The Monster of We : Throughline Are most modern problems caused by selfishness or a lack of it? Ayn Rand, a Russian American philosopher and writer, would say it's the latter — that selfishness is not a vice but a virtue — and that capitalism is the ideal system. Everyone from Donald Trump to Alan Greenspan to Brad Pitt have sung Ayn Rand's praises. The Library of Congress named her novel, Atlas Shrugged, the second most influential book in the U.S. after the Bible. Ayn Rand wasn't politically correct, she was belligerent and liked going against the grain. And although she lived by the doctrine of her own greatness, she was driven by the fear that she would never be good enough.

In this episode, historian Jennifer Burns will guide us through Rand's evolution and how she eventually reshaped American politics, becoming what Burns calls "a gateway drug to life on the right."

The Monster of We

The Monster of We

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Ayn Rand, Russian-born American novelist, is shown in Manhattan with the Grand Central Terminal building in background in 1962. ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ayn Rand, Russian-born American novelist, is shown in Manhattan with the Grand Central Terminal building in background in 1962.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Are most modern problems caused by selfishness or a lack of it? Ayn Rand, a Russian American philosopher and writer, would say it's the latter — that selfishness is not a vice but a virtue — and that capitalism is the ideal system. Everyone from Donald Trump, to Alan Greenspan, to Brad Pitt have sung Ayn Rand's praises. The Library of Congress named her novel Atlas Shrugged the second most influential book in the U.S. after the Bible. Ayn Rand wasn't politically correct, she was belligerent and liked going against the grain. And although she lived by the doctrine of her own greatness, she was driven by the fear that she would never be good enough.

In this episode, historian Jennifer Burns will guide us through Rand's evolution and how she eventually reshaped American politics, becoming what Burns calls "a gateway drug to life on the right."


If you want to read more:

Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, by Jennifer Burns

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

Correction Dec. 16, 2021

An earlier version of this piece mistakenly identified Paul Ryan as a former senator.