Among the many absurdities in Jonathan Coppage’s recent article for the American Conservative, “The End of Ownership and the Obsolescence of Ayn Rand,” is Coppage’s claim that Rand no longer matters, because the producers of physical goods no longer matter. Rand “doesn’t matter,” writes Coppage, because she “is an artifact of the industrial age, when Hank Rearden could smelt his steel with manly independence and grant himself delusions of standing apart from and above the world as a ‘maker.’”
I’ll leave aside Coppage’s claim that Rearden was delusional; readers of Atlas Shrugged can judge for themselves. I’ll also leave aside Coppage’s various smears and absurdities not mentioned here.
Coppage’s central claim is that, in the modern age, “property and ownership are going out of vogue”; thus, the producers of physical goods are no longer important. He states, “The economy of the 21st century looks increasingly likely to be an economy of service.” He then claims that some people “on the right continue to labor under the idea of entrepreneurial production, whereby a man will pull himself up by his bootstraps by producing,” but, Coppage claims, such production is not “suited to an economy of service.” Coppage envisions an economy based not on property, ownership, and production, but one based on “the ideas of sacred service embedded in Christianity for the past two millennia.”
Coppage’s bizarre and incoherent claims are rooted in (among other things) his fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of property and the importance of ownership of property. Contrary to Coppage’s claims, services in a market economy are fundamentally dependent on the ownership of property—both physical and intellectual—not somehow untethered from it. How so?
Consider some of the examples Coppage invokes: Rather than own DVDs and CDs of films and music, people now frequently stream films and music via services provided by Netflix and the like. . . .