I tried to watch “Atlas Shrugged” the other night and remembered why the libertarian philosophy disgusts me so. I can understand how a traumatized Russian immigrant such as Ayn Rand could become so jaded and stunted that she would come to define selfishness as “freedom” and the death of her own empathy as “objectivity.” And I suppose I can understand why adolescent white males should flock to her philosophy as way of justifying their own unearned privilege in our culture.
As the American Libertarian Party became a snake pit of selfish sexist white males, it justified the freedom of men from any responsibility to the public sector, but not women’s right of reproductive choice over their own bodies. It justified the right of those born rich to exploit workers, but not the right of workers to unionize in self protection.
The word “republic” refers to our common life. A philosophy of selfishness cannot help but be a cancer to that public sphere. It can be argued that not even Osama bin Laden has done as much to turn the American Dream into a nightmare as has Ayn Rand. I would go so far as to say that individualistic libertarianism is a perfect philosophy for fish and crocodiles, but is unfit for any higher mammal.