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Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul Paperback – 5 Feb 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Griffin; Reprint edition (5 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250022312
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250022318
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 894,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Ayn Rand Nation Thirty years after her death in March 1982, Ayn Rand's ideas have never been more important. In "Ayn Rand Nation," Weiss explores the people and institutions that continue to be heavily influenced by Rand's work, particularly in the current political and economic climate.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jazzrook TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
This well-researched and even handed book is a chilling account of the resurgence of Ayn Rand's extreme rightwing Objectivist 'philosophy' which exerts a powerful influence on Wall Street, the Republican Party and its presidential candidates.
Basically the tenets of Ayn Rand's Objectivist doctrine are:

No government except the police, courts of law and the armed services.
No regulation of anything by any government.
No Medicare or Medicaid.
No Social Security.
No public schools or public anything.

'Ayn Rand Nation' is a revealing and timely book that should be read by anyone interested in where America could be heading.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful By JHvW on 7 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book came quickly and as promised. It is not available in the Netherlands yet, so buying this in the UK, at the offered price was defenitely a good buy. Would buy from this seller again. As the book was bought as a gift for an American friend who introduced me to the writings of Ayn Rand in University, I have not read the book.
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Amazon.com: 55 reviews
131 of 172 people found the following review helpful
Detailed Answer to One Question: Who are These Guys? 9 Mar. 2012
By Gordon Burkowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", the two are being tracked by a posse and Paul Newman asks Robert Redford: "Who are these guys?" The answer: a very formidable group whom they had fatally underestimated. Gary Weiss asks the same question about readers of Ayn Rand - and comes up with the same answer that is given in the movie.

Nearly 55 years after it first appeared, more than a half million new copies of Atlas Shrugged are being printed every year. A lot of these are freebies from the Ayn Rand Institute, but hundreds of thousands of them are not. Weiss asks the question: who are the men and women who are enthusiastic about Ayn Rand? And why?

Weiss seeks an answer by interviewing or writing about a very broad cross-section of Ayn Rand's admirers. He spoke to both Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute and David Kelley of the Atlas Society (given their mutual enmity, that's quite an achievement in itself). He also spoke to old guard Objectivists from the '50's and '60's, including well known figures like Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. Given Weiss's book on the 2008 economic meltdown, it is not surprising that he also gives considerable and highly critical attention to Alan Greenspan. Alan Greenspan's 50 year commitment to Rand's moral and economic precepts is by no means as well known as it should be; nor is it well known that Ayn Rand encouraged him to move into a position of power in government.

We also have a profile in Chapter 2 of Iris Belle, a lesser known figure from the 1960's. This chapter is required reading for anyone who follows the controversies surrounding the picture of Ayn Rand that emerges from the best known biographies. It provides further documentation of the ridiculous attempts by the Ayn Rand Institute to airbrush evidence regarding the near-totalitarian bent of Rand and her first adherents during the early 1960's.

However, Weiss's book is no historical study. His primary focus is on admirers of Ayn Rand from this generation - many of whom played a key role in the Republican landslide of 2010. Some are convinced Objectivists: people whose frame of reference is fully provided by Ayn Rand's novels and by her philosophy. But Weiss doesn't stop there. He also spoke to many people who wouldn't consider themselves Objectivists by any means, but who have been heavily influenced by Atlas Shrugged and to a lesser extent by Rand's other writings. And in Chapter 17, he interviews Oliver Stone (no kidding), who for years was planning a remake of The Fountainhead. (Warning to Objectivists: take a couple of tranquilizers before you read this chapter.)

Both the positive and negative reviews I have seen so far seem to me to give a quite erroneous impression of how Weiss profiles all of these people. He's a liberal and makes no bones about it; he's strongly opposed to Randian politics, ethics and philosophy; and he isn't shy about letting you know it. But he respects his interviewees and gives a good sense of why Rand has been such a huge influence in their lives. He says that he enjoys the company of Objectivists and I believe him. He's not presenting a gallery of caricatures: these are real and often extremely successful people. If you're looking for the frequently seen stereotype of the Ayn Rand fan - a teenage loner who becomes a fanatical Objectivist for ten years before finding a new fad - you're reading the wrong book.

Behind all these profiles are a few over-arching themes. First, Weiss shows that Atlas Shrugged exerts an influence over people who aren't Objectivist. Rand was an atheist who considered religious belief at least as dangerous and irrational as a commitment to Socialism: she would have been appalled to be linked in any way to someone like Glenn Beck. Yet Weiss spoke to lots of folk who had no hesitation about holding the Bible in one hand and Atlas Shrugged in the other. The answer he offers is that Ayn Rand's novels dramatically affirm a number of keystone American values: independence, creativity, self-reliance, and above all a permanent distrust of government and all its works. Many look no further - and don't check what else is in the package.

That leads to a second Weiss theme: that huge numbers of Tea Party adherents are angry at the way things are, but have no coherent intellectual framework to help them focus and justify their reactions. Objectivists do. They are the ideological part of the right wing and their clarity about what they believe gives them a power far out of proportion to their numbers. This approach is of course a right wing mirror image of the tactics used by Communists against Socialists in the 1920's and 1930's. In the 1936 edition of We the Living, a novel set in Soviet Russia, Ayn Rand's heroine says to a Communist: "I loathe your ideals; I admire your methods." Those at the cutting edge of Objectivism might claim to disagree with this; their actions say otherwise.

Finally and most importantly, Weiss makes clear what every Objectivist knows, but which few others seem to care about - that Rand is presenting a moral argument for laissez-faire capitalism: no Social Security or Medicare, no public road system, no fire departments, no parks, no building codes, no financial regulation - a government consisting of nothing but police, armies and law courts. Rand believes that a government which does more than these three functions is not simply impractical or too expensive: to use her exact word, it is evil. Weiss maintains that this moral argument has to be directly confronted - and defeated. It will be exhilarating to watch this moral debate if it ever takes place. But given the current state of political discussion in America, my answer would have to be: don't hang from a rope waiting for it to happen.
22 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Interesting as Journalism, Not as Argument! 23 Mar. 2012
By Kevin Currie-Knight - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Ayn Rand has experienced a renewal of public interest lately. Members of the Ayn Rand Institute appear regularly on news shows (generally of the conservative variety); Atlas Shrugged has been made into a movie; and there have been several recent books (interestingly, all by people with limited sympathies for Rand and objectivism).

From the time it came out, I was immensely curious about Gary Weiss's book. I am probably a bit more sympathetic than Weiss is to Rand and objectivism (which I find absurd to capitalize). I can assure readers that those hoping for a glowing portrayal of Rand and objectivism will be disappointed... but then again, so will readers hoping for either a fair portrayal, a portrayal without constant low blows and ad hominem "arguments," and those hoping for any real argument at all. Weiss is a journalist and his specialty seems to be rhetoric. And honestly, his rhetoric is quite good much of the time, but it is rhetoric nonetheless.

I think the concept of this book is VERY interesting; what happens when a non-objectivist wants to find out what objectivism is all about, why Rand is enjoying such a surge in popularity, and what the big deal seems to be. Toward that end, Weiss devotes different chapters to interviews with different people with connections to Rand and objectivism: from the big whigs like Yaron Brook, David Kelley, Nathaniel Branden, etc, to casual folk who are tea party members inspired by Rand. (The last chapter, interestingly, interviews Oliver Stone, who in a very bizarre pairing, was once working on a film remake of The Fountainhead, much to the Rand Institute's dismay.) These chapters are quite interesting, and anyone who shares Weiss's curiosity (whether sympathetic to Rand and objectivism or not) should be excited to read these chapters.

I suppose the flaw in them comes from Weiss's tendency to dismiss many of the comments from interviewees with what, at best, seem to be one-liners. Several times, for instance, Weiss dismisses objectivism as anti-empirical, suggesting that objectivists just get the facts wrong. But to say that, one must really provide a decent argument as to what the facts are, which Weiss really doesn't do. Of course, maybe he thinks that would side-track the book and that interested readers can find the facts elsewhere. Fine; but don't expect no one to call you on calling objectivists anti-empirical and then not following it up with anything. Also, many of the facts Weiss seems to imply are just so obvious are actually quite contentious: did banks banks bear all the blame for the recent recession, or did low government interest rates and unstated promises of bailouts have something to do with it? Weiss believes that the former is just uncontroversial truth; it isn't. At very least, both interpretations have some viability, and by pretending that the truth is just obvious, Weiss ends up just as dogmatic as the objectivists he complains are being dogmatic and one-sided.

The other flaw in the book was that Weiss is so desperate to make his case that Rand is the "first teabagger," that he fits a square peg into a round hole. Weiss is on a quest to find those tea party members who are hardcore, tried and true objectivists. So, he interviews one, and finds that they are not as hardcore as he thought. Then he interviews another, and finds the same, and a third, and finds the same. But he persists in suggesting that there is a really big connection between Rand's philosophy and objectivism, even while giving us several chapters where, at best, he only finds very loose and tenuous connections. Is this journalistic objectivity? More likely, it is a journalist determined to make the facts fit his theory. But objectivism is the anti-empirical party, right?

