Ayn Rand didn’t like libertarians, Austrians or Milton Friedman

When you study the works of legendary Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand and then compare her ideas to that of many libertarians, Austrians and perhaps even Milton Friedman in some cases, you have to wonder why exactly she disliked them so much.

Her interviews tended to reveal that she believed that her philosophies were plagiarized by libertarians. She also suggested that Austrian economists, like Ludwig von Mises, had no philosophical premises.

Rand was a great woman and you can be in awe reading her work or listening to her interviews, but… (we’ll leave it at that).

Here are three quotes from Rand:

On Milton Friedman:

“I saw five minutes of it [Free to Choose]; that was enough for me, because I know [Milton] Friedman’s ideas. He is not for capitalism; he’s a miserable eclectic. He’s an enemy of Objectivism, and his objection is that I bring morality into economists, which he thinks should be amoral. I don’t always like what public television puts on, but they have better programs than ‘Free to Choose’ – the circus, for instance.”

On libertarians:

“They’re 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 persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now it’s a bad sign for an allegedly pro-capitalist party [Libertarian Party] to start by stealing ideas.

“I don’t think plagiarists are effective. I’ve read nothing by libertarians (when I read them, in the early years) that wasn’t my ideas badly mishandled – that is, the teeth pulled out of them – with no credit given. I didn’t know whether to 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. I’ll take Jane Fonda over them.”

On the Austrian School of Economics:

“I think they are a school that has a great deal of truth and proper arguments to offer about capitalism – especially [Ludwig] von Mises – but I certainly don’t agree with them in every detail, and particularly not in their alleged philosophical premises. They don’t have any, actually. They attempt – von Mises particularly – to substitute economics for philosophy. That cannot be done.”

If you don’t feel like reading 1,000 pages of “Altas Shrugged” or peruse her numerous non-fiction books and essays then you should certainly check out “Ayn Rand Answers – the Best of her Q&A” by Robert Mayhew to gain superb insight on an array of issues, including U.S. politics of the 1960s and 1970s.

Photo by: Michael Greene.

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  1. Don’t know why so many libertarians look up to Rand. I was always partial to Rothbard but I don’t know why anyone would champion Rand. She represents the worst survival-of-the-fittest ideas of conservativism.

  2. Dallas’s comment asserts that Ayn Rand represents “the worst survival-of-the-fittest ideas of conservatism”, an estimation that can only proceed from a minuscule awareness of her works and no grip at all of the fundamental principles and structure of her Objectivist philosophy.

    Error 1: Dallas ignores the fact that the meanings of words and phrases are inherently contextual, and attempts to smear Rand’s views on man’s values and means to achieve them by equating them with the entirely biological, physical, mechanical, and genetically generated processes of the non-human living entities. Regardless of any physical processes human beings might share with them, man remains unique in that his primary means to survive and thrive consistent with his fundamental nature is his ability to define the facts of the universe with his faculty of reason and to apply the product of reasoning to his actions—a process that is volitional.

    Surviving and thriving in the Objectivist context is due to the fittest identifying, thinking, choosing, and acting—all without contradiction internally with each other or externally with the actual nature of reality. Furthermore, since each volitional man is inherently fallible—the ability to choose is the ability to err—he is required by his nature to pursue autonomy while granting same to all others with that same nature.

    Thus, per Objectivism, the most fundamental social alternative is freedom vs. force. An Objectivist may only gain values from others by means of a win-win voluntary exchange wherein each person gives up something valued less to gain something valued more; and an Objectivist government must be designed to use force solely to prevent the use of physical force to take or destroy values created by or owned by others.

    Error 2: Rand’s ideas are not “conservative.” The liberal v. conservative political dichotomy is a manifestation of an underlying body v. mind fallacy resulting from arguments among those who deny the efficacy of man’s reason over whether truth is the product of a consensus of physical feelings (i.e. the liberals), or derived by some special mystical access (i.e. the conservatives).

    So, liberals will tend to see truth as malleable—that what was right in the past is not necessarily right now, while conservatives will glue themselves to religions or long-standing traditions or authorities. Thence, the materialist liberals are easily persuaded to use physical force to control man’s material values, while the spiritual conservatives are equally prone to use physical force to gain control over man’s spiritual and/or intellectual values.

    Rand denies the premises of both. Objectivism holds the arbiter of truth to be the absolute and immutable nature of factual reality. Access is exclusive to an accurate and consistent use of the faculty of reason. Gaining control or possession of the values of others by physical force or the threat thereof is
    held to be immoral and criminal … i.e, neither Darwinian, nor conservative.

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