Monday, October 4, 2010

Rand, Classical Liberalism, and Independent Conservatism

by Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA

Ayn Rand was perhaps one of the most objective 20th century thinkers and should be a revered icon of liberals. Hell, she even considered herself a liberal (actually a radical) and had problems with the Republican establishment. You can find in her own words her position on conservatism here.

It is hard to say for those of us who have studied Rand, and in the process became adherents to her Objectivist philosophy whether she would still consider herself in opposition to conservative thought. My money is on she would.

While Rand considered herself a radical for laissez faire capitalism she was very much a classical liberal. Classical in the sense of the great 18th century liberal revolutionaries that fomented unrest in the British colonies that ultimately lead to a revolution and the founding of our republic.

Almost without exception most liberals, or progressives today revile Rand. Rather than understanding her objective principles and the broad and consistent content of her entire works they point only to their perception of her as "selfish and mean spirited". Of course they do this out of ignorance. Or perhaps just as likely to further their progressive collectivist agenda.

I consider myself to be a conservative, albeit an independent one who has quite often found myself describing my political philosophy as that of classical liberalism. Perhaps this explains my admiration for Thomas Jefferson, one of America's greatest thinkers and voice for true liberty.

Given the modern day progressives babble about how they are the ones protecting our liberties and rights against the establishment I find myself scratching my head. And trying to figure out why they revile Rand and men with political beliefs like Thomas Jefferson. It finally occurred to me on the day I left the fog.

Rand was above all else a champion of individualism. She understood for liberty and capitalism to succeed and flourish required no less than strong individualists in society. She also understood, as our founding fathers did, that the creation of wealth was the result of the industrious and creative work of individuals in society. As well she understood that retention of the fruits of ones labor is essential to an economic system built on the concept of free individuals exchanging goods and services on a free market.

In spite of the truth that Ayn Rand was against government subsidies to businesses (corporate welfare), in spite of the fact she was opposed to pull peddlers (lobbyists), in spite of the fact she believed the only justification for war was in self defense in response to an act of unprovoked aggression, in spite of the fact she advocated for minorities and denounced racism, in spite of the fact she advocated for the maximum amount of personal liberty; all views modern liberals (progressives) profess to be their cause, in spite of all of this they still denounce her and malign her philosophy. Such is the incoherent and nonobjective mind of the progressives of the modern era.

And so as I considered the contradictions in the progressives dismissal of Rand I realized that it is impossible for modern progressives to support her objective philosophy. The reasons lay at the very foundation of her beliefs, that the individual, the smallest minority on earth, must be free to achieve in a civil society without the impediments an overblown bureaucratic government places in their way.

Rand believed that the individual should be free to choose their own path and in so doing accept the personal responsibility that comes with the right of free choice. She also believed that a person had the right to retain that which they created by their own individual effort. Beyond the minimal amount needed for society to maintain the minimal structure required to function peaceably(courts, law enforcement, etc.) government has no right to take the fruits of an individuals labor.

Rather than the vilification of business that create wealth, and in so doing provide jobs for tens of millions of individuals, Rand believed they should be viewed as engines of growth and progress. She also would not have accepted the modern day concept of "too big to fail." That is a term used by a bureaucratic government long in the business of grant favors to business that should fail, and would were it not for tax payers dollars.

Progressives, who really are collectivists, can not accept the objectivity and consistency in Ayn Rand's philosophy precisely because it stands against everything progressive collectivists believe in. Progressives believe in the power (allegedly good) of government, they believe that government (as run by elected bureaucrats) has the right (authority) to tax at will to support any manner of social engineering they see fit to pursue, and this most definitely leads to the redistribution of wealth. The effort to take from the producers and redistribute to the non producers so as to (allegedly) make for a "fairer" and more "equal" society.

It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to recognize where the progressive collectivist line ultimately leads. And it is becoming increasingly clear there are not many "classical liberals" around anymore. Perhaps that is why independent conservatives have captured the the message of Rand and are using it to further expose the evils of progressive collectivism.

For more information on one of the the centuries great thinkers visit here and here. For those who are interested in a current day politician who most closely represent Rand's political philosophy vist this site.

Cross posted to Left Coast Rebel.

Related discussions @ Memeorandum


  1. This is really interesting,Les.I'm gonna do some research - can't really comment much further cause I'm a skeptic by nature but will definitely look at her with an open mind. I appreciate it man!

  2. I'm curious what you meant to link in that 2nd sentence. Though she allied with them early in her career, Rand certainly was critical of most conservatives, including Reagan. She considered religion a threat to life and liberty. What she would think of the Tea Party movement I don't know. She rejected Libertarianism with a big 'L' (the other movement she helped spawn), but the Tea Party movement is not so much about anarchy as it is about limited government and individualism. Even Santelli has called himself an Ayn Rander.

    As for the second part of your thesis. Yes. Liberals are a huge disappointment. You'd think you could count on them to at least defend those rights they claim to defend, even while you hated them for attacking the remaining rights. Like freedom of speech. Well now they're all behind DISCLOSE because they want to muzzle the Tea Party and they didn't raise a peep to defend Rushdie or Terry Jones. Or like womens and gay rights, which they are willing to jettison as they embrace Islam with open arms. I can't remember what else they used to defend. Now they're just all out statists--fascists mostly.

    What they really hate I don't know. They hate proud individuals, production, civilization, intelligence, reason, science, humanity. See that environmentalist video with exploding kids? That about sums it up. But in a deeper sense I think they just really hate themselves and everything else is lashing out. Atlas Shrugged explores this. I remember one of the villians collapsing when he realizes in the end he was a raw killer and hated everything.

  3. Shane - Thank you for pointing out tthe missing link. I have now rectified the ommision.

    Rand was above all else a radical and certainly more alligned with the thinking of the 18th century classical liberals and revolutionaries.

    Interesting you point out fascism. Leonard Peikoff wrote a complelling book called "The Ominous Parallels" which makes the argument that America is in fact heading towars facism rather than european style socialism or Marxism.

    As I am sure you know Peikoff was Rand's "intellectual heir."

  4. Oso - Knowing your leanings I suspect you will quickly find reason to dismiss her.

    She was not without blemishes. No one is. However when one spends the time it takes to study her complete works it becomes clear her Objectivism is on whole a wonderful non contadictory philosophy.

    I hope you can seperate that which I am sure will annoy you and see beyond it to the core of her philosophy as they are sound.

    Indeed I have added the missing link. Rand did not consider herself to be either a conservative or a Libertarian.She had many problems with both.

    She was indeed the radical thinker she claimed to be.


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