that a right is the property of an individual, that society as such has no rights, and that the only moral purpose of a government is the protection of individual rights.
President Obama’s view that we are “all connected” to one another means that each individual is subordinated to society, that each individual bears a responsibility to society as a whole. It’s on this basis that he and others from all parts of the political spectrum work to implement their particular views on how to redistribute wealth, disposing of the life and work of individual Americans in the process.
But it was America’s explicit rejection of such ideas, and her pursuit of and respect for individualism, that made this country great.