Smith: Ayn Rand Redux

In the wake of two new biographies of Ayn Rand, MarginalRevolution’s Alex Tabbarok today reposts and links to some of his and Tyler Cowan’s writings on her 100th birthday in February 2009, and draws attention to her “virtue ethics.” For that same event, CEI’s Fred Smith had an eloquent tribute showing how Rand explored the moral foundations of economic liberty and provided insights into the assault on free enterprise.  Here are some excerpts from Smith’s article that are especially relevant in today’s political climate:

She called businessmen “America’s persecuted minority.” And today-as has been the case at least since the start of the Industrial Revolution-many businessmen and -women feel they are the victims of a special scorn directed at them not because they cheat or steal but, rather, because they grow wealthy through their own honest efforts by producing goods and services that they sell to willing customers. Politicians translate this disdain into higher taxes, regulations, and special criminal penalties on these producers.

On the centenary of her birth, Ayn Rand remains a unique defender of capitalism. She showed in both her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged-published in 1957-and in her non-fiction essays the disastrous effects of mixing politics with economics. But she went further than other laissez-faire advocates, emphasizing the moral foundations of economic liberty. In this way, she provided an even deeper understanding of how freedom is lost and how it might be protected or restored.

Here’s part of his conclusion on what’s needed to address the attacks on free markets:

Rand offered not only insights into statism but also the ethical antidote to the assault on free markets. Individuals must stand up for their rights. American businessmen and -women must reject unearned guilt and stop apologizing for creating the richest country on Earth. Those who value freedom must offer moral justice to entrepreneurs by celebrating their great achievements and recognizing that they should be proud of themselves. In a culture based on these values, politicians who offer to redistribute wealth or threaten to limit freedom would be treated like pickpockets or bank robbers, and thus would stick to their job of protecting the lives, liberties, and property of the citizens.