Because Libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and they denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication, when that fits their purpose. They are lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They’d like to have an amoral political program.
Here’s some of Rand’s other choice remarks about Libertarians:
All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that they’re anarchists instead of collectivists. But of course, anarchists are collectivists.... [Libertarians] sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism, because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. The anarchist is the scum of the intellectual world of the left, which has given them up. So the right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the Libertarian movement.
[The Libertarian Party is] a cheap attempt at publicity, which Libertarians won’t get...
Further, [the Libertarian’s] leadership consists of men of every of persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Moreover, most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now, I think it’s a bad beginning for an allegedly pro-capitalist party to start by stealing ideas.
Now here is a party that plagiarizes some of my ideas, mixes it with the exact opposite—with religionists, anarchists, and just about every intellectual misfit and scum they can find—and they call themselves Libertarians, and run for office.
...to form a new party based in part on half-baked ideas, and in part on borrowed ideas—I won’t say from whom—is irresponsible, and in today’s context, nearly immoral.
These remarks are so intemperate and over-the-top that it is hard not to suspect that Rand is merely looking for a pretext to despise and hate Libertarians. Summed up, here are what her allegations against Libertarianism amount to:
Libertarians are bad and evil because:
- Libertarians are a “monstrous, disgusting bunch of people.”
- Libertarians are “plagiarists” who stole Rand’s ideas without giving credit.
- Libertarians are anarchists.
- Libertarians are anti-intellectual collectivists, worse than Marxists.
- Libertarians are hippies and scum and intellectual cranks.
- Libertarians are worse than the New Left, because they want to combine anarchism with capitalism.
- Libertarians are led by men of various persuasions, including “religious conservatives and anarchists.”
- Libertarianism is based, in part, on “borrowed ideas.”
- Libertarians denounce Rand when it fits their purpose.
- Libertarians would like to have an amoral politics.
- Libertarianism is a cheap attempt at publicity.
Let’s examine each of these charges one by one:
1. Libertarians are a “monstrous, disgusting bunch of people.” This is merely an ad hominem slur with no logical or objective value whatsoever: simply Rand letting off emotional steam. But for someone who prides herself on rationality and objectivity, this sort of display hardly inspires trust or admiration. It makes one, rather, suspect that Rand’s hostility to Libertarianism has its root in irrational passion.
2. Libertarians are “plagiarists” who stole Rand’s ideas without giving credit. This is a deeply problematic charge against Libertarianism, especially considering the goal of Objectivism to spread Rand’s philosophy as far as possible. If Rand were merely complaining that Libertarians misrepresented her, that would be one thing, but the fact that she actually uses the word plagiarism raises questions as to Rand’s ultimate commitments. If Rand had to choose between (1) achieving widespread influence for her ideas but not being given credit for them, or (2) never suffering plagiarism but never achieving widespread influence, which would she choose? Her bitter complaints about plagiarism suggest that she would prefer the latter, that, in other words, unless she were given credit for her ideas, she would rather her ideas had no influence at all.
There is another side to this question as well. By complaining about plagiarism, Rand is implying that ideas are the exclusive property of their originators, but this is not the case at all. In the first place, there are very few new and original ideas out there: most ideas are simply the elaborations of other ideas. There is very little in Rand’s political thinking that is altogether new. Moreover, Rand seemed to have gotten many of her ideas, both political and otherwise, from Isabel Paterson. Rand’s entire theory of history (which is very important aspect of her politics) is merely an elaboration of what she learned from Paterson. [See Goddess of the Market, 112]
3. Libertarians are anarchists. This is merely guilt by association. Some libertarians are anarchists, therefore Rand implies that all Libertarians are anarchists. Basic intellectual honesty necessitates making this obvious distinction.
4. Libertarians are anti-intellectual collectivists, worse than Marxists. Really? While it is not entirely impossible that at least a few Libertarians are anti-intellectual, the notion that Libertarians are collectivists is simply absurd. Are the Cato institute, the Reason Foundation champions of collectivsm? Are Charles Murray, Milton Friedman, Ludwig Von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, and Robert Nozick collectivists? Rand made a number of questionable assertions during her career as a polemicist. I can’t recall anything more dubious and irresponsible than this assertion.
5. Libertarians are hippies and scum and intellectual cranks. More ad hominem chatter which reveals more about Rand than it does about Libertarianism. That she must resort to name calling reveals the poverty of her claim to be a champion of reason and rationality.
I’ll cover 6-11 in my next post.