Ayn Rand Endorses Big Government

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Following up on my earlier post, several readers wrote me about my query about the Randian comments that a large government is okay in some cases. Jeff Keller writes:

I think the originator of that quote was Roger Donway (from David Kelley’s Atlas Society/TOC, not the Ayn Rand Institute). He wrote…

“Limited government” means a government restricted to certain purposes, namely, the defense of individual rights; “small government” means a government that absorbs a small percentage of the gross national product. If a country has been invaded, its government might absorb 50 percent or more of the nation’s product to mount a defense—and yet remain a “limited government” in the relevant sense. Conversely, a government that abandons its military and police missions might spend very little of the national output, but if it spends that little on health, education, and welfare, it is not a “limited government.”

The above is from a piece called Government, Yes! Leviathan, No!

I recall hearing David Kelley make a similar point: that smallness of government isn’t the primary concern, but whether it functions within its legitimate authority (Kelley, et al.’s view of legitimacy, of course). That was at the 1999 TOC Summer Seminar, which I attended. I think it was during a debate Kelley had with Randy Barnett over anarchism vs. minarchism, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

In The Libertarians’ Albatross, Butler Shaffer recalls John Hospers who “recently wrote that ‘voting for George W. Bush is the most libertarian thing we can do,’ and that ‘a continued Bush presidency . . . might well succeed in preserving Western civilization.’ Kerry ‘will weaken our military establishment,’ he went on, quoting favorably from a statement made by Rand, in 1962, to the effect that paying 80% for taxes was justified ‘if you need it for defense.’”

As Stan Lee used to say: ’nuff said.

Update: See also Anthony Gregory’s skewering of Randian statism (including the 80% tax remark) in The Ideal Randian State.

6:33 pm on May 31, 2009
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