Readers often say that reading Ayn Rand changed their lives. A few days ago, a young Turkish immigrant named Zuhal came to my apartment to interview me for a blog she writes and told me how encountering WE THE LIVING two summers ago changed her life: it inspired her to leave her family and friends in Turkey and move permanently to the United States. She wanted to be an American, free of the constraints of religion, superstition, and tradition. Specifically, she told me, when she read the ending scene of the novel, in which Kira, the heroine, risks death and perishes while trudging toward Soviet Russia’s border with the West and freedom, Zuhal made up her mind that, for her, living without freedom is not living at all.
During five years of writing a full-scale biography of the remarkable Ayn Rand, I, too, have been changed. I have learned to listen more carefully to the logic and quality of thought our politicians and social critics bring to their political and economic arguments. I’ve become convinced that individual rights make up our most important inheritance and that “unearned guilt” (in Rand’s apt phrase) and the propagation of political fear erode it. I have stopped thinking that “altruism” is an uncomplicated, entirely benign concept.
In the days and weeks to come, I’ll use this blog to write about the ways in which Ayn Rand has affected my thinking and that of others; political and moral questions she raises but does not answer to everyone’s satisfaction, including mine; and her still-powerful influence on large, important corners of our culture.
I’ll also post some of the comments about Rand and my book that I’ve seen on websites and in chat rooms that I think are wrong-minded in interesting ways. I’ll answer all gripes and divergent opinions and invite you to do the same–as well as state your own opinions–in a comments section.
My first blog will be on “What Conservatives Don’t Know about Ayn Rand.” I’ll post it on Saturday, March 6. I hope you’ll join me.