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Whittaker Chambers Versus Ayn Rand

Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Whittaker Chambers and Ayn Rand are two of the most important American conservative icons. Both abhorred collectivism and spoke on behalf of individual freedom. Chambers’ autobiography, “Witness,” is one of the defining conservative documents of the 20th century. Rand’s most influential novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” continues to inspire and orient conservative and libertarian thought.

Here’s what history has largely forgotten: Chambers utterly despised Rand’s novel. Their differences were fundamental, and they involved both substance and sensibility. Those differences have continuing importance, because they tell us a great deal about divisions within contemporary conservatism. (Yes, there are analogous divisions on the liberal side, but that’s a tale for another day.)