Saturday, September 16, 2006

James Valliant, Ayn Rand and Libertarianism

On pages 69-70 of The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, James Valliant discusses Rand’s disapproval of libertarianism and the Libertarian Party (LP). According to Valliant “[t]he Brandens, along with many others, believe that Rand was intolerant and ‘close-minded’ because she denounced the Libertarian Party.” (PARC, p. 70.) In support of his claim that both Brandens and “others” disagree with Rand’s denunciation of the LP Valliant cites to PAR once and to Peter Schwartz’s article on libertarianism once.

Valliant proceeds to discuss Rand’s perceived need for “systematic honesty in forming political and intellectually alliances.” He mentions those libertarians who are anarchists and believe in unilateral disarmament. He then claims that the differences between Rand and the libertarians were “not so trivial as the critics suppose.” (PARC, p. 70.) It isn’t clear who Valliant claims the “critics” are -- Nathaniel Branden, Barabara Branden, LP officials, all of them, some of them?

Mr. Valliant would better make his case if he actually cited Barbara Branden’s view of Rand’s relationship with the LP and libertarianism. According to PAR’s index, the LP is mentioned on three pages and the libertarian movement on one page.

Barbara Branden notes that the LP has been divided by those who advocate limited government and strong defense on one hand and anarcho-capitalists on the other. Branden’s conclusion is: “In the opinion of many people, the anarchist wing has deeply undermined the effectiveness of the Libertarian Party in recent years. That wing was the particular source of Ayn Rand’s indignation repudiation of the party that had been formed in the image of her political philosophy.” (PAR, p. 413.) This quote doesn’t indicate to me that Branden believes that Rand’s repudiation of the LP was “intolerant” or “close-minded.” Nor does it indicate that Branden thinks Rand was wrong to disassociate herself from the LP due to the presence of anarcho-capitalists and advocates of unilateral disarmament. If Valliant is basing his contention on something Branden said someplace else, then he should cite it.

Valliant does quote Branden’s claim on page 391 that Rand exhibited “despair” and “pessimism” because she was wary about younger writers who wrote about her philosophy. (PARC, p. 70.) Branden references M. Gladstein’s The Ayn Rand Companion and D. Rasmussen’s The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand. According to Branden, Rand had letters sent to them threatening lawsuits. (PAR, p. 391.) The libertarianism of these authors (if they are both indeed libertarians) isn’t mentioned.

Nathaniel Branden in Judgment Day discusses Rand's position vis-a-vis the LP and doesn't criticize her for it (p. 231).

Valliant’s discussion of Rand and libertarianism is yet another example where he fails to present evidence to support his claim.

Incidentally, the Ayn Rand Institute has a collection of Rand’s statements concerning libertarianism and the LP. The reader is free to decide for himself if Rand’s statements are intolerant or close-minded.