Rand On Libertarians

I had always assumed rand was, essentially, a libertarian, that her objectivisn was more or less synonymous with libertarian ideas. Apparently, I was wrong. You know what they say,”when you assume, you make an ass out of “U” and “me”.

Q: What do you think of the libertarian movement?

AR: All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies who are anarchists instead of leftist collectivists; but anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet libertarians combine capitalism and anarchism. That’s 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. Anarchists are 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. [FHF 71]

Q: Why is the lack of government in Galt’s Gulch (in Atlas Shrugged) any different from anarchy, which you object to?

AR: Galt’s Gulch is not a society; it’s a private estate. It’s owned by one man who carefully selected the people admitted. Even then, they had a judge as an arbitrator, if anything came up; only nothing came up among them, because they shared the same philosophy. But if you had a society in which all shared in one philosophy, but without a government, that would be dreadful. Galt’s Gulch probably consisted of about, optimistically, a thousand people who represented the top geniuses of the world. They agreed on fundamentals, but they would never be in total agreement. They didn’t need a government because if they had disagreements, they could resolve them rationally.

But project a society of millions, in which there is every kind of viewpoint, every kind of brain, every kind of morality—and no government. That’s the Middle Ages, your no-government society. Man was left at the mercy of bandits, because without government, every criminally inclined individual resorts to force, and every morally inclined individual is helpless. Government is an absolute necessity if individual rights are to be protected, because you don’t leave force at the arbitrary whim of other individuals. Libertarian anarchism is pure whim worship, because what they refuse to recognize is the need of objectivity among men—particularly men of different views. And it’s good that people within a nation should have different views, provided we respect each other’s rights.

No one can guard rights, except a government under objective laws. What if McGovern had his gang of policemen, and Nixon had his, and instead of campaigning they fought in the streets? This has happened throughout history. Rational men are not afraid of government. In a proper society, a rational man doesn’t have to know the government exists, because the laws are clear and he never breaks them. [FHF 72]

Rand’s  The Nature of Government was pretty interesting. Here’s some quotes

“There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defense, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement. Or, to put it another way, he must accept the separation of force and whim (any whim, including his own).”


“Today, this principle is forgotten, ignored and evaded. The result is the present state of the world, with mankind’s retrogression to the lawlessness of absolutist tyranny, to the primitive savagery of rule by brute force.

In unthinking protest against this trend, some people are raising the question of whether government as such is evil by nature and whether anarchy is the ideal social system. Anarchy, as a political concept, is a naive floating abstraction: for all the reasons discussed above, a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the first criminal who came along and who would precipitate it into the chaos of gang warfare. But the possibility of human immorality is not the only objection to anarchy: even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy: it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government.”




12 thoughts on “Rand On Libertarians

  1. Ayn Rand had some interesting ideas and objectivism is definitely worthwhile to study for the pieces that make sense, but it’s hard for me to get past the self-centeredness that forms part of her philosophy. Objectivism applies laissez-faire beyond economics and into personal relationships. If something isn’t serving a person, then that person should feel free to discard it and find something else, even if it’s one’s spouse or family. Where is duty and responsibility, mercy and charity? Objectivism undermines the structure of a civilized society every bit as much as Marxism.

    And if you’ve met some die-hard objectivists, I’m personally interested in your take on them. I’d hate to form a solid opinion based on the few that I’ve met, but those few, while fun to talk to, possessed extreme binary, “us-vs.-them” attitudes. Objectivism and the cult of Ayn Rand seemed like a religion to them more than an outlook on life.

    • I have never met a die-hard objectivist, nor have I read Rand’s books. My impression is that her idea of the superior man was an amoral logic machine rather than an emotional creature.

      I dismiss objectivism for the same reasons you mention, but I doubt anybody can actually hold to the ideals of the philosophy because they are so inhuman. Rand seems like a classic example of a highly intelligent person regarding their own intellect too highly. Its extremism in the sense of trying to distill humanity and society into a ideal with none of the ornamentation that actually defines humanity. At least that’s my take having only read a couple if essays and some stuff by self identified objectivists online.

      In a little while I’m going post an argument that King Gearge was a libertarian, stay tuned.

  2. I agree with Janus’ reply. Each character must be evaluated on his own merits. Rand, who like you suspect, was enamored with her own intellect. What’s the saying? Too smart. By half? While she has many, many valid points; to ascribe a principled and consistent result to the human animal, from a general hypothesis, is unrealistic. I also agree with Janus, that objectivism applies laissez-faire beyond economics and into personal relationships.
    But, and not to be funny, when Janus asks, “Where is duty and responsibility, mercy and charity?”, we must keep in mind that these are all issues with which Rand had little objectivity.

    • Randianism does seem to have aspects of a cult, I have noticed the same with Austrian Free Marketeers regarding Rothbard, Murray, et al. Neither group gives much consideration to outside ideas except to debunk them with quotes from the received wisdom. Both groups also redefine words to suit their needs, a particularly glaring red flag to me.

        • Is progressivism genetic? I think it might be, I think we all have complimentary personalities which allows us to build complex societies, but sometimes gets out of balance.

          I’m also a nationalist, I don’t think the various nations are necessarily compatible, not that we can’t get along an cooperate globally, but that we have different needs in societal organisation. The nations are like individuals scaled up, or maybe fractals are a better example. From a US-centric view it would go: the individual->the family->the community->the larger societal organisation (city,county, etc)-> state->region->Country. Each is a larger versoin of the one before and, in its proper role, functions as an individual on a larger scale. I have considered writing a post, but I don’t have all of my thoughts worked out yet.

  3. Interesting discussion, Sir.

    I have read her books, like them, and recommend them. But, I’d stop well short of calling myself any kind of disciple. I’d not read that interview, and am a bit surprised at her distaste for both Libertarianism and Anarchy. In fact, I’m having some difficulty recalling any episode (Atlas, Fountainhead, Anthem) where she had anything flattering to say about Government.

    Perhaps she would feel as strange bedfellows with the Austrians, but antagonistic? From my perspective, she would have made an excellent Anarcho-Capitalist. I’ll need to read the linked essay on her views regarding government, when I get a chance.

    Also, for what it’s worth, there seems to be much picking of nits regarding her philosophy extemporaneous to the characters in her novels over the last few/several years. An effort to discredit her with a thousand tiny cuts, methinks. Are there items out there that quote her, but seem incongruous to her characters? Not saying that what you’ve referenced does this, but yes.

    Take a weekend and read Anthem. See what you think.

    • There does seem to be a variance between her fiction and her essays. I don’t know if this reflects an evolving philosophy, poetic license in her fiction or something else.

      I have no interest in objectivism or libertarianism, I think they’re both selfish, utopian ideologies. I will probably never read her fiction, but her essays are interesting even if if I don’t agree.

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