On the Libertarian Party, Ayn Rand, and Objectivism

This post about Objectivism and Libertarians is surprisingly good, right up to the part where Ron Paul is endorsed due to his reading of and references to Ayn Rand. The blogger makes the point that it’s a lack of adherence to fundamental principle that’s at the heart of the Libertarian problem.

However, from everything I’ve seen, Ron Paul is the typical Libertarian mongrel, in his case a mix of religious and social conservatism and the common Libertarian’s fervent commitment to vague notions of “liberty,” “small government,” and isolationism. Paul suffers from precisely the same fatal flaw as the blogger identifies for Libertarianism at large, namely that by failing to ground their politics in philosophical principles (at all, not to mention the right ones) the party thus includes all sorts of ideas and groups that are antithetical to any valid notion of individual rights, limited government, capitalism, etc.

For the Libertarian Party, this means including the likes of anarchists. For Paul, it means maintaining a staunchly anti-abortion stance. And, it’s why Ayn Rand rejected both “libertarians” and the Libertarian Party–not because she was “personally” offended that they failed to give her due credit but specifically because of their rejection of principles. Had the party accepted principles that would have rejected anarchists and the like, then the opportunity for ad hoc cooperation between Objectivism and the Libertarian Party might have existed.

Here are some of the more interesting bits from the post:

Ayn Rand was an implicit Individualist from the time she could remember. As a young child, she was fiercely independent and chose her own values, rather than following the opinions of others. She accepted nothing on faith or based solely on what others said. To her, the evidence of her own senses was the most important thing to use in order to apprehend, to comprehend, to integrate reality for her own purpose, in pursuit of her own values and happiness. Living on earth and being free to choose one’s values was never more championed in the history of man than it was by this fiery lioness who became known as an intellectual Midas, indeed the most outspoken and vociferous critic of statism in the 20th century. There were none in the public arena of debate who were her peers for many years.

The founder of the Libertarian movement, Murray Rothbard, met Ayn Rand back in the 60s. George Reisman gives an account of the meeting in his treatise “Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics“. Rothbard was quoted as saying (and I’m paraphrasing here) that being near Ayn Rand and her brilliance was akin to being Prometheus, and flying too close to the sun. We all know what that means1.

Since then, all theo-Libertarians have used such metaphors as looking at the sun as their code for “but I don’t want to give up my theism to secure my Individual Rights firmly in reality! I want to say God gave me my rights! If I say otherwise, my family, friends, associates would disown me! I’m so afraid to see reality!”

And:

It is interesting but hardly a surprise that the Libertarian founders and leaders never publicly acknowledged Ayn Rand and Objectivism as the source, the Fountainhead, of their political ideas. They eschewed Ayn Rand’s rational ethical theory and said in effect “we don’t need to declare ethical roots, people of all stripes can send us their money if they want liberty… we’ll deliver!” Never a more Marxist-Leninist approach could’ve been used. What libertarian-minded voters have witnessed has been a monumental failure in the Libertarian party as a political movement, one that has been coopted by a tug of war factions of immoral, amoral, and theo-moral agents.

That Ayn Rand was never acknowledged by the Libertarian founders and leaders is one of the main reasons why Ayn Rand later despised them and denounced the Libertarian movement. But she also recognized the folly of trying to make political changes in a culture that morally is still bound to the deathly ideas of secular and religious collectivisms of every stripe. Ayn Rand essentially said to the Libertarians: You can’t put the cart before the horse, you must champion a rational ethical code, root Individual Rights firmly on this earth, if you expect your political aspirations to bear fruits of your labor against statism.

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