Ayn Rand

What are some of her basic beliefs and what do they have to do with society today?

Here’s the home page of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Frankly, Insider, the best thing you can do is read “The Fountainhead” then “Atlas Shrugged” and that should tell you all you need to know. If you want to go further, she wrote a number of non-fiction books outlining her thoughts and theories.

Ayn speaks for herself pretty well. And you’re better off getting it straight from her than having someone else translate for you.

Yeah. If you’re really curious about Rand, just pick up her books. Pretty simple. First read “The Fountainhead”, then “Atlas Shrugged”. That should about do it.

Actually, I found Atlas Shrugged a bit of an easier read, as well as a better book on the whole. Also, it offers a better view of her philosophical ideas. If all you’re looking for is what her philosophy is, the John Galt speaks" chapter of Atlas Shrugged is basically a 40 page manifesto of her ideas. It’s pretty boring though.

Anthem is not nearly as useful for determining her ideas, but is about a tenth the length of Fountainhead, and is a nice easy read. Some of the essays in The Virtue of Selfishness are pretty good as well, if you want to limit yourself to what you can read while actually still at the bookstore.

Actually, I liked her book “We the Living” the best, perhaps because the characters were more human and not supposed to embody philosophical concepts. And of course, it was much more personal, about a young girl trying to escape from Soviet Russia, kind of like (gasp) Rand herself…

Pretty Boring? Try REAL boring. 40 pages of constant dialog, without interruption. The joke we used to say when I was in college was that you either read the book, and skip this chapter, or read the chapter and skip the rest of the book. You get the same message either way. And it’s alot easier to read the 1000 or so pages of the rest of the book than the 40 pages of ‘John Galt Speaks’

I’ve read more boring things in my life. For example, the Boyce and DiPrima textbook on differential equations. But, yeah, that whole chapter gets skipped over even by serious fans of Ayn Rand, myself included.

Correction - not constant dialog - 40 pages of monolog by one character. Rand didn’t write characters, she simply animated walking zombies which soapboxed her beliefs (the good guys) or became straw men to illustrate the errors of the opposing point of view (the bad guys). Dreadful. For instance, there is a supposed “love scene” in which she has Hank Reardon and what’s-her-face alone, and there’s still huge long sections in their dialog which sound like they’re giving political speeches to each other.

Rand is probably the most extreme case of somebody writing novels with an ulterior motive of pushing their social agenda. In cases like that I am not prepared to excuse bad writing. I don’t care if a novelist is attempting to promulgate brotherhood, peace on Earth, and warm fuzzy bunny rabbits - if they are doing so in the form of a novel, they should be prepared to attempt to write a good novel, strictly on the basis of literary values. Otherwise, they should write nonfiction monographs presenting their views.

I wouldn’t recommend *Atlas Shrugged * or the * The Fountainhead * on my worse enemies – or maybe on them, but only on them.

Basically, her philosophy is objectivism, which is self-fulfillment of an individual in a capitalistic society. Altruism is scorned and selfishness is a virtue. Her protagonists are independent and strong-willed.

Just an aside, a friend of mine said that you shouldn’t insult real straw men by calling Rand’s “badly made wicker men” by the same name.

OK, but seriously, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are the best fiction sources, and FWIW, I thought The Fountainhead was much more reasonable.

Her protagonists are independent and strong-willed.

Good Heavens!!!
You mean they actually allow filth like this to be published?
Next you’ll be telling me I can get this trash at the library!

Actually, in one of her non-fiction books (I believe it was “The Virtue of Selfishness”) it isn’t so much that altruism is scorned, just that it should not required/mandatory; people have no obligation to society as a whole to be altruistic. As I recall the relevant passage:

Questioner: what should we do about the needy?
Rand: should we do anything about the needy?
Q: shouldn’t we give them aid?
R: if YOU want to give them aid, you won’t be stopped

Haven’t read The Fountainhead, but IMHO Atlas Shrugged was a great novel (monologue and all). The trick is to not read the entire monolgue in one sitting.

