Government Two Sizes Too Small: Ayn Rand Libertarians


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Some people do not see the government as the God-ordained means for protecting society from those who would destroy it. On this basis, Ayn Rand libertarianism refuses to protect us against attacks on life and marriage; thus it is godless government, or government-too-small.

Libertarian philosophy[1] has grown in America in recent years, though it has had little impact on national politics until recently. Spurred on by successful talk show hosts such as Neal Boortz, Judge Andrew Napolitano, John Stossel and Larry Elder, the movement has made inroads into the free-market wing of the Republican Party (which is more of an appendage than a wing I am afraid to say.) Politicians who are sometimes considered libertarian include U.S. Representatives, Ron Paul of Texas and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and former congressman Bob Barr of Georgia.

Ron Paul’s son Rand, also a libertarian, handily won a U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky. Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have spoken favorably of Ayn Rand’s economic views and her book, Atlas Shrugged.

To the true libertarian, all laws of compulsion requiring or forbidding behavior would be disallowed, unless the behaviors involved violence. Those who hold to the philosophy claim it requires no position on the morality of particular immoral behaviors, only that government has no right to create laws concerning them. Pure libertarians then believe in minimalist government and virtually no restrictions on economics (no minimum wage, no government mandates to carry car insurance, no requirement that companies pay for unemployment insurance and no income tax, to name just a few). Neither should there be any laws against immoral behavior (commonly called vices, such as drug use, prostitution, pornography.) Many libertarians oppose laws against abortion, while Ron Paul believes that government should have no role in defining marriage.[2]

Modern American libertarianism has two branches: social libertines and fiscal (or economic) Constitutionalists, with self-proclaimed libertarians usually holding to both. To put it most simply, as our nation has grown older, it has generally become less libertarian in its economics and more libertarian in its social mores. If this premise is true, then it is also true that in our nation’s early years, we were economically free and socially conservative. Those today who suggest that you cannot have economic freedom unless you have libertarian views on social questions must ignore history. According to Proverbs 28:2, “For the transgression of a land, many are the princes thereof.” In other words, the more libertine we become in our moral behavior, the more government be needed.

Ayn Rand’s view of government was based upon her Atheism. This brand of libertarianism is anti-Christian at its very core. Are we so desperate for conservative icons and economic freedom that we don’t care what poison we have to accept in the mixture? Onkar Ghate, a spokesman for the Ayn Rand Institute, summarizes Rand’s anti-Christian views and asks “Does America Need Ayn Rand or Jesus?”[3]

Rand’s moral teachings are fundamentally different from Jesus’ teachings…. In terms of virtues, Rand’s is a moral code that upholds rationality not emotionalism or faith; intellectual independence not authority or obedience; earned pride not humility or the belief in man’s inherent sinfulness. In Rand’s argument, morality is not about subordination or service to others or to some “higher power”; it is not about self-sacrifice. Hers is a morality that upholds egoism and individualism: it seeks to teach you the difficult task of pursuing the values that achieve your own individual self-interest and happiness. Only an explicit or implicit individualist and egoist, Rand held, will understand and demand the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence: his inalienable rights to his own life, his own liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness. He will demand his political freedom and reject all government controls designed to restrict his liberty and make him sacrifice for the “public interest.” He will oppose the welfare state.

Given her positive teachings, Rand must reject what is usually taken to be the core of Jesus’ moral teachings, the Sermon on the Mount. The Christian rejects the premise of Ghate’s argument that Rand’s philosophy is rational. It is not rational to live contrary to the law of Christ. Furthermore, his conclusion is flawed, for it does not follow that the individualist who believes his own freedom should not be restricted will care one whit about the other man’s freedom. Notice that Ghate five times deliberately emphasized that an egoist would demand his own rights.

Ayn Rand said repeatedly that she cared for nobody but herself. She considered the command of Jesus to love others immoral, and believed we should love only those who deserve it. It becomes clear what this kind of love creates in a culture. Rand had no concerns for others (except as they bounced back to her benefit) and no concept of friendship or self-sacrifice. As many do today, she believed that this life was all that exists. Once a selfish woman’s own freedom is assured or secured, why should she care about the freedom of others? Rand proves this to be true in her own life when she rails against the protection of unborn children.

Rand, in 1976, said:

“I urge you, as emphatically as I can, not to support the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. I urge you not to work for or advocate his nomination, and not to vote for him….Most of them [Republican politicians] preserve some respect for the rights of the individual. Mr. Reagan does not: he opposes the right to abortion.”

After Reagan became president she said:

“The appalling disgrace of his administration is his connection with the so-called “Moral Majority” and sundry other TV religionists, who are struggling—apparently with his approval—to take us back to the Middle Ages, via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics….Observe Reagan’s futile attempts to arouse the country by some sort of inspirational appeal. He is right in thinking that the country needs an inspirational element. But he will not find it in the God-Family-Tradition swamp.”[4]

The Enigmatic Ron Paul Ron Paul is a professing Christian who wants to be President. The Texas Congressman is an unabashed libertarian when it comes to economics, which is not inconsistent with the views of most of our founders and the U.S. Constitution.

