On Ayn Rand.

An anonymous reader asked, “What do you think of Ayn Rand? I recently read Atlas Shrugged and wanted to hear what you think.”

From what I’ve seen and read of her interviews, she seemed like an unpleasant-enough person that she’d cast almost anything I wrote about her as foolish, ignorant, infantile, malicious, stupid, or some combination of the five. But she’s dead now, so here goes:

I read Anthem back in high school. Maybe it was required reading, maybe some teacher mentioned it in class and it piqued my interest enough to track down a copy. Anyhow, it’s dystopian, with the gimmick being that using any first-person singular term is a capital crime. It differs from most dystopian fiction in that it takes place in a technologically regressed world. It’s worth reading, if only because of the advantage it holds over Rand’s other famous works: it’s short and simple.

I have read much about, but not actually read, Atlas Shrugged. I generally agree with the central theme of the book (as I understand it), which is opposition to the state’s intervention in the economy and society. If Rand were alive, and here, and inclined to suffer an intellectual peon, she would no doubt berate me for either oversimplifying her ideas so thoroughly as to completely miss the point, or being a complete and utter hypocrite for supporting any sort of state intervention (I do teach in a public school).

Furthermore, it is my understanding that the style of the book isn’t my cup of tea. John Galt gives a three-hour speech? Pass. I didn’t mind meta-reading about IngSoc in 1984, because that was presented as Winston Smith reading Emmanuel Goldstein’s book. But to read a three-hour speech and believe that people willingly sat through it? I’ll only suspend my disbelief so much.

The previews for the movie adaptation looked awful. I’ll wait for it to show up on Netflix or in a dollar bin at a thrift shop. That said, it seems that both book and movie contain some important messages about capitalism, property, and liberty. It would be nice to see more novels, fables, short stories, and movies that addressed those themes in some way other than “Capitalism bad! Businessman evil!”

To summarize: nice ideas, so-so presentation. If she had the disposition of a Milton Friedman, I think she’d be more widely read and her ideas would be more warmly received. But then, perhaps her disposition dictated her ideas? Who knows?

I’d comment further, but I’m about to head down to Orlando to catch up with Mole and his family. My people spent the last several days tracking a pig worthy of being served for dinner this eve. Casualties were heavy, but the deed was done, and tonight my friends and I shall sing songs of gallantry past, and offer toasts to epic adventures yet to come, and feast on the finest puerco pibil any one has ever tasted. Hopefully the pig was nobody important.

10 thoughts on “On Ayn Rand.

  1. I find Rand’s (happenstance or not) “nearness” to Neitzche and eugenics to be very distrubing. Though a kernel of her libertarian statement strikes me as near an ideal, so much of her aforementioned verbosity is repugnant to me.


  2. True. I should have clarified. The content of her verbosity is repugnant, not just the quality of her garrulousness. (Yes, I too am guilty of looking up synonyms)

    I don’t think she was paid by page, though.


  3. The “quality of her garrulousness” is best described as turgid prose, especially in Atlas Shrugged.

    At least The Fountainhead was readable.


  4. @Davout: What regardifying the content repulsifies you? I see how she’d remind one of Nietzsche, but it seems she would take it in a different direction than certain other adherents of his (such as a particular failed painter) did.


  5. True, I’m sure her actions would not go the same way, and I am being a bit unfair to her in one aspect, the aspect of modern cognitive processing. Since quotes and snippets of her work are the most common reference, works that derive from her original manuscripts as well; her philosophy of which I am several years removed from reading provides a stiff stick of butter with which to wack one with. Her works are used by many for which they were not intended. I think in today’s world, drafting a large tome not only is naive, but borderline irresponsible. No one will understand it from the primary sources except a select few who do not have the time to socialize the material properly with the population. Is my world-weariness showing? 30 s soundbytes and 141 characters seem to be TMI for many.


  6. You would like her for nothing more than being an unabashed proponent of capitalism. I found it annoying, naturally.

    The movie is now on Netflix. And it’s really, really awful.


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