Not that anyone who should try to find out about the distinction would care, but Ayn Rand ≠ libertarianism.
I recently had an email forwarded to me by a friend on an “Occupy” listserve from an academic with the subject line “A little something for the libertarians” with a copy/paste of an article about Ayn Rand’s creepy admiration of a serial killer from the 1920s.
It doesn’t bother me that this academic went for a lame ad hom attack of a writer. (Would I try to dismiss socialism by citing Stalin’s character flaws? No! I can do much better than that.) What bothers me is that this is supposed to be a “gotcha” moment for libertarians because somehow Ayn Rand has become a blanket term/the figurehead of libertarianism.
Of course, it isn’t because Randian philosophy ≠ libertarianism.
I know many libertarians and conservatives, including myself, who loved reading Atlas Shrugged in their youth. The book’s argument against collectivism resonates well with pro-liberty individuals. However, Randian philosophy comprises a whole bunch of embarrassing epistemic, moral, and aesthetic components that repulse many actual avowed libertarians. (And did during her life too.)
Yet this is the third time in my college career that I have bore witness to someone in higher education using Ayn Rand’s character flaws to dismiss an ideology she didn’t even like!
I’m happy to quote Ayn Rand when she made a good point against collectivism, but I stick to Hayek and Mises for the most part. Because, you know, they happily represent what libertarians believe.