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For those who seem to worship uber-capitalist Ayn Rand, here are some self-proclaimed particulars you should know about her
By Jim Kempton
Atlas Shrugged, the third part of a film trilogy of Ayn Rand’s landmark novel is playing in Orange County theaters at the moment. A huge following, including life-long Rand fan Paul Ryan, has built their social positions from her philosophy. She has become a major figure in the intensely partisan economic debate and is often glorified as an uber capitalist. While her fictional characters may seem appealing, Ayn Rand herself—not so much. Since many of her fans may only know her by her novels (and some only by this film trilogy) true-life details about her may come as a surprise.
Ayn Rand was a committed atheist; an amphetamine-addicted author who wrote glowing praise for serial killers and stock market cheaters of her day. She despised democracy on the grounds that “the masses” were “lice” and “parasites” who scarcely deserved to live. She actually wrote a book titled The Virtue of Selfishness. Bernie Madoff and Enron execs were big fans.
Rand’s extreme laissez-faire “objectivism” philosophy maintained that humans were one of two types: Supermen who created wisdom, truth and wealth – or “the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human incompetent.” Just like the communists from which she fled as a child, the majority of humans were leeches trying to feed off the moral (if ruthless) capitalists. Altruistic caring humans were “mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned.” Yet for many church going “believers,” this Russian champion of atheism has somehow been seen as an American icon.
Rand glorified psychopath William Hickman, a lurid deviant serial killer who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl from her junior high school, raped her and dismembered her body. He sent parts of her body to the police in pieces, mocking them. In her diaries of the time Rand wrote long tomes elevating Hickman as “the amazing picture of a man with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul…. Other people do not exist for him and he does not see why they should.” She lionized him as “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy,” shimmering with “immense, explicit egotism.”
These facts, by the way, are not in dispute. They are direct quotes from her own books, journals and magazine writings; she repeated them endlessly in diaries, speeches and public conversations as well.
Nevertheless, Rush Limbaugh praises her as a high priestess of America. With her assertions that government is “evil” and “selfishness is the only virtue,” she has developed a cult following across the USA.
You can argue that Rand was a great philosopher or a silly sophomoric hack. You can defend her brutal egocentricity as bold or see it as the savage animal in us. You can excuse her as a “victim” of her ugly communist childhood, or despair at her lack of human kindness. What is absolutely impossible to do is call her (and her world views) American.
Jim Kempton was a graduate of Saint John’s Episcopal Middle School, where for two years he was required to spend an hour at chapel every weekday before Latin class, reading the canticles of St. Luke out loud with the other seventh and eighth graders. He read Rand’s Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but much prefers Ecclesiastes as a lasting life guide.