Atlas Shredded: Rush, Rand Paul, and Ayn Rand

by Jason Lee Oakes

Rand Paul–son of Ron Paul, author of The Tea Party Goes to Washingtonand freshman senator from Kentucky–likes the band Rush. Or maybe he’d describe it more as love, using their music to rev up campaign rallies and quoting their lyrics in speeches. But alas the band hasn’t returned his affections. In fact they’ve been downright withholding, demanding he stop using their music in his 2010 senatorial campaign, and calling their lawyers into the (moving) picture.

Libertarians, however, don’t take kindly to such regulatory action:

“Tom Sawyer” (1981, Moving Pictures) is arguably Rush’s most iconic song. With its fanfare power chords, shifting time signatures, and look-I-can-play-the-synthesizer-with-my-feet virtuosity, it’s a prog rock and AOR and D&D session staple. Delivered in Geddy Lee’s mountain-scaling tenor, the heroism implied by the music is made explicit in the lyrics. Penned by drummer Neil Peart and Canadian poet Pye Dubois, they describe a “modern day warrior” whose “mind is not for rent / to any god or government.”

Enter Ayn Rand. In light of this lyrical pronouncement–and in light of Rush’s seven-part opus, 2112 (1976), which includes a credit to “the genius of Ayn Rand” in the liner notes–some listeners took “Tom Sawyer” itself to be an Objectivist mini-manifesto. And then in Fall 2002, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies took the discussion to the scholarly realm with a long, heavily-footnoted piece on the overlap of Rush, Ayn Rand, and progressive rock (which itself inspired an academic symposium and a number of published rejoinders).

Libertarians, of course, love them some Ayn Rand. And so does a growing proportion of the Republican Party. Over the past generation, the party has increasingly come under the sway of the Russian intellectual and “dorm-room doyenne,” this according to a growing consensus of critics and boosters alike.

Enter Randal Paul, “Rand” for short. In his speech last night, Rand Paul went into John Galt soliloquy-mode with some of his pronouncements: “The great and abiding lesson of American history…is that the engine of capitalism, the individual, is mightier than any collective,” and, “It’s hard to see a boat full of people like that and not get a lump somewhere between chin and belly button” (bizarre phraseology isn’t unknown in the Ayn Rand oeuvre).

Ergo, Rand Paul digs Rush, Rush digs Ayn Rand, and Rand is guru of the Tea Party and Rand Paul. And so with that the Rush-Rand-Paul troika is complete; the only “friction of the day” being Rush’s copyright concerns, and Neil Peart’s recent renouncement of Objectivism.