Ayn Rand: The missing Libertarian Ingredient, the secret Ron Paul ingredient
As a political movement, Libertarians have floundered for 40 years. Presidential candidate Ron Paul acknowledged his ideological roots in 2007 and flourished like never before in his 30+ year political career. Ayn Rand's philosophy holds the key to the future of Individual Freedom, and Libertarians better jump on board or recognize they, as a political force, will not be victorious in their professed war for liberty. by Nickalis N. Tower
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Can the Libertarian leadership of today or even Ron Paul make this claim: That they have been Individualists (under the essential characteristics of personal objectivity and independence) from the time they could remember?
No one in history has done this before, with the exception of one woman who did.
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 Icarus, 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!"
Ever since that day, Rothbard and his inner circle of theo-Libertarians decided to go full ahead, and use every argument they could borrow for Capitalism, as taken from Ayn Rand and her fellow intellectuals. Rand and her intellectual allies were generating startlingly clear new philosophical integrations across ethics and politics (to name only two branches of philosophy which most everyone is aware). The fevered enthusiasm for rational and good ideas was taking form in NYC -- the intellectual annex of Moscow -- during the intellectual rise of Miss Rand's nascent philosophy in the 60s.
Ever since 1957, worldwide statists from America to Russia had known their time was limited. An idea whose time had come had been born: a rational code of morality. The statist elites may not have quaked in their jackboots, but they did implement their plans for counter revolution to thwart Objectivism's rise, which worked fairly well. So sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll were the collectivist matrix that swept aside many young minds into the trash bin of history, but via Ayn Rand, the Libertarian movement sprang forth, seemingly fully formed, and its leaders proclaimed that statism's days were numbered. However, statist elites then implemented their plans to take over that political party, which was an easy goal to achieve since Fabian fascists and 'Communist' socialists had been doing so for more than half a century by the time Atlas Shrugged debuted.
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.
Is it Time for Libertarians to understand and acknowledge Ayn Rand?
One man has: his name is Ron Paul. A 10-term U.S. Congressman from Texas, Dr. Paul recently debuted a #1 bestselling book, "The Revolution: A Manifesto", and in that book he places Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" firmly into his reading list, a couple of entries below Ayn Rand's one-time intellectual ally, Isabel Paterson's book, "The God of the Machine" (which, it seems, both Dr. Paul and Ayn Rand highly enjoyed). But the most gracious acknowledgement to Ayn Rand is in what Dr. Paul wrote after the entry: "I consider all of Rand's novels worth reading, in spite of my strong disagreements with her on important matters." Dr. Paul, it seems, can't escape the theo-Libertarian code. Today, Ron Paul has embarked upon his Campaign for Liberty... and I have embarked on my own private Campaign for Liberty, but we're approaching the goal from two respects: he's a theo-libertarian, and I'm an 'John Galt libertarian' (being not a card-carrying Libertarian, I use the small L).
I loved Ron Paul because not only was he being honest about political problems at the Federal level, not only was his career a paramount of integrity in action, but he was an Ayn Rand admirer and student. Exactly as I am! And my spirits soared in 2008 when I watched a recording of his NH radio interview in which he SAID, loud and clear, for all radio listeners, that Ayn Rand was one of his primary influences during the 60s, that influenced him while learning about economics, politics, and individual rights.
As Ayn Rand might have said, "god bless Ron Paul. The only conservative/libertarian I can respect."
I don't know how many objectivists voted for Ron Paul, but all I knew was that him running was almost like being able to witness Ayn Rand running for President (though she never would have, and thought it would make any woman extremely unhappy, in a romantic sense. If you were the most powerful person in the world, almost every man you met couldn't measure up in achievement!)
The Genesis of the Individual, Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand at the age of nine decided she wanted to be a writer. Bored in her grade-school classes (being the top student), she would read ahead, finish her lessons, then sit in the back, crouched behind a book 'wall' and write her childhood fictional stories.
The last thing Miss Rand had wanted in her life was to be a teacher, or a philosopher. She did have, however, a thorough grasp of ancient philosophy, having attained her classical humanities background as a student at the University of Leningrad. She witnessed the soviet revolution of 1917, her father's business was nationalized, and her family was thrown out in the streets. She immigrated to America in 1926. Her first goal as a writer was to tell the world about the horrors of the Russian revolution, and with her first book, "We the Living", in 1936, she captured her first commercial success as a novelist.
Ayn Rand, the reluctant (but brilliant) philosopher, and the most popular 20th century champion of Individual Rights.
Ayn Rand originally presented her first philosophical essay entitled "The Objectivist Ethics" at the University of Wisconsin 1961 Symposium on "Ethics of Our Time". It is very fitting to consider how during that same year, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress and challenged Americans to go to the moon before the end of the decade.
