Ayn Rand

Forget Paul Ryan: 7 Pols (Make it 8!) Who Still Dig Ayn Rand!


Now that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has renounced Ayn Rand in the pages of National Review (a magazine that has long held the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged author in total contempt), it's time to figure out what other pols bought into Rand's core idea that capitalism is a moral system because it allows the individual to express oneself most fully.

Politico rounds up seven (count 'em!), including such horrifying haters of humanity as Ronald Reagan, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Justice Clarence Thomas, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R-N.M.), who is running for the Libertarian Party nomination for president:

"Then, in summer 2008, Johnson started seeing Kate Prusack, a passionate cyclist and Santa Fe Realtor. Early in their courtship, Johnson gave her a copy of Ayn Rand's free-market manifesto 'Atlas Shrugged.' 'If you want to understand me, read this,' he said."

Johnson and Prusack are now engaged. (The above quote is from a great Outside mag profile of Johnson.)

Politico missed at least one other Randroid in Congress: Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), who told Reason in 2007

"Atlas Shrugged is the book I give to our interns after they spend a summer here, working for free. I consider it to be the authoritative work on the power of the individual."

As far as I know, Campbell is not engaged to any of his interns.

Hat tip on the Politico piece: Alan Vanneman.

As longtime readers of this site and of the print magazine know, I'm not the world's biggest Rand fan, though I think she (along with Jack Kerouac) remains the most influential American novelist of the 1950s and possibly the entire post-war era. Folks who dismiss her because they say she wrote bad sentences or don't share her views on the hippies she helped catalyze are missing the point, I think. Rand was one of the great anti-conformist voices of the past 70 years and the fact that she still moves hundreds of thousands of books, movies, and spin-off material is nothing less than incredible. Sneer at her if you must (typically, it seems, because you went through an adolescent Rand phase that you are now ashamed of), but if you can't understand why she resonates, you're not really in touch with the country you live in.

Anyhoo, here's Paul Ryan popping up in our 2009 video Rand-O-Rama: The Long Shelf Life of Ayn Rand's Legacy.

Reason on Rand here.

NEXT: Should New Student Borrowers Be Charged What Older Ones Are?

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  1. didnt ayn say something like libertarians were trying to join capitalism & anarchy?

    1. Any Rand used the word libertarian to describe her political philosophy when she urged the late Joan Kennedy Taylor, an editor at “Libertarian Review,” to edit, incorporate and own the Manhattan metropolitan young Republican Club’s magazine, “Persuasion,” in the 60s.

  2. Expositor of two important ideas, one essential and one ludicrous.

    Essential: People as free agents, in charge of their own destiny. The foundation, along with Hayek and John Stuart Mill of libertarianism. Tip of the Hat for that.

    Ludicrous: Objectivism, the a priori philosophical decision to accept the premise that everyone, everywhere experiences the exact same reality. A crude, entirely unjustified circumscription of philosophy, currently being empirically disproven by quantum mechanics, which seeks to exclude concepts outside the purview of the human senses, e.g. existentialism. Wag of the Finger.

    1. Um… Her argument isn’t that “everyone, everywhere experiences the exact same reality”, but that reality is the same regardless of how one might experience it.

      1. That’s what I meant: She believed, and quantum mechanics explicitly refutes the idea that reality is the same for everyone, i.e. that our quotidian substrate is invariable from person-to-person. The implications of superposition (the idea that objects exist in an infinite number of states until they are observed) directly challenge her main idea: A = A. In fact, until A is observed, it is actually equal to B, C, D, 1, 2, 3 and everything else. Only after it is observed, does it coalesce into one distinct thing and assume its proper identity. The ramifications of quantum mechanics for the philosophy of Objectivism are stark: Without the observer, reality is in flux and not fixed as Rand supposed.

        1. You should apply for a federal grant to get your developments published in the bullshit journal.

            1. Actual physics does not apply to meaning of life shit.

              1. Oh, yes it does. Here’s a peer reviewed article in an academic journal by a physics prof on just this topic:


                The article clearly demonstrates that “physical ‘reality’, no less than social ‘reality’, is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific ‘knowledge’, far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it; that truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities.”

                1. I suppose that the Sokol article actually demonstrates how “meaning of life shit” applies to actual physics rather than vice versa.

                  Nevertheless, it is the gold standard on explaining how relevant quantum mechanics is to philosophical and ideological issues.

                  1. CatoTheElder that thing is so cool. I got high reading it. NYU must be so proud to have him. Is he still around? This piece MUST have been printed in an important journal at some point. It must have made a huge splash.

                2. I’m hoping your comment is making fun of our troll friend, as that Sokal paper was a deliberate hoax:

        2. well said deat. ignore the flat-earth hate

        3. It never occurred to me that I could just step out in front of a semi and something “different” might happen to me than it would for everybody else. That’s a real fuckin’ cracker jack “epistemology” you’ve got right there.

