[Paleopsych] Meme 039: Ayn Rand Centennial: Patch Still Needed

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Wed Feb 2 21:36:41 UTC 2005

Meme 039: Ayn Rand Centennial: Patch Still Needed
sent 2005.2.2

Atlas Shrugged was the book that influenced me more than any other. I read 
it, at the suggestion of my best friend back home in Colorado, during the 
Summer between my second and third year in college, that is in 1964, when 
I was 19. He said, read it a hundred pages a week and you'll be finished 
by the end of the Summer. At first I thought it was a caricature, and was 
three or four weeks into the reading before I got caught up in it. I 
finished it quickly.

I had gotten bored with the graduate math courses I had been taking ever 
since I arrived at the University of Virginia. The beginning graduate 
level courses were very good, but the later ones struck me as pointless 
piling up of abstractions. My professors told me that even they lacked 
intuitive understanding of their research work but nevertheless could 
crank out papers.

So Atlas Shrugged gave me a new direction in life. Most of the books she 
recommended reading were in economics. At it happened, U.Va. had one of the 
few free-market graduate economics schools in the world. I convinced James 
Buchanan and Gordon Tullock on the economics faculty there I could do the 
work, even though I had had no courses, so I switched majors.

However, there was a fight between the "conservative" economics faculty 
and the Dean of the Graduate School, who was a mediocre political science 
scholar and a liberal. He was not only envious of Tullock's outstanding 
scholarship but resented the incursion of economics into his turf of 
political science. He used his power to block Tullock's promotion to a 
full professor. Tullock left U.Va. as a result. Next year, Buchanan 
threatened to leave if Tullock were not brought back. He wasn't and he 
left, too.

I was associated with the Buchanan-Tullock group and was too naive 
then--and am probably too naive today--to play dissertation politics. I 
was told, "Mr. Forman, if you give us a dissertation, we will give you a 
Ph.D.", in other words, no assistance. I went to work for the federal 
government temporarily in 1969 and am still there! First for the Civil 
Aeronautics Board, where I came out for deregulation much too early, like 
the day I arrived. My first boss, Sam Brown, agreed with me, and he gave 
me my only promotion. His section was abolished after his research 
questioned the merits of some of the CAB's actions. The Board was 
abolished at the end of 1984, and I've worked at the U.S. Department of 
Education ever since. I would keep only that part of it that generates 
information, which is a public good, or about 1% of it. This attitude, 
plus the fact that I have worked in policy units and am too hard of 
hearing to play the policy game even if I were cynically bent on doing so, 
has kept me stuck at a low level. I am not sure which is the more 
important factor.

Back to the story, I had pretty much forgotten about Ayn Rand by the end 
of 1984, but I started corresponding with Buchanan about another matter, 
namely the philosophy of Mario Bunge, who was writing an eight-volume 
Treatise on Basic Philosophy, designed to show what the world is to actual 
scientists by clarifying and systematizing their implicit assumptions. 
Bunge is as Aristotelian as Ayn Rand and far more knowledgeable about 
science. I told Buchanan that Bunge's "systemism" had the key to 
reconciling the conflicts between individualism and collectivism. Having 
moved from Virginia Tech to George Mason, he invited me to write a 
dissertation under him at GMU, which I did. I got my Ph.D. in 1985, no 
promotion at work, but an enormous personal satisfaction at having 
finished a dissertation at last, and under so distinguished an economist.

There was only part of a chapter on Ayn Rand in the dissertation, which I 
expanded into a full chapter in my book, _The Metaphysics of Liberty_ 
(Dordrecht, Holland: Kluwer Academic, 1989). The book is on my website,
http://www.panix.com/~checker (don't forget the tilde).

I lost interest again in Ayn Rand, until I got my first home connection to 
the Net in early 1995 and spent a great deal of time arguing about 
Objectivism. On June 7 I sent forth the essay right below. There were a 
couple of feeble replies and then silence. The need for a patch remains.

It took me a few more years to become a Recovered Objectivist, which is to 
say, just rather bored with the controversies. There are several essays of 
mine pertaining to Objectivism on my site.

I follow my essay with a bunch of items on the centenary that I found 
from Google News.

I do not regret the years I spent wrapped up in Ayn Rand, nor anything 
about my life, really, and most esp. not the other path down the road of 
biology and human group differences. I might have been more productive of 
ideas had I not spent so much time chasing down so many byways. I don't 
think, bar a major upgrade in the quality of our species, that the grand 
hopes of a final vision promised by the Enlightenment are going to 
materialize. I've become a thoroughgoing post-modernist in this respect, 
and a transhumanist is urging the upgrading.

The quest is as important as the vision, anyhow. My autobiography is 
mostly what I read, readings that I have been sharing with you on my 
lists, not any partial conclusions that never seem to settle down to 
anything I can write up. Nietzsche and Peirce had the same problems, not 
in not writing at all (Wittgenstein stopped after one dissertation and one 
article) though on a higher level.

Thank you, Ayn Rand, for your leading me in the path of righteousness for 
your name's sake. Wrong metaphor.

by Frank Forman

       I have restudied Ayn Rand's key essay,
"The Objectivist Ethics," very closely, but I
find a hole in her argument, a gap in her
reasoning. She passes from the indisputable
fact that dead men make no choices to an
entire system of egoist ethics. In what
follows, I am going to outline her argument.
I shall be arguing that she moves from
survival as the supreme aim to happiness.
This move requires a patch to cover the hole
in her argument, and that patch I denominate
the Objectivist psychology, which is at
bottom a theory of virtue. But all this is so
far mostly implicit. If there are other
writings of hers that can provide a fully
satisfying patch to cover the hole, or if any
readers can provide the patch on their own,
we certainly want to hear it. I'm using _The
Virtue of Selfishness_ for pagination.

Some Concepts
       **Morality** (here equated with ethics)
is "a code of values to guide man's choices
and actions--the choices and actions that
determine the purpose and the course of his
life" (p. 13, the first page of the essay,
which ends on p. 35).

       So, she defines a word, "morality," in
terms of other words, "code," "value,"
"guide," "choice," "action," "determine,"
"purpose," "course," and "life." Most of the
words are not likely to give any trouble, at
least not here and at least not now. We can
argue how comprehensive this code should be,
where the principles leave off, and where one
just goes ahead and makes cost-benefit
estimates or just acts on one's tastes. We
can also argue over the various meanings of
"determine." But for now, only "value" and
"purpose" are apt to give problems. I am not
trying to maximize quibbling, rather to
isolate a hole in an argument interpreted as
best as I can.

       **Value** "is that which one acts to
gain and/or keep" (p. 15). This definition
has been quoted many times by Ayn Rand's fans
and/or critics. She does not specify the
scope of values or which levels they cover:
first level desires like tastes, second level
desires that are more considered and deal
with longer-range achievements, and what may
be top-level values having to do with the
overarching purpose of one's life. Again,
"purpose" is a word that will be causing
trouble. In any case, "value" here is simply
a matter of what one does in fact act "to
gain and/or keep."

Life or Death
       She goes on: "The concept 'value' is not
a primary; it presupposes an answer to the
question: of value to _whom_ and for _what_?
It presupposes an entity capable of acting to
achieve a goal in the face of an alternative.
Where no alternative exists, no goals and
values are possible" (p. 15). Well, yes, but
the definition seems clear enough: the value
is that which *one* *acts* to gain and/or
keep. There is an actor and the value is what
that actor acts to gain and/or keep. What she
means by a "*primary* concept" is not clear.
But I don't want to quibble; nor will I
quibble that a new concept, "goal," has been

       Then she, speaking through John Galt,
tells us that "there is only one fundamental
alternative in the universe: existence or
nonexistence--and it pertains to a single
class of entities: to living organisms. The
existence of inanimate matter is
unconditional, the existence of life is not:
it depends on a specific course of action.
Matter is indestructible, it changes its
forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is
only a living organism that faces a constant
alternative: the issue of life or death. Life
is a process of self-sustaining and self-
generated action...." (p. 15). Diamonds, of
course, are entities and can cease to exist
by being heated to a certain temperature,
even though the elemental carbon continues,
but diamonds cannot act. So perhaps she means
values are to be attributed only to entities
that can act. On the next page, however, she
speaks of her famous hypothetical
"indestructible robot" (p. 16), which (she
says) can have no values (cannot act to gain
and/or keep anything), since it does not face
the "one fundamental alternative in the
universe: existence or nonexistence." The
term "fundamental" has been introduced
without definition, so I cannot be certain
whether she is mistaken about there being
"only one fundamental alternative in the
universe." My own view is that indestructible
robots violate the laws of physics, but they
are at least logical possibilities and they
could indeed have values.

Life or Reproduction
       I make these points only because her
next paragraph introduces something that is
contrary to what we know about biology: "On
the _physical_ level, the functions of all
living organisms...are actions generated by
the organism itself and directed toward a
single goal: the maintenance of the
organism's _life_" (p. 16). We know from
biology (Miss Rand was not up to date) that
*reproduction* is every bit as much the goal
of organisms, if not more so, as the
maintenance of life. True enough, the
organism must remain alive long enough to get
the sperm or eggs out (sometimes it dies
before birth of its offspring is actually
achieved), but the goal of continuing to live
can be, and often is, overridden by the goal
of reproducing. Self = two children = four
grandchildren = ... is the governing
equation, since the self is going to die
anyway. Organisms, often, will go on living
after the birth of their children, but the
end is to serve getting one's offspring to
the point of _their_ reproduction, not to
keep oneself alive. Once Mom and Pop have
outlived their usefulness, they die; indeed,
they are genetically programmed to die, or so
at least claim most biologists. So the
"fundamental alternative" is not life but

       Now this view of biology, known as the
"selfish gene" view, is not without its
critics. The older view, which was Darwin's,
was that the individual organism is the
fundamental and only unit of selection. Now
the consensus view is that individual genes
are the sole units. But then there are those
claiming that units larger than the
individual, even entire species and higher
taxa, can also be units of evolution. This
gives rise to the difficulties of what is
called group selection: there must be a
genetic disposition to what biologists call
"altruism," meaning a willingness to
sacrifice one's life for the good of some
group larger than the carrier's of one's own
genes. But this means that those organisms
with such a disposition will be bred out of
the population. Group selection can arise in
very limited circumstances, nevertheless, but
such circumstances are quite rare, or so goes
the consensus opinion. I mention all this,
since the question of units of selection has
never been satisfactorily conceptualized. I
should also state that the biological world
is rife with cases of apparent "altruism,"
and accounting for them is regarded by many
biologists, including E.O. Wilson, as the
central issue of sociobiology. A great deal
of apparent "altruism" can indeed be
explained away: how big the residual of
unexplained instances is, I do not know. I
have not browsed sci.bio.evolution enough to
check on any debates there. Objectivism will
certainly have to be developed much further,
or be replaced with a scientific metaphysics
of the sort Mario Bunge has developed, or
merged with it, to tackle this extremely
important and difficult issue.

A Truism
       Ayn Rand continues: "An _ultimate_ [not
_fundamental_, but this seems to be no big
change] value is the final goal or end to
which all lesser goals are the means--and it
sets the standard by which all lesser goals
are _evaluated_. An organism's life is its
_standard of value_: that which furthers its
life is the _good_, that which threatens it
is the _evil_.... the fact that living
entities exist and function necessitates the
existence of values [recall: that which one
acts to gain and/or keep] and of an ultimate
value which for any given living entity is it
own life. Thus the validation of value
judgments is to be achieved by reference to
the facts of reality. The fact that a living
entity _is_, determines what it _ought_ to
do. So much for the issue of the relation
between "_is_" and "_ought_" (p. 17).

       Forget for now the problems biologists
have with life, not reproduction, being the
*fundamental* (or *ultimate*) value. What she
is saying, and *all* that she is saying, is
that in order for an organism to act to gain
and/or keep anything at all, it must stay
alive, that *enough* of its actions must be
such as to succeed at keeping alive. In other
words, though this is a conclusion she did
not draw, the organism might act to gain
and/or keep any number of things^, but it has
to value staying alive and moreover its
actions must in fact succeed in its staying
       ^[What constitutes "things" is
unspecified: Ayn Rand just says "that

       This seems like an utterly harmless
truism. Living things are *constrained* in
the sorts of action they can undertake, but
how constrained is the question. An ethics,
at all worthy of the name, can get out of
this seemingly harmless truism *only* if the
constraints are really vigorous. The task for
ethics is to formulate just what these
constraints are. Ayn Rand does not go into
the full details of what living things must
do to get an adequate amount of food, but she
does state that plants do so automatically.^ 
Animals (the higher ones, at any rate) also
need consciousness, of at least the
sensational variety, to go hunt for their
food, and animals higher yet need to operate
on the perceptual level. But men have to
operate on the _conceptual_ level as well, at
least sometimes and perhaps a great deal of
the time, if they are to stay alive.
Moreover, making concepts is voluntary (p.
20). She never explains why, since she was
largely uninterested in biology, but she
could have read a statement of V.C. Wynne-
Edwards: "Compliance with the social code can
be made obligatory and automatic, and it
probably is so in almost all animals that
possess social homeostatic systems at all. In
at least some of the mammals, on the
contrary, the individual has been released
from this rigid compulsion, probably because
a certain amount of intelligent individual
enterprise has proved advantageous to the
       ^[So do certain lowly animals like
sponges, but I won't quibble.]
       ^^[V.C. Wynne-Edwards, "Intergroup
Selection in the Evolution of Social
Systems," _Nature_ 200: 623-26 (1963)). This
was available before the paperback edition of
_The Virtue of Selfishness_, though no one
should blame Ayn Rand for not knowing the

       Now if Ayn Rand can quote John Galt, I
can quote me: "Such an explanation invokes
group selection and is bound to be
controversial. An alternative explanation
might be that a) thinking requires work (uses
up costly brain chemicals) and b) free-will
circuity allows the animal (or maybe just
certain humans) to choose both whether to
think and what to think about. Far less brain
hardware, in other words, may be required by
taking the free will route"^
       ^[Frank Forman, _The Metaphysics of
Liberty_ (Dordrecht, Holland: Kluwer
Academic, 1989), p. 155).]

       But now what do we have? Only that, to
survive, each individual man must engage in a
certain amount of conceptualizing. There is
much more to be done before we arrive at the
Objectivist ethics as we know it. Ayn Rand
goes on in the next few pages to discuss what
concepts are ("mental integrations of two or
more perceptual concretes" (p. 20)), what
reason is ("the faculty that perceives,
identifies and integrates the material
provided by the senses" (p. 20)), and what
thinking is (the process of reasoning)  and
requires ("a state of full, focused
awareness" (p. 20)). She redefines
consciousness "in the sense of the word
applicable to man" to mean the (voluntary)
focusing of his mind. She adds, "the choice
'to be conscious or not' is the choice of
life or death" (p. 21).

The Hole in the Argument
       What has happened is that there is an
elision between *some* focusing as being
necessary to any man's survival and "a state
of full, focused awareness." ****It is this
elision that constitutes the major hole in
the Objectivist ethics and needs to be
patched up****. She adds that "a process of
thought...is not infallible" (peculiar
grammar here) and that man "has to discover
how to tell what is true or false and how to
correct his own errors; he has to discover
how to validate his concepts, his
conclusions, his knowledge; he has to
discover the rules of thought, _the laws of
logic_, to direct his thinking" (pp. 20-21).
How man survived the hundreds of thousands of
years before he did all these things is not
addressed. Again, there is an elision between
the minimum necessary and virtuous

       Here is a potential patch: "If some men
do not choose to think [at what depth?], but
survive by imitating and repeating, like
trained animals, the routine of sounds and
motions they learned from others, it still
remains true that their survival is made
possible only by those who did choose to
think and discover the motions they are
repeating. [This is true of nearly all the
thinkers, too.] The survival of such mental
parasites depends on blind chance; their
unfocused minds are unable to know _whom_ to
imitate, _whose_ motions it is safe to
follow. _They_ are the men who march into the
abyss, trailing after any destroyer who
promises them to assume the responsibility of
being conscious" (p. 23).

       Or, you'd better think for yourself,
lest you be at the mercy of others. But Ayn
Rand, as in many other cases, dichotomizes a
continuum: you'd better think and focus to
the hilt, or you're a mental parasite and
your survival depends on blind chance. She
adds presently, "The men who attempt to
survive, not by means of reason, but by means
of force, are attempting to survive by the
method of animals,...by rejecting reason and
counting on productive _men_ to serve as
their prey. Such looters may achieve their
goals for the range of a moment at the price
of destruction: the destruction of their
victims and their own. As evidence, I offer
you any criminal or any dictatorship" (pp.
23-24). (Note that the last sentence here and
the last sentence of the previous paragraph
leave the individual and discuss social

       Same problem. The hole in her argument,
the gap in her reasoning, is still there:
this "moment" may very well last an entire
lifetime, and it is only a *claim* that if
"man is to succeed at the task of survival,
if his actions are not to be aimed at his own
destruction, man has to choose his course,
his goals, his values in the context and
terms of a lifetime" (p. 24). And she
switches from survival to "man's survival
_qua_ man," as opposed to "the momentary
physical survival of a mindless brute,
waiting for another brute to crush his skull"
(p. 24). She adds that a man "_can_ turn
himself into [such] a subhuman creature and
he _can_ turn his life into a brief span of
agony.... But he _cannot_ succeed, as a
subhuman, in achieving anything but the
subhuman--as the ugly horror of the
antirational periods of mankind's history can
demonstrate" (pp. 24-25). By again dragging
in social consequences of the actions of
individuals, she has conflated the individual
man with collectivities of them. This, from a
prophet of egoism!

       The hole is still there, but there are
ten more pages to go in this essay, as well
as in other essays by her and by others like
Nathaniel Branden and Leonard Peikoff. And
the readers here might supply the patch with
their own arguments and evidence. The patch
so far is the claim that hoping that others
will take up the slack if you default on your
thinking is risky. She presents no evidence
that the risk is all that great. Her policy
is what economists would call extreme "risk
aversion": take no chances that others will
pick up the slack. But she does not justify
this policy.

The Objectivist Virtues
       But there is another way to cover the
hole. The patch in the Objectivist ethics is
quite implicit in the rest of the essay,
which mingles more stuff about the
requirements of survival with talk about
virtue and happiness. Exercising my brain may
not have all that much effect on my life
span, after a certain minimal point, but
doing so may nevertheless make me better off
in some sense. Mental exercise is on all
fours with physical exercise: it is self-
recommending and you may need specific
advice, which you may or may not carry out.
So let Ayn Rand stop being our moral
*physicist* and become our moral *physician*.
The patch between the two I denominate the
*Objectivist* *psychology*.

       "_Value_ is that which one acts to gain
and/or keep--_virtue_ is the act by which one
gains and/or keeps it. The three cardinal
values of the Objectivist ethics--the three
values which, together, are the means to and
the realization of one's ultimate value,
one's own life--are: Reason, Purpose, Self-
Esteem, with their three corresponding
virtues: Rationality, Productiveness, Pride.
       "Productive work is the central
_purpose_ [not virtue] of a rational man's
life, the central value [not life itself
anymore] that integrates and determines the
hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is
the source, the precondition of his
productive work--pride is the result.
       "Rationality is man's basic virtue, the
source of all his other virtues," and it
means "the recognition and acceptance of
reason as one's only source of knowledge,
one's only judge of values and one's only
guide to action.^ It means one's total
commitment to a state of full, conscious
awareness, to the maintenance of a full
mental focus in all issues, in all choices,
in all of one's waking hours...." (p. 25).
       ^[Can we trust others very much at all?
Should be all become our own physicians, if
life is the standard of value?]

Ayn Rand, the Moral Physician
       This is Ayn Rand the moral *physician*,
not the moral *physicist*, talking.^ It ought
to be the job of physicians get their
patients actively involved with their own
health, rather than just to manage their
diseases, to aspire and not just do the
minimum.^^ Ayn Rand fits this to a T, and
that, I submit, is what her philosophy and
her ethics most especially is all about. Her
novels are aspirational. She said she was a
novelist first. We ought to take her
seriously on this.
       ^[Or should it be moral meta-physicist,
with a thesis about life being the standard
of value? It was Nathaniel Branden who went
on to being a moral *coach*, with his various
Institutes. Anyhow, the term metaphysicist
should be reserved for Mario Bunge.]
       ^^[Here I go using the O-word ("ought"),
but never mind.]

       Now watch what happens: Rationality
comprises several subvirtues, among them
independence, integrity, honesty, and
justice. Regards the latter, "one must never
seek or grant the unearned or undeserved,
neither in matter nor in spirit" (p. 26).
Fine, but two new concepts, unearned and
undeserved, have appeared out of nowhere in
an essay that purports to give a foundation
for ethics. You and I have a pre-
philosophical understanding of what these two
words mean. We have gone to Ayn Rand the
moral *physician* for advice on how to live,
not Ayn Rand the moral *physicist* for
elucidation of ideas.^^
       ^^[There's similar stuff about the
virtues of productiveness and pride that
follows in this part of "The Objectivist
Ethics," which I do not need to cite.]

       And what does this moral physician
promise us? Happiness. "The basic _social_
principle of the Objectivist ethics is that
just as life is an end in itself, so every
living human being is an end in himself, not
the means to the ends or the welfare of
others--and, therefore, that man must live
for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself
to others nor sacrificing others to himself.
To live for his own sake means that _the
achievement of his own happiness is man's
highest moral purpose_" (p. 27).

       The *physicist* said life was the
fundamental purpose; the *physician* holds
out happiness. Here's her justification for
the switch: "In psychological terms, the
issue of man's survival does not confront his
consciousness as an issue of 'life or death,'
but as an issue of 'happiness or suffering.'
Happiness is the successful state of life,
suffering is the warning signal of failure,
or death. Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism
of man's body is an automatic indicator of
his body's welfare or injury, a barometer of
its basic alternative--so the emotional
mechanism of man's consciousness is geared to
perform the same function, as a barometer
that registers the same alternative by means
of two basic emotions: joy or suffering" (p.
       ^[As is the case with thought being
volitional, she does not recognize the
importance of neurological or evolutionary
evidence to verify this harmonious fit.
Humans have emotions because the animals we
evolved from do, but why animals should
burden their brains with an emotional circuit
instead of just straightaway doing the right
thing as far as survival and reproduction go
is a good question, since adding extra
circuits has a cost in calories. I tried to
get some answers on some other newsgroups but
without success.]

Cognitive Basis of Emotions
       What Ayn Rand does claim is that the
emotions, in order to pay off in the coin of
happiness, must be programmed correctly. And
that calls for reason, since man is born
without innate ideas.^ Full happiness cannot
be obtained unless one thinks to the hilt and
thereby ensures that one's values are
rational. "If he chooses irrational values,
he switches his emotional mechanism from the
role of his guardian to the role of his
destroyer. The irrational is the impossible;
it is that which contradicts the facts of
reality; facts cannot be altered by a wish,
but they _can_ destroy the wisher. If a man
desires and pursue contradictions--if he
wants to have his cake and eat it, too--he
disintegrates his consciousness; he turns his
inner life into a civil war of blind forces
engaged in dark, incoherent, pointless,
meaningless conflicts (which, incidentally,
is the state of most people today)" (p. 28).
(What were things like in Russia, then, I
       ^[She is wrong here. Men are afraid of
snakes even in countries like Madagascar
where there are no poisonous snakes. This
fear is an emotional reaction by the mind and
therefore, on her own theory of the
cognition-emotion link, a piece of innate
knowledge about snakes and their dangers.]

       Something very wrong has happened. An
obsessive desire (as opposed to some idle
daydreaming) for something one is aware is
impossible will surely cause emotional
problems. But we all pursue goals that turn
out not to be feasible, that contradict "the
facts of reality." Ayn Rand almost seems to
be imagining a mind^ that has direct access
to the truth and will punish emotionally
those who do things contrary to this truth.
What an incredible machine! Of course, she
would deny any such thing; in this very
essay, she stated that men are fallible. But,
nevertheless, that's what she said. I will
leave it to others to specify what she should
have said, to figure out what she meant by
irrational values. We will still need to know
how to choose rational values among the
myriad available ones, the only limitation
being that they support life.
       ^[She rarely uses the word brain and
almost always says "rational being" instead
of "rational animal." Methinks her thought is
towards the end of the spiritual pole on the
spiritual-materialist continuum, even while
she officially rejects the mind-body

       The message from Ayn Rand, the moral
*physician*, however, is clear enough: be
ambitious; set up long term goals that are
plausible; get to work; be productive; do
things yourself; don't mooch; don't loot;
don't swindle. Take pride in your
achievements. Above all, be independent.

       Sounds like good advice to me, but
independence comes to me naturally. I think
it's in my genes. It gets me into trouble,
endlessly, but I keep my self-respect and my
sanity. I never did care for all those
altruists who thought other people came
before me. Indeed, when I first read _Atlas
Shrugged_ in 1964, for the first few hundred
pages, I thought the book was a modernist
satire on these people. But that her advice
is for everyone, I do not know. Yes, a lot of
people would be happier if they were more
daring and independent. That they should all
be as independent as Ayn Rand is just a claim
of one moral physician and one great

Interpersonal Ethics
       The rest of the essay moves away from
the individual's code for his own life to
what most people regard as morality, namely
rules for dealing with other people. There is
more dichotomizing, which is superb
exhortation but bad metaphysics. There is her
famous metaphysical claim that "the
_rational_ interests of men do not clash--
there is no conflict of interests among men
who do not desire the unearned [that word
again!], who do not make sacrifices nor
accept them, who deal with one another as
_traders_, giving value for value" (p. 31).
She concludes her essay with political
philosophy. The word "right" appears out of
nowhere four lines from the bottom on page
32, but then she said she had presented the
political theory of Objectivism "in full
detail in Atlas Shrugged_" (p. 33).

       I don't think she did; in fact, I know
she didn't. If there is what the
metaphysicians among philosophers call
"preestablished harmony" among the interests
of rational men, this needs to be
demonstrated. _Atlas Shrugged_ did not do the
job, nor did a later essay, "The 'Conflicts'
of Men's Interests."

       Whatever the holes, Ayn Rand, to her
great credit, focused on what is generally
called not "ethical egoism" but "metaethical
egoism," or the doctrine that any system of
morals must be justified to the individual.
The problem, "Why be moral?", goes back at
least to Socrates, who gave the same answer
Ayn Rand did, namely that it's good for your
character. Otherwise, a system of morality is
something anyone can draw up however he
chooses and it will remain an idle set of

       Ayn Rand knew better. She tried to
ground her system on the necessity of keeping
alive. Alas, not very much can be deduced
from that. But that was Ayn Rand the moral
physicist. Ayn Rand the moral physician had a
system that was far, far more comprehensive.
But it rests upon an implicit Objectivist
psychology. Until that psychology is
presented, elucidated, and defended (which
will involve more neurology, evolutionary
biology, and more just plain empirical
drudgery than she ever realized), the
Objectivist ethics has holes. They need to be
patched. And in the attempts to make the
patches, the ethics may be get altered quite
a bit, but it may also be able to answer many
questions it now cannot.

1995 June 7/First Version


The New York Times > Books > Critic's Notebook: Considering the Last Romantic, Ayn Rand, at 100



     What did Ayn Rand want?

     Today is the centennial of her birth, and while newsletters and Web
     sites devoted to her continue to proliferate, and while little about
     her private life or public influence remains unplumbed, it is still
     easier to understand what she didn't want than what she did. Her scorn
     was unmistakable in her two novel-manifestos, "The Fountainhead"
     (1943), about a brilliant architect who stands proud against
     collective tastes and egalitarian sentimentality, and "Atlas Shrugged"
     (1957), about brilliant industrialists who stand proud against
     government bureaucrats and socialized mediocrity. It is still
     possible, more than 20 years after her death, to find readers choosing
     sides: those who see her as a subtle philosopher pitted against those
     who see her as a pulp novelist with pretensions.

     She divided her world - and her characters - in similarly stark
     fashion into what she wanted and what she didn't want. Here is what
     she didn't want: Ellsworth M. Toohey, "second-handers," Wesley Mouch,
     looters, relativists, collectivists, altruists. Here is what she did
     want: Howard Roark, John Galt, individualism, selfishness, capitalism,

     But her villains have the best names, the most memorable quirks, the
     whiniest or most insinuating voices. At times, Rand even grants them a
     bit of compassion. Toohey, the Mephistophelean architecture critic in
     "The Fountainhead," could be her finest creation. And when she argued
     against collectivism, her cynicism had some foundation in experience:
     she was born in czarist Russia in 1905, witnessed the revolutions of
     1917 from her St. Petersburg apartment and managed to get to the
     United States in 1926. Her sharpest satire can be found in some of her
     caricatures of collectivity.

     But the good guys are another story. Are "Fountainhead's" Roark and
     "Atlas's" Galt really plausible heroes, with their stolid ritualistic
     proclamations and their unwavering self-regard? Did Rand really
     believe that the world should be run by such creators while
     second-handers (ordinary workers like most of us) humbly deferred?

     These are not abstract questions. Fifteen million copies of her books
     have been sold. "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" still sell
     130,000 to 150,000 copies a year. In 1999, Rand even made it onto a
     United States postage stamp. Her moral justifications of capitalism
     shaped the thinking of the young Alan Greenspan (now Federal Reserve
     Chairman) and other conservative acolytes. She declared it permissible
     to proclaim "I want" and to act to fulfill that demand. But the
     question remains, what did she really want?

     Certainly not what we have now. Many of the battles she engaged in
     rage on today. There are still debates about the free market,
     movements lobbying for collectivism and state power, and
     confrontations between doctrines of self-reliance and doctrines of
     self-sacrifice. But the world Rand actually wanted her heroes to build
     now seems far from revolutionary; it can even seem somewhat quaint, an
     almost retro fantasy. It was a Romantic utopia, in which the tensions
     of democratic life are not resolved but avoided.

     Consider, for example, works of art created by her heroes: Roark's
     Stoddard Temple in "The Fountainhead" or Richard Halley's Fifth
     Concerto in "Atlas Shrugged."

     Rand reportedly had Frank Lloyd Wright in mind when creating Roark;
     Warner Brothers tried negotiating with Wright (who admired "The
     Fountainhead") to create the designs that Gary Cooper's Roark would
     build in the film version. But Rand's descriptions of the temple
     hardly bring Wright to mind. She describes it as a small building of
     gray limestone "scaled to human height." It is a "joyous place," open
     to the world of nature and the city's skyscrapers in the distance. At
     its far end stands a statue of a naked woman, the novel's heroine,
     whom Roark loves. The temple, Rand makes clear, is a kind of
     anti-cathedral, devoted not to a god but to the spirit of man. It may
     even be a temple that Roark dedicated to himself, or perhaps, to his

     The same spirit is heard in Halley's Fifth Concerto in "Atlas
     Shrugged." It too is a joyous celebration, a "symphony of triumph"
     whose sounds embody the essence of "upward motion," creating a
     "sunburst of sound," promising the "freedom of release." It is "the
     song of an immense deliverance," with a "clear, clear, complex melody
     at a time when no one wrote melody any more."

     If you love these joyous works, the novels unconvincingly assure us,
     your worth is certified. If you are left cold by them, then you belong
     with the looters who try to bring down Roark and drive Halley into
     exile. The two works are depicted as revolutionary in their threats
     and promise. The two creators reject their social surroundings and are
     rejected in turn. Rand's novels have similar aspirations. They too are
     meant to be monuments to man's spirit, promising his deliverance. They
     too suffered from rejection (12 publishers turned down "The
     Fountainhead" before it was published). And for Rand, their reception
     divided the world into acolytes (her inner circle had a cultic aura)
     and enemies.

     But these novels and the art described in them are actually far from
     revolutionary. They draw on the Romantic myth of the misunderstood
     artist and derive more properly from the mid-19th century than from
     the mid-20th. The statue in the Stoddard Temple can seem like a relic
     of kitschy Romanticism; Halley's waves of climaxing melody sound as if
     they are a throwback to Wagner; and Rand's novels can read like
     Romantic melodramas (one of her favorite novelists was Victor Hugo).

     This is Rand's utopian art: programmatic neo-Romanticism. Rand was not
     looking forward, but backward; in this, she shares certain tastes with
     Socialist Realism. Of course, the Romantic style fits Rand's theme,
     for mid-19th century Romanticism often celebrated the human spirit,
     dramatizing conflicts between the striving individual and the
     surrounding world. But those works were revolutionary because they
     challenged remnants of an aristocratic world; their notes of triumph
     ushered in a democratic age. Rand wanted instead the restoration of a
     pre-democratic age.

     Or more accurately, she was torn about it, and her novels and ideas
     reflect that ambivalence, a position that is far from unique in
     contemplating art in a democratic culture. Democracy, for Rand, always
     seems to verge on being Soviet: a culture of collectivity dominated by
     a supposed doctrine of equality. It stifles her heroes and motivates
     her villains. She referred to Toohey as "the genius of modern
     democracy in its worst meaning."

     She might have wanted to be the "genius of modern democracy" in its
     best meaning, leading humanity into a brave new world. In a new brief
     biography, "Ayn Rand" (Overlook Press), Jeff Britting, an archivist at
     the Ayn Rand Institute with access to her papers, shows how deeply she
     was attached to popular tastes. As a precocious child in Russia, she
     wrote action adventures and was enraptured by silent-film melodrama.
     She came to the United States to begin a career in the film business.
     Late in life she was an avid viewer of television's "Perry Mason" and
     "Charlie's Angels."

     But she could never convincingly reconcile elite achievement with
     democratic culture, which is why she so often seems antidemocratic.
     She wanted heroes who could straddle that divide. And she created
     heroes who could presumably be celebrated for their elite achievements
     within democratic society: the entrepreneur heroes like the
     industrialists of "Atlas Shrugged," or the artist hero in "The
     Fountainhead" cut from American folklore, as self-reliant as Paul
     Bunyan. Rand famously said: "This is the motive and purpose of my
     writing: the projection of an ideal man."

     But ultimately, these men find their ideals only in isolated rejection
     of democratic society, as cardboard reincarnations of the Romantic
     hero. Perhaps Rand really believed democracy was hopeless and wanted a
     government ruled by such men. Perhaps she never really cared about
     working any of this out. Or perhaps, in the end, she really didn't
     know what she wanted. At any rate, the failure to reconcile democratic
     culture and high achievement has not been hers alone: it is one reason
     readers are still choosing sides.

OPA News Release, 10/2001 New fellowship for study of objectivism 
established at The University of Texas at Austin

     October 16, 2001

     Robin Gerrow, 232-2145

     spacer [1]latest news
     from UT

     Office of Public Affairs
     P O Box Z
     Austin, Texas

     (512) 471-3151
     FAX (512) 471-5812

     AUSTIN, Texas--The Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship has
     established a $300,000 fellowship within the Department of Philosophy
     at The University of Texas at Austin to promote the study of Ayn
     Rand's philosophy of objectivism.

     Funds from the fellowship will be used to educate objectivist doctoral
     students and help them in securing teaching positions, as well as
     promote the production and dissemination of scholarly works on

     "Academic interest in Ayn Rand's philosophy has been growing, and we
     are honored to be supporting the Philosophy Department's investment in
     this new field of scholarship," said John McCaskey, president of the
     Anthem Foundation.

     To date, the fellowship has sponsored a graduate student, and has
     assisted Tara Smith, university associate professor of philosophy, in
     producing two papers, "The Metaphysical Case for Honesty" and "Money
     Can Buy Happiness." Future projects to be funded by the fellowship
     will include the appointment of visiting faculty and the development
     of distance-learning options.

     The Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship is a non-profit
     organization that sponsors teaching, writing and research on Ayn
     Rand's philosophy of objectivism through fellowships at universities
     and colleges at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Schools
     interested in such fellowships should contact [2]McCaskey.


     2. mailto:mccaskey at stanford.edu
The Objectivism Store -- The Literary Art of Ayn Rand

     The Literary Art of Ayn Rand
     by William Thomas

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     brilliantly distinctive stylist, the master of aphorism and symbol,
     the apostle of essentialistic characterization, the rigorous
     integrator who insisted that all elements in a work serve a single
     theme, and the igenious plotter who took pride in constructing her
     magnum opus as a "stunt" novel of mystery and misdirection.

     Now in one volume, nine essays by six authors shed new light on the
     depth and complexity behind Rand's inspiring and entertaining writing.
     The contributors include:

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     the Hero"
        "Work and Love in The Fountainhead"

     Mimi Reisel Gladstein: "Breakthroughs in Ayn Rand Literary Criticism"

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     David Kelley: "The Code of the Creator"

     Stephen Cox: "The Literary Achievement of The Fountainhead"

     The Literary Art of Ayn Rand
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Education | A growing concern

     Mainstream academic interest in the Russian-born novelist-philosopher
     Ayn Rand continues to grow around the world, writes David Cohen
     Friday December 7, 2001

     The recent news that the philosophy department at one of America's
     leading public universities has established a $300,000 fellowship in
     honour of Ayn Rand offered another reminder - if one were needed - of
     the growing academic dimension to the international following enjoyed
     by this rather odd Russian-born novelist-philosopher.

