The muddied fountainhead

Jonathan Chait reviews two (!) biographies of Ayn Rand, an astoundingly muddled thinker who was, apparently, also an astoundingly unpleasant human being. She’s worth studying, as any pathological phenomenon is worth studying, and her thinking (if it can be called that) still has influence over part of the Right; her very shallowness has a deep appeal for adolescent males of all ages and both sexes.

What’s most astounding is how completely unoriginal it is. A college friend showed me some Randite document just after I’d finished reading Also Sprach Zarathustra for a course.

At once I saw the relationship:

Rand is Nietzsche for stupid people.


Update Yes, this is unfair to Nietzsche; it should really have been “stupid sociopaths.”  On the other hand, Nietzsche, for all his undoubted gifts, didn’t come by his sinister reputation entirely by accident; I think he deserves it far more than, e.g., Plato deserves his.

In comments, Doug Merrill of A Fistful of Euros reminds us of the wisdom of the Kung Fu Monkey:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.