The Devil Made Him Do It

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.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hey Gus:

These individuals make me laugh. They feel the need to denigrate Rand; it ultimately shows their unwillingness or inability to read her actual work. Maybe they are just too dumb(I know, sounds harsh), since they prefer following others like Peter Keating. Like you I was introduced to Rand my sophomore year in college. It was cursory. Only after watching the Sense of Life documentary, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks did I really actively research her philosophy. From doing that I realized I wasn't crazy after all.

Bookish Babe

Steve D said...

Jaded seems like an understatement. Being only an honorable mention made him a communist? I shudder to think what would have happened if he had taken last place. I wonder about people who write this stuff. He doesn’t seem to have much self respect. I would be seriously embarrassed to put something like that into print.

Also, the most common statement I hear from people who have left Objectivism is that they out grew it, or out grew Ayn Rand; implying that it is somehow juvenile but they never actually say why.

As for me, I first encountered Ayn Rand during my final year of high school. Several people suggested I read the Fountainhead but it seemed too long. I didn’t take up the offer. Later, I found a reference to her in a James P. Hogan book but still didn’t follow up on it. Finally after one of our epic philosophical discussions my physics teacher suggested I read Atlas Shrugged. So I did.

Gus Van Horn said...


Your mention that such individuals "prefer following others" is on the mark. This seems to have been Bacharach's approach to Rand and those who expressed agreement with her. I have seen many people try to turn Objectivism into a cult and then either act as if they forgot everything or actively turn against what they imagine it to be. The latter are oblivious to the fact that they are telling us more about themselves than about Ayn Rand or her ideas.


Gus Van Horn said...


I was of the mind that I wanted to find out why Rand put forth what she did, so I could refute it. So I tracked down the person whom the detractor was putting down in our student paper. He let me borrow his books, which were to me about half interesting (but I wasn't sold right away) and half what I always thought. All of it was well reasoned, and the other student (who lived in my dorm) ably addressed my questions.