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Ayn Rand at 110

February 2, 2015 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

Interest in the bestselling novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand continues to grow, 33 years after her death and 70 years after she first hit the bestseller lists with The Fountainhead. Rand was born February 2, 1905, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In the dark year of 1943, in the depths of World War II and the Holocaust, when the United States was allied with one totalitarian power to defeat another, three remarkable women published books that could be said to have given birth to the modern libertarian movement. Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who had written Little House on the Prairie and other stories of American rugged individualism, published a passionate historical essay called The Discovery of Freedom. Isabel Paterson, a novelist and literary critic, produced The God of the Machine, which defended individualism as the source of progress in the world.

The other great book of 1943 was The Fountainhead, a powerful novel about architecture and integrity by Ayn Rand. The book’s individualist theme did not fit the spirit of the age, and reviewers savaged it. But it found its intended readers. Its sales started slowly, then built and built. It was still on the New York Times bestseller list two full years later. Hundreds of thousands of people read it in the 1940s, millions eventually, some of them because of the 1949 film starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, and many of them were inspired enough to seek more information about Ayn Rand’s ideas. Rand went on to write an even more successful novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1957, and to found an association of people who shared her philosophy, which she called Objectivism. Although her political philosophy was libertarian, not all libertarians shared her views on metaphysics, ethics, and religion. Others were put off by the starkness of her presentation and by her cult following.

College students, professors, businessmen, Paul Ryan, the rock group Rush, and Hollywood stars have all proclaimed themselves fans of Ayn Rand.”

Like Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek, Rand demonstrates the importance of immigration not just to America but to American libertarianism. Mises had fled his native Austria right before the Nazis confiscated his library, Rand fled the Communists who came to power in her native Russia. When a heckler asked her at a public speech, “Why should we care what a foreigner thinks?”, she replied with her usual fire, “I chose to be an American. What did you ever do, except for …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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