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Ayn Rand on the GOP (Part II): Science and Individual Choice Policy

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Truly, “What’s up with the Republican Party?”

The first article in this two-part series, “Ayn Rand on the GOP (Part I): Foreign and Economic Policy,” addressed two salient political issues about which Rand wrote much, but it is important to continue the analysis. To Rand, it was not just the foreign or economic policies that defined a society: The science and individual choice policies are of equal importance. These two type of policies, in particular, define how a society allows the individual to move within it.

As discussed in the first article, keep in mind that Objectivists value individual choice within the realm of reality above anything else. Now we must consider what realm the Republican party is living in (to Rand there is no middle ground with these worlds): the “non-negotiable” fact-based world, or an “alternate facts” realm.                   

Science Policy

Naturally, since this is such a broad category, I will limit this to only a discussion of global warming policy due to the issue’s heightened global political salience. Rand was not an “environmentally friendly” person in the contemporary sense. In one interview, she called the environmental movement “a philosophical fraud” and that it is a disgrace to science; because environmental science in relation seeks not to prove the truth, but to force policy changes that limit capitalistic expansion on the society(See Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A pgs: 10, 38). A position that a Objectivists government should not be involved in.

As I discussed in the previous article, “the government’s only proper role is protecting individual rights. That means: the military, the police, the law courts” (See Ayn Rand Answers… pg: 8). As such, because it could interfere with private industry as well as damage the laissez-faire capitalism that she championed, Rand was not for environmental protection from private industry.   

But, confusingly, she was also for upholding science. And the reality (the absolute that science observes from) was also non-negotiable. She once wrote:

“The primacy of existence (of reality) is the axiom that existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness (of any consciousness) that things are what they are, that they possess a specific nature, an identity”

In short, what this means is that reality and, in turn, science are non-negotiable facets of our world; they are fact. Sadly, the reason Rand choose to criticize environmental science (and in relation the environmental movement) as a fraud and a disgrace to science, makes this position problematic. Certainly, she died before any public discourse on climate change, but she did live through the Silent Spring era. She adamantly believed that pollutants should be regulated through the courts instead of the government based on individuals proving that pollutants hurt them individually (See Ayn Rand Answers… pg: 8-10). This naturally would have an issue because the environment is collectively shared, and such a policy may be too difficult to enact.                       

Yet, overall, what does this mean on the policy end? Working off her misguided premise that environmental science is a fraud, she argued that individuals should be able to make their own choices on how they treat the environment; they should not be forced to adhere to some collective ideology. Unsurprisingly, many Republicans support such beliefs as Marco Rubio’s, who acknowledges that climate change is happening, but supports a free market approach instead of “… big government mandates.” If Rand were alive, I suspect she would take the same approach.

Equally, I suspect that Rand would agree with the Republican policies to roll back environmental protections and cut funding with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), since the environmental protections are not in the government’s purview.

In regards to environmental protections and science, at least, the GOP is very much in line with Randian standards.          

Individual Choice Policy

As discussed earlier, Objectivism depends on the individual to make the choices that serve their best interests and protect their liberty. Thus, gun rights and abortion exist in this particular area of interest.

In terms of gun control, Rand never fully gave a solid answer; she only noted in one of her Q&A’s that “handguns are instruments for killing people … and you have no right to kill people. You do have a right to self-defense, however. [The issue must be resolved to allow you] … to protect yourself without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim” (see Ayn Rand Answers… pg: 19). Thus, she would likely have advised the Republican party to give up its unyielding support for gun ownership until a solution was to be found between this conflict. It is important to note that she was not anti-gun, simply anti force. This is why I would likely see her not advocating for the complete removal of guns. But should would have definitely advocated, and did, for a compromise on gun ownership.

Fascinatingly, this might make current Republican’s more pro-capitalism than Rand because they often uphold a person’s ability to purchase a gun. Unsurprisingly, however, she would have claimed otherwise, because a use of force (by way of a “gun”) and the mind are philosophical opposites. As such a literal gun (and a metaphorical one for that matter) cannot be allowed to force another person to go against their philosophy, since “morality ends where a gun begins.” In a force-ruled world, it is the brute (or the “Attila” – a Randian archetype) landscape ruled by those who seek to punish instead of upholding humanity’s progress from the dark-ages.

