Objectivism and Thomas Jefferson: Front Page

Objectivism and Thomas Jefferson

Seven Essays on the Philosophy of Ayn Rand

  • 1
    Reason as

  • 2
    Safety in

  • 3
    Happiness as
    Moral Purpose

  • 4
    as Virtue

  • 5
    Capitalism Over

  • 6
    of Force

  • 7
  • Objectivists and those Libertarians influenced by Ayn Rand all claim Thomas Jefferson as their patron saint, as does every other political faction now-a-days, it seems. But some of the very basic premises of Objectivist philosophy vary significantly from many of the basic premises of Jefferson's politics. These differences suggest a fundamental incompatible, even though there are some selected statements by Jefferson that all Objectivists and Libertarians wholeheartedly embrace.

    As with any philosophical system taken seriously by highly intelligent adherents, Objectivism is an intricate, complex set of doctrines that occupies the best mental energies of some very capable people. It begins with certain premises, and on those builds a highly intricate structure. We have no intention here of discussing all the ramifications of Objectivist theory. What we intend to show is that Jefferson's thought included some very basic premises that formed a foundation for a political philosophy which, while including some statements that are consonant with Objectivist beliefs, is nevertheless in overall and fundamental disagreement with their foundations. This is not intended as a critique or examination of Objectivist philosophy as a whole. It merely examines some of the fundamentals and attempts to show that an incompatibility exists at a very basic level. Hence, the basic premises discussed here are not highly abstract; they are instead simple, "self-evident" truths that can be appreciated by the mind of any thoughtful person.

    Orthodox Objectivists -- those who adhere strictly to the original teachings of Ayn Rand -- do not treat Jefferson's thought as a complete philosophical system. Rather, they treat his writings as a resource from which they can extract a few isolated thoughts and use them to support their own positions. This causes them to ignore other thoughts of Jefferson that do not fit their purposes, and that put those more acceptable statements of Jefferson in a different light. But any thorough examination of Jefferson's thought will reveal that his statements are not just isolated ideas; they all fit together into a complete, interrelated philosophy of individual liberty and national self-government. All of his statements are built upon certain fundamental ideas, and derive their force from the basic premises that give meaning to the whole.

    These essays will therefore focus on the differences between Jefferson's thought and that of Ayn Rand. There are people who call themselves Objectivists who do not adhere strictly to all of Miss Rand's teachings. Indeed, many feel that she was outright wrong on some issues and agree with some of the points made here. As a result, "Objectivism" means one thing to some, and another to others, and Objectivist thought becomes an uncertain target. But we here will be looking at what might be called "orthodox" Objectivism: Objectivism as taught by Ayn Rand and embraced by most of her followers.

    Comments, questions and suggestions may be sent to the following email address:



  • Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government
      Jefferson's political philosophy in his own words. Includes over 2,700 excerpts under 56 topics and is a source for the most important of his quotations.

  • The Jeffersonian Perspective
      Commentary on today's social and political issues based on the writings of Thomas Jefferson.

  • The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth
      Jefferson's compilation of the moral philosophy of Jesus extracted textually from the Gospel accounts.

  • Life of Thomas Jefferson, by B. L. Rayner
      Rayner's lively and interesting full-length biography, published in 1834, emphasizes the role of republican principles in Jefferson's life and thought.

  • Jefferson FAQ

    Web Sites with Links to Objectivism and
    Thomas Jefferson

    Critiques of Libertarianism | Conversations on Morality

    Jefferson Glapski's American Revolution Page | Glennie's Student Assist Homepage

    Ayn Rand Resources and Links

    Go to the Essays

    Front Page | 1. Reason as Absolute
    2. Safety in Error | 3. Happiness as Moral Purpose
    4. Selfishness as Virtue | 5. Capitalism Over Self-Government
    6. Non-Initiation of Force | 7. Adversaries of Democracy


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