Saturday, June 03, 2006

Does the Name “Ayn Rand” Ring a Bell?

In his New York Times column of June 3, Joseph Nocera asks:

who among our better novelists has put business front and center? . . . Tom Wolfe comes to mind, of course; his first novel, "Bonfire of the Vanities," tackled Wall Street in the 1980's, while "A Man in Full," his second novel, had real estate as its backdrop. Surely, though, there must be others that are escaping me.

Does the name “Ayn Rand” ring a bell? You know, the author of Atlas Shrugged, the novel that describes the collapse of our entire civilization on the basis of its hostility to business and businessmen? It’s only sold several million copies and has reportedly had a more profound influence on more people in the United States than any other book ever written, with the exception of the Bible.

Perhaps Mr. Nocera is simply ignorant of these facts. If so, that should be considered astounding, given his position as a professional business writer who is presumably familiar with a wider intellectual world than exists within the confines of his newspaper and the universities which have shaped the minds of its personnel.

Or perhaps he is aware of these facts but simply chooses to ignore them. If this is the case, it would be a classic illustration of the mentality of those once aptly described as “an effete corps of impudent snobs.” That is, a collection of ignoramuses feigning knowledge while going back and forth between ignoring and ridiculing those, such as Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, who actually possess it.

There may also be a third possibility: a seemingly inexplicable failure of memory on Mr. Nocera’s part. If that is the case, let us hope for his sake that it is nothing more than a bizarre, isolated instance and not an indication of a developing permanent condition.

This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.