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More on Ayn Rand Today

January 17, 2010

This post of mine on Ayn Rand has been on my Top Posts box for close to a year.

See? It’s probably there still.

People agree and disagree passionately about her. Random people have felt the need to write emails to me about her. And lately, I have been hearing and reading about Rand all over the place.

People seem obsessed with Ayn Rand and her philosophy, in this way that for some reason I never knew about. (Things that one learns unexpectedly because one blogs).

I don’t really hang with the Ayn Rand-lovers. And I don’t know much about her. I was pretty befuddled by The Fountain head. One, because I thought the philosophy seemed disconnected from the reality of capitalism (or even individualism) and two, because I thought the writing was just plain bad.

So I was delighted to find this wonderful article on her recently. Pretty great stuff. She was kind of a messed up lady. I learned a lot of interesting things. Alan Greenspan was one of her cult followers and even invited her to the white house for his swearing in.

Wow. She had a cult? Yeah, the bad kind.

As her books became mega-sellers, Rand surrounded herself with a tightly policed cult of young people who believed she had found the One Objective Truth about the world. They were required to memorize her novels and slapped down as “imbecilic” and “anti-life” by Rand if they asked questions. One student said: “There was a right kind of music, a right kind of art, a right kind of interior design, a right kind of dancing. There were wrong books which we should not buy.”…  [….] …Anybody in her circle who disagreed with her was subjected to a show trial in front of the whole group in which they would be required to repent or face expulsion. Her secretary, Barbara Weiss, said: “I came to look on her as a killer of people.”

She fell in love with one of her students, who then went on to fall in love with someone else after a “decades-long affair”. It slayed her. She died totally alone, even though she was already a pretty influential figure by then. By the end of her life, nobody could stand being around her.

Joann Hari does a excellent job articulating my confusion about her stronghold in American culture and politics. She is the right’s answer for a figure who actually lived the truth that they believed in — even though it was a totally psycho (and drug-induced, it turns out) version of reality.  All the current leaders in the Right seem fundamentally hypocritical and hollow about what they say they believe in. But then there is Ayn Rand, who seemed to believe her words in this fundamental, innate way. It eventually destroyed her.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob permalink
    January 18, 2010 11:36 pm

    The messed part came from the people who had a grudge. There were no comments from her life-long friends, for example Mary Ann Sures or Leonard Peikoff. How would you like it if only your enemies were asked about you? Regardless of her actual thoughts, it is a sign of the times when an advocate of freedom, the United States as a free country, reason, using your own mind, thinking, productiveness, honesty, and self-respect is viciously attacked at every turn. When someone attacks those values, it tells you about the attacker.

  2. January 18, 2010 11:40 pm

    I think you misunderstand. The article is a review/summary of two biographies about Ayn Rand which does have in-depth interviews with many players.


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