Back when I was an undergraduate, I, like many right-of-center collegians, discovered and devoured the works of Ayn Rand. I then thought she was a philosopher superior even to Plato and remember when back home, arguing as much with one of my mother’s friends who taught Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. I objected to his neglecting the architect of objectivism in his course curricula.
During my sophomore year, I shelved her books next to those of J.R.R. Tolkien to highlight their importance to me.
Later, as I read more libertarian economics and philosophy, I became disenchanted with the writer, especially as I learned of her arrogance. She considered herself the foremost philosopher after Aristotle. Still, I recalled how much I had enjoyed her books, particularly We The Living (the 1942 Italian film adaptation is particularly powerful). I had not been able to put the novel down; her later works The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged kept me reading at odd hours and in odd places. (Despite the flaws of the flick based on the former, it holds up pretty well, but that could just be Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.)
Now, that many people are going John Galt, withdrawing their talents because the state punishes their success too much, I feel maybe I should revisit that last novel, her magnum opus.
Blogress diva Little Miss Attila pretty much summarizes my thoughts on Rand when she pens, er, pixels, “I’m no unqualified Randian; I have plenty of squabbles with Objectivism. But Rand’s work is thought-provoking and very relevant right now.”
I wouldn’t call Rand a great philosopher, but, she is certainly thought-provoking. And given the ever-encroaching hand of the state, I would have to say John Galt is becoming particularly relevant.
For all her flaws, Rand did understand the soul-crushing, incentive-destroying effects of Communism (she had witnessed its beginnings) and the real meaning of capitalism, how, in offering freedom, it allowed for innovation and individual achievement. She alas was too dismissive of compassion, dismissing altruism altogether.Â Those weren’t her only flaws . . .
But, she did create the character of John Galt, an image today of the producer who stops producing when society punishes him overmuch for his marketplace successes.