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Foundations of a Free Society book cover

Conservatives, Libertarians, Anarchists vs. Rand on Politics

“I’m for liberty,” one student told me recently, “and I get that Rand advocated a free society. But how does she relate to libertarianism, conservatism, and anarchism?” This question came up at ARI’s annual student conference last November. I hear variations on it all the time. Many people know that Rand was a champion of capitalism; few know the nature of her argument, or what makes it distinctive.

One virtue of the just-published Foundations of a Free Society is that it offers an in-depth look at Rand’s political thought. And the book helps us understand how her distinctive moral case for a free society relates to (and contrasts with) the views of other philosophers who are seen as advocates for liberty.

Recently I had the chance to talk with one of the book’s coeditors, Gregory Salmieri, and, among many topics, we discussed the issue of how to situate Rand’s ideas on the intellectual landscape. Some of the topics we touched on:

  • What was Rand’s case for capitalism, and how does it compare with the conservative argument that a “rising tide lifts all boats”?
  • How does Rand’s approach relate to the views of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick?
  • What was Rand’s view of anarchism?
  • Rand held as a matter of principle that the initiation of physical force was morally wrong, while libertarians speak of a non-aggression principle; what sets these views apart?
  • Rand held that “Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.” Why did she hold this view?

During the conversation, Greg and I mention some of the chapters in the book and their authors, so here is the book’s table of contents:

Foundations of a Free Society table of contents

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Elan Journo

Elan Journo is a senior fellow and director of Policy Research at the Ayn Rand Institute. His latest book is titled What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Elan is a senior editor of New Ideal.

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