The Ayn Rand Deprogrammer: A More Twisted Crime and Punishment


I really appreciate all of the suggested texts submitted for the Ayn Rand Deprogrammer. If you visit the comment thread, you’ll see that the inevitable happened: Objectivists tried to hijack the discussion. I say ignore them. Eyes on the prize: a solid Ayn Rand Deprogrammer. Any distraction will slow us down, and delay publication of forthcoming projects, the Hayek Deprogrammer and the Milton Friedman Deprogrammer.

I am going to bundle up all the good suggestions made by commenters. But here is one that no one else has found. Written in 1957, it is clear eyed and prescient book review of Atlas Shrugged appearing in Harper’s Magazine. I quote it in its entirety.

Paul Murphy Pickrel: Review of Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand’s new novel, Atlas Shrugged (Random House, $6.95), is longer than life and twice as preposterous. Of its 1,168 pages (plus two pages at the end “About the Author” that the prospective reader would be well advised to tackle first) I have read only 300; to read even so much was a triumph of Will over Inclination, but then Will knew when it was licked. From my 300 pages I did not discover why the book bears the title it does, but I found out everything else that I regard as necessary to know about it.

As far as I got, only one idea emerged for me from Miss Rand’s book, and that one, in my opinion, pernicious. The idea is this: there are certain people of such extraordinary talent that they should be permitted unlimited license to work their will in the world. This would not have been a bad point of departure for a novel–Dostoevski, staring out with a character who believed the same thing, explored and developed the idea to write a great novel, Crime and Punishment. But, as far as I read, Miss Rand explored and developed nothing; she simply stated and restated and then stated again. Her characters have no spontaneity or individuality, they are simply creatures of her didactic purpose. The scenes do not unfold a story; they simply illustrate a point.

Yet the book will probably give pleasure to some readers. It makes life wonderfully simple, and in a way that is agreeable to many of us, probably to all of us at some moment in our lives: according to its argument there is no contradiction or strain between man’s inner life and his social role, for unrestrained egoism solves all problems. In addition, Miss Rand is able to enlist some of the more disreputable human emotions–hatred, contempt, anger–in a pretty powerful way. Oddly enough, though I do not believe in her characters for a moment, I do believe in their wrath.

I think Pickrel nails it with the comparison to Crime and Punishment. And his last sentences–the idea that he doesn’t believe in Rand’s characters, but in their wrath, is consonant with my experiences. Rand’s characters are Übermensch; in reality, people committed to this philosophy fall far short. They’re usually ineffectual people who blame the government for their problems. At the same time, their wrath, their hatred for government and for others is pathological.