          1. A poor way to test this particular phenomenon. I would suggest starting out with the double-slit experiment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D…..experiment

            1. Well, if I’m ever the size of an electron I’ll stop looking both ways before crossing the street.

              1. Right. Therefore we hereby amend Ms. Rand’s fundamental axiom to read:

                A=A (for big things only)

                Don’t worry, there’s still a shred of relevance left in the philosophy as long as we don’t explore the fundamental building blocks of existence.

                1. Under the MWI:
                  A + decoherence = A in two causally disconnected realities that make up a universal superposition

                  Where is the conflict with Objectivism?

                  Under the CI:
                  superpositon A =superpositon A
                  superpositon A + observation = A

                  Where is the conflict with Objectivism?

        4. The ramifications of quantum mechanics for the philosophy of Objectivism are stark: Without the observer, reality is in flux and not fixed as Rand supposed.

          So, if human beings didn’t exist, the earth would just as easily be made of yogurt? You keep using this term, “quantum mechanics” … I do not think it means what you think it means.

          1. The relevant term is superposition, and you can read about it here:


            And yes, if there were no observers whatsoever, then each and every constituent particle of the earth would be in an indeterminate state, existing in all possible states at once, and one of those states would be the components of yogurt. Hard to believe but quite true. Don’t worry if you can’t accept it, Einstein had lots of trouble with it, famously stating that “God does not play dice with the universe.” And he was a pretty smart guy.

            1. And yes, if there were no observers whatsoever, then each and every constituent particle of the earth would be in an indeterminate state…

              Undetermined (indeterminate) but not random. Some states are much much much much much more likely than all others. And once you start overlapping enough waves into something like the Earth or humans, etc. you can determine the shit out it.

            2. Don’t worry if you can’t accept it

              I don’t accept it because it’s utter nonsense.

              Here’s a question: where did all the dinosaur fossils come from? Shouldn’t the earth have been waveshifting between rock and yogurt and Fruity Pebbles back then? Or did the dinosaurs count as observers? Or are the fossils just what was randomly deposited into the earth’s crust in our particular iteration of the infinite worlds that are out there?

              You’re basically taking phenomena which are only relevant at the subatomic level and trying to argue that they imply a universe of complete flux and chaos. Calls to mind Rand’s “lifeboat ethics” criticism, except that it’s about 5 quadrillion times more likely than one will actually find oneself in a lifeboat some day than that one will observe some quantum event on a macro level.

              Also, Parallels was a pretty terrible TNG episode.

        5. Your understanding of quantum mechanics is as poor as your understanding of Objectivism. You think that reality is observer-centric because of the Copenhagen interpretation, when it’s actually the other way around: the Copenhagen interpretation is observer-centric because of reality(uncertainty; measurements and the interpretation thereof are the act of an observer).

          FYI, I’m an ancap and posit moral and epistemological nihilism so I’m no fan of Objectivism.

          1. Incorrect. Actually I don’t accept the Copenhagen interpretation, I’m more inclined to go with the many-worlds interpretation. I find it troubling that Copenhagen includes a completely undefined measurement process that mysteriously converts probability functions into non-probabilistic measurements. Don’t you?

            Furthermore, there’s no reason to assume that reality is observer-centric, even as a MWI proponent. It’s measurement that causes the collapse/splitting, as Heisenberg (a Copenhagener) stated. When I used the word “observer” in my previous posts, I meant any system which has the capacity to register the phenomenon.

            At the end of the day it comes down to whether you think Occam’s Razor supports Copenhagen (one universe is simpler) or WMI (smaller number of assumptions). I fall into the later camp, but I’m open to reasonable opposing arguments. I do feel like I’m in the good company of Hawking and Deutsch though.

            1. Your post at 11:43AM strongly implies that you believe the Copenhagen interpretation and is incompatible with the MWI. I think that your post at 3:59PM reads as a combination of the CI and a misunderstanding of MWI(many worlds does not equal infinite worlds). I think that the CI is BS.

              Well, of course there’s no reason to assume that reality is observer-centric if you believe in the MWI. I don’t see how you offering a definition of observer would clear up any confusion.

              I believe that the best interpretation of QM is a statistical one due to hidden variables. QM is incomplete.

              1. Pardon the lack of clarity at 11:43, it’s just that from the perspective of an individual, and for the audience here, some of whom are not technical, a splitting off of another universe appears no different than the decomposition of the wave function into one distinct actuality. And as a foil for Objectivism they appear to be functionally equivalent, both casting strong doubt on the nature of a knowable, stable reality, which is the central conceit at the heart of Objectivism.

                Also I’m not sure if there is any way to determine the number of worlds, since that would depend on the frequency of splitting and the number of possible states.

                I agree with you that QM is incomplete, and may in fact never be fully understood. Thank you for this technical interaction, you have given me some things to consider as I try to figure it all out.

                1. The competeing interpretations must appear no different because they’re attempting to explain the same experimental results. However, I disagree that either cast doubt on Objectivism. I could see how one could think that the CI or MWI conflict with a knowable, stable(the vagueness of this word’s usage could cause problems here) reality; but the superposition would be knowable, stable reality.