While Americans were looking to the stars, Ayn Rand was unveiling (for her own understanding, but ultimately to the benefit) to mankind the way to the stars through the liberty of the Individual's Rights that are grounded firmly on earth, and not upon anyone's version of heaven. I for one gratefully acknowledge my own intellectual debt of gratitude to Miss Rand. May her words continue lifting eyes to seek new horizons for generations to come.
If each person who considers themselves to be a libertarian takes a serious look at the following writings from Ayn Rand, then each will have a chance to learn and understand what liberty, freedom, and individual rights means, by learning from a woman who defended those political and ethical ideas like a 'ferocious angel' her entire life. Ayn Rand didn't have to call herself a libertarian: she epitomized the libertarian (Founders) spirit.
1The top founders of America (Jefferson, Adams, Franklin) were deists, so it's not the case that they were theists nor (as in conspiracy theories circulated by today's theists) satanists. Ayn Rand never required anyone she knew to agree with her metaphysical views of existence. This is the same attitude as the Founders had, who enshrined the 1st Amendment in the constitution to guarantee people's metaphysical views could not be coerced by the state.
The views expressed
in this article are those of Nickalis N. Tower only and
do not represent the views of Nolan Chart, LLC or its affiliates.
Nickalis N. Tower is solely responsible for the contents
of this article and is not an employee or otherwise affiliated
with Nolan Chart, LLC in his/her role as a columnist.
Posted By: Jahfre Fire Eater
Date: 2008-11-22 09:35:27
I can't get behind your fervor, Nickalis. It seems contradictory for the expansion of libertarian thinking to rely on a cult of personality to create a herd.
The reality is that there is only a very small portion of our population who consider libertarian rationale and Austrian economics to be a valuable tools in politics. The sooner Libertarians understand that the question isn't "How can we grow this herd?", but, "How can a herd this size exert the most influence on the future of liberty?" The answers to these questions are vastly different and lead to entirely different activities being necessary to achieve them. The LP is still asking the wrong question so its members are still doing the wrong activities. That is the reason the LP has "floundered for 40 years".
We have been fortunate to have lived during the most affluent, cushy, leisure-oriented period in the history of civilization. It has been easy for people to be content to flounder for 40 years. I think the good times are about to stop, sooner or later. If, during this prime time for gaining political influence, Libertarians are waiting for a cult of personality to lead the herd to victory then I have no doubt they will continue to flounder until the next election. After which they will continue to analyze the reasons...nothing will change for the herd.
To affect change in politics you have to use the most powerful tools and seize the day when opportunity presents itself. The current crumbling of the GOP is a chance-in-a-lifetime for individuals to see results from their defense of liberty. Most of the time there is no visible reward but the struggle remains necessary.
If ever there was a time to take on some discomfort for the sake of your ideals and principles this is it. It is hard work to participate in local politics. It is harder work to gain the support of your neighbor hood to get yourself nominated to a party office at the precinct or district level.
It is frustrating to deal with ideological neocons but facing them across a table is much more valuable than facing them across a party line. They cannot ignore you when you oppose them in person. We don't need a cult of personality. All it takes is for individuals to lead by example in their own communities. If the sacred edicts of Rand are truly self-evident then simply living them is enough.
Not just through online rants and bumper stickers but through suffering the frustration and anger of dealing with people who disagree with you yet pursuing your ideals using their tools and wearing a smile. If you're right, don't wait for a herd to validate you. If you're right, don't scowl and gripe because no one else acknowledges it, smile because YOU know it. Then proceed to live based on that knowledge.
Even if you never change a single person's mind in your life time, your life time will be so much more pleasurable along the way. In my experience, there is no way that such living can keep from influencing others.
Ascribing the rise of objectivism and Ayn Rand's popularity as being a 'cult of personality' is an unjust characterization (actually a smear).
Ayn Rand was not a charismatic, touchy-feely, smooth talking speaker that engendered 'feel-good' mindless warm-fuzzies in the people who heard her lecture. She was a precise talking speaker that transferred KNOWLEDGE into the minds of all those who listened to her, which engered rational 'feel-good' warm-fuzzies in the people who heard her lecture.
I agree with you that people must get involved in politics at the ground level. I myself got elected as precinct committeeman this year, by surprising everyone and running as County Commissioner. I shot for the moon and hit a mountain. I didn't expect to win the commissioner seat, being a political unknown (and not being involved in politics ever in my life before this year), but I knew if I ran for commissioner, I would be granted larger forums to discuss my ideas on politics. I got radio time and newspaper space during the primary campaign, and I printed postcards with my political attitude and distributed it to about 90 houses in my precinct. I won the seat in a tight race, but to win it while not speaking to anyone (but my next door neighbors) demonstrates that Libertarians who want to change the culture should align themselves with either major party (whichever will get them into the precint committeeman position easiest), and run for the office. Precinct committeeman have a political vote on the leadership of the county parties, which influence the state party leadership, which influences the national leadership. Individual libertarians should aspire to office, and not worry about the national Libertarian ticket for a while.
