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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ayn Rand: Collective Individualism, Collidualism Or Not?

Every so often, like when I was a kid, then in my thirties, then in my sixties, there is a big buzz about Ayn Rand. It comes from her collective. My friend, Will, recently sent me an article: How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation, by Bruce E. Levine --AlterNet, December 15, 2011, Printed on December 17, 2011. I recommend it.

Mr. Levine reports that in the 1950s, Ayn Rand attracted and organized a “Collective” of young individualists. Quite a strong collective by all accounts. One wonders how much individualism is sacrificed to make one. The article furnishes examples of followers: Alan Greenspan, Ronald Reagan, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Christopher Cox and a hive of lesser luminaries.

Then there's Nathan Blumenthal, who was so devoted he became Nathaniel Branden by sticking Rand into his name. Stuff happened, randy stuff. He broke up with her. She cursed him, beat him and banished him in front of the collective. Buzz! Buzz! Afterward, he worried about getting assassinated by Randites. Article caused the following deep guy discussion:

Geo.: Machiavelli cautioned that unless you totally destroy a rival you must always fear revenge. He and Ayn Rand would have got on devastatingly well. What a naughty woman! Did she do bachelor parties?

Al: I don't think she did the bachelor parties... but she did take the Social Security and Medicare.

Barney: The question that enters my...mind is what was so seductive about her. Maybe if I read her book I could find out but ...

Of course, Barney came up with the right question. What indeed was the draw there? I recall my daddy and our neighbor --then an Air Force lieutenant-- discussing "Atlas Shrugged" back in 1959. They talked grownup talk but I got the distinct impression they were troubled by it. And yes, like Barney says, "if I read her book..." , I might understand why the word, "bunk", emerges so plentifully from that old memory. Old memory. Old conversations heard by children. How do they affect us now?

Collectives, we know, are things one joins to spend half one's time wasting the other half. Individualism is advanced by those who consider their consciences subordinate to nobody. They don't have much in common except, as Al said, Social Security and Medicare. But it appears Ms. Rand is being invoked over tea service as good reason to vote against the general welfare and individual self-interest. So I don't know, I guess her seductiveness is iconic --like a religious figure. I have not yet heard of her face appearing on a grilled-cheese sandwich, but we found an excellent likeness in our eaves:


  1. You did a splendid job summarizing this and the discussion that followed. I've posted it to my list to see what additional feedback comes in!

  2. Thanks, Will. I've had some emails about it but you're the 1st responder here. Stats say it's getting equal numbers of views from U.S. and Russia so far. She's still a big draw name, I guess. Always thought her sister, Sally, was prettier tho.

  3. Yes! Here is Sally and her gals in the Sally Rand's Nude Ranch at the 1939 Golden Gate World's Fair and International Exposition on Treasure Island. I went to the fair with my folks and older sister but unfortunately I only remember the elephant train and the Tower of the Sun.

  4. Will, my parents met at that fair!

  5. Geo, I read three of her books, including the big one all the way through and somehow I wasn't converted. I checked my premises and everything. What's wrong with me?

  6. I don't know, DB. Maybe you read for pleasure, curiosity and thought-provocation instead of identity-replacement. Unbelievable, but people used to do that, I hear.

  7. That must be it. Thank you
    Geo, I'm glad to have that weight lifted from my shoulders.


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