Friday, November 11, 2011
Sunday, June 05, 2011
Note: An Essay from 2005
As I argued in my essay “Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and Religion”, Objectivism is a version of secular humanism. Ayn Rand accepts the atheism and naturalism of most secular humanist thought. While secular humanists are highly supportive of evolution, Rand stated that she was “neither its supporter nor opponent” and was for the most part silent on the issue. Her one-time associate Nathaniel Branden states in his well-known essay The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand:
I remember being astonished to hear her say one day, "After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis." I asked her, "You mean you seriously doubt that more complex life forms — including humans — evolved from less complex life forms?" She shrugged and responded, "I'm really not prepared to say," or words to that effect. I do not mean to imply that she wanted to substitute for the theory of evolution the religious belief that we are all God's creation; but there was definitely something about the concept of evolution that made her uncomfortable.
Rand discusses evolution a few times, but never mentioned Charles Darwin. Two major summaries of Rand’s thought, The Ayn Rand Lexicon and Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, are silent. This essay will review some of Rand’s references to evolution and suggest reasons for Rand’s apparent hesitancy. A brief discussion of Rand’s view of human nature is first required.
Ayn Rand believed that human nature is fixed. What separates men from animals is their rationality. Although man is a physical entity, his mind cannot be reduced entirely to his brain or body.
Based on a review of her mature philosophy as expressed in Atlas Shrugged and her essays, Rand rejects the idea that man has innate instincts or drives. In “Galt Speaks,” Rand defines “instinct” as “an unerring and automatic form of knowledge.” (Rand, For the New Intellectual, pp. 121-22.) Needless to say, she repeatedly rejected any automatic form of knowledge. She concedes that there is a “desire to live,” but asserts that it is not “automatic.” (p. 122.) She explicitly denies that man has a tendency to evil. (p. 137; see also p. 21.) On the other hand, she likely rejected the concept that man has a tendency to good. And, it is important to realize, in spite of Rand’s optimistic view of human nature, her judgment on history was for the most part negative.
In her important discussion of the “Witch Doctor” and “Attila” in For the New Intellectual, Rand carefully avoids the using the word “instinct” to describe the values and actions of these two archetypes. In spite of their differences, they are both motivated by “feelings” and “whims.” (p. 19.) Rand’s rejection of instincts appears twofold. First, she is concerned that instincts, if they existed, would constitute an alternative (and potentially irrational) source of knowledge. Just as she destroyed the Witch Doctor’s epistemology by refuting all forms of mysticism, she had to destroy Attila’s epistemology. Second, instincts (which are often considered irrational drives) conflict with her concept of the “heroic man.”
Although Rand rejects the idea that man has instincts, she denies that man’s nature is completely fluid.
Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. Man’s emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program—and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses. (Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 28.)
In “Racism,” Rand rejects the contention that a person’s character or intelligence is inherited or produced by his “internal body chemistry.” (p. 126.)
Randian man is in a unique position. Although he shares similarities with animals, he is set apart from them by his reason. One should keep in mind Rand’s frequent quotation of Bacon’s dictum: “Nature to be commanded, must be obeyed.” Man is part of nature, but in some sense transcends it. This leads to the question: how can man transcend nature if he is the product of millions of years of biological evolution?
“The Missing Link”
Rand mentioned evolution a few in her journals. She writes in 1945: “Perhaps we are really in the process of evolving from apes to Supermen—and the rational faculty is the dominant characteristic of the better species, the Superman.” (Harriman, ed., Journals of Ayn Rand, p. 285.) In her notes for Atlas Shrugged in 1946, she writes:
The supposition of man’s physical descent from monkeys does not necessarily mean that man’s soul, the rational faculty, is only an elaboration of an animal faculty, different from the animal’s consciousness only in degree, not in kind.” (pp. 465-466.)
Her most interesting comment on the implications of evolution may be the following, also from her notes for Atlas Shrugged:
We may still be in evolution, as a species, and living side by side with some “missing links.” [. . .] We do not know to what extent the majority of men are now rational. (They are certainly far from the perfect rational being, and all the teachings they absorb put them still farther back to the pre-human stage.) . . . . (Most men are rational beings, even if none too smart; they are not pre-humans incapable of rational thinking; they can be dealt with only on the basis of free rational, consent.) (p. 466-67.)
She goes on the same entry to describe those incapable of rational life as “sub-human” who need to be “enslaved” and “controlled.” (p. 467.)
Rand discusses evolution twice in For the New Intellectual, published in 1961. In her discussion of Attila and the Witch Doctor, she states: “If a missing link between the human and the animal species is to be found, Attila and the Witch Doctor are that missing link—the profiteers on men’s default.” (pp. 21-22.) The second mention of evolution is in the discussion of Herbert Spencer’s philosophy, in which she makes clear her opposition to Spencer’s use of evolution as the organizing principle of philosophy. (p. 37.)
Rand’s most detailed published discussion of evolution is in her 1973 article entitled “The Missing Link,” which is reprinted in Philosophy: Who Needs It? Rand discusses the anti-conceptual mentality. Readers should keep in mind that Rand denies that animals think conceptually. In a passage that is somewhat hard to understand, she states:
I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent. But a certain hypothesis has haunted me for years; I want to stress that it is only hypothesis. There is an enormous breach of continuity between nature and man’s consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty. It is as if, after aeons of physiological development, the evolutionary process altered its course, and the higher stages of development focused primarily on the consciousness of living species, not their bodies. But the development of a man’s consciousness is volitional: no matter what the innate degree of intelligence he must develop it, he must learn how to use it, he must become human by choice. What if he does not choose to? Then he becomes a transitional phenomenon—a desperate creature that struggles frantically against his own nature, longing for effortless “safety” of an animal’s consciousness, which he cannot recapture, and rebelling against a human consciousness, which he is afraid to achieve. (Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It?, p. 45.)
Although Rand presents this hypothesis tentatively, it appears that she places man himself as an agent of evolution along side the “evolutionary process.” Evolution took a different course because man chose to think “conceptually.” I take this passage to mean that Rand’s hypothesis consists of the following: (1) the evolutionary process was first focused on the development of animals’ bodies; (2) the evolutionary process then focused on animals’ consciousness; (3) man (or some version of him) had a body like ours, but a non-conceptual consciousness; and (4) finally, some men chose to think conceptually, thus completing the creation of man. What is must curious about Rand’s hypothesis is her statement that it has “haunted” her “for years.” One wonders if what haunted Rand is the implication of her theory (which she made explicit in her journals) that at least some non-rational human beings are literally sub-human.
Rand’s sentiments concerning evolution have an echo in her frequent statements in her essays that equate non-rational men to animals. It is striking how often Rand compares irrational people to non-human animals. Two examples must suffice:
Man cannot survive as anything but man. He can abandon his means of survival, his mind, he can turn himself into a subhuman creature. (Rand, The Virtue Of Selfishness, p. 24.)
To an animal, whatever strikes his awareness is an absolute that corresponds to reality. . . . And this is the Witch Doctor’s epistemological ideal, the most of consciousness he strives to induce in himself. (Rand, For the New Intellectual, p. 17.)
Professor Eric Mack notes that in a recent popular presentation of Objectivist ethics, parasitic people are described as literally dead. (Mack, “Problematic Arguments in Randian Ethics”, Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Vol 5., No. 1, p. 24.)
Keeping in mind Branden’s point that Rand did not wish to replace evolution with creationism, it is nonetheless interesting to note that Rand’s view of the uniqueness of man (given the gulf that separates man and other animals) has a certain resemblance to anti-Darwinian religious thought. G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) wrote:
Most philosophers have the enlightenment to add that a third mystery attaches to the origin of man himself. In other words, a third bridge was built across a third abyss of the unthinkable when there came into the world what we call reason and what call will. Man is not merely an evolution but rather a revolution. (Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, p. 26.)
Rand likely would have agreed with Chesterton’s phrase “man is not merely an evolution but a revolution.”
Why Rand’s Hesitation About Evolution?
Rand’s hesitation about evolution calls for an explanation. As Rand must have been aware, many religious conservatives (who were a frequent target of hers) reject evolution. There are a few possibilities for this hesitation.
First, evolution is generally seen as a deterministic and ultimately hostile to free will. (Machan, Ayn Rand, pp. 142-43.) For example, evolutionist Ernest Haeckel (1834-1919) asserted that free will had to be rejected along with other “cherished ideas” such as human immortality and a personal god. (Schwarz, Creation, p. 7.) Even before the advent of Darwinian evolution, materialists from Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) forward often rejected free will.
Second, if biological evolution is true, then many areas of philosophy might need to be reexamined. For example, how can man have a qualitatively different value from animals if is every bit a part of nature as animals? Interestingly, a standard argument of religious conservatives against evolution is similar. God created man as the center of creation and reducing him to a part of the material universe on a similar plane as animals is condescending. The relationship between the brain and thought becomes more problematic in a Darwinian universe. Darwin wrote in his notebooks, “Why is thought, being a secretion of the brain, more wonderful than gravity, a property of matter.” (Jaki, Angels, Apes, and Men, p. 52.) In what sense can human nature be taken as fundamental to morality if man is exclusively part of the material work? One of La Mettrie’s (1709-1751) followers was the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) who argued that “If human passions are mere physiological itches, man’s proverbial dignity is a fraud, and there is nothing—not even our normal revulsion against rape and torture—to stand in the way of treating other human beings as sex tools. From the materialistic perspective, nothing can be entirely unnatural.” (Fleming, The Morality of Everyday Life, p. 107.)
Third, Rand may have been fearful of creating a biological or secular equivalent to original sin. Rand’s opposition to original sin is well known, but her opposition to original sin would apply to any argument that proposes a biological weakness in man’s will. A full recognition of man’s biological and psychological drives might lead to a pessimistic view of human nature. Indeed, many scholars have see parallels between original sin and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic doctrines. According to intellectual historian Richard Webster, Freud employed biological evolution in developing a secularized version of original sin:
Freud genuinely believed that, by invoking evolutionary biology in the manner that he did, he was using science to sweep away superstition and introduce a new view of human nature. His real achievement in creating psychoanalysis, however, was to hide superstition beneath the rhetoric of reason, and by doing this succeed in reintroducing a very old view of human nature. By portraying the unconscious or the ‘id’ as a seething mass of unclean impulses, and seeing men and women as driven by dark sexual and sadistic impulses and a secret love of excrement which was associated with a compulsion to hoard money, Freud in effect recreated Swift’s Christian vision of “unregenerate man” as a Yahoo. By casting his intense moral vision in an ostensibly technical form he had, it would seem, succeeded in reinventing for a modern scientific age the traditional Christian doctrine of Original Sin.
Fourth, it is also possible that Rand may have believed that biological evolution did not present any problems for Objectivism, but hoped that followers more knowledgeable in biology would resolve whatever tensions exist.
As Tibor Machan notes, the topic of “how evolutionary biology could be made compatible with free will and morality” is “missing from [Rand’s] works.” (Machan, Ayn Rand, p. 143.) It is hoped that this brief essay will encourage others to take up this topic and fill this lacunae in Rand’s thought.
 However, in her journal entries written before her mature philosophical works, she at times finds an instinctual basis for certain behaviors. See Journals at pp. 285 and 303.
 In her article “The Comprachicos” (published in The New Left), Rand repeatedly emphasizes that the various skills that a child develops are not innate.
 The bracket are those of the Journals’ editor.
 The book in question is Loving Life (2002) by Craig Biddle.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Note: A 2005 Essay from Rebirth of Reason
Some years ago I consulted a biographical dictionary for information on Ayn Rand. The dictionary described Rand as a “conservative.” Rand, as we know, did not consider herself a conservative. She called herself a “radical for capitalism.” In addition, many of her views were contrary to those of mainstream conservatism. She was an atheist and a fierce critic of religion. She advocated abortion on demand and refused to support Ronald Reagan because of his ties to the religious right. (Letters of Ayn Rand, p. 666) Nor can one forget that National Review rejected Rand in 1957 with Whittaker Chambers’ scathing review of Atlas Shrugged, entitled “Big Sister is Watching You.” To Chambers, Objectivism was just another variation of atheistic materialism.
At the same time, the occasional references to Rand as a conservative call for explanation. As I hope to show, while the term “conservative” is inappropriate for Rand, her similarities to conservatism should not be ignored either. There is a broad “conservative ethos” which pervades Rand’s writings, particularly when read in the context of the Cold War and the 1960s.
Ayn Rand’s “Conservatism”
The idea that Rand was a conservative probably results from a focus on her advocacy of capitalism in isolation from the rest of her thought. Certainly, belief in free enterprise is a staple of most conservatives' thought, even if they don’t advocate consistent laissez-faire. In addition, Rand supported free enterprise because she believed in rational self-interest. She also thought that the individual pursuit of self-interest would lead to social and economic improvement. This theme (which goes back to thinkers such as Adam Smith) has echoes in conservative thought, with its opposition to a centrally planned economy. In addition to supporting free enterprise, Rand was staunchly opposed to communism, socialism, and the Soviet Union. During the charged days of the Cold War, anyone denouncing communism would likely be called conservative.
Another reason Rand might be considered a conservative is that some of her views on moral theory and individual moral issues also find echoes in conservative thought. Rand advocated moral absolutes and rejected cultural relativism. In spite of her irreligion and her contempt for supernatural ethics, many of her views were fairly conventional. She opposed homosexuality, considering it “immoral” and “disgusting.” She famously stated that a rational woman would not want to be president since “the essence of femininity is hero worship—the desire to look up to a man.” (The Voice of Reason, p. 268) And, say what you will about Rand’s affair with Nathaniel Branden, she was not a “libertine” in her private life.
It is also interesting to observe how Rand allies herself with the middle class in opposition to the intellectuals and the “counter culture.” In her essay “Apollo and Dionysus,” Rand discussed Apollo 11 and the Woodstock music festival, and placed herself on the side of the middle class. “[T]he people are reality-oriented, commonsense-oriented, technology-oriented ...” (Return of the Primitive (“ROP”), p. 102) She denounced the “hippies” who attended Woodstock. In fact, “hippie” seems to have been a favorite term of derision for her, used for both Kant (“the first hippie in history”) and anarcho-capitalists (“hippies of the right”). (ROP, p. 105)
There are other issues on which Rand sided with conservatives and the middle class. She opposed modern art for its reduction of “man’s consciousness to the level of sensations.” (Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto, pp. 76-77) The conservative critique of modern art is often similar. Richard Weaver discusses contemporary art's focus on the artist’s desire to escape “form,” “responsibility,” and “direction.” According to Weaver, much contemporary art is “nominalistic” and attempts to free the lower levels of the mind from constraint. (Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences, pp. 87, 89, 90-91)
Rand also attacked progressive education and its chief theoretician, John Dewey, both frequent targets of conservatives. (ROP, p. 68) Incidentally, Russell Kirk begins a critique of John Dewey with a mention of Rand. Kirk’s description of Dewey is reminiscent of Rand’s critique of progressive education:
Dewey was bent, though perhaps only half-consciously, on creating an impersonal society: that is, a society in which strong personalities would be eliminated. For there is no personality, really, except inner personality, subjective personality; if, then, its perfection is denounced as rotten, human beings are expected to efface personality altogether. They become “other-directed men.” Lacking belief, loyalty, and self-reliance ... they are moved only by fad and foible, and are blown about by every wind of doctrine. Objectivity of this sort terminates in pusillanimity. (Kirk, Enemies of the Permanent Things, p. 159)
Not only did Rand denounce progressive education, but also sided with government authority and private property in the context of the student “rebellions” of the 1960s.
It is important to remember that most of Rand’s philosophical essays were published in the 1960s and therefore during the Cold War and the rise of the “counter culture.” In this context, someone such as Rand who defended private property, educational standards, and self-restraint was likely to be seen as conservative, if not reactionary. A superficial reading of Rand probably led many conservatives to believe that Rand was a fellow traveler or even a fellow conservative. In fact, a member of the Young Americans for Freedom wrote to Rand in 1965 asking for permission to name a chapter of the YAF after her, which she refused. (Letters, p. 635)
In my essay “A Common Thread: Anti-Egalitarianism in Objectivism, Conservatism, and Libertarianism,” I argued that Rand, along with conservatives and libertarians, holds human inequality to be fundamental. She argues that in a free society, those with superior ability will inevitably form something of an elite based on merit. This hierarchy, however, does not work to the detriment of the less able: in fact, it works to their benefit. She called this the “pyramid of ability” principle. The following statement, by British conservative W. H. Mallock in 1894, could have been written by Rand:
Equality benefits no one. It frustrates men of talent; and it reduces the poor to a poverty still more abject .... For inequality produces the wealth of civilized communities: it provides the motive which induces men of superior benefit to exert themselves for the general benefit. (Mallock, Labour and the Popular Welfare, p. 233)
A belief in hierarchy is central to conservative thought as well. In Continental thought, Church and aristocracy are predominant; in its American version the self-made man (often a businessman) is upheld for praise. I recall that, during the 1980s, the Left denounced Ronald Reagan for his “Horatio Alger” belief that the “little guy” could rise to the level of a successful businessman. Rand, of course, disagreed with traditional state-imposed hierarchies such as existed in Europe. An Objectivist society would be a hierarchy of merit, but it would be no less hierarchical.
Libertarians, particularly those of the anarcho-capitalist variety, have on occasion called Rand a conservative. Rand advocated laissez-faire capitalism and a minimal state. She was, to use the recently coined term, a “minarchist.” She considered anarchy highly impractical and ridiculed the idea of “competing governments” as worse than a “floating abstraction.” (The Virtue of Selfishness, pp. 131-32)
Rand certainly was not an apologist for the state. At the same time, her discussions of government don’t reveal the depth of hostility (or even skepticism) toward the state that characterizes many libertarians. Consider the well-known statement of Albert Jay Nock:
Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class.
It is difficult to find a statement by Rand as critical of the state as this one, and many Objectivists have adopted her attitude. Contrary to anarcho-capitalists, Rand viewed the state as an improvement over anarchy. (See Nicholas Dykes, “Anarchism and Objectivism,” JARS, Vol. 7, No. 1)
In libertarian critiques of Rand as a conservative, reference is often made to Rand’s belief that big businessmen were America’s “persecuted minority,” and the essay of that name published in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. As her libertarian critics point out, it is difficult to describe big businessmen—with their tax-subsidies, restrictive tariffs, and the like—as “persecuted.” Leftist and libertarian historians have shown that many interventions in the economy were first introduced at the behest of big business. Murray Rothbard argues that most big businessmen have long made their peace with big government out of self-interest. As Rothbard concludes:
Persecuted? With a few honorable exceptions, big business jostles one another eagerly to line up at the public trough. Does Lockheed, or General Dynamics, or AT&T, or Nelson Rockefeller feel persecuted? (For a New Liberty, Rev. ed., p. 309)
It should be mentioned, however, that at times Rand was skeptical about the goals of businessmen. In essays such as “The Roots of War” and “The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus,” she understood the role many businessmen played in undermining capitalism and advocating imperialism. Rand may seem conservative to many libertarians, but as a description of her political theory this is imprecise. Chris Sciabarra has shown that Rand’s views on this question are reasonably close to the standard libertarian critique. He urges Objectivists to reclaim Rand’s “radical” legacy.
Ayn Rand was not a conservative. However, certain conservative themes pervade her work.
 Consider, for example, that much of Official Objectivism accepts the government’s rationale for the war in Iraq.
 For example, Rand’s support for intellectual property, laws against slander and libel, and (from what I’ve read second-hand) compulsory subpoenas probably place her on the “conservative” spectrum of minarchist opinion.
 Rand’s limited conservatism is not unusual in the libertarian movement. Ludwig von Mises was something of a social conservative, as was Murray Rothbard. Friedrich von Hayek famously wrote an essay entitled “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” Yet when asked by how he would classify his politics, he responded “Old Whig.” (Russell Kirk, The Sword of Imagination, pp. 198-99)
A 2004 Essay From Rebirth of Reason
Matthew Humphreys, in an interesting article, draws attention to the fact that many Objectivists and libertarians feel a greater affinity to the contemporary Right than the Left. Mr. Humphreys notes that there are various “currents of thought” found in the Right with which Objectivists and libertarians can make common cause.
One current of thought (which Mr. Humphreys doesn’t discuss) between these three traditions is their opposition to egalitarianism. Although not an easy concept to define, I take egalitarianism to mean the belief that all people are (or can be) equal in intelligence and worth and that society should attempt to promote equality (particularly of income) among people. On a cultural level, egalitarians often assert that all societies and cultures are of equal value.
I will discuss the opposition to egalitarianism focusing on the works of three American authors who each represent one tradition: Russell Kirk, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard. In spite of their differences on many issues of fundamental importance, there is a common thread of anti-egalitarianism running throughout their writings.
Conservatism: Russell Kirk
The twentieth century’s leading American conservative author was Russell Kirk (1918-1994). Although Kirk was a frequent critic of Rand and Rothbard, his critique of egalitarianism was similar. In one of his later essays, Kirk rejects the concept of “equality of condition” by which he means the “equality of incomes and other awards.” (Kirk does not reject the idea that people should be equal before the law.) [Kirk, Redeeming the Time, p. 217.] He states:
In short, I have been arguing that it is profoundly unjust to endeavor to transform society into a table land of equality. It would be unjust to the energetic, reduced to equality with the clack and indolent; it would be unjust to the thrift, compelled to make up losses of the profligate; it would be unjust to those take the long view, forced to submit to the domination of a majority interested chiefly in short-run results. [Id., p. 225.]
According to Kirk, the drive for equality has resulted in high taxation, a decline in educational standards, and multiculturalism.
Objectivism: Ayn Rand
Needles to say, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was not an egalitarian. Her novels depict a world divided between the good and the evil, the intelligent and the stupid, and the strong and the cowardly. Although she was skeptical of genetic and racial differences in character and intelligence, she was clear that human beings and cultures differ in many respects and equality was neither possible nor desirable.
Perhaps Rand’s fullest exposition of her anti-egalitarianism is found in her 1971 essay “The Age of Envy.” Her criticism of egalitarianism is somewhat similar to Kirk’s and she sees similar consequences, including multiculturalism (although she didn’t use the term) and a decline in educational standards. [Rand, Return of the Primitive, pp. 140-49.]
In “Galt Speaks,” Rand advances what Objectivists call the “pyramid of ability principle,” namely that those less capable benefit when the more capable are allowed to advance to the limit of their abilities. [Rand, For the New Intellectual, pp. 185-86.] This concept is not unique to Rand, and Kirk quotes the British conservative W. H. Mallock to the same effect in his 1894 book Labour and the Popular Welfare: “Equality benefits no one. It frustrates men of talent; and it reduces the poor to a poverty still more abject. . . . For inequality produces the wealth of civilized communities: it provides the motive which induces men of superior benefit to exert themselves for the general benefit.”
Libertarianism: Murray Rothbard
Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), the last century’s most important libertarian thinker, was likewise a staunch opponent of egalitarianism, who attributed to egalitarianism many of the same ills as Kirk and Rand. Indeed, two of Rothbard’s most important essays were “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature” and “Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism, and the Division of Labor.” Rothbard sees similar results flowing from the egalitarian agenda:
Equality of condition would reduce humanity to an anthill existence. Fortunately, the individuated nature of man . . . makes the ideal of total equality unattainable. But an enormous amount of damage – the crippling of individuality, as well as economic and social destruction – could be generated in the attempt.
[Rothbard, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature, and Other Essays, p. 279.]
Throughout Rothbard’s vast cultural criticism, he exposed the egalitarian fallacies behind “Women’s Liberation,” multiculturalism, and “progressive education.” In particular, his attack on progressive education mirrors Rand’s critique, focusing on the political, cultural, and “epistemological” aspects of this movement. [Rothbard, Education: Free and Compulsory, pp. 53-55.]
How this common opposition to egalitarianism “plays out” in contemporary politics is beyond the scope of this brief article. Yet, anti-egalitarianism constitutes a common thread among the Objectivist, libertarian, and conservative traditions.
 Likewise, there is not space to discuss the common influences on these thinkers. Kirk, Rothbard, and Rand each read (and approved) of Ortega y Gasset's The Revolt of the Masses. They also read Schoeck's Envy (although Rand didn't appear to approve of it, judging from the Marginalia).