Call It 'Atlas Snubbed'

The Wall Street Journal/July 17, 2011

Love for Ayn Rand goes unrequited.

Libertarians love her, but she rejected them as "emotional hippies of the right."

Conservatives love her, but she opposed Ronald Reagan, saying, "His likeliest motive for entering the Presidential race is power lust."

Right-leaning Christians love her, but she was an atheist, an abortion supporter and a champion of the anti-Christian ideal that selfishness is a virtue. She also called religion a "sign of a psychological weakness."

Her fans - including Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, talk radio's Rush Limbaugh and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- would be crushed to learn she might never love them back, either.

Ms. Rand has been dead since 1982, but today she's as loved as ever. Her 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged" champions laissez-faire capitalism and individual achievement. She vilifies communism, socialism and unionism. She dubs government redistribution of wealth immoral.

Some of her ideas are central to the American Dream. But Ms. Rand did much of her writing while hopped up on amphetamines and nicotine. And like most people who abuse this combination, she went too far.

She crafted philosophical arguments and wrote bizarre works of fiction to prove their premises. Then, in the delusional grandiosity that only chemicals can inspire, she declared herself, "the most creative thinker alive."

Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series of vampire-romance novels, is far more imaginative. Unlike Ms. Rand's works, Ms. Meyer's are well-written -- and many of the people who read them will grow out of them.

Ms. Rand mentored former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, yet look what he did. He poured gasoline on the free market until it exploded. Banks then required unprecedented government assistance. It's difficult think of a single individual who has redistributed more wealth and interfered in more free markets than Mr. Greenspan.

The Tea Party, however, keeps drinking Ms. Rand's Kool-Aid, not realizing the extent to which she inspired the very Fed that many Tea Party members now want abolished.

They love Ms. Rand because they think she foreshadowed our dystopian nightmare. In "Atlas Shrugged," Ms. Rand describes a big government takeover of business amid an economic crisis.

Unproductive citizens of the welfare state, whom Ms. Rand dubbed "parasites," "looters" and "moochers," lobbied politicians to regulate businesses, confiscate wealth and destroy productivity. We now know corporations are the real "parasites" in an economic crisis.

Ms. Rand warned, "Government 'help' to business is just as disastrous as government persecution." And I agree. But she did not imagine executives would loot their shareholders, cause an economic crisis and then beg for government help.

Her brand of laissez-faire capitalism led to corporations growing bigger and bigger until "too-big-to-regulate" became "too-big-to-fail." She never imagined big business telling big government what to do or a government that only takes over failing businesses -- not successful ones.

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard also sells millions of badly written books. Ms. Rand is just like him. She's become something she also wouldn't love: a religion.

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