Author’s Note: This is a column I wrote back a few years ago but never published. Instead, it appeared in abbreviated form in my latest book, Letters to a Young Progressive. Given recent political trends, I thought it would be good to publish it in its original extended form.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the books of Ayn Rand. After escaping from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, Rand became a famous American playwright, philosopher, and novelist. She has written many books – three of which I would urge everyone to read. The first, Anthem, is a lot like Orwell’s 1984. The second, The Fountainhead, is a longer novel expounding on her philosophy, which is known as objectivism. The third, Atlas Shrugged, is her most famous work and includes the most complete explanation of her views on economics and morality.
As a Christian, I reject a good bit of what Ayn Rand has to say. She defends capitalism eloquently but fails to understand exactly why it works better than socialism or communism. That reason, of course, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian idea of man as a fallen being. Man, by nature, is desirous of competition. He must try to best his neighbor and, therefore, cannot function in a system based on the idea of taking from each according to his ability and giving to each according to his need.
Nonetheless, atheist Rand comes to many correct conclusions without fully understanding the reasons why she is correct. That is why I am not at all uncomfortable recommending her books. There is much to be learned by studying the works of those with whom you disagree – and much to be missed by ignoring them.
For those interested in Rand, I also recommend a song that was inspired by a rock musician who reads her work. His name is Neil Peart – a member of the band “Rush.” Neil is the greatest rock and roll drummer who ever lived. He is also one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived.
When I was a teenager in the 1970s, Peart wrote “The Trees,” which fast became one of my favorite songs. I didn’t know at the time that the song was a stinging indictment of socialism and communism inspired by Neil’s reading of Ayn Rand novels. I’ve reprinted the verses below with some brief comments in between most verses.
There is unrest in the forest,
there is trouble with the trees,
for the maples want more sunlight
and the oaks ignore their pleas.