“”There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Ayn Rand was a philandering, Russian atheist, the author of vast doorstop-sized tomes like Atlas Shrugged and the ripped-off biography The Fountainhead, and other thick, boring books espousing, essentially, psychotic libertarian themes and ideology.
Rand claimed to be a philosopher, though preferring the title "Objectivist." In fact, her simplistic versions of philosophy were misunderstandings of Aristotelian metaphysical notions formulated thousands of years ago. Whether that makes a philosophy or an excuse for being greedy and selfish is, ironically, subjective.
The Objectivist movement is a movement based on Ayn Rand's
personality cult philosophy of objectivism.
Ayn Rand was born as Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum in Russia in 1905. During the Russian Revolution her family's business and home were confiscated by the new government and she moved to the USA in 1926, leaving her family behind, where she became, initially, a successful screenwriter. Her novels championed "objectivism," promoting capitalism and the pre-eminence of the individual. A smoker for most of her life, she derided the anti-smoking lobby. Predictably enough, she underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1974 and died of heart failure in 1982.
Ayn Rand fiercely opposed all types of Social Security, including Medicare, but when she and her husband needed Medicare somehow there is a suggestion that all this did not apply to them. Apparently she signed power of attorney and let someone else do the rest. RationalWiki is looking for confirmation, though at least two sources have the story.
In the late 1920s, Ayn became a passing groupie of sorts for murderer and fraud William Edward Hickman, who was known for kidnapping and brutally dismembering a 12-year-old girl. Rand wrote working notes for a fictional book called The Little Street in which she describes Danny Renahan (into whom she imbued the particular traits which Hickman 'suggested to [her]'), saying "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should,” and “[He had] no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel ‘other people.’” Howard Roark, the "hero" of her later novel, The Fountainhead, was described in a shockingly similar manner.
Rand had an acknowledged open relationship with husband Frank O'Connor, and with her closest "pupil," Nathaniel Branden, from 1955 into the 1960's. This Canadian psychotherapist is best known today as the father of the self-esteem movement. What isn't so well known about his seminal book about his theories, The Psychology of Self-Esteem (1969), is that many of the chapters in the book are merely fleshed-out versions of columns that Branden had written for Rand's newsletter over the previous 18 years. During the affair, Rand found out that besides cheating on his wife, Branden was also cheating on Rand with a model. Upon finding this out, despite the hypocrisy of the whole situation (doubly so for Rand, as she had been cheating on her husband with Branden), she berated and physically attacked him. She allegedly declared, "If you have an ounce of moral decency, you'll be impotent for the rest of your life!" She then excommunicated him from the Objectivist cult.
Branden later apologized for his part in "contributing to that dreadful atmosphere of intellectual repressiveness that pervades the Objectivist movement."
“”I believe Ayn Rand's first love poem went: Roses are red/violets are blue/finish this poem yourself/you dependent parasite
While Rand considered her philosophies to be so well-reasoned as to be completely objective (and even called her philosophy Objectivism), it is generally agreed that what she really created was a highly moralistic personality cult, which was later complete with shunning of dissenters and highly screwed-up sexual politics. Rand summed up her philosophy with the following principles:
- Metaphysics: Objective reality
- Epistemology: Reason
- Ethics: Self-interest
- Politics: Laissez-faire capitalism
- Aesthetics: Whatever sort of art Ayn Rand happened to like. Does not include Monet.
...and with the one-liner "To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason, Purpose, Self-esteem."
Detractors feel that Rand considered all those properties to be perfectly expressed in herself. Whatever the case may be, Objectivism is essentially libertarianism with hangups, usually disguised as pseudologic. Not every Objectivist is a Rand fanatic, but those that are not are shunned by the mainstream Objectivist movement led by Leonard Peikoff's Ayn Rand Institute.
