Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness has a deep influence on the mindset of the right

A postage stamp showing an image of Ayn Rand, circa 1999 (catwalker /

A postage stamp showing an image of Ayn Rand, circa 1999 (catwalker /

The Raw Story

Ayn Rand (1904-82) has arisen from the dead. Over the last decade the pop philosopher and propaganda fictionist extraordinaire has moved steadily from the cultish margins to the mainstream of US conservatism.

Her ghost may even haunt the current presidential race with the candidacy of Republican Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian darling who received a set of Ayn Rand books for his 17th birthday.

In her bestselling books and essays, Rand frankly celebrated selfishness and greed – and the underside of this celebration is a scorn toward and demonization of any simple caring about other human beings. Such a stance has become a hidden, yet driving force behind such loaded catchphrases as “spending cuts” and, more grandiosely, “limited government.”

In a larger sense, though, Rand had never died. Sales of her books remained steadily in the six figures in the years following her demise, their underground influence an unacknowledged-if-discomforting fact of American life. A couple of reader surveys carried out in the 1990s by Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress, and by the Modern Library imprint, showed Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead near the top of the polling results, according to author Brian Doherty. And, in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, sales of her works tripled.

Randianism, what she called Objectivism, now exists as a mass phenomenon, a grass-roots presence, a kind of folklore. “Who Is John Galt?”, her recurring slogan from Atlas Shrugged, can be seen on placards at Tea Party rallies, on leaflets casually affixed to telephone poles or on the shopping bags of Lululemon Athletics, the Canadian sports apparel company. The firm’s CEO, Chip Wilson, is an avowed Rand fan. So are the current corporate chiefs at Exxon, Sears, the BB & T Bank in North Carolina and the funky Whole Foods chain.

And of course, there’s Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, who started out in the 1950s as Rand’s star disciple and never in the course of his career was to abjure the special relationship.

Rand and the mindset of the right

Randthought, which I discuss in my book, On Nabokov, Ayn Rand and the Libertarian Mind, serves as a major doctrinal component within the mindset of the libertarian, the latter being the most significant American ideological development of the last 35 years.

The title of a 1971 book by Jerome Tuccille (a libertarian journalist and Libertarian Party candidate for governor of New York State in 1974) says all: It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand. Rand’s fan base has since grown to include Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice-presidential nominee, who in 2005 openly credited Rand with his having entered government service and who reportedly has had his staffers read the market guru’s books.

Rand did not invent libertarianism. The thinking, sans the name, had been around since at least the 1920s. And her contemporaries, economists such as Milton Friedman and the so-called Austrian School, gave the set of ideas academic standing and respectability. In Rand’s truculent fiction, however, an abstract theory effectively took on flesh via dashing heroes and unabashed hero worship, vivid myths and technological magic, page-turning suspense and torrid, violent sex. For every studious reader of economist Friedrich von Hayek, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of eager devourers of Rand.

Curiously, an aging Rand loathed libertarians, attacked them as “scum,” “hippies of the right” and “a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people.” She hated them in great measure because, in her view, they had adopted her economic principles yet ignored her total “philosophy.” (Rand also disliked any situation over which she couldn’t exercise personal control.)

Her heirs and successors in the so-called Objectivist camp have since waged a kind of sectarian cold war with libertarians. One thinks of the split between Stalinists and Trotskyists or between Social Democrats and Communists.

Meanwhile the libertarians themselves have gone their merry way with their political party (the nation’s third largest) and Tea Parties, and with their myriad think tanks and media organs.

The GOP’s fraught affair with Rand

In the interim, starting with Ronald Reagan, the GOP has absorbed selected aspects of the rhetoric and larger aims of the libertarian purists (much as the New Deal did once pick and choose rhetoric and programs from the socialist left). At the same time, official party conservatism took to cultivating the evangelical Christian sectors, marshaling issues such as abortion and evolution in an aggressive bid to gain favor with fundamentalist voters.

In addition, picking up from the “Southern Strategy” of Republicans in the 1970s who wooed Southern Democrats by catering to racial tensions, candidates and publicists now play on continuing resentment over the Civil War defeat and the Civil Rights struggles. They deflect blame onto “Big Government” for any and all ills, much as libertarians and Randians are wont to do. The result is a marriage of convenience, an uneasy alliance between a pro-market, secular Right and the older, faith-based forces who make common cause against a perceived common enemy.

Rand, ironically, was an outspoken atheist, a fact that eventually led VP candidate Paul Ryan to publicly repudiate her “atheist philosophy,” claiming disingenuously that his once-touted Randianism was merely an “urban legend,” and that, as a Catholic, his thought came rather from St Thomas Aquinas.

Still, whatever these doctrinal differences, Rand’s vision will continue to provide inspiration and intellectual ammunition for the foot soldiers of US conservatism, libertarian or otherwise.

In many respects, America is becoming — in echo of the title of a book by journalist Gary Weiss — an “Ayn Rand Nation.”

