Dec 022008

Do we need a reminder of even how some of the better elements of the libertarian movement can be hostile to Ayn Rand? Perhaps not, but here’s one that ran across my inbox a little while ago. It’s a tidbit from a December 2008 Reason article on the origins of their magazine:

[Tibor] Machan: Manny [Klausner] was never an Objectivist, and even Bob [Poole] was more mild-mannered about it. I was the philosophically grounded one, but I stylistically repudiated the atmospherics of the Objectivist world. I was excommunicated back in 1963 from the Rand thing. [Oh whatever, Tibor.]

[Bob] Poole: We wanted a magazine for thinking people, not Randians. As time went on and various marketing strategies were tried it became clear that Rand was some people’s cup of tea and not others’, and if we wanted to be influential being an explicitly Objectivist magazine was not the recipe for doing that. [Emphasis added.]

Bob Poole’s first comment is offensive as stated, but I’m willing to be generous, given that this was an “oral history.” Perhaps he meant that he wanted a magazine for all thinking people, not just Randians. (I’ve seen Poole speak a few times; he never struck me as hostile to Objectivists. However, my memory might not be what it should on that score.)

However, it’s his second comment — that “Rand was some people’s cup of tea and not others’” — that’s just so very libertarian. Reason couldn’t possibly insist that their writers agree on any fundamental principles, like respect for reason, right? No way! That might alienate some people, namely people whose “cup of tea” is supernaturalism, mysticism, and altruism. So anything goes — and the result is today’s often disgustingly postmodern Reason. (Or rather, that’s what it became after the departure of the sensible and interesting Virginia Postrel some years ago. I’ve paid it very little attention since that decline.)

The libertarian movement took so many ideas from Ayn Rand, while often spitting in her face in a manner worthy of James Taggart. If only they’d learned her most basic lesson — that philosophy matters because it’s the fundamental motor of human life — the history of the last 50 years might be different.

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