A Liberal Ayn Rand
ALL
The Anti-Intellectuality of Donald Trump: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump
by Onkar Ghate | November 06, 2017
The Immigration Debate
by The Editors | April 17, 2017
Why Our Campuses Are Boiling over in Left-Wing Rage Instead of Discourse
by Steve Simpson | March 13, 2017
At Free-Speech Event, UCLA Tried to Ban My Book
by Elan Journo | February 11, 2017
One Small Step for Dictatorship: The Significance of Donald Trump’s Election
by Onkar Ghate | November 17, 2016
Ayn Rand at the Ford Hall Forum
by The Editors | June 18, 2015
Independence Day: What July 4 Really Means
by Tom Bowden | June 26, 2014
An Introduction to Objectivism
by Leonard Peikoff | 1995
Capitalism without Guilt
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2013
How The Welfare State Stole Christmas
by Yaron Brook | December 23, 2012
A Liberal Ayn Rand?
by Onkar Ghate | November 02, 2012
Time to Read Ayn Rand?
by Keith Lockitch | October 19, 2012
Ayn Rand’s Appeal
by Onkar Ghate | August 21, 2012
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Paean to American Liberty
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2012
Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand — Why Are You Still So Misunderstood?
by Don Watkins | February 02, 2012
How Did Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Predict an America Spinning Out of Control?
by Onkar Ghate | October 31, 2011
Atlas Shrugged: With America on the Brink, Should You “Go Galt” and Strike?
by Onkar Ghate | April 29, 2011
The Radicalness of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged
by Onkar Ghate | April 25, 2011
The Tea Party Will Fail — Unless it Fully Embraces Individualism as a Moral Ideal
by Tom Bowden | January 21, 2011
Let’s Take Back Columbus Day
by Tom Bowden | October 08, 2010
Atlas Shrugged’s Timeless Moral: Profit-Making Is Virtue, Not Vice
by Yaron Brook | July 20, 2010
Why is Ayn Rand Still Relevant: Atlas Shrugged and Today’s World
by Yaron Brook | August 10, 2009
Is Rand Relevant?
by Yaron Brook | March 14, 2009
After Ten Years, States Still Resist Assisted Suicide
by Tom Bowden | November 02, 2007
The Influence of Atlas Shrugged
by Yaron Brook | October 09, 2007
The Real Museum Looters
by Keith Lockitch | June 03, 2003
Ayn Rand's Ideas — An Introduction
by Onkar Ghate | June 02, 2003
Shame on Casey Martin
by Tom Bowden | January 31, 2001
The Joy of Football
by Tom Bowden | January 26, 2001
Whose Children Are They?
by Tom Bowden | January 05, 2000
Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial
by Leonard Peikoff | December 25, 1996
Cultural Update
by Ayn Rand | April 16, 1978
The Moral Factor
by Ayn Rand | April 11, 1976
Metaphysics in Marble
by Mary Ann Sures | February and March 1969
Of Living Death
by Ayn Rand | December 08, 1968
Our Cultural Value-Deprivation
by Ayn Rand | April 10, 1966
The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus
by Ayn Rand | April 18, 1965
Is Atlas Shrugging?
by Ayn Rand | April 19, 1964
Racism
by Ayn Rand | September 1963
Through Your Most Grievous Fault
by Ayn Rand | August 19, 1962
The “New Intellectual”
by Ayn Rand | May 15, 1961

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Culture And Society in Voice for Reason
Culture & SocietyMore

A Liberal Ayn Rand?

by Onkar Ghate | November 02, 2012 | Huffington Post

It’s no secret that the right is awash in Ayn Rand. Tea Partiers carry signs like “Who is John Galt?” and, astonishing for a novel published 55 years ago, sales of Atlas Shrugged topped 445,000 last year.

All of this has prompted researchers like Yale historian Beverly Gage to wonder, “Why is there no liberal Ayn Rand?” Good question. Liberals today, Gage observes, have no long-term goals or vision, no big ideas, no canon.

Here’s a radical thought. Instead of liberals dismissing Rand’s appeal to the American spirit of individualism and independence, as President Obama recently did in his Rolling Stone interview, why don’t liberals make Rand part of a new canon? Why let conservatives monopolize her?

Rand herself I suspect would have welcomed this. In a talk in Boston in 1961, she lamented the fact that both liberals and conservatives were ideologically bankrupt, with too many liberals turning sympathetically to unlimited government and too many conservatives turning back to the Middle Ages. She was seeking to address, she said, “the ‘non-totalitarian liberals’ and the ‘non-traditional conservatives'” in the audience.

Her message that night was the need for a principled, uncompromising fight for a moral ideal she thought long abandoned by both sides, the rights of the individual. This means life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness: your moral right to follow your own reasoned judgment in earning your way in the world and achieving your happiness.

Religious conservatives like Paul Ryan have to distance themselves from Rand’s philosophy. Theirs is an inconsistent position. Ryan, for instance, wants to be seen as an advocate of individual rights while simultaneously making a mockery of a woman’s right to the pursuit of happiness by proposing to force her to bring a pregnancy to term even in the case of rape.

Rand rejects such medievalism. Precisely because raising a child is a personal and immense undertaking, a woman must have the freedom to judge whether and when to have children. To equate an embryo with a human being, a potential with the actual, and then to declare the willful ending of a pregnancy murder, is to abandon reason and science in favor of mystical Church dogmas. No government, Rand argued, should have the power to dictate to a woman in such matters; it’s her life and her decision.

The same principle — the individual’s moral right to his own life — put Rand on the side of other supposedly liberal causes: she was a staunch defender of free speech and immigration and a staunch opponent of racism. But this very principle led Rand to reject what too many liberal-leaning people seemingly dare not even question: the modern regulatory-welfare state.

What in the end is the regulatory-welfare state but a massive and growing attempt to override our reasoned choices and decisions: to dictate to us whose permission we must obtain to drive a taxi or serve alcohol in a restaurant, what questions we’re allowed to ask in a job interview, whose health care we must pay for and in what way, how much we must “save” for retirement (which the government then proceeds to spend), and on and on and on.

Take the case of but one regulatory agency, the FDA. The FDA wasn’t created to outlaw fraud, which was already illegal. It exists to tell us which drugs we can buy, companies which drugs they can sell, how those drugs must be tested and how manufactured. What if people rationally disagree with the government’s dictates? What if a company thinks it has developed a better way of testing for efficacy or an unconventional but superior manufacturing process? What if a patient is willing to risk known and even unknown side effects because of the unusual severity of his disease? If the decision about abortion should be left to a woman (in consultation with her doctor), why shouldn’t these important decisions be solely between the individuals involved? Because they are economic in nature, and therefore subject to majority vote?

This is precisely one issue on which Rand challenges modern liberals: whether it’s consistent to advocate an individual’s intellectual and personal liberty while denying him economic liberty.

It wasn’t always so. Liberals in the nineteenth century were champions of science and at the forefront of abolishing slavery and securing a woman’s individual rights. But they were also champions of private property, free trade and economic liberty. It is this combination that produced the individual’s unprecedented progress in that century. Modern liberals, however, abandoned the right to private property in favor of various socialistic visions, which have since faded with awareness of what socialism and communism actually wrought. The result is what Gage notes: modern liberals bereft of an ideal.

Any liberal-leaning person today who seeks long-term goals and a new vision, but will not touch the political right because of conservatives’ anti-evolution, anti-immigration, anti-abortion platforms, would do well to remember nineteenth-century liberalism. Perhaps the two alternatives confronting us, a government with virtually unlimited power to dictate our personal lives or our economic lives, are both defective.

For anyone willing to explore this possibility, I can think of no better place to start than with Ayn Rand.

About The Author

Onkar Ghate

Chief Philosophy Officer and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute