You see it at some of the Tea Party events; the mindless waving of Ayn Rand’s novel, ATLAS SHRUGGED. Waving it instead of reading it. Sort of a primitive magic ritual whereby just by touching her work, her intellect can be passed on.
She died in 1982 and I don’t feel she’d think much of the present day Tea Party movement. With her antipathy to religion, Ayn Rand would puke hearing the likes of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann calling for the replacement of the Constitution with the Old Testament.
The late William F Buckley Jr, that guru of respectable conservatism, also disliked Ayn Rand for her godlessness and search for lovers outside of respectable norms. But, methinks, maybe Buckley was squeamish because he and Miss Rand were so much alike in one key respect. Back in 2007, Jesse Larner said it best:
“Buckley, a high-functioning sociopath, has always defined political liberty as identical with the maintenance of his own personal, family, class and religious privileges; all his life, this heir to an oil fortune has been in the enviable position of proclaiming that whatever is good for him is also morally right. This is Rand’s ‘philosophy’ in a nutshell.”
Yet for all of Buckley’s purported rationality, he never solved the contradiction of wedding the National Security State, which is expensive, socialist and imperialist, to the night watchman state of libertarian wet dreams. The Tea Party has inherited this problem.
Ayn Rand’s central contradiction is a slightly different sort. Deeply indebted to Nietzsche, she couldn’t resolve the intellectual chasm between her exoteric espousal of radical laissez-faire philosophy and her somewhat muted esoteric notion of a society controlled by an elite of supermen. Last fall in SLATE, Johann Hari said it best:
“She headed for Hollywood, where she set out to write stories that expressed her philosophy–a body of thought she said was the polar opposite of communism. She announced that the world was divided between a small minority of Supermen who are productive and ‘the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human Incompetent’ who, like the Leninists, try to feed off them. He is ‘mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned.’ It is evil to show kindness to these ‘lice’: The ‘only virtue’ is ‘selfishness.'”
Hari goes on to write:
“Rand believed the Bolshevik lie that they represented the people, so she wanted to strike back at them–through theft and murder. In a nasty irony, she was copying their tactics. She started to write her first novel, WE THE LIVING (1936), and in the early drafts her central character–a crude proxy for Rand herself–says to a Bolshevik: ‘I loathe your ideals. I admire your methods. If on believes ones right, one shouldn’t wait to convince millions of fools, one might as well force them.'”
This sounds more like the Third Position than any simple-minded bromides issued by the Tea Party set.
More to follow.