Ayn Rand Was Not a Libertarian: The Errors of Hyper-Individualism

If one spends any time around libertarian circles at all, they inevitably encounter the discussion of individualism vs. collectivism. Individualism is perceived by many to be the ultimate anti-statist position and it is believed that any collectivist thought whatsoever proves that you are no libertarian at all. A lot of this thinking can be traced back to the objectivist movement and Ayn Rand (who denounced libertarianism altogether) who sermonized endlessly about individual liberty. Now surely, our natural rights come from our humanity and our identity as an individual and these gifts from our creator. It is not, however, within the natural order of things for human beings to completely segregate themselves and become independent of all social and human interaction. Man is not an island. Human beings throughout time have always been tribal and if the state were abolished today we would not see many people recluse and live completely alone. Because of man’s need to work with one another, we would see communities, and even nations, form on the grounds of mutual consent. So if the purest form of libertarianism (anarcho-capitalism) seeks to abolish the state so a natural order may be implemented, one can logically conclude that complete and unabashed individualism is not synonymous with libertarianism at all.

Once one is exposed to the world of identity politics the debate between individualism and collectivism becomes all the more fierce. If any libertarian dare talk about the differences between ethnic groups in terms of IQ, time preference, or voting patterns they are automatically dismissed as unlibertarian, wicked collectivists. The mistake they are making is in viewing pure libertarian philosophy as solely individualistic. If the goal of libertarianism is to abolish the monopolist state so that there may be a full recognition of private property rights and peaceful cooperation, then it would be completely disadvantageous in the marketplace to continue on as a lone wolf. Through cooperation, one is able to use his abilities in a network of people to provoke even greater prosperity, thus some people are mangers while others are laborers. And if the natural inclination of human beings is to separate into groups; either by race, culture, belief system, religion, family, or anything else, then it would require state force to maintain the hyper-indvidualistic egalitarian model as the status quo. One should keep in mind that a nation would thus not require a state whatsoever and that if your goal is to “liberate people” from allegiance to family, faith, or any group they choose to associate with, then you share a common goal with the State: the overthrow of the right to association and disassociation. But perhaps the greatest flaw of those in libertarian circles parroting these hyper-individualistic talking points is their hypocrisy. In denouncing “collectivism” by shaming anyone with a group preference for their own race, culture, and/or religion or slandering anyone who notices the differences between theirs and others, they take part in the greatest collectivist thought known to man in assuming that all humankind, all races, all cultures and all religions are the same.

Not far removed from this conversation is the need for an order of operations in achieving libertarian goals. Of course, anyone who is consistent in the philosophy would tell you that people have the freedom of association though they are not guaranteed this always in the market place, but some would still tell you that as long as the state controls resources it would be immoral to impose any restriction upon using them. But the net victims of taxation are the rightful owners of this so-called public property and to steal from them to fund it and deny them ability to have a say upon use of it is merely adding insult to injury and compounding the original evil. By removing restrictions to the commons, one demands the formation of cesspools and the exhaustion of these resources. Minus total privatization, one must restrict access to unowned land. What we also have to deal with is a hyper-inclusive mass democracy. And while we might see voting as a completely illegitimate means of force it is still the weapon that is in play. While it might strike you as collectivist to limit voting or immigration because of this, it is still more compatible with the end goal of libertarianism which is voluntary exclusion or inclusion through the total acceptance of private property rights. Inviting anyone and everyone into a country to change its voting pattern and influence its culture inevitably shifts the country as a whole leftward and creates more dependents lured in by promises of welfare, thus making it more difficult to scale back or eliminate our enemy, the State.