Perusing my news feeds this afternoon while killing time at the office, I came across this column by Debra Saunders, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, about Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand and Rand’s threat to liberals. Her general thesis seems to be that Rand’s philosophy is a threat to liberal beliefs, but Ms Saunders states:
Rand was conservative, Shaw was a socialist; yet both writers were philosopher/novelists who created brainy characters of unbendable conviction.
No. Just no. Ayn Rand was not a conservative, and her Objectivist philosophy is a contradiction of, and threat to, the conservative worldview, at least, as described by Russell Kirk, with whom I happen to agree.
For example, Russell Kirk said the following in his essay, The Essence of Conservatism:
Real community is governed by love and charity, not by compulsion. Through churches, voluntary associations, local governments, and a variety of institutions, conservatives strive to keep community healthy. Conservatives are not selfish, but public-spirited.
Rand’s philosophy is a direct contradiction of this chief principle of conservatism as identified by Kirk. Unlike the conservative worldview, Rand’s focus is not betterment of community through local institutions like churches, voluntarily associations, etc. using charitable means (altruism) among others, but is a focus on the individual and a rejection of altruism. Indeed, Rand writes:
Altruism holds death as its ultimate goal and standard of value—and it is logical that renunciation, resignation, self-denial, and every other form of suffering, including self-destruction, are the virtues it advocates.
Certainly one can find commonalities between the conservative worldview and Rand’s Objectivism, such as the respect for private property; however, it would be a mistake to equate the values which undergird that respect, because Rand’s values contradict the conservative values which extol civic virtue, i.e., a dedication to improving one’s community through service.