"She's back!" screams the cover of Reason, the magazine "For Free Minds and Free Markets," featuring a photo of right-wing icon Ayn Rand looking suspiciously like the Bride of Frankenstein. (Seriously. Did you ever see the two of them together? I didn't think so.)


Like Frankenstein's monster, Rand's ideas are back from the dead and have attracted the attention of torch-bearing angry villagers like the teabaggers. Sales of her cinder-block-sized manifesto, Atlas Shrugged, are reportedly at their strongest ever (more on that later) and this Christmas we have not one but two Rand biographies from which to choose. (Apparently nothing says "magical holiday" like "angry screed.") There are also lots of "Who Is John Galt?" T-shirts and even the Atlasphere, an Ayn Rand dating and networking site.

So I felt compelled to find out what the buzz was all about.


As someone who gave up at the fourth Harry Potter because it got too long -- please, they are children's books -- I've never read Atlas Shrugged. Luckily, my buddy, professional smarty-pants Ellis Weiner did, describing Rand's equally adolescent fantasy as "an interminable three-way between Friedrich Nietzsche, L. Ron Hubbard and Judith Krantz."

Ellis recommended I simply read the hero John Galt's 60-page radio address and call it done. I did and I am. And now I know the answer to the question, "Who is John Galt?" He's a pompous, misguided bloviator. In other words, Glenn Beck.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Rand's theories, let me give you the Twitter version: She also wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness. 'Nuff said.

It's easy to see why Rand's rants are in the news again. At a time when Obamacare has aroused fears of the United States becoming socialist (because wouldn't it be AWFUL if we all had affordable health care? Man, that would totally suck), her vision of an America in which Big Government shuts down Big Business could seem prophetic. According to Stephen Moore, senior editor at The Wall Street Journal, "If only Atlas were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster."

Let's see - deregulation of the mortgage industry got us into this mess, so the Libertarian answer is...MORE deregulation. Indeed, much of the blame for the recession goes to former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who was an acolyte of -- oh, yeah -- Ayn Rand.

What's more, according to my buddy Ellis, Rand's whole premise is a house of cards because "in this anti-collectivist tirade, the heroes all gather and thrive and triumph in what is essentially a collective." So the answer to rejecting a socialist government is to literally run for the hills and start a socialist commune.

Then why is Rand so popular again? Well, she is and she isn't.

Yes, sales of Atlas Shrugged have gone up in the past few years, probably due to all the media coverage of its 50th anniversary two years ago. According to the director of the Ayn Rand Institute, which is committed to indoctrinating students to Rand's ideas, in the last 52 years Atlas Shrugged has sold 6 million copies. Compare that to 85 million copies sold of the Twilight series, and you begin to see that gas-baggy John Galt has ten times less impact on the youth of America than a teen vampire who refuses to bang his girlfriend.

Similarly, Rand's fans on Facebook number just under 30,000. Sure, that's 10,000 more than Rand's contemporary Jack Kerouac, but keep in mind that self-proclaimed D-lister Kathy Griffin has over 400,000. And the Atlasphere has just 20,297 members -- well, actually, 20,298 because I signed up to lurk, only to find the site as dull as John Galt. (Hey, Randroids, if you see GaltByAssociation, say hi!)

Sure, the renewed curiosity in Rand happened as a direct result of the recession; but not in the way her adherents believe. What's happening is that the same extremists who feel that a sitting governor who resigned for no particular reason in midterm is qualified to lead the free world are also rallying around Rand's fear-mongering vision of the Big, Bad Government. And the vastly underemployed media, in an effort to satisfy the ravenous 24/7 news feed, can't stop blogging about both of them, which only makes their supposed movements seem more legitimate.

But like Sarah Palin, Rand's limited appeal and extensive PR means that all Atlas will be able to do is shrug, wondering what all the fuss is about.

And that, my friends, is The Upside.

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arf

It's true! There are plenty of Ayn Rand t-shirts. And plenty of people will continue to wear them proudly!

