Ayn Rand is a writer and philosopher who understood that “something” is terribly wrong with humankind and had the courage to seek the answers to it. Like others before her who tackled this subject, her writings are controversial. For years, I enjoyed her beautiful use of language in expressing her beliefs and telling her stories. She was a powerful and appealing writer. Yet, I now find some of her beliefs very troubling and need to be seriously reevaluated. As a Unificationist, I’ve had to fairly examine her writings, then ask: was her understanding of humankind’s nature correct and is her solution going to solve our dilemma of constant conflict and create a world of goodness and peace?
Ayn Rand, born Alisa Rosenbaum in Russia, was a writer of great passion, whose ideas were born out of the chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution. As a 12-year-old, she saw her nation crumble before her eyes and be recreated under Lenin’s view of how life should be lived. That was Communism. Her father’s business was seized because private property was declared illegal. The state acquired power over the rights of the individual in determining what talents would best serve society. Expressing individualism and self-determination became dangerous, if not illegal, ways to live. Cooperation and collectivism became Russia’s national goals and it was expected everyone would work for the public good, putting the state before self.
To understand Rand’s views of life, one must comprehend the extreme times she lived in. Her philosophy came to be best expressed in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, her two major works. They are controversial, well read, and now making a comeback, particularly in conservative political ideology.
Her philosophy was expressed by the two main character’s speeches at the climatic moments in each novel. In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark is an architect who, at his trial, defends blowing up the building he designed after his design was altered by a less talented colleague. In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt speaks to a crumbling America from his rundown apartment along the New York waterfront, explaining why the country is in the condition it is, as well as why he persuaded the greatest minds and talents in the nation to abandon a corrupt and dying country in order to save it.
Rand’s stated beliefs are: There is no God. There is only the mind of man and that is supreme. The mind is not a collective or function of the state but an individual attribute. It is our highest value and greatest asset. The most important viewpoint is the individual viewpoint. Only our mind and its proper use can insure our survival. This is the unique creative power of man that no other life form on earth has. A man must think and work alone; the creative process is guided by an individual thought, not a collective brain.