How Ayn Rand "was loathed by the mainstream conservative movement"


Donald J. Luskin, chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics (now that's a name), has a sharp piece in the Wall Street Journal about the prickly, non-conservative politics of Ayn Rand. Interesting stuff even (especially?) for those of us who haven't yet made it past page 71. Excerpt:

Today, Rand is celebrated among conservatives: Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) insists that all his staffers read "Atlas Shrugged." It wasn't always this way. During Rand's lifetime—she died in 1982—she was loathed by the mainstream conservative movement.

Rand was a devout atheist, which set her against the movement's Christian bent. She got off on the wrong foot with the movement's founder, William F. Buckley Jr., when she introduced herself to him in her thick Russian accent, saying "You are too intelligent to believe in God!" The subsequent review of "Atlas Shrugged" by Whittaker Chambers in Buckley's "National Review" was nothing short of a smear, and it set the tone for her relationship with the movement ever since—at least until now.

Rand rankled conservatives by living her life as an exemplary feminist, even as she denied it by calling herself a "male chauvinist." […]

Rand was strongly pro-choice, speaking out for abortion rights even before *Roe v. Wade*. In late middle age, she became enamored of a much younger man and made up her mind to have an affair with him, having duly informed her husband and the younger man's wife in advance. Conservatives don't do things like that—or at least they say they don't.

These weren't the only times Rand took positions that didn't ingratiate her to the right. She was an early opponent of the Vietnam war, once saying, "I am against the war in Vietnam and have been for years…. In my view we should fight fascism and communism when they come to this country." During the '60s she declared, "I am an enemy of racism," and advised opponents of school busing, "If you object to sending your children to school with black children, you'll lose for sure because right is on the other side."

More, including Rand's rejection of Ronald Reagan and embrace (!) of Richard Nixon, here. Luskin's got a relevant new book coming out, called I Am John Galt: Today's Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It. He also participated in our October 2009 roundtable discussion on the prospects for inflation.

Re-read Senior Editor Brian Doherty's December 2009 cover feature on whether Rand's new fans are radical enough for capitalism, and then go order his book already. Reason's voluminous Rand archive here.