Ayn Rand rides again - although maybe give the movie a miss

by Toby Manhire / 29 October, 2012
And the high-priestess of individualism is a bestseller in some unlikely places.
Paul Ryan’s place on the outside weathers of the rightwing has come in for a good bit of scrutiny since his appointment to the Republican ticket.

Observers have been particularly intrigued by the would be vice-president’s attraction to the works of novelist Ayn Rand, author of the free-market, anti-state individualist’s bible, Atlas Shrugged, first published in 1957.


Barack Obama was asked about the Ryan-Rand thing as part of his interview with Rolling Stone in the new edition.

Says the president:

Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realise that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a "you're on your own" society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.


Well, a good number within that chunk you’re talking about, Obama, have shown they're in it together.

While Atlas Shrugged might be famous for “praising profit-makers and decrying altruism”, the group of disciples that has bonded together to finance Atlas Shrugged Part II “expect to lose money on it”, says the Economist.

The first film, released last year, was panned, and lost about US $3 million. The new movie, which cost twice the $10 million of the first in the planned trilogy, has fared even more poorly. With “one of the worst domestic openings ever”, says Alt Film Guide, it is “a mind-boggling flop”.

So far it’s rating a miserable 5% on the review site Rotten Tomatoes.

For all that, the high-priestess of individualism still has a strong following. “Devotees are mostly American,” says the Economist, but Rand remains popular, too, in Britain, Scandinavia and Canada.

And India, where the Rand “craze” has attracted include well-known businesspeople, footballers, and Bollywood stars. “And – perhaps most gratifyingly of all for those who loathe collectivism and prize the verdict of the market,” says the Economist. “Rand’s books outsell Karl Marx’s 16-fold.”
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