The high priestess of personal freedom is enjoying a revival of popularity in the 21st century

As a young college student in the 1960s, I was swept up in the exciting and confrontational political climate of that period. The Viet Nam War was in full swing, the military draft was still on, John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been taken from us by assassination. The Beatles changed rock ‘n roll music forever and the movie “The Graduate” changed pop culture.

I graduated from school and started my career in conducting business; perhaps overwhelmed would be a better description, these influences at the core of my being. I was liberal without having enough life experiences to really know why I was liberal or what that meant. I saw the world as flawed and felt that collectively we could make things better, safer, more peaceful, and more just. It made me feel good to want these things, even though I didn’t understand how to make these altruistic goals attainable.

Winston Churchill once said: “A man who is a conservative at the age of 20 has no heart, a man who is a liberal at 40 is a fool.” He would soon cross the bridge from dreamer to realist, just as Churchill describes it. I started my own business. That’s when reality hit, and it hit right between my eyes.

About the time I made the leap into entrepreneurship, I was introduced to the writer, the philosopher Ayn Rand. I read his monumental novel Atlas Shrugged. It was an experience that changed my life from the point of view of attitude, philosophy and politics.

The hero of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, challenged all the ideas I had nurtured during my formative years. Rand’s libertarian philosophy, which she called “Objectivism,” is on full display in this powerful story based on the logic of profit and the pre-eminence of individual rights. In the story, the class of productive, creative, ambitious, and driven individuals, led by John Galt, essentially goes on strike. Quite unlike a massive union strike, this walkout of the few brings crisis to the many and enumerates the reasons why capitalism is the only economic system that can benefit the majority of people more often than not.

The power of Ayn Rand’s thought, as evidenced by the characters and stories she wrote, is enjoying a revival today. Born in Russia, she had fled that country after the rise of communism. Her experiences growing up in a totalitarian place made her a fierce opponent of all “-isms”, communism, fascism, socialism, all forms of statism and collectivism.

At the core of Rand’s philosophy was a concept based on limited government, laissez faire capitalism, and individual rights. She believed that doing what was best for oneself was the only duty a person had to society. Altruism was destructive for Ayn Rand. The modern liberal, now curiously called “progressive,” despises the Rand view of man and believes that his views reflect selfishness. And yet, it is only through the “selfishness” of the risk-taking, entrepreneurial, productive class that the whole of society reaps the benefits of their creative and industrious enterprise. The poor do not create jobs and therefore income and therefore taxes that support all levels of government altruism and waste.

In this belief, Ayn Rand was really a modern acolyte of Adam Smith, the original philosopher of capitalism. Smith popularized the “invisible hand,” the concept that by benefiting ourselves and seeking advantage for ourselves, we inadvertently provide benefits to others. The Founding Fathers of the United States strongly agreed with this philosophy and incorporated this principle into the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The rule of law, private property rights, individual rights, and limited government were paramount in the Founder’s eyes. These principles, so assumed and abused by the current government, are the glue that differentiates successful states from dysfunctional ones.

The early years of the 21st century will not be treated kindly by future historians. The lessons that history teaches are being ignored. Thomas Jefferson said, “He is governed best who is governed least.” Who among us can honestly say that we are well governed by our intrusive welfare state, nanny?

The lessons and philosophy crafted by Ayn Rand have never gone away. Atlas Shrugged is the most popular book ever published, after the Holy Bible. Sales are up again for this and all Rand books. Due to the clumsy meddling and overreaching hand of the government, there appears to be a resurgence of interest in the ideas represented by John Galt and Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead.”

Ayn Rand is the high priestess of free and libertarian thought. As long as men seek to live free from the oppressive hand of failed government tyranny and excessive activism, their place in history is assured. There has never been a better time than 2010 to dust off old copies of Ayn Rand’s thought-provoking classic tales and rekindle the passion for freedom that she so passionately portrays in her works.

By: Geoff Ficke

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