Saturday, October 25, 2008

Isabel Paterson

I have become interested in Isabel Paterson. She was one of the three founders of the modern libertarian movement (along with Ayn Rand and Rose Wilder Lane). Unfortunately, she is somewhat forgotten today.

I came across Wendy McElroy's review of "The Woman and the Dynamo" by Stephen Cox. McElroy notes that Paterson was an important novelist yet unlike the her left wing contemporaries, is little remember today, even in libertarian (and broader conservative) circles.

So, why is Paterson so obscure today? McElroy thinks it is because in libertarian circles at least, novelists have not been as well regarded as professors. While I agree (despite the fact that Rand and Heinlein were both novelists), I think there is another important reason. Ayn Rand had her Objectivist movement. Rose Lane had the Freedom School and she acted as grandmother to the Libertarian Party. Hayek, Mises, and Rothbard had organizations devoted to their ideas. And of course Milton Freedom had the ear of presidents and a network of disciples on economics faculties across the world.

Paterson, on the other hand, was in many ways a lone wolf and most of her work was in a newspaper that ceased publishing 45 years ago. Each time she did try to collaborate, it ended badly. Russel Kirk, William F. Buckley and most famously Ayn Rand all were influenced by her, but she was unable to work with them. They all went onto greater fame, but Paterson remains sadly obscure. Hopefully, that will change (now more than ever).

EDITED Welcome fans of Wendy McElroy. I have learned my lessen and promise not to post typo ridden blog entries in the middle of the night. Look around, and make sure you read more about Isabel Paterson!


ajm said...

Recently, I've come to learn about the work of Isabel Paterson via reading the libertarian / laissez-faire capitalist blogs such as It's a shame that she's been largely ignored. However, she has really lit the fire of liberty with her writings. If anything, anyone who calls themselves a true believer of liberty must read God of the Machine. Keep up the good work!

ajm said... has posted the pdf version of the classic Paterson work, God of the Machine, at