Rodney Nelson, Fargo
Readers wanting to understand certain odd political phenomena of the day may want to look at Gary Weiss' new book, "Ayn Rand Nation: the hidden struggle for America's soul."
I did not know that Rand's doctrine of "objectivism" had become popular again, notably with tea partiers and on the other far right of the GOP.
Objectivism calls for no government (excepting police, courts of law and the military); no regulation; no Medicare or Medicaid; and no public libraries, schools, hospitals or anything. Rand and her associates, among them Alan Greenspan, maintained that it was a philosophy. However, it has the earmarks of an evangelizing faith.
A key tenet is atheism. So Rand did not have a problem giving one of her tracts the uncharitable-sounding title "The Virtue of Selfishness," claiming that the dictionary defined the latter as a mere concern with one's own interest but leaving out the key part: "without regard for others.'"
Objectivism has retained the fervor of Judeo-Christian ethical teachings but ditched their content. It lets one be antisocial and greedy and feel good about it. I wonder how deeply it's been able to affect the American religious right.
According to Weiss, Greenspan imported Rand's ideas to Washington, where they underlay the financial crisis of 2008.
I read Rand's melodramatic novels some time ago and took them as propaganda, which robot-like, humorless characters were made to mouth-recitativos to be laughed at and forgotten.
Weiss' book gives me a heads-up-objectivism is at work in the politics of 2012-and a reminder that in every American soul there is an eager, bemused post-adolescent awaiting some word.