Culture

On the Media's Take on Ayn Rand (featuring Reason's Nick Gillespie)

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NPR's On the Media did a long segment over the weekend about Ayn Rand's continuing popularity and influence. Among the folks they interviewed was reason's Nick Gillespie. Snippets here:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: That's Gary Cooper playing Howard Roark, the tall, angular architect of tall, angular buildings in The Fountainhead. That book has sold something like six million copies since it was published in 1943. Ron Paul should be so lucky.

Rand died in 1982—but Rand lives!

NICK GILLESPIE: Let's put it this way: Ayn Rand's work, I think, is popular for the same reason Prometheus has always been popular with humans. It's about somebody who dares to struggle against great odds and, you know, steals fire.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Nick Gillespie is the editor of Reason.com and Reason TV and former editor of Reason Magazine, a Libertarian journal whose name is a nod to Rand's favorite wordreason, above all—reason above conventional pieties, reason above religion, above especially collectivist societies and command economies, the horrors of which she witnessed as a child in St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution—reason that finds its purest expression in capitalism.

NICK GILLESPIE: Virtually every CEO of every major company will list Ayn Rand as a major influence. A bevy of Hollywood stars, ranging from Brad Pitt to Angelina Jolie to Vince Vaughn—a director like Oliver Stone, who is fond of Castro, says that Ayn Rand is one of the most important figures in his intellectual life. Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Hugh Hefner—I mean, the reach of this author is pretty astonishing….

BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I don't think that influence derives from her persuasive argument against command economies.

NICK GILLESPIE: She gives egoists a positive case for why the world should revolve around them and around their efforts. If you are the person who is creating value, if you are the star, the sun really does revolve around you. And not only should it be that way, but that's the moral order of the universe….

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Nick Gillespie, of Reason, says he was never wowed by Rand's novels but that the attacks on them are often swipes by people who would rather not seriously engage her ideas.

NICK GILLESPIE: How many characters from Saul Bellow novels, how many characters from Don DeLillo novels, inarguably great writers, how many of them have penetrated the American cultural consciousness in the way that a Howard Roark or a John Gault [sic] has, to a degree where these are shorthands for an entire system of ideas?

I think that that speaks pretty highly of her power as a writer. She is a great author because she has a phenomenal audience, including a lot of people who go through a worshipful phase with her. And, you know, here we could be talking about Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve, as well as any number of pimply-faced adolescents who decide to grow beyond her.

Whole transcript here.

The piece, which runs about 15 minutes, is rich with bits of audio. Listen to it:

reason on Rand here.