Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Rand-day!

Internationally beloved (and despised) philosophical and literary icon Ayn Rand turns 100 today, February 2nd. Of course, Rand has been dead since 1984, but her globally influential writings continue to impact millions daily. Reason magazine has devoted their March issue to Rand, including some interesting looks at her importance and her continual resurfacing in pop culture.

I have a particular affinity for Rand; my foray into her literature (beginning with Atlas Shrugged) was the initial catalyst for my current worldview. The sort of militant objectivism that Rand espoused has contributed in no small way to my evolution as a capitalist, an agnostic, an egoist, and a libertarian.

I don't claim that Rand had it all right, and I recognize her short comings. Obviously, she wasn't the greatest literary genius; at times her novels wax slightly too far towards Harlequin romance for me. Likewise, her formal training in philosophy was decidedly lacking. Her personal life was wrought with hypocrisies, and the philosophy she created, Objectivism, has a few gaps that Rand simply left unfilled.

Despite these problems, Rand contributed more to society than most care to admit. She renewed the importance of reason in a post-modern world sinking into a pit of absurdity. She reaffirmed that empiricism and objective facts existed, were important, and could be known. She reminded us that those things which we can't observe have no effect on our lives. She started the movement towards a more laissez-faire capitalism, one that has since been proved to be the most fair, equitable, and stable economic system ever conceived. She set the ball in motion towards putting government back in its place. She has inspired hundreds, even thousands, of libertarians to explore the path of freedom.

Most of all, though, Rand's work has had a significant impact on my life and thought (and, of course, being a follower of Rand, I realize that it is only my life that is truly important). For all of her shortcomings, Ayn Rand was perhaps one of the most influential people in the 20th century, and for that we honor her on this, her centennial.

Happy birthday, Ayn.

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