Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Let me take a moment to note that Ayn Rand has recently gotten some free publicity in the widely-read New Republic, courtesy of one Jacob Bacharach. In "Ayn Rand Made Me a Communist," Bacharach partially blames an essay contest for turning him against the novelist-philosopher:
... I even entered the Ayn Rand Institute essay contest, which promised a grand prize of something like ten thousand dollars. And I was actually one of the named honorable mentions, but I didn't make the podium, and I didn't win any cash. This immediately soured me on the whole enterprise -- also, I'd discovered sex and weed...Bacharach also credits Whitaker Chambers's left-field review of Atlas Shrugged -- if by "left field" you mean "not even in the ballpark" -- for helping him "outgrow" his enthusiasm for whatever he managed to glean from her work (e.g., "These regulations! Come on!" [link added]).
Like Bacharach, I encountered Ayn Rand at a relatively early age, during my sophomore year in college. But my first encounter was less direct, through someone who had attempted to belittle her philosophy by saying it held "atheism and selfishness as virtues." Rather than stop there -- or treat the whole thing like a dalliance with drugs and sex -- I did what I have long advised others to do:
If curiosity about Ayn Rand somehow leads you to [one of her many detractors], read her books for yourself and make up your own mind. You will see that that is all she asks of anyone, in stark contrast to Karl Marx and Jesus Christ -- and quite to the contrary of the make-believe character of the same name pilloried by Whittaker Chambers and his legions of sycophants. [links omitted]To be fair, Bacharach concedes he obtained some value from his flirtation. And maybe that's all he is capable of getting from Ayn Rand. But nobody can do anyone else's thinking, and I think Ayn Rand and any potential reader of hers deserve better than a half-hearted, second-hand account from someone trying a little too hard to sound jaded.