The Book of the Week is “The Passion of Ayn Rand, A Biography” by Barbara Branden, published in 1986.
Born in St. Petersburg in February 1905, Ayn (rhymes with “mine”) Rand, whose father was a chemist, spent her early childhood in a cultured, Jewish family in Petrograd. After graduating from high school in the Crimea, when the family was poverty-stricken and starving due to the Bolshevik Revolution, Rand taught literacy to Red Army soldiers.
In the early 1920’s, the Russian government evilly schemed to allow “former bourgeoisie” such as Rand’s family to work in cooperatives until it felt sufficient assets were accumulated, at which time it stole those assets by force. Its attitude was: “… workers and peasants were extolled as the highest types of humanity, and intellectuals, unless they employed their intelligence in selfless service to the state, were denounced as parasitical.”
Rand was headstrong in her desire to flee to America and never return to Russia. She eventually got her wish in the mid-1920’s, thanks to her mother’s distant relatives in Chicago. After overcoming numerous obstacles, she lived with her Orthodox-Jewish relatives, and later, struck out on her own in Los Angeles. She was driven to become a writer and let nothing stand in her way.
Rand eventually wrote what became a very famous novel– Atlas Shrugged— whose theme was that if intellectuals are the ones “…who make civilization possible– Why have they never recognized their own power? Why have they never challenged their torturers and expropriators? … it is the victims, the men of virtue and ability, who make the triumph of evil possible by…” being too nice to their oppressors.
Rand thought that the American government, with its anti-trust stance, was persecuting industrialists. She thought the latter deserved to enjoy every last penny of the fruits of their labor because they were the economic engine of the nation.
In rebelling against her former country’s socialist economic system under its Communist political system, Rand thought workers were becoming too powerful, and she denounced them as parasitical. She dogmatically advocated an extreme version of “survival of the fittest” or Libertarianism.
However, when government becomes an accomplice to its donors’ activities that involve excessive greed, conflicts of interest and unfair economic advantages– society becomes economically unbalanced as wealth becomes too concentrated in a tiny percentage of the population; this situation foments class resentment. For additional information on this situation, see this blog’s posts:
- Wikinomics / Courting Justice
- What’s the Matter With Kansas
- Street Without A Name
- Sons of Wichita
- Outsider in the White House
- Crossing the River
- Burned Bridge, and
- Forty Autumns.
Whittaker Chambers wrote in his negative review of Atlas Shrugged, “Miss Rand calls in a Big Brother of her own… She plumps for a technocratic elite… And in reality too, by contrast with fiction, this can only head into a dictatorship…”
Rand formulated the theory of Objectivism, whose purely capitalist-free-market-oriented, rational thinking completely rejected religion. Yet she never did explain– in her lucrative lectures to big-name, elitist, politically liberal (ironically!) American colleges, how that squared with her total rejection of godless Communism / Socialism.
Incidentally, the main character of the novel itself– whose cult of personality persuades intellectuals from all walks of life to go on strike– says, “Force and mind are opposites, morality ends where a gun begins… It is only in retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who starts its use.”
Along these lines, gun-control advocates in the United States have been too nice for too long. Except for short periods, whenever there’s been a proposal to:
- curb the bearing of arms (not even all arms, just the most destructive ones–that are overkill for hunting or local law enforcement), or
- enact stricter background checks on the granting of gun permits or licenses,
the opposition has repeatedly, through propaganda and money, convinced enough significantly powerful people that:
- no stricter background checks should be done, and
- no firearms should be banned pursuant to the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
Sources with more information include this blog’s posts:
- A Good Fight
- Undercover, and
- Savage Spawn.
If America wants to return to “normal” (have pre-COVID gatherings of a large number of people in one place), it needs to put gun control at the top of the agenda.
Anyway, read the book to learn of Rand’s biographer’s relationship to Rand, a wealth of additional details on Rand and how she acquired her wealth, the romantic subplot in the soap opera of her life, and much more on her theories, writings and lectures.