Most philosophers today would dispute Randroid claims that Rand is a philosopher of any importance. The reason is simple: neither Rand's metaphysics nor her epistemology answer many of the probing questions that philosophers might demand of it. Rand's metaphysics boil down to platitudinous pieties: "Existence exists," "Existence is identity," that consciousness is relational, nothing exists without having some properties and the law of identity applies ("A is A"). These are all perfectly fine positions, but they don't seem to go far enough to satisfy the inquiries of even the most minimally trained student: for instance, Rand's view seems to be incompatible with the traditional Aristotelian substance-attribute view of the relationship between particulars and properties. Similarly, 'identity' as it is used by Rand seems to shift meanings often - between the sort of meaning one might use when describing Leibniz's law of the identity of indiscernibles and the day-to-day meaning ('my identity' etc.).
Similarly, for Rand's epistemology - she claims that "reason" is the foundation. Despite the label, Rand's epistemology is empiricist. The sort of questions which exercise contemporary epistemologists (to pick a few: resolving Gettier problems, weighing up foundationalism and coherentism as a response to the Agrippan trilemma, the closure principle) are given scant attention in Rand.
Rand claims that all of the elements of her philosophy run together - being an Objectivist means accepting all of the five components of the philosophy. Quite what in the perfectly acceptable, if a little unoriginal, metaphysics and epistemology (reality is all there is, don't bother with belief) necessitates acceptance of the ethics and political philosophy, or indeed the aesthetic worship of railway tycoons and large, phallic buildings, is never explained. The existence of many millions of non-Objectivists who hold without too much of a mental struggle either to a broadly naturalistic metaphysics and epistemology without the Randian ethic, or to a Randian or libertarian ethic and a non-naturalistic metaphysics (perhaps some kind of religion, orthodox or New Agey), seems to suggest that the two halves of Rand's philosophy aren't bound by necessity. This seems rather obvious to anyone with a brain, but does bear repeating for the Randroids, who seem to think that anyone objecting to their politics is automatically rejecting all components of their worldview.
As many of Rand's followers have demonstrated, taking the Objectivist philosophy to its logical conclusions often leads to conflicts with mainstream science.
 Endorsement of American expansionism
Although Rand denounced racism as the "most crudely primitive form of collectivism" and supported property rights, none of it mattered if you just weren't capitalist enough for her. She caused a pinch of controversy when she said this about Native Americans:
“”They didn't have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their 'right' to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.
 Atlas Shrugged
“”This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
Actually reading this novel has been compared to pushing one's head through a light-year of refrigerated saltwater taffy (sort of like a libertarian Das Kapital, but for the fact Ayn Rand hated libertarians).
To save you reading over a thousand pages of turgid prose, here is Atlas Shrugged. No "spoiler" alert is necessary:
- A dark and lonely handsome 'hero' invents a perpetual motion machine.
- When someone mentions the slogan "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" he and his bazilllionaire 'friends' wail like babies, and flee in a huff to live in the mountains.
- All the decent folk who helped them make those bazillions of dollars running trains, forging steel, etc., are left behind to rot.
- The world is like North Korea, but quite a bit less fun. Lucky for our heroes, their mountain hideout is a land of colourful plenty, and is hidden away from the world using a form of holographic projection that is never fully explained.
- Everyone in the world is miserable except them, as they are busy driving their trains up and down in their incredible mountain hideaway away from the Gubmint.
- They have romance-novel sex with other capitalist boors, but can't commit due to being too busy.
- Everyone else is wrong and they are completely correct.
- They pop up suddenly in public and punish the miserable hordes by lecturing them in interminably boring speeches that go on and on and on for about one hundred pages and have only one point: "You need me, I don't need you, and I refuse to make bazillions of dollars anymore, so you're all fucked. Ha Ha!"
- The world goes to hell in a handbasket, except for them, 'cos they're in their seekrit mountain hideout, which can't be seen from the air, so it's, like, seekrit. And they have trains, after all.
- The reader contemplates suicide after over 100 references to the word 'torture'.
