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In this chapter I examine Rand’s libertarian politics as an outgrowth of her ontology, epistemology, and ethics, the culminating moment of a nondualistic philosophical totality. She aimed to transcend the polarities between anarchism and statism, atomistic individualism and organic collectivism. She defended laissez-faire capitalism as the only social formation consonant with fully integrated human being. Most important, she stressed an inextricable link between the personal and the political. In my characterization of Rand as a libertarian thinker, I am using this word somewhat broadly. “Libertarianism” is a twentieth-century political ideology that carries on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century classical liberal legacy. Its adherents advocate free-market capitalism and the rule of law, and they oppose statism and collectivism. They include individualrights advocates such as Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Tibor Machan, Douglas Den Uyl, and Douglas Rasmussen, but also those who depart from the rights perspective, such as Ludwig von Mises, F A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman. It is incorrect to view these thinkers as constituting a monolith, since there are significant differences between and among them. Though Rand praised Mises, for instance, she frequently derided others in the libertarian tradition for their lack of purity, or their inconsistency.1 In fact, she despised the word “libertarianism,” and often identified it with those who advocated “anarcho-capitalism.” She characterized these individualist anarchists as “hippies of the right.”2 Her critique of anarchism was a crucial component of her own nondualistic defense of the free market. a libertarian politics 248 a libertarian politics  249 And yet despite her protestations, Rand’s politics is essentially libertarian . Her defense of individual rights, limited government, and laissez-faire capitalism constituted an invaluable contribution to the reemergence of classical liberal ideology in the twentieth century. Even though her ­approach is broader than most of her free-market contemporaries, it is fully within the libertarian tradition. the individual and society In stressing the ontological priority of individuals, the centrality of ­ reason, and the necessity of ethical egoism, Rand provided the philosophical­ foundation for her defense of capitalism. Just as we achieve psychological visibility and an expanded awareness of self in our interactions with other human beings, so too, can we best actualize our unique potentialities in a social context. But for Rand, the full development of human capacities requires a specific social context. A social system must be consistent with our species identity and with the requirements of human survival. While Rand acknowledged the sociality of human being, much of her politics is designed to clarify the very meaning of the concept “social.” Throughout her writings, it is possible to find vastly different connotations fig. 10. Ayn Rand, Frank O’Connor, and Frisco the cat. (Courtesy of John Hospers) 250 ayn rand attached to it. At times, Rand exhibited an almost knee-jerk reaction against the very notion that we have a “social” nature. From her earliest journal entries , she questioned whether human beings are born “social,” and whether they must remain so. She asked: “If man started as a social animal—isn’t all progress and civilization to be directed to making him an individual?”3 In later years, her polemical tracts insist that “there is no such entity as ‘society,’” and that “society” is merely “a number of individual men.”4 And although she most emphatically rejected solipsism, she denied on one occasion that human beings are social animals. Society as such does not make us distinctly human, since it is possible to find communal living even among apes (N. Branden 1967T, lecture 13). Rand argued instead that the human being “is a contractual animal,” who must plan long-range, make choices, and trade with other individuals on the basis of reliable voluntary agreements.5 Abstracted from the totality of Rand’s works, these statements reek of reification. Indeed, by characterizing a human being as a “contractual”­ animal, Rand conjured up images of vulgar, “economic man” as a transhistorical constant. And yet Rand never ceased to criticize society and social institutions. From a purely methodological vantage point, Rand clearly believed that the concept of the “social” was a legitimate abstraction. Rand saw “society” as a relational concept, as peoples’ “relations to each other . . . men in relation to men.”6 In such a relational construction, Rand committed neither the fallacy of composition nor division. In composition, we discover a fact that is true of a part, and mistakenly conclude that it is also true of the whole as the whole.7 Division, by...


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