Ayn Rand is a fun read. Many libertarians attribute their first intellectual exposure to a philosophy of freedom to her epic novels "Atlas Shrugged" and "Fountainhead."
Although the works are motivational, I believe the works fail as a foundation for a free society.
Ayn Rand was raised in Russia. As a youth she was indoctrinated into the material dialectics of Marx which claimed modern history was a peoples
struggle between wonderful collectivists and evil individualists.
She accepted the material dialectics, but began arguing the counter thesis that history was a death struggle between the individual and collectivists and that the individualists were the ones doing the most good for society.
Dialectical struggles are compelling. The problem with her approach is that it preserves the logical foundations (dialectical materialism) of Marx.
From an intellectual point of view, Ayn Rand's work is very important. Ayn Rand basically shows that if you accept the foundation of modern logic, a free society still works better than a socialized one.
A free society that accepts dialectical materialism is better than communism, but it is still a deeply fractured society.
On her side, Ayn Rand did begin an exploration of the classical Aristotelian approach to logic, but seemed to be accepting the images projected on the classical tradition rather than on meat of rationality itself.
The unfortunate result is that, despite writing a motivational work, Ms. Rand developed a philosophy that never really worked out for herself, nor her followers. It clearly does not work as a foundation for a society.
Her greatest follower, Alan Greenspan, has become the patron saint for strict financial regulations.
Ayn Rand's problems are not unique to Ayn Rand. The free society of the United States greatly advanced the conditions of mankind, but our intellectual class has never done a good job exploring why this is so, and has not developed an effective strategy for defending freedom.
As the shrill Glenn Beck keeps pointing out. We are very close to losing it.
One of the great problems with preserving freedom is that intellectuals tend to overemphasize aspects of freedom they personally enjoy.
The problem is that overemphasizing attributes of freedom can lead to an imbalance that will topple freedom.
I hate overemphasizing paradox, but the philosophy of freedom suffers one great paradox: A free society cannot give individuals the freedom to deny freedom to others. A free society depends on the Golden Rule.
Note, the US was born with one great flaw. The founders inherited slavery imposed by European colonialists. Slavery gives one person the ability to deny freedom to another.
Altough we admire the Founders of the United States, there was a great deal of convoluted thinking going on in the early days of our country in efforts to defend slavery and other institutions.
For example Andrew Jackson, the founder of the modern Democratic Party, first rose to fame in the suppression of the Seminoles. This suppression was driven largely from the fact that slaves were running off and joining the Native Americans and the South feared they would rise in open rebellion ... and win.
Andrew Jackson proved a strong defender of certain aspects of freedom.
The Republicans formed in reaction to the Democrats defending other aspects of freedom and we had a civil war.
The process of action and reaction between our parties has our poor nation set on a course of diminished liberty. The shrill process has reached such a level that we might even be on the dreaded Road to Serfdom.
This system of action and reaction in our society is often fueled by loud, yet imbalanced freedom rhetoric.
Preserving our freedom will take more than well spoken freedom centric rhetoric. It requires deeper thinking about foundational issues.
The great challenge of liberty is that the defenders of liberty have a nasty habit of overemphasizing their favorite aspects of freedom in ways that the enemies of freedom have become adept at exploiting.