Like these: http://www.cafepress.com/objectivistgoods

February 19 2013 at 6:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
StevenM

You have got to love it when a simpleton who thinks he is some sort of intellectual goes on the attack. Markey, "As someone who gave up at the fourth Harry Potter because it got too long" you really shouldn't be sharing your opinion on Ayn Rand when you haven't bothered to read any of her works. How someone at the Daily Finance decided that this tripe was fit for publication reflects very poorly on their decision making process. Marc, very few people agree with everything that Ms. Rand did or wrote, but you are an embarrassment. Please don't give up on the teen novels.

August 03 2012 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
NewsView

The problem the Religious Right in particular, should have with Ayn Rand --- other than the fact that she was an atheist --- is that hers is a flawed perspective that assumes some ideal can be achieved within the free market and society at large.

All forms of idealism ignore the human nature quotient, or what Christians call Original Sin. Rand's Objectivism is no different. A contrast of Rand's man-made wisdom with Scripture is eye-opening to put it mildly. For instance, the Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says that under the law --- that is to say the "ideal" --- we know what we ought to do but do not do it. And that's not all: Jesus' went so far as to correct someone who called him a 'good teacher", replying "No man is good". Ponder the implications for a moment. If we allowed these more astute and honest appraisals of the human condition to inform our personal perceptions and political worldviews, how much more realistically would we approach the thorny social and economic problems of our day?

Objectivism, as best I can tell, has been over-embraced by conservative Christians without even realizing its true nature. Were members of the Religious Right to properly attribute the anti-regulatory, anti-safety net "take personal responsibility" philosophical origins of their views, they would not find it compatible with the New Testament accounts of the early Christians giving to one another as each had a need (communal responsibility), acting as a Good Samaritan (social responsibility) or, as Jesus did, confronting the corrupt moneychangers at the templie (social justice).

The only biblical account in support of Rand is the one in which the disciples instruct their converts to make themselves useful whenever they enter a new town to preach to its inhabitants --- by taking up work to support themselves (the traditional definition of personal responsibility). Rand, unlike the biblical precepts people of faith claim to believe, neglects all competing manifestations responsibility --- most notably "love your neighbor as you love yourself" (the Golden Rule).

Christians on the Right who espouse political and philosophical points that contradict and/or omit the most basic Sunday-school precepts need to ask themselves what God they are really aligned with. The God of Hedonism? Humanism? Post Modernism? Rand was all these things and more. It is truly sad to watch the Religious Right dutifully advance modern-day Republican beliefs when, in fact, they are Randian (neocon) doctrines.

The cautionary tale is to know where one's opinions come from and who or what they truly advocate for. For Christians there is only one "good book".

November 17 2011 at 11:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Adrian

It is amazing how somebody can be sure somebody else is dead wrong simply because "my friend said so".

I have just finished the book, and wanted to see why is she wrong, considering that she does put the world into a new perspective. The book seems to be a fairy tale, I must admit that, but the ideas seem valid. I have not yet found evidence on the contrary.

From what I understand from the book, she wouldn't be against Obamacare if Obama would pay for it from his own money. She would be against somebody else being forced to pay more taxes so that the people that do not pay taxes to have another incentive to still not pay them. Somebody that works hard for his money, to be taken a portion more, so that the beggar of the street to have a Dental Plan (not necessarily now, but wouldn't that be great ?) .
Next thing should be that all the beggars to have a car, because it is their right, because they were born and you should pay for it, because it is your duty, because you are lucky to work. In your case, lucky may be the correct word, from what I read in the article.
This is what she is against. She is not against helping anybody as long as you WISH to do so. She is dead against somebody claiming that they OWN your property because they need it, and because they need it you should give it to them.

We do have free medical services for everybody in Romania (at price of 5% of income, while about 20% of the country is officially employed), but we have to bribe some of the medics just to look at us. A large part of them have long left the country, because they know the value of their work is for them to decide, and not for a government official, who knows better because" his friend told him so". It may also be because they also want to eat not to only heal other people.

I would recommend you the book, I think would be the greatest book you've ever read,

September 10 2011 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LenaW

"I've never read Atlas Shrugged. Luckily, my buddy, professional smarty-pants Ellis Weiner did". Sir, this makes you look extremely unprofessional. After you have read Atlas Shrugged, write another article. If you come out with the same conclusion that you have in this one, I will take you more seriously. Honestly, sir, you have no right to have any opinion on Ayn Rand whatsoever without paying her the respect of reading any of her work in its entirety.

See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/qWxSCh

August 02 2011 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply