Summary: With the release of Alan Greenspan’s new book, The Age of Turbulence, praising Ayn Rand’s influence on the former Federal Reserve chairman’s thinking, and the new film based on her book Atlas Shrugged starring Angelina Jolie set to come out next year, Ayn
This article is from BreakPoint WorldView magazine: http://www.breakpoint.org/contentindex.asp?ID=146.
With the release of Alan Greenspan’s new book, The Age of Turbulence, praising Ayn Rand’s influence on the former Federal Reserve chairman’s thinking, and the new film based on her book Atlas Shrugged starring Angelina Jolie set to come out next year, Ayn Rand is more popular than ever. Her books, actually, have remained top sellers--Atlas Shrugged being second only to the Bible. But since the business scandals earlier this decade and Greenspan’s expressed admiration, her ideas--namely, objectivism--have gained more traction. But the consequences of those ideas should give Christians great pause.
According to the New York Times, Greenspan met Rand when he was 25 and married a member of her inner circle, known as the Collective. He found Rand’s "moral defense of capitalism" appealing. Later, Rand’s magazine, The Objectivist, published several of Greenspan’s essays.
Greenspan is not alone in his veneration. Fifty years after its publication and 25 years after Rand’s death, Atlas Shrugged sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year and is read everywhere from college campuses to Wall Street. Given its popularity and its impact, Christians should be acquainted with Rand’s work and, especially, her worldview: objectivism. It is one of those stealth worldviews that has a way of infiltrating our culture, particularly the business community. It is social Darwinism writ large. We need to know how to answer those who uphold objectivism as a way of life.
Briefly, objectivism teaches that man’s "highest value" and "moral purpose" is his own happiness. By "happiness," Rand meant "rational self-interest." For her, "virtue" consisted of doing those things that "secured" your life and well-being. As theologian John Piper put it, Rand’s work manifests a "complete rejection of a divine or supernatural dimension to reality." The absence of God causes Rand to get human nature wrong, as well--specifically, in her view of altruism. She viewed altruism and self-sacrifice as vices. They represent a betrayal of what should be a person’s "highest values," that is, his life and well-being. Similarly, justice is possible only if you "never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit . . . " You see how this contradicts the Christian worldview--and the way things really are.
So, if altruism and self-sacrifice are out, then how are people supposed to relate to one another? Through exchanges that promote mutual advantage, Rand says; it is what she called "trade"--in other words, as if each of the parties were businesses, not people. If all of this sounds like rationalizing self-centeredness to you, you are not alone. As the New York Times recently described it, Atlas Shrugged is "Ayn Rand’s glorification of the right of individuals to live entirely for their own interest."
Nevertheless, today Ayn Rand and her ideas enjoy a sort of cult following. (When we recently published a "BreakPoint" commentary about her at Townhall.com, it immediately garnered more than 200 comments, nearly all of them in vehement defense of Rand. I think I hit a nerve.) Many in the business community regard Atlas Shrugged as their bible.