Ayn Rand, lasseiz-faire, and the virtue of greed
What does it mean to be a libertarian these days? For years the word “libertarian” had been about as clear as the word “socialist.” With so many variations, neither had gained a solid definition of what their followers really stood for. In the United States, libertarianism has taken on an interesting ideology in recent years.
In many ways the philosophy was bred specifically for the heavy capitalist consumer culture of the United States. Libertarians claim not to be “conservative” in their own right, but when it comes to most issues involving religion and money, it becomes very hard to tell the difference between them.
The term libertarian has existed for some time, long before Ron Paul ran for public office and Ayn Rand wrote a novel. The term itself actually originated from Europe, used mostly by leftist and anarchist groups and thinkers to differentiate themselves from the oppressive monarchies and plutocracies of their day. Yet in America, libertarianism has taken on a more right-wing characteristic, one much different from the original intent of the term.
Noam Chomsky was once asked why he called himself a “Libertarian-Socialist”, Chomsky points out that in the traditional sense being called a libertarian and a socialist were not all that different. Things have changed, let’s take a look at the American conservative view of libertarianism,
Libertarians are critical of the military-industrial complex and do not agree with the imperial expansion the United States, some even take it further by wanting to close all US military bases abroad. Libertarians also disagree with the government suspending constitutional rights in order to increase “security” for the state.
Libertarians don’t believe in interfering in people’s private lives in regards to gun control, sexual preferences, drugs, etc. Real libertarians do not believe the state should pass laws to prohibit someone’s right to a homosexual relationship or to control their own health decisions like having an abortion. Real libertarians are also fairly critical of organized religion.
Those are all reasonable positions, however conservatives are driven to liberatarianism for their economic ideology (more on that later). As you know, where conservatives go, religion follows. So libertarian conservatives follow god’s laws first and foremost, which prevents them from supporting a woman’s right to an abortion, birth control and so on. For them, you’re only free to do it if god allows it.
Libertarian economic and social welfare philosophy can be summed up pretty easily: selfishness, this is where progressive turns regressive. Modern libertarian and conservative economic theory is based on the hellish ideas of Ayn Rand, whom most philosophers and writers believe was a very sociopathic character. Rand once wrote a collection of essays entitled “The Virtue of Selfishness.”
In economics, libertarians follow an ideology older than Rand: Laissez-faire, French for “Leave it alone.” The ideology of laissez-faire was amplified under Rand’s philosophy, and says basically that the state should have absolutely no hand in the economic activity of the nation and should be void of any regulatory and taxing authority within the economic structure.
This ideology believes that those on the top of the economic ladder are the drivers of economic growth, and that any regulation of their activities or taxing of their profits will only discourage them from investing in economic expansion. What I’ve just described is the basic political statement in Ayn Rand’s most well known novel “Atlas Shrugged.”
Libertarians don’t believe in allowing the state to discriminate and tell people how to live, but if a private company wants to do that, then libertarians don’t have a problem with it. In fact, they believe it is a business or individuals right to discriminate if they wish to, and the government has no right to interfere.
All forms of social welfare would be abolished, including social security, medicare, food stamps and welfare itself if a libertarian was in charge. Some would say they should only be reduced, but in reality libertarians have no respect for the welfare system and would desire to do away with it all together.
Libertarian philosophy on this issue comes nearly directly from Atlas Shrugged and Anthem, another Rand hack job of a novel. Libertarians believe that welfare makes people weak, and inevitably leads to dependency on the state for survival. Any government welfare program to ensure its citizens get healthcare, food, light and heating assistance, and even programs to help buffer education and protect the environment are seen as government intrusion into people’s most fundamental right (in the libertarian strain) of economic freedom.
What many libertarians fail to understand is that these philosophies of Ayn Rand and laissez-faire both run contrary to mankind’s most fundamental trait of altruism. Ayn Rand herself made it a point to denounce altruism all together. For those who don’t know what altruism is, it is the basic idea of caring for your fellow creatures on earth.
Rand’s philosophy says that caring for and helping others is “evil” and only helps perpetuate “the strong caring for the weak” and that those who are weak “are not worthy of care.” I’m not making any of this up, this is what Rand believed and many of her followers still believe.
Libertarians and conservatives today in America have named Ayn Rand their most important philosopher and political thinker. Conservatives within the U.S. Congress have espoused their enthusiasm for Rand and her beliefs.
Representative Paul Ryan, who was Romney’s running mate in 2012, spoke of how Rand was the most important thinker of the century and how she defined “the morality of capitalism.” Senator Rand Paul, son of libertarian icon Ron Paul, has also spoken similar words of Rand and her philosophy (he is named after her after all). Paul Ryan and Rand Paul have made no illusion of their beliefs in Randian Libertarianism.
With elected leaders who follow a philosophy of respecting human greed and selfishness as a virtue in society, it is no wonder why we have such a corporatist government today. Obviously it has more to do than just the personal ideas of those in power, but their beliefs cannot be left out of the equation either.
When we elect Congressmen and Senators who believe that altruism is evil, and that we should reward the greed of the powerful, and punish the poverty of the weak, then we should not be too surprised when the powerful get all the breaks and the poor get most of the hardship. Ayn Rand and the modern libertarian movement in America follow a strict policy of economic selfishness.