Should Ayn Rand be Defended?

Monday, April 18, 2011
Posted in category Heroes of Liberty

With the movie Atlas Shrugged, Part I being released this weekend, and with statism becoming abundantly visible to the masses since the financial-economic meltdown and ensuing bailouts, Ayn Rand has become more popular than ever – among the older folks who grew up reading Rand and attending Objectivist Club meetings, as well as the young folks who grew up with the Internet but are rediscovering Rand’s ageless ideas.

As far as Rand’s fans go, there are blind followers who worship her every word, others who are merely curious about her, and some people who are often critical of her system. I tend to be critical of her system in general, however, I also tend toward defending her and many of her ideas from her harshest critics. People, in fact, like to say that many libertarians have come to the freedom philosophy because of Rand, which is entirely correct. This is why Jerome Tuccille wrote It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand. Others, however, swear that Randians are not necessarily friends of freedom because of their cold warrior status and perpetual defense of big business as the persecuted minority. Much is true in all that, but that is beyond the scope of this post.

There are a few different types of Rand fans, here, that we can acknowledge. There are Randroids, Randians, and those that are Randian sympathetic. A Randroid tends to be a mindless follower who parrots the same old schtick via the approved phraseology and symbolism. Randians, on the other hand, tend to be more like Tibor MachanChris Sciabarra, and maybe even Roderick Long: they are interested in Rand; knowledgeable of her system, yet critical at times; always fair; and sensible on Rand and her overall philosophy. I would consider myself to be, say, Randian sympathetic.

Here’s a point about folks who discovered libertarian ideas because of Rand (me being one of those): Most of us who aren’t twenty-something were exposed to little else concerning individual liberty, which is why I defend her. I’m talking about a time way (way, way!) before the Internet days, and before the Mises Institute was visible, when there were very few resources from which to obtain any tidbits of the freedom philosophy. Reading Rand led me to Mises and a whole string of other great thinkers because I dared to read Anthem in high school. Unless you were in a grad program back in the 70 or 80s, the trail to the freedom philosophy was mostly dark shadows and barricaded roads. Rand was a lamp post in the night, opening a lot of educational doors to intelligent, young, inquisitive minds. She was only one means to an end, but a very visible and accessible one at that. So I guess “accessibility” is the key. Nowadays, the younger set has complete access to all the great thinkers and ideas through the Internet and all that it has spawned (used book exchanges, eBay, private book sales, educational institutes, personal web pages, conferences, forums, social media, YouTube, iTunes University, podcasts, etc). Many of us had no such thing. Rand opened many doors for those of us who came before the Internet age.

Still, the first book I give people to introduce them to freedom (through individualism vs collectivism) is Anthem. It takes an hour to read, and it’s both compelling and ironic considering our current times.

In 2009, the Financial Times wrote about the growing influence of Atlas Shrugged, especially since 2007 when the book began flying off the shelves in response to the surge of statism as the economic crisis blew in and the government’s bubbles lay waste to the middle class.

In a January 1944 issue of Reader’s Digest, Rand wrote: “Totalitarianism is collectivism. Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group.” Pretty powerful statement for a family magazine. Even South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford wrote favorably about Ayn Rand in a 2009 Newsweek article.

Ayn Rand, even with her faults and rigid image, was important as a social scientist and a messenger for the masses. For that, she did much good. This concludes my short defense that Ayn Rand deserves.

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12 Responses to Should Ayn Rand be Defended?

  1. Iluvatar says:

    April 19th, 2011 at 12:37 am


    while I won’t disagree w/ your comments re: Rand, I had to disagree w/ your comments re: liberty.

    Rand was an essential Existentialist basically.

    And oh btw, I had to read Albert Camus’s “L’Etranger” (The Stranger) in high school. It took me the better part of 10 years to finally figure that short story out – but only after I had read Kant (in college, and after), Nietzsche (yeh, I know, he was WEIRD), Kafka, Dostoevsky (the insect man), and others.

    And oh btw, please do not forget Colin Wilson (of the “angry young men club” in the UK in the early `50′s) – “The Outsider” and oh, let me retrieve this off the library shelf – hold on – ah yes here it is “Religion and the Rebel” (2nd book).

