ONTD Political

Consumer spending in the United States may be down, but an interest in Ayn Rand certainly is not. Sales of Rand's last novel, the vigorously pro-capitalism fable Atlas Shrugged, have seen a huge leap in 2009, briefly outperforming even President Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope on Amazon's best-seller list. Few 1,000-page, half-century-old tomes can claim so much.

At tea parties and town halls nationwide, amid outrage over government bailouts of Wall Street banks and Detroit carmakers and the supposed socialization of health care, protesters speak of "going Galt," refusing to work in what they see as a socialist economy, just as Rand's hero John Galt did. Even the mea culpa of Rand's most famous fan and follower, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, has done little to dent the appeal of her radical individualism and libertarianism, which Rand shaped into a philosophy she called Objectivism. But all this makes a certain amount of sense. Perhaps more surprising is the Ayn Rand boom that is building in another mass democracy: India.

Not only do Indians perform more Google searches for Rand than citizens of any country in the world except the United States, but Penguin Books India has sold an impressive number of copies -- as many as 50,000 of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead each since 2005, a number comparable to sales there by global best-seller John Grisham. And that's not counting the ubiquitous pirated copies of her works that are hawked at rickety street stalls, sidewalk piles, and bus stations -- an honor that Rand, a fierce defender of intellectual property rights, probably would not have appreciated.

As modern India continues to undergo seismic economic and cultural shifts, not to mention the current global recession, Rand is emerging as a touchstone for a new generation. For many Indians, she is a tonic of modernization, helping to inspire a break with India's collectivist, socialist past. Rand's mixture of capitalist boosterism and self-empowerment is an irresistible combination for a range of Indians, from think-tankers to corporate barons to pop stars.

Rand's celebration of independence and personal autonomy has proven to be powerfully subversive in a culture that places great emphasis on conforming to the dictates of family, religion, and tradition. Gargi Rawat, a correspondent and news anchor for top tv channel ndtv and a former Rand admirer, says Rand's theory of the supremacy of reason and the virtue of selfishness adds up to "the antithesis" of Indian culture, which explains the attraction for Rawat in her youth and for many rebellious Indian teens today.

Unlike in the United States, Rand's most popular novel in India-anecdotally at least-is not the overtly political Atlas Shrugged, but her earlier novel, The Fountainhead, in which Rand's political views are muted. The novel tells the story of Howard Roark, an architect who refuses to compromise his designs for clients or the public in a heroic expression of personal will. It is Rand's most accessible work, and also the one that makes the strongest emotional appeal to those who feel suppressed by attempts to put the collective ahead of the individual.

In recent years, the so-called "Howard Roark effect" has swept across wealthy Indian society. Shortly after winning Miss India Earth, the country's top beauty pageant, in 2005, Niharika Singh cited The Fountainhead as her favorite book. "Ayn Rand helped me win the crown," she declared. Other stars, including biotech queen Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, actress Preity Zinta, and soccer-player-turned-dancer Baichung Bhutia have all credited Rand with helping them succeed.

Beyond personal inspiration, however, the Indian excitement for Rand today is linked to a larger enthusiasm for the country's inchoate but powerful drive for development and wealth. Since the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, India has seen a gradual shift away from socialism, much appreciated by Rand's fans. Vikram Bajaj, a 45-year-old entrepreneur who considers himself an objectivist, has lived through Rand's evolution from an ignored outsider to a popular prophet of capitalism. When he discovered Rand, taxation rates for high earners were hovering at 85 percent of income; now, with her books widely available, that upper rate is only 30 percent.

Barun Mitra is the founder and director of the Liberty Institute, which hopes to be India's equivalent of the United States' libertarian Cato Institute and has recently received a grant from an American foundation to launch a Web initiative promoting "Ayn Rand in India." He has been a Rand devotee since the early 1980s and even met his wife through a Rand discussion group.

To Mitra, Rand offers a blueprint for India to develop as a democratic and capitalist society at the same time. He hopes that Rand and her libertarian doctrines can enable India to provide a counterexample to the so-called "Asian model" of economic development, which holds that a certain level of authoritarian government and stifled liberty is a prerequisite for a surging economy. If India can achieve double-digit growth while remaining democratic, Mitra thinks, it could become a model for the rest of the world. Rand's philosophy, Mitra says, can help Indians "moor ourselves to fundamental economic and moral principles."

It's unclear whether Rand will ever become the definitive textbook of modernization for India: Her ideas about religion, capitalism, and society are too anathema to India's traditional culture ever to be adopted completely. But Rand will continue to inspire India's emerging creative class and corporate titans, not to mention the ambitious youth who make up her most passionate fan base, in India as around the world. For those fans, Ayn Rand is truly a prophet of things to come.

SOURCE isn't full of Libertarians

For a month or so in high school, I was a hardcore Randian. How many of you had a Rand phase?
Page 4 of 4
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] >>
dwer 20th-Oct-2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
50,000 copies in a country with 1.1 billion people.


I had a Rand phase. Lasted for the two days it took me to struggle through the first half of the Fountainhead, and then I said "this is utter crap" and I threw the book out. I NEVER throw books out. I still have the bible I was given for my confirmation, and I stopped being a christian 20 years ago. But this one, I threw out.

Randism is crap. But 50,000 out of a billion isn't much of a concern.
evildevil 20th-Oct-2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
I dont promote book burning... but there are exceptions...
mercystars 20th-Oct-2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
I'm still trying to fathom the Christian Right's embrace of Ayn Rand.
imnotasquirrel 20th-Oct-2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
??? Is this really true? Speaking as someone who identifies as Christian (although I'm not especially devout, I'll admit), I haven't met too many Christians, if any, who were fans of Ayn Rand. I would think that a lot of Christians would reject Rand's philosophy of not helping others. For all of our faults, many of us at least believe in the virtue of doing good unto others. :P Plus, there's Rand's militant individualism, which I think a lot of more rightwing Christians would reject as well, because aren't they all about conformity? Like...I can't see the Duggars getting all Objectivist on us.

Most of the Objectivists I've met have either been atheist or agnostic. Just my personal experience, though.
mercystars 20th-Oct-2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Yep. Your guess is as good as mine as to why many of them have chosen to cherry-pick from this philosophy, but with the compassion issue that you mention (doing good unto others, as Jesus Himself commanded His followers), it appears to be more about them deciding who deserves compassion and who does not, i.e, the unborn fetus of a woman pregnant out of wedlock would be deserving of compassion, while the woman herself would be condemned for her sin of fornication and deemed unworthy of the same consideration. A prime example of this type of thinking would be Fred Phelps and his band of self-proclaimed Christians showing up at various funerals and gloating over the deceased for whatever reason.

Here is an interesting article on the subject written by Ohio State professor Cynthia Burack. It's quite long but is a very worthy read:


Also interesting to note, the Ayn Rand Center For Individual Rights rejects the Christian right completely, specifically their stances on abortion, stem cell research, and right-to-die issues:

imnotasquirrel 20th-Oct-2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link!
automat 20th-Oct-2009 07:59 pm (UTC)
a few weeks ago, I went to go see this play at a Christian church called Guy Agnostico ('supposed' agnostic interviews adam and eve, king david, and Thomas Aquinas and debates the existance of God. massive fail loaded with strawman arguments) and the agnostic/Richard-Dawkins look alike argued that all atheists and agnostics are Ayn Rand loving Objectivists. I had a massive WTFOHELLNO face while watching this.

The guy who played the agnostic is an Evangelical Christian and writes Conservative opinion articles for the Des Moines Register. So I guess not all conservatives love her.
doctoreon 20th-Oct-2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
For a month or so in high school, I was a hardcore Randian. How many of you had a Rand phase?

I might have done stupid things when I was younger, but I was never bug-fuck crazy.
flowerings 20th-Oct-2009 06:40 pm (UTC)
I never had a Rand phase.
biichan 20th-Oct-2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
Never had a Rand phases. Did have a L Neil Smith phase, but that's because his brand of scifi libertarianism had talking chimps, bouncy pastel sidewalks, and people blowing up Venus to make an extra asteroid belt.
bluetooth16 20th-Oct-2009 08:19 pm (UTC)

*runs to Amazon to investigate this awesome clash of politics and fandom*
ateenwriter 20th-Oct-2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
We actually just finished reading The Anthem in my lit class. I liked it which was a surprise. lol
matthias_wave 21st-Oct-2009 12:28 am (UTC)
I wasn't forced to read Rand in high school, possibly because we actually read halfway decent novels in Lit class. Wasn't even offered as an option on any of the "choose-which-book-to-read" things.

Judging from the comments here, I should probably be grateful.
mercat 21st-Oct-2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
NGL I love the Fountainhead but that is 99% likely because I wanted to be an architect. I've never really understood her political side.
Page 4 of 4
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] >>
This page was loaded Jul 21st 2019, 1:17 pm GMT.