A specter is haunting the Republican National Convention—the specter of ideology. The novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) and the economist Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992) are the house deities of many American libertarians, much of the Tea Party, and Paul Ryan in particular. The two thinkers were quite different, subject to much misunderstanding, and, in Hayek’s case, more often cited than read. Yet, in popularized form, their arguments together provide the intellectual touchstone for Ryan and many others on the right wing of the Republican Party, people whose enthusiasm Mitt Romney needs. The irony of today is that these two thinkers, in their struggle against the Marxist left of the mid-twentieth century, relied on some of the same underlying assumptions as Marxism itself: that politics is a matter of one simple truth, that the state will eventually cease to matter, and that a vanguard of intellectuals is needed to bring about a utopia that can be known in advance.
more from Timothy Snyder at the NYRB here.