I know my Ayn Rand. In fact, when it comes to Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism I'll put put my Ayn Cred up against almost anyone.
I attended her funeral in 1982. I was one of two students at experimental Objectivist high school back in 1980s. I did the audio taping on a lecture course taught by her 'intellectual heir', Leonard Peikoff. I've attended Objectivist conferences, owned first edition copies of Atlas Shrugged and I was personally kicked off the lawn of the Canadian power trio Rush's drummer by Neil Peart himself asserting his property rights.
Today, I realize that Rand's philosophy isn't just wrong or misguided - it's actually been destructive and dangerous.
This destructiveness has been true on a personal, human level for years. I'm not just talking about teenagers devouring The Virtue Of Selfishness and turning into belligerent, arrogant pricks - pubescent pontificating Penn Jillettes capable of quoting passages about epistemology and almost immediately killing any social occasion.
There were darker personal tragedies, too; fans of Ayn Rand in 1960s who had the misfortune to be in her circle and gay, something that Ms. Rand did not approve of. There were whispered rumors of an Objectivist therapist who broke with Rand after one of his gay patients committed suicide after being unable to reconcile his sexuality with the Objectivist philosophy.
It's even more than the shameful fact that the Objectivist movement and its purported belief in individual rights stayed completely on the sidelines during the Rand's intellectual heyday of the 1960s while the single biggest advance in individual liberty was going on - namely, the civil rights movement. Well, Rand did knock out a few pages in an article called Racism in 1963 that spent as much time blaming 'the Negro leaders' as it did the 'Southern Racists'.
No, the reality is that Ayn Rand is pretty directly responsible for the economic destruction we see around us today.
It's a Rand-worthy ironic plot twist that people like Michelle Malkin are invoking her name today with their Tea Party and "Going Galt' dramatics. One thing, Malkin doesn't even know how to pronounce Rand's name. It's not 'Ann' Rand - it's Ayn, rhymes with MINE.
The real irony is that Malkin and the other Fauxjectivists don't really understand a lot about the specifics of Rand's ideas at all. A twisted version of Rand's thought is the basis for a lot of NeoCon movement, much of the modern libertarian / Ron Paul movement and much of the right wing economic rhetoric used by the tattered remains of the Republican party.
For decades now, Rand's work has given comfort and ammunition to brazen bozos like Rush Limbaugh and McCain economic advisor Phil "Don't Worry Be Happy" Gramm. Its defense of selfishness and unrestricted capitalism provided an air of intellectualism to bad behavior and horrible policy.
Behind of the ideological tossed salad nature of many of the self professed Ayn Rand fans, I don't think it's fair to criticize Rand's ideas on the basis of the scatterbrain sloganeer like Malkin. And besides, just looking at the work of Rand and her official band of lunatics still leaves one with so much to be critical of.
One direct result of Rand is Alan Greenspan. This will be met with hue and cry from Objectivists who will claim that Greenspan doesn't pass their purity, which means he should have wanted even LESS regulation than he did and should have never have run the Federal Reserve but instead blown it up with dynamite and replaced it with the Gold Standard.
But Greenspan himself has admitted that he was tragically wrong about how people would act in unrestricted, unregulated markets. And this philosophy is part of what trigged the current economic crisis.
The ultimate horrible truth is that most of Rand's 'philosophy of the real world' has worked out very badly in the real world. It's a collection of ideas that haven't been tested or just don't work but its adherents still have a Bush-like unshakable faith in it because...well, it's just RIGHT and reality be damned.
Sadly, it's damned a lot of the rest of us, too.