Be all this as it may, I am giving the book three stars, because Weiss is a good writer, this is a really interesting project, and Weiss does score some points. One is the point about the Rand Institute's simultaneous glorification of the profit motive while being a non-profit organization, and their simultaneous decrying of public schooling while offering money to public school teachers to teach Rand in public schoolrooms. Another point I think is valid (and I say this as a market libertarian) is the repeated questioning of the sharp dichotomy between evil government actors and noble private actors; government actors are portrayed as immoral looters but private actors are not only noble and honest, but a persecuted minority that is positively disadvantaged! (Weiss also notices that Rand's case against altruism relies more on extremizing what is meant by altruism (complete denial of sense of self, desire for death!) to the point where it becomes one of sheer rhetoric.)

Anyhow, I really did enjoy the book, but I will warn folks that while Weiss is a good writer, anyone sympathetic to Rand or objectivism (or even libertarianism, for that matter) will experience some pretty low blows. But, I have to give the book three stars because I think the positives - the sheer intriguingness of the subject matter - makes up for the negatives enough to break evn.
26 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A very prolonged Ad Hominem 7 Jan. 2013
By A. Holley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
To quote Hayashi's review of this mess:

"Weiss mocks Rand's principle that self-interest is a virtue, not by reference to the kinds of examples and characters Rand provides in abundance in support of her idea, but, rather, by claiming that bailed-out bankers and well-paid government bureaucrats were acting in their "self-interest" as they collected the loot.

Although in Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand does show businessmen being bailed out and bureaucrats getting fat on the public dole, Weiss somehow missed the fact that these are not the heroes of the book but the villains. He also missed the myriad instances in which their irrationality and parasitism bring them not prosperity and happiness but suffering and death. It seems that, despite his claims to have studied Rand in some depth (p. 21), Weiss may have skipped her magnum opus.

Perhaps he studied her nonfiction works instead?

If so, how did he miss passages such as this, from The Virtue of Selfishness:

'The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness--which means: the values required for man's survival qua man--which means: the values required for human survival--not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the "aspirations," the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment.

The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash--that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.'

Maybe Weiss skipped that book too.

What, then, did he read?"

A constant misrepresentation of Rand's philosophy, setting up straw-man arguments that aren't, in fact, Rand's, but which are very convenient for Weiss-- I have never encountered a single critic who actually read her works and presented her arguments honestly- they are usually disfigured or misrepresented straw men. The reason being is that Weiss has no actual refutations for the real arguments presented by Rand, and so he must build inaccurate distortions in order to both have a say ... and sell a book, because it is clear he very greatly desires to have your money in order to have the privilege of reading his very creative distortions. Although he claims he will not perform any smears, he liberally peppers the book with unfounded (and unsupported) rumors and stories about Rand's personal life (I thought the book was about her philosophy, Mr. Weiss?)-- which is, again, a standard practice among critics who have nothing of substance to say against Rand's *real* arguments. Thus, in order to further weaken his target, Weiss also attempts to create a seedy personal life for Rand as well. I'm waiting for the citations for all of those alleged trials and public outrages... I mean, they obviously were documented since he was no contemporary of Rand's... so, where is the citation? Don't hold your breath. Ultimately this book is nothing more than a dishonest smear-job, and a very pathetic one at that.

The one star is there because that is the minimum allowed at Amazon-- but the quality of the book's arguments is so bad, I would dare say that if the book were ever removed from Amazon's catalog, all other books will go up by at least one star due to how mind-numbingly dishonest this book is.
38 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Ayn Rand's influence on American politics 20 April 2012
By R. S. Wilkerson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Weiss reports from the perspective of an investigative reporter on the critical problem of how those who advocate repressive social policies have been able to seize control of our political language. Whereas others see the discredited economic theories of Hayek and Friedman at the core of our economic woes, Weiss shows the bête noir of Rand's specious fictions and how they have captured the imaginations of so many. He suggests that Rand's dogmas have become so prevalent that even Paul Ryan is a self-identified advocate of Rand's arguments against society, the very bedrock of civilization. He hints that Ryan's budgeting fiascos are nothing more than the anti-social imaginings of Randian fiction.

Weiss constructs this review of Randian fantasy by interviewing so called Objectivists, tea partiers, Randian enthusiasts, members of Randian societies, and politicians who have been seduced by Randian fictions or are controlled by the tea parties. They're good interviews, they're interesting, and they reveal a great deal about those who try to create a philosophy from Rand's specious writings and about the writings themselves. It's a very interesting book and Weiss is fair to the people and to the dogma; however, Weiss states unequivocally that we must restore society and the individual's role in society to the center of our political policies and regain control of the political discussion. Weiss believes we can only do so by showing the dark center of Rand's fictions and its appeal to the common man; he has achieved that goal in this work.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Better than you might think. 17 Nov. 2014
By Kenneth Pidcock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Weiss gives a fair hearing to the objectivists he takes the time to know, helping readers understand why rational people might remain devoted to such a harsh philosophy.
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