Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand" by Don Watkins

Although Ayn Rand's influence is felt everywhere...there is still a long way to go before people realize the great achievement of Rand's code of morality.  The world could sure use the knowledge.

Today, on the 107th anniversary of her birth, it’s hard to doubt that the world has indeed heard of Ayn Rand. Her books—including titles like "The Fountainhead" and "The Virtue of Selfishness"—have sold nearly 30 million copies, with sales of her 1,100-page opus, "Atlas Shrugged," surpassing a million copies in the last three years alone.

Rand has clearly inspired millions. But a debate has emerged over the question of Rand’s political influence, with many commentators claiming her ideas have played a key role in shaping the political landscape. As former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said in 2011, “Ayn Rand has a large and growing influence on American politics.”

But to gauge Rand’s influence, we need to know more about her views than the sound bytes we’re typically offered.

Rand is usually thought of as a political philosopher, but that is not how she viewed herself. “I am primarily the creator of a new code of morality,” she once said. Whereas previous moral codes bestowed sainthood on those who served and sacrificed for others, Rand’s morality extolled “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.”

This is the philosophy embodied by fictional characters such as Hank Rearden, the industrialist in "Atlas Shrugged," who—in the tradition of Thomas Edison—creates a new metal that’s stronger and cheaper than steel, and who—in the tradition of countless entrepreneurs—struggles to produce his revolutionary product in the face of government obstacles. At one point, Rearden is brought to trial for violating the government’s economic edicts, and he proudly defends his right to produce and prosper:

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