I was recently browsing in my local Barnes & Noble bookstore, when I saw two interesting things on the magazine rack.
First, there was a cover story in National Review criticizing Ayn Rand. The essay began by quoting the famous “to a gas chamber — go!” line and then proceeded to argue that the scene in “Atlas Shrugged” in which the train full of looters crashes into the army train in the tunnel was Rand’s gas chamber, a call for the deaths of Rand’s enemies.
Second, I was amazed to see on the rack a physical copy of The Objective Standard, which to my understanding is a publication sanctioned by Leonard Peikoff’s dogmatist excommunicate-the-infidels Randroid sect, the Ayn Rand Institute (which I sometimes call Orthodox Objectivism, in contrast to the various Reform Objectivism sects).
I have no interest in either refuting the National Review article (it is too silly to bother with) or critiquing Orthodox Objectivism (I would need a full-length essay to do that justice). But I will say that the resurgent popularity of Rand, and the fact that her recent book sales have jumped, bodes well for libertarianism.
It was Rand who first led me to libertarian ideas, and I represent a persistent pattern: a smart young person reads her novels and discovers a heroic vision of capitalism, then becomes disillusioned with the cult-like obedience that Orthodox Objectivism demands and leaves Orthodox Objectivism for the broader, more open-minded libertarian movement. This pattern is no coincidence: it is the nature of Objectivism to appeal to people who are highly intelligent, but it is precisely this type of person who chafes at intellectual closed-mindedness.