Monday, April 26, 2010

Goddess of the market

Satyajit Das reviews Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns:
In “Goddess of the Market”, Jennifer Burns identifies the source of [Rand's] appeal. The very shallowness of her thinking that intellectuals dismissed was inherently attractive to a certain sensibility, especially adolescents. Her absolute values and intolerance are attractive to those who prefer a Manichean worldview.

I disagree, however, that
Rand’s popularity also derives from her correct insight that thriving societies are not possible without freedom, entrepreneurial abilities and innovation. This fact is most evident in China’s embrace of market economics to some degree.
This "insight" is not particularly profound; few "collectivists", I think, would assert that we want to do without innovation entirely. The question is how best to innovate, and how best to manage innovation. The financial innovations of the last few years, for example, have not proven particularly socially valuable.

I also disagree that "Rand never succeeded in creating a lasting legacy or political movement. The collective fell apart when she fell out with Branden." Rand's actual "cult" fell apart, but her legacy — as evidenced by the popularity of her books today as well as the adoption of key ideological themes, especially her take-no-prisoners absolutism, by the leadership of the radical conservative movement — lives on.

As Rogers notes:
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.