Saturday, December 26, 2009

An Internet Course On American Constitutional Law.

(If you receive more than one of these Announcements, it’s because we’re using several of our lists and inevitably there will be duplication.)

Beginning on January 17, 2010, Hank will be offering an Internet course, consisting of ten lectures, on the subject of American constitutional law.

His reasons for doing so, a complete syllabus for the ten lectures, and general information about the course can be found at

If you find merit in what he is offering, we would appreciate your forwarding this notice to everyone you think might be interested in learning about the course.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ayn Rand and Socialized Medicine: Bureaucracy and Ruined Lives

In an essay I wrote a few months ago (see for my blog posting “Boost in Sales of Atlas Shrugged . . . but why Atlas?"), I raised a rhetorical question in response to the huge increase in sales of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Yes, there was a gratifying surge in the sales of Rand’s magnum opus. But why? Given the no-holds-barred assault on free-market capitalism and individual rights, why the unprecedented boost in sales of a 52-year-old thousand-page novel, but no corresponding boost in Rand’s equally relevant and highly persuasive non-fiction?

Here’s how I answered my own rhetorical question:

“One evening back in the mid-60s, when my husband and I were Ayn Rand’s lawyers [and] the three of us took a break from business . . . Rand drew a fascinating distinction about the impact that . . . fiction, as opposed to nonfiction, has on readers. ‘Reading non-fiction,’ she told us, ‘is mainly an intellectual exercise whereas fiction involves the reader in a personal experience. It’s the difference between reading a technical manual on flying a jet airplane as opposed to experiencing the actual sensation of hurtling through space in one. The manual may be educational, even stimulating, but the plane ride is happening to you.’” (Emphasis Rand’s.)

I’m convinced that Rand was right. That the surge in sales of Atlas was to a large extent a remarkable example of readers—perhaps whole new generations of them—responding in a personal way to government intervention that was increasing at an alarming rate in the first few months of Obama’s presidency.

But how, you may be wondering, does Ayn Rand’s fiction/nonfiction distinction relate to the raging controversy in town hall confrontations all over America on the issue of socialized medicine?

I’ll make a prediction: Anyone who takes the time to fully grasp Rand’s fiction/non-fiction distinction will discover that he has armed himself with a powerful ideological tool with which to persuade other people, including politicians, about what’s wrong with government-managed or controlled health care.

You wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t already concerned about the issue. So yes, a lot of us are writing essays or letters-to-the-editor or signing petitions. But what I’m suggesting is that you also put into play G. K. Chesterton’s famous maxim that fiction is one of the most potent means of addressing the public.

No, this time I’m not beating the drums for Atlas Shrugged.

The Ayn Rand novel so powerfully written that it causes the reader to “personally experience” the horrors of bureaucrat-controlled health care is her first novel, We the Living.

Whether or not you’ve ever read any of Rand’s oeuvre, let alone We the Living—first published in 1936—I urge you to read (or re-read) it now. Better yet, read the book and view the restored English-subtitled Italian-made movie of the same name. (For detailed information on the movie version and when the new DVD will be available, see

When my husband, Henry Mark Holzer, and I first represented Ayn Rand, we were under the mis-impression that the only movie based on a Rand novel was The Fountainhead. It was only after our professional relationship had deepened into personal friendship that she told us about a 1942 pirated two-part version of We the Living made in then-fascist Italy. With its hard-hitting anticommunist theme, Noi Vivi (We the Living) and Addio, Kira (Goodby, Kira) was shown in two consecutive parts and enjoyed an extremely successful theatrical run. After the war, Ayn was given a print of the bootleg film, courtesy of one of its stars, Rossano Brazzi.

Then she told us that Noi Vivi was a much better film than The Fountainhead!

But Ayn had lost the print, and the film had completely vanished. When my husband and I offered to track it down, Ayn, while not optimistic about our success after the passage of so many years, gave us her blessing. Initial queries to official Italian agencies led nowhere, so Hank and I concentrated on unofficial sources. It took us three years before we hit pay-dirt. In 1968, we flew to Rome and met with some businessmen who owned dozens of vintage Italian films. On their list was Noi Vivi and Addio, Kira. Best of all, the technical quality of what they had—the original nitrate negatives—was excellent. After we arranged to have a set of duplicate negatives made on safety film, we called Ayn to relay the good news.

Back in New York, Hank and I, with filmmaker Duncan Scott, screened the film as Ayn gave us scene by scene input on what should be edited or cut. Hank, Duncan and I were in total agreement with her suggestions and made one of our own that Ayn, in turn, agreed to: In lieu of dubbing the newly resurrected We the Living, the film would be subtitled in English. Hank, Duncan and I co-produced the film, Duncan and I wrote the subtitled script, We the Living premiered at Colorado’s Telluride Film Festival in 1986, and it was released in theaters throughout the U.S., Canada, and overseas to rave reviews.

Now, as Obama, backed by a Democrat-controlled Congress, pushes hard for socialized medicine—the legislation having been engineered by the far-left Nancy Pelosi—I can’t help replaying what Ayn told me that night in her living room . . .

“If a novel is well done,” she said all those years ago, “the reader feels the dramatized events of the story on his own skin, so to speak. He is impelled to rage against some injustice. To root for characters he cannot help identifying with.” (Emphasis Rand’s.) Even though We the Living’s basic theme—its philosophical message—is much broader than socialized medicine, it’s plot revolves in a crucial way around the compulsory
“administration” of healthcare, doctors, and even the dispensing of medicine, by bureaucrats mired in corruption, favoritism, envy, revenge, power lust. It can become an acquired taste, the lust for power to decide whether a person lives or dies.

