Politico announced it last month: “Ayn Rand is having a mainstream moment.” The fountainhead of Objectivism, the philosophy that holds man as an heroic being and values life as an end in itself, died in 1982 but two recent biographies, rumors of an Atlas Shrugged (1957) film adaption and her embrace by the popular right have reinvigorated interest in Ayn Rand’s work. Reason Magazine summed it up on their December cover: “She’s back!”
As Politico notes, this revived popularity “comes at a time of renewed government intervention in the private sector. […] It’s an era of big government all too similar to the dystopia described in Atlas Shrugged.” Not surprisingly therefore Congressmen and media personalities that are skeptical of this comeback of big government are more prone than ever to come out as Objectivists.
That is not to say that the right has embraced Rand entirely. Writing for the National Review Peter Wehner, a former Bush Administration official, describes Objectivism as “deeply problematic and morally indefensible.” Rand herself, he believes, was “a nut”. Her small-government philosophies have “very little to do with authentic conservatism,” according to Wehner, “at least the kind embodied by Edmund Burke, Adam Smith […] and James Madison. […] What Rand was peddling is a brittle, arid, mean, and ultimately hollow philosophy.” Why? Because Rand was an atheist and therefore represented “the antithesis of a humane and proper worldview.”
Bill Greeley, a blogger at the New Clarion is not impressed. “Authentic conservatism was the first enemy of capitalism,” he counters. Wehner has not to fear Ayn Rand so much — “it’s capitalism, human nature and ultimately the facts of reality” that are religion’s foremost enemies.
The Christian Science Monitor is rather more pragmatic in its assessment of Rand’s newfound popularity and gives the floor to Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (2009). “Though she’s not religious,” writes Burns, “Rand brings a strong sense of good and evil to the debates over economic policy.” The Christian Right, she opines, “is being swept to the side by the rush of events.” That might be overly optimistic though considering how brain-dead the GOP has become in recent years, it wouldn’t be a bad development at all.