The first time I read Ayn Rand was when I was in high school. I do not remember whether it was Atlas Shrugged or Fountainhead. However, I certainly remember what I came back with, my synopsis: “It takes a lot of words to fool the world”.
I recently decided to revisit Fountainhead to see what has changed in me after so many years. Surprisingly, not much has changed. The only difference is that now I understand why Ayn Rand is a complete bullshit. I now understand her philosophy for what it really is: a philosophy of barbarians that is completely unsuitable for civic life.
I don’t work with collectives. I don’t consult. I don’t co-operate. I don’t collaborate.
~ Howard Roark, while refusing the commission to build a building.
Read the above sentence and understand the magic of Ayn Rand. She manages to portray the most repugnant qualities in a positive way. Everyone would love to identify with the person who walks the higher ground and accepts commission only on his own terms.
However, think again! Will this attitude work in real life? In real life, one has to talk to people; one has to collaborate, exchange ideas. There is a reason why democracy is a better form of government than authoritarian governments that do not consult or collaborate.
It is highly doubtful whether Ayn Rand puts much belief in democracy. She is a barbarian philosopher, otherwise why would she make her lead female character fall in love with her rapist? Why would she depict a certain level of ‘dryness’ in all the relationships? There is a good reason for this. Such personalities are a logical outcome of her anti-social philosophy.
The novel does not even have any literary value; the characters are clear-cut, black and white, they always do what is expected of them, and there is no shade of grey involved. Another problem with the novel is that in the midst of this propaganda, the author has completely forgotten about the story line. The author criticizes the poor (they are poor because they are too lazy to work) in the beginning of book and then allows Howard Roark build a housing project for a low-income group after around 400 pages. When the Gail Wynand character enters the story there is a lot of talk of his ownership of multiple newspapers and magazines across the country. Those references to multiple magazines are then completely lost and the story loses flow as it is told as though he owns a single newspaper, Banner — only to see that references to his large empire come back in the end of the book.
This book could have been much better; it could have been about the great conflict between different philosophies, intellectual encounters. However, the author has conveniently stayed clear of argument between equals — perhaps because Ms. Rand believed she had no equals; the plot’s dialogues are constructed in such a way that libertarian characters walk the high moral ground and everyone else is wimpy, old fashioned and against progress.
Ayn Rand is an intellectual fraud who has gone virtually unchallenged for too long a time. In the same context one should also note that given that all of her talk about man not being dependent on the state, Ayn Rand herself was a fraud in that she collected Social Security and Medicare benefits (like the ‘lazy poor and middle-class’ people she despised) before her death. Hypocrisy at its worst — and the best example the Right has of ‘Do as I say, not as I do’.
The book in question is: