Saturday, December 17, 2011

“To the Genius of Ayn Rand”

As a young high school kid, trying to learn to play the guitar, I remember reading those words on the back of a Rush album, 2112.  I loved the album, but at the time, I didn’t fully understand the sentiment.

Years later, as a young musical entrepreneur, I finally got a copy of “Atlas Shrugged”, and read it.  I found parts of it very inspiring.  The parts, in particular, that talked about diligence, hard work, vision, and self-reliance.

There were parts of the book that didn’t ring true.  Like the notion that people would sit, transfixed by their radios, as a man droned on for literally hours (chapters) about ecomonic theory.  In this day and age?  No way:  “Who the %$^* is John Galt?  Dude, what channel is ‘Jersey Shore’ on?”

Fast forward may years, and Ayn Rand has become a political figure again, galvanizing the new right right wing.  Meanwhile, I’ve become a father of a boy with multiple medical issues, Cystic Fibrosis and Cerebral Palsy among them.  I’m learning that when dealing with such issues, self-reliance simply isn’t an option.  The costs are too astronomical.

Then, today, I read that the poster-girl for the new libertarian right actually accepted Social Security and Medicaid (read here and here), my first reaction was a cynical, “Ha!  See?  It gets to us all eventually!” I read the articles, and many of the vicious comments.  She was slammed as a hypocrite, and as a phony.  Others defended their idol, claiming that because she paid into these systems by force, she was entitled to draw from them as well.

I felt saddened, more than anything.  Ayn Rand was a genius in her own way, in that she formed her ideas and shared them in a way that impacted the world.  I disagree with her vision, but I do admire her nonetheless.  At the end, I saw a picture of a woman who was confronted with the choice between practical reality and her ideals.  In “Atlas Shrugged” she was able to create her own world, a utopia where her theories worked perfectly.  But here in the real world, it doesn’t always happen that way.


  1. I saw that dedication on the album too, and I figured I ought to read some of her stuff. The dorm library had a few of her books. I picked one called "Anthem," more or less arbitrarily, since Rush had also recorded a sing by that name and I thought there might be a connection. It turns out that the story in 2112 was adapted directly from "Anthem."
    Long story short: what a disappointment. The book sucked as literature; it was basically a hamfisted diatribe from the top of a wobbly soapbox. I never had the urge to read another one of her books.

  2. I'm really only familiar with Ayn Rand through interviews, a documentary on her life, and the movie version of "the Fountianhead." Many of her ideas rang true to me, as well, but others just made me scratch my head. I was recently accused by an Ayn Rand follower of being a "collectivist," as if that were a bad name. My response was simple. I am a collectivist in that I believe in "We the people" and "a more perfect union," "the common defense" and " the general welfare."

  3. See, you bring up a great point, John. The Constitution is a wonderful document to use to guide our country, but it is so open to interpretation. It's there, it's our measuring ruler for our laws, but what does it really mean?