                  I agree there is no way to determine the number of worlds; it would be an uncountable set. Not infinite though. It’s an importance distinction.

                  Objectivism fails because it can’t escape agrippa’s trilemma.

          2. Sorry, both of you positions construct social paradigms destructive of an egalitarian ethos on their generated unavoidance of a inescapable PrimeObserver. The collective is incapable of intent yet we observe unequilibrium in power/stricture in the set: humanity. Thus you have necessitated this Prime, an act equating to metaphysical fascism. You can create no text spawned from your beliefs absent this Prime, quaintly echoed in denounced Deist paradigm as a “Mover”, without invocation of the toxic essential characteristic: “imposition of worldview”, no less violent for merely emanating from Observing.

            DEATFBIRSECIA, your hedging demur that The Observer is merely referential to “any system which has the capacity to register the phenomenon” fails to derive variance. You are indicted as co-conspirator in the project to valorize Control.

            1. I have no idea whatsoever what this means. I’m going to read up on it and try and educate myself as to its meaning.

              1. Transformation into alternate syntax would be forthcoming should such request arrive. However, reading it in the original is more impactful.

              2. I’m pretty sure he’s imitating the style of the joke paper by Sokol that Cato posted.

            2. I put my slam in post-modernese for theater of the absurd. Why? I was certain a paragraph like this:

              “And yes, if there were no observers whatsoever, then each and every constituent particle of the earth would be in an indeterminate state, existing in all possible states at once, and one of those states would be the components of yogurt.”

              …was a put-on and wanted to respond in kind. Please tell me it is a joke, right?

    2. Whether or not something is “observed” and interpreted by a person, a thing exists in whatever fucking state it is presently in no matter what.

      We interpret physical existence of things to be objects, materials, molecules, atoms, particles, and so forth. But no matter what we think they are, whatever they are is what they are. That goes for things that haven’t been observed, such as distant celestial objects that we have no capability of being aware of. If they are there, they are there.

  3. You can’t have an article about Ayn Rand without a link to “Mozart was a Red”; which sums her up pretty nicely.

    BTW the woman who played Carsons Sands is dead now, after doing a stint in Federal prison for heroically smuggling drugs into the U.S. that the FDA hadn’t yet approved for treating AIDS.

    1. I suspect you may be easy to sum up, but a woman who lived for 80 years on various continents, through revolutions, writing several best sellers, probably is a lot richer and more complex than you. Things she did in her dotage, or in passionate conflicts, probably don’t sum up her entire life.

      1. For the Rockwellians, lies and slander is all they have. It is her rejection of Christian faith that, ironically, causes them to act like catty little bitches anytime her name comes up. It’s very modern-day “Christian” of them, isn’t it?

  4. If you’re going to call yourself a libertarian in public, you have to come to terms with Rand. Love her or hate her, you can’t ignore her if for no other reason than every half-witted lefty is going to throw her in your face.

    1. even no-wit lefties know that

      1. No you don’t.

        1. i didnt know i didnt know but now i know what i dont know?!

          thx don rumsfeld

    2. “Come to terms” how? Know enough about her to throw her right back when she’s thrown in your face? What?

  5. It’s funny, a lot of progressives I know around here (KY) hate Rand Paul. I’ve asked them why. The answers I get range from “he’s just evil” to “I don’t want to talk about it right now.” Really substantive stuff. People love to hate what they’re told to hate. Why go through the bother of finding out for themselves what the truth is when they can just follow orders?

    1. Progressives do not judge ideas on merit. They judge them by the source.
      It has been decided that Rand Paul is someone to hate, therefore the truth about him does not matter.
      The source has been judged. That’s what matters.

    2. It’s a little more complicated than that. Rand Paul is a brave voice for libertarianism in the Senate, who nevertheless has some shall we say quirky views on the First Amendment, i.e. those who attend anti-american speeches should be arrested. I seem to remember a dustup a few months ago on these boards where someone coincidentally named Randy Ayn was trying to get Reason to ask him to explain his position on freedom of assembly. So he’s neither nefarious villain or shining hero, but something in-between. Closer to shining hero, though, I would say.

    3. At this point most leftovers should simply be viewed as retards. No point in educating them, talking to them, asking them why they think what they think, etc.

  6. Liberalism doesn’t need Anus Rand. Or Heiny Rand, whichever pronunciation you prefer.

    1. Clever! You should do stand-up.

  7. Gary Johnson used the word Objectivist, in an almost unnoticeable side remark, to describe himself when speaking before two dozen donors. He also said he would announce a Veep choice before the convention next week. Maybe it will be someone Rand influenced as well.


    1. Johnson/Batman 2012?

    2. Yet one more reason to ignore Gary Johnson.

  8. Is is just me, or does Rand in that picture look a lot like Igor from Young Frankenstein?

  9. No way dude are they like for real? Wow.


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