What do you call an anti-family libertarian like Stefan Molyneux? A Marxist.

“If you want to perform the greatest service for political liberty, all you have to do is turf all of your unsatisfying relationships. Parents, siblings, spouse, it doesn’t matter.” –Stefan Molyneux

“If you want to perform the greatest service for political liberty, all you have to do is turf all of your unsatisfying relationships. Parents, siblings, spouse, it doesn’t matter.” –Stefan Molyneux

I do not wish to dwell on matters Molyneuvian, but I do want to make it plain what I am arguing about:

The father-led family is the sine qua non of human civilization as such. Hence, to be anti-family is necessarily to be anti-libertarian and anti-egoistic, both (among many other anti-values) as an inescapable consequence of being at war with the engine of human thriving.

Is Stefan Molyneux anti-family? Vide:

Do you think it extreme for me to say that almost all parents are horribly bad? Perhaps it is. However, if you look at the state of the world – the general blindness and the slow death of our liberties – the challenge you take on by disagreeing with me is this: if it’s not the parents, what is it?

Either the world is not sick, or parents are. Because, as my wife says, it all starts with the family. If you want to perform the greatest service for political liberty, all you have to do is turf all of your unsatisfying relationships. Parents, siblings, spouse, it doesn’t matter.

And, of course, this is exactly what Molyneux, his wife and their most devoted followers have done – destroyed not one life-long storgic relationship but every one they had, not for outrageous abuse but for being ‘unsatisfying.’

Saving Molyneux’s minions the time: Cherry-picking, contrary-examples, blah, blah, blah. Molyneux reasons like a child – in this case hyperbole and false dichotomy leading to a devastatingly disproportionate conclusion – but he and his closest followers are persistently, consistently anti-family.

The late Ayn Rand and her followers, too, it is fair to note, though perhaps less so. Officially official-Objectivism exalts entrepreneurs and creators, but practically-speaking official-Objectivist organizations are devoted to cultivating largely-childless academics. That’s comical, considering how wonderfully anti-academician Atlas Shrugged is, but it remains that while she and her oracles are not explicitly, overtly anti-family, big-O Objectivism is never pro-family, and every representative exponent of the salutary consequences of living Rand’s moral philosophy is childless. Likewise, to the extent that what Molyneux calls the ‘family-of-origin’ (foo) is ever represented, it is usually painted in a hostile light.

In sum: Ayn Rand was a deeply dissatisfied high-C INTJ who wrote a philosophy that is very appealing to deeply dissatisfied high-C INTJs. Her work ‘unfoos’ those kids: Half-assed Marxists become half-assed capitalists and devout theists become devout atheists instead. That much is not objectionable: All evangelical doctrines recruit by conversion, and ‘in with the new’ implies ‘out with the old.’ There can be conflicts as these young people try on their new ideas, but the name for this process is simply individuation.

The Molyneux ‘defoo’ is very different: “If you want to perform the greatest service for political liberty, all you have to do is turf all of your unsatisfying relationships. Parents, siblings, spouse, it doesn’t matter.” What Molyneux means by defooing – minus the hair-shirt demurrers – is destroying all of your long-term storgic relationships all at once on a whim. This is his experience, his wife’s and that of many of his followers, with zero deviations from this pattern that I know of.

That much is just crazy – albeit perhaps crazy like a fox, since de facto defooing is precisely what cult leaders do to take control of their prey. As with Rand, we should note that Molyneux is uniformly anti-family in the sense that family is rarely even praised, much less defended as the sine qua non of the uniquely-human life. That’s important: The hurdle defenders of either Rand or Molyneux must leap is not that they are not anti-family, but that they are in any way pro-family.

Both fail that test, and in failing it they fail magnificently. Both can continue to recruit among the niche populations they appeal to now, but neither can grow as only pro-family doctrines can grow – one father, one family, one fishbowl at a time. The future belongs to the children of parents, so the ideas of the childless are almost always self-extinguishing in due course.

