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The High Priestess of Personal Freedom Enjoys a 21st Century Rebirth in Popularity

by: Geoff Ficke

As a young college student in the 1960’s I was swept up in the exciting, confrontational political climate of that period. The Viet Nam War was raging, the military draft was still activated, John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been taken from us by assassination. The Beatles changed rock ‘n roll music forever and the movie “The Graduate” changed pop culture.

I graduated from school and began my career in business carrying; maybe burdened would be a better description, these influences at the core of my being. I was liberal without having enough of life’s experiences to really know why I was liberal or what that meant. I saw the world as flawed and felt that collectively we could make things better, safer, more peaceful and fairer. It made me feel good to want these things, although I had no understanding of how to make these altruistic goals obtainable.

Winston Churchill once famously said, “A man who is conservative at the age of 20 is heartless, a man who is liberal at 40 is a fool”. I was soon to cross the bridge from dreamer to realist, much as described by Churchill. I started my own business. That was when reality struck, and hit right between my eyes.

At about the time I made the leap into entrepreneurialism I was introduced to the writer, philosopher Ayn Rand. I read her monumental novel Atlas Shrugged. It was attitudinally, philosophically and politically a life changing experience for me.

Every idea I had nurtured from my formative years was called into question by the hero of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Rand’s libertarian philosophy, she called it “Objectivism”, is on full display in this powerful, logically based tale of the benefits and pre-eminence of individual rights. In the story, the productive, creative, ambitious, driven class of individuals, lead by John Galt, essentially goes on strike. Quite the opposite of a mass union strike, this stoppage by the few brings crisis to the many and itemizes the reasons that capitalism is the only economic system that can benefit the most people most often.

The power of Ayn Rand’s thinking, as evidenced by the characters and stories she wrote are enjoying a renaissance today. Born in Russia, she had fled that country after the rise of communism. Her experiences growing up in a totalitarian place made her a fierce opponent of all the “-ism’s”, communism, fascism, socialism, all forms of statism and collectivism.

At the core of the Rand philosophy was a concept based on limited government, laissez faire capitalism and individual rights. She believed that doing what was best for one-self was the only duty a person owed to society. Altruism was destructive to Ayn Rand. The modern liberal, now interestingly called “progressive”, despises the Rand view of man and believes her views reflect selfishness. And yet, it is only through the “selfishness” of the productive, entrepreneurial, risk taking class that all of society reaps the benefits of their creative, industrious enterprise. Poor people do not create jobs, and thus income, and thus taxes that support all level of government altruism and waste.

In this belief, Ayn Rand was really a modern acolyte of Adam Smith, the original philosopher of capitalism. Smith popularized the “invisible hand”, the concept that by profiting and seeking advantage for ourselves, we inadvertently provide benefit for others. America’s Founding Fathers resoundingly agreed with this philosophy and incorporated this principal into the Bill of Rights and Constitution. Rule of law, private property rights, individual rights and limited government enjoyed supremacy in the Founder’s eyes. These principles, so taken for granted and abused by government today, are the very glue that differentiates successful states from dysfunctional ones.

The early years of the 21st century will not be treated kindly by future historians. The lessons that history teaches are being ignored. Thomas Jefferson said, “He is governed best, who is governed least”. Who amongst us can honestly say that we are well governed by our all intrusive welfare, nanny-state?

The lessons and philosophy crafted by Ayn Rand have never gone away. Atlas Shrugged is the most popular book ever published, after the Holy Bible. Sales are again spiking for this, and all of Rand’s books. Because of the awkward intrusiveness and overreaching hand of government, there seems to be a revival of interest in the ideas represented by John Galt and Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead”.

Ayn Rand is the High Priestess of libertarian, free thought. As long as men seek to live free from the oppressive hand of tyranny and bungled government over-activism her place in history will be secure. There has never been a better time than 2010 to dust off old copies of Ayn Rand’s thought provoking classic tales and rekindle the passion for freedom that she so passionately portrays in her works.