Some historical insight into Ayn Rand's life and philosophy, and its extraordinary reach in American culture:
Rand’s impact has been widespread and deep. At the iceberg’s visible tip is the influence she’s had over major political figures who have shaped American society. In the 1950s, Ayn Rand read aloud drafts of what was later to become Atlas Shrugged to her “Collective,” Rand’s ironic nickname for her inner circle of young individualists, which included Alan Greenspan, who would serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006.
In 1966, Ronald Reagan wrote in a personal letter, “Am an admirer of Ayn Rand.” Today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) credits Rand for inspiring him to go into politics, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) calls Atlas Shrugged his “foundation book.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) says Ayn Rand had a major influence on him, and his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is an even bigger fan. A short list of other Rand fans includes Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Christopher Cox, chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission in George W. Bush’s second administration; and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.
Read it at AlterNetHow Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation
by Bruce E. Levine, a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (Chelsea Green, 2011)
This article reveals how Rand and Randism play on the dark side of the frontier spirit and rugged individualism that built America and made it great — giving proof to the Oriental proverb, "The bigger the front, the bigger the back." It also illustrates the Taoist concept of opposites — anything taken to the extreme turns into its opposite.
Building a society on a philosophy rugged individualism taps into the virtue of personal responsibility encourages competition along with coordination, and innovation as the basis of entrepreneurism. However, pushed to the extreme it brings out all the vices that the wise have inveighed against across the globe from time immemorial — for good reason in terms of the result.
Meher Baba, reiterating and summarizing perennial wisdom on this issue, sums up the effect of a mindset like this when put into action:
Self-interest, caused by low selfish desire, is the root cause of contemporary world chaos and individual misery.
— Quoted in Jane Barry Haynes, editor, Treasures from the Meher Baba Journals: 1938-1942, Sheriar Foundation (1980)
This is the mindset that dominates in an age of ignorance. Fortunately, ages of extreme and destructive ignorance are followed by ages of enlightenment in reaction. Ravi Batra's historical model, explicated most recently in The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos (Palgrave Macmillan 2007), is based on this view of cycles and cyclical change.