Yet another academic has defamed Ayn Rand, and yet more publications have featured the defamation. Smears of Rand are commonplace these days in popular, leftist, and conservative publications; for examples, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here. The latest smear, by Boston College professor Alan Wolfe, is one of the most outrageous.
Reuters published Wolfe’s piece under the title, “Why Libertarianism Is Closer to Stalinism than You Think”; Business World published it under “What Do Libertarians and Stalin have in Common? Plenty.” Wolfe absurdly claims that libertarianism is based on the ideas of Ayn Rand and that Rand’s ideas are akin to those of Stalin. It would be as apt to call George Washington a monarch, Abraham Lincoln a slaver, or Steve Jobs a Luddite—and obviously no serious periodical would publish any such claim about those figures.
It would be impossible for Wolfe not to know that Ayn Rand escaped Soviet Russia, immigrated to America, and spent her career writing novels and essays against the collectivism, mysticism, and sacrificial ethics on which Soviet Communism and related ideologies were built. Rand’s first novel, We the Living, amounts to a scathing rebuke of Communism and the Soviet terror. Her novel The Fountainhead glorifies independence and independent thinking, values that fundamentally clash with Stalin’s collectivism. Her novel Atlas Shrugged promotes (among more fundamental values) laissez-faire capitalism, the opposite of Stalin’s socialism.
Yet Wolfe writes:
Libertarianism[’s] . . . leading 20th-century theorist was the novelist Ayn Rand, who, for all her talk of freedom, was an authoritarian at heart. She was intolerant of dissent and conspiratorial to a fault. Libertarians elected to public office on the basis of her ideas, including former Republican Representative Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father, have adhered to such radical positions as abolishing the Federal Reserve. . . .
Libertarianism in that sense is not merely an economic doctrine or a political worldview. It proposed, as Ayn Rand realized, a secular substitute for religion, complete with its own conception of the city of God, a utopia of pure laissez-faire and the city of man, a place where envy and short-sightedness hinder creative geniuses from carrying out their visions. If there was anything its founders hated more than governmental authority, it was religious authority.
Such a religious-like ideal requires careful scrutiny to ensure that no one breaks the rules or, in religious terms, commits a sin. Individuals are free to act in their self-interest—indeed, are required to—but if they grow lazy or are swayed by emotions or altruism, society’s best achievements will come crashing down around them.
Let’s consider the possible meanings of these assertions, starting with Wolfe’s claims about Rand’s behavior. . . .