There have been many entries recently from our Left Libertarian friends about Ayn Rand, and a lot of good things were said. Thomas Knapp said:
The big problem with Rand was that over time she made it a point to isolate herself from anyone and everyone who demonstrated the kind of character that might lead them to run up the bullshit flag on her when necessary.
One can find both much of potential value and much in the way of utter nonsense in the thought of Ayn Rand.
I believe I heard it quoted on a Knowledge Products tape, one of a batch that I unwisely lent to a friend years ago and never recovered), but it does an excellent job of summing up a dynamic that is evident not just with Garrison or Rand but with all too many other intellectual leaders. It went something like this:
“How to Create a Pope: Find someone in whom the habit of having been often correct in many things has prepared him to be convinced that he is always correct in all things, and bombard him with praise in these matters until you have succeeded in helping him so convince himself.”
As a former Objectivist, I must agree completely with these comments. I would also like to point all Objectivists, and anyone interested in the topic at all, to Nicholas Dykes’ wonderful articles on the profound contradictions in Ayn Rand’s views on politics, such as “The Facts Of Reality: Logic And History In Objectivist Debates About Government,” and “Mrs. Logic and the Law: A Critique of Ayn Rand’s View of Government” (PDF). These articles were real eye-openers for me.
I also recommend atheist philosopher George H. Smith’s “In Defense of Rational Anarchism,” in which, going through a very similar process, he extrapolates Rand’s ideas about politics to Anarchy.
Since I have read these articles, I am thoroughly convinced that Ayn Rand was a self-hating libertarian and a self-hating Anarchist. Unfortunately, her successors have not taken the basic principles of Rand in stride, but rather her vitriol, and now just plain hate both.
I have discussed the issue with Dykes extensively. My own position on the issue is that Rand was unable to dissolve her Nietzschean, existentialist roots, and that a dichotomy between “only the elite can govern itself” and the benevolent universe premise existed all through her works. Unfortunately, the former side was most prevalent, and this is especially obvious at the end of Atlas Shrugged (I won’t give away any spoilers, but those of you who have read it will know what I mean).
Basically, Rand professed belief in the benevolent universe premise and in the “coercion is bad” premise, but when push came to shove she was a might-makes-right capitalist. And now Objectivism is little more than a glorified right-wing think tank. How weak.