What Would Ayn Rand Do?

David Harsanyi

6/15/2011 12:01:00 AM - David Harsanyi

For a group that claims to be offended by the mere whiff of politics and religion's intermingling, the left sure does bring up Jesus quite a lot.

The most recent outburst is the work of a progressive outfit called American Values Network. In this instance, God is being dragged into the debate as a way to exaggerate the late author Ayn Rand's influence on GOP policymaking and to smear anyone who happens to find any of her ideas appealing. Not only is she loony, don't you know, but also her notions are in "direct contradiction to the Bible." And Beelzebub's minions -- Paul Ryan and others like him -- simply "can't have it both ways, and neither can Christians."

They can, actually.

As I am neither a theologian nor a Christian, I am in no position to answer the "What Would Jesus Do?" question. My friends on the left (and by friends I mean people I watch on cable TV), though, have alleged that Jesus supports compulsory "charity" so that the wealth can be appropriately invested in Her Lady of the Ethanol, The Blood of Bankruptcy-Prone Social Dependency Program or other worthy causes. That's what Jesus would do.

Now, Rand's influence may induce Republicans to stray from the Lord Almighty, but it is doubtless that most liberals find Rand's anti-theist views the least distasteful aspect of her philosophy. I am no objectivist, either, not even close, and though I doubt her ideas contradict the Bible (well, except the ones in which she denies the existence of God and all), I do know they are in direct disagreement with the doctrines of liberal morality.

For the casual Rand fan, it's the rigid and idealistic conviction about individual freedom and capitalism that is most seductive. For ardent detractors, people who believe that compassion and charity are best meted out by economic systems and government policy, this is depravity. Ayn Rand believed that individuals have the moral responsibility for their own actions. In free will. So, as you can imagine, in this kind of disorder, even Ronald McDonald would get away with it.

All of which, of course, would matter if anyone bought the contention that those who embrace one notion of a philosopher are on the hook to embrace all of the philosopher's notions. Are those who admire Isaac Newton now impelled to believe in alchemy? Is anyone who enjoys Richard Wagner now an anti-Semite? Are all those who believe that wealth should be more "fairly" distributed by the state slouching toward Marxism ... Oh.

And why aren't we focusing on more contemporary cases of guilt by intellectual association? You will remember that the mere mention of the president's pastor or his academic roots or his graduate work or his reading material or his testimonial dinners to terrorist apologists were irrelevant to the man. This administration has put together an all-star team of Malthusian nuts, truthers and Mao-quoting czarinas and czars, yet that doesn't mean a thing. But The New Republic can laughably claim that the heart of Rand's ideology "has become the central focus of both modern conservative thought and Republican policy-making."

Helpfully, the left has spent years pulling passages and alerting us to the bizarre habits of this strange lady. Personally, I enjoy reading about her more than I do reading her work. There are those authors and intellectuals who are so thoroughly odious that they must be completely dismissed. That's understood. But if those on the left are intent on making that case, they should stick to the real reasons they dislike her. Then smear away.