Ayn Rand recognized the important role music played in Western culture: “To the Western man, music is an intensely personal experience and a confirmation of his cognitive power.” The Russian composer, pianist, and conductor Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was Ayn Rand’s favorite composer. Rand paid homage to Rachmaninoff at the beginning of Part Four of The Fountainhead. In a brief, inspirational episode, she wrote about a young man riding a bicycle in rural Pennsylvania and contemplating a future as a composer. Rand must have felt affection for the young man. She gave him both her personal experience of music and her aesthetic judgment: “He had always wanted to write music, and he could give no other identity to the thing he sought. If you want to know what it is he told himself, listen to the first phrases of Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto – or the last movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second.”  After a chance meeting with the hero of The Fountainhead, Howard Roark, who was building the Monadnock Valley summer resort, the young man rode away with “the courage to face a lifetime,” as a composer. Rachmaninoff’s inspirational Piano Concerto No. 2premiered on November 9, 1901 in Moscow, Russia.
Ayn Rand had no love for war.  In a journal entry from 1946 she recognized that war was the purest expression of statism and the antithesis of rational self-interest: “Statism leads men to war because that is its nature. It is based on the principle of force, violence and compulsion. This means, on the principle of destruction.”  While “rationally selfish people do not start wars,” statist nations must: “Statism cannot maintain itself because it kills the productive activities of its own subjects; therefore it cannot exist for long without looting some freer, more productive country.” But Rand liked the military, although she disapproved of the military draft. During her lifetime, Rand made a point of speaking to military audiences. In 1972  she gave a talk at the U. S. Naval Academy that later became part of the curriculum there. Most famously, in 1974 she discussed philosophy with cadets at West Point Military Academy. That talk became the title essay of her book, Philosophy: Who Needs It. Anyone who has read her thoughtfully knows that Rand categorically endorsed government’s obligation to secure the individual’s right to self-defense, but her interest in the military went beyond that. Ayn Rand also admired and identified with the soldier on a personal...
As the midterm elections come and go, it is a good time to remember that Ayn Rand defended limited government.  She had concerns about just how limited, concerns which she addressed by drawing a clear line between might and rights: The only proper function of the government of a free country is to act as an agency which protects the individual’s rights, i.e., which protects the individual from physical violence. Such a government does not have the right to initiate the use of physical force against anyone–a right which the individual does not possess and, therefore, cannot delegate to any agency. But the individual does possess the right of self-defense and that is the right which he delegates to the government, for the purpose of an orderly, legally defined enforcement. A proper government has the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect men from criminals; the military forces, to protect men from foreign invaders; and the law courts, to protect men’s property and contracts from breach by force or fraud, and to settle disputes among men according to objectively defined laws. Author Wayne C. Grantham first read Ayn Rand in the 1970s, and he has been “very strongly influenced by her ideas and her philosophy” ever since. In his new futuristic novel,...
Gorillas are social animals that live in groups to help them survive. Males protect females and the offspring of the group. In a group of up to 30, only 1 to 4 are male adults. The rest are blackbacks (young males), adult females, and their offspring. All males get the silvery hair patch on their back when they reach adulthood, but only the strongest becomes the leader. The “Silverback” leader makes decisions, resolves conflicts, produces offspring, and defines and defends the home area. He assumes an exclusive right to mate with the females in the group. After reaching sexual maturity, both females and males often leave the group in which they were born to join another group. Males have to do it to avoid a conflict with the dominant leader over the females. Females leave to avoid the dominant male mating up with their female descendants–perhaps to prevent inbreeding! Evolution may have endowed them with species propagation instincts, besides individual survival. And all this happens without a self-reflective consciousness or sign language much beyond shrieks and grunts. In the Behavioral Ecology journal, Mark Moffett of the Smithsonian Institution describestwo methods used by different organisms to identify the members of their societies. In individual...
PBS announced the results of The Great American Read on October 23, 2018. Out of 100 novels, fans placed Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at the top of  the list of America’s favorite reads. Fans of Ayn Rand too had their say: Atlas Shrugged came in at number 20 -- indeed skyrocketing up from number 43 earlier in the competition, reflecting not just Rand’s enduring appeal, but resurgence in popularity. First published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged remained on The New York Times  Bestseller List for 21 weeks, peaking at number four. Sales of Atlas Shrugged averaged 74,000 copies per year in the 1980s; 95,300 copies per year in the 1990s; 167,098 copies per year in the 2000s, and 303,523 copies in the 2010s. In 2011 alone Atlas Shrugged sold 415,000 copies.  And Atlas Shrugged has made numerous “best of” lists. In 1991 the Book of the Month Club and Library of Congress asked readers to name the most influential book in their lives: Atlas Shrugged came in second only to the Bible.  The novel made the New York Public Library’s list of Best Books of the Century in 1996, and Radcliffe Publishing ranked it  92 out of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. In 1999, Atlas Shrugged was number 37 in the list of 100 Favorite Novels of Librarians. A Harris poll placed Atlas Shrugged on America’s Top 10 Favorite Book List in 2008, and The Modern Library ranked it the number...

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