The NYT had a piece on the life and times of Ayn Rand yesterday, and I just couldn’t get over these two paragraphs.
For years, Rand’s message was attacked by intellectuals whom her circle labeled “do-gooders,” who argued that individuals should also work in the service of others. Her book was dismissed as an homage to greed. Gore Vidal described its philosophy as “nearly perfect in its immorality.”
But the book attracted a coterie of fans, some of them top corporate executives, who dared not speak of its impact except in private. When they read the book, often as college students, they now say, it gave form and substance to their inchoate thoughts, showing there is no conflict between private ambition and public benefit.
You see, I was also reading this MSNBC story about Kevin Trudeau (crank and quack extraordinaire) and his recent legal troubles with the FTC. You see, Trudeau sells books by telling people what they want to hear, whether it’s true or not. In this case, that you could follow his diet, and also eat all the food you want.
In both cases, the authors manage to sell people lots of books by telling people what they want to believe, rather than anything resembling the truth. In Trudeau’s case, that his quack cures will let you live forever and lose weight. In Ayn Rand’s case, that unenlightened self-interest is the highest form of moral behavior (side note – also that rape is consensual sex). It’s like “the Secret” for CEOs, total nonsense, but sure to sell.