This caught my attention, at a site called “The Smart Set”.
“If the zeitgeist has a face, it supposedly belongs to Ayn Rand and her capitalist philosophy of Objectivism. Talk radio hosts adore the author’s demands for limited government; Congressman Paul Ryan insists that his staffers read her overstuffed opus Atlas Shrugged; picket signs at Tea Party rallies suggest that we all “READ AYN RAND.” And yet, some pieces are missing. Ayn Rand was anti-war, but spending for hundreds of military bases and two-and-a-half wars remains sacrosanct even as Congress made the debt ceiling a major issue. She found homosexuality “immoral” and “disgusting,” and yet gay marriage has regained the initiative in the public square. And Randian heroes are explicitly — nay, objectively — elitist. They are genius millionaire square-jawed heroes who walked right off the screen at the movie matinee. The average Tea Party rallier, not so much.”
A bit of a jumble. Rand was anti-war, certainly, but she certainly was no pacifist, either about the Nazis or any other totalitarian regimes. She had a problem about homosexuality, but I doubt she favoured the state using its violence-backed powers to suppress it; indeed, from my reading of her journals and other material, I don’t know if she had developed views on this subject at all. As for the line about her support for “elitism”, it does rather depend on what you mean. For Rand, and most who broadly support her views (as I do), the idea was that people are entitled to develop their lives and talents to the greatest extent possible in free trade with their fellows. There is plenty of room for upward mobility, striving and competition. This has nothing to do with privilege, which is often what can be meant by an “elite”, for example. (Elitism is, of course, a boo word for the egalitarian left, and I suspect the author of the piece tilts in that direction).
“There is another writer whose political and philosophical influence is finally being felt in the public sphere. You may have read one of his books as a child. His name is Robert A. Heinlein, and he wrote science fiction. He was a libertarian enamored of military might, a conservative who championed free love. His heroes are certainly competent. They’re also folks who hack the systems in which they live, not elitists who abandon a corrupt world full of moochers and looters to worship the dollar as an end unto itself. And unlike Rand, most of Heinlein’s work is actually readable.”
Some of this is true, though I don’t think Heinlein was “enamoured” of military might; he understood that values need to be defended, of course, so to that extent he understood the warrior ethic and code, but he also understood the trader ethic, too. He was able to see how military codes develop and why they exist (his book, Starship Troopers, is about this very issue).
The idea that the characters in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged “worship the dollar as an end unto itself” proves that the author of this article clearly has not thought straight. The point for Rand is that the dollar, preferably a gold-backed dollar, is a symbol of liberty, not something that you worship as a totem.
It is sometimes instructive when a writer from outside the usual field opines about something about which you know quite a lot, as I do about Rand and Heinlein, having read pretty much everything they wrote. The author of this article hits on some good points, so don’t be put off by my nit-picking.