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Saturday, June 01, 2013

• • George Saunders: 'It was good to have a painful immersion in capitalism' 
Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism  | [Q:] I was intrigued to learn that you were once a fan of Ayn Rand. For a writer so alert to how capitalism can grind people down, that's unexpected.

[A:] It’s kind of a sweet story. I was in high school in Chicago, not really doing any work. Neither of my parents had been to college so to me it wasn’t a big thing. Then two teachers started taking an interest in me and giving me books, and one was Atlas Shrugged. I hadn’t read a novel since third grade, and if you’re a crummy reader sometimes bad art can do magical things. She appeals to a certain kind of adolescent male, I think, and she definitely got me.

So I went to college and read all the rest of the books and she was sort of my patron saint. Then you get an uncomfortable moment where you realise there’s this little bag you’re holding that’s filling up with phenomena that don’t really fit the model. And that bag got heavier and heavier. My family ran into some financial problems. And I thought, she would not understand what we’re going through. She’d equate it with some kind of moral weakness on our part. And then after college I went to Asia and saw some things there that made the bag really heavy, and at some point I just said, “I don’t get her any more, I’ll set her down.” Only years later I was like, “Oh my God, she’s very dangerous.”

Thursday, April 04, 2013

• • Titans of tech raise millions to enter the political arena: but what is it they want? 
Capitalism  |Egoism  | As with any major industry, the people involved in Silicon Valley have political views across the spectrum. But in general they are often a blend of social liberalism and free-market economics. It is a world where people are happy with ethnic diversity and sexual freedoms but distrustful of big government and see the "heroic entrepreneur" as an aspirational ideal. It is a political culture that owes a debt to libertarian novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, who preached that free-market self-interest was the future and the hand of government was little more than a dead weight on human creativity.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

• • Rand Paul: Republican revolutionary leading the conservative charge to 2016 
Rand Paul  | That Paul should grow up a libertarian-leaning conservative is no surprise given his father's politics – though he is not named after libertarian heroine Ayn Rand as many mistakenly believe. But as a child, growing up in the town of Lake Jackson,Texas, just outside Houston, Paul was present at his father's first ever political speech in 1974.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

• • Lululemon: see-through yoga pants hurt apparel empire’s sagging sales 
Atlas Shrugged  | Less expensive yoga pants are available pretty much everywhere, which is one big reason the company's growth is slowing. But those pants don't come in Ayn Rand shopping bags. Lululemon's don't either – anymore. The Atlas Shrugged-inspired "Who is John Galt?" inscribed shopping bags are a thing of the past (2011).

Monday, March 18, 2013

• • CPAC 2013: Sarah Palin delivers rallying call to Republican crowd 
Atlas Shrugged  | 2.36pm ET: Onstage, a bunch of businesspeople and congressmen are speaking in extended metaphors about Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged - "John Galt is alive and well and living Texas!" said a Texas lady - which means it's time for us to not care about them and do a roundup of the latest CPAC commentary and reportage.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

• • Sound Of My Voice: the ultimate cult movie? 
I take a pretty ecumenical definition of what a cult is. The Moonies, the Manson Family, Jonestown, and the Scientologists? Sure, but also the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Nation Of Islam; the Nazis; the Baader-Meinhof gang; the mass-suicidal castrati of the Heaven's Gate cult; and the followers of Ayn Rand, who was to American philosophy what Scientology's L Ron Hubbard was to religion.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

 Ice Age 4: Continental Drift – review 
[T]there is a very nice short film going out with this – The Simpsons: the Longest Daycare, featuring the further adventures of Maggie Simpson at the Ayn Rand School for Tots.

Monday, February 18, 2013

 National: Film: The student animators challenging might of Disney for Oscars glory 
Head Over Heels is [...] up against [...] The Simpsons spin-off, The Longest Daycare, in which Maggie Simpson attends an Ayn Rand-inspired nursery.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

• • Harry Styles, if you’re reading this – less Socrates and better lyrics, please 
Atheism  |Rush  | Musicians, if not footballers, can and do influence the thoughts and the reading of their fans. I personally hold the Canadian prog rockers Rush entirely responsible for the surge in popularity of the works of Ayn Rand in the 1980s, and I will never forgive them for it. I'll never forgive them for the drum solos either, but that is a different matter. [....] [M]y own plea to the pop stars, their songwriters and svengalis would not be to harangue their fans with reading lists and address the nation with lectures on Hegel. Nobody wants that, not even Hegel. Just give them something to think about – and please, please stay well away from Ayn Rand.

