Government-Forced Reading? Ayn Rand's Ironic Influence on the GOP

4 years ago

Love or hate Ayn Rand, anyone whose read Atlas Shrugged sees the irony in an Idaho Republican lawmaker's symbolic bill forcing the reading of the novel in order for public school students to graduate.

When asked about the impetus, State Senator John Goedde stated his high-regard for the 1,000-page plus manifesto on "Objectivism": "That book made my son a Republican."

He later amended that his son is "not a practicing Republican. But it certainly made him a conservative."

Though fairly humorless, I'd like to imagine Rand chuckling in her grave.


August 20, 2012 - Irvine, CA, USA - Copies of ''Atlas Shrugged'' sit on a bookshelf at the Ayn Rand Institute (Credit Image: © Brian Cahn/


The Russian-born author and philosopher viewed politicians as weapons to push government agendas that directly undermined the working man.

She embraced a pure laissez-faire society. She did not believe in God, or any higher power. Her philosophy of Objectivism supports a self-interested lifestyle, one that puts the motives of one's gain first which should ultimately benefit the common good.

She worshipped at the feet of capitalism. Money.

To her, the world contained two types of inhabitants: unregulated capitialists and collective socialists.

These two forces collide in Atlas to disasterous results as top innovators and industrialists disappear while the heroine tries to solve the mystery: "Who is John Galt?"

In watching Rand's fascinating interview with the late, great Mike Wallace, she rejected the notion of government interferrence or force, which included taxation.

At its crescendo, Atlas Shrugged illustrated how more government caused societal and economic collapse devolving into a morally-corrupted impoverished chaos.

The dismal apocalyptic story casts a war of looters raiding the makers until there was nothing left to take. Looters included supporters of high taxation, big labor and the worst offender of all - government.

Making your own money is good. Taking someone else's money is bad. And government takes money.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter." - Atlas Shrugged

The Left likes to paint her as the patron saint of the Right.

That's hardly the case.

During the 2012 Presidential race, Republican running mate Rep. Paul Ryan backed away from his adoration of Rand upon being pressed on her godlessness.

Like political party platforms, adhering to the constraints of Objectivism is a tall order.

And even conservative literary giant William F. Buckley referred to the novel as "a thousand pages of ideological fabulism" that he had to "flog" himself to read.

No offense to the late Mr. Buckley, but boo-hoo.

As a literature student, reading some of my liberal-leaning professors' favorite works felt like some kind of sadomasochistic torture that I had to fake my way through to get a good grade.

I think I actually referred to Nightwood as transcendent. Blech.

Bottomline: Good art inspires discussion, and at 56-years-old, people are still vigorously debating the merits and importance of Rand's magnum opus.

Since the 2007 financial crisis, sales of the novel spiked in 2011 with 445,000 copies sold gaining it's second-strongest sales year in the book's history.

Such a resurgence in popularity means something. Some might suggest it's due to the rise of Tea Party influence, though I'd doubt those go hand in hand anymore than Republicans and Rand.

While Goedde doesn't "plan on moving this forward," it's interesting that his little state-level bill caught so much national ire.

The Daily Beast's headline and subheadline for Michael Moynihan's post struck me as a bit "let's burn the books." Not very open minded, if you ask me.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with inspiring young people to read works that challenge thinking and world views.

Believe it or not, some people still aren't fond of kids reading To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men - books listed both as banned books and required reading.

What say you? Should Atlas Shrugged be required reading? I'd love to hear your thoughts, in a completely self-interested sort of way.


~ Erica Holloway, BlogHer Contributing Editor

Follow me @erica_holloway.


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