The objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand was born in St Petersburg Russia, to a middle class Jewish family with her former name of Alecia Rosenbaum. She lived under communism’s brutal reality during most of her youth, and it was blindingly obvious to her that she wasn’t going to survive given her outlandish opinions. Therefore, the family organised her transfer to the United States in the early 1920’s, while there, she was able to fulfil her passion of cinema and film in Hollywood. During her time she met her future husband, learnt english and later became an author and a scriptwriter. Back home in Russia, by contrast, she was under the dictate of the communist machine and couldn’t freely express herself. Meanwhile, her father’s successful private pharmaceutical company became subjected to government nationalisation along with their modest family home, for them to end up having to share a small house with many families. This fusion of conformity, coercion and lack of progression saw her totally reject collectivism. If this isn’t the perfect American Dream story, well I don’t know what would be.
This brings us nicely, to the current race for the White House. Is Rand’s America, which focused on the pursuit of happiness, personal freedom and capitalism being upheld and advanced or is America quickening the process to which it becomes a collectivist monster that she had foretold during her developed work.
I often see elections not by left or right, but by authoritarian collectivists against classically liberal individualists, and this years election is seriously lacking in the latter. On the left, we have Bernie Sanders, who wants to increase the size of government, on the centre-right, we have Hillary Clinton, who also wants to increase the size of government, and Donald Trump on the right, who wants to expand government too. So why then are we told that the candidates are so radically different? In sheer policy they are, but in outcomes they all advocate government coercion or some form of statism.
Furthermore, the main contenders are showing this election as the sham that it is. Trump wants to erect walls, ramp up protectionist trade barriers, and spouts nativist rhetoric. By comparison, Hillary uses identity politics, promotes stealth taxes on companies, and wants to silence people who question the state’s activities (Edward Snowdon).
All this comes down to the politics of envy, being rich is bad, immigrants are destructive, free enterprise needn’t be free and expressing dissenting views is forbidden. Ayn Rand would look to this years election with no surprise, as we have the usual attack on individual freedoms, be it to limit abortion rights or expanding the welfare state. However she would highlight the upsurge in racism, (given both candidates are making race the pivotal theme), as the prime example of America’s dangerous slide towards collectivism.
Belonging to certain races makes you special, superior or inferior according to the Democratic and Republican nominees, if only they could remember Rand’s statement on minorities, “The smallest minority on earth is the individual”. If the individual was the central theme, one would have a positive American election, yet this tribalism is strikingly similar to the Russia Alecia Rosenbaum escaped from.
However, it would be wrong to say that this election was the start of America’s decline, but it would be correct to suggest, that the decline is solidly irreversible. The answers needn’t be difficult for Americans to discover, put simply, Ayn’s philosophy focuses itself around the individual as being a sovereign entity, found most eloquently in America’s very own constitution.