Part One in Reason.tv’s new series about Ayn Rand:
Few authors have ever achieved the popularity that the novelist and essayist Ayn Rand (1905-1982) did. With the publication of The Fountainhead in 1943 and Atlas Shrugged in 1958, Rand became a full-blown cultural phenomenon, selling millions of books and inspiring countless readers—ranging from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner to actress Angelina Jolie—with her moral defense of capitalism. A refugee from Soviet Russia, Rand argued that capitalism was the best way of organizing society not simply because it was more efficient than communism but because it allowed the individual to fill his or her potential. A self-declared “radical for capitalism,” Rand emphatically rejected collectivism of all stripes and embraced “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.”
Decades after her death, Rand’s work is hotter than ever. In an age of massive government intervention into every aspect of the economy and personal lives, sales of her books are way up and a movie version of Atlas Shrugged is in the works. References to Rand are everywhere from Mad Men to The Colbert Report to The Simpsons and there’s even a new critical appreciation, as evidenced by two new biographies, Ayn Rand And The World She Made and Goddess of The Right.