The ConversationBy Gene H. Bell-Villada, Williams College

‘Tea Party’ is over: Ex-activist says racism, hypocrisy killed the movement


Tea Party protest…

That’s one man’s opinion and I respect that.  I’m taking a “wait and see” approach.  The 2014 mid-term elections will tell us for sure…

The Griot – Opinion by Phil Russo

I always defended the Tea Party against charges of racism. And then last week, someone with whom I am Facebook “friends” posted something extremely racist and I called her out on it. Immediately, her friends jumped down my throat, calling me a liberal and saying I wasn’t a real tea partier, despite the fact that I was one of 10 people on the first Tea Party conference calls back in January of 2009.

That was just one of many wake-up calls.

Sadly, what began as a genuine opportunity to make this country more free has deteriorated to racist name calling, fear of anyone with brown skin, and an irrational focus on Sharia law.

A chance for Libertarians to reform the GOP

Nobody has been a bigger supporter of the Tea Party than I have been.

In Orlando, I think we had one of the best organized groups.  Along with Cincinnati and Houston, Orlando was one of the cities that saw the biggest rallies, the most active tea partiers, and attracted the biggest names to speak at our events.  When the left would point to the one nut-job in a crowd of 6,000 with a racist sign and call all 6,000 people racists, the more Libertarian tea partiers like me, would always use ourselves and our groups as examples of of the real, average tea partier.

At our events here in Orlando I met people who said they had never come to a political rally.  Even when the left insisted that the Tea Party was just a bunch of GOP activists, I knew better. The people I talked to at our rallies were usually more independent.  Of course there were lots of Republicans and some even more conservative members of the Whig Party and Conservative Party, but there were also lots of Libertarians, independents, and Constitution Party members.

I always felt like the Tea Party was going to be the chance for Libertarians to do two things:

First, I thought it was a golden opportunity to show Republicans the hypocrisy of their platform.

Secondly, I thought it was a great chance for us to talk to apolitical, independent folks who were genuinely angry about the bank bailouts: folks who work for a living or own a small business and felt like, “hey, I employ 25 people and no one is going to bail me out.  To hell with GM and Lehman Brothers!”

These are people who vote for president every four years but don’t vote in midterm elections. They don’t really care if gays get married or if college kids smoke pot.  They also do not want to have their paychecks confiscated to pay for Obamacare.  They voted for the GOP in 2010 and made John Boehner Speaker of the House.

Continue reading here…


Bill Maher Slams Paul Ryan, Rand Paul For ‘Ruining’ Libertarianism: ‘I Didn’t Go Nuts, This Movement Did’ (VIDEO)

The Huffington Post

On this week’s episode of “Real Time,” Bill Maher used his final “New Rule” of the night to take on Libertarianism and the conservatives whose obsessions with Ayn Rand have “ruined” the political philosophy for him.

Once a supporter of Libertarianism and its views on government intervention, Maher explained why he thinks politicians such as Paul Ryan and Rand Paul are “intellectually stuck in their teen years” and have turned a once promising movement into a free market-obsessed, “nanny state”-fearing delusion.

Maher went on to defend his new views on Libertarianism by mocking the party’s tendency to reject government services even when they are arguably very useful:

“To everyone who keeps trying to shame me about abandoning my Libertarian moorings, my message is this: I didn’t go nuts, this movement did. Like when you see a stop light, your reaction should be ‘Great, an easy way to ensure we don’t all crash into each other,’ not, ‘How dare the government tell me when I can and cannot go!”

Watch the full segment above.

Ron Paul Bashes Paul Ryan’s Budget, Calls Big Government ‘King’

Huffington Post

Potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul (Texas) on Monday panned Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget proposal, telling a crowd in Iowa that the Ryan plan will not end big government, which he said is becoming like a monarchy.

Speaking at a forum organized by the Family Leader, a local Christian and socially conservative group, the Texas congressman referred to a passage in the Old Testament where the Israelite people asked the prophet Samuel for a king to rule over them. He used the story a parable to illustrate where he believes the once self-reliant American culture is headed.

“We don’t have a king today but unfortunately I think we’re drifting to a point that our big government is king, and the government tells us what we can do and be responsible for us,” Paul said. “And if we don’t have a house, they’ll give us a house. If we don’t have education, they’ll give us free education. If we’re hungry, we get food stamps. And deficits don’t matter. And if you need money, you print the money. And we have this moral obligation to police the world.”

“It goes on and on,” the congressman said. “The king will take care of us.”

Paul, who had a surprisingly strong showing in the 2008 Republican presidential primary but has not yet declared his intentions for the 2012 race, also talked about Ryan’s budget and the Federal Reserve with an audience of roughly 150 people in Sioux Center, in the state’s northwest corner.

He said the budgets proposed by Rep. Ryan and President Obama wouldn’t put Washington on a path to limited government.

“Neither of those budgets will solve our problems, or even come close,” Paul said.