Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul

Gary Weiss, Author
Gary Weiss. St. Martin’s, $24.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-59073-4
Reviewed on: 01/16/2012
Release date: 02/28/2012
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4299-5078-7
Paperback - 300 pages - 978-1-250-02231-8
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In this riveting and disturbing inquiry into Ayn Rand’s widespread influence on American economics and politics, Weiss (Wall Street Versus America) tackles the history and the present of objectivism, emphasizing its paradoxical return to prominence in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Enshrined in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, Rand’s philosophy spawned a cult following that included Alan Greenspan, and whose current purveyors include Glenn Beck, Paul Ryan, and members of the Tea Party. As Weiss details, objectivism is a theory of radical individualism: “To Rand, the infant’s me-centered view of the world is correct, selfishness is right, and altruism is the antithesis of everything decent and moral.” Along with atheism (ignored by many), this view demands that business be completely unregulated, social welfare programs and taxes abolished, and the government, with its support of education, medicine, and infrastructure, rendered nonexistent. Weiss describes how objectivism, aided by wealthy and influential figures, has influenced the deregulation of financial markets, the radicalization of conservative voices, and today’s toxic political climate. Despite a good faith effort to understand Rand and her followers, the result reads like a memoir, with Weiss’s ample personal commentary, and pays little attention to objectivism’s deep philosophical roots. Nonetheless, Weiss poses an important question: will we be a country that values human life and dignity, or one that values only the dollar? Agent: Richard Morris, Janklow and Nesbit. (Mar.)
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