How Ayn Rand’s Objectivism Shaped Libertarianism

By Josh Hughes | United States

Ayn Rand’s philosophy was very essential for the development of libertarian ideas as well as the Libertarian Party in the mid-to-late 20th century. While Rand and other Objectivists often feuded with libertarians in their time, it is undeniable that, in hindsight, the two have successfully coexisted and made great contributions to each other.

Ayn Rand’s Background

Rand was born 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. She lived with her family through the Bolshevik revolutions of the 1910s, and personally experienced the horrors of Communism when her father’s business was taken by the state and her family faced starvation many times. She learned about America while in schooling and decided to leave for the land of opportunity in 1925, originally intent on being a playwright.

Rand’s Beliefs

As someone that lived through one of the most collective regimes in modern history, Ayn Rand had a unique appreciation for individualism. She first started expressing her beliefs as a fiction writer, specifically in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Her ideas centered around the idea that man as an individual is the single most important thing in the world. More specifically, whatever made him happy was the most important purpose of his life, and his success his “noblest achievement.”

With such an egocentric philosophy comes many stipulations. Ideally, an Objectivist society would exist only within a very free state. One of Rand’s biggest beliefs is the necessity of Laissez-faire capitalism. In fact, it’s the only economic system viable for humanity’s success. She claims that state and trade must be separated the same as state and church, and that man, in realizing his potential and strength, will demand his freedom in trading. A government, she asserts, has one job: to protect the rights individuals and nothing more, something the Founders and many current day libertarians would agree with.

How Objectivism Shaped Libertarianism

It’s pretty obvious that a lot of these ideas sound very similar to libertarianism, more specifically a night-watchman minarchy state. As close as they may seem, however, Rand and her Objectivists frequently feuded with Libertarians in her time. Her specific thoughts can be read here, but the main idea is she was against libertarians because they try to combine anarchy and capitalism, which, in her opinion, cannot coexist. She consistently refers to the Libertarian Party as “right-wing hippies” that have moral convictions of those on the left, yet they advocate for limited government. Her views on foreign policy are iffy, and she often clashed with libertarian figurehead Murray Rothbard on ideas.

Whether or not Rand would still hold those values is impossible to find out, yet it would foolish to say the two philosophies and ideologies haven’t strengthened each other throughout the years. Many libertarians consider themselves Objectivists, due to the fact that the philosophy stands so firmly on the ideas of limited government and individualism. It’s important that we are knowledgeable of what laid the foundations of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s. While Objectivists and Libertarians have had their fair share of quarrels and disagreements, it’s an interesting philosophy that is invaluable for libertarians to look into in order to help shape their views.


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