New York Times Book Review covers Anne C. Heller's new Ayn Rand biography

The New York Times Book Review has given front-cover treatment to a review of Anne Heller’s new Rand biopic.
In response, Atlasphere member Don Hauptman penned the following letter to the editor:

To the Editor:
Adam Kirsch, in his review of Anne Hellerâ??s biography of Ayn Rand (Nov. 1), commits far too many serious mistakes than can be refuted in a brief letter. So letâ??s consider just one:
â??Giving up her [Randâ??s] royalties to preserve her vision is something that no genuine capitalist, and few popular novelists, would have done. It is the act of an intellectual, of someone who believes that ideas matter more than lucre.â?
Kirsch is alleging that one cannot be an advocate of capitalism and retain oneâ??s integrity. In fact, of course, writers and other creative professionals are also businesspeople who like to earn money. Yet such individuals can and do act ethicallyâ??by turning down contracts and assignments and commissions and their attendant revenuesâ??if acceptance would compromise their principles. Kirschâ??s bizarre implication that one must either be a prostitute or an â??intellectualâ? is misguided and fallacious.
Integrity as the highest value of the creator-capitalist is one of the major themes of Randâ??s classic novel â??The Fountainhead.â? Perhaps Kirsch should have read it. Or, failing that, simply exercised some common sense.
New York

Ayn Rand on The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart

Jennifer Burns, author of the new Rand biography Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, was interviewed last night on The Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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Diana Hsieh offers a good analysis of the interview from an Objectivist’s perspective, and I agree with her when she says, “That’s the kind of interview that will intrigue people about Ayn Rand’s ideas. Given what might have happened in that interview, I count it as a huge win.”
Burns did a very, very nice job in this interview. WOW.
We’re in the process of lining up an interview with Ms. Burns, for publication shortly after we review her new book for our columns section. Stay tuned.

Ayn Rand in TIME magazine

From an article in TIME, pre-dated to October 12, 2009:

She knew how to make an entrance. Her dark hair cut in a severe pageboy, Ayn Rand would sweep into a room with a long black cape, a dollar-sign pin on her lapel and an ever present cigarette in an ivory holder. Melodramatic, yes, but Rand didn’t have time to be subtle. She had millions of people to convert to objectivism, her philosophy of radical individualism, limited government and avoidance of altruism and religion. Her adoring followers–some called them a cult–revered her as the high priestess of laissez-faire capitalism until her death in 1982 at age 77.
The bad economy has been good news for Rand’s legacy. Her fierce denunciations of government regulation have sent sales of her two best-known novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, soaring. Yet her me-first brand of capitalism has been excoriated for fomenting the recent financial crisis. And her most famous former acolyte–onetime Fed chairman Alan Greenspan–has been blamed for inflating the housing bubble by refusing to intervene in the market.

See the full article, “Ayn Rand: Extremist or Visionary?” for more. Its factual accuracy seems sketchy in places, but that’s par for the course.

Washington Times BOOK REVIEW: Why Ayn Rand Is Hot Again

Review of Jennifer Burns’s Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand And The American Right by Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty in The Washington Times:

Why is Rand, dead since 1982, so hot again today?  Ironically, big government, one of Rand’s betes noires, is stimulating her sales.  Her more than 1,000-page 1957 novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” sold 25 percent more copies in the first half of this year than it sold in all of last year, shipping a total of 300,000 copies so far this year – tremendous success for a 52-year-old novel.
Readers and pundits alike look at America and see a world scarily reminiscent of Rand’s government-choked dystopia in “Atlas.”  It’s a world with a struggling economy where political pull matters more than success in the free market, where the government blithely takes over huge transportation industries.

You can read the rest here.

