Let's Exorcize Ayn Rand
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By Robert Morrison
How I miss William F. Buckley, Jr. He was the guardian at the gates. He kept the barbarians at bay. He published Whittaker Chambers's famous rejection of writer Ayn Rand's so-called philosophy of "Objectivism." "Big Sister is Watching You," wrote Chambers in 1957. It was a play on "Big Brother is Watching You," a line from the famous anti-Utopian novel by George Orwell, 1984. Chambers was the heroic "witness" who had faced down death threats from Communists and every effort of the Left to destroy him personally and professionally for daring to tell the truth about Alger Hiss's betrayals. That top level State Department official had for years been giving Top Secret files to the USSR.
Even the London Times acknowledged Buckley's crucial role for the conservative movement in eschewing the fanaticism of Rand and the Randians: "In ferocious clashes he separated National Review conservatism from two, at that time influential, factions - [the anti-Communist zealotry of the John Birch Society and] the 'objectivists,' led by Ayn Rand who preached a doctrine of atheistic selfishness. ... Ayn Rand would never afterwards stay in a room with Buckley..."
Ordered liberty has ever required a moral and religious base. From its earliest days, this nation has been blessed by its Christian heritage, blessed to be a beacon for Jews fleeing Old World persecution. Ayn Rand fled the grim, gray Soviet Union, seeking freedom in America. She got that part right, at least. But her series of novels poured scorn on religion, on altruism, on Christian concepts of charity. Her "philosophy" rightly rejected statism and its tendency to put us all on the road to serfdom, but in sneering at people of faith, she helped to undermine the very institutions that make it possible for people to resist the claims of an overreaching government - the family and the church.
Conservatives agree with Ayn Rand that it really isn't compassion to crush future generations under a burden of debt, while claiming to care about the poor. Jesus never said: "Tell Pilate to come with his soldiers and seize the cloak of that rich young ruler - and tear it up to distribute it to the poor." Liberals are wrong, however, to call Ayn Rand a hypocrite for taking Social Security and Medicare payments, especially when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She opposed those programs, true - but she had been taxed for forty years to pay for them. No hypocrisy there. Still, she is no model for conservatives.
George Washington thought free government could not survive without the "indispensable supports" of morality and religion. Ayn Rand denied it.
Abraham Lincoln thought the Bible was "the greatest gift God had given to man." Ayn Rand disputed it. Do some of our political leaders prefer Ayn Rand to Washington and Lincoln? Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to identify and name "the lunatic fringe." He never allowed himself to be ruled by it.
Leaders and thinkers like William F. Buckley, Jr., and Whittaker Chambers protected the infant conservative political movement from the fatal attraction of Ayn Rand's seductive views. They sensed how utterly alien and dangerous this Russian emigre's fanatical doctrines were. They knew well the importance of subordinating temporal politics to the mercy and justice of God. If we seek wisdom from Russian writers, and we should, then let us look to Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn.
It was Ronald Reagan who went to the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 and called upon a godless tyranny to "tear down this wall." He pointed to a radio tower on the Communist side and noted that it had a great defect which the East German puppet government had sought to eradicate. Those Marxist despots tried acid, sandblasting, and paint. But when the sun shone on the globe of that radio tower, it reflected the Sign of the Cross. No president before or after Ronald Reagan had publicly invoked the Sign of the Cross.
We should appeal to all our political leaders to read the Bible. Even if they do not accept the Savior whose words and deeds are found there, it would improve their public address marvelously. As well, they should read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, Washington 's Farewell Address, and Lincoln 's Second Inaugural Address. They will find in these enduring documents no syllable to support the morbid maunderings of Ayn Rand.
Robert Morrison is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.