An Interview With Ayn Rand

Ideologue for the Irreligious Right

I am, to say the least, no supporter of Ayn Rand. Thirty years after her death, she has has occupied an incongruous position with her rightist and libertarian supporters. On one hand, she was an avowed enemy of religion. On the other, her tenets have been adopted by a political party which has close ties to American Evangelical Christians. It was Jesus Christ in the Gospel of St. Luke (12:33) is quoted as saying, “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.

Contrast that with Ms. Rand, who stated in a famous 1964 Playboy interview with Alvin Toffler:

My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.

How Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, can square his religion (Roman Catholicism) with his adherence to the belief system of Ayn Rand’s so-called Objectivism is a mystery to me. I personally find much of her thinking to be abhorrent, such as her elevating productive work about family and friendship:

If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral. Friendship, family life, and human relationships are not primary in a man’s life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite; whereas, if he places his work first, there is no conflict between his work and his enjoyment of human relationships.

So, which is it to be, Mr. Ryan? Shall we adhere to the teachings of Christ or of Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, alias Ayn Rand?

The interview with Rand is worth reading in its entirety. Or one could just read one of her long and confused novels such as The Fountainhead (1943) or Atlas Shrugged (1957) to get to the same point after a several hundred turgid pages.