The Editors of The Washington Post Shrugged


I don't hail from the Ayn Rand wing of the libertarian movement, so I'm not usually moved to defend her when she's attacked. But Michael Gerson's column on Rand today has a passage too unself-aware to ignore:

Many libertarians trace their inspiration to Rand's novels, while sometimes distancing themselves from Objectivism. But both libertarians and Objectivists are moved by the mania of a single idea—a freedom indistinguishable from selfishness. This unbalanced emphasis on one element of political theory—at the expense of other public goals such as justice and equal opportunity—is the evidence of a rigid ideology. Socialists take a similar path, embracing equality as an absolute value. Both ideologies have led good people into supporting policies with serious human costs.

There are people who say libertarianism is selfish, and there are people who say it requires you to be a self-denying ascetic who won't even use the government's roads. They can fight that battle out among themselves.

The interesting thing here is the identity of the author. Before Gerson was a Washington Post columnist, he was a speechwriter in the Bush White House, where he was one of the chief propagandists for the invasion of Iraq; he helped prepare Colin Powell's case for war at the United Nations, and he's the one behind the line, "The first sign of a smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud." Now he's lecturing libertarians about leading "good people into supporting policies with serious human costs." Do you really want to open that door, Michael?