The Right Coast

February 02, 2005
Ayn Rand at 100
By Mike Rappaport

Today is the 100th anniversary of Ayn Rand's birth. While it is fashionable in many quarters to scoff at her work, there is no doubt that she was a writer of great power who had many important and original insights. Tyler Cowan discusses some of her hits and misses here. In my view, the most glaring omission in Rand's work was her failure to appreciate the role and importance of children. Of course, no children or parents are important players in her novels. But it is also that her philosophy does not recognize the significance of the fact that parents are willing to die for their children the instant they are born (if not before), although the children have done nothing to earn or be worthy of that respect. Evolutionary psychology does a far better job of understanding this aspect of the human psyche.

For me, though, Rand was important because she exposed me to arguments in favor of capitalism at a time when I had really only seen arguments against it. When I was 17, in the late 1970s, in a very liberal part of New York City, I had only been exposed to very liberal points of view. Thus, I was a civil libertarian/ democratic socialist. Rand made me aware that the arguments for civil libertarianism could also be applied to property rights. Once I saw that, I was better prepared to be more open to consequentialist arguments about how markets worked. Thus, Rand opened my mind so that I could appreciate Friedman and Hayek.