Three women are credited with launching the modern libertarian movement in the United States.


he battle, history has since shown, is not yet lost, and this is due in no small part to Rand, Paterson, and Lane’s belief in the power of ideas.

Many years ago, thoughtful, well‐​intentioned, educated people in the United States all understood that socialism was the future. The average citizen might have retained a quaint belief in the American system of free enterprise, limited government, and individual rights, but among the cognoscenti — academics, artists, newspaper and radio pundits — it was widely recognized that the capitalist experiment had run its course. The overwhelming consensus was that the coming century would see economies managed by benevolent experts: the chaotic, dog‐​eat‐​dog competition of the market would give way to rational central planning.

History has been unkind to the old conventional wisdom. But the intellectual sea change preceded the visible collapse of socialist economies. The first real sign of the resurrection of the classical liberal idea came with the publication in 1943 of three groundbreaking books unabashedly defending individualism and free‐​market capitalism. Almost as unorthodox as the books’ contents, in the climate of the 1940s, were their authors — three remarkable women described by libertarian journalist John Chamberlain in his memoir:

If it had been left to pusillanimous males probably nothing much would have happened.… Indeed, it was three women — [Isabel] Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Ayn Rand — who, with scornful side glances at the male business community, had decided to rekindle a faith in an older American philosophy. There wasn’t an economist among them. And none of them was a Ph.D.

I had already absorbed the message of Albert Jay Nock’s Our Enemy the State and Hillaire Belloc’s The Servile State , but it was Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine, Rose Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom, and Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and (later) Atlas Shrugged that turned Nock’s conception of social power into detailed reality. These books made it plain that if life was to be something more than a naked scramble for government favors, a new attitude toward the producer must be created.

Paterson, Lane, and Rand began to do just that. Each was an original thinker in her own right. But each also made a mark as a great popularizer of liberal ideas. A few beleaguered liberal economists had argued, with great force, that no planned economy could match… Brinkwire short summary.


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