“The Great Ghastly Rand”


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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22 Responses

  1. Joe Carter says:

    ***I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who enjoyed The Fountainhead a lot more than Atlas Shrugged.***

    You aren’t the only one. I suspect that most people really do like The Fountainhead better but think it makes them sound smarter to say they prefer the brick-sized tome filled with political soliloquies that pretend to be dialogue.Report

  2. North says:

    I forgave Rand for Atlas Shrugged because from that fetid soil grew the roses of Bioshock and Bioshock 2. Rise Rapture Rise!Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    The tragedy of Ayn Rand is that her works are a response to Stalinism.

    Not an act of creation, but a reaction of creation, if you will.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, I’d be interested in knowing if someone has discussed the fact that so many of the classic texts of libertarianism (I know it’s not that easy with Rand, but I mean classic works that libertarians draw from) were written during a time in which communist states were still a major going concern. Surely that must have an impact on the ideas within. Admittedly, I’ve not been interested enough in the question to look up articles on the topic so far… But your thoughts?Report

      • Mike Farmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @Rufus F.,
        I believe the principles of socialism played a large part in the early libertarians writings — read Frank Chodorov, though, to see that it was also the late 19th, early 20th century American style socialism in the form of progressivism that inspired the defense of classical liberalism — it wasn’t long before the classical “liberals” were capitulating to the pragmatic use of statism as a conservative reaction to free market changes. Words and concepts have been perverted. “Libertarian” galvanized as a distinction from this conservative, statist reaction — oddly enough, the “conservatives” became the modern liberals, perverting the word liberal beyond recognition.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @Rufus F., I’ve been thinking about this all night and think that it’s a bit too narrow…

        I mean, one of the best Libertarian documents ever is the Declaration of Independence.

        On the one hand, that wasn’t a reaction to Communism… but, on the other, it was *VERY MUCH* a reaction to monarchical tyranny. (I mean, two seats in the House of Commons would have nipped how much crap in the bud???)

        Libertarianism and its autistic little brother Objectivism being painted as reactionary philosophies doesn’t strike me as particularly flattering… but, so far anyway, it seems to fit what actually happened.Report

        • Rufus in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, I guess that’s right- I do still think of the country as an Enlightenment project. Are there differences between say Enlightenment libertarianism and Cold War libertarianism? There must be some different ideas about economics anyway, right? I suppose Hayek is in the back of my mind here. I like his books, but wonder if the collapse of state Communism as a real threat sort of cuts them off at the knees. I often feel like there’s a disconnect between what he’s warning about and what really seems possible.Report

          • Koz in reply to Rufus says:

            I don’t think so. The Road to Serfdom was written in the context of Naziism as opposed to communism anyway.

            For me at least, the real genius of Hayek is prior to economics. Ie, collectivism stifles information flow to the point of failure. Therefore Hayek is essentially timeless because the information argument applies to any form of collectivism.Report

  4. Koz says:

    I’m not a big fan of Rand, especially her anthropology. But, that little episode surrounding the train explosion is the best thing she ever wrote.

    Causes have consequences. Sometimes the consequences are nebulous but other times they are quite clear. In the latter case, in order to reject the consequences we have to reject the causes. It really is as simple as that.

    I never expected to live to see the day where the political economy of real life is as simple or simpler than it is in an Ayn Rand book. But if we’re not there yet, we’re pretty fkkking close.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:


      But, that little episode surrounding the train explosion is the best thing she ever wrote.

      The part where everyone on the train deserved to die because they didn’t share all of Rand’s beliefs is definitely a reaction to Stalinism. “Hate your economics. Love your tactics.”Report

      • Koz in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Whether it was or not, it certainly doesn’t have to be. The important thing is that the explosion wasn’t perpetrated by the Stalinists or the Atlases but rather a subtle form of suicide by the riders themselves.

        Causes have consequences. In order to reject the consequences we must reject the causes. Most of the time things are more complicated than that but not always.Report

        • JosephFM in reply to Koz says:

          Right, and that totally justifies rigging situations so that they will have the consequences your ideas say they ought, even if doing so requires setting up an unrealistic scenario solely to metaphorically punish people you don’t like for actions that they have not actually made?Report

  5. Sam M says:

    Really? I always assumed that most people liked The Fountainhead better. Neither is all that realistic. But an inviso-ray hiding a commune in the mountains? That seemed preposterous to me even as a 19-year-old who liked being the kind of person who liked Ayn Rand. I was stoked to be in the know about this whole John Galt thing and… an invisible commune? Oy. Oy. Oy.Report

  6. Mike Farmer says:

    I liked Rand’s non-fiction better than her fiction — people can say what they want, but Rand had a razor-sharp, formidable mind.Report

  7. Rufus says:

    At 16, I liked the Fountainhead, although I suspect that had to do with the fact that I didn’t like my classmates. Rereading it a few years ago, I found it really dreadfully written- as if an alien was trying to describe human behavior without any first hand knowledge. I don’t know- I sort of get why people enjoy her books, but as for me, I think the appeal was that I was the sort of punk who liked to “win” arguments with people who really didn’t want to be arguing with me in the first place. I grew out of it. As for Atlas Shrugged, I’ve always thought it read like a self-published “novel” written by a crank.Report

    • TTT in reply to Rufus says:


      That “alien” comment really rings true. Rod Dreher has noted that there seem to be few old Randians, fewer still who are married with children. Basically as soon as you need to deal with real-world interpersonal relationships and responsibilities, everything Rand advocated completely ceases to matter. Having met my share of misanthropic kooks on the Internet who share her eagerness to lay out mass death upon any who displease them, I suspect she shared in their Asperger’s syndrome or some other emotion-destroying autistic disorder.Report

  8. byafi says:

    As one who has never grown – and likely will never grow – “out of” Atlas Shrugged, I thought I’d share with you Robert Tracinski’s take on NR’s “revisitation” of Rand:


  9. Dave S. says:

    The tragedy of Ayn Rand is that she was a profoundly horrible writer with a morally stunted worldview, whose prominence and influence far outstrip her deserving thereof. I enjoyed The Fountainhead more than Atlas Shrugged because it was shorter.

    Pathetic personal note: I read Atlas Shrugged even after suffering through The Fountainhead because I like trains.Report

  10. Mike Schilling says:

    Wynand has made a Devil’s bargain and his papers have no soul: They print whatever the public wants, no matter how indecent, dishonest, or ugly, and it is indeed ugly.

    On the other hand, Rand got Rupert Murdoch down cold.Report