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"Whereas traditional conservatism emphasized duties, responsibilities, and social interconnectedness, at the core of the right-wing ideology that Rand spearheaded was a rejection of moral obligations to others."
—Jennifer Burns, in Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right

This past spring, the Financial Industry Inquiry Commission held hearings on the world's recent financial crisis. The star witness was Alan Greenspan. The Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan translated Greenspan's typically elusive testimony this way: "I didn't do anything wrong, and neither did Ayn Rand by the way, but next time you might try more regulation."

There were obviously many reasons for the Great Recession. But I believe Noonan got to the root of one particular evil.

Fortune magazine once labeled Greenspan "America's most famous libertarian, an Ayn Rand acolyte." (While Rand formally rejected libertarianism, libertarians nonetheless admire her.) But today, both libertarians and Randians are disassociating themselves from Greenspan as quickly as Wall Street. This is the Wall Street that worshiped the former Federal Reserve chairman when Worth ran a cover story describing how he was "playing God at the Fed." Fortune detailed Greenspan's "love of free markets, suspicion of do-gooders, and righteous hatred of the state apparatus," evidenced by his previous deregulation of the savings and loan industry for Charles Keating and such. Few of us Reaganomics supporters understood his role in that fiasco, so history was bound to repeat itself with the recent subprime mortgage scandal.

About the time Fortune was extolling Greenspan, I was putting the finishing touches on a book about finances for a major evangelical publisher. I included ...

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hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2010

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