One, Perhaps Two, Cheers for Ayn Rand

by Jonah Goldberg

I loved Kevin’s piece on the progressive obsession with Ayn Rand’s influence on the right. And I agree entirely that rumors of the conservative Randian captivity are greatly exaggerated. For what it’s worth, I’ve never made it all the way through any of her books and have never remotely considered myself a Randian. And, as Kevin notes, most libertarians don’t either, even if they liked her books.

But for all the mocking, it should be noted that it would be a good thing if politicians moved modestly and prudentially in a Randian direction. No, I don’t want to be “ruled” by Objectivists (I’m not even sure how an Objectivist could rule), but as Rand’s eternal nemesis William F. Buckley might say sola dosis facit venenum (the dose makes the poison). As it stands, the federal government is besotted by the progressive ideology of the administrative state, which is functionally undemocratic and at times despotic. I would much rather live in a nation where, say, Richard Ely was a boogeyman and Rand was an unfrightening eccentric. Moving towards Randianism would be a welcome corrective to that, because moving in that direction would also be a move toward limited government.

I would much prefer to live in a country where conservatives are called by their conscience to say, “Whoa, whoa, we’re getting too Randian.” At least in theory, the prospect of an America where Objectivism was actually one of the ideological-dogmatic goalposts of the society doesn’t terrify me. As Bill Buckley once said, “If our society seriously wondered whether or not to denationalize the lighthouses, it would not wonder at all whether to nationalize the medical profession.” (Bill was actually wrong about the nature of lighthouses, but you get the point). My problem with the Progressive use and abuse of Rand is that they seem to think Randism is already one of the goalposts. It’s not — not even remotely. 


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