FEotU is correct. ‘Doing for others’ is not scorned. Rather, it’s the expectation/requirement or being forced (e.g., taxes going to welfare) to do for others that is scorned. In general, there is an ‘altruism is bad’ theme but that is more a reaction to the expectation for altruism. She has no problem with sacrificing something for something else you value more (which is not really a sacrifice) (e.g., donating a kidney to a loved one in need is just fine).

Objectivism off the top of my head…

  • reality is real (‘A is A’)
  • reality does not conform to your hopes, wishes, prayers, and dreams (you have to make things happen)
  • take responsibility for your own actions
  • productive achievement is a virtue
  • capitalism (in its ideal form)
  • forcing others, or others forcing you, is wrong
  • fulfilling one’s own happiness is important
  • sacrificing your own happiness for someone else’s is wrong (leads to a world full of unhappy people)
  • forcing someone else to serve you is wrong (e.g., welfare, universal health care, etc.)
  • government should only protect its citizens’ rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, & property rights), and not force them into something they do not want (nothing is done for the ‘good of society’…since society is merely a collection of individuals and protecting the individual’s rights is enough)

There’s more but that’s all I can think of at the moment. Certainly each point can be a whole discussion with lots of examples.

FWIW, I think Fountainhead was a good book on its own and not some political/philosophical manifesto (unlike the so-so Atlas Shrugged).

Everyone here has done a remarkable job. I would agree that “Atlas Shrugged” is much more coherent than “The Fountainhead,” but they are truly different books. TF focuses much more on individual relationships and individual compromise in the face of subjectivism, while AS focuses on the what happens when we embrace altruism as a moral standard politicially.

The collection of essays in “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” are my favorite by her. I reread that book all the time. It is what I would recommend first; then, if you like those ideas, go ahead and check out her fiction.

And for the record, I love Galt’s Speech. I think it is an excellent summary of the ideas expressed in Atlas Shrugged. Unnecessarily long? Ehhh…you can’t say some of those things enough.

I think the exchange FEotU mentions was actually between Barbara Branden and some random person (but quoted by Rand). I’ll check my copy of The Virtue of Selfishness when I get back to my apartment. Barbara Branden was one of Rand’s earliest and most involved students, while her husband, Nathaniel, was Rand’s lover for a while. Apparently, her husband, though she loved him, was not her intellectual equal, so she and Nathaniel Branden had a rather open affair. At some point, as the Objectivist movement became rather cultish, he offended Rand in some way, and was expelled.

One of his biggest criticisms of Rand’s work, which I would agree with, is her complete disregard for psychology, which was his field of study. In her novels, her characters act more as representations of her ideas, as philosophic principles interact. While interesting reading, the lack of real depth can make everything seem rather unrealistic.

Incidentally, my favorite passage was Francisco’s three-page response to the notion that money is the root of all evil. “So you think money is the root of all evil. Have you ever asked yourself what is the root of money…” Dammit, where the hell is my copy of Atlas Shrugged? I want to read that again now.

Wasn’t Alan Greenspan a member of her little clique?

I’m really glad to hear that I’m not the only one who liked the book but skipped the John Galt monologue. I ended up with serious bruises on from forehead from having it hit the table every 5 minutes.

I wonder if they are making a movie of AS. I think if done properly there are a lot of people who would enjoy it - not just the Rand fans and libertarians, but rather the millions of conservative Rush Limbuagh types.

The word “reasonable” in my post above should be “readable,” excuse me.

I could have sworn that an “Atlas Shrugged” movie had been made previously. But all I could find at ImDB is this (presumably future) television version of 2001. I say “presumably futurer” since ImDB has no information about it at all except the writer’s name (as of this date).

As far as “they” making a movie of Atlas Shrugged, I think the people that could best do it justice are the Farrelly brothers. :wink: