It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand

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This is the most entertaining book on the history of the libertarian movement ever published. It is wild and reckless and reveals more truth that most people are comfortable in hearing. It tells the story of how high ideals can easily turn into fanatical loyalties, ego trips, and institutional corruptions that end in turning those ideals on their heads, not just once but again and again.

The book is Jerome Tuccille’s It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand. It starts with the early years of the liberty movement and explains how a theory of life that heralded freedom, creativity, and individualism mutated into a doctrinaire and rigid system of personal and social control. Murray Rothbard left the circle to escape this intense control and then started his own group. Thus did Rand inspire the creation of a movement that she ended up hating precisely because of the high value it placed on freedom itself. But that was only the beginning of the factionalism. Every new group meant more opportunities for purges and disciplines and controls. There was the break with the right, the break with the left, the break with the extremists and moderates, the break with this group and that. It is a fascinating thing to watch from the point of view of the author, who grows weary of seeing groups repeat the same mistakes again and again.

As one reads the narrative here, one is struck by how strange it is that a movement founded and driven by a concern for human liberty could so easy and so often find itself diverted into endless paths of one or another self-appointed leader attempting but ultimately failing to control the movement. As Roderick Long explains in the introduction to the Laissez Faire Books edition, the book has so much to teach the current generation of liberty lovers, but will they bother reading it and learning from it? Or will history just keep repeating itself?

Author: Jerome Tuccille