Review: Ayn Rand Nation, by Gary Weiss - The Objective Standard

Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul, by Gary Weiss. St. Martin’s Press, 2012. 304 pp. $24.99 (hardcover).

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The United States of America is heavily regulated and heavily taxed. For instance, in the “Dodd–Frank” Act—an 848-page federal law regulating almost every part of the U.S. financial services industry—one section, known as the “Volcker Rule,” lists 1,420 sub-questions that a bank must answer before it is allowed to engage in proprietary trading. Likewise, the Environmental Protection Agency dictates, among countless other things, where energy companies may and may not dig or drill for resources, how much and what kind of fuel or energy they may produce, and what kind of automobiles, air conditioners, and other machinery Americans may purchase and use. The list of federal laws and regulations goes on and on.

This, of course, is not news. It is widely known that the government controls every sector of the U.S. economy—and that government regulations are expanding. It is also widely known that every U.S. president for decades on end has signed into law more regulations dictating how corporations and industries may and may not conduct business. Gary Weiss, however, says “a U.S. president wouldn’t even think about injecting himself into the affairs of a major industry” (p. 140). His claims about Ayn Rand in Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul make as much sense.

Weiss believes that Ayn Rand’s ideas are driving a dangerous reverence for free markets in America. This, he says, motivated him to write Ayn Rand Nation.

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He begins the book by conceding that the left’s criticism of Ayn Rand and her philosophy, Objectivism, has been subpar and ineffective. “[D]ismissing Rand and her followers as cultists,” he says, “ignores the strength of her appeal for nearly seven decades—not to crackpots but to intelligent, educated, even brilliant people” (p. 20). Weiss implicitly promises to raise the bar of Ayn Rand criticism; to eschew the smears, the straw men, and the hearsay that are typical of Rand’s critics; and to deal with her ideas head on. If that is his aim, he certainly has a funny way of going about it. . . .

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