The separation of church and state is a long-standing and much-appreciated (by many, including me) principle in the United States. To be sure, there are some who criticize that principle, often because they don’t understand its true meaning.
Recently I learned that there are also people who advocate the separation of economics and state. Just as the principle of separation of church and state means, among other things, that the state should have no control over religious institutions and activities, the separation of economics and state means primarily that the state should have no control over economic/financial activities.
This seems to be the position of the people in our society, most clearly represented by the Tea Party, who keep exclaiming “get the government off our backs!” It is mainly the federal government they are talking about, and their specific opposition is to taxes and government controls/regulations on anything related to economic matters.
The call for separation of economics and state was a strongly-held position of Russian-American novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, who has gained a remarkable number of followers through the years. Her name has been heard often this year.
Rand is well known partly because of her two bestselling novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957) and for the philosophical system she called Objectivism.
I have to admit that I have not read Rand’s novels, and I certainly have not taken the time to listen to the 63-hour (!) “audible audio edition” of her 1957 novel.
But I have read enough about them, and her philosophy, to know her key ideas. And recently June and I watched the movie “The Fountainhead” (1949), for which Rand wrote the screenplay. The next evening we watched the biographical documentary “Ayn Rand: In Her Own Words” (2011).
And then we watched the movie “The Passion of Ayn Rand”(1999), featuring Helen Mirren as Rand and based on the book by Barbara Branden, wife of the young man with whom Rand had a lengthy affair.
The Ayn Rand Center (ARC) is the public policy and outreach division of the Ayn Rand Institute. According to their website, “The Center’s mission is to advance individual rights (the rights of each person to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness) as the moral basis for a fully free, laissez-faire capitalist society.”
This idea of “a fully free, laissez-faire capitalist society” necessitates the separation of economics and the state (government). Such separation may be good (financially beneficial) for people in business and for those who have money (capital). It is not so good for people who are poor, needing help in securing the basic necessities of life.
Since Ayn Rand was an outspoken advocate of selfishness and opponent of altruism, it is disheartening to see how now there are so many, including some top politicians (Congresspersons), who openly advocate her philosophy.
For example, Representative Paul Ryan reportedly requires his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged and calls Rand “the reason I got involved in public service.”
Doesn’t that kind of thinking lead not only to the separation of economics and state but also, sadly, to the separation of compassion and state?