On this date in 1905, Ayn Rand was born. She escaped slavery in Soviet Russia, came to America – to New York City, then Chicago and Los Angeles and back to New York City, where she died in 1982 – and wrote screenplays, best-selling novels, newspaper columns and plays consumed by millions. She challenged the world and her philosophy, Objectivism, has since advanced throughout the West and among intellectuals, thanks to the efforts of the Ayn Rand Institute and, in particular, its founder, Leonard Peikoff.
I knew when I first read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged as a teen-ager that the world can be and ought to be as wonderful as Ayn Rand imagined and anyone who thinks her 1957 epic is strictly a dark prophecy of a nation in decline needs to think again. Atlas Shrugged is foremost an inspiring story of man at his best and it also offers an enriching philosophy for living on earth. Rand, who understood and fled Communism, saw that America was in deep trouble. Having seen the rise of the New Left first hand, and having been the recipient of its worst ideas, I also sensed, even 30 years ago, that the country was headed toward dictatorship. As I studied Objectivism, reading Dr. Peikoff’s philosophy books (The Ominous Parallels and Objectivism), attending lectures, courses and conferences, and engaged in what was really the first application of Objectivism to politics, a premature attempt to save medicine as a profession (in which some good was accomplished), I confirmed the worst. With the state-sponsored seizure of Elian Gonzalez, the Islamist attack on September 11, 2001, Black Tuesday, and today’s impending economic collapse, I must accept the fact that America is coming to an end, as Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff warned for decades.
But today brought good news. I’m not talking about the announcement that a second installment in a low-budget film series adaptation of Atlas Shrugged will be directed by Duncan Scott, who co-produced the restored film adaptation of We the Living, and released this fall (though with Scott on board, it may be an improvement over Atlas Shrugged, Part 1). Thanks to one of Objectivism’s new intellectuals, Tore Boeckmann (editor, The Art of Fiction by Ayn Rand), I learned that Leonard Peikoff’s forthcoming new book, The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West are Going Out, is being published this fall and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Dr. Peikoff’s book is based on his final course, which I wrote about here, and I have every reason to think his third book will enlighten those who move the world. There are other reasons for encouragement, too many to mention, in several works – plays, exhibits, books, podcasts, movies, and I include my own work – by those influenced by the genius of Ayn Rand, including those who make no claim to be Objectivists. There isn’t much time to spare the United States of America, as far as I can tell, but her philosophy of reason, individual rights and egoism is making progress in changing the world. To which I can only say: Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand, in the name of the best within us.