Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Sex and Social Policy: The Republican Party, Ayn Rand and Family Values


The hearts of Barack Obama's staffers must have leapt for joy at Mitt Romney's choice for running mate of Paul Ryan, the Congressman from Wisconsin, and a self-confessed disciple of Ayn Rand. The Russian-born Rand was a science-fiction writer and free-market 'philosopher', who thought that the development of computers would allow the role of government to be abolished, as statistical input to these enabled the economy to be regulated without human intervention.

So far so orthodox Republican, but Rand took this to radical conclusions in her private life. She surrounded herself with adoring acolytes (including Allen Greenspan, the future chief of the US Federal Reserve, who did so much during his term of office to create the bubble and bust of 2008) and - tiring of her long-term partner - took one or more of these as lovers over a period of time. Indeed, the whole point of her advocacy of free markets was that they would create prosperity and the opportunity for individuals to live out their personal desires and fantasies, without the constraints of traditional morality or religious superstition.

In other words, her libertarian views would be anathema for mainstream Republicans, who tend to be as hot on family values as they are on market freedoms. They present an open goal for the Obama campaign, which can represent her as challenging every right-mindeed principle in her vision of the future of societies. Rand was to sexual morals and religion roughly what Joseph Stalin was to human rights.

What I really like about American politics is the way that extremists nearly always discredit themselves quite unconsciously every time they open their mouths. Ryan, inside his capsule of right-wing utopianism, fails to notice that his idol favoured free love as well as a free economy, and that her story will scandalise the core Republican vote when they know more about her.

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