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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ayn Rand - In Defense of Capitalism

The famous wit of Ayn Rand at work explaining the necessity of capitalism to a truly free society:

But if you think she sounds like a libertarian, think again:

(From The Ayn Rand Institute):
Q: What do you think of the Libertarian movement? [FHF: “The Moratorium on Brains,” 1971]

AR: 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.

Q: What do you think of the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “A Nation’s Unity,” 1972]

AR: I’d rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis. I don’t think they’re as funny as Professor Hospers and the Libertarian Party. If, at a time like this, John Hospers takes ten votes away from Nixon (which I doubt he’ll do), it would be a moral crime. I don’t care about Nixon, and I care even less about Hospers. But this is no time to engage in publicity seeking, which all these crank political parties are doing. If you want to spread your ideas, do it through education. But don’t run for President—or even dogcatcher—if you’re going to help McGovern.

Q: What is your position on the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “Censorship: Local and Express,” 1973]

AR: I don’t want to waste too much time on it. It’s a cheap attempt at publicity, which Libertarians won’t get. Today’s events, particularly Watergate, should teach anyone with amateur political notions that they cannot rush into politics in order to get publicity. The issue is so serious today, that to form a new party based in part on half-baked ideas, and in part on borrowed ideas—I won’t say from whom—is irresponsible, and in today’s context, nearly immoral.

Q: Libertarians advocate the politics you advocate. So why are you opposed to the Libertarian Party? [FHF: “Egalitarianism and Inflation,” 1974]

AR:They are not defenders of capitalism. They’re a group of publicity seekers who rush into politics prematurely, because they allegedly want to educate people through a political campaign, which can’t be done. Further, their leadership consists of men of every of persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Moreover, most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now, I think it’s a bad beginning for an allegedly pro-capitalist party to start by stealing ideas.

Q: Have you ever heard of [Libertarian presidential candidate] Roger MacBride? [FHF: “?” 1976]

AR: My answer should be, “I haven’t.” There’s nothing to hear. I have been maintaining in everything I have said and written, that the trouble in the world today is philosophical; that only the right philosophy can save us. Now here is a party that plagiarizes some of my ideas, mixes it with the exact opposite—with religionists, anarchists, and just about every intellectual misfit and scum they can find—and they call themselves Libertarians, and run for office. I dislike Reagan and Carter; I’m not too enthusiastic about the other candidates. But the worst of them are giants compared to anybody who would attempt something as un-philosophical, low, and pragmatic as the Libertarian Party. It is the last insult to ideas and philosophical consistency.

Q: Do you think Libertarians communicate the ideas of freedom and capitalism effectively? [Q&A following LP’s “Objective Communication,” Lecture 1, 1980]

AR: I don’t think plagiarists are effective. I’ve read nothing by a Libertarian (when I read them, in the early years) that wasn’t my ideas badly mishandled—i.e., had the teeth pulled out of them—with no credit given. I didn’t know whether I should be glad that no credit was given, or disgusted. I felt both. They are perhaps the worst political group today, because they can do the most harm to capitalism, by making it disreputable.

Q: Why don’t you approve of the Libertarians, thousands of whom are loyal readers of your works? [FHF: “The Age of Mediocrity,” 1981]

AR: Because Libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and they denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication, when that fits their purpose. They are lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They’d like to have an amoral political program.

Q: The Libertarians are providing intermediate steps toward your goals. Why don’t you support them? [Ibid., 1981]

AR: Please don’t tell me they’re pursuing my goals. I have not asked for, nor do I accept, the help of intellectual cranks. I want philosophically educated people: those who understand ideas, care about ideas, and spread the right ideas. That’s how my philosophy will spread, just as philosophy has throughout all history: by means of people who understand and teach it to others. Further, it should be clear that I do not endorse the filthy slogan, “The end justifies the means.” That was originated by the Jesuits, and accepted enthusiastically by Communists and Nazis. The end does not justify the means; you cannot achieve anything good by evil means. Finally, the Libertarians aren’t worthy of being the means to any end, let alone the end of spreading Objectivism.
To be fair, Rand didn't label herself as a conservative either. Though, it's hard to reconcile why when you compare her view of capitalism with the definition of Conservatism. History suggests that her disdain for religion as a whole is the source of her denouncement of conservatism... but we've shown on several occasions that the intellectual account of conservatism needn't be exclusively tied to religion in anyway. I doubt it's the case that Rand lacked the intellectual fortitude to reconcile conservatism with secularism. Rather, it's likely the case that Rand sought to lay her own ideological path with "objectivism" and so sought to keep her philosophy distinct from both libertarianism and conservatism.

I post this video of Rand's thoughts not as an endorsement of her "objectivism," but merely as a means for looking into the past at one of history's greatest capitalist intellectuals. By whatever classification we give her, Rand was, above all else, an advocate for capitalism... perhaps one of capitalism's fiercest advocates ever. In a time when capitalism faces extinction at the hands of the statist, it cannot hurt to look back upon the words of those who helped champion capitalism to it's prior (and current) successes.
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