Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

03 April 2010

Jim Powell -- Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand: Three Women Who Inspired the Modern Libertarian Movement

I recently read an excellent and remarkably inexpensive book about the Great Depression called FDR's Folly by Jim Powell.  This book is well-organized and really focuses on the essentials of how FDR deepened and lengthened the Great Depression.  There are other books on the Great Depression, but none of those I have read manage to give the scope of the problems as concisely and clearly as this book does.  I intend to obtain more of his books and read them.  Jim Powell is a Senior Fellow at the CATO Institute, whose website just directed me to this interesting article by Jim Powell on the critical roles of three women in greatly slowing the American slide into the morass of socialism.  The article was published by The Freeman and called Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand: Three Women Who Inspired the Modern Libertarian Movement and was written in 1996.  He starts out:
Liberty was in full retreat in the early 1940s. Tyrants oppressed or threatened people on every continent. Western intellectuals whitewashed mass murderers like Joseph Stalin, and Western governments expanded their power with Soviet-style central planning. Fifty million people were killed in the war that raged in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The United States, seemingly the last hope for liberty, was drawn into it.
Established American authors who defended liberty were a dying breed. H.L. Mencken had turned away from bitter politics to write his memoirs, while others like Albert Jay Nock and Garet Garrett were mired in pessimism.
Amidst the worst of times, three bold women banished fear. They dared to declare that collectivism was evil. They stood up for natural rights, the only philosophy which provided a moral basis for opposing tyranny everywhere. They celebrated old-fashioned rugged individualism. They envisioned a future when people could again be free. They expressed a buoyant optimism which was to inspire millions.
All were outsiders who transcended difficult beginnings. Two were immigrants. One was born in frontier territory not yet part of the United States. They struggled to earn money as writers in commercial markets dominated by ideological adversaries. All were broke at one time or another. They endured heartaches with men—one stayed in a marriage which became sterile, and two became divorced and never remarried.
These women who had such humble beginnings—Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand—published major books during the same year, 1943: The Discovery of Freedom, The God of the Machine, and The Fountainhead, respectively. The women, recalled journalist John Chamberlain, “with scornful side glances at the male business community, had decided to rekindle a faith in an older American philosophy. There wasn’t an economist among them. And none of them was a Ph.D.” Albert Jay Nock declared that, “They make all of us male writers look like Confederate money. They don’t fumble and fiddle around—every shot goes straight to the centre.”
If you have read this introduction, I am sure you are now hooked.  Read the rest of  Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand: Three Women Who Inspired the Modern Libertarian Movement and enjoy yourself.

I am less a fan of Lane's The Discovery of Freedom, Man's Struggle Against Authority (13 customer reviews on Amazon), than I am of Isabel Paterson's God of the Machine (6 customer reviews on Amazon) and, of course, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (with 1,012 reader reviews on Amazon) and Atlas Shrugged (2,028 reviews on Amazon!).  The latter three books are great reads and fascinating books.  I find Lane's The Discovery of Freedom interesting for its historical role, useful for some information on a period of time in Europe and the U.S., but strained in the recurring analogy of freedom with energy.  The analogy is useful and true, but its overuse throughout the book bore a weight on me that was just a bit too much about half way through the book.  She is also less clear-minded about many issues than Paterson or Rand and she is too religious in her thinking to be as satisfying.


Christian Prophet said...

Thanks. It would serve to ask everyone we know to read Atlas Shrugged not only because of Rand's accurate prophecy, but because of the solution she offers. See the article "Ayn Rand, 20th Century Prophetess":

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

This is a very different take on Christianity for me. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is considered both prophetic and it sets right a long-standing misunderstanding of Christian dogma that sacrifice is moral! Shortly after the publication of Atlas Shrugged, Helen Schucman wrote down the word of Jesus in A Course in Miracles in which Jesus sought to have the mistaken Christian dogma of sacrifice corrected. To quote from the link source:

For the salvation of mankind, the thought that sacrifice is somehow a moral ideal has to disappear. This idea was incorrect when it first started to spread among mankind, but its destructive effects became painfully obvious when it was picked up and championed as a societal ideal by Auguste Comte and Karl Marx. It has been an idea responsible for never-ending suffering and death, and can only bring about the ruin of America and Western freedoms ... unless we refuse it.

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's fictional hero John Galt makes this declaration on an ethical level: “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

Jesus Christ in A Course in Miracles drives home the point on an even more fundamental metaphysical level: "The lesson I was born to teach, and still would teach to all my brothers, is that sacrifice is nowhere and love is everywhere."

Often a prophet or prophetess is a forerunner, signaling disaster about to come ... and offering at least a hint as to the solution. Ayn Rand was a great 20th Century prophetess. Freedoms known in the Western world will be saved if everyone you know reads her novels. And yet her inner hearing was not in every instance 100% clear. The clearest inner hearing had to wait for the humility of Helen Schucman and the voice of Jesus Christ:

The thought of sacrifice gives rise to all the forms that suffering appears to take. And sacrifice is an idea so mad that sanity dismisses it at once. Never believe that you can sacrifice. There is no place for sacrifice in what has any value. If the thought occurs, its very presence proves that error has arisen, and correction must be made.

And, as you would expect, Jesus in his Lesson 187 gives us the thought which corrects:

"I bless the world
because I bless

Back to my comments: I do not believe in a god and the Judeo-Christian god/gods seem all to much like the imaginings of men not terrifically bright of 2 or 3 thousand years ago. That is, if there were a god, he would be different than the Judeo-Christian ideas of god. But, it is not clear that a god would take much interest in man either. But the kind of god that man would take the most interest in would be a god who believed man should live in accordance with his nature and that would mean that man would be expected to live by the morality and principles of Objectivism! Now, if one had just read Atlas Shrugged and realized that Ayn Rand had demonstrated the severe shortcomings of the morality of traditional Christianity and one wanted to hang onto God and Jesus, it would make a lot of sense to bring Jesus back to correct the errors of a morality which had failed mankind! This is an interesting phenomena, indeed. A god who expected and wanted man to live his life as an Objectivist would be a worthy being, at least if that being had the essential and fundamental property of existence.