But so much worse than that is the simple fact that the family is the only reliable redoubt against not just tyranny but all of chaos. To be implicitly anti-family, like Rand, or explicitly anti-family, like Molyneux, is to make war on the source of all human thriving. Without the enduring love of families there is no other love, nor any enduring values of any sort.

Who will win the battle for the future? Egoists, ultimately, people who hew to a moral philosophy like mine. But to the extent they uphold anti-family premises – as doctrine or just in their everyday praxis – putative libertarians are in essence de facto advocates of Marxism, since only thieves dance in the rubble of a vanquished freehold.

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  • Anthony

    I agree that Rand did not focus on the family. But I think it is false to say that she was anti-family. She loved her father deeply and valued the relationship highly. She was also close with a sister who remained in the SU [although this relationship dwindled as the sister became more of a communist over time].

    The ultimate purpose of her work was to depict the ideal man. With John Galt, off the top of my head, his back story is very brief – there could be reasons unknown to us for this. Roark’s is longer however, and from memory, there is explicit discussion of his family and it is a loving one to some significant extent.

    I believe it stands in contrast to Toohey’s childhood actually.

    Rand never had children of course, but she did give birth to objectivism throughout her adult life. For all that Ayn was joked of to be “the best man I’ve ever known”, I believe this act was very feminine for and of her, even if it was not recognized explicitly in that way within her own mind.

    – Anthony

    edit : it may also be worth noting that Ayn changed her name *to* Ayn Rand to protect the safety of her immediate family back in the SU.

    • The specific examples of (call it) fambivalence stand: Families are usually bad – either indifferent (Roark) or hostile (Reardon) – or pathetically neutral at best (as with Dagny’s parents). None of Rand’s heroes has children. Very few are married while the action is taking place, and marriage is represented as being both weak and fungible – which was her doctrinal position as well, and her praxis. Official Objectivism is not even weakly pro-family, so the best claim one can make, I think, is that Rand was not explicitly, overtly anti-family. But this is not damnation by faint praise, but a dismissal by no acknowledgment of the without-which-never of all of human existence.

      This is a twentieth-century blindness in Rand and in many of her contemporaries, the unquestioned belief that ideas could defy nature. This is where the abortion argument comes from, as well as the casual glossing she gives to marriage and adultery. As much as she railed against ivory tower intellectuals, she was nevertheless one of them, and the idea of taking guidance from reality, rather that affecting to guide it by exhortation, was as alien to her as it was to the Marxists she railed against.

      No family, no future. It’s that simple. Any moral philosophy that puts the family anywhere but first among social entities is objectively wrong – wrong as to the nature of human beings – but in being wrong it is both self-extinguishing and, if consistently practiced, anti-human-thriving.

      I’m not accusing Rand of malice. I’m not sure about Molyneux, but defooing is an incalculable evil even if he thinks he is doing something good.

      • David Brodie

        Somewhat insignificant, but there is the woman in Galt’s Gulch who talks about having made being a mother her profession.

        Also, I’m pretty sure Leonard Peikoff and Yaron Brooke have children. But I always wondered why Rand never did.

        • > Somewhat insignificant

          I thought of that, too, and that level of evaluation is what matters.

          The death of Tony the Wet Nurse is as close as Rand comes to admitting that human beings exist prior to the Freshman year of college. The only children she wrote were Dagny, Eddie and Frisco, and then only as back-story gloss. Rand was a paleo-feminist in her ground-state conviction that raising a child is relatively automatic but is in any case a menial and uninteresting task.

          Family life is simply not on her radar at all. Romantic love is evaluated far above storgic love, and the only storgic relationships I can think of in her novels are Roark’s friendships with Mike and Mallory. The only storgic events I can recall are the scenes in Mallory’s tenement and in his shack on the site of the Stoddard Temple.

