Did Paul Ryan actually read Atlas Shrugged?

Who's Afraid of Ayn Rand?

On his blog The Conscience of a Liberal"The conscience of a ..." - one might add: in the American sense - "... liberals", commented Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman on the renaissance of a novel from the fifties several times with a quote from John Rogers, a screenwriter: "There are two novels, that can change the life of a fourteen-year-old bookworm: Lord of the rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that is often a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable

Hero causes what ends in an emotionally and socially crippled adult life and an inability to deal with the real world. The other, of course, includes orcs. " Such an obsession developed in addition to Mitt Romney's colleague in the presidential election campaign, Paul Ryan, greats such as Alan Greenspan, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, various Hollywood stars, but also a German entrepreneur who privately financed the translation and reprint of the book and thus made it possible for a German-speaking readership. to decide for herself how “childish” she thinks Rand's vision is.

In her novel worlds, bestselling author Ayn Rand (1905–1982) celebrates heroic entrepreneurs, engineers or architects who refuse to serve the community and, according to the principles of Rand's objectivism, only live according to their own ideas and ideals. Rand, born in St. Petersburg as Alisa Rosenbaum, took notes The Fountainhead (1943) and the thousand-page epic Atlas Shrugged (1957) those two novels that, according to US historian Jennifer Burns, are the “ultimate gateway drug for the political right” in America. Rand started out as a cloakroom and screenwriter in Hollywood, who spent all of her free time at the typewriter. After her debut novel We the Living (1936) received friendly reviews about life in post-revolutionary Russia The Fountainhead, the story of the visionary architect Howard Roark, only a bestseller through word of mouth. In 1968, the novelist and screenwriter Nora Ephron scoffed in an essay that the story of Roark was particularly popular with those readers who did not understand the novel. At Atlas Shrugged the message is too obvious; Better not to even start reading, because you won't be able to put the book down.

The message, which not only Ephron hoped not to spread in the first place, has so far only reached a few German-speaking readers: Von Atlas throws off the worldThat is the title of the first translation, fewer than two thousand copies sold after publication in 1959; a new edition from 1989 remained out of print. In 1997 a first new translation was published, Who is John Galt?on which now The strike from the publisher Kai M. John follows. The strike was originally the title that Ayn Rand wanted to give her epic, because a strike is the starting point of the story: What if all creative, entrepreneurial forces in the country simply go on strike? Strike, stop working, withdraw from society? In an America in which entrepreneurship, success and the willingness to take risks are not only inhibited by the government, but punished if necessary, one innovative head after another does this. While Dagny Taggart, heiress of a railway company, tries to revitalize her company in spite of all legal blockades and maneuvers, businessmen who were once similarly contentious disappear from the scene. They all answer the call of the man whom those left behind ask in their helplessness and resignation: Who is John Galt? John Galt is an engineer who invents a revolutionary motor. In view of social developments, however, he decides to “stop the engine of the world” and to show those who demonize economic success who is dependent on whom, who creates and who parasitizes. His credo is that of Ayn Rand and her philosophy, objectivism: "In my life and my love for life, I swear that I will never live for the sake of another person, nor will I ask anyone else to live for my sake." From this idea of ​​"rational egoism" Rand derives a rejection of all welfare state institutions and state market interventions, a yes to Laisser-faire capitalism from.

Ayn Rand's critics were reluctant - in addition to the writing style, which was dismissed as wooden and the stereotyped characters - above all the coldness and ruthlessness that they believed emanated from Rand's ideas. In a much-quoted review in conservative magazine National Review the respected intellectual Whittaker Chambers even said that he heard a voice from every page of the novel commanding with painful urgency: "Into the gas chamber - go!" American writer and recently deceased intellectual Gore Vidal double-checked, ruling that Rand's philosophy was almost perfect in its amorality. The founder of the National Review, William F. Buckley, Jr., judged - or rather, hoped - in his 1982 obituary for Ayn Rand that with her death, her philosophy was also done for. Buckley, however, ignored what the New York Times soberly noted in the 1980s in view of Rand's popularity in the Reagan administration: Many of Rand's ideas had long since become mainstream conservative. Ironically, Buckley ended up building in his novel too Getting It Right (2003) that even in the 21st century American readers are familiar with Rand and its world of ideas.

Gore Vidal shouldn't be far from the truth if he thinks Atlas Shrugged is arguably the only novel that all members of Congress have read - even today. In the past, people referred mainly to entrepreneurs like CNN founder Ted Turner, who in 1960 had the southern states of the USA covered with posters asking the famous question about John Galt. The most influential supporter was sometimes Alan Greenspan. As a 25-year-old advisor, he had already belonged to Rand's inner circle, allowed himself to be tricked by her as a "undertaker" and involved in long discussions. A conversation with Rand, he said later, was like a game of chess - you think you're on the right track, but then suddenly you'll be checkmated. He also defended Rand's work against critics who Atlas Shrugged referred to as a birth of hatred. Rather, the novel celebrates life and happiness: «Justice is inexorable. Creative individuals and unwavering determination and rationality bring joy and fulfillment. Parasites that have neither a goal nor use their minds rightly perish », he wrote to them New York Times. Over the years, Rand no longer saw Greenspan as a simple follower, but also as a kind of mentor who could expand her knowledge of economics and enrich her newsletter. Their esteem remained mutual throughout their lives: when Greenspan was sworn in by President Ford in 1974 as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Ayn Rand and her husband accompanied him to the White House along with his mother. It was only in his autobiography and in the light of the financial crisis that he distanced himself from his intellectual foster mother.

