There has been a surge of interest in the writings of Ayn Rand in the last decade, including from Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, President Donald Trump and several of his cabinet picks.
Some may fancy themselves in the heroic image of the self-sufficient and morally superior characters of Rand's two most popular novels, The Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged, without truly embracing or understanding her extreme philosophy. Rand makes it sound pretty good on the surface:
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
Below the surface it goes like this: Government has a minimal role in our lives. We don't take handouts, nor do we pay taxes to the federal government. Our responsibility is to ourselves and to maintain the abilities that will bring us success and wealth of riches. It is in our self interest to hold the highest standards and ethics. We rise and fall on our own. No Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, no government regulations. On the flip side, reproductive and marriage rights for all, no racism, open borders, legal marijuana.
The problem is we don't live in a free-market economy where everyone has the same opportunities and reason trumps emotion (or politics.) Are we willing to live in a Randian society?
- Jennifer Burns - Associate professor of History and research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
- Stephen Metcalf - Host of Slate’s Culture Gabfest. He’s also working on a book about the 1980’s.
- William Thomas - Lecturer in Economics at the University at Albany and director of Programs and Senior Scholar at The Atlas Society. He’s the author of several books including Radical for Capitalism.
Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.