Take Ayn Rand's advice to a person who asked her 'how does one person change the world?' : advocate the right ideas in whatever forum you are given, and DEFEND YOUR VALUES when you hear others attacking them (in writing or in speaking).
As a political movement, Libertarians have floundered for 40 years. Presidential candidate Ron Paul acknowledged his ideological roots in 2007 and flourished like never before in his 30+ year political career.
The media gave Ron Paul a hearing because they had found a "right-winger" who emphatically opposed the Iraq war, not because of his economic thought. They fooled a lot of otherwise savvy observers of the election campaigns.
Here’s a new twist on things ~ an Ayn Rand worshipper who can barely get his facts straight about her!
I think dear Nick, in his near-pathetic burbling about Ayn Rand, has slightly mixed up his Greek legends, doing both Murray Rothbard AND Ms. Rand a disservice in the process. In attempting to imbue Ms. Rand with SOLAR qualities ~ paraphrasing Mr. Rothbard after his first meeting with the woman as saying that “being near Ayn Rand and her brilliance was akin to being Prometheus, and flying too close to the sun” ~ he has really only been able to link them to a more dastardly fate. It was ICARUS who flew too close to the sun. PROMETHEUS was the more unfortunate dolt who, in stealing fire from Olympus to give to humankind in defiance of Zeus, was chained to a rock where an eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day until he was eventually freed by Hercules. While I’m sure that neither Nick nor Mr. Rothbard intended this reference, upon reflection it may actually have been a more fitting consequence for BOTH!
In another place, I think dear Nick lost his way again as he supposed that Ms. Rand might have praised RON PAUL by saying: “God bless Ron Paul. The only conservative/libertarian I can respect.” This would seem to be an unusual remark coming from Ms. Rand because she was an avowed ATHEIST! In my opinion, Ms. Rand would never use the word GOD except in contempt or, perhaps, after someone sneezed. She certainly would never have used it as a source of praise.
I would also think that many Libertarians, and other students of history, who revere the tenacity, passion, and unparalleled quest for FREEDOM of our Founding Fathers and the countless hundreds of thousands of men and women who battled the British, the French, the Indians, the Mexicans and the fierce elements of the land to hold their stake in this country might be somewhat offended by Nick’s assertion that “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...” Isn’t it really quite pathetic to think that Nick would place this Russian immigrant, whose only heroic effort was to write a smattering of books extolling selfishness, greed, nihilism, and the worship of profit, ahead of all the heroes of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the World Wars of our times, let alone Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and even RON PAUL!
Nick mentioned that “There were none in the public arena of debate who were her peers for many years.” although Ms. Rand was famous for REFUSING to debate, or even to appear, with her critics. I guess that would make her as peerless and difficult to debate as the infamous Howard Hughes who, in his later years, was only rumored to exist. Ms. Rand was certainly as inconspicuous.
One caution I would make to Nick concerns his having embarked upon what he calls his own private campaign for Liberty, calling himself a “John Galt libertarian” (with a small L because he says he is not a card-carrying Libertarian). You need to step out of your hallucinatory dream and realize that John Galt is a FICTIONAL CHARACTER with no actual HUMAN COUNTERPART. He is as real as Santa Claus and Rip Van Winkle, as pure of heart and motive as Superman and Batman, and as capable of uttering another word as Abraham Lincoln. To model your life after a fictional character like John Galt would be as wise a decision as going to work for the Twentieth Century Motor Company. Both will pay the same bonus ~ NONE.
As a long-time Objectivist and anti-libertarian (in the movement or political sense), I commend you for your analysis. I could quibble at the margin, and I take great exception to your laudatory comments re Ron Paul, but the theme of your piece – libertarians should discover Ayn Rand – is perfect.
Until libertarians learn that liberty is a function of morality, and not of politics, their quest – however the many conflicting variants may be defined – is doomed from the start. As Ayn Rand stated to Leonard Reed on the founding of FEE, man thinks philosophically first, then ethically, then politically and lastly, economically. You are correct to mention the need to champion ethics and individual rights. (Indeed, the Ayn Rand Institute’s new Washington, D.C. presence is called the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights [link edited for length].) Ayn Rand didn’t despise the Libertarian founders and leaders because they never acknowledged her. Rather, she despised them for what they stood for. And she was pleased to some extent that they didn’t acknowledge her, because they shamelessly plagiarized her ideas and distorted them beyond recognition.
Two salient Ayn Rand essays in this context are available online:
So, my compliments to you. May I suggest as a compliment, not a criticism, that you are but a step away from fully “getting it.” I sincerely hope that you pursue your thinking further. See you at OCON?