For others, however, the recent economic crisis in the USA was an occasion to (re) discover Rand for themselves. As early as February 2009, the weekly noticed The Economistthat Ayn Rand's work is experiencing a renaissance. The Amazon sales rank of Rand's main work, so registered The Economist, correlate with government intervention in the market. Whether bank bail-out or fiscal stimulus: whenever an economic measure has been announced, the sales figures are for Atlas Shrugged gone up. In 2009 the novel sold over half a million times, not least because supporters of libertarian ideas found a new political home, namely the Tea party-Move. TV reporter Rick Santelli, who kicked off the movement in 2009 with his rant about, in his opinion, irresponsible homeowners, is just as inspired by Ayn Rand as those who took part in the Tea party-Demonstrations with posters asking about John Galt. Rand was and is for them Tea party but not only the originator of this popular question, which unites protest and resignation, but also the source of ideas for organizations that are active in the background. That too Ayn Rand Institute, founded by Ayn Rand's heir, Leonard Peikoff, has now opened an office in Washington, D.C., and its director, Yaron Brook, was enthusiastic in 2011 Tea partyFollowers to theirs Policy Summit, in January 2013 he was on a European tour, where Rand is still largely unknown, including in Zurich. The popularity and importance of rands in the Tea partyMovement finally gave the atheist the title of "patron saint" of the movement.

While the press for the Tea party often only had ridicule left, other fringe supporters rather feed fears, as they once provoked the author during her lifetime. The Republican congressman and former aspirant for the vice presidency Paul Ryan had presented a draft budget for 2012 that circulated only as the "Ayn Rand budget" and was for many a testament to libertarian coldness. In his plan, preventive health care Medicare to reform and maintain the high-income tax breaks from the George W. Bush era, the believed Newsweek to recognize the spirit of Ayn Rand: weakening the poor and old, supporting the rich. Christian circles also took offense at Ryan's austerity plans, not least because they condemned the influence of an atheist on the Republican party. In fact, only shortly after Ryan's draft budget was published, a YouTube video of the American Values ​​Network, reminded the Conservative that Rand had been "against God" and that its continued popularity was correspondingly questionable. Ryan himself later felt compelled not only to revise his draft budget, but also to revise his admiration for Rand

"Who's afraid of Ayn Rand?" One is tempted to ask with reference to Edward Albee's play - and: rightly? Yes, at least says journalist Gary Weiss in his book Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul (2012). In it he traces people who have long been connected to Ayn ​​Rand, such as her former confidante and wife of her lover, Barbara Branden, as well as those who are both fascinated and repulsed by Rand, such as director Oliver Stone. One must fear, however, according to Weiss, above all those who intend to realize Rand's ideas, for example the director of the Ayn Rand Institute, who wrote one in a book together with Don Watkins Free Market Revolution (2012) or the former CEO of BB&T Bank, John Allison. Under his leadership, BB&T began to sponsor university courses on the history of ideas of capitalism, but on the condition that Ayn Rand's work be considered. Because of this interference in teaching content, many universities declined this grant, but others, such as Marshall University in West Virginia or the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, found it a good opportunity to expand their range of courses.

Gary Weiss warns of an America that subscribes to Ayn ​​Rand's ethics of rational selfishness. Rand supporters like Julian Assange from Wikileaks or the CEO of the organic supermarket chain WholeFoods, John Mackey, does not appear in this and similar negative reports, nor does Rand's role as a source of inspiration for creative people. As in the business world, edge has a permanent place in American pop culture. When the youngest offspring of the yellow cartoon family Simpsons, the otherwise mute Maggie, prepares to speak for the first time, she takes on the role of Howard Roark. The day care center that Maggie is entrusted with in one episode is exactly that Ayn Rand School for Tots, in which a woman with a strict hairstyle and a suspiciously Russian accent is the iron Fountainhead Diet interspersed. Meanwhile, Steve Ditko, once a draftsman for Spiderman, With Mr A a masked objectivist who in turn is the creator of the cult comic Watchmen, Alan Moore, inspired. Rand also penetrated the world of computer games, especially that of BioShock, where “Fountainhead Cabernet Sauvignon” is drunk and posters “Who is Atlas?” ask. And finally, there is a book by Ayn Rand on the desk of one of the main characters in the cult series Mad Men, and the teenage heroine of the popular series Gilmore Girls tries to convince her boyfriend to give Rand's novels a second chance while in Woody Allen's To Rome with Love (2012) Monica says she would do anything with Howard Roark for one night. But not only fictional architects like the young man Woody Allen dreams of the enthusiastic Monica can be found in Rand's heroes, but also real stars of the scene like Zaha Hadid. In the German-speaking area there are few well-known admirers of the Rand - the new translation of Atlas Shrugged may not change this, but hopefully will bring Rand's work back the attention it deserves due to its effectiveness.