I’ve been thinking about her often recently. Atlas Shrugged kick started the whole libertarian world in 1957. And why? I suspect it is because the feeling you have when you close the book: I have dignity, I can do heroic things, I have rights, no one can stop me.
How many books since then have had that applied message, a personally empowering jolt to the brain, heart, and soul? Not that many. She saw the need to personalize the message of liberty in a way that none of her predecessors did and not many successors have either. That’s my theory on what makes her great.
I have a sense that this point is underappreciated. If you read Murray Rothbard’s early letter to Ayn, you get a sense of this. What if that entire generation might have otherwise just been happy to do what had been done before: teach econ, write stuff, go to seminars, etc. Instead, they had a passion and fire that had never been seen before. Why? Something tells me that Ayn’s personalist message had something to do with it. What if her approach is the real energy behind the liberty apparatus? What if this book is the fuel that has made the difference? If so, I can sort of see why she was bitter in some degree. Maybe there would be no identifiable “movement” without her unique and personally inspiring message.
In other words, her unrelenting message was: apply these ideas now in your own life! After all, that’s what she did. She might have been just another victim of Stalin’s terror or maybe a poor peasant who lived and died in Russia. But she found a way out. She made a new life for herself. She became one of the great figures of the 20th century. It’s rather amazing if you think about about. She sought to share the source of her own personal courage and passion with the whole world.
Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand: benefactor of humanity.
The Laissez Faire Club has a special edition of her book Anthem with an introduction by Roderick Long.