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Burns, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, makes the most of her unique access to Rand's personal papers at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California. Like Heller, she situates Rand in a rich intellectual and cultural tradition that predated the New Deal and eventually gave rise to a revitalized limited-government movement that culminated in figures such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Burns is particularly sharp at analyzing how Cold War conservatives such as Buckley rejected Rand's rationalism but eventually benefited from her popularity with college students during the 1960s. Since the demise of their common foe, the Soviet Union, conservatives and libertarians increasingly find themselves at odds with one another over precisely the same issues that Rand and Buckley fought over decades ago. These range from questions about the proper role of religion in a secular society to whether the state should be used to restrict alternative lifestyles to the legitimate circumstances for military action.
Individually, Ayn Rand and the World She Made and Goddess of the Market help elucidate an underanalyzed cultural figure. Together, they provide a rounded portrait of a woman who, as Burns writes, "tried to nurture herself exclusively on ideas." As Rand's biography underscores, she failed miserably in that, even as she helped create an ideological framework that continues to energize debate in contemporary America.
Nick Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com. This article originally appeared in Wilson Quarterly.