Ideas Power Elections


March 24, 2016 by Anders Ingemarson

“The task of defining ideas and goals is not the province of politicians and is not accomplished at election time: elections are merely consequences. The task belongs to the intellectuals. The need is more urgent than ever.”

Ayn Rand, from “The Wreckage of The Consensus” in “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” (1967)

Yes, many Americans have cause to be angry. This century has so far been miserable if you’re dependent on a salary or wage for your daily survival and for saving up for retirement. When you don’t seem to be able to get ahead and when it gets harder and harder to provide for your near and dear, then you slowly lose hope and feel that you gradually lose control of your life. The resentment, fear and despair easily turn to blame and a search for someone to take revenge on: Wall Street cronies who have enriched themselves at your expense; the inside-the-beltway establishment of all political persuasions who seems impervious to your concerns; immigrants who supposedly have “stolen” your job, brought domestic terrorism on you, and “taken” the social benefits you have counted on; multinational corporations moving “American” jobs abroad, depriving you of career opportunities and a decent paycheck; conservatives who refuse to forgive your student loans and keep meddling in your bedroom habits; leftists who lay claim to your hard-earned money and regulate your life in every detail.

But revenge is a destructive force. It may provide a moment of fleeting satisfaction and a short-lived feeling of pseudo justice. But the temporary high is soon replaced by a new low and, as nothing really will have changed for the better, a desire to find another victim to blame, another person or group to take revenge on. If left unchecked, this path eventually descends into Nihilism: destruction for destruction’s sake. No, we are not there yet, but little by little, election by election, we’re getting closer to the tipping point;  comparisons with Weimar Germany are not floating abstractions.

Presidential hopefuls on both sides have tapped into this maelstrom of resentment and discontent. Their message is overwhelmingly negative, offering a multitude of ways of “sticking it to the man” (or woman or group). Positive visions about America’s future are sorely absent from the main political stage. No “shining city on a hill” in sight. It appears they have given up on the ideas that made America great—the self-evident truths that we have inalienable, individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness regardless of background, race, gender and social standing. Or more likely, they never understood or outright rejected those ideas in the first place.

Election results are a consequence of ideas. What we see playing out is just the latest chapter in more than 100 years of assault on America’s founding principles by collectivist ideas urging us to abandon our rugged individualism in favor of group-ism—the claim that the group, not the individual, is the fundamental unit of society, and that protecting group “rights,” not individual rights, should be the main concern of government.

The support for front runners subscribing to nationalist and socialist inspired ideas advocating the supremacy of one collective over another—Americans over foreigners, the “disenfranchised” over the “1%”, and so on—is a direct reflection of 100 years of teaching such ideas in our government and private schools and universities.

We don’t think our country is destined to descend into Nihilistic chaos. But the dominant collectivist ideas will most likely continue to worsen both the domestic situation and our relationship with the rest of the world for quite a few election cycles.

However, beneath the collectivist powered maelstrom flows a strong undercurrent of ideas carrying the message of individualism, individual rights and Capitalism to a wider audience. Here are but a few examples of this growing movement:

  • Young Americans around the country are spreading the word in high schools and on college campuses through organizations such as Students for Liberty, and Turning Point USA, engaging large numbers of formerly apolitical students open to rational arguments.
  • Many high school and college students actively study the writings of Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Friedrich von Hayek, Henry Hazlitt and others, rediscovering individualist inspired alternatives to the predominantly collectivist curricula of their education.
  • Literally millions of young Americans have been exposed to the inspiring message of individualism thanks to the Ayn Rand Institute’s Free Books for Teachers program offering free classroom sets of her groundbreaking novels Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
  • The number of liberty and freedom promoting think tanks are at an all-time high as evidenced by the Atlas Network’s directory.
  • Mainstream media may appear stuck in collectivistopia, but the online community of pro-individualist, pro-capitalist columnists and bloggers is more vibrant than ever. Check out some of our favorites Robert Tracinski, Michael Hurd, and Voices For Reason.

The undercurrent of individualism, individual rights and Capitalism is slowly reaching the growing number of independently thinking Americans who don’t feel at home within the traditional political parties and who are open for individualist antidotes to the dominant anti-American collectivist ideas. As they consider their options at election time they will start looking for alternatives to the current establishment and populist candidates. And where there’s an untapped political market for new ideas, candidates championing those ideas will soon follow.

At SEPARATE! we are proud to count ourselves among the new intellectuals who are swimming with the undercurrent of individualism, individual rights and Capitalism. We frequently dip into the political news flow in search of inspiration, but championing the moral case for separating state and the economy looks beyond election cycles.

It is impossible to say when the dark forces of collectivism will give way in earnest to a new dawn of individualism. But at SEPARATE! we are perennial rational optimists. And we gain strength, inspiration and joie-de-vivre from the fact that fighting for the future means living in it today.

2 thoughts on “Ideas Power Elections

  1. I’m concerned that individualist curricula items, free Ayn Rand books, and other attempts to educate folks are too slow. By the time you’ve showed some people the benefits of Capitalism, there are new people.


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