          DISC it: Rand is a high-C with a big-I neediness (Anthony mentioned her father, which is interesting). Roark and Wynand are both high-Ds (INTJ and ESTJish, respectively, just on the fly). Mallory is a high-S, and Rand portrays his social needs as a weakness – a very high-C thing to do. And yet Mallory is all the family love there is in Rand’s two major works. I’m judging her fiction by my values, but its interesting for me to see how completely absent my values are from her idealizations.

          > Also, I’m pretty sure Leonard Peikoff and Yaron Brooke have children.

          Check. Optional but not celebrated, and yet hugely absent from the lives of most prominent big-O Objectivists. Like other Bourgeoise Bohemians, they are often married for life, but they typically have one or fewer children per couple. To have children, in the libertarian world at large, is to confess failure, since – per Roark and by unrelenting examples from history, in art and in contemporary role models – what matters most is your career and what you achieve in it. Whether it’s work, paleo, weight-training or defoolishness, a libertarian life is all but certain to be an unbalanced life, all led by a short stout needy woman who wanted more than anything to be a tall slim indifferent man. (Her father here, too?)

          > But I always wondered why Rand never did.

          ‘Elegy for a Soprano’ hints that she aborted or adopted out or abandoned a child in Russia, but that doesn’t even rise to the level of gossip. Her marriage suggests that she was either incapable of empathy or unwilling to change her behavior in response to it. The lifelong torment of Peikoff argues pretty loudly that the kids Rand didn’t have were lucky not to have her as a mom, but high-Cs make thoroughgoing but distant parents. (Her father again?)

          I annoy a lot of smart people, but every one of those annoyances consists of me throwing off thesis-bait, colorable questions that can be propitiously researched, even though I don’t ever intend to do anything like that (the difference between Ds and Cs). There’s a Master’s in Literature for some bright kid in this thread.

          Here’s another one, which I touched on in the interview I did with Anthony last Summer: TF is Rand wrestling with her own past Nietzscheanism. Dominique is the change character, the Byronic paleo-individualist. She is married, by turns, to Max Stirner, to Friedrich Nietzsche and then to Rand’s idealization of a non-predatory egoism – not quite atomism, but a very emphatic solitarism. It’s that yearning to be free from all bonds – even chosen bonds – that makes Rand’s fiction (and philosophy) so unfamilial.

          Another: TF is also an unadmitted encomium to the works of Henrik Ibsen, with Ike’s Play being a very clever pastiche on ‘The Wild Duck.’

          And another: I think Hank Rearden is a rejection of Howard Roark’s egoism-of-indifference, and that this is why their names are so similar, as authorial telegraphy.

      • Brian Brady

        “No family, no future”

        It really is that simple. The corollary is: Good family, good future.

        Molyneaux always struck me as a “start over” type of guy meaning I took his discussions about family to mean “start fresh with a new family”. This ignores something very obvious though–most everyone has a family in his/her past. Model good families for a good future and learn what NOT to do from the bad ones you see

        • Check. Likewise, the difference between a storgic love and every other kind is simply attitude, commitment, but you don’t train your mind to commit itself by repeatedly breaking your commitments. The failure to remain committed to relationships that are, by then, relatively effortless to maintain does not augur well for relationships that will have to be built from scratch.

          Think of this: If the ruling class wanted to “Emmanuel Goldstein” libertarians, what better way could they go about that than to encourage them to yammer childlessly?

          • Brian Brady

            Libertarians can BE better, not just talk a better game. When people admire you for the way you conduct yourself (in business, family, etc) they seek to model you.

            I’m not interested in the “you should” game but I’m happy to share the “I decided to” game with anyone. Happy, successful libertarians are much better evangelists than internet icons

            • > Happy, successful libertarians are much better evangelists than internet icons

              Yes. This same logic is why comedy, a story that moves from worse to better because of the self-improvement of the protagonist, is so much more persuasive than the cautionary tale.

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