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Now?

It always has been. Some say Ayn Rand is not a Libertarian, some say she is. This is what she had to say

What was Ayn Rand’s view of the libertarian movement?
Ayn Rand was opposed to the libertarian movement of her time.

In 1971 she wrote:

For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism. Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either. Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs. [“Brief Summary,” The Objectivist, Vol. 10, Sep. 1971]

And in 1972 she wrote:

Above all, do not join the wrong ideological groups or movements, in order to “do something.” By “ideological” (in this context), I mean groups or movements proclaiming some vaguely generalized, undefined (and, usually, contradictory) political goals. (E.g., the Conservative Party, that subordinates reason to faith, and substitutes theocracy for capitalism; or the “libertarian” hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.) To join such groups means to reverse the philosophical hierarchy and to sell out fundamental principles for the sake of some superficial political action which is bound to fail. It means that you help the defeat of your ideas and the victory of your enemies. (For a discussion of the reasons, see “The Anatomy of Compromise” in my book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.) [“What Can One Do?” The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1, No. 7]

Rand was often asked about libertarians and the Libertarian Party in the question-and-answer periods following her lectures. Here, from pp.72-76 of Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q&A, ed. Robert Mayhew, are some of those questions and her answers. (In the excerpt below, “Q” stands for question, “AR” for Ayn Rand, “FHF” for Ford Hall Forum, a venue where Ayn Rand was often invited to speak, “OC” for Objective Communication, a course given by Leonard Peikoff in which Ayn Rand participated in some of the question-and-answer periods, and “71” for the year 1971.)

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: What do you think of the Libertarian Party?

AR: I’d rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis—they’re not as funny as John Hospers and the Libertarian Party. If 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. (George Wallace is no great thinker—he’s a demagogue, though with some courage—but even he had the sense to stay home this time.) 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. [FHF 72]

Q: What is your position on the Libertarian Party?

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 shouldn’t rush into politics in order to get publicity. The issues are so serious today that to form a new party on some half-baked and some borrowed—I won’t say from whom—ideas, is irresponsible, and in today’s context nearly immoral. [FHF 73]

Q: Libertarians advocate the politics you do, so why are you opposed to the Libertarian Party?

AR: 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 to start by stealing ideas. [FHF 74]

Q: Have you heard of Libertarian presidential candidate Roger MacBride? What do you think of him?

AR: My answer should be “I don’t think of him.” There’s nothing to hear. The trouble in the world today is philosophical; only the right philosophy can save us. But this party plagiarizes some of my ideas, mixes it with the exact opposite—with religionists, anarchists, and 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. [FHF 76]

Q: Do you think Libertarians communicate the ideas of freedom and capitalism effectively?

AR: 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. [Earlier during this same Q&A period, AR had been asked about Jane Fonda. For the question and her answer, see below, p. 80.] [OC 80]

Q: Why don’t you approve of libertarians, thousands of whom are loyal readers of your works?

AR: Because libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication when that fits their purpose. They’re lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They want an amoral political program. [FHF 81]

Q: Libertarians provide intermediate steps toward your goals. Why don’t you support them?

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 history: by means of people who understand ideas and teach them to others. Further, it should be clear that I reject the filthy slogan “The end justifies the means.” That was originated by the Jesuits, and accepted enthusiastically by the Communists and the Nazis. The end does not justify the means; you cannot achieve anything good by evil means. Finally, libertarians aren’t worthy of being the means to any end, let alone the end of spreading Objectivism. [FHF 81]

Robert Nozick, Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, was a well-known libertarian.

Q: Could you comment on Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia?

AR: I don’t like to read this author, because I don’t like bad eclectics—not in architecture, and certainly not in politics and philosophy—particularly when I’m one of the pieces butchered. [FHF 77]

Q: What’s your view on the idea of competing governments?

AR: It’s an irresponsible piece of nonsense. That’s the only answer the question deserves. [FHF 70]

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]