     The fellowship, sponsored by the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist
     Scholarship, has been established at the University of Texas at Austin
     and will promote the study of Rand's philosophy of objectivism. The
     funding will be used to educate objectivist doctoral students and help
     them secure teaching positions. It will also promote the production
     and dissemination of scholarly works on the late author's
     anarcho-capitalist ideas.

     Rand, a self-styled high empress of the libertarian right, who died in
     1982 has long enjoyed wide popularity outside academe. Her coterie
     extends beyond the 30m (and counting, at a pace of several hundred
     thousand a year) readers who have purchased her books to include such
     pop stars as Simon Le Bon and the tennis player Billie Jean King,
     along with an array of trade union bosses, economists and political
     insiders on both sides of the Atlantic.

     Probably her most influential disciple is the Federal Reserve
     chairman, Alan Greenspan, who has said of his old friend: "She taught
     me that capitalism is not only practical and efficient but also

     Educators have until now largely been absent from the roll-call,
     though, perhaps not surprisingly given the scorn Rand seemed to
     reserve for universities and their faculties, which she often viewed
     as being intellectually corrupt.

     Two long-standing exceptions to this general rule have been
     American-based academic organisations: the Ayn Rand Institute, based
     in California, and the Objectivist Center, in New York, both of which
     have produced an impressive amount of material related to her work
     over the years, particularly a recently published book, The Contested
     Legacy of Ayn Rand, written by David Kelley, a Princeton-trained

     Those groups are largely in-house affairs, however, catering more to
     Rand's popular following than to academe, while at times also being
     riven by such ill-feeling over what constitutes the true Ayn Rand
     message that the former group refuses communication with the latter.

     Over the past two years, however, a rash of new scholarly books from
     more mainstream academic sources have appeared on aspects of Rand's
     aesthetics, moral philosophy, and relevance to such scholarly
     disciplines as women's studies and the sciences. After years of
     neglect, in the view of her supporters, her work is finally appearing
     in a number of general philosophy encyclopaedias and university
     textbooks as well.

     The latest issue of a relatively new scholarly publication, the
     Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, contains papers written by a dozen or
     more international academics from prestigious universities, including
     professors from Britain and continental Europe.

     Elsewhere on international campuses, if a quick web search is any
     guide, the list of new student groups from across the world dedicated
     to Rand's ideas appears to be getting even lengthier than the
     jumbo-sized neoliberal orations sprinkled throughout her novels and
     non-fiction. Similar groups now exist in Australia, Canada, Israel,
     the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the US.

     Ayn Rand never looked the type of person to gather such devotion. A
     diminutive Russian Jew, she was born Alissa Rosenbaum, in St
     Petersburg in 1905, the daughter of bourgeois parents.

     She loathed socialism, particularly as she experienced it during her
     own years as a student at the University of Leningrad, and emigrated
     to the US when she was 21, changing her name en route to Rand, after
     the typewriter she brought with her to the New World.

     She headed to Hollywood and worked as a movie extra and screenwriter,
     before moving to New York for a succession of jobs for motion picture

     In 1943 she published The Fountainhead, the best-seller about an
     idealistic architect who blows up his construction project when he
     finds its design has been tampered with by yobbish bureaucrats.
     Fourteen years later came Atlas Shrugged, a 1,084-page epic about a
     future decade in which big government and trade unions strangle
     individualism, leading to a strike by the "men of the mind" and the
     collapse of future society.

     These novels, like her later non-fictional writings, came underpinned
     by objectivism, the author's world-view prizing the "virtue" of
     selfishness and its corollary, laissez faire capitalism.

     At a sales conference Rand was once asked to systematically define
     this philosophy while standing on one foot. This she did, defining it
     thus: metaphysics - reality; epistemology - reason; ethics - rational
     self-interest; politics - capitalism.

     Such gestures pretty much defined her style to the end, and her
     extremely black and white view of life in general. "In this universe
     everything, everybody, is either all good or all bad, without any of
     those intermediate shades which, in life, complicate reality and
     perplex the eye that seeks to probe it truly," the critic Whittaker
     Chambers once noted in a brilliantly corrosive review published many
     years ago in the conservative American magazine National Review

     "This kind of simplifying pattern, of course, gives charm to most
     primitive storytelling. And, in fact, the somewhat ferro-concrete
     fairytale the author pours here is, basically, the old one known as:
     The War between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. In
     modern dress, it is a class war. Both sides to it are caricatures."

     A generation on, the accusation of caricature remains, even at a time
     when Rand's intellectual reputation appears to be on an upward
     cultural trend elsewhere.

     Heading the school of Randian naysayers is Jeff Walker, author of The
     Ayn Rand Cult and a sceptic of the deepest dye.

     Mr Walker, a Canadian writer, compares Rand to a cult leader, while
     battering her followers claims about her originality, literary talent
     and morality. The book contains startling anecdotes drawn from within
     Rand's inner circle, including descriptions of non-smokers being
     ostracised from the chain-smoking guru's social gatherings during her
     lifetime (she later died of lung cancer), and a bizarre love triangle
     involving Rand and a younger husband and wife team she at one time
     designated as her intellectual heirs.

     As for the scholarly value of Rand's work, Mr Walker might just as
     well have adapted Edward Gibbon's famous view of Thomas Aquinas - her
     better ideas tend to be borrowed; the words, alas, are entirely her
     own. He writes that objectivism's greatest intellectual appeal remains
     with keen minded yet sadly impressionable youths or else platitudinous
     dullards with a taste for the cult life.

     In the end, Mr Walker's recently published book may be even more
     hysterical than the movement he seeks to disparage. What's probably
     most significant about it, in 2001, is that any student or professor
     with an interest in debating the kinds of issues it raises can now
     find haven for the debate in a growing number of institutions of
     higher learning.

The Ayn Rand Institute: Clarification of ARI's Position on Government Help 
to Tsunami Victims
                            Friday, January 7, 2005

     On December 30, 2004, the Ayn Rand Institute released as a letter to
     the editor and as an op-ed a piece that condemned the U.S.
     government's use of taxpayers' money to help victims of the recent
     tsunami ("U.S. Should Not Help Tsunami Victims"). That piece was
     inappropriate and did not accurately convey the Institute's position.
     We would like to clarify our position.

     Obviously, the tsunami, with the thousands of innocent victims left in
     its wake, is a horrible disaster. The first concern of survivors and
     of those trying to help them is to provide basic necessities and then
     to begin rebuilding. The American public's predictably generous
     response to assist these efforts is motivated by goodwill toward their
     fellow man. In the face of the enormous and undeserved suffering,
     American individuals and corporations have donated millions of dollars
     in aid; they have done so by and large not out of some sense of
     altruistic duty but in the name of the potential value that another
     human being represents. This benevolence, which we share, is not the
     same thing as altruism.

     The ugly hand of altruism--the moral view that need entitles a person
     to the values of others, whose corresponding duty is to sacrifice
     their values for that person's sake--did show itself in the petulant
     demands of U.N. and other officials that "stingy" countries must give
     more. On their view, the U.S. has no right to the wealth it has
     produced, because it has produced it; the helpless victims of the
     tsunami have a right to that wealth, because they desperately need it.
     This perverse view is not an expression of goodwill toward man. In
     generously providing aid, the U.S. government should repudiate all
     such altruistic demands and refuse to associate with the organizations
     that make them.

     In a fully free, fully capitalist society--a society toward which ARI
     works--the government would not have the power to tax citizens and
     redistribute their wealth for the purpose of charity, domestic or
     foreign. The government would be restricted to one fundamental
     function: to protect the citizens' individual rights to life, liberty,
     property and the pursuit of happiness. To accomplish this, the
     government would need only a police force and a military to protect
     citizens from aggressors, and a legal system to adjudicate disputes
     among citizens who allege that their rights have been infringed.
     Charity would be left to private individuals and organizations, as it
     was successfully left in 19th century America (in even a
     semi-capitalist system, there is no shortage of wealth or of
     benevolence, as the public's response to the tsunami illustrates).

     But of all the ways in which our government today fails to uphold
     individual rights, providing (through compulsory taxation) short-term,
     emergency relief to foreign victims of a natural disaster is among the
     most innocuous. It was therefore inappropriate to single out for
     condemnation the government's offer of assistance. True, it would be
     preferable to use the aid money for a legitimate function of
     government, such as to purchase needed military equipment and armor
     for our soldiers in Iraq, who are being asked to risk their lives to
     defend our freedom. It is likely, moreover, that the increase in aid
     offered by our government in the days after the disaster stemmed not
     from benevolence but from surrender to the altruists' corrupt demand
     that the U.S. had not sacrificed enough. Nevertheless, thousands of
     the government's actions are more damaging to our rights. Far worse,
     for instance, would have been to pour the aid money into government
     programs and agencies whose very purpose is to violate individual
     rights, such as into the antitrust division of the Justice Department,
     which persecutes successful businesses for out-competing other
     companies on a free market. If one wants to fight the government's
     growing encroachment on individual rights, such are the areas on which
     to focus, not emergency relief.

     The crucial issue in the battle for a free society is to restrict the
     government to its only legitimate purpose: the protection of
     individual rights. (The issue of compulsory taxation, the focus of the
     original piece, is a derivative; it pertains to the appropriate means
     by which a proper government would finance its activities, and is the
     last issue to address in establishing a free society. For elaboration,
     see Ayn Rand's article "Government Financing in a Free Society" in
The evolution of Ayn Rand -- The Washington Times

     By Steve Chapman
     Published February 2, 2005

     Has Ayn Rand gone mainstream? The radical champion of individualism
     and capitalism, who died in 1982, is no longer an exotic taste. Her
     image has adorned a U.S. postage stamp. Her ideas have been detected
     in a new mass-market animated comedy film, "The Incredibles."
         And today on the 100th anniversary of her birth, there will be a
     Rand commemoration at the Library of Congress -- an odd site for a
     ceremony honoring a fierce anti-statist.
         In her day, Miss Rand was at odds with almost every prevailing
     American social attitude. She infuriated liberals by preaching
     economic laissez-faire and lionizing titans of business. She appalled
     conservatives by rejecting religion in any form while celebrating, she
     said, "sexual enjoyment as an end in itself."
         But her novels found countless readers. "The Fountainhead,"
     published in 1943, and "Atlas Shrugged," which followed in 1957, are
     still in print. In 1991, when the Book of the Month Club polled
     Americans asking what book had most influenced their lives, "Atlas
     Shrugged" finished second only to the Bible. In all, Miss Rand's books
     have sold some 22 million copies and continue selling more than half a
     million a year.
         Miss Rand emerged in the aftermath of the Great Depression, the
     New Deal and World War II -- which were taken as proving the
     obsolescence of the free market, that prosperity required an
     all-intrusive government, and that national success demanded
     subordination of the individual to collective purposes. After the
     traumas of the 1930s and '40s, America was intent on building a
     well-ordered welfare state by compromise and consensus.
         In that setting, Ayn Rand resembled the female athlete in Apple
     Computer's 1984 Super Bowl commercial, who sprinted into a mass
     assembly of oppressed drones to hurl a sledgehammer at the Big Brother
     orating from a giant TV screen -- smashing it and bathing the audience
     in dazzling light.
         Miss Rand, a Russian immigrant, saw herself harking back to the
     Enlightenment values of reason, limited government and personal
     liberty that fueled the American Revolution. "The United States," she
     declared, "was the first moral society in history."
         Her novels were derided by critics, who saw them as interminable
     philosophical diatribes disguised as melodrama. What she regarded as
     thoroughgoing consistency struck many readers as overbearing
     dogmatism. Her political ideas attracted only a fringe following.
     Outside a tiny band of true believers, few people counted themselves
     as disciples of Ayn Rand.
         But many people absorbed much of her thinking and incorporated it
     into their worldviews. Public figures as diverse as Hillary Clinton,
     Clarence Thomas and Cal Ripken have cited her influence, on top of
     millions of other unfamous people.
         In time, her work bore fruit. By the mid-1970s, wage-and-price
     controls had wrecked the economy, in perfect accord with Miss Rand's
     predictions. Her view of capitalism not as a necessary evil but a
     moral good helped turn public opinion toward free markets, opening the
     way for the Reagan Revolution.
         Her celebration of individual joy also echoed in the leftist
     counterculture of the 1960s, which rebelled against the sterile
     conformity of the Eisenhower era. However, Ayn Rand had no use for the
     irresponsible hedonism that spawned the saying, "If it feels good, do
     it." That was a perversion of her insight that pleasure is not cause
     for guilt. You can hear Miss Rand even in Bruce Springsteen: "It ain't
     no sin to be glad you're alive."
         That's just one illustration of how her influence went beyond
     economics and political theory. In her eyes, there was no greater good
     than each person's integrity and self-fulfillment. One of her essay
     collections had the surprising title, "The Virtue of Selfishness."
         Looking back, it's hard to recapture how jarring that phrase was a
     generation ago, when altruism and self-sacrifice were seen as the
     central elements of an exemplary life. Today, Americans take it for
     granted that they are entitled to live for their own happiness,
     without apology.
         It may seem curious to honor a writer who merely defended free
     markets, preached the superiority of reason over blind faith and
     extolled the American ideal of the pursuit of happiness. David Kelley,
     head of the Rand-oriented Objectivist Center, jokes that he's reminded
     of the theatergoer who complained that "Hamlet" was full of cliches.
     Miss Rand's beliefs have been so widely disseminated and absorbed that
     we have forgotten where they originated.
         The truth is that for all she did, they are no longer her ideas.
     To a large extent, they are ours.

         Steve Chapman is a nationally syndicated columnist.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Entertainment

     Rand's philosophy, influence still hold weight
     Cox News Service
     Last update: February 02, 2005

     ATLANTA -- Fay Stephenson's old copy of "Atlas Shrugged" was turned
     into soggy mush when her basement flooded and ruined a bunch of stored
     books. Bill Fallin keeps his copy of the novel in his desk and
     re-reads sections occasionally. Ron Mahre read "The Fountainhead" when
     he was in college and now plans to give his battered original copy to
     his 17-year-old daughter Bethany.

     Like a first rock concert or a first slow dance, some people never
     forget their first encounter with Ayn Rand, the passionate,
     controversial author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead,"
     creator of the philosophy called objectivism, patron saint of
     libertarians (both capital "L" and small "l") and galvanizer of
     several generations of intellectually inclined teenagers.

     "I think at that age you're still sort of forming who you are and who
     you will become," said Stephenson, 49, a former marketing executive,
     recalling her own teenage infatuation with "Atlas Shrugged" while in
     high school in New York. There was something rebellious and utopian
     about Rand's harsh but romantic critique of society, she said, that
     appeals strongly to young people.

     Today is Rand's centenary -- the 100th anniversary of her birth -- to
     be marked with a conference at the Library of Congress in Washington
     sponsored by The Objectivist Center, and a private party in Atlanta
     Saturday for the Georgia Objectivists. A new illustrated biography,
     "Ayn Rand," by Jeffrey Britting in the Overlook Illustrated Lives
     series will be released, and the new issue of Reason magazine devotes
     its cover story to re-assessing Rand.

     Ayn (rhymes with "fine") Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and
     immigrated to the United States in 1926. She was an extra in movies,
     including Cecil B. DeMille's "King of Kings," but soon made a name for
     herself as a writer. The most widely read of her many books are "The
     Fountainhead," her 1943 novel about an architect with a rigid code of
     honor, and "Atlas Shurgged," a 1,000-plus page 1957 novel about the
     greatest achievers of the world going on strike. Huge, overblown,
     romantic, it's packed with lengthy speeches on philosophy and spawned
     the catchphrase "Who is John Galt?" (the novel's mysterious hero).

     Rand died in 1982, but her books continue to sell well -- "Atlas"
     alone sells more than 150,000 copies a year, with overall sales past
     5.5 million, according to the Ayn Rand Institute. In a 1991 Library of
     Congress public opinon poll, it was cited as the second most
     influential book ever -- after the Bible.

     Rand was "a cult figure with plenty of worshippers and plenty of
     desecrators," contributing editor Cathy Young writes in Reason, noting
     that she offered her millions of readers "a bold, ardent vision of
     defiance, struggle, creative achievement, joy and romantic love."

     Yet Rand's intense celebration of the individual, rationalism and
     capitalism remains, for many readers, "a way station on a journey to
     some wider outlook," Young writes.

     Which is another way of saying that many people go through an "Ayn
     Rand phase."

     "You initially get sucked in by the pulpiness of her novels," said
     Merridith Kristoffersen, 34, a trainer for a real estate company, who
     read "Atlas" and "Fountainhead" in high school in Florida. "They're
     kind of racy and lavish, but she's sending a message that's more
     weighty than just pulp."

     While still a fan of the novels, Kristofferson said Rand's philosophy
     of unfettered capitalism wouldn't work in today's society.

     Jean Crabbe, a stay-at-home mother of three, was so into Rand's novels
     in high school that she wrote her senior term paper on Rand -- "The
     Fountainhead of Objectivism," she titled it. "Imagine remembering that
     after all these years and forgetting so much else," she laughs.

     She remembers arguing with friends in the early '70s over which was
     the greater novel -- "Atlas Shrugged" or "Lord of the Rings."

     "And I have to say now in looking back, maybe they were right," Crabbe
     said. "Maybe 'Lord of the Rings' was better."

     Better or not, "Lord" hasn't influenced public policy as much as
     "Atlas." Rand's promotion of laissez-faire capitalism free of all
     government regulations made her a fountainhead for many economists and
     conservative thinkers. Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan,
     no less, wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times in 1957,
     responding to the paper's negative review of "Atlas Shrugged" and
     calling it "a celebration of life and happiness." Greenspan has called
     Rand "clearly a major contribution to my intellectual development."

     Like Greenspan's, some love affairs with Rand last a lifetime and are
     not a "phase." Bill Fallin, 74, read "Atlas Shugged" more than 30
     years ago, when he was on the verge of bankruptcy. The book's message
     inspired him to turn his business life around, and he went on to be
     president of three companies.

     "I've guided a lot of people toward that book," Fallin said. "I've
     probably recommended it to 200 or 300 people over the years."

     Like many fans, Fallin agrees with only some of Rand's philosophy.
     Rand was an atheist, but Fallin, like others, says he has no problem
     being a Christian and also being inspired by Rand's message.

     During her life, however, Rand would not have stood for such
     disagreement among her acolytes. Although she preached individualism
     as the highest value, she demanded that her close followers agree with
     her every pronouncement or face banishment from her inner circle.

     "I was overwhelmed when I first read her," Crabbe said. "It seemed
     like she had the answers and had it all figured out. When you're that
     age, that's the way you look at the world. It's either/or, with no
     in-betweens. Now I understand that that's just not realistic."


