There is a good article in Forbes today, titled “Atlas Shrugs Again,” by Marc Babej and Tim Pollack, focusing on the recent swell of interest in Ayn Rand’s ideas and on what it takes to “market something as amorphous as a [philosophical] movement.” After citing some of the recent items that have brought attention to Ayn Rand—from Alan Greenspan’s autobiography to New York Times and LA Times articles to TV mentions to the pending Atlas Shrugged movie—the writers ask Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute and a contributing editor to The Objective Standard, “Why the sudden interest in Any Rand?” Brook gives two reasons:
"First, she never really went away. Many who read the books when they were young, in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, are now confident enough to say that Ayn Rand is their favorite author, and they have the means to donate to the institute. That's enabled us to promote objectivism more aggressively."
Second, Brook cites what he calls a cultural vacuum: "Today's left doesn't have anything positive to offer to young people. When they were socialists, there was at least something they were fighting for, and they believed in a right and a wrong. Today's leftist agenda is negative and nihilistic—focused on stopping industrialization, capitalism and even Western civilization. But young people want positive values. That's why religion is so strong today, because many view it as the only thing that promises a brighter future."
According to Brook, this gap between liberalism and religious conservatism goes far to explain the surge in interest." Ayn Rand is the only voice that offers a secular absolutist morality with a positive vision and agenda, for individuals and for society as a whole," he says.
This is true, and while today’s relativists and religionists are increasingly sensing the threat that Ayn Rand’s observation-based ideas pose to their fantasy philosophies, many active-minded people are discovering the rational alternative to liberalism and conservatism.
Babej and Pollack offer some good advice for marketing Objectivism:
—Choose a fertile target. For objectivists [sic], this means conservatives who aren't comfortable with the religious right and feel alienated and orphaned. Objectivists can attract this audience with a moral argument for capitalism and individual rights by showing that free markets and individual choice aren't just smart and practical, but also moral.
—Activate your natural supporters. Objectivism is a natural fit for businessmen because it not only tolerates, but extols them. Fortune 500 CEOs can become to objectivism what movie stars are to Scientology and Kabalah [CB: with the added bonus that Objectivism is true rather than ridiculous]….
—Accentuate the positive. It's easy to be a naysayer. It's harder, but much more rewarding, to offer hope. To win hearts and minds, objectivists need to show not only why they're right, but how to get from here to there.
—Pick your controversies selectively, and don't be afraid to court the controversies you pick. Conservative Republicans have dominated presidential politics for over half a century by deftly capitalizing on wedge issues—the latest example being same-sex marriage. Objectivists would do well to steal a page from that playbook by picking a battle on a specific issue in the area of individual rights.
Read the whole thing.
There is also an article in today’s Orange County Register about the fiftieth anniversary of Atlas Shrugged. This piece is worth reading too, but don’t go there unless you can laugh off the absurdity of an English professor who says that Atlas is “sloppy and it's exuberant and it's overwritten and it's melodramatic”—and who likens the novel to Catcher in the Rye(!).