The Right Coast

December 30, 2003
Sanchez on Rand
By Michael Rappaport

In my view, an accurate take from Julian Sanchez on how Ayn Rand often converts people to the right:
    Jerome Tuccile wrote a history of the libertarian movement called "It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand"-- which is accurate enough, since at least when they're first getting interested in libertarian ideas, a lot of people come through Rand. And the funny part is, while she paints herself as this great champion of rationality and logic, the actual philosophy, stripped from the fictional and rhetorical context, is mostly a lot of sophomoric crap. She's not successful because her arguments were any good, but because she effectively gets across a "transvaluation of all values." She paints this portrait of the world going to hell because of political power lust. And, more importantly, she provides this kind of shock-therapy, in that she undoes, at least briefly, a lot of the emotional associations that get drummed into us, and that implicitly shape our political views. Government programs to help people are "generous," and if you want to be good and generous, you support those. Commercial activity is avaricious, and nice people want to constrain the sway of this sphere where greed is the prime engine.

    Nozick once told me that as he was coming to hold classical liberal views, there was a point where he was convinced that capitalism was the best system, but that he must be a bad person to think so. I don't think I'd want to adopt her set of emotional associations wholesale, but for a lot of people she helps to loosen a sort of emotional-intellectual straightjacket that makes it impossible to consider classical liberal ideas without associating them automatically with base motivations, or the opposite ideas with noble ones.