     -- Reality exists as an absolute -- facts are facts, independent of
     feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

     -- Reason is man's only means of perceiving reality, and his only
     source of knowledge. (A corollary: Faith in God is not a part of
     reason, and therefore not a part of objectivism.)

     -- Every man is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others.
     He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others
     nor sacrificing others to himself.

     -- The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism.
     The government should act only as a policeman that protects man's
     rights; it uses physical force only against those who initiate its
     use, such as criminals or foreign invaders.

     -- Condensed from the Web site of the Ayn Rand Institute
Ayn Rand at 100

     February 2, 2005

     by David Boaz

     David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute, author
     of [1]Libertarianism: A Primer (Free Press, 1998), and editor of
     [2]The Libertarian Reader (Free Press, 1998), which includes a lengthy
     interview with Ayn Rand by Alvin Toffler.

     Interest in the bestselling novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand continues to
     grow, 20 years after her death and 60 years after she first hit the
     bestseller lists with The Fountainhead. Rand was born February 2,
     1905, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

     In the dark year of 1943, in the depths of World War II and the
     Holocaust, when the United States was allied with one totalitarian
     power to defeat another, three remarkable women published books that
     gave birth to the modern libertarian movement. Rose Wilder Lane, the
     daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who had written Little House on the
     Prairie and other stories of American rugged individualism, published
     a passionate historical essay called The Discovery of Freedom.
     Novelist and literary critic Isabel Paterson produced The God of the
     Machine, which defended individualism as the source of progress in the

     The other great book of 1943 was The Fountainhead, a powerful novel
     about architecture and integrity by Ayn Rand. The book's individualist
     theme did not fit with the spirit of the age, and reviewers savaged
     it. But the book found its intended readers. Sales started slowly,
     then built and built. It was still on the New York Times bestseller
     list two full years later. Hundreds of thousands of people read it in
     the 1940s, millions eventually, and many of them were inspired to seek
     more information about Ayn Rand's ideas.

     Rand went on to write an even more successful novel, Atlas Shrugged,
     in 1957, and to found an association of people who shared her
     philosophy, which she called Objectivism. Although her political
     philosophy was libertarian, not all libertarians shared her views on
     metaphysics, ethics, and religion. Others were put off by the
     starkness of her presentation and by her cult following.

     Like Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek, Rand demonstrates the
     importance of immigration not just to America but to American
     libertarianism. Mises had fled his native Austria right before the
     Nazis confiscated his library, Rand fled the Communists who came to
     power in her native Russia. When a heckler asked her at a public
     speech, "Why should we care what a foreigner thinks?", she replied
     with her usual fire, "I chose to be an American. What did you ever do,
     except for having been born?"

     George Gilder called Atlas Shrugged the most important novel of ideas
     since War and Peace. Writing in the Washington Post, he explained her
     impact on the world of ideas and especially the world of capitalist
     ideas: Rand flung her gigantic books into the teeth of an
     intelligentsia still intoxicated by state power, during an era when
     even Dwight Eisenhower maintained tax rates of 90 percent and
     confessed his inability to answer Nikita Khrushchev's assertion that
     capitalism was immoral because it was based on greed.

     Rands books first appeared when no one seemed to support freedom and
     capitalism, and when even capitalisms greatest defenders emphasized
     its utility, not its morality. It was often said at the time that
     socialism is a good idea in theory, but human beings just arent good
     enough for socialism. Ayn Rand insisted that socialism is not good
     enough for human beings.

     Her books attracted millions of readers because they presented a
     passionate philosophical case for individual rights and capitalism,
     and did so through the medium of the vivid, cant-put-it-down novel.
     The people who read Rand and got the point didnt just become aware of
     costs and benefits, incentives and trade-offs. They became passionate
     advocates of liberty.

     Rand was an anomaly in the 1940s and 1950s, an advocate of reason and
     individualism in time of big government and conformity. But she was a
     shaper of the 1960s, the age of do your own thing and youth rebellion;
     the 1970s, pejoratively described as the Me Decade but perhaps better
     understood as an age of skepticism about institutions and a turn
     toward self-improvement and personal happiness; and the 1980s, the
     decade of tax cuts and entrepreneurship.

     Throughout those decades her books continued to sell -- 22 million
     copies over the years, and they still move off the shelves. According
     to Penguin/Putnam, publisher of her books, sales of Atlas Shrugged
     exceeded 140,000 copies in 2002, up 10 percent from the previous year.
     Combined sales of all four of her novels in paperback exceeded 374,000
     copies. That level was higher than any year since Rands death in 1982.
     Add in purchases of hardcovers, book club editions, and Rands
     nonfiction works, and readers are buying 500,000 copies of her books
     per year.

     College students, professors, businessmen, Alan Greenspan, the rock
     group Rush, and the top economic adviser to Russian president Vladimir
     Putin all proclaim themselves fans of Ayn Rand. Both The Fountainhead
     and Atlas Shrugged appear on Barnes and Nobles list of the top 50
     classic bestsellers, and screenwriters are working on movie scripts
     for both. In a survey of Book of the Month Club readers for the
     Library of Congress, Atlas Shrugged came in second to the Bible as the
     most influential book for Americans today.

     Recently Rand has been the subject of profiles in USA Today, the
     Washington Post, the New Yorker, and C-SPANs American Writers series.
     Her name has turned up in novels by Tobias Wolff and William F.
     Buckley, Jr.; in stories about Playboys 50th anniversary; in Playbill,
     the theater magazine; in newspaper profiles of her friend Mickey
     Spillane; in a Showtime movie, The Passion of Ayn Rand, starring Helen
     Mirren; and in a documentary, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, that was
     nominated for an Academy Award in 1997. She even appeared on a
     first-class stamp as part of the Postal Services Literary Arts series.
     A quotation from Rand greets visitors to the American pavilion at Walt
     Disney Worlds Epcot Center.

     Few writers are more popular or more controversial than Ayn Rand.
     Despite the enormous commercial success of her books, and the major
     influence shes had on American culture, reviewers and other
     intellectuals have generally been hostile. Theyve dismissed her
     support for individualism and capitalism, ridiculed her purple prose,
     and mocked her black-and-white morality. None of which seems to have
     dissuaded her millions of readers.

     Although she did not like to acknowledge debts to other thinkers,
     Rands work rests squarely within the libertarian tradition, with roots
     going back to Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Jefferson, Paine, Bastiat,
     Spencer, Mill, and Mises. She infused her novels with the ideas of
     individualism, liberty, and limited government in ways that often
     changed the lives of her readers. The cultural values she championed
     -- reason, science, individualism, achievement, and happiness -- are
     spreading across the world.


     1. http://www.catostore.org/index.asp?fa=ProductDetails&method=cats&scid=14&pid=1441021
     2. http://www.catostore.org/index.asp?fa=ProductDetails&method=cats&scid=14&pid=144978
Reason: Rand-O-Rama: Ayn Rand's long shelf life in American culture 
March 2005

     This is the only novel of ideas written by an American woman that I
     can recall.Nothing she has to say is said in a second-rate fashion.
     You have to think of The Magic Mountainwhen you think of The
     Fountainhead. Lorine Pruette, The New York Times Book Review (1943)

     From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from
     painful necessity, commanding: To the gas chambersgo!.A tornado might
     feel this way, or Carrie [sic] Nation. Whittaker Chambers, National
     Review (1957)

     Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is
     unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and
     rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently
     avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should. [The New York
     Times reviewer] suspiciously wonders about a person who sustains such
     a mood through the writing of 1,168 pages and some fourteen years of
     work. This reader wonders about a person who finds unrelenting justice
     personally disturbing. Alan Greenspan, future chairman of the Federal
     Reserve, responding to a negative review of Atlas Shrugged, in The New
     York Times (1957)

     Its all great, Hef! Exceptdo you really think our readers will dig a
     nude fold-out of Ayn Rand? Hefner and His Pals, a comic strip in Mad
     magazine (1967)

     Like most of my contemporaries, I first read The Fountainhead when I
     was 18 years old. I loved it. I too missed the point. I thought it was
     a book about a strong-willed architect...and his love life.I
     deliberately skipped over all the passages about egoism and altruism.
     And I spent the next year hoping I would meet a gaunt, orange-haired
     architect who would rape me. Or failing that, an architect who would
     rape me. Or failing that, an architect. I am certain that The
     Fountainhead did a great deal more for architects than Architectural
     Forum ever dreamed. Nora Ephron, The New York Times Book Review (1968)

     He spent several days deciding on the artifacts [that would be found
     with his dead body]....He would be found lying on his back, on his
     bed, with a copy of Ayn Rands The Fountainhead (which would prove he
     had been a misunderstood superman rejected by the masses and so, in a
     sense, murdered by his scorn) and an unfinished letter to Exxon
     protesting the cancellation of his gas credit card. Philip K. Dick, A
     Scanner Darkly (1977)

     With acknowledgement to the genius of Ayn Rand liner notes to the Rush
     album 2112 (1976)

     JENNIFER GREY: You cant just leave [the girl you impregnated].

     MAX CANTOR: I could blow a summer hauling toasted bagels just to bail
     out some little chick who probably balled every guy in the place.Some
     people count, and some people dont. [pulls The Fountainhead from his
     pocket] Read it. I think its a book youll enjoy. But be sure you
     return itI have notes in the margin. Dirty Dancing, 1987

     Lots of girls fell in love with Definitism because of the erotic power
     of the books. No one wanted to admit how important the sex was, but
     lets face itthe books were very erotic. There were all these intrigues
     going on, all these little girls wanting to satisfy their sexual
     cravings. Mary Gaitskill, Two Girls, Fat and Thin (1991)

     MARGE: Maggielikes a bottle of warm milk before nap time.

     MS. SINCLAIR: A bottle? Mrs. Simpson, do you know what a babys saying
     when she reaches for a bottle?

     MARGE: Ba Ba?

     MS. SINCLAIR: Shes  saying I am a leech! Our aim here is to develop
     the bottle within.

     MARGE: That sounds awfully harsh. conversation between Marge and the
     proprietor of the Ayn Rand School for Tots, The Simpsons (1992)

     LOUIS: I could have you arrested you.creep. Theyd think I put you in
     jail for beating me up.

     JOE: I never hit anyone before, I

     LOUIS: But itd really be for those decisions. It was like a sex scene
     in an Ayn Rand novel, huh?

     JOE: I hurt you! Im sorry, Louis. I never hit anyone before, I

     from Angels in America, by Tony Kushner, conversation between lovers

     Yes, at first I was happy to be learning how to read. It seemed
     exciting and magical, but then I read this: Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn
     Rand. I read every last word of this garbage, and because of this
     piece of shit, I am never reading again. police officer Barbrady,
     South Park (1998)

     However completely you think you preside over your own schedule, there
     are inflexibilities there. Inflexibilities which not even one of Ayn
     Rands heroes could do very much about. William F. Buckley Jr., Miles
     Gone By: A Literary Autobiography  (2004)

     Unlikeany other Marvel [Comics] author, [Spider-Man co-creator Steve]
     Ditko received plotting credit as early as Amazing Spider-Man #25
     (1965), an unprecedented concession that was most likely the result of
     Ditkos contemporaneous discovery of Ayn Rands Objectivism, with its
     hatred of creative dilution and unearned rewards. Andrew Hultkrans in
     Give Our Regards to the Atom Smashers!: Writers on Comics (2004)

     The Incrediblessuggests a thorough, feverish immersion in both the
     history of American comic books and the philosophy of Ayn
     Rand.Luckily, though, [writer and director Brad] Birds disdain for
     mediocrity is not simply ventriloquized through his characters, but is
     manifest in his meticulous, fiercely coherent approach to animation.
     A.O. Scott, The New York Times (2004)

Reason: Ayn Rand at 100: Loved, hated, and always controversial, the 
best-selling author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged is more 
relevant than ever.
March 2005

     [20]Cathy Young

     A hundred years after her birth and nearly 25 years after her death,
     Ayn Rand remains a fascinating and enigmatic presence. She has been
     mainstreamed enough to have been honored by a U.S. Postal Service
     stamp in 1999 and to have been featured on C-SPANs American Writers
     series in 2002. Her novels figure prominently in readers lists of the
     20th centurys greatest books. Notably, in a 1991 survey of more than
     2,000 Book-of-the-Month Club members about books that made a
     difference in their lives, Rands magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, came in
     secondalbeit a very distant secondto the Bible. Rand, a devout
     atheist, might have seen that as an insult rather than an honor.

     Yet in many ways Rand remains an outlier and an oddity on the cultural
     scene, a cult figure with plenty of worshippers and plenty of
     desecrators. No other modern author has had such extravagant claims of
     greatness made on her behalf: Followers of her philosophy,
     Objectivism, regard her as the greatest thinker to have graced this
     earth since Aristotle and the greatest writer of all time. Mainstream
     intellectuals tend to dismiss her as a writer of glorified pulp
     fiction and a pseudo-philosophical quack with an appeal for
     impressionable teens. Politically, too, Rand is an outsider: Liberals
     shrink from her defiant pro-capitalist stance, conservatives from her
     militant atheism, and conservatives and liberals alike from her
     individualism. Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to
     Rands ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild. In her
     insistence that political philosophy must be based on a proper
     epistemology, she rejected the libertarian movement, which embraced a
     wide variety of reasons for advocating free markets and free minds, as
     among her enemies.

     In recent years, at last, some analysis of Rand has appeared that is
     neither uncritical adulation nor unrelenting bashing. Some of it has
     come from unorthodox neo-Objectivists, such as the feminist scholar
     Mimi Gladstein or the political philosopher Chris Matthew Sciabarra.
     (The two edited the 1999 book Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand,
     and Sciabarra wrote 1996s controversial Ayn Rand: The Russian
     Radical.) The five-year-old Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, co-founded by
     Sciabarra, often features essays by mainstream intellectuals that
     treat Rands legacy in a non-hagiographic way. Two controversial books
     about Rand the person remain a good place to start for an
     understanding, but not adulatory, look at her life and work: The
     Passion of Ayn Rand (1986) by Barbara Branden, no doubt the first-ever
     sympathetic biography whose subject slept with the biographers
     husband, and Judgment Day: My Years With Ayn Rand (1989) by Nathaniel
     Branden, the husband in question.

     In 1962, when they were still among the faithful, the Brandens
     co-wrote a book called Who Is Ayn Rand? More than 40 years later, the
     question still stands.

     The Appeal of Ayn Rand

     Reading Rands philosophy can be an exhilarating, head-turning
     experience; it was for me when I first picked up her nonfiction
     manifesto For the New Intellectual at the age of 19, two years after
     coming to the United States from the Soviet Union. (Rand herself was
     an American immigrant from the Soviet Union, leaving her family behind
     to move here in 1926.) Rands rejection of the moral code that condemns
     selfishness as the ultimate evil and holds up self-sacrifice as the
     ultimate good is a radical challenge to received wisdom, an invitation
     to a startlingly new way to see the world. While Rand was hardly the
     first philosopher to advocate an ethos of individualism, reason, and
     self-interest, no one formulated it as accessibly or persuasively as
     she didor as passionately. In Rands hands, the virtue of selfishness
     was not a dry, abstract rationalist construct with a bloodless
     economic man at its center. It became a bold, ardent vision of
     defiance, struggle, creative achievement, joy, and romantic love. That
     vibrancy, more than anything else, accounts for her extraordinary

     Politically, Rand wanted to provide liberal capitalism with a moral
     foundation, to take on the prevalent notion that communism was a noble
     if unworkable idea while the free market was a necessary evil best
     suited to flawed human nature. In this she succeeded brilliantly (even
     if the notion that socialism failed because it has never been properly
     tried is still alive and well among the intelligentsia). Her arguments
     against compassionate redistributionand persecutionof wealth have lost
     none of their power in the decades after they were made.

     Yet there is a reason Objectivism remains, for most people, a way
     station on a journey to some wider outlook. Even Nathaniel Branden,
     who still espouses most Objectivist tenets, has been severely critical
     of Rands judgmental and contemptuous attitude toward all emotions she
     deemed irrational, her tendency to glorify
     emotional repression, and her lukewarm support even for voluntary,
     non-self-sacrificing mutual aid.

     The Limits of Ayn Rand

     Perhaps Rands biggest error was the totalism of her philosophy. Having
     rightly concluded that the values of the free market were moral, she
     went on to make the sweeping assertion that those values were the only
     moral ones, and that all human relations must be based on the
     principles of trade. Yet there is nothing unreasonable and nothing
     anti-market or anti-individualist to the belief that individualistic
     and market-based values need something to complement them.

     The Victorians emphasized the importance of charity and viewed family
     and community as havens in a heartless world. This value system had
     its serious drawbacksfrom preachy sentimentalism to fairly rigid
     gender roles, with women virtually excluded from economic and
     intellectual endeavors and relegated to the complementary sphere of
     love, care giving, and charity. But at least the Victorians recognized
     the need for a balance and variety of virtues.

     Politically, too, Rands insistence on de-emphasizing, or even
     denigrating, family, community, and private charity is not a
     particularly clever tactic for capitalisms defenders. These are the
     very institutions that can be expected, in the absence of a massive
     welfare state, to meet those human needs that people prove unable to
     satisfy through the market. Rand did claim to be in favor of
     benevolence, in contrast to altruism; but it would be fruitless to
     look for providers of private charitable aid among her good guys,
     except for those who lend a helping hand to a friend. When charity is
     mentioned in Rands fiction, it is nearly always in a negative context.
     In The Fountainhead, the chorus of second-handers eager to condemn her
     heroic, individualist architect protagonist, Howard Roark, include the
     society woman dressing for a charity bazaar who uses charity as an
     excuse to flaunt her virtue; in Atlas Shrugged, a club providing
     shelter to needy young women is mocked for offering help to unworthy
     sufferers such as drinkers, dope users, and unwed mothers-to-be.

     Family fares even worse in Rands universe. The virtual absence of
     children in her work has been noted by many critics, starting with
     Whittaker Chambers in his infamous roasting of Atlas Shrugged in
     National Review. Actually, John Galts private utopia in Atlas features
     a nameless young woman who makes it her career to raise rational
     children; but this brief passage comes across as little more than a
     pro forma nod to motherhood. In her 1964 Playboy interview Rand flatly
     declared that it was immoral to place family ties and friendship above
     productive work; in her fiction, family life is depicted as a
     stifling, soul-killing, mainly feminine swamp.

