Businessmen Praise Rand

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wow! Within days of each other, The Wall Street Journal prints an article condemning Ayn Rand by someone who obviously does not know very much about her ... only to be followed by The New York Times printing a piece (which, as I learned from reader Jim May, was linked by none other than Matt Drudge) which is generally favorable towards Rand and cites numerous very successful businessmen as her fans.

... Her book was dismissed as an homage to greed. Gore Vidal described its philosophy as "nearly perfect in its immorality."

But the book attracted a coterie of fans, some of them top corporate executives, who dared not speak of its impact except in private. When they read the book, often as college students, they now say, it gave form and substance to their inchoate thoughts, showing there is no conflict between private ambition and public benefit.

"I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.'s that 'Atlas Shrugged' has had a significant effect on their business decisions, even if they don’t agree with all of Ayn Rand's ideas," said John A. Allison, the chief executive of BB&T, one of the largest banks in the United States.

"It offers something other books don't: the principles that apply to business and to life in general. I would call it complete," he said.
The article isn't perfect. For example, it implies that Alan Greenspan, although influenced by Ayn Rand, remains a stronger advocate of Rand's philosophy (and of laissez-faire capitalism) than he really is at one point. This is probably its most significant deficiency given that Greenspan's memoirs (The Age of Turbulence) will be released Monday.

However, aside from definitely not being an attempt to cause a stampede away from Rand, it is pretty even-handed on its own, even leaving aside that its main emphasis is the fact that so many successful American businessmen admire and have learned from Rand.

So read the article. It's definitely a breath of fresh air, especially after the miasma many of us choked on, courtesy of Commentary and the Wall Street Journal.

-- CAV

Notes: (1) Brad Thompson informs me via email that this same article was blogged over at The Volokh Conspiracy, where a lively discussion is taking place. (2) He also notes that within sixteen hours of the Times article that the Amazon ranking of Atlas Shrugged has surged from 388 to 52. (3) This ranking went to at least as high as 28 today and is 30 as of about midnight Central Time.

Updates

9-15-07
: (1) One minor edit. (2) Added Note with link to discussion at Volokh Conspiracy. (3) Added note on Amazon rankings of Atlas Shrugged. (4) Amazon ranking updated and link provided.

6 comments:

Jim May said...

I highly recommend going to the Volokh thread, there is a lot of interesting stuff in there. Funny thing about that thread: David Bernstein, the original VC poster, notes in his first line that the NYT article was lacking the "usual snarkiness".

The first thought I had upon reading that line was that the comments on his post would make up for it; but it largely doesn't happen, which is something -- there is even another commenter who expresses the same expectation.

I speculate in my own comment (under the moniker "Seerak") that it's because the poster was Bernstein and not Ilya Somin, who is clearly one of the libertarian "bashers".

Gus Van Horn said...

Jim,

I noticed that this morning. Indeed, the couple of anti-Rand commenters were answered pretty well.

What was particularly interesting was that someone had even called into question -- before I linked to it, if I recall correctly -- just how much of a student of Rand's Greenspan was.

Gus

Joe at Forces blog said...

Does anyone know if Amazon’s rankings take into account sales from all editions? Or does each ranking refer to only the edition shown?

The edition with the high ranking of (as of 42 Sunday night) is a large-format paperback edition that ships in 1 to 4 weeks, whereas the mass-market paperback edition (which ships immediately), is ranked at 486.

A rank of 42 is pretty good for a product that customers have to wait 1-4 weeks for.

Gus Van Horn said...

Your question appears to answer itself -- unless, of course the "top seller" is really a composite for whatever reason.

I did a quick Google and found this interesting article on Amazon sales rank. Unfortunately, a quick skim tells me it doesn't answer your question and I won't have time to look into it any further this evening.

Anybody out there know?

Jim May said...

Whew, busy weekend! That was quite an Ayn Rand "blogbang".

It is also interesting that the hatchet job came from a conservative source, and the relatively even-handed one came from the New York Times.

Even Instapundit has joined the party with a link to the VC post.

I guess it was too big a party for him to ignore.

Gus Van Horn said...

There may be more on the way. There was a good review in the LA Times this weekend as well.