- The reader falls into a deep coma. The survival rate is estimated at 3%-5%.
A number of conservatives apparently hold Atlas Shrugged in high regard, which is strange, since they've already got a foundational text that is even longer and more boring (and almost as preachy). Rush Limbaugh frequently refers to it. Glenn Beck started reading it in early 2008, but in 2010, it became painfully clear that he had finished only the first few pages and didn't even get those right. It taught these guys "conservative love," but unfortunately, not how to rap.
 The Box Office Shrugged (zing!)
The film adaptation languished in Hollywood development hell for decades, at one point attracting Angelina Jolie (and it's not the first time she's done this), before being made at an obviously low budget in 2011. The audacity of the project is the filmmakers, not appreciating just how awful the book is, decided to make a trilogy. Part 1 was released in 2011, playing to small audiences in a small number of theatres; Part 2 followed in 2012, to coincide with the US election, and fared even less well, while Part 3 is now due in 2014. The movies have been predictably popular with hardcore Randroids, panned by film critics, and ignored or unnoticed by the wider public. The fact that they're so god-awful boring and over-long negates any real need to seriously dissect the blatant anti-Semitism and sexism on screen.
The Fountainhead is a poorly disguised biography of Frank Lloyd Wright.[citation NOT needed] Its message is to stick to your guns if you are a genius, and even though the roofs on your houses leak terribly or the decks bend, the fools who dissed you will eventually realize your genius. Books that actually admit to being about Wright are better, since they usually include photos and drawings of his incredible work. Rand's book was made into a movie, and this 5 second version tells you all you need to know.
Written before her 'philosophy' was set in stone, and only 80% as preachy as her later works, Anthem tells the tale of an individual suffering under the yolk of his oppressors in a collectivist society. It's slightly hard to read because the main character refers to himself with a plural pronoun for nearly the entire book.
 We the Living
Rand's first published work is a semi-autobiographical (though heavily fictionalized) novel taking place in early Soviet Russia, about the love between the daughter of an ex-capitalist and a Communist functionary with the Communist dictatorship as backdrop. It spawned a movie duology produced in Fascist Italy which was then banned because the Fascist bigwigs realized that if a movie attacked a Communist dictatorship, it could be used to attack all dictatorships. A single-movie version of this is available and was being co-edited by Rand around the time she died.
 The drooling fans
Generally, the work of Ms. Rand is hugely enjoyed by people with the literary sensitivities of 11 year olds who imagine they have fierce political sophistication. These people, due to their often-slavish devotion to Objectivist principles, are often called Randroids.
Alan Greenspan is known to be one. So is U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R - WI), who unfortunately
is the chairman of the House Budget Committee ran for Vice President. Outsiders perceive them as greedy, callous wankers with economic OCD. Insiders know they are greedy, callous wankers with economic OCD.
Wikipedia honcho Jimbo Wales once described himself as "Objectivist to the core," and named his daughter Kira after Kira Argounova in We the Living. These facts may clarify a few things for experienced Wikipedians.
Comic book artist and writer Steve Ditko (creator of Spider-Man) is a self-professed Objectivist, and even created the character "Mr. A" for small press run comics to promote the ideology, such as the indecipherably dogmatic and didactic book Avenging World.  
Her fan club is founded on the premise that "A is A." Arguing about Aesthetics in an Armchair while Assuming that "Anarchism is Anathema" is Actually the same As Activism.
 Her drones
Currently, her ideology is being promoted by the Ayn Rand Institute, which describes itself on its website as to be working "to introduce young people to Ayn Rand’s novels, to support scholarship and research based on her ideas, and to promote the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the widest possible audience." In what must be the greatest note of irony possible, the institute is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
 Her enemies
Basically, everyone. If you like to lie in bed a bit late on a Saturday morning, you're a hater. If you like to tip your waiter (in the US anyway), you're a hater. If you've ever paid any kind of tax without wringing your insides at the injustice of the thing, you're a hater. If you haven't created a global multinational corporation and extracted every last cent of resources, labor and profit from multiple countries, you're a hater. If you don't think children under the age of twelve can do a decent 12 hour day's work and earn their keep, you're a hater. Even if you're a raving lunatic American Evangelical Christian Conservative, you're a hater.
