In the last couple of years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Ayn Rand. When I was in my late teens, I had an intellectual “fling” with her myself! There was one day, as a freshman in college, when I was sitting with some friends in the cafeteria, and I asked one of them to read something from her book Atlas Shrugged. I referred to it, only half-jokingly, as “scripture.”
I learned plenty of things from Ayn Rand. One valuable lesson was about the dangers of ideology. I can remember times when I actually caught myself wondering, “Wait. How would Ayn Rand look at this?” I don’t believe that the poor woman (who died in 1982) ever realized how badly she was warped, while a teenager, by the Bolshevik Revolution in her native Russia. She, in tragicomic fashion, called herself an “Objectivist.” Those who consider themselves the objective standard demonstrate how sadly out of touch with reality they are.
Ayn Rand was a living example of narcissism. She proclaimed herself to be the greatest philosopher since Aristotle. In her nonfiction “philosophical” works, she often quotes characters from her fictional books to support her arguments. Eventually, I became disenchanted with her. Her criticism of those who support charitable causes as at least foolish, if not morally decadent, became more than I could stomach. Someone who can label charity (which means “love”) as essentially evil is a horribly twisted individual.
What is especially disturbing to me is that the resurgence of interest in her extends to people in positions of power. Among them is one of the so-called “young guns” in the Republican Party, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. One of his goals, in true Randian fashion, is to “replace Medicare as we know it and most of Medicaid with a voucher program that would eventually reduce the value of the vouchers.” For someone like me, who needed state help in paying for two brain surgeries, that’s bad news.