Ayn Rand

AYN RAND, A PHILOSOPHER OF GREAT INTEGRITY?

I would argue that Ayn Rand, the philosopher praised by many Republican leaders such as Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, was a philosopher of great integrity. Some would criticize her on moral grounds for her relationships with young men in her coterie. Others would criticize her simplistic and unfounded faith in laissez faire capitalism.

But what I mean by the term integrity is being true to your central core of principles. Ayn Rand advocated using rational thought rather than feelings. This makes her out of step with our political discourse. Ayn Rand was an atheist who argued that individuals had the duty to be the authors of their own morality. Thus her philosophy depended only on the individual. No entity from outside, such as a God reaching out in love, is available; everything must come from within the individual. He must formulate his own necessarily self-centered morality. Ayn Rand’s heroes are self-made men who overcome all obstacles with no help from others. They also are men with their own code of integrity.

Ayn Rand despised religion as evil subterfuge. The weak are undeserving of our attention. Loving your neighbor is immoral. The only moral is self-love. We owe nothing to anyone much less the weak. Spokesmen for several of the Ayn Rand organizations complain that those politicians who claim to be libertarian Christians and followers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy understand neither position. According to Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, the philosophies of Christianity and Ayn Rand are completely incompatible. For Christ the greatest commandment was to love God and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus preached altruism and community. Ayn Rand preached extreme libertarian individualism. The only possible “morality” is self love.

Of course, in the political arena the followers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy welcome the support of the radical libertarian Republicans. The two groups are kindred spirits in so many ways. They both fight against the idea that Americans feel an inclusive sense of community and have made a covenant with each other to provide opportunity for every American to pursue his own happiness. The libertarian Republican seeks to undercut the sense of community and the idea that government must play a role in regulating and complementing our market economy. Most Americans believe that the free market by itself is incapable of providing a stable economy, safety nets, and adequate job opportunity for all. Thus, government is necessary in our mixed economy if we are to successfully follow our individual and social goals.

Those philosophers who follow Ayn Rand are justifiably proud of the integrity of her philosophy. It starts with a definition of the human self and proceeds through rational thought to the philosophy they term Objectivism. By contrast, they contend that the politicians who claim to be both followers of Ayn Rand and Christ have no integrity. They do not understand why the libertarian Republicans continue the subterfuge of being Christians when clearly they are not.

Of course the rest of us understand perfectly. Our politicians are not required to use rational thought. Instead, our political discourse depends on feelings rather than reason. And most often, they are those feelings that bring out the worst in us.