Ayn Rand: A Leading Lady of Classical Liberalism

How should we understand Ayn Rand’s political thought?  Prof. Jennifer Burns argues that Rand was a part of the broad classical liberal tradition. Rand’s novels, including Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, emphasize individualism, a fundamental theme in classical liberal/libertarian thought. Rand also contributed to that tradition by modernizing and popularizing the ideas, which led to the creation of new social movements for freedom in the 20th century.

Jennifer Burns is an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia and author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.

21 Comments

  1. Farid Faisal Bestari

    do nietzsche’s idea has any influence on her view of human interaction (specifically business)?

  2. Matt Wavle

    It’s helpful in understanding Ayn Rand to see what events shaped her perspective.  I can only imagine how she must have felt when the business her father had worked so hard to create was stolen by the State.

  3. Matt Wavle

    Ayn Rand was so RIGHT on so many levels, she was both a philosopher AND a genius.  If you understand some of Nietzsche’s ideas, you can see if they parallel, using this source: (I’d also suggest Individualism)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivism_(Ayn_Rand)

  4. Ben Richards

    I can understand why Ayn Rand feels this way of the Libertarian movement. I consider myself Libertarian Party member, but when someone asks what I believe, I tell them "Classical Liberal". Ayn Rand is an amazing philosopher especially in teaching on individualism and her own movement of objectivism. This even gave newer ideas to Classical Liberalism to a more extreme extent, which is why I love Ayn Rand so much.

  5. Greg Gauthier

    Rand also hated anarchism. Yet, this is the single greatest flaw in Objectivism – the inconsistent application of the non-aggression principle. I’ve read all the rationalizations for the existence of the "police-law courts-military" state, but none of them sufficiently deals with this objection. It’s tragic, because her works had the potential to bring about actual genuine freedom, but ultimately she chickened out.

  6. Steve Davies

    In response to Mr. Gauthier; as Aristotle built on Plato, we can build on Rand. Nothing in philosophy is really a finished product. 

  7. Damian Gunjak

    And no single philosepher has digested and created an entirely new field of thingking. It is always an action and reaction. 

  8. Autumn Reed

    People don’t realize that when the government takes away for the greater good, the good that was produced was produced by hard-working people. This is why "rich" people have their integrity and their goods are undermined. Sad.

  9. Hunter Markson

    I think that Rand would have been a lot more popular if she was willing to work with other libertarian writers.

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  11. sid1138

    I find the concept that objectivism/anarchy/individualism puts compassion and altruism on the back burner.  While some (okay many) believe that true individualism puts the will, desires, and ego of the individual first, and therefor leaves no room for compassion and altruism, they would be wrong. 

    In a truly objective and individualistic society, the individual, not the state or some other organization, decides what is best for that individual.  If the individual is, for example, highly spiritual and determines that what is best for them is to be compassionate and altruistic, then that is what they should be able to do.   Those who think that compassion or generosity leads to subjugation and servitude do not know or understand the liberating power of being truly generous and compassionate.

    We have a huge number of people (that would be most) that misunderstand government, individuals, rights, and duties.  These people, on all sides of the discussions, then present biased viewpoints that distort the discussions.  Luckily, in a truly open and free society (if only such existed) the distortions would cancel out and eventually some level of truth would emerge.

  12. Anonymous

    I read “Anthem”, “Atlas Shrugged” and “Fountainhead”.
    She wrote with extremes. In Anthem in particular the individual was totally erased. Because of the extreme position of the society, anything else MUST be better.
    But that doesn’t say much about any society that is not at an extreme. That is the weakness of her novels / ideology.

  13. Garrett Markle

    It makes me sick seeing how many downvotes this video has.  I hope it doesn’t bother Ms. Burns as this was a great video.  The rating obviously does not reflect the nature of her presentation or content therein but the undue rage of a liberal popular opinion.  How pleasant!

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