     Its noteworthy that in The Fountainhead, the heroesRoark, newspaper
     magnate Gail Wynand, and Roarks troubled lover, Dominique Franconhave
     all grown up motherless, while the arch-villain, critic Ellsworth
     Toohey, spent his childhood as his mothers pet and the worthless Peter
     Keating, who relies on Roark to do his architecture work, has a
     grotesque caricature of a selfless, smothering, tyrannical mother. The
     only Randian heroic couple to actually reproduce is the hero of Anthem
     and his girlfriend, who is pregnant at the end of the dystopian
     science fiction novelette; but they have the excuse of needing to
     breed a new race of free men, since the world around them has
     regressed to post-apocalyptic primitivism and slavery.

     In its pure form, Rands philosophy would work very well indeed if
     human beings were never helpless and dependent through no fault of
     their own. Thus, its hardly surprising that so many people become
     infatuated with Objectivism as teenagers and grow out of it later,
     when concerns of family, children, and old agetheir own and their
     familiesmake that fantasy seem more and more impossible.

     The Darkness in Ayn Rand

     In the heyday of the Objectivist movement, Rand used to brush off
     charges that her Übermensch heroes were unrealistic by pointing to
     herself and the Brandens, at one point shouting during a debate, Am I
     impossible? In fact, what is revealed of Rand in the Brandens
     biographies dramatically illustrates the gap between ideology and
     reality in her own life. In the Randiverse, a man whose beloved left
     him for another would manfully accept her rational decisionmay the
     best Übermensch win!and remain friends with her and her new partner.
     In real life, Rands rational affair with Branden, whom she fantasized
     as a Galt or Roark come alive, caused devastation all around, to
     themselves as much as to their spouses. Rands unshakable belief in the
     power of the human mind led her to refuse to recognize the mental
     deterioration of her husband, Frank OConnor, and she tormented him
     with exercises in psycho-epistemology. When she herself was diagnosed
     with cancer, she refused to disclose her illness publicly, evidently
     because she believed, according to Barbara Branden, that cancer was
     the result of philosophical and psychological errors.

     Rands detractors often brand her a fascist. She is not, of course; but
     does her work have overtones of a totalitarian or dictatorial
     mentality? This charge irks even ambivalent Rand admirers, such as
     Nathaniel Branden, who fully recognize the dogmatism and intolerance
     in the Objectivist movement. They point out that Rand decisively
     rejects the use of force except in self-defense. True; but as Branden
     has observed on the topic of emotional repression, it would be wise to
     pay attention not just to what Rand says but to what she doesin this
     case, in her novels. Near the end of Atlas Shrugged, when the heroes
     go to rescue John Galt from the baddies, female railroad magnate Dagny
     Taggart calmly and quite unnecessarily shoots a guard who cant decide
     whether to let her in or not. The man, you see, wanted to exist
     without the responsibility of consciousnessobviously a capital crime.

     Still more troubling is an earlier passage in Atlas in which
     bureaucratic incompetence and arrogance lead to a terrible train
     wreck. Many would say, Rand wryly notes, that the people who died in
     the accident were not guilty or responsible for the thing that
     happened to them. Then, in a series of brief portraits, Rand endeavors
     to show that the passengers were guilty indeed: All of them had
     benefited from evil government programs, promoted evil political or
     philosophical ideas, or both. Rand does not advocate their murder, of
     course (though she sympathetically depicts a trainmaster who chooses
     not to avert the disaster, partly in revenge against the regulators);
     but she does suggest that they had it coming. In Atlas and the
     nonfiction essays she turned to in her final decades, political and
     ideological debates are treated as wars with no innocent bystanders,
     and the dehumanization of the enemy reaches levels reminiscent of
     communist or fascist propaganda.

     One inevitable consequence of this attitude toward most other human
     beings is, to quote the title of a George Orwell essay, the prevention
     of literature. There can be no question that Rand was a highly
     talented writer with a great gift for plot, description, and yes,
     characterization. The Fountainhead is a brilliant book, and so is
     Rands often underappreciated first novel, We the Living, a richly
     textured, passionate, moving story of life in post-revolutionary

     But in these novels Rands philosophy has not yet petrified into dogma.
     Even the larger-than-life romantic heroes have recognizable human
     emotions. (Rands detractors often claim that Roark is a robotically
     unfeeling superman, but consider this passage, when Dominique tells
     him of her marriage to Peter Keating: It would have been easy, if she
     had seen a man distorting his mouth to bite off sound, closing his
     fists and twisting them in defense against himself. But it was not
     easy, because she did not see him doing this, yet knew that this was
     being done, without the relief of a physical gesture.) Rands moral
     scale in The Fountainhead still allows for shades of gray. The
     power-seeking Gail Wynand is a tragic figure whom Roark loves despite
     the error of his ways; Dominiques father, Guy Francon, is basically a
     good guy despite exemplifying none of the Randian virtues; even the
     despicable Peter Keating merits some sympathy, and his failed romance
     with his true love, Katie, has some dignity and poignancy.

     But in Atlas Shrugged, Rands final novel, the ideologue crushes the
     writer almost completely. While a few characters show occasional
     glimpses of humanity, most of the heroes are abstractions of
     greatness, while the villains are subhuman vermin. The story
     suffocates under endless speechifying and analysis in which each point
     is flogged to death and each un-Randian idea is reduced to a straw man
     the heroes can easily beat down and shred. In this effort, all life
     and beauty are drained from Rands prose style, and we are treated to
     passages like this one, when industrialist Hank Reardens wife tries to
     hurt him by telling him she has slept with a man he despises: There,
     he thought, was the final abortion of the creed of collective
     interdependence, the creed of non-identity, non-property, non-fact:
     the belief that the moral stature of one is at the mercy of the action
     of another.

     The Paradox of Ayn Rand

     For all her flaws, Rand remains a towering figure on the last centurys
     cultural landscape. She arose in an era of competing totalitarian
     ideologies and declared that communism and Nazism were not opposites
     but evil twins, and that their true opposite was freedom. In an era
     when collectivism was seen as the way of the future, she
     unapologetically asserted the worth of the individual and his right to
     exist for himself, and declared the spiritual dimension of material
     achievement. In an age of existential doubt, she offered a celebration
     of creativity, of the human mind, of the joy of life on this earth.
     (The Fountainhead has a glorious passage in which a young man who is
     starting to despair of finding beauty or purpose in life is moved and
     inspired by the sight of Roarks just-finished construction project.)
     Atlas Shrugged, clunky and extremist though it is, contains some
     brilliant and powerful pro-capitalist polemicssuch as Francisco
     DAnconias speech on the meaning of money and the tale of one factorys
     disastrous experiment in implementing the slogan, From each according
     to his ability, to each according to his need.

     Rand zealots, and even moderate fans such as the Brandens, are often
     prone to credit her with almost single-handedly rolling back the tide
     of socialist ideology in the 20th century. Thats quite an
     exaggeration, as is the notion that her philosophy sprang whole from
     her mind like Athena from the skull of Zeus. Still, Rand was the most
     successful and widely read popularizer of the ideas of individual
     liberty and the free market of her day. In the 21st century, as we
     face Islamist terrorism abroad and when public discourse at home often
     seems dominated by religious conservatism on the right and politically
     correct pieties on the left, Rands message of reason and liberty, if
     its stripped of its odder features, could be a rallying point for what
     the neo-Objectivist philosopher David Kelley, who runs the Objectivist
     Center, calls Enlightenment-based values.

     From yet another perspective, Rand can be seen as a great eccentric
     thinker and writer whose work is less about a practical guide to real
     life than about a unique, individual, stylized vision, a romantic
     vision that transforms and transcends real life. Rands philosophy
     admitted no contradictions or paradoxes in reality; but reality is
     full of apparently irreconcilable truths. The truth of what Rand said
     about the heroic human spirit and individual self-determination does
     not negate the truth that human beings often find themselves at the
     mercy of circumstances beyond their control and dependent on others
     through no fault of theirs. The truth of the self-sufficient soul
     coexists with the truth of the vital importance of human connections.

     Rand herself was a creature of paradox. She was a prophet of freedom
     and individualism who tolerated no disobedience or independent thought
     in her acolytes, a rationalist who refused to debate her views. She
     was an atheist whose worship of Man led her to see the human mind as a
     godlike entity, impervious to the failings of the body or to
     environmental influences. (Nathaniel Branden reports that she even
     disliked the idea of evolution.) She was a strong woman who created
     independent heroines yet saw sexual submission as the essence of
     femininity and argued that no healthy woman would want to be president
     of the United States because it would put her above all men.

     This is perhaps how Rand is best appreciated: as a figure of great
     achievement and great contradictions, a visionary whose vision is one
     among many, whose truths are important but by no means exclusive.
     Rand, it is safe to say, would have regarded such appreciation as far
     worse than outright rejection. But thats just another paradox of

     Contributing Editor Cathy Young is a columnist for the Boston Globe.


    20. mailto:CathyYoung63 at aol.com
Reason: Editor's Note: Rand Redux
March 2005

     Rand Redux

     Reason does Ayn Rand on her 100th birthday

     Nick Gillespie

     Let me admit up front that I'm no great fan of this month's cover
     girl, Ayn Rand, whose 100th birthday falls on February 2 and whose
     legacy we analyze on page 22. It's a doubly embarrassing admission:
     Not only is Rand one of the most important figures in the libertarian
     movement of which reason is a part, but this magazine's name is an
     homage to her philosophy, Objectivism, which ascribes a key role to
     rationality. When a Boston University student named Lanny Friedlander
     started reason back in 1968 as a mimeographed call to arms--well,
     let's just say he very much grokked the Russian-born writer.

     You'd never catch me writing a letter of complaint like the one former
     Rand acolyte and current Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan
     sent to The New York Times in 1957 after the paper blasted Atlas
     Shrugged. Just what was wrong with a novel in which "parasites who
     persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should?"
     huffed the man who decades later would popularize the term "irrational
     exuberance." I'm more simpatico with Officer Barbrady, the illiterate
     cop on South Park who declared, "At first I was happy to be learning
     to read...but then I read...Atlas Shrugged... because of this, I am
     never reading again."

     Yet as Contributing Editor Cathy Young shows in her brilliant essay
     about "Ayn Rand at 100," Rand continues not merely to draw our
     attention but to command it. A century after her birth and more than a
     decade after her death, Rand remains one of the best-selling and most
     widely influential figures in American thought and culture. As we
     document in "Rand-O-Rama," she casts a long shadow, not simply
     providing punch lines for South Park but infusing such recent movie
     hits as The Incredibles with what a Times reviewer called "a disdain
     for mediocrity." She is even getting newfound respect from academics.

     What's the secret of Rand's cultural staying power? At her best, notes
     Young, Rand provided "liberal capitalism with a moral foundation."
     That's no small feat in a world that, even after the fall of Nazism,
     communism, and other collectivist ideologies, still looks with
     suspicion on economic self-interest. Rand also celebrated the
     individual in a mass age, creating a series of memorable, compelling
     characters who embodied or emboldened the aspirations of millions in a
     time of often stultifying conformity, bureaucracy, and routinization.

     But as important to Rand's hold on the public imagination is the great
     gulf between her fictional heroes and the often tawdry, disheartening
     details of her own biography, especially the cult-like obedience she
     demanded of her inner circle. In the gap between Rand's soaring ideals
     and her lived reality, we see in particularly strong relief both the
     creative power of individual desire and its vast capacity for
     intolerance and delusion. In a world in which more people have more
     control over their lives than ever before, that's something to always
     be pondering.

     --Nick Gillespie
ESR | January 31, 2005 | The appeal of Ayn Rand

     The appeal of Ayn Rand

     By Onkar Ghate
     web posted January 31, 2005

     Ayn Rand February 2 marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of
     one of America's most controversial and inspiring writers, Ayn Rand.

     She continues to be wildly popular among the young: some 14,000 high
     school students per year submit entries to essay contests on her
     novels and, in the past two years alone, high school teachers have
     requested over 130,000 copies of Anthem and The Fountainhead to use in
     their classrooms. They know that students respond to her stories and
     heroes as to few other books.

     It remains, however, all too common for a young person to be told that
     his interest in Ayn Rand is a stage he will soon grow out of. "It's
     fine to believe in that now," the refrain goes, "but wait until you're
     older. You'll discover that life is not like that."

     But when one actually considers the essence of what Rand teaches, the
     accusation that her philosophy is childish over-simplification stands
     as condemnation not of her ideas but of the adult world from which the
     accusation stems.

     The key to Rand's popularity is that she appeals to the idealism of
     youth. She wrote in 1969: "There is a fundamental conviction which
     some people never acquire, some hold only in their youth, and a few
     hold to the end of their days--the conviction that ideas matter." The
     nature of this conviction? "That ideas matter means that knowledge
     matters, that truth matters, that one's mind matters. And the radiance
     of that certainty, in the process of growing up, is the best aspect of

     To sustain this youthful conviction throughout life, Rand argues, one
     must achieve a radical independence of mind. Independence does not
     mean doing whatever one feels like doing but rather forging one's
     convictions and choosing one's actions rationally, logically,
     scientifically. It is refusal to surrender one's ideas or values to
     the "public interest," as liberals demand, or to the "glory of God,"
     as conservatives demand. It is refusal to grant obedience to any
     authority, human or divine. The independent mind rejects faith,
     secular or supernatural, and embraces reason as an absolute. "The
     noblest act you have ever performed," declares the hero of Rand's last
     novel, Atlas Shrugged, "is the act of your mind in the process of
     grasping that two and two make four." She meant it.

     The conviction that ideas matter represents a profound dedication to
     self. It requires that one regard one's own reasoning mind as
     competent to judge good and evil. And it requires that one pursue
     knowledge because one sees that correct ideas are indispensable to
     achieving the irreplaceable value of one's own life and happiness. "To
     take ideas seriously," Rand states, "means that you intend to live by,
     to practice, any idea you accept as true," that you recognize "that
     truth and knowledge are of crucial, personal, selfish importance to
     you and to your own life."

     Her approach here is the opposite of the view that ideals transcend
     this world, one's interests and human comprehension--that idealism is,
     in the words of the religious exhortation to America's youth in Bush's
     inaugural address, "to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger
     than yourself."

     The advice Rand offers the young? Think, reason, logically consider
     matters of truth and morality. And then, because your own life and
     happiness depend on it, pursue unwaveringly the true and the good. On
     this approach, the moral and the practical unite. On this approach,
     there exists no temptation to think that life on earth requires
     compromise, the halfway, the middle of the road. "In any compromise
     between food and poison," she writes, "it is only death that can win.
     In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can

     In a world where our President (as well as the religious warriors
     we're battling against in the Middle East) equates idealism with
     otherworldliness, faith, and sacrifice of self, and where commentators
     otherwise sympathetic to his message lament that it leaves no room for
     worldly compromises, since, as Peggy Noonan puts it, "perfection in
     the life of man on earth" is impossible--Ayn Rand stands alone. She
     argues that perfection is possible to man the rational animal. Hold
     your own life as your highest value, follow reason, submit to no
     authority, create a life of productive achievement and joy--enact
     these demanding values and virtues, Rand teaches, and an ideal world,
     here on earth, is "real, it's possible--it's yours."

     Does an adult world that dismisses this philosophy as "simplistic" not
     convict itself?

     The centenary of Rand's birth is an appropriate time to recognize the
     thinker who was courageous enough to take on that world and challenge
     its rampant skepticism, eager cynicism, and unyielding demand for
     compromise, the thinker who portrayed and explained--at the most
     fundamental level--the heroic in man. [esr.jpg]

     Onkar Ghate, Ph.D. in philosophy, is a senior fellow at the [2]Ayn
     Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the ideas of
     Ayn Rand--best-selling author of [3]Atlas Shrugged and [4]The
     Fountainhead and originator of the philosophy she called
Ayn Rand's Contribution to the Cause of Freedom   - Mises Institute
     Wednesday, February 02, 2005

                Ayn Rand's Contribution to the Cause of Freedom

                              by Roderick T. Long

                           [Posted February 2, 2005]

     Today marks the centenary of Ayn Rand's birth. Born Alisa Rosenbaum in
       St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2nd, 1905, Rand would go on to
      become one of the 20th century's foremost voices for human freedom.

      After living through the Russian Revolution, and the economic chaos
     and political repression that came in its wake--events she would later
      dramatize in her novel [14]We the Living--Rand fled the Soviet Union
       for the United States in 1926 to begin her career as screenwriter,
     playwright, and novelist. Dividing her time between Hollywood and New
     York, the fiercely anticommunist Rand began to develop a philosophy of
      ethical and political individualism, and to make the acquaintance of
        such leaders of the libertarian "Old Right" as John Flynn, Henry
       Hazlitt, Rose Wilder Lane, H.L. Mencken, Isabel Paterson, Leonard
       Read, and a fellow refugee from European totalitarianism, Austrian
                          economist Ludwig von Mises.

     Rand's chief popular success came from [15]The Fountainhead (1943) and
     [16]Atlas Shrugged (1957), two epic philosophical novels on the model
      of Dostoyevksy that quickly established her as one of the century's
       most controversial authors. The enthusiastic audience these works
      brought her enabled Rand to build a politico-philosophical movement
        based on the system of thought she would call "Objectivism," and
       Rand's attention accordingly turned thereafter to nonfiction; she
        would devote the remainder of her career to editing a series of
     Objectivist periodicals and to penning philosophical essays, political
                      commentary, and cultural criticism.

     Rand always stressed the importance of placing political arguments in
           a wider philosophical context, insisting that she was "not
         primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism," and "not
                primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason."

     Rand's influence on the libertarian movement is incalculable; despite
      her own frequent antipathy toward that movement and even toward the
       word "libertarian," Rand played a crucial role in helping both to
     create new advocates of laissez-faire and to radicalize existing ones;
          Rand encouraged libertarians to view their standpoint as an
     alternative to, rather than a branch of, conservatism, and to base the
       case for liberty on moral principle and not on pragmatic economic
        benefits alone. Rand's influence on popular culture is likewise
     enormous; an oft-cited Library of Congress survey of "most influential
             books" placed Atlas Shrugged second only to the Bible.

        Rand owed much of her success to the power and directness of her
       writing style. She was a master at what one of my colleagues calls
      reductio ad claritatem, "reduction to clarity"-- i.e., the method of
     refuting a position by stating it clearly--as when she wrote that "if
     some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others,
       it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to
     slave labor," or when she summarized the view that human perception is
       unreliable because limited by the nature of our sensory organs as:
        "man is blind, because he has eyes--deaf, because he has ears."