The New York Times Profiles Objectivist CEO John Allison

A mostly favorable and long (6 pages) profile of Objectivist and former BB&T CEO (current Chairman) John Allison from Sunday’s New York Times: 

Over much of the last four decades, John A. Allison IV built BB&T from a local bank in North Carolina into a regional powerhouse that has weathered the economic crisis far better than many of its troubled rivals â?? largely by avoiding financial gimmickry.
And in his spare time, Mr. Allison travels the country making speeches about his bankâ??s distinctive philosophy.
Speaking at a recent convention in Boston to a group of like-minded business people and students, Mr. Allison tells a story: A boy is playing in a sandbox, only to have his truck taken by another child.  A fight ensues, and the boyâ??s mother tells him to stop being selfish and to share.
â??You learned in that sandbox at some really deep level that itâ??s bad to be selfish,â? says Mr. Allison, adding that the mother has taught a horrible lesson.  â??To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say itâ??s bad because heâ??s alive.â?
If Mr. Allisonâ??s speech sounds vaguely familiar, itâ??s because itâ??s based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, who celebrated the virtues of reason, self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism while maintaining that altruism is a destructive force.  In Ms. Randâ??s world, nothing is more heroic â?? and sexy â?? than a hard-working businessman free to pursue his wealth.  And nothing is worse than a pesky bureaucrat trying to restrict business and redistribute wealth.
– Intro to “Give BB&T Liberty, But Not A Bailout”, The New York Times, August 2

British Tribute to Ayn Rand: Godless Prophet of the Capitalist Revolution

Don’t miss “Ayn Rand: Godless Prophet of the Capitalist Revolution” by Simon Heffer, in Standpoint Magazine. It begins:

One of the latest hits on YouTube is a nine-minute compilation of clips from King Vidor’s 1949 film of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. It is titled “Howard Roark makes a case against Barack Obama”. Roark, somewhat bizarrely played by Gary Cooper, is the hero of Rand’s novel: an individualist architect who serves as a metaphor for the battle against the evils of welfarism and its parent, socialism. Roark will not submit himself to serve others, but nor does he expect others to serve him. His welfare, his progress, the creation of his wealth and reputation are matters for him alone. His moral view is that it is better for society that things are ordered in that way, for it makes every man his own master.
He is a visionary architect. He designs buildings that he believes in. They are only to be built not just if they find clients, but if those clients agree that the integrity of the design (and therefore the integrity of Roark) must be sacrosanct. When Roark’s design for a public housing project is chosen, but built with modifications of which he does not approve, he blows the building up. He is put on trial after a hate campaign against him by a newspaper that crusades against individualism. After an electrifying courtroom speech defending his principles and his ideology, he is acquitted.
His reputation is made and his individualism respected. Those who have sought to add him to the list of men enslaved by self-sacrifice, that they might themselves wield power, are roundly vanquished. In Rand’s world, intervention by the state is a fundamental evil. The coercion into self-sacrifice is an abomination. There is to be a ruthless selfishness balanced by a strict morality: and the philosophy in which this morality is to be rooted is one of rationalism and not of any theology. “It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.” As Roark puts it at his trial: “I have come here to say that I do not recognise anyone’s right to one minute of my life…It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.” The story can be seen as one of almost laughable extremes, but it has become regarded in the last 60 years as a parable of the American way. When a new president is tearing up that way and imposing what some of his critics have called “socialism”, it is easy to see how the conservative element in America has seized on Roark as a beacon for these disturbed times.
That, though, is not the limit of Rand’s influence on the current debate. Her novel Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, was in one 1991 survey voted the second most influential book in America, second only to the Bible. Rand would have seen an element of challenge in this. Her militant atheism was unconcealed. Faith was not merely a rank superstition, it also claimed the authority of a higher being over man. Rand could not accept that any man, or any entity, had power over the individual. This has handicapped some on the Right in America from embracing the rest of what, to them, would normally be a highly compatible philosophy: she showed them the cloven hoof and her adherents today in the institute that bears her name continue relentlessly to do the same. The victory of ideas is not won by appeasement.
Her gods are living and they are men like Roark and the hero of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. These are men who lead by example and in whom the milk of Judaeo-Christian human kindness is replaced by a stiff cocktail of realism, integrity, individuality and self-help. The world is told to accept such people on their own terms – terms that strive not to force one man’s will upon others, but to make others see that the will of the individual, exercised morally, is to be respected and fostered. In the first seven weeks of this year, sales of Atlas Shrugged trebled in America. They have even risen in the UK, where until Penguin published an edition of the novel a couple of years ago (along with copies of other of Rand’s works, including The Fountainhead) they were harder to obtain than Mein Kampf – such, presumably, was deemed to be their ideological offensiveness to the British people. Last year, 51 years after its first publication, the novel sold a record 200,000 copies in the US. Sales have been further boosted by the recession.

See the full article for much more. Thanks to Bob Hessen for the link.

Amity Shlaes: Ayn Rand's Atlas Is Shrugging with a Growing Load

Writing for Bloomberg, Amity Shlaes has an interesting article about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. It begins:

Imagine a novel of more than a thousand pages, published half a century ago. The author doesnâ??t have a talk-radio show and has been dead for 27 years.
As for the storyline, it is beyond dated: Humorless executives fight with humorless public officials over an industry that is, today, almost irrelevant to the U.S. economy – – railroads. The prose itself is a disconcerting mixture of philosophy, industrial policy, and bodice-ripping: â??The wind blew her hair to blend with his. She knew why he had wanted to walk through the mountains tonight.â?
In short, you would think â??Atlas Shruggedâ? might be long forgotten.
Instead, Ayn Randâ??s novel is remembered more than ever. This year the book is selling at a faster rate than last year. Last year, sales were about 200,000, higher than any year before that, including 1957, when the book was published.
Some assumed the libertarian philosopher would fall from view when the Berlin Wall fell. Or that at least there would be a sense of mission accomplished. One Rand fan, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, wrote in his memoir that he regretted Rand hadnâ??t lived until 1989 or 1990. Sheâ??d missed the collapse of communism that she had so often predicted.
But â??Atlas Shruggedâ? is becoming a political â??Harry Potterâ? because Rand shone a spotlight on a problem that still exists: Not pre-1989 Soviet communism, but 2009-style state capitalism. Rand depicted government and companies colluding in the name of economic rescue at the expense of the entrepreneur. That entrepreneur is like the titan Atlas who carries the rest of the world on his shoulders — until he doesnâ??t.

See the full article for much more.
Thanks to Greg Feirman for the tip. Greg also says Shlaes’s book The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (2007) is a good read, for anyone interested in the topic.

Simpsons parody of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

Thanks to Don Hauptman for the heads-up. Summary for the episode:

“4 Great Women & A Manicure” – 8 \ 7c
— “THE SIMPSONS” — (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT)
Jodie Foster Guest-Voices
Marge and Lisa visit the nail salon where they engage in a spirited debate as to whether a woman can be smart, powerful and beautiful all at the same time. To prove their point, they spin four tales of famous women featuring famous Springfield faces: Selma as Queen Elizabeth I, Lisa as Snow White, Marge as Lady Macbeth and Maggie (guest voice Jodie Foster) as the idealistic architect protagonist from Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” in the “Four Great Women and a Manicure” episode of THE SIMPSONS airing Sunday, May 10 (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (SI-2009) (TV-PG; D) CC-HDTV 720p-Dolby Digital 5.1

BusinessWeek: The Economy Needs Ayn Rand

BusinessWeek‘s “Debate Room” published a for-and-against piece on the topic: “Author Ayn Randâ??s philosophy of rational self-interest is more relevant todayâ??amid the flurry of government bailoutsâ??than ever. Pro or con?”
Onkar Ghate takes the affirmative position, which begins:

If Ayn Randâ??s philosophy of rational self-interest is irrelevant today, then so is the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration gave sanction to selfishness: to the moral right to live your own life, to exercise your liberty, to pursue your happiness. No more taking orders from king or society. Each was free to live for himself.

Christina Patterson takes the negative position, which begins:

Youâ??d think it was a joke, when the global economy was collapsing because of greed, that anyone might turn seriously to the purple prose of crypto-fascist Ayn Rand and think it was the answer to anything. How could her so-called philosophy of â??rational self-interestâ?â??in other words, a crude kind of dog-eat-dog laissez-faire capitalismâ??seem like the route out of this obstacle-strewn labyrinth into which weâ??re all now locked?

See the full piece for more.
(Thanks to Top Gun‘s Greg Feirman for the tip!)