Posted By: Michael Seebeck
Date: 2008-11-22 22:32:44
I've only read one thing of Rand's, and that's her gravestone while visiting my family plot at Kensico.
I plan to keep it that way.
I arrived at libertarianism and the LP not by reading books, but by observing life. Only then did I start reading.
I fail to see her attraction. I also fail to see her or her writings as some sort of messianic solution to the LP's woes. I do see that solution in the hard work nuts and bolts work that builds a political party--the same work the LP has neglected in favor of magic-bullet candidates and philospohical arguments that few else give a dman about.
In other words, cut the philosophical conversion bullshit and go build a precinct, lobby an elected official for a policy or law change in a libertarian direction, and educate and communicate instead of pontificate and denigrate.
Awful piece written by someone who clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. First, his claim about Rand is pure b.s. Rand started out Nietzschean, which isn’t quite the individualism she turned to while writing her books. That he thinks there were none who were Rand’s peers for many years shows his own lack of knowledge about the libertarian movement.
Rothbard was NOT the found of the Libertarian movement which existed long before Rothbard or Rand were born. And he meet Rand in the 1950s not the 1960s as he claims. Can’t even get his decades right. Next he calls Rothbard a theo-libertarian even thought he was an atheist. But he does get wet over Ron Paul who is a theo-libertarian (if my libertarian you mean social conservative).
And only someone with zero experience with libertarian history could say that “Libertarian founders and leaders” “never acknowledged” Rand. And Rand would never say “God bless Ron Paul” as the only “conservative/libertarian I can respect”. Rand would not endorse Paul because Rand said anyone who would outlaw abortion is not an advocate of her limited goverment. She made no exceptions. She would reject Ron Paul purely on that issue alone -- not that she wouldn’t have other reasons to do so as well.
This person is just woefully ignorant of Rand’s views and the history of libertarianism. He has no business writing about something he doens’t understand.
I thank the critical comments on here for pointing out the errors in my piece. I didn't have the reference on hand to verify the date that Rothbard met Rand when I wrote this. When I get the reference, I'll change it here. Also, Icarus instead of Prometheus (haha), I knew that but was not paying attention when I originally wrote this. I don't claim to be a professional journalist. I'm an Op Ed writer. I do welcome corrections, so keep them coming!
As for someone claiming that Ayn Rand would never earnestly say 'god bless'... then you don't know the facts of Ayn Rand. The word god meant, to her, 'the highest possible to man'.
As for someone claiming that she would have rejected Ron Paul on the basis that he would outlaw abortion, I can't claim to know what Rand would've done, but I do know that Ron Paul didn't want to outlaw abortion. He said it's not an issue that should be decided by the Feds.
For someone who SHOWED that they didn't know the facts about Ayn Rand to say that OTHERS don't know the facts about her only makes the sad tale of your DROOLING ADMIRATION that much more pathetic.
She was an ATHEIST! How can you possibly try to twist some kind of interpretation into making God an acceptable word of praise from her. That's like OBAMA praising his next Secretary of Defense by saying that he's a lot like RUMSFELD!
You don't seem to know enough about Ayn Rand to even know that her real name was Alisa Rosenbaum. That probably surprises you, too. But, then, you will just say you knew that like you knew about Prometheus. I guess it's an endless road when you try to cover up those first couple of mistakes, isn't it?
Posted By: Michael Oliver
Date: 2008-11-23 22:18:28
To find a site that is both objectivist and libertarian is unusual. Orthodox objectivists deny libertarianism as having any validity. I met Rand years ago when my wife and I (who had met due to objectivism) lived a few blocks from her 34th St. apt. (we lived on 36th St. in Manhattan). Brief encounter by chance with her and Frank O'Connor on street corner and conversation of perhaps a miute, won't claim to be close to her, but I invited her to our apt. for dinner (later Barbara Weiss, Rand's sec'y sent us a letter saying the fully expected that Rand did not accept invitations from those she did not know - no problem) but am convinced I could have dissuaded her from her limited "statist" stance had she come over. Never can prove that unfortunately. In any case, you have very solid site Mr. Tower. My blog site is below.
This was a tough column to stomach. I am not a particularly systematic thinker, and there are surprising juxtapositions in my views on a lot of things. But this is one of those moments where you realize you are going to have to seriously rethink some things. I have been a Ron Paul supporter for a couple years now, and much of what he says makes sense. On the other hand, I have real contempt for Ayn Rand, and, in all seriousness, if her view of the world is correct, there is truly no hope for the species, or life on the planet as we know it. Since Dr. Paul considers himself to be an admirer of the views of this true bitch, I am going to withdraw all support from him, now and forever. I might look into Rand again, to make sure I am not wrong about her, but I am pretty sure.
Another false idol knocked down. Praise be to God.