Ayn Rand, Leftist


Libertarian philosopher Roderick Long over at the Liberty and Power blog supplied an interesting post on Ayn Rand's birthday on February 2, in which he argues that the mighty libertarian could be read as having quite the lefty streak. An excerpt:

There are in effect two Rands, or two strands in Rand: a left-libertarian, feminist, anti-militarist, anti-corporatist, benevolent, experimental strand, and a conservative, patriarchal, homophobic, flag-worshipping, boss-worshipping, dogmatic strand. Which strand represents the "true" Rand? Well, both of them; she just is precisely the person who tried to combine these two strands.

A better question is: which strand most accurately expresses her fundamental principles? And here it seems to me that the answer is: the left-libertarian strand. The conservative strand, as I see it, is in large part (not entirely–human psychology and intellectual development are complex matters, and I don't mean to be offering some sort of reductionist account) an expression of Rand's understandably hostile reaction to the Soviet environment in which she was raised. I suspect that she tended to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything (well, almost anything–not atheism, obviously, or contextual analysis) that reminded her of Soviet propaganda or was associated in any way with pro-Soviet sympathies.

Very worth reading in its entirety for those interested in Rand or libertarian intellectual history and theory.

As is, by the by, Reason's March 2005 issue noting the centennial of her birth last year, featuring Cathy Young's take on Rand's legacy, and our notorious "Rand-O-Rama" survey of Randiana in culture, popular and otherwise. My own take on Rand's meaning appeared in Cato Policy Report in its March/April 2005 issue.