Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter, who’s famous for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism.
Rand is almost idolized by Americans who call themselves libertarians and even by some conservatives for her championing of unfettered capitalism, although Rand’s brand of philosophy is decidedly amoral and the conduct of her personal life was correspondingly amoral and immoral. While married, Rand carried on an adulterous affair with a much-younger acolyte, Nathaniel Branden. Rand also favored abortion “rights.” A lifelong smoker, in 1976, after she underwent surgery for lung cancer and despite her lifelong opposition to statism and her insistence on radical individualism, she “reluctantly allowed” her attorney to sign her up for Social Security and Medicare. Rand was also an atheist who opposed anything she regarded as mysticism or supernaturalism, including all forms of religion.
Given Rand’s near-idol status among libertarians, the revelation that not only did Rand not consider herself a libertarian, she actually loathed libertarians, is downright fascinating.
George Washington writes for ZeroHedge, Nov. 29, 2012, that although many assume that Ayn Rand was a champion of libertarian thought, “Rand herself pilloried libertarians, condemning libertarianism as being a greater threat to freedom and capitalism than both modern liberalism and conservativism.”
Washington quotes Rand:
All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that they’re anarchists instead of collectivists. But of course, anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet they want to combine capitalism and anarchism. That is worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism, because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. The anarchist is the scum of the intellectual world of the left, which has given them up. So the right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the Libertarian movement.
Rand so loathed libertarians that she vowed, “I’d rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis” than a candidate from the Libertarian Party.
Rand’s loathing is returned by some contemporary libertarians. As examples, Sandeep Jaitly of Fekete Research says that real libertarians do not follow Rand’s philosophy. Murray Rothbard – founder of modern libertarianism, chief academic officer of leading libertarian think tank the Mises Institute, and one of the most important thinkers in the Austrian School of Economics – argued in 1972 that Rand was a champion for her own aggrandizement, not for liberty or reason. In fact, in a long but must-read essay, Rothbard accused Rand of being a cult leader. Here are some choice quotes by Rothbard:
The Ayn Rand cult … flourished for just ten years in the 1960s…. It also promoted slavish dependence on the guru in the name of independence; adoration and obedience to the leader in the name of every person’s individuality; and blind emotion and faith in the guru in the name of Reason.
Since every cult is grounded on a faith in the infallibility of the guru, it becomes necessary to keep its disciples in ignorance of contradictory infidel writings which may wean cult members away from the fold.
Just as Communists are often instructed not to read anti-Communist literature, the Rand cult went further to disseminate what was virtually an Index of Permitted Books.
In a development eerily reminiscent of the organized hatred directed against the arch-heretic Emanuel Goldstein in Orwell’s 1984, Rand cultists were required to sign a loyalty oath to Rand; essential to the loyalty oath was a declaration that the signer would henceforth never read any future works of the apostate and arch-heretic Branden [Rand’s number 2]. After the split, any Rand cultist seen carrying a book or writing by Branden was promptly excommunicated.
Read the rest of Washington’s instructive and sobering article here.