However, a huge segment of his followers are Randian libertines who clamor for a complete separation of religion and state. Paul himself admits Rand’s influence on his viewpoints. His biggest dispute with her was not her hatred of Christianity nor her love of abortion, but her greater willingness to use military force than he would allow. Meanwhile, he endorsed her distinctly anti-Christian book “Atlas Shrugged” as telling the truth.[5]

Why have so many libertines supported Paul’s candidacy even though he says he is pro-life? It is because his view of state’s rights and libertarianism means they would have next to nothing to fear that abortion (or homosexual “rights”[6]) would be curtailed in a Paul presidential administration.

Scour the dozens of Ron Paul websites and you will find most of his strongest supporters make the same arguments that Ayn Rand makes about abortion, such as these:

“Perhaps you rail against abortion—yet don’t care about the innocent children we kill in our unnecessary wars abroad” [7]

“It’s good to see that somebody gets it. I don’t think he [Ron Paul] believes it should be legal, but he clearly maintains that the federal government has no business passing any laws regarding abortion, that these matters are for states to work out. I agree with you that his personal belief is pro-life but in no way does he want to use his role in the presidency and government to force this belief onto others as a matter of fundamental principle.”[8]

The influence of Rand on Paul’s Christian followers can be seen in this blogger’s essay on Religion and Politics, posted on Ron Paul forums by “Iella”:

It really bothers me that Christians insist and expect that the world should live according to God’s holy standards….trying to institute holiness using human law indicates a failure to understand that only God can judge sin. It is not our responsibility to demand righteousness from and dole out punishment to those who are unsaved… Why then does “compassionate conservatism” demand that our human laws punish those who break the laws of God? The point is, demanding holiness, punishing unrighteousness, and offering forgiveness are the business of God, not of us and not of government.[9]

It has been said for over a hundred years[10] that you can’t legislate morality, but it depends upon what is meant by morality. It is true that laws cannot make someone righteous or moral. A thief in heart may somehow restrain the impulses he has to lay his hands on another man’s goods because he fears civil punishment, but it does not clean up the pollution of his soul. The Christian position has always been that man cannot save himself by the law.

But this is not usually what people mean when they say “you can’t legislate morality”. What they mean is that you can’t or shouldn’t regulate behavior that is called immoral or amoral by some religious standard.

There are two errors in Iella’s thinking. First, no Christian politicians that I know of are trying to “institute holiness using human law” or “dole out punishment to those who are unsaved.” Second, Iella contradicts the very passages that deal with the purpose of government in I Peter, Romans and I Timothy quoted in the previous chapter. Ayn Rand libertarianism refuses to protect life and marriage; thus it is essentially anarchist.

Libertines like Rand believe in the goodness of man and therefore reject the need for any kind of restraint of man’s sinful proclivities. Greed is good. Selfishness is good. Self-sacrifice is bad. Authority is bad. Taken to its natural end, anarchy is its offspring.

We have a basis to be concerned about the inroads of libertarianism among Christians in recent years, but acceptance of a growing collectivist state is also cause for great concern.

Part 16 in a series of excerpts from the book, With Christ in the Voting Booth

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  • http://www.facebook.com/thejoeisgood Joe Hayes

    As a Christian it can be easy to draw a hard line and reject anything not centered on the Bible. Sometimes we do that and reject logic and reason. I am a Christian and I embrace the teachings of the Bible just as I embrace most of Ayn Rand’s ideas. The idea of personal responsibility and living your life by your own personal conviction not being the least of them. As a christian we are unable to live by faith alone. We must strive for our own “rational self interest” as well as to serve God in our day to day lives. God will not pour our coffee, fetch the paper, drive us to work or take the kids to school. Any christian that fully believes that God is all they need in the physical, don’t live in reality. If you’ve read the Bible you know that not everyone will become a Christian and that in the end there will be a great falling away. Would you suggest not working with individuals who share far more of our ideas on Governement and just to go fight the good fight and lose. Choose your battles, be fair and consistent and most of all let us not be hypocrits by seeking liberty for some and not all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Shedlock/100000472261599 David Shedlock

      Thank you for your reasoned response. You have created several false dilemmas that I reject. Fallen man’s reason is corrupted. It must be corrected by the Word of God. Man, apart from Christ, will selfishly seek his own good to his own hurt and to the harm of others. God gives man a long rein. He does not allow government to be the ruler of man’s mind. He gives fathers, businessmen, doctors, etc., authority over many things in which government has no jurisdiction. Nevertheless, God’s rule is clear that the duty of man is to punish, and not reward evil.

      You cannot serve God and mammon, God and Rand. You cannot know Christ and accept the teachings of one who hated God, His word, His people and his ethic. You will be lost.

  • Deco Teague

    A surprisingly enjoyable read. Please, keep the distinction clear as day! There’s no need to pretend our views can be compatible. That’s one thing we can agree on.