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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why Did Ayn Rand Reject Conservatism?

Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical
Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Ayn Rand has rejected the ideas of both the conservatives and the leftists.

In Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (chapter: “The Predatory State”), Chris Matthew Sciabarra notes that “Rand’s fundamental antipathy toward racism was a contributing factor to her rejection of political conservatism. She observed that many conservatives claimed to be defenders of freedom and capitalism even though they advocated racism at the same time.”

Rand’s antipathy towards conservatism extended equally to its representatives in the political parties and the media. She regarded “William Buckley’s National Review as the worst and most dangerous magazine in America.” She accused the conservatives of destroying the fabric of capitalism by aligning it with faith, tradition, and depravity.

According to Sciabarra, Rand distanced herself from the conservatives because she was of the view that it was dangerous to have political allies who shared some of her free-market and anti-communist opinions, but based these on irrational philosophical premises.

She regarded Ronald Reagan as a moral monster. She viewed Reagan’s ties to the militant mystics of the moral majority and his opposition to abortion as an unconstitutional union of religion and politics.

She denounced the Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for the same reason for which she rejected Reagan. Solzhenitsyn had achieved a heroic expose of the Soviet Gulag, but he stood for the integration of religion and politics. “[Rand] argued that Solzhenitsyn had rejected Marxism, not for its statist and anticapitalist character, but for its “western” atheistic focus.”

Even though Ayn Rand recognized the importance of the parent-child relationship, she maintained that the conservative obsession with the “Family” was at root, a vestige of tribalism. She argued that ‘the family was a cultural institution that frequently undercut the individual’s independence and autonomy, breaking “a man’s or woman’s spirit by means of unchosen obligations and unearned guilt.’” In a family, the relationships can often mirror those of a master and a slave.

Ayn Rand; William Buckley
As early as 1962, Ayn Rand noted that the two major political parties in the USA were dedicated to preserving the status quo. “Whereas the Democratic liberals sought to ‘leap’ into the abyss of statism, the Republican conservatives preferred to crawl ‘into the same abyss.’ Elections were contests in which the voters casted their ballots not for a particular candidate or program, but merely against the politicians or proposed policy changes that they feared most.”

But why do the conservatives and the liberals tend to embrace different sides of the same mind-body dichotomy. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the book:

“The conservatives tended to advocate freedom of action in the material realm of production and business, but favored government control of the spiritual realm through state censorship and the imposition of religious values. The liberals tended to advocate freedom of action in the spiritual realm of ideas, the arts, and academia, but favor government control of the material realm in their adherence to economic regulation and welfare statism. Ayn Rand explains: ‘This is merely a paradox, not a contradiction: each camp wants to control the realm it regards as metaphysically important: each grants freedom, only to the activities it despises.’”

Sciabarra suggests that the roots of Rand’s antipathy towards the doctrines of political dualism may lie in her childhood. As a child of the Russian culture, Ayn Rand had a firsthand experience of political dualism in the confrontation between the religious idealists and the Bolshevik materialists. Like the modern conservatives, the idealists in Russia used to oppose Bolshevism with their own vision for creating a theocratic utopia.

Related: 

Is There a Connection Between Ayn Rand and Karl Marx?

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