Friday, February 01, 2013

• • Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright – review 
Atlas Shrugged  | Amazon ranks books according to their current sales. I thought I would compare Dianetics with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The Rand novel was published in 1957 and it apparently has a devoted readership eager to believe in the free mind solving all problems. My experiment was conducted on 20 January 2013. The hardback of Atlas Shrugged was then ranked 62,059, the Kindle edition at 976 and the paperback at 416. I was surprised and impressed, but I’ve seen people on buses, in parks and at the beach reading Atlas Shrugged. I have never seen anyone reading Dianetics, and this might be why: the hardback is ranked at 402,370 and the paperback at 24,618.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

• • Paul Krugman: Asimov’s Foundation novels grounded my economics 
Atlas Shrugged  |Individualism  | There are certain novels that can shape a teenage boy's life. For some, it's Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; for others it's Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. As a widely quoted internet meme says, the unrealistic fantasy world portrayed in one of those books can warp a young man's character forever; the other book is about orcs. But for me, of course, it was neither. My Book – the one that has stayed with me for four-and-a-half decades – is Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, written when Asimov was barely out of his teens himself. I didn't grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

 The US election: it's not just a two-horse race 
In the upcoming election only five "third" parties have ballot access equivalent to 270 electoral college votes – that is, they're on the ballot in enough states to have at least a theoretical chance of winning. Below the 270-line are various socialist factions and America's oldest third party, the Prohibition party, founded in 1869. Its temperance message doesn't have as much traction as it used to: in the 2008 presidential election its candidate received 643 votes nationwide. There is also an Objectivist party, which promotes a philosophical system developed by novelist Ayn Rand.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

• • • Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank 
Atlas Shrugged  |Image  | Does anyone know how truly evil Ayn Rand was? I once tried, a long time ago, to get through Atlas Shrugged, but gave up pretty quickly, on the grounds that life was too short to spend a chunk of it in the company of a wicked lunatic who can't write "bum" on a wall. So I missed this bit, summarised here by Thomas Frank, who has read the book so we don't have to: at one point, in what would appear to be the most clunking symbolism, a train crashes because – this is always happening on trains – a powerful politician insists on the crew driving into a dangerous tunnel. “And then, in a notorious passage, the narrator goes through all the other passenger cars on the train and tells us why each casualty-to-be deserves the fate that is coming to him or her.”

Friday, October 05, 2012

• • The 10 best fictional architects 
The Fountainhead  |Individualism  |Paul Ryan  |The Fountainhead movie  |Image  | Howard Roark The Fountainhead. In The Fountainhead, the 1949 film of Ayn Rand’s book, Gary Cooper plays Howard Roark, a visionary architect who would rather starve then compromise. He blows up a social housing project after meddlesome bureaucrats spoil his design, and is eventually rewarded by designing the tallest building in the world. It is hilarious/preposterous stuff, but also scary, given that Rand’s demented philosophy of individualism is a major inspiration for the Romney/Ryan presidential ticket.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

• • Lina Bo Bardi: buildings shaped by love 
The Fountainhead  |The Fountainhead movie  | It's an old story, the opposition between an architect's vision and the wishes of the users of buildings. It is immortalised in Ayn Rand's book The Fountainhead and the subsequent Gary Cooper movie, in which the preposterous architect hero blows up a social housing project built to a compromised version of his designs, rather than let this aesthetic affront stand. On the other hand, attempts to build "what people want" have a way of ending up being bland and uninspiring. They succeed largely in not making what people don't want.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

• • • Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: a paean to American liberty 
Altruism  |Atlas Shrugged  |The Fountainhead  |Capitalism  |Egoism  |Individualism  |Paul Ryan  |The Fountainhead movie  |Image  |Objectivist author  | It's not often that an American election sparks debate about a philosopher. But ever since Mitt Romney announced his selection of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate, talk has turned to the ideas of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand.

• • • Ayn Rand Institute finds dilemma in radical author’s evolving legacy 
Altruism  |Atheism  |Ayn Rand Institute  |Atlas Shrugged  |The Fountainhead  |Capitalism  |Egoism  |Essay Contests  |Going Galt  |Onkar Ghate  |Image  | As an atheist Ayn Rand did not approve of shrines but the hushed, air-conditioned headquarters which bears her name acts as a secular version. Her walnut desk occupies a position of honour. She smiles from a gallery of black and white photos, young in some, old in others. A bronze bust, larger than life, tilts her head upward, jaw clenched, expression resolute. The Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California, venerates the late philosopher as a prophet of unfettered capitalism who showed America the way. A decade ago it struggled to have its voice heard. Today its message booms all the way to Washington DC.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

• • • Paul Ryan ‘grew up on Ayn Rand’ 
Alan Greenspan  |Altruism  |Atlas Shrugged  |The Fountainhead  |Capitalism  |Egoism  |Paul Ryan  |Image  |Syndicated  | Ayn Rand is the high priestess of undiluted capitalism and a champion of looking after number one. With an estimated 25m copies of her books in print, including Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, her ideas about small government and unfettered markets still resonate in conservative circles, with a young Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, being a big fan.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

• • • Paul Ryan's faith in Ayn Rand is a political problem for Romney 
Altruism  |Atheism  |Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism  |Egoism  |Individualism  | When I was a teenager, my American girlfriend at the time gave me Ayn Rand's cult novel Atlas Shrugged to read. It changed her life, she said. It changed mine, too. She was not my girlfriend by the morning. It was the most unpleasant thing I'd ever had the misfortune to read.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

 Financial crisis: 25 people at the heart of the meltdown – where are they now? 
Alan Greenspan  |Capitalism  | Alan Greenspan, chairman US Federal Reserve 1987-2006 A disciple of libertarian icon Ayn Rand, Greenspan became chairman of the Fed just in time to save the global economy from the 1987 stock market crash from becoming a full-blown disaster.