Jonathan Chait

Ayn Rand And Conservatism

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Noah Kristula-Green has a piece about the growing influence of Rand on the right:

[P]rominent national conservatives have overcome their repugnance for Rand’s militant atheism to endorse her vision – and her politics.

The Wall Street Journal declared in an Op-Ed by Stephen Mooreits senior economics writerin January 2009 that Rand’s work had moved “From Fiction to Fact.” Rush Limbaugh gave monologues that quoted Rand and called her “Brilliant.” Among politicians, Ron Paul has described Atlas Shrugged as “telling the truth.” Amity Shlaes tried to map the characters of Atlas Shrugged onto the real world in a piece for Bloomberg. ...

The recently opened Ayn Rand Center in Washington DC now trains Objectivists to appear in the media. The Center’s President, Yaron Brook, has become a common guest on Glenn Beck’s program. The Center has also worked with the FreedomWorks and the Competitive Enterprise Institute on Tea Party themed panels and seminars.

When I wrote a review essay last year about Ayn Rand and her influence upon contemporary conservatism, I probably understated the extent of her intellectual influence. Few people share her bizarre and multitudinous intellectual obsessions in the realm of art, sex, philosophy and the like, and fewer style approve of her bizarre personal behavior. But the basic inverted Marxism at the heart of her ideology has become the central focus of both modern conservative thought and Republican policy-making. (That ideology holds that the world is fundamentally divided between virtuous creators of wealth and lazy parasites, the identity of whom is the reverse of what Marx believed.)

When the essay came out, I was expecting the right-wing attack on my essay to argue that it's unfair to the GOP to associate it with Rand. Instead, critics argued that it's unfair to Rand to associate her with the GOP. As Kristula-Green observes, the conservative movement is associating itself with, and taking philosophical cues from, a deeply sick individual.

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