Feature

Remembering the real Ayn Rand

Rand was an atheist, a feminist, an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, and an opponent of the Vietnam War, said Donald Luskin in The Wall Street Journal.

Donald LuskinThe Wall Street Journal

Novelist Ayn Rand’s new role as the “Tea Party Nostradamus” is hardly a perfect fit, said Donald Luskin. Many on the Right claim that her 1957 ode to unfettered capitalism, Atlas Shrugged—a movie version of which opened last week—accurately predicted America’s recent “economic collapse amid massive government expansion.” Republican Rep. Paul Ryan even demands that all of his staffers read the tome and absorb its free-market message. But the real Rand never meshed easily with the conservative movement, which “loathed” her during her lifetime.

Rand, who died in 1982, was an atheist, a feminist, an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, and an opponent of the Vietnam War. Her private life was also anything but conservative: She once launched into an affair after having “duly informed her husband and the younger man’s wife in advance.” And while Republicans like Ryan laud Atlas Shrugged as a capitalist Bible, the novel warns that “crony capitalism” can threaten the full unfolding of the economy just as badly as government regulation can.

So instead of calling her a conservative, we should remember Rand for what she really was: “an individualist” who believed in that “most fundamental American ideal—the inalienable rights of the individual.”

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