Gold Dust Nations: The Ayn Rand effect.

Date01 January 2020
AuthorNormey, Rob

In 1977, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac sang "Gold Dust Woman,... take your sliver spoon, dig your grave." A mere two years later, Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister of Britain. She declared there is no such thing as society, and progressive politics based on democratic socialism must be defeated at every turn. Shortly thereafter, Ronald Reagan, a huge fan of the scriptwriter-turned-novelist Ayn Rand, became President in the biggest performance of his acting career. Although the Reagan Revolution entailed a war on drugs, the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine skyrocketed in the decade whose catchphrase was "greed is good." However, it is my contention that Reagan and his circle didn't need cocaine--they had the writings of the cult novelist Ayn Rand to offer a high every bit as exhilarating and potentially lethal (for their society).

Indeed, the legions of Rand fans must be inhaling some mysterious essence to continue propelling her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged to the top of the "most influential novels of all-time" charts. Sadly, in my view, such crude political (and legal) romances--which from start to finish extoll a 'survival of the fittest' mentality--have had a truly dangerous influence. This influence stretches beyond the attitudes of many readers to undoubtedly the practical philosophies of an astonishingly large number of powerful men and women in the worlds of politics and business.

After reading an excellent work of cultural criticism, I have gone back to struggling to work through the 1946 novel, The Fountainhead, with its uber-macho hero, architect Howard Roark. Before analyzing the role that the law and the wider legal system plays in Rand's novels, I want to first explore the massive influence a mere cult novelist has been able to exert. This is so even though her writing skills are mediocre at best. Nonetheless Rand injects directly into the bloodstream of readers a cascading, super-charged plot, and populates her novels with isolated, elitist protagonists. These apparently afford those under her spell the ultimate dopamine hit. Although said to be novels of idea, it is really their appeal below the surface of rational argument that one must dissect in order to make sense of the Rand phenomenon.

I want to focus on political developments in two of the major nations in the Anglophone world, the U.S. and Britain, and the significant role of Rand's novels in understanding the worldview of the Donald...

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