Isabel Paterson


Isabel Paterson

Isabel Paterson (b. January 22 1886, - d. January 10, 1961) was a Canadian-American journalist, author, political philosopher, and a leading literary 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 Cox (2004) believes Paterson is the "earliest progenitor of libertarianism as we know it today." Ayn Rand (who disdained libertarianism) wrote in a letter in the 1940s that "The God of the Machine" "does for capitalism what "Das Kapital" does for the Reds and what the Bible did for Christianity".

Life

Born Isabel Mary Bowler in rural Manitoulin Island, Ontario, her family moved west when she was very young, and she grew up on a cattle ranch in Alberta. Paterson's family was quite poor and she had 8 siblings. A voracious reader who was largely self-educated, her public schooling during these years was brief and informalndash two years in a country school, from the ages of 11 to 14. In her late teen years, she left the ranch for the city of Calgary, where she took a clerical job with the Canadian Pacific Railway. As a teenager, she worked as a waitress, stenographer, and bookkeeper, working at one point as an assistant to future Canadian Prime Minister R. B. Bennett.

This hardscrabble youth probably led Paterson to attach great importance to productive "self-starters". Although very articulate and well-read, even erudite, Paterson's formal education was no more than two years in a rural schoolhouse. Very limited formal schooling was an experience she had in common with Rose Wilder Lane.

In 1910, at the age of 24, she entered into a short-lived marriage with Canadian Kenneth B. Paterson. The marriage was not happy, and they parted in 1918.

It was during these years, in a foray south of the border, that she landed a job with a newspaper, the "Inland Herald", in Spokane, Washington. Initially she worked in the business department of the paper, but was eventually transferred to the editorial department, and her journalistic career began. Her next position was that with a newspaper in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she wrote dramatic reviews for two years.

In 1913, she published her first books, two western novels. After World War I, she moved to New York, where she worked for the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who was then producing statuary for the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine and who would later sculpt the memorial at Mount Rushmore. She wrote for two New York newspapers, the "World" and the "American".

In 1921, Paterson became an assistant to Burton Rascoe, the new literary editor of the "New York Tribune", later the "New York Herald Tribune". From 1924 to 1949, she wrote a column (signed "I.M.P.") for the "Herald Tribune's" "Books" section. Paterson became one of the most influential literary critics of her place and time.

Her column, notorious for its sharp wit and its goring of sacred cows, was where she first articulated many of the ideas that reached their final form in "The God of the Machine". These ideas, especially free trade, were also foreshadowed in the historical novels she wrote in the 1920s and 1930s.

Paterson opposed most of the economic program, known as the New Deal, American president Franklin D. Roosevelt put into effect during the 1930s, and advocated less government involvement in social and fiscal issues. She also led a group of younger friends (many of whom were other "Herald Tribune" employees) who shared her views - one of which was the young Ayn Rand.

Paterson and Rand promoted each other's books and conducted an extensive correspondence, touching on religion and philosophy. This correspondence ended with a 1948 personal quarrel. Rand, an atheist, was critical of the deist Paterson's attempts to link capitalism with religion (Rand considered the two to be incompatible).

By a curious coincidence, "The God of the Machine" was published in the same year as Rand's "The Fountainhead" and Rose Wilder Lane's "The Discovery of Freedom".

Albert Jay Nock (quoted in Doherty 2005) noted at the time that Lane's and Paterson's books were "the only intelligible books on the philosophy of individualism that have been written in America this century". The two women had "shown the male world of this period how to think fundamentally ... They don't fumble and fiddle around--every shot goes straight to the centre."

Paterson influenced the post-WWII rise of lettered American conservatism through her correspondence with the young Russell Kirk in the 1940s, and with the young William F. Buckley in the 1950s. Buckley and Kirk went on to found the "National Review" (which Paterson briefly contributed to). In her retirement, Paterson declined to enrol in Social Security.

She became an American citizen in 1928, at the age of 42.

Paterson is interred in Saint Mary's Episcopal Churchyard in Burlington, New Jersey. [ [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8311105 Isabel Paterson] , Find A Grave. Accessed August 21, 2007.]

Quotation

*"Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends... ...when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people, and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object." ("The God of the Machine")

Bibliography

*1913. "The Magpie's Nest"
*1913. "The Shadow Riders"
*1924. "The Singing Season"
*1926. "The Fourth Queen"
*1930. "The Road of the Gods"
*1933. "Never Ask the End".
*1934. "The Golden Vanity".
*1940. "If It Prove Fair Weather".
*1943. "The God of the Machine".Biography:
*Cox, Stephen, 2004. "The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America". Transaction Publishers.

* Beito, David T. and Beito, Linda Royster, “Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Zora Neale Hurston on War, Race, the State, and Liberty," Independent Review 12 (Spring 2008).

References

External links

*Cato Institute: [http://www.cato.org/special/threewomen/paterson.html Isabel Paterson 1886-1961.] The source for most of this entry.
*Cato Institute: [http://www.cato.org/special/threewomen/god-machine.html The God of the Machine.]
*Doherty, Brian, [http://www.reason.com/0502/cr.bd.our.shtml Review of Cox (2004),] "Reason", February 2005.
*NeglectedBooks.com: [http://neglectedbooks.com/?p=153 Review and Excerpt from "Never Ask the End"]
*RationalReview.com: [http://www.rationalreview.com/content/16115 Essay-Review on Cox] by Jeff Riggenbach


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