Would Ayn argue then that those that support guns are for a “return to the primitive”? I would highly doubt that she would make such a generalized claim, especially since she does believe the people should be allowed to protect themselves. A gun can be a form of protection after all, hence the paradox. And also hence her likely belief that, were she with us today, the Republican party should limit their support for such wide ownership of firearms.                

Abortion, on the other hand, is very clear-cut for Rand. She was pro-choice. Period. She once said in a post-lecture Q&A :

“… I am in favor of a woman’s perfect moral right to have one if she so decides. I think it is an issue to be decided by a woman and her doctor. I am in agreement with the Supreme Court on this subject. And this is one reason I am against Ronald Reagan. That so-and-so claiming to be a defender of capitalism and Americanism, has come out against abortion. If he doesn’t respect so fundamental a right, he cannot be a defender of any kind of rights.” (See Ayn Rand Answers… pg: 17)

As such, the whole of the Republican leadership (especially Vice President Mike Pence – he recently became “…the first sitting VP to attend the annual March for Life”) who support pro-life causes would deeply trouble Rand.

All policies preventing a woman’s right to access an abortion was seen by Rand as limiting the liberty of the woman, essentially limiting her ability to live as she sees fit. The fury at these policies would have extended to the state level republican branches that seek to make “life at conception” laws, a concept she found literally “disgusting.” She, in fact, hinted at the possibly to such laws in one statement in (1970) in which she said to the question:

Does an unborn child have any rights with regard to abortion? [Rand’s answered] No. I’d like to express my indignation at the idea of confusing a living human with an embryo, which is only some underdeveloped cells. … The right to abortion is the right to get rid of some cells in your body, which you can’t afford to support if it grows into a child. The idea of some bitches – and I don’t apologize for that – trying to prescribe to all other women what they should do with their lives is disgusting. And they call it a right to life! The basic principles here are: never sacrifice the living to the nonliving, and never confuse an actuality with a potentiality. An “unborn child,” before it is formed, is not a human, it’s not a living entity, it had no rights. The woman has rights.” (See Ayn Rand Answers… pg: 17).  

Considering this foresight, such new laws would not have surprised her, since she believed the conservative Christians were overtaking the Republican Party, a claim that many on the Left have echoed recently.

Bottom line, the Republican Party’s’ adoption of pro-life policies are, in Rand’s view, anti-Objectivist.

Truthfully, Rand only liked one United States President: Gerald Ford (See” The Ayn Rand Letter”, Vol. IV, N.2, Nov-Dec 1975). This was likely because Ford adopted many of her economic policies and her friend, as well as confidant, Alan Greenspan, was Ford’s chief economic advisor; according to Rand, this period of time was the most recent period that America came close to an Objectivist society. This also partially explains her hatred towards Reagan, who failed to support Ford during the general election against Jimmy Carter; she would always blame him for his defeat. Regardless, Rand never gave-up hope on a fully Objectivist society; after all, America was, in her belief, the only country in the world wherein such a hope could become reality.

If the Trump administration, as well as the rest of the Republican leadership, want to uphold the Objectivist values of which they claim to be fans, then there is certainly time to turn the ship around; but as of now, most of their policies do not seem to line up with their fandom. Yet, we are still in the first one-hundred-days of the administration, so any Rand admirer should not be worried just yet, because there is a lot to be hopeful for in some of their policies. Even though their economic policies are still a tad too left-leaning for Rand, their scientific policies are are at least geared in an Objectivist direction.

It is important also to note that the conservatism to which the Republican Party (and said Rand “fans”) supposedly subscribes is not beholden to any singular scholar’s work and it is certainly not beholden solely to Ayn Rand’s. However, when declaring oneself a fan of Rand’s work, these Republican officials should be more careful to hash out their differences with her, one of the 20th century’s most influential thinkers.  

Nonetheless, this does not mean that Rand would be happy with the Republican Party (her thoughts on the Democratic Party, needless to say, would be in parts oppositional; she would not be a Bernie Sanders fan ); if you ask me, she would openly ask: “What’s up with the Republican Party?”

The answer will ultimately depend on Republican leadership’s choices these coming years.                

— Ashton Jones-Doherty is a junior studying international affairs. He is Outreach Director at Georgia Political Review as well as a first-time contributor to The Arch Conservative.