 See also
- Ayn Rand in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- A libertarian critique of Rand's thinking from Reason magazine
- The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult by Murray Rothbard - another libertarian critique of Rand, pointing out the cultish aspects of her movement.
- Don't give to tsunami victims: the message of the American right's Philosopher-Queen and How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon, by Johann Hari
- If lifeguards were Randoids...
- Four part take-down of Atlas Shrugged at Buffalo Beast
- Big Sister is Watching You, a 1957 review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers that led Rand to ban the mention of his name in her presence.
- "Wealthcare" by Jon Chait
- This is completely relevant.
- Ayn Rand's Adventures in Wonderland
- It must have happened.
- The Bookshelf
- Ayn Rand Institute (If you're really that curious.)
- Jennifer Burns. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. Oxford University Press, 2009.
- ↑ Ephemera 2009 (7) (John Rogers, Kung Fu Monkey blog)
- ↑ Ayn Rand, the philandering, Russian, atheist.
- ↑ http://www.cynical-c.com/?p=21253
- ↑ http://www.patiastephens.com/2010/12/05/ayn-rand-received-social-security-medicare/
- ↑ http://www.amazon.com/Journals-Ayn-Rand/dp/0452278872
- ↑ "Ayn Rand's Admiration of Murderer-Dismemberer William Edward Hickman" by Mark Ames
- ↑ 
- ↑ At least outside Objectivist circles, obviously.
- ↑ Skeptical author Michael Shermer, in his book Why People Believe Weird Things (2ed, 2002, Owl Books, ISBN 978-0805070897), devotes a whole chapter to a highly personal and scathing rebuke of Objectivism, which he had once been a believer in. The essay can be found online here: The Unlikeliest Cult in History
- ↑ http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_essentials
- ↑ Q and A session following her address to the graduating class of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974 - found in Endgame: Resistance, by Derrick Jensen, Seven Stories Press, 2006, pg 220, can be found on Wikiquote
- ↑ Caigoy Shrugs
- ↑ Ayn Rand on libertarianism
- ↑ Incidentally, the 2007 video game BioShock has been described by some reviewers as a repudiation of Rand's conception of a meritocracy of the elite, and a similar arrangement is played for laughs by Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where Golgafrinchan society is wiped out by an unsanitized telephone after all the "unnecessary" people are loaded into an ark and sent off planet.
- ↑ http://www.angryflower.com/atlass.gif
- ↑ Ayn Rand Loves Torture, C.G.P. Grey
- ↑ Randex: Ayn Rand articles by Rush Limbaugh
- ↑ Interview with Stephen Moore, February 20, 2008
- ↑  Notice that John Galt, a "common great" man is cited as a "Great Industrialist" and the question asked by Beck should be "Who" rather than "Where is John Galt."
- ↑ Young Con Anthem
- ↑ Ayn Rand: Speed Addict
- ↑ Rotten Tomatoes: Atlas Shrugged; Part I
- ↑ Rotten Tomatoes: Atlas Shrugged; Part ii
- ↑ Salon.com: "Terrible reviews will not stop Atlas Shrugged 3"
- ↑ Here and here
- ↑ And will be written better.
- ↑ See the Wikipedia article on We (novel).
- ↑ 
- ↑ http://www.salon.com/2005/06/03/ditko/
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._A
- ↑ Take a look at "Avenging World" for yourself!
- ↑ ...as well as "Mr. A".
- ↑ Ayn Rand Institute: Introduction to Ayn Rand, Objectivism and ARI
- ↑ Note Andrew Schlafly's comment that "Her followers today tend to be libertarians and predominantly unmarried men." img