Fostering liberty in international relations theory: the case of Ayn Rand

Abstract

Freedom is one of the pivotal ideas within liberal political thought. All liberals aim to secure individual liberty, but they differ about the degree of freedom that is required for the ‘good life’, particularly in relation to the desired level of interference by the state through public services and taxation. The importance and relevance of this internal liberal debate is hardly acknowledged by theorists of international relations (IR). This has led to a one-sided, often erroneous portrayal of liberalism, despite its dominance in IR theory. Here, this issue will be elaborated through the first comprehensive analysis of the international political thought of Ayn Rand. An analysis of her ideas, put against the main common characteristics of current liberal theories of international relations, yields additional and new evidence for the existence of a ‘liberal knowledge gap in IR theory’. This clearly needs to be acknowledged and addressed by IR theorists to get a fuller comprehension of liberalism and international relations theory.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For The Objectivist Newsletter (Rand 1982a) in-text references give year, volume in Roman numerical: issue, page. For The Objectivist (Rand 1982b) and the Ayn Rand Letter (Rand 1979) it is year, volume in Roman numerical, page.

  2. 2.

    Objectivists counter this by arguing that the American armed forces are not really voluntary, because they are funded on the basis of compulsory taxation. I thank Andreas Harald Aure for making this point.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Douglas Den Uyl, Douglas Rasmussen, Elan Journo, and Andreas Harald Aure for their comments, and Jeff Scialabba and Yaron Brook for assistance. None of them is resposible for the views expressed, or any remaining error, in this article.

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van de Haar, E. Fostering liberty in international relations theory: the case of Ayn Rand. Int Polit 56, 1–16 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-017-0118-9

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Keywords

  • Liberalism
  • IR theory
  • Ayn Rand
  • International political theory
  • Human nature
  • History of international thought