Our new Home Secretary Sajid Javid is a big Ayn Rand fan: twice a year, he reads the courtroom scene in ‘The Fountainhead’. He said so in an interview with The Spectator: “It’s about the power of the individual … About sticking up for your beliefs, against popular opinion. Being that individual that really believes in something and goes for it.” This curious fetish for Ayn Rand extends to conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic – Paul Ryan often gives Rand’s novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as a Christmas present.
Javid is a capable figure who has no less of a chance of ascending to the top than any other of the Tory leadership hopefuls. If he is successful, the party of Burke and Oakeshott might just become the party of Rand. He could write the next chapter in the enduring influence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy on the Conservative imagination.
So who was Ayn Rand? And why does she resonate with Javid? In her essays, novels and philosophy, she promoted – in an extremely repetitious style – an aesthetic of individual liberty, the intrinsic morality of individual acquisitiveness, and the joy of individual self-empowerment.
Here is Stephen Davies, Head of Education at the free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs: “Followers of Rand are not really conservatives in the proper sense of that term. What they are is supporters of a particular economic position (free market capitalism) who are also fans of small government in general and are admirers of individualism as an ethical and social position. Rand articulates very powerfully and clearly things that they feel in a much less articulate way, above all an assertion of individual will and autonomy against social conventions and the will of the majority.