Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The Curious Popularity of Ayn Rand
Thus, it isn't surprising that she is popular among libertarians, including many Tea Party activists. As I've noted in earlier posts (see "Wealthy GOP (Libertarian) Donors Backing Same-Sex Marriage" and "What Do We Mean By Justice?"), libertarians believe in limited government. They favor free markets and oppose most government regulation. They believe that each of us has a fundamental right to do whatever we want with the things we own as long as we respect the rights of others to do exactly the same thing. That is why they oppose (a) paternalistic legislation -- that is, laws that protect people from themselves (e.g., seatbelt laws), (b) moral legislation -- laws that promote virtue or express the moral convictions of the majority (e.g., pro-life anti-gay rights legislation), and (c) economic legislation that redistributes income and/or wealth (e.g., income taxes used to help the poor in some respect).
What is surprising is Rand's popularity among (primarily) conservative Christians (e.g., Republican Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin), because she was so hostile toward religion and people of faith. Rand held that the existence of God and the Christian ideal of self-sacrifice were unacceptable ideas and believed that religion was for the feebleminded masses. She once remarked, "I am against God for the reason that I don't want to destroy reason."
Not all conservative Christians look upon Rand with favor. Former Nixon aide, Charles Colson, certainly isn't. He has warned Christians to beware of Rand's "idolatry of self and selfishness. I am no big fan of big government, but there are far better ways to critique it than Rand's godless nonsense, especially for Christians" (quoted in The Christian Century, June 28, 2011, p. 14).
All this makes one wonder how many people who claim to be influenced by Rand have actually read her writings. My guess is that very few actually have. And of those Christians who have, I guess they are what Roman Catholic Jay W. Richards (author of, "Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and the Not the Problem") calls "cafeteria Randians," choosing those aspects of her thought with which they agree and discarding the rest.