The Ayn Rand Makeover

I have an old friend who identifies his political orientation as "rational conservative." I can see why he insists on the modifier. These days being a hardcore, unmodified conservative keeps getting more difficult.

It's no longer enough simply to believe that private initiatives are better than government ones or that traditional cultural practices are usually better than their modern challengers. For the past decade, the true conservative has also been required to believe that the melting of polar ice is a benign natural phenomenon and that the notion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old deserves to be called science. In the last two years, the credulity bar got higher and aspiring conservatives had to believe it was at least possible that the election of President Obama was the result of a conspiracy, hatched 50 years ago, to place a Kenyan-born African socialist in America’s White House.

But life just got even harder for our friends on the Right. Now, apparently, a true conservative must also believe that the late Ayn Rand was a great philosopher.

Anyone who has so far managed to avoid Rand's work or her disciples should know that in her novels and essays Rand expounded a worldview, dubbed "Objectivism," that can be summed up as a pastiche of free-market libertarianism and cartoon Nietzscheanism. To the Randian, there is no God but self, and self-will and pursuit of self-interest is the only virtue.

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July 2011 Sojourners
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