        Upon the publication of Atlas Shrugged, Mises [17]wrote to Rand
     praising both her "masterful construction of the plot" and her "cogent
     analysis of the evils that plague our society"; in another context he
         called her "the most courageous man in America." Rand in turn
       enthusiastically promoted Mises's writings in her periodicals, and
     declared that her ideal curriculum would be "Aristotle in philosophy,
     von Mises in economics, Montessori in education, Hugo in literature."
                  Rand's biographer Barbara Branden notes that

       beginning in the late fifties and continuing for more than ten
       years, Ayn began a concerted campaign to have [Mises's ] work read
       and appreciated: she published reviews, she cited him in articles
       and in public speeches [and] recommended him to admirers of her
       philosophy. A number of economists have said that it was largely as
       a result of Ayn's efforts that the work of Von Mises began to reach
       its potential audience. ([18]The Passion of Ayn Rand, p. 188.)

     A brief intellectual association with Mises's student Murray Rothbard
      was less successful, beginning in mutual appreciation but dissolving
      over ideological and personal differences--though Rand and Rothbard
         would nonetheless share the honor of being drummed out of the
      "respectable" Right by a statist-minded conservative establishment.
       (The forthcoming Spring 2005 issue of the [19]Journal of Ayn Rand
      Studies is devoted to an exploration of the connections between Rand
      and the Austrian School, and includes contributions from a number of
                            contemporary Austrians.)

     Because Rand called big business a "persecuted minority" and dismissed
       the military-industrial complex as "a myth or worse," she is often
       taken as a naïve apologist for the corporatist élite; but she also
      condemned the "type of businessmen who sought special advantages by
         government action" as the "actual war profiteers of all mixed
        economies"; and it's easy to forget that most of the businessmen
               characters in Rand's novels are statist villains.

     As [20]Chris Sciabarra reminds us, Rand likewise grasped the symbiotic
       relationship between militarism abroad and neo-fascist politics at
     home; in an era when many of her followers are enthusiastic supporters
       of American military intervention overseas, it's worth remembering
      that Rand herself opposed U.S. involvement in World War I, World War
                            II, Korea, and Vietnam.

        Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Rand's philosophy--her
      rejection of altruism and her embrace of ethical egoism--is also one
        of the most misunderstood. Despite her sometimes [21]misleading
      rhetoric about "the virtue of selfishness," the point of her egoism
     was not to advocate the pursuit of one's own interests at the expense
        of others', but rather to reject the entire conflictual model of
      interests according to which "the happiness of one man necessitates
        the injury of another," in favor of an older, more Aristotelean
          conception of self-interest as excellent human functioning.

       It was on such Aristotelean grounds that she rejected not only the
       subordination of one's own interests to those of others (and it is
      this, rather than mere benevolence, that she labeled "altruism") but
      also the subordination of others' interests to one's own (which she
       labeled "selfishness without a self"). For Rand, the Aristotelean
        recognition of properly understood human interests as rationally
          harmonious was the essential foundation for a free society.

      Discussion of Rand since her death in 1982 has often focused on her
      dogmatic tone and personal eccentricities--traits sometimes imitated
     by her followers, and effectively satirized by Rothbard in his one-act
       play [22]Mozart Was a Red. But as David Kelley argues in his book
           [23]The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, Rand's intellectual
     contribution, like anyone else's, can and should be disentangled from
                        the vagaries of her personality.

      In an era when libertarianism and Aristoteleanism were unfashionable
      enough separately, Rand had the audacity to defend their systematic
         fusion, and identified Enlightenment liberalism's roots in the
       Thomistic recovery of Aristotle at a time when this connection was
     less widely recognized than it is today. (Though Rand's followers have
     sometimes intemperately proclaimed her the greatest philosopher of all
     time, Rand always firmly insisted that Aristotle was the greatest and
          that Thomas Aquinas was the second greatest--her own atheism
     notwithstanding.) Whether her specific versions of libertarianism and
       Aristoteleanism, and the specific terms on which she attempted to
      unite them, were ultimately the [24]most philosophically defensible
     ones is perhaps less important than the example she set in making the

        In the decades since Rand first began constructing her maverick
     philosophical system, the philosophical mainstream has moved in Rand's
      direction. Professional philosophers are far more likely today than
       they were in the 1960s to agree with Rand about the directness of
       sense-perception, the relation between meaning and reference, the
        incompatibility of utilitarianism with individual rights, or the
          prospects for a neo-Aristotelean ethical theory (or indeed a
      neo-Aristotelean philosophical approach generally); and many of the
     dichotomies she rejected--between empiricism and rationalism, analytic
       and synthetic statements, dualism and materialism, nominalism and
        conceptual realism, fact and value, liberalism and an ethics of
                 virtue--have fallen into increasing disfavor.

       These developments are largely independent of Rand's own influence
      (and, ironically, stem in part from the recent resurgence of Rand's
      philosophical nemesis Immanuel Kant--who, despite Rand's impassioned
     denunciations, is actually her ally on most of these points), but they
      are not entirely so; I can testify, from two decades' experience in
       the profession, that the number of academic philosophers who will
        privately admit having been decisively influenced by Rand is far
         greater than the number who can be found citing her in print.

     It's a mistake, though, to think that the validation of Rand's legacy
     depends on academic approval. Human progress is often driven by people
     either outside or on the margins of the academic establishment, as for
     example the philosophes of the 18th century or the Austrian revival of
      the 20th. Whether or not the academy understands or acknowledges her
     achievements, Rand's inspiring vision of the grandeur of human reason
             and human liberty has made its mark on modern thought.

      Still, for what it's worth, scholarly recognition of Rand's work is
     currently at an [25]all-time high. The days when nearly all discussion
      of Rand was either slavishly adulatory or sneeringly dismissive seem
     to be passing, and the new century is likely to see a just assessment
     of Rand's place in the history of philosophy and the cause of liberty.

                           Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand.

     Roderick T. Long ([26]email) is senior fellow of the Mises Institute,
      professor of philosophy at Auburn University, and the new editor of
     the Journal of Libertarian Studies. See his [27]website. Subscribe to
           the [28]Journal today. Post your comments on the [29]blog.


    14. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451187849
    15. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451191153
    16. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451191145
    17. http://www.mises.org/etexts/misesatlas.pdf
    18. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/038524388X
    19. http://aynrandstudies.com/
    20. http://www.solohq.com/Articles/Sciabarra/Understanding_the_Global_Crisis__Reclaiming_Rands_Radical_Legacy.shtml
    21. http://praxeology.net/unblog11-02.htm#ego
    22. http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/mozart.html
    23. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0765808633
    24. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1577240456
    25. http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/9929.html
    26. mailto:rlong at mises.org
    27. http://praxeology.net/
    28. http://www.mises.org/store/product1.asp?SID=2&Product_ID=122
Chicago Tribune: Rereading 'Atlas' on Ayn Rand's 100th
     By Julia Keller
     Tribune cultural critic
     January 30, 2005
     There it sits, a thick rectangle whose soft sides -- it's made of
     paper, after all, ordinary paper -- belie the harsh astringency
     You sense the need to keep an eye on it. You can't just leave it there
     on a corner of your desktop as if it were an ordinary book, letting it
     cool its heels amid the messy papers and dried-up pens and the
     dark-chocolate wafer of your laptop.
     No telling what it might do, this paperback copy of "Atlas Shrugged"
     (1957) by Ayn Rand, all 1,069 pages of it. No telling what impact it
     might have on the desk's detritus or the rest of the room.
     It's like a radiation leak: You can't see the danger, but you know
     it's there.
     Rand, of course, would adore the notion that the novel she began
     writing six decades ago, right after she'd wrapped up "The
     Fountainhead" (1943), still is regarded as perilous and possibly even
     lethal -- lethal, that is, to complacency and lazy thinking and easy
     Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of Rand's birth in St.
     Petersburg, Russia. She died in 1982 -- at least in the narrow
     physical sense. Measured across the historical timeline of ideas,
     however, Ayn Rand ("Ayn" rhymes with "fine," although it's often
     mispronounced "Ann") remains vibrantly alive. The philosophy she
     created and espoused in novels, plays and nonfiction treatises still
     enthralls and disgusts, still intrigues and outrages -- there's no
     middle ground -- a whole new generation.
     Known as Objectivism, its message of rationality, self-reliance and
     unrestrained capitalism, and its rejection of altruism or empathy, is
     perhaps best summarized by the title of one of Rand's non-fiction
     works: "The Virtues of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism" (1964).
     "Her impact is large and goes well beyond the world of literature,"
     declares Mimi Gladstein, chair of the department of theater, dance and
     film at the University of Texas at El Paso, who has written two books
     and co-written a third about Rand's work. "I do think she's being
     taken more seriously now."
     Objectivism is always lighting fires under people's backsides -- it's
     the wisest thing in the history of the world, it's the dumbest bunch
     of malarkey on the planet -- but our concern here is not the
     philosophy but the chief vessel in which Rand chose to serve it up:
     her novels.
     And most especially "Atlas Shrugged," the purest, longest, loudest
     statement of her beliefs, the preposterously romantic tale of railroad
     magnate Dagny Taggart and the mysterious John Galt.
     This much, at least, is irrefutable: "Atlas Shrugged" grabs hold of
     you and shakes you up and challenges everything you thought you
     believed about the world, about God, about good and evil. That's why
     it can't be exiled to a corner of your desk, where its slightly
     curled-back cover looks, in the right light, like a tiny sneer of
     reproach: How dare you not be reading me now, this minute. How dare
     Rand's fiction has been critically scorned in some quarters, her
     philosophy reviled, but her influence is undeniable.
     Did somebody say "influence"? Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal
     Reserve Board, counts himself among her devoted flock. Rand's books,
     vastly popular in her lifetime, continue to sell at a nifty clip: More
     than 5.5 million copies of "Atlas Shrugged" have been snapped up since
     its initial publication, and in the last few years, sales have
     averaged about 150,000 copies annually, reports Richard E. Ralston,
     publishing manager for the Ayn Rand Institute. "The Fountainhead" has
     sold more than 6 million copies, with annual sales currently topping
     130,000, he adds.
     Wooden characters
     Clearly, then, Rand knew what she was doing when she created
     dreadfully wooden characters to represent her philosophical and
     economic ideas, when she put long, impossibly windy speeches in the
     mouths of those characters.
     Because for all that, for all the technical flaws that even moderately
     attentive readers could red-pencil in their sleep, for all the
     narrative rules Rand breaks -- the novel just won't leave you alone.
     Of how many books can that be said?
     Read at the right moment in one's life -- usually in late adolescence,
     when the world seems like a tangled mess of hypocrisy and confusion,
     and you hate your parents and especially that stupid assistant
     principal who is seriously on your case -- "Atlas Shrugged" is a
     tonic, a dream, a throat-scalding draft of pure, radiant clarity. You
     feel as if you've been walking upside down for most of your life,
     seeing things the wrong way, and now -- now -- suddenly you're
     right-side up again and everything starts to make sense. Turns out it
     was the world that was upside down, not you.
     But here's the funny thing: Re-reading Rand as an adult in 2005 is not
     what you thought it would be. It's not a "Oh, wow, what a chump I
     was!" feeling. In fact, the ideas from "Atlas Shrugged" you thought
     you had outgrown don't seem all that outlandish, after all. The themes
     you abandoned as hopelessly naive and almost comically operatic -- all
     those fist-shaking tirades about human destiny, all those "Greed is
     good!" screeds that predate Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" by three
     decades -- somehow start making a bit of sense again, in a world
     upended by religious fanaticism and a nation crippled by soaring
     government deficits.
     Flaws and all, "Atlas Shrugged" still is a powerful novel, a sweeping
     epic that either pulls you into its sphere or scares the bejesus out
     of you, or maybe both.
     That's how it all struck Michael Paxton back in the early 1970s, when,
     as a kid coming of age in upstate New York, he discovered Rand's
     "I was very lost about my direction in life, about what life meant,"
     says Paxton, now a writer and film producer in L.A. "One day I decided
     to go into a bookstore and find a book that would make sense to me."
     He found "We the Living" (1936) and worked his way through the rest of
     the Rand canon.
     Paxton's 1998 documentary, "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life," nominated for
     an Academy Award for best documentary, tells the dramatic story of
     Rand's life: her birth to a middle-class Russian family as Alice
     Rosenbaum, just before the Russian Revolution; her escape to America
     as an eager 21-year-old, aspiring screenwriter; her success as a
     playwright, novelist and essayist, as the fierceness and originality
     of her philosophical ideas began to captivate the public.
     First popular novel
     Her novel "The Fountainhead," the story of brilliant, headstrong
     architect Howard Roark, who was played by Gary Cooper in the 1949
     film, was her first great popular success.
     Rand lived intensely, eager to defend her ideas, and she lived
     passionately. She had a close inner circle of admirers, within which
     allegiances shifted and dramatic renunciations and reconciliations
     were routine.
     But to those who weren't swept away, Rand's conviction that
     self-interest is a more efficient and plausible motivation than
     traditional Judeo-Christian ethics was just too shocking even to
     "She's so maligned," Paxton says. "People think she's a fascist --
     and, of course, she's the opposite of that."
     Gladstein believes that Rand's reputation among literary critics --
     she's rarely, if ever, included on lists of the 20th Century's
     greatest authors -- has suffered because of her popularity. "In
     academe, there are people with certain ideas about `haute' literature.
     If it's too popular, it can't be taken seriously. They forget the fact
     that Shakespeare was popular too."
     None of her books has ever gone out of print, Ralston says. And
     Penguin recently reissued "The Fountainhead," "Atlas Shrugged" and
     "Anthem" (1938) in special paperback editions to commemorate the
     That is the version of "Atlas Shrugged" that simmers on my desk, an
     intimidating-looking white volume with a stark cover design: blue
     sculpture of Atlas holding up the world; simple, blunt typography.
     This novel is all business.
     But the book's dialogue -- oh, heavens, that dialogue! That stilted,
     florid, totally inauthentic dialogue, the kind that would be laughable
     in any other context but that somehow, when dangling between the
     pincers of Rand's big ideas, simply works. You believe it.
     You believe that Dagny's lover, Henry Reardon, would actually rise
     from the bed upon which they had just made love for the first time and
     say, I wanted you as one wants a whore -- for the same reason and
     purpose. . . . You're as vile an animal as I am. I should loathe my
     discovering it. I don't.
     Uh, OK. But somehow it holds up, this faintly absurd novel in which a
     bevy of business types follows the dictates of John Galt right off the
     edge of the world. Somehow, it works.
     The novel is worth reading, worth re-reading. Be careful, though; it's
     dense with powerful ideas and has a mind of its own. So whatever you
     do, don't leave "Atlas Shrugged" home alone.
Now let us praise free minds (Metro Times Detroit)
by [23]Jack Lessenberry

      They promise you answers and a blueprint for living your life, if you
                                             promise not to think too much.

     Last week I gave a talk on what I called "The Myth of the Liberal
     Media" to a pleasingly large and well-informed group called Pointes
     for Peace, in (surprise) Grosse Pointe Woods. I told them there are
     mainly two kinds of media in this nation today -- the "mainstream
     media," which are about as liberal as corporate America in general,
     and virulently ideological right-wing media.

     What could honestly be called the "liberal media" consists, pretty
     much (apart from a few cranks like me), of a handful of columnists
     like Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Paul Krugman, and -- did I mention
     Molly Ivins?

     All of this was hardly news to anyone paying attention to what Eric
     Alterman and Ben Bagdikian have been saying for years. This country
     and its press have shifted dramatically to the right in the last
     quarter-century, and my craft will pay for this folly for years.

     Being in the Grosse Pointes, I imagined I'd get challenged by people
     who think there's really a vast conspiracy of New York intellectuals
     who want to force gay marriage, partial-birth abortions and
     fluoridated water on us all. There was none of that. But something did
     happen that astonished me to the point of speechlessness. An
     attractive, if a bit steely, dark-haired woman on the sidelines raised
     her hand and, after ranting on that Bush and Kerry were equally bad,
     proclaimed that the only hope for salvation, or mankind, or something,
     was Chairman Bob Avakian's Revolutionary Communist Party.

     Had I been prepared, I might have allowed myself a frisson of
     nostalgia, and spoken to her in her own artificial language. "Sorry,
     comrade, but an objective analysis of current conditions demonstrates
     that the time is not right for the mass uprising, and that what's now
     needed is a popular front."

     Part of me wanted to sing the "Internationale" off-key in French, just
     to watch her swoon with desire, or nausea. But instead, I merely stood
     there like a geek staring at a two-headed calf until my colleague Dick
     Wright said, "I think we are all pretty bourgeois here," and brought
     down the house.

     Later, a sweetly grandmotherish lady, who said she was a revolutionary
     communist too, tried to sell me Avakian's autobiography, From Ike to
     Mao. I was barely mature enough not to say, "Hold the mayo."

     We tend to think of commies as harmless anachronisms now, which they
     mostly are. But back in the day -- the 1960s, say -- we tended to
     regard fundamentalist religious movements the same way. Not now. Both
     the Marxist-Leninists and the dogmatic Christians are very much alike
     in that they promise you answers and a blueprint for living your life,
     if you promise not to think too much, and keep your mouth shut if you

     That promise has proven devastatingly seductive for most men at most
     times. Ayn Rand offers another system with all the answers, and so
     does Osama bin Laden, and so do various others of what George Orwell
     used to call "all the smelly little orthodoxies that are now
     contending for our souls." What all these systems do is take parts of
     the truth and construct a brilliantly woven little system and
     substitute it for reality.

     Ayn Rand has a lot to say that's worthwhile about the heroic struggle
     of the individual. There's much that even an intelligent atheist can
     recognize as true and compelling in most religious dogma. Marxism is a
     brilliant critique of the sins of capitalism, especially capitalism as
     it existed during the Industrial Revolution. And most of our
     multinational corporations today seem to be misbehaving as though
     following a script written by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. That may well be
     sparking a mini-revival of revolutionary communist movements.

     But the Glorious Worldwide Great Proletarian Revolution isn't coming,
     comrades. Unfortunately all these systems, when in power, eventually
     bump against annoying reality, which they try to overlook first, then
     suppress by killing anyone who points out the man behind the curtain,
     before they finally crash.

     And none of them rewards the person who points out, however gently,
     that the system has flaws, or even worse, tries to think for himself.
     Those who question are seen as heretics, savagely turned on, and true
     believers are taught to hate them more than they do their ideology's
     natural enemies. Orwell, my personal hero, was a writer of
     uncompromising honesty, a socialist who nevertheless was hated, in his
     day, by many on the left because he pointed out the flaws of his
     allies as well as his foes. He was attacked especially for noting that
     Soviet communism had evolved into just another form of murderous
     totalitarian dictatorship, something he lampooned brilliantly in his
     masterpieces Animal Farm and 1984.

