Canadian-born, American literary critic, author of The God of the Machine
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  • Isabel Paterson

    Isabel Paterson (22 January 1886 - 10 January 1961) was a Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and a leading literary and cultural critic of her day. Along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand, who both acknowledged an intellectual debt to Paterson, she is one of the three founding mothers of American libertarianism. Paterson's best-known work, her 1943 book The God of the Machine, a treatise on political philosophy, economics, and history, reached conclusions and espoused beliefs that many libertarians credit as a foundation of their philosophy. Her biographer Stephen D. Cox (2004) believes Paterson was the "earliest progenitor of libertarianism as we know it today." In a letter of 1943, Ayn Rand wrote that The God of the Machine is a document that could literally save the world ... The God of the Machine does for capitalism what Das Kapital does for the Reds and what the Bible did for Christianity".

    Born

    22 Jan 1886, Isabel Mary Bowler, in Manitoulin Island, Ontario

    Died

    10 Jan 1961, in Montclair, New Jersey

    Biography

    Isabel Paterson | Libertarianism.org, by Cato Institute, Mar 2003
    Part of Cato's "Three Women Who Launched a Movement", celebrating during Women's History Month the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of The God of the Machine (as well as Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand books published in the same year)
    "By the time God of the Machine was published, Paterson was living in Connecticut, where she would remain until the early '50s, when she moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Her increasingly unfashionable political views led editors to push her out of her job at the Herald Tribune in 1949, but Paterson's investments enabled her to live well enough without resorting to the acceptance of Social Security benefits."
    Related Topic: Ayn Rand

    Articles

    Book Review: Isabel Paterson and the Ideas of America, by Wendy McElroy, 30 Mar 2005
    Review of the book Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America: The Woman and the Dynamo by UCSD professor of literature Stephen Cox
    "What a woman! Self-educated and self-made. Raised in the Wild West at the turn of the 19th century, she was ... enchanted by the age of machinery ... the book's subtitle (and subsequent text), ... accurately identifies Paterson as an embodiment of the very idea, the very spirit of America, the ideal America of freedom, individualism, and realized human potential. ... Paterson's critique of Churchill expressed a defining characteristic of the ideal American: a willingness to stand firm against the multitude when you know you’re right. In short, the radical individualism that Paterson possessed in abundance."
    Finding Atlas: Before Ayn Rand there was Isabel Paterson, by Stephen Cox, The American Conservative, 4 May 2009
    Biographical account highlighting Paterson's influence on Ayn Rand
    "Paterson (1886-1961) was a novelist and literary critic. ... Stubborn and sharp-witted, she was also one of the New Deal's fiercest foes. ... She had only two years of formal schooling. But she learned from her own experience, as well as her encyclopedic knowledge of history, that economic success results from individual initiative, not federal management."
    Related Topic: Ayn Rand
    Isabel Paterson's Place in History, by Doug French, 20 Jun 2011
    Review of Stephen D. Cox's The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America
    "Isabel Paterson is the 'Pat' Mimi Sutton [Ayn Rand's niece] was referring to — a 'radical individualist in both theory and practice,' explains Stephen Cox ... Paterson's The God of the Machine was one of four magisterial libertarian works to be published in the dark days of 1943. ... Paterson viewed men as dreamers, always looking to run off, change jobs, change the world, or conduct social experiments. While men are engaged in fanciful thinking and abstractions, women are more practical, getting down to work and raising families."
    Our Forgotten Goddess: Isabel Paterson and the origins of libertarianism, by Brian Doherty, Reason, Feb 2005
    A review of The Woman and the Dynamo
    "The God of the Machine was a radically individualist attempt to answer the question of why America was so rich and powerful. The most healthy and wealthy of cultures, said Paterson, ... had to run on 'absolute security of private property, full personal liberty, and firm autonomous regional bases for a federal structure.'"
    Here are 7 lesser-known classical liberal thinkers for your World Philosophy Day, by Kelly Wright, 17 Nov 2016
    Brief profiles of Spencer, Tucker, Spooner, Paterson, Molinari, Garrison and Herbert, together with a reading recommendation for each one of them
    "Isabel Paterson was a journalist, novelist, literary critic, and political philosopher. Canadian born, Paterson became an American citizen later in her life. She got her professional start as an editor for a Washington-based paper but would go on to write a regular column for the New York Herald Tribune where she wrote on a variety of topics, including the Harlem Renaissance, the New Deal, and the Great Depression. During her tenure at the Herald Tribune she acted as mentor to an up and coming Ayn Rand."
    Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand: Three Women Who Inspired the Modern Libertarian Movement, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, May 1996
    Triple biographical essay on the women who in 1943 published The Discovery of Freedom, The God of the Machine and The Fountainhead
    "Paterson provided a grand overview of the history of liberty. She made clear why personal freedom is impossible without political freedom. She defended immigrants. She denounced military conscription, central economic planning, compulsory unionism, business subsidies, paper money, and compulsory government schools. Long before most economists, she explained how New Deal policies prolonged the Great Depression."
    Related Topics: Rose Wilder Lane, Ayn Rand

    Writings

    The Humanitarian with the Guillotine, The Freeman, Sep 1955
    Reprinted from The God of the Machine, 1943; analyses the negative consequences of "humanitarians" (or professional philanthropists) and politicians act to provide relief to the needy
    "If the primary objective of the philanthropist, his justification for living, is to help others, his ultimate good requires that others shall be in want. His happiness is the obverse of their misery. If he wishes to help 'humanity,' the whole of humanity must be in need. The humanitarian wishes to be a prime mover in the lives of others. He cannot admit either the divine or the natural order, by which men have the power to help themselves."

    Books

    The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America
        by Stephen Cox, Sep 2004
    Partial contents: The View from the Wing - O Pioneers - The Unsheltered Life - Authorship and Exile - A Matter of Style - Queen Hatshepsut - Then or Anywhen - Never Ask the End - Let It All Go - Not Mad-But Atlantean

    Books Authored

    The God of the Machine, 1943
    Partial contents: The Energy Circuit in the Classical World - The Power of Ideas - Rome Discovers Political Structure - Rome as an Exhibit of the Nature of Government - The Society of Status and the Society of Contract

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