On that theory, it’s worth noting the many people, primarily on the left, who are criticizing Ayn Rand these days. In the last week or so, an article appeared in Business Insider called “’Atlas Shrugged’ Is Full of Terrible Business Advice.” I responded to that in Forbes.com. And former regulatory czar Cass Sunstein wrote an article for Bloomberg applauding Whitaker Chambers’s infamous review of Atlas Shrugged. My colleague Don Watkins responded to that one on the LaissezFaire blog.
Most recently, Andrew Leonard wrote a short piece for Salon called “Silicon Valley throws Ayn Rand under the bus.” What does that mean? Well, it turns out it wasn’t all of Silicon Valley, but only Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber cab, and he didn’t throw Ayn Rand under the bus even figuratively, he only changed his Twitter avatar from the cover of The Fountainhead to a picture of Alexander Hamilton.
So . . . yeah.
But leave aside the inherent silliness of this article’s title and let’s see what significance Leonard gives to this momentous development. He speculates that
Uber has discovered that disrupting the existing taxi monopolies in the world’s great cities is easier said than done. Safety and health regulations, insurance issues — there are all kinds of nasty hoops to jump through if you want to make a big business of transporting citizens around urban metropolises. Like it or not, Silicon Valley’s most ambitious startups will be forced to work with government, instead of blowing it up.
Ayn Rand, he claims, “is simply not a useful guide to operating in a modern economy. Alexander Hamilton is where it’s at.”
Let’s put this in perspective. Uber has faced protectionist laws in local markets all across the country. Among other things, the laws prevent Uber’s cars from picking up customers within an hour of when they are called, they impose minimum fares, and they prohibit Uber’s vehicles from coming within 200 feet of a restaurant, hotel, or bar. Uber is trying to get around all these idiotic laws and to give customers a better service for their taxi buck. The company doesn’t oppose having insurance or safe business practices, and it isn’t trying to “blow up” the government. It opposes laws that force it out of local markets so the gang at city hall can hand a monopoly over to existing taxi businesses—businesses that have remained essentially the same for about century.
Leonard’s response is to say, in essence: deal with it, Kalanick. That’s life. To hell with innovation. To hell with customers who want transportation better suited to the 21st century than the 19th. To hell with the many drivers whose businesses will boom because of Uber. Don’t fight; accept. And above all, ignore the one thinker who made clear that the battle against laws like these is primarily a moral battle and that people who fight these battles are heroic.
Funny, I thought people on the left fancied themselves champions of morality, justice, and progress.
Here’s a little speculation of my own. Ayn Rand’s critics understand that if you want to defeat capitalism, you need to defeat its best defender. Ayn Rand is certainly that. At least they know where to aim their slings and arrows.