National Review continues its jihad against Objectivism. Peter Wehner has opined at the Corner that Ayn Rand was a nut.
Yet there are some strands within conservatism that still veer toward Rand and her views of government (“The government should be concerned only with those issues which involve the use of force,” she argued. “This means: the police, the armed services, and the law courts to settle disputes among men. Nothing else.”), and many conservatives identify with her novelistic hero John Galt, who declared, “I swear — by my life and my love of it — that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
But this attitude has very little to do with authentic conservatism, at least the kind embodied by Edmund Burke, Adam Smith (chair of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow), and James Madison, to name just a few. What Rand was peddling is a brittle, arid, mean, and ultimately hollow philosophy. No society could thrive if its tenets were taken seriously and widely accepted. Ayn Rand may have been an interesting figure and a good (if extremely long-winded) novelist; but her views were pernicious, the antithesis of a humane and proper worldview. And conservatives should say so.
Religious people tend to see Objectivism as “brittle, arid, mean and ultimately hollow.” It is none of these things, but when your emotions and self-esteem are wrapped up in the metaphysical fantasy of religion, it must seem that way.
Wehner is absolutely right about one thing: Objectivism has nothing to do with authentic conservatism. He says conservatives should say so; I’ll second that motion. Authentic conservatism was the first enemy of capitalism, and Marx merely secularized its arguments. Religion’s enemy is not just Ayn Rand, it’s capitalism, human nature and ultimately the facts of reality.
UPDATE: Revised one sentence for clarity.