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."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.
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.
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.
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.
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.