To many people, the name Ayn Rand is a punch line, an occasion for a little eye-rolling, a superior cackle or a dismissive tweet (crazy Russian bag lady/right-wing hypocrite/home-wrecking lunatic, etc.). When Rand was alive—a small, feisty woman who chain-smoked and spoke in a thick Russian accent—she was condemned by intellectuals across the spectrum. To the left, she was a reactionary, a fascist, a capitalist pig who advocated for a complete separation between government and economics, limitless individualism and the virtue of selfishness.
To the right, she was an atheist; to moderates, an absolutist. Her books were often dismissed as over-the-top, Nietzschean romance novels for alienated adolescents, and her philosophy, Objectivism—which Rand described as “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”—is ridiculed to this day.
Not that any of it made a dent in her legacy. Before her death in 1982, she declared, “I will not die, it’s the world that will end.” Turns out she was onto something. Unlike a great many of her contemporaries (e.g., James Gould Cozzens), who scarcely register today, Rand is still selling books—more than 800,000 a year, on average, for a total exceeding 25 million. Read More