    Trust me hoss, we may have not called it liberty, but the thoughts are the same – it is about taking responsibility for your SOUL.

  2. Iluvatar says:

    April 19th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    But also & to be complete about this, I completely forgot my schooling in John Locke, David Hume and the father-son team that were of that period – doh! (and it wasn’t the brothers team either – William & Henry James OR the father-son team T.J. & Aldous Huxley), it wass someone just before Locke’s time!

    But find them and READ THEM!


  3. Jeannie Queenie says:

    April 20th, 2011 at 1:02 am

    I devoured everyone of her books when having babies back in the 60′s and 70′s. I guess you could say I am on the same page as Tibor Machan, one of my favorite writers…most the time he is spot on. It is no surprise that Atlas Shrugged is coming out at this time, for as we live in a world now of secondhanders (Ayn’s take on those who can’t come up with their own creations and rob from others or make short shrift of any work), as exemplified by those who see nothing wrong with stealing others work, be it writing or art, it’s high time we relook at what constitutes original, creative and honesty in idea making. For sure itl isn’t taking other’s work and making a buck off it. Or taking credit for it, something some of us have experienced all too often in our lives, especially in corporate america where crappy middle mgmt hasn’t a clue so they have to steal ideas. Happened to me more times than I care to count, but guess it goes along with the narcissitic tendencies of younger generations wanting attention and not really thinking it is necessary to actually produce something. As China has been in the lead in the intellectual theft dept, methinks this is why so americans are getting on that bandwagon…still doesn’t make it right…only makes it that much more bereft or empty of real creativity and/or invention. At any rate, Rand is still a woman after my heart…and so is her wonderful thoughts on sexuality, that is, it being the celebration of the most highest of our aspirations, and of all life.
    Anthem was a winner, but her final Ominous Parallels is still spot on, and surely describes today all too well. I don’t think Rand has been given as much credit as she should, and probably due to her being a woman. As such she hasn’t been taken seriously, but should be.

  4. Iluvatar says:

    April 20th, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Oooooooh, finally rememered those guys: John Stuart Mill and his father/son – doh!

    They should be held hand in hand with John Locke@!

    Smelling is such sweet sorry!

    We ONLY get a taste of this until the elistists SHUT US DOWN!


    Peace, brothers & Amen…

  5. Iluvatar says:

    April 21st, 2011 at 12:13 am

    @ JQ:

    As a male; I take Ayn Rand VERY SERIOUSLY as well as all the other folks I mentioned herein.

    It is a shame that Karen is (might be) an atheist.

    No Existentialist worth his salt went there!

    But that is me.

    And as an old fart – I prepare for DEATH! And in a very serious way!\

    Death is my going back “home” – I re-join the particles of this Earth.

    Sorry, man, my stream of conciousness folds back into the pool of LIFE!

    At least, I will escape those fuck-shit elitists (Illuminati banksters) and grow old peacably and die and join w/ my god and re-oin the earth I came from – dying is about going home!

    I am ready!

    I have this so parcelled out that it is now a NO-brainer.

    I will miss my children however, until they reach the age and pass and join with me.

    ~Til then? I will miss them…

    Peace, JQ.

  6. Karen De Coster says:

    April 21st, 2011 at 6:09 am

    “It is a shame that Karen is (might be) an atheist.” Illuv – what the heck are you talking about? Why do you always make these statements about what I am/am not, etc.? “Karen (might be)” …. and “it’s a shame….”? Shaming me for what you don’t know, and making this statement as if you do? Why is it okay to do this?

  7. Edwin Clements says:

    April 21st, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Ayn Rand was one of my major intellectual influences.  I read Atlas Shrugged the first time in 1967, when I was a senior in high school, after having seen her on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show a couple of weeks earlier.    If we ever manage to get all these big-government socialists put out to pasture, she will take a great deal of the credit for it.   And we are fortunate to have women such as Karen who can also express thoughts and views on the subject of freedom so eloquently.

  8. Iluvatar says:

    April 22nd, 2011 at 12:09 am


    Let me repeat this: “It is a shame that Karen is (might be) an atheist.” Did you see the conditional there? E.g., “(might be)”

    I was reacting to your earlier post, and had a (perhaps) BAD hunch that you might be atheist as well:

    If you are not, well OK fine, if you are, well then, I feel a small amount of sadness for you also – as described in the above referenced post!


    You have to live your life as YOU see fit – as we ALL must do!

    Atheists, however, still do bother me, in the sense that, they have given up on ANY god-concepts and have basically shut the door to their open-ness in that regard – and I believe that that is a shame (look what they could possibly miss out on!).

    But whatever.

    What disturbed me somewhat was this phrase:

    “Why do you always make these statements about what I am/am not, etc.?”

    I did not get this AT ALL.

    Let me key on the word “always”.

    I “always” make statements about what you are?


    Really, “always”??

    In EVERY single post that I have made (~600 so far)!

    C’mon dude, I think in the 300-600 posts I think I have made statements about what you are about twice (the atheist thing which was conditional, and perhaps the shoulder surgeries you have had to undergo (which I was sorry you had to undergo – my rotator cuff is still something I don’t want surgery on).

    Ya know? When I get angry at the kids? I use the “always” word ALL THE TIME (I sure wish I could stop that!).

    Why do you ALWAYS have to drop the juice all over the counter?!?!?!?!?

    But, Karen, please know this: in the game of who knows best?

    You got the major edge on the deal.

    I only know about 3-4 things about YOU:

    1) you like bacon and bacon grease (as do I), 2) you eschew bread as much as possible (as do I), 3) you are a VERY TECHNICAL LIBERTARIAN (I am just a simple man, who wants to be free), 4) you are a dual-entry accounting expert & CPA (I just like math).

    So you got me (in light of all the posts I have made) 600:4 in that regards.

    Know why?

    I ain’t no g-d’d troll.

    I wear my my soul and my spirit on my sleeve – for ALL to see.

    That is why you know me so much better than I know.

    Oooooooooh, I forgot!

    You live somewhere near Detroit – sorry forgot that one…

    Later, dude.

  9. Iluvatar says:

    April 22nd, 2011 at 12:12 am

    And oh, you have blond hair!


  10. Karen De Coster says:

    April 22nd, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Illuv – I was not going to post your attacking, condemning, bizarre comments, but, on second thought, I want folks to see both of them. A pointless rant on what you think I “might” be (or not) is really pretty insane. I am not a “dude,” and apparently, the fact that I have “blond hair” and “live somewhere near Detroit” is humor fodder driving a 700-word comment on my blog? Wtf?? I must be missing out on the crack pipe being passed around?

    And oh, you have blond hair!


    Yeah, I have blond hair. I also have white teeth and ten toes and ten fingers. Surely me and my readers are missing the “hahahahahahahahahah” here? Also, the fact that you use a fake email tells me you are not on the up-and-up, as I have suspected all along. Cyberstalkers will be dealt with appropriately. I am no longer approving your comments.

  11. liberranter says:

    April 22nd, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    It’s important for readers of Rand’s works to be able to divorce her libertarian themes from her philosophy of Objectivism, a system which Butler Shaffer astutely observed as being “libertarianism’s albatross.” Rand’s recurring conceptualization of capitalists as genius heroes is similarly ridiculous (as Gary North cogently points out in an article written on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged).

    All of that said, however, no one can deny that Rand’s contributions to the understanding and appreciation of liberty were invaluable and have done more good than harm to the libertarian cause. As Karen points out, there were really no other avenues for the discovery or absorption of libertarian ideas at the time of either The Fountainhead‘s or Atlas‘s publication. Rand’s use of the novel to make these ideas accessible to the reading public was nothing short of revolutionary at the time, especially given the almost complete co-opting by the Progressive/Socialist order of America’s media organs at the time. For Rand’s ability to “get the message out” we liberty lovers owe her memory a debt of gratitude, whatever her many shortcomings as a philosopher and as a person.

  12. steven says:

    April 23rd, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    That Butler Shaffer article is one of my favorites. I reread it from time to time, and it seems that each time I read it I learn something new, something that I hadn’t picked up on before. He packed so many ideas into such a short article.

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