…But Ryan’s concept of self-reliance, the gospel of John Galt (“you are your own highest value … as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul …”), is devoid of all humility—it is the very vainglory against which the Bible, Ryan’s ultimate book, warned. My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth! Ryan may have disavowed Rand’s atheism, but he has not quite escaped her revolt against human finitude, her deification of the individual. This radical individualism is a delusion of impotence made over into a delusion of omnipotence.
It is also, analytically, a colossal mistake. The splendid isolation of the trader, the builder, the innovator, the entrepreneur, the superman, does not exist. It is one of the many flattering legends that successful people in this country devise about themselves. (Like the legend that success is a proof of personal virtue.) The individual— even the individualist individual— is always situated densely in the customs and the conventions of society. Where is Burke when you need him? And where are the otherwise ubiquitous metaphors of the network and the web? If, for conservatives, the market can serve as a model for society, surely it is because the market is web-like, society-wide, a social entity, a thicket of bonds and connections and influences in which creativity flourishes not least because it is enabled and implemented by others who, gratefully or opportunistically, recognize it. Competition is itself a kind of social compact, and in this sense a kind of cooperation. (» more)