     Locally, I have a couple heroes who fit this mold, both of whom,
     ironically, are religious, rather than political figures. The first is
     Bishop Tom Gumbleton, best known perhaps for trying to raise our
     consciousness about the conditions in places such as Haiti and Iraq
     and El Salvador.

     These are all countries in wretched shape, and in most of them our
     nation has managed to make things worse. He's tried to help them when
     he could, and tried to be a tug on our conscience too. He's no
     opportunistic, cynical politician with a clerical collar; he deeply
     believes in God.

     But he also believes in speaking truth to power, whether that power
     wears a Haitian general's uniform, works in the White House or sits in
     the Vatican. He was among the first to demand the Roman Catholic
     Church he loves come clean on the sex scandals of a few years ago.

     As a young man studying in Rome, Gumbleton was inspired by the
     excitement of renewal and the heady intellectual ferment of the
     Vatican II conferences, which tried to redefine the church's role in
     the modern world.

     This set his path for life; he came away believing that his church
     ought to dedicate itself to transforming this world into as close an
     imitation of the kingdom of heaven as possible. He was made a bishop
     in 1968. The leadership of his church is far more reactionary today.
     Last week, he turned 75, and bishops are traditionally supposed to
     offer their resignations then.

     Bishop Tom, who looks and acts two decades younger, has no desire to
     stop doing what he's doing, and more than one member of his parish
     (St. Leo's) has told me they'll protest if the church tries to take
     him from them. The irony, of course, is that the pope is a decade
     older and in appalling shape. Yet nobody would dare whisper that he
     step aside.

     My other hero is the Rev. Harry Cook, rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal
     Church in Clawson. In a lecture this week at the University of
     Colorado, he plans to tell the students that he fears "religion may be
     the death of us all."

     He means the kind of religion that actually caused a GOP politician to
     say that denuding the forests is all right because "when the last tree
     is felled, Jesus will come again." Cook proclaims himself a "secular
     agnostic humanist," for which he has taken some heat. I think he
     deserves more admiration than the pope. What's so moral about being
     good if you know you'll get paradise as a reward?

     What's far nobler, I think, is to try and follow Christian principles
     even if you have no idea what comes after this life, and grappling
     with the awesome challenge of trying to figure out each unique
     situation. These are two different, but very inspiring men, and
     Detroit is lucky to have them.
Boston Globe/ Opinion / Letters / Plenty of reasons Rand was wrong

     SOMEONE NEEDS to point out to Edward Hudgins ("Still a voice of
     reason," op ed Jan. 29) and other resurgent misty-eyed,
     laissez-faire-lovin', neo-conservatives that their heroine Ayn Rand
     was much more a science fiction writer than a true, insightful
     philosopher or economist.

     History is riddled with the consequences of unregulated, unbalanced,
     money-driven societies where power and wealth become concentrated in
     the top few bricks of what is essentially a very large pyramid scheme.
     Oftentimes Rand's rugged, ambitious individuals of high achievement
     might be seen to prefigure some of history's worst criminals.

     In this country, they were robber barons like Jim Fisk and Joy Gould,
     who along with other "successful businessmen" propagated the first
     financial "Black Friday" out of sheer, unmitigated greed devoid of any
     sense of conscience or concern for others.

     One does not have to look very hard these days to see similar traits
     in current "achievers" that the history-ignorant like Hudgins admire
     so much.

A Strangely Important Figure


     To call Ayn Rand, the high priestess of the human will, a mere force
     of nature would to her have been an insult as well as a cliche. But
     how else to describe this extraordinary, maddening, and indestructible
     individual? Born a century ago this year into the flourishing
     bourgeoisie of glittering, doomed St. Petersburg, Alisa Zinovyevna
     Rosenbaum was to triumph over revolution, civil war, Lenin's
     dictatorship, an impoverished immigrant existence, and bad reviews in
     the New York Times to become a strangely important figure in the
     history of American ideas.

     Even the smaller details of Rand's life come with the sort of epic
     implausibility found in - oh, an Ayn Rand novel. On her first day of
     looking for work in Hollywood, who gives her a lift in his car? Cecil
     B. DeMille. Of course he does. Frank Lloyd Wright designs a house for
     her. Years later, when she's famous, the sage of selfishness,
     ensconced in her Murray Hill eyrie, a young fellow by the name of Alan
     Greenspan becomes a member of the slightly creepy set that sits at the
     great woman's feet. Apparently he went on to achieve some prominence
     in later life.

     To Rand, none of this would really have mattered (well, the fame was
     nice). To her, an intensely Russian intellectual despite everything,
     it was ideas that counted. They were everything. When, after nearly 50
     years, her beloved long-lost youngest sister, Nora, made it over from
     the USSR, they promptly fell out - over politics, naturally. Poor Nora
     was on her way within six weeks, back to the doubtless more easygoing
     embrace of Leonid Brezhnev.

     Scarred by her Soviet experiences, Rand was a woman on a mission. She
     couldn't stop: not for her sister, not for anyone. She had plenty to
     say, and she said it - again, and again, and again. She wrote, she
     lectured, she hectored, she harangued. Words flowed, how they flowed,
     too much sometimes, too insistent often, but infinitely preferable to
     the silence of the Soviet Union that she had left behind.

     And somehow her work has endured in the country she made her own. Her
     creed of ego and laissez-faire, and the reception it won, was one of
     the more interesting - and encouraging - cultural phenomena of
     mid-20th-century America. It has persisted, lasting longer, even, than
     the vast, daunting paragraphs that mark her prose style. Just over a
     decade ago, "Atlas Shrugged" (1957) was voted Americans' most
     influential novel in a joint poll conducted by the Book-of-the-Month
     club and the Library of Congress.

     Hers is a remarkable story, and I find it curious that one of the only
     publications being brought out to commemorate the 100th-birthday girl
     - besides new printings of the novels by Plume - is Jeff Britting's
     new, very very brief account (Overlook Duckworth, 144 pages, $19.95).
     The latest in the series of Overlook Illustrated Lives, it's too short
     to do Rand much justice; any reader already familiar with Rand's life
     won't learn much.

     Biographies in this series are intended as overviews rather than
     something more comprehensive. The author is an archivist at the Ayn
     Rand institute, the associate producer of an Oscar-nominated
     documentary about Rand, and obviously a keeper of the flame. Thus Mr.
     Britting has little to say about the romantic entanglements, more
     Peyton Place than Galt's Gulch, that devastated Rand's circle in later

     Most notably, Rand had an affair with her chosen intellectual heir,
     Nathaniel Brandon. While both Rand's husband and the wife of the
     intellectual heir agreed (sort of) to this arrangement, it added
     further emotional complications to what was, given Rand's prominence,
     a surprisingly hermetic, claustrophobic little world, one best
     described in "The Passion of Ayn Rand" (Bantam Dell) - the compelling,
     and sympathetic, biography of Rand written by, yes, the intellectual
     heir's ex-wife.

     As I said, Peyton Place.

     Closed, neurotic environments filled with true believers are the
     hallmark of a cult, and there's a good case to be made that that's
     exactly what Rand was running. Take a look at the way in which she
     treated her acolytes: angry excommunications, overbearing diktats,
     dramatic interventions, and, disappointing in one who preached
     self-determination, rather too much fuhrer prinzip.

     The cult-or-not controversy goes unmentioned in Mr. Britting's book.
     What a reader will find, particularly in the excellent selection of
     illustrations, is a real sense of how Rand's life related to her
     novels. One glance at her Hollywood-handsome husband, and the rugged
     succession of steely supermen who dominate her fiction make more sense
     ("All my heroes will always be reflections of Frank").

     Rand herself, alas, was no beauty; her glorious heroines, ridiculously
     gorgeous, impossibly named, remarkably lithe, are less the template
     for - as some allege - a sinister eugenic agenda than the stuff of
     Ayn's randy dreams garnished with a dollop of Art Deco kitsch. The
     first, extraordinarily violent, coupling in "The Fountainhead" of
     Howard Roark with Dominique Francon is not a general prescription for
     the relationship between the sexes but merely Rand's own erotic
     fantasy ("wishful thinking," she once announced, to the cheers of a
     delighted crowd).

     Likewise, her sometimes-overwrought style is no more than - well,
     judge this sentence from "Atlas Shrugged" for yourself: "She looked at
     the lone straight shaft of the Taggart Building rising in the distance
     - and then she thought she understood: these people hated Jim because
     they envied him." Call Dr. Freud.

     If sex in Rand's fiction can be savage, so is argument. Her sagas deal
     in moral absolutes, her protagonists are the whitest of knights or the
     blackest of villains, caricatures of good or evil lacking the shadings
     of gray that make literature, and life, so interesting. Yet "Atlas
     Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead," at least, have a wild, lunatic verve
     that sweeps all before them. Like Busby Berkeley, the Chrysler
     Building, or a Caddy with fins, they are aesthetic disasters, very
     American aesthetic disasters, which somehow emerge as something rather

     There is plenty in Rand to make a modern reader queasy, though you
     would not know so from Mr. Britting's worshipful text. For example,
     there is something to the claim that like so many of the
     intellectuals, left or right, of her time she succumbed to the cruder
     forms of social Darwinism. For a woman who worshiped man, Rand did not
     always seem that fond of mankind.

     But the accusation by Whittaker Chambers in National Review that there
     was a whiff of the gas chamber about her writings is wrong. Rand lived
     in an era of stark ideological choices; to argue in muted, reasonable
     tones was to lose the debate. As a graduate of Lenin's Russia, she
     knew that the stakes were high, and how effective good propaganda
     could be.

     Rand's nonfiction may have a greater claim to intellectual
     respectability, but it was the lurid, occasionally harsh, simplicities
     of her novels that would deliver her message to the mass audience she
     believed was out there. She was right. Her key insight was to realize
     that there was an appetite among Americans for a moral case for
     capitalism. In a restless age that believed in the Big Answer, neither
     historical tradition nor utilitarian notions of efficiency would
     suffice. Ayn Rand gave Americans that case, perhaps not the best case,
     but a case, and she knew how to sell it.

     The establishment always disapproved. Critics sneered. Academics
     jeered. The publishers Macmillan turned down "Anthem" (1938), saying
     that Rand, a refugee from the Soviet Union, "did not understand
     socialism." Oh, but she did, and so did those millions of Americans
     who bought her books, books that played their part in ensuring that
     the dull orthodoxies of collectivism never prevailed here.

     The last image in Mr. Britting's biography is of an exultant Rand
     speaking at a conference in New Orleans in 1981, the final public
     appearance of this magnificent, brilliant oddball. Her hosts tried to
     lure her there with the promise of payment in gold coins and travel in
     a private rail car.

     Needless to say, she accepted.

       Mr. Stuttaford is a contributing editor of National Review Online.
Fountain Headache 
OC Logo 
January 21 - 27, 2005
     Ayn Rand Institute tries to twist tsunami disaster
     by Nick Schou

     You may know Ayn Rand for her lugubrious, stultifying novels The
     Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and her book of essays (with co-author
     Nathaniel Branden) The Virtue of Selfishness, which promulgated her
     "Objectivist" philosophy of personal greed as social progress. But you
     may not know the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), which was established in
     Irvine in 1985. The groups website, www.aynrand.org, says ARI was
     formed to spearhead a "cultural renaissance that will reverse the
     anti-reason, anti-capitalist trends in todays culture."

     But since the end of the Cold War and the concurrent demise of the
     global-communist conspiracy, ARI and its Randian followers have been
     struggling for a new bugaboo to replace socialism as the chief enemy
     of "reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and free-market
     capitalism." Since 9/11, not surprisingly, ARI has directed most of
     its wrath against "Islamo-fascism."

     But now, ARI has found an even more dangerous force in the world: poor
     people who die in great numbers during extreme weather events.

     On Dec. 30, ARI sent out an unsolicited opinion piece on the Indian
     Ocean tsunami which killed more than 250,000 people in Indonesia,
     Thailand, Sri Lanka and India four days earlier. Entitled "U.S. Should
     Not Help Tsunami Victims," the article stated that while private
     citizens had every right to donate cash, government-financed aid
     amounted to theft.

     Later, ARI used the tsunami to attack another enemy:
     environmentalists. It said nature-lovers were "dead wrong" in their
     claims that technology causes environmental problems. "Far from being
     the cause of such tragedies, science, technology and industry provide
     the only means of safeguarding human lives against natural disasters,"
     ARI argued. The release went on to state that "relatively undeveloped
     Caribbean islands . . . suffer far worse devastation and loss of life
     from the same hurricanes that hammer Florida year after year" because
     the U.S. enjoys "the use of satellites, radar and communication
     technology" to "warn people well in advance of danger."

     Apparently, the Randians arent above issuing an apology when theyre
     wrong. On Jan. 7, ARI issued a follow-up press release entitled
     "Clarification of ARIs Position on Government Help to Tsunami

     ARI called its previous release "inappropriate" and said it "did not
     accurately convey the Institutes position." What is ARIs actual
     position? "The ugly hand of altruismthe moral view that need entitles
     a person to the values of others, whose corresponding duty is to
     sacrifice their values for that persons sakedid show itself in the
     petulant demands of U.N. and other officials that stingy countries
     must give more."

     Somewherethat would be her fountainhead-shaped graveAyn Rand groaned,
     not at her followers stunning lack of taste, but at their cowardly

     Yet theres nothing altruistic about U.S. government aid to tsunami
     victims. As exemplified by Colin Powells high-profile tour of the
     devastationnot to mention the constant footage of U.S. soldiers
     distributing food and watera major benefit of our assistance is
     positive public relations for an America widely viewed as preoccupied
     with blowing shit up in Iraq.

     Also implied in ARIs attack on the victims of the recent tsunami is
     the notion that hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved
     if only those nations had invested in the same type of early-warning
     system as the U.S. But as many as 160,000 Indonesiansby far the lions
     share of the victimsdied in the tsunami within mere minutes of the
     waves formation. Because many of those people lived in remote villages
     so close to the massive earthquakes epicenter, its unclear whether a
     warning system would have done much good. Secondly, at least some of
     the Indonesians who did survive lived in technology-free societies
     with an oral tradition that taught them to run for the hills when the
     ocean recedes.

     But theres an even more fundamental problem with ARIs position,
     especially if you take Ayn Rand and her pro-free market philosophy
     seriously. The U.S.-run Pacific Tsunami Warning Centerlike the
     National Earthquake Information Center and the National Oceanographic
     Service, which warns against hurricanesisnt a product of free-market
     capitalism. In fact, it was created through taxpayer-funded government
     interventionwhat ARI would call theft. So if you want to blame
     something for the most destructive wall of water in recent memory,
     dont blame nature. Blame capitalist Indonesia, Thailand, India, and
     Sri Lanka for failing to follow the socialist example of the
     capitalist U.S.A. by investing in a taxpayer-funded tsunami warning
Ayn Rand Introduced Me to Libertarianism
     by [17]Jacob G. Hornberger, February 2, 2005

     My very first exposure to libertarianism was provided by Ayn Rand,
     whose 100th birthday is being celebrated today.

     One afternoon in the fall of 1974, I was sitting around watching
     television. At the time, I was temporarily working as a waiter in
     Dallas, having just completed three months of infantry school in
     Georgia to fulfill my Army Reserves active-duty commitment, before
     returning to finish law school in Austin the following semester. An
     afternoon movie quickly engrossed me, becoming my first exposure to
     libertarianism -- The Fountainhead, starring Gary Cooper and Patricia
     Neal. The credits stated that the movie was based on Ayn Rand's novel
     by that name and so I ran out at once, bought it, and read it. Howard
     Roark and Dominique Francon quickly became my heroes!

     A few years later, I was rummaging through the Laredo public library
     for something to read and I discovered four volumes of a series of
     books entitled Essays on Liberty, which had been published by The
     Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Irvington, New York.
     Reading those uncompromising essays caused the seed that Rand had
     planted a few years before to burst forth into what has become a
     lifelong love of libertarianism. Soon after that, I discovered Atlas
     Shrugged, which I've read three times (okay, skimming through Galt's
     speech the third time around!), along with The Virtue of Selfishness,
     Anthem, We the Living, the Objectivist journal, and most of Rand's
     other work.

     It was Ayn Rand and FEE's founder Leonard Read who [18]changed the
     course of my life. The reason: Both of them emphasized the fundamental
     importance of moral principles in political and economic analysis.
     When it came to moral principles, Rand and Read did not deal in shades
     of gray but rather in black and white. It is morally wrong to take
     what doesn't belong to you. It is morally wrong to coercively
     interfere with the peaceful choices that people make in their lives.
     It is morally right that people be free to make whatever choices they
     wish so long as their conduct is peaceful, even if -- or especially if
     -- their choices are considered irresponsible or immoral.

     In the intellectual arena, that means the unfettered right to write,
     read, or watch whatever you want without governmental interference. In
     the economic arena, it means the unfettered right to pursue any
     business or occupation without governmental permission or
     interference, to engage in mutually beneficial trades with anyone else
     anywhere in the world, to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, and
     to do whatever you want with your own money -- spend, save, hoard,
     invest, or donate it.

     Thus, when it comes to morality, there was only one real choice for
     structuring a political order -- libertarianism, where people are free
     to live their lives the way the choose, so long as their conduct is
     peaceful, and where government's primary role is protecting the
     exercise of such choices by punishing violent, anti-social people who
     would interfere with them through such actions as murder, assault,
     stealing, burglary, trespass, rape, and fraud.

     Fortunately, God has created a consistent universe, one in which
     freedom produces prosperity and harmony and nurtures the values that
     most of us hold dear, such as compassion, love of one's neighbors, and
     honoring one's parents. But it was not the utilitarian case that
     attracted me to libertarianism. It was the moral case for freedom
     presented by Ayn Rand, most eloquently in Atlas Shrugged, and Leonard

     Therefore, the main reason that I've never been attracted to so-called
     reform plans whose purpose is to reform, not repeal, socialist
     programs such as Social Security and public (i.e., government)
     schooling is that such plans, by their very nature, implicitly call
     for the continuation of an immoral act. As Rand and Read both
     emphasized, the right approach to an immoral action is to call for its
     end, not its reform.

     One of the highlights of my life occurred in 1990 when, in response to
     my September 1990 Freedom Daily essay, "[19]Letting Go of Socialism,"
     which criticized public-school vouchers (and Social Security reform
     plans), Milton Friedman leveled a criticism against me in a public
     speech that was later reprinted in Liberty magazine. His criticism was
     that my position was too uncompromising, comparing it to the
     uncompromising positions of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises. It was one
     of the greatest compliments I've ever received -- and from a Nobel
     Laureate to boot!

     Another highlight in my life was watching Rand deliver her last public
     speech in 1981 at Jim Blanchard's National Committee for Monetary
     Reform (NCMR) annual conference in New Orleans. She died soon after
     that, on March 6, 1982.

