Who is this Ayn Rand that Republicans like Paul Ryan (the author of the 2013 GOP budget) follow and what did she teach that some Republicans like so much?
Sometimes we can understand what people believe when we know a little bit about their background. And that’s probably the case with Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. A city of starvation during World War I because of the Tsar’s wartime policies. By the time Rand was 12, the Russian Revolution of 1917 was in full force and in 1918, Ayn’s father, a pharmacist, moved his family first to the Ukraine, and then to Crimea, to escape the civil war.
At 21, Rand came to the United States. With a flair for the dramatic, she moved to Hollywood to try to break into the film business. She even managed to land a few small bit parts. But then she discovered writing and that soon became her career. She wrote two novels: ATLAS SHRUGGED and the FOUNTAINHEAD. Both these works made it clear that Ayn held a different kind of notion of how the world should operate. A notion that she would develop into a normative (moral) philosophy called, “Objectivism.”
An atheist, Rand preached unbridled capitalism, combined with Ethical egoism – a belief that people have a moral obligation to do what is in their own self-interest – or, more precisely stated, Ayn Rand taught that there was a “Virtue in Selfishness.” That if everyone behaved selfishly, in their own best interests, society would benefit.
Rand’s philosophy is in sharp contrast to Ethical altruism, a position that Jesus taught, that to make the world a better place, people have moral obligation to help each other.
When Rand first presented her ideas, academia discarded them as non-serious. But beginning in 2000, some wealthy billionaires began buying American Universities in order to have their ideological biases taught. As an example, The Charles Koch Charitable Foundation has paid more than $14.39 million in grants to universities like Florida State, Auburn, Clemson, West Virginia and Utah State requiring the universities to hire candidates who adhere to their pre-defined ideological guidelines — such as Ayn Rand.
So why do some Republicans like Paul Ryan and Alan Greenspan follow Ayn Rand? Because of her emphasis on “Laissez faire capitalism.” Laissez-faire capitalism is the belief that society will do best if businesses and individuals are free from any government actions whatsoever. Ayn Rand was against Social Security and Medicare, for example – as are many republicans today.
But some Republicans who profess to follow Rand are selective in their beliefs; while Rand believed that government should keep hands off business, she also believed government should not regulate individual lives and therefore was pro-choice, pro-gay rights, certainly pro-contraception and a complete insistence on a total separation of church and state.
Ayn Rand died in 1982 living on Social Security.
For more on Ayn Rand and the current GOP, click here.