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No Taxes, No Female Presidents, and No Physical Attraction: The Ten Strangest Things About Objectivism

“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Paul Ryan said in 2009. “And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” In time for Team Romney’s vetting process, the freshly-minted V.P. nominee has since walked back his devotion to Rand and her philosophy, telling National Review that an admiration for the mid-century Soviet émigré does not “suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”

Wherever Ryan currently stands on Objectivism, which Rand invented, it’s worth reviewing the basics of the world’s greediest philosophy.

1. Greed good; altruism evil

Objectivists believe rationality is the highest form of morality. Because it’s rational to be self-interested, selfishness is thus a mark of high ethics. Q.E.D. Put another way, Objectivism is a self-fulfilling rationale for life’s injustices: Winners deserve to be winners because they are winners.

2. The rich are being exploited by the poor

In her 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged,” Rand’s hero John Galt grows tired of the leeching workers that live off the business acumen of others, so he leads an upper-class strike that leaves industry decimated. Rand’s point is that without economic supermen, the country would collapse. She of course ignores the fact that the same outcome would result if every working stiff in the country up and quit too.  

3. No public schools

Asked if she believed in a right to education, Rand replied that the Founders enumerated a “right to the pursuit of happiness—not of the right to happiness.”

4. No social services

Rand compared Medicare, which she reportedly received, to “a ‘hoodlum’ who robs and kills to acquire a yacht and champagne.”

5. No such thing as “society”

This is an old conservative trope, and Rand may be even less sincere in saying it than Maggie Thatcher was. Though she claimed to reject the idea of the state, Rand was enamored with groups of like-minded people bound by common principles and powerful leaders. Galt, in Atlas Shrugged, leads his capitalist All-Stars to form their own exalted community, away from the stench of the rabble. And Rand herself became a cult leader (Alan Greenspan was among her regular devotees) who routinely excommunicated members when they violated her rules.

6. Negative rights only

The sole purpose of an Objectivist state is to prevent individuals from impinging on each other’s freedom. In other words, Objectivists accept the need for police, courts, a standing army, and nothing else.

7. No taxes

How to pay for those cops, though? Duh, voluntary taxation. Rand’s proposal is cute, but it contradicts her own reason-worship. As the Economist argues ,“A rationally self-interested individual will not voluntarily pay for public goods if she believes others will pay and she can get a free ride.”

8. Non-physical sexual mores

Following their fetishization of rationality, Objectivists believe that sexual attraction should be based on mental acuity and emotional strength, rather than physical attractiveness. Not an inconvenient doctrine, as Jon Chait has pointed out, for some one with “unusual” looks and “abysmal personal hygiene.”

9. Atheism

Objectivists reject religion because it isn’t “rational,” and because many faiths preach compassion for the needy. (Ryan, a Catholic, rejects this aspect of Objectivism.)

10. Male chauvinism

While Objectivism makes no distinction between the rights of men and women, Rand was a self-professed “male chauvinist” who believed women should engage in male hero-worship. For this reason, she rejected the idea of a female president.