     As I wrote in "Letting Go of Socialism" some 15 years ago, "People
     everywhere are letting go of the socialist nightmare. But they are
     looking through a glass darkly with respect to what should be the
     alternative. It shall be the Americans, I am firmly convinced, who
     will yet let go of socialism, once and for all, and lead the world to
     the highest reaches of freedom ever dreamed of by man!"

     When that day comes, it will be Ayn Rand who will have played a major
     role in the restoration of American liberty.

     Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom
     Foundation. Send him [20]email.


    17. http://www.fff.org/aboutUs/bios/jgh.asp
    18. http://www.libertyhaven.com/thinkers/leonarderead/leonardmylife.html
    19. http://www.fff.org/freedom/0990a.asp
    20. mailto:jhornberger at fff.org
On the Centenary of America's Radical for Capitalism
     by [17]Sheldon Richman, February 2, 2005

     February 2 is the centenary of the birth of Ayn Rand, the novelist who
     inspired tens of millions of readers with her philosophical action
     stories celebrating reason, individualism, and freedom under
     capitalism. Her death in 1982 did not stanch interest in her work
     either as an artist or as a philosopher. On the contrary, that work
     has never been taken more seriously, and books about her intellectual
     and artistic contributions continue to pour forth.

     What accounts for this growing interest? In her bestsellers [18]The
     and [19]Atlas Shrugged, Rand captured the essence of America's
     original identity. On the surface that may seem ironic. She was born
     in Russia and was a young woman when the Bolsheviks began to turn that
     place into a charnel house. She was fortunate to find refuge in the
     United States. But there is nothing ironic in the story. It is
     unsurprising that a refugee from brutal "humanitarian" totalitarianism
     would appreciate individual freedom as no native-born American could.
     She never had the luxury of taking liberty for granted. My favorite
     story about her comes from the 1940s, when someone in an audience
     pointed out that she was foreign-born. "That's right," she said. "I
     chose to become an American. What did you do besides being born?"

     Rand knew better than to mistake the trappings of "democracy" for
     actual freedom. One is not really free if the elected officeholders
     have the power to interfere with the lives of innocent people. Voting
     is preferable to violence, but how people get into office is not as
     important as what they can do once they get there. (Most of the
     commentaries on the Iraqi election have not understood that.)

     Rand realized that freedom, if it is to last, requires a rock-solid
     foundation. Just any foundation, or none at all, won't do. She
     grounded the case for freedom in the conditions required by the nature
     of man, who needs to live by reason in this world open to his
     understanding. According to Rand, for persons to be truly human they
     have to be free to think, to act on their own judgment, and to
     transform the physical world, that is, to engage in productive work.
     Each person has the moral authority to make the most of his life. He
     needs no one's permission. These principles -- rights -- regarding
     life, liberty, and property form the basis of a peaceful society in
     which people cooperate through the division of labor. Since all people
     have these rights, force and fraud are illegitimate. They rob men and
     women of their humanity.

     Rand's great achievement was to give capitalism a moral justification.
     Too often advocates of free markets emphasized the efficiency of
     markets and abandoned morality to the socialists. Rand passionately
     declared that capitalism isn't only efficient; it is also good because
     it is the only social arrangement in which each individual is free to
     pursue his happiness -- "exist for his own sake" -- without being made
     a beast of burden forced to serve others. Benevolent generosity is one
     thing; duty-bound self-sacrifice is quite another. Under capitalism
     the pursuit of rational self-interest and the attendant innovation
     produce a cornucopia of goods and services that benefit everyone. But
     as socialism's history shows, the cart can't be placed before the
     horse. The "common good" that arises out of rational individuals'
     making the most of their lives cannot be achieved directly.

     Another of Rand's achievements follows from this. Going back to the
     ancient Greeks, production and trade have been seen as degraded
     activities, inferior to nonmaterial concerns. Rand finally gave the
     producer his moral due, showing that the passion, genius, and
     creativity entailed by the production of material goods is like the
     passion, genius, and creativity entailed by the production of
     "spiritual" goods, such as works of art. This outlook was a
     consequence of Rand's rejection of the mind-body dichotomy and her
     embrace of man's life on earth as something lofty.

     Considering the squalor in which men lived before capitalism, and the
     wretched condition of today's remaining socialist countries, Rand, the
     American radical for capitalism, was surely right.

     Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation,
     author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and
     editor of [20]The Freeman magazine. Send him [21]email.


    17. http://www.fff.org/aboutUs/bios/sxr.asp
    18. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451191153/thefutureoffreed/103-4475146-3986250
    19. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0525934189/thefutureoffreed/103-4475146-3986250
    20. http://www.fee.org/vnews.php?sec=iolmisc
    21. mailto:sheldon at sheldonrichman.com
Neglected Fortieth Anniversary (October 1997)
     by [14]Sheldon Richman, January 1997

     A remarkable event occurred 40 years ago this month. Not the launching
     of Sputnik, which in retrospect, considering the collapse of the
     Soviet Union, had much less significance than people suspected at the
     time. Ironically, the event I am thinking of involved a woman who
     understood from the beginning that the Soviet Union was a fraud,
     economically, morally, and in all other respects.

     The woman was Ayn Rand, who died in 1982, and the event was the
     publication of her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged , a grand novel that
     has sold more than five million copies, continues to sell very well
     today, and has had a deep impact on readers around the world. An
     indication of that impact came in a 1991 survey by the Library of
     Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club, which asked 2,000 members to
     name a book that "made a difference" in their lives. Atlas Shrugged
     placed second behind the Bible.

     What kind of book could strike such a chord in readers? Rand's novel
     is big in many ways. It is more than a thousand pages long; but more
     important, it covers a wide range of personal, political, and economic
     issues. In fact, it presents a full philosophy of life, from the
     nature of man and reality to the nature of knowledge, from a doctrine
     of good and evil to the morality of a free society, from a theory of
     money and trade to a theory of art. That all of this is integrated
     into an action thriller makes the book all the more remarkable.

     Its many aspects are as relevant today as they were four decades ago.
     Two seem particularly worth mentioning now. One of Rand's lasting
     achievements in Atlas Shrugged was to set out a moral case for the
     economic system we call capitalism. Rand often called it "laissez
     faire capitalism" to emphasize that she meant the complete separation
     of state and economy. She condemned the "mixed economy," that
     contradictory brew of freedom and government control that has gripped
     the United States for much of its history. For Rand, capitalism was
     not merely the best system for producing material goods. (Today,
     unlike 40 years ago, hardly anyone disputes that.) Capitalism, Rand
     believed, was the only moral system, the only one suited to man's
     nature as a rational, creative being. The free-market economy lets
     people produce, trade with willing buyers without interference, and
     keep the fruits of their effort. It is the system that recognizes each
     person's right to the pursuit of happiness, to use Thomas Jefferson's
     radical phrase from the Declaration of Independence.

     Rand, who escaped Bolshevik Russia as a young woman, spent a lifetime
     trying to show Americans, of all people, how much a break with the
     past Jeffersonian America was. Until 1776, no political document had
     ever affirmed the right of the individual to live by his own judgment
     and for his own sake. That revolutionary philosophy produced the
     freest, most prosperous, most benevolent society the world has ever
     seen. Unfortunately, the country soon forgot its revolutionary
     origins. Rand's book is a ringing reminder of that heritage and a
     proclamation that the free market embodies the highest human virtues.

     As Hank Rearden, an industrialist in Atlas Shrugged , says, "I work
     for nothing but my own profit -- which I make by selling a product
     they need to men who are willing and able to buy it.... I have made my
     money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary
     consent of every man I dealt with."

     There is a related point that shines through every page of Atlas
     Shrugged . Since life requires the production of values, men and women
     in business are heroes. They are often treated as villains, yet their
     ability and dedication make life possible and increasingly better.
     That point is at the very core of the novel. What, the book asks,
     would happen if the people of productive ability quit? Atlas Shrugged
     is a vindication and celebration of those unsung heroes who need never
     again be embarrassed by their profits.

     The manifest failure of socialism and communism as economic systems
     has led to a renewed respect for capitalism. But it is a grudging,
     half-hearted respect. The economic appreciation of capitalism has not
     yet been matched by a moral appreciation of the system that leaves
     people free to make the most of their lives, to translate their
     ability into achievement, to keep and enjoy the rewards for their
     effort, and, as an inevitable byproduct, to lift the living standards
     of everyone.

     Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation,
     editor of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty (The Foundation for Economic
     Education), and author of Separating School & State: How to Liberate
     America's Families (1995) and Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must
     Abolish the Income Tax (1998).


    14. http://www.fff.org/aboutUs/bios/sxr.
Of Course, It All Began with Ayn Rand
     by [17]Bart Frazier, February 2, 2005

     Like so many others, Ayn Rand has heavily influenced the paths that I
     have chosen in my life. And like most everyone else, it began with
     [18]Atlas Shrugged.

     I was nineteen when someone gave me a worn, pocket-sized edition of
     Atlas Shrugged. Unlike so many others my age at the time, I was not
     what some people might call a lost individual. I certainly felt no
     need to "find myself." I was a proud leftist.

     I paid little attention to politics, current events, or philosophical
     debate then. I wasn't dumb and I liked to read, but I enjoyed novels
     and literature and found political science, economics, and their ilk a
     bore. When it was handed to me, all I knew of Atlas Shrugged was that
     it was a work of fiction that several people had told me was a great

     And it was.

     It was radically different from the novels I was accustomed to
     reading, and the heroes were unlike the protagonists popular with
     people my age at the time. You simply could not understand life if you
     had not read Catcher in the Rye, and seen it through the blue-colored
     glasses of miserable Holden Caulfield. If you were not familiar with
     Death of a Salesman, the pointlessness of life itself could not be
     conveyed to you through pathetic Willy Loman.

     The list of my favorites at the time is long. The over-indulgent
     characters of Hemingway. The morally vacuous characters of Fitzgerald
     and the all-out assault on business of Salinger's. The portrayal of
     our putrid human nature by Orwell, Steinbeck, and Huxley. Don't get me
     wrong -- these are great books and I still love them for the great
     works they are. But they are not inspiring and they always draw the
     picture of a person that the reader would never want to emulate.

     Not so with Atlas Shrugged.

     John Galt, Dagney Taggart, Hank Rearden, Francisco d'Anconia -- these
     were characters like none that I had ever encountered in a novel. They
     were people that a reader could aspire to be, they celebrated life,
     and they were heroes in the truest sense. They were honest and
     honorable. They believed in principle instead of pragmatism. And
     without my realizing it until the end of the book, they had me
     cheering against the government.

     At the time, if I had been told that Atlas Shrugged was a novel about
     the evil of the state, I would have declined to read it. But because
     it was an exciting read with an intricate plot and a mysterious
     protagonist, I couldn't put the book down and ended up cheering
     against the government along the way. Many libertarians forget how
     radical an idea this is to most people even today.

     Most people conflate the government with society. Whatever the
     government does is for society's benefit. Government officials always
     act with our benefit in mind, not their own. Our government is more
     than a protector of rights; it is the embodiment of the country
     itself. If you criticize the government or its actions, you are not a
     true patriot; you are un-American. As Archie Bunker would say, "My
     government, right or wrong!"

     The beauty of Atlas Shrugged is that it makes the case against
     government in a solid yet entertaining way. I flew through the book --
     couldn't put it down. When I finished, I suddenly felt that there was
     more to this whole government thing. Maybe there was another viewpoint
     about government that I wasn't aware of. Was it possible that my
     representatives, my representatives, were not looking out for my best
     interest? Had Ayn Rand written anything else? ([19]She had, by the

     Atlas Shrugged opened up paths that I had never considered before.
     Jefferson, Madison, Washington -- these were names that I equated with
     irrelevance, not irreverence. Wasn't Thoreau just a crazy old hermit?
     Who on earth is Lysander Spooner? This stuff pertains to economics?

     But the biggest question I had was, "Am I the only person who thinks
     like this?" My answer came not long after finishing Atlas Shrugged. I
     was driving past the capitol building in Tallahassee, Florida, where a
     small demonstration was going on. And among the many placards that
     people were waiving at the capitol steps was a sign that read, "Where
     is John Galt?" I knew then that I was not alone because I had just
     found out that for someone else, it had all begun with Ayn Rand.

     Bart Frazier is program director at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
     Send him [20]email.


    17. http://www.fff.org/aboutUs/bios/bxf.asp
    18. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0525934189/thefutureoffreed/103-4475146-3986250
    19. http://www.ayn-rand.com/ayn-rand-biblio.asp
    20. mailto:bfrazier at fff.org
Philadelphia Inquirer | 01/30/2005 | Assessing Rand at centenary
     By Carlin Romano
     Inquirer Book Critic

     'I am haunted by a quotation from Friedrich Nietzsche," Ayn Rand once
     told a Time magazine reporter, explaining her withdrawal from punditry
     on passing events to focus on writing philosophy. "It is not my
     function to be a flyswatter."

     No problem there. Even her enemies never accused the controversial
     novelist (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged) and champion of
     individualism, rational self-interest and atheism of thinking small.

     "I did not want, intend or expect to be the only philosophical
     defender of man's rights in the country of man's rights," she declared
     with typical grandiosity when she closed down her regular newsletter
     in 1976. "But if I am, I am."

     OK, ditch the flyswatter. As the centenary of her birth arrives
     Wednesday, accompanied by special events around the country and a new
     illustrated biography - Ayn Rand by Jeff Britting (Overlook, $19.95) -
     what image does fit her today?

     Prophet? Steamroller? Esteemed yet occasionally embarrassing great

     We now live in a country where the administration in power vigorously
     embraces some, if not all, of Rand's once iconoclastic ideas about
     human freedom. A country whose Federal Reserve Board chairman, Alan
     Greenspan, once sat at her feet as part of the 1950s circle of
     admirers she sardonically called her "Collective."

     "Ayn Rand was instrumental in significantly broadening the scope of my
     thinking," Greenspan told Rand biographer Barbara Branden for her life
     of the author, The Passion of Ayn Rand (1986), "and was clearly a
     major contributor to my intellectual development, for which I remain
     profoundly grateful to this day."

     Rand's healthy profile in Washington today might be deduced from one
     of the centenary's main events, a symposium on her work Wednesday
     morning in the Members of Congress Room at the Library of Congress'
     Jefferson Building.

     Sponsored by the Objectivist Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., one of the
     two major keepers of the Rand flame, its speakers will include Reps.
     Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), and Howard Dickman,
     assistant chairman of programs at the National Endowment for the

     The other home of Rand studies, the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine,
     Calif. (self-described as the "authoritative" arbiter of matters
     Randian because Rand anointed it to carry on her legacy), will host a
     reception Wednesday evening at which biographer Britting, the
     institute's archivist, and others will talk about Rand and present an
     exhibition on her.

     "One of the great urban myths," says Britting, "is the notion that Ayn
     Rand was a dictator of people's tastes."

     He sees her as a "generous" and "fiery" philosopher devoted to
     argument, dialogue, and explanation of her ideas, whose greatest
     legacy remains her "ability to dramatize ideas." He admits that
     "vigorous debates about details and specifics of her philosophy"

     No one, however, now doubts that she pulled off a major, enduring
     American career as both novelist and thinker, and that her influence
     and popularity have persisted among readers since her death in 1982.

     Born Alisa Rosenbaum into a Jewish family in St. Petersburg, Russia -
     her father was a successful pharmacist and her mother a highly
     intellectual and opinionated homemaker - Rand emigrated alone to
     America at 21. Her experience of Russia's forced conversion to
     communism forever colored her beliefs. To pursue her ambition to be a
     great writer, she devised her nom de plume by taking "Ayn" from a
     Finnish writer she'd never read and "Rand" from her typewriter.

     A lucky encounter with director Cecil B. DeMille drew her into
     Hollywood life: jobs as a scriptwriter, marriage to actor Frank
     O'Connor in 1929, and early success as a playwright with The Night of
     January 16.

     Following two short novels, We the Living (1936) and Anthem (1938),
     The Fountainhead (1943) made Rand famous. In it, protagonist Howard
     Roark illustrated her belief that the model of ethical life is the
     "hero" - a rational, self-interested, totally independent person.
     Partly based on architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Roark despised
     mediocrity and compromise. The 1949 film version starring Gary Cooper
     only bolstered Rand's status as poster-woman for American
     individualism in a cultural world still largely inclined to the left.

     Her other major novel, Atlas Shrugged (1957), only enhanced that
     image. More schematic than The Fountainhead, it offered another ideal
     hero - self-assured John Galt - who projected "the virtue of
     selfishness" and rejection of self-sacrifice at the core of her
     philosophy, which she came to call Objectivism. It so impressed a
     young Southern businessman named Ted Turner that he bought cryptic
     billboard signs across the South asking, "Who is John Galt?"

     One complication for Rand's reputation over the years became the sharp
     schisms among her followers over matters of doctrine - a good source
     is Canadian journalist Jeff Walker's The Ayn Rand Cult (Open Court) -
     and her unconventional lifestyle. For a thinker who exalted "reason"
     as the sole guide to life, Rand radiated volatile emotion.

     In the 1950s, for instance, she conducted a torrid affair with the
     first young man whom she designated as her "intellectual heir,"
     Nathaniel Branden, winning the grudging consent of her husband and
     Branden's wife, Barbara (later her biographer). She also began to cut
     off acolytes - including, eventually, Branden - when she fell out with
     them. A 1990s Showtime movie, based on Branden's bio, depicted Rand -
     supporters say unfairly - as histrionic and neurotic.

     All of that hasn't changed, you might say, the tale of the tape. A
     1991 survey by the Library of Congress found Atlas Shrugged to be the
     American novel most influential on readers' lives. Her books have sold
     more than 30 million copies around the world and sell hundred of
     thousands every year in the United States.

     Even studies in academe - the sector of America most resistent to Rand
     in her lifetime - are increasing. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by
     Chris Matthew Sciabarra (Penn State, 1995) argued that Russian
     ideology influenced Rand more than previously understood. What Art Is:
     The Aesthetic Theory of Ayn Rand by Louis Torres and Michelle Kamhi
     (Open Court, 2000), thoroughly explored her philosophy of art. The
     most recent multivolume encyclopedia of philosophy, from Routledge,
     included an entry on her.

     According to Branden's biography, Rand liked to be called "Fluff" by
     O'Connor, her beloved husband of 50 years. Given how her career turned
     out, no one would dare try that now. At her funeral, a 6-foot-high
     dollar sign marked the coffin. Conversion rates aside, she's still in
     the money.

     Contact book critic Carlin Romano at 215-854-5615 or
     [77]cromano at phillynews.com.

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