I was so immersed in the production, editing, and subtitling stages of the film version of We the Living for so long that it has a stronger grip on my emotions than the novel. I cannot think of the book without seeing Italy’s leading star and brilliantly evocative actress, Alida Valli as the protagonist. I cannot view the film with dry eyes. Without my sense of outrage flying off the charts.

But whether you see the movie or read the novel, I challenge any fair-minded (and unrepressed) person to keep from identifying with and rooting for the uncompromising idealistic heroine. To stop yourself from raging against the ruined lives of three individuals torn by impossible conflicts and enmeshed in a heart-wrenching love triangle. To deny that you feel on your own skin the wanton, ruthless—and yes, careless—destruction of innocents whose only “sin” is the desire to live their own lives; to shape their own destiny.

In the Foreword to the 1959 Random House hardcover republication of We the Living, Ayn Rand wrote that her novel is “ . . . about Man against the State. Its basic theme is the sanctity of human life—using the word ‘sanctity’ not in a mystical sense, but in the sense of ‘supreme values.’” (Emphasis Rand’s.) But in that same Foreword, Rand issued this “warning”: “ . . . [D]o not be misled by those who might tell you that We the Living is ‘dated’ or no longer relevant to the present, since it deals with Soviet Russia in the nineteen-twenties . . . .” As someone who was born in Russia and educated from the age of twelve under the Soviets, Rand tells us, she knew—without yet fully knowing why—that, in the words of a minor character, Irina Duneav, “There’s your life . . . . [I]t’s something so precious and rare, so beautiful, that it’s like a sacred treasure. Now it’s over, and it doesn’t make any difference to anyone . . . that treasure of mine . . . . ”

Ayn Rand was a child at the time. Even so, she was smart enough to grasp what was under assault when the Communists took over her country. In the Random House Foreword, as Rand reflects upon her character Irina and “the sacred treasure” that is one’s life, one can almost feel the vehemence in Ayn Rand’s words :

“[T]his is the issue at the base of all dictatorships, all collectivist theories and all human evils. I could not understand how any man could be so brutalized as to claim the right to dispose of the lives of others, nor how any man could be so lacking in self-esteem as to grant to others the right to dispose of his life.” (Emphasis Rand’s.)

So if you rise to my challenge—or if you choose to heed Ayn Rand’s warning—or if you’re curious about whether the fiction/non-fiction distinction Rand once called to my attention and I’ve just called to yours has validity—or you just want to find out for yourself whether or not We the Living is dated, pick up her novel. Watch the movie. Think of imaginative ways to maximize the sheer impact of Ayn Rand’s remarkable work of fiction by spreading the word.

What have you got to lose?

A rhetorical question. You know the answer.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Sgt. James Crowley Could Learn From "Atlas Shrugged's" Hank Rearden

When the firestorm over Sgt. James Crowley’s arrest of Louis Gates first broke and I heard the arresting officer being interviewed on Fox News, I wanted to cheer.

Crowley was every honest person’s personification of a righteous man.

When Gates went public with ugly racist and “rogue cop” accusations about Crowley’s actions, he didn’t count on the fact that Crowley’s by-the-book conduct had been backed up—not only by eyewitness accounts from his partner (who happened to be black) as well as from a passer-by—but by a tape recording that contradicted Gates’ slanted version of what had transpired.

Crowley was exonerated by hard evidence. Not to mention by his sterling professional reputation and his unimpeachable 5-year record of training fellow policemen in the matter of racial profiling. (He’d been singled out by a black police lieutenant for the job.)

Nonetheless he was defamed by Gate’s buddy, President Barack Obama, who—admitting he didn’t have all the facts—berated Crowley for acting “stupidly.”

Obama then went on to use the Crowley-Gates incident as a platform for, in columnist David Limbaugh’s words “. . . a mini-diatribe about the ‘long history’ of racial profiling by American cops.” (“A Teachable Moment Indeed,” Town Hall, July 28, 2009)

Buoyed by this shoot-from-the-hip presidential support, Gates threatened to sue. He demanded an apology.

But Crowley wasn’t about to cave to pressure from on high. No apology would be forthcoming, I heard him tell a reporter, and Crowley went on to explain why. The reporter, at first politely curious, sounded increasingly sympathetic as he tuned into Crowley’s calm, resolute sense of injustice.

It wasn’t until the police union rightly complained about the potential damage done to law enforcement nationwide, until the Cambridge P.D who knew and worked with Crowley rose as one to his defense, and until thousands of supportive and outraged cops from around the country weighed into the brouhaha that Obama and his advisors decided he had better hold a press conference to defuse a situation that was sticking to him like flypaper,

Time to apologize to the innocent policeman he had defamed? To lay the blame at the feet of the guilty party, Louis Gates? To admit that the President of the United States had no business interjecting himself into local matters about which he lacks the necessary expertise, let alone the facts?

Not possible on all counts. Barack Obama cannot step out of character.

As David Limbaugh wrote:

“[Obama] held a news conference, not to apologize, but to justify himself.
* * * [He used] pure weasel words when a simple, heartfelt apology would have sufficed * * * Next he offered his patronizing assessment that both men probably overreacted and that cooler heads should have prevailed. * * * [W]hy would [Obama] continue . . . to comment on the facts? Obviously because he wanted to exploit this incident as a ‘teachable moment’ on race relations, whether or not the facts fit the template.”

Obama’s gambit didn’t end with the press conference. Either the President phoned Crowley—according to an AP report today out of Washington—and “invited both men over for a beer, to be served at a picnic table near the Oval Office” (weather permitting), or Crowley invited himself to the White House for a beer-fest (yesterday’s AP version about who initiated what).

Either way, as of this writing, it looks as if James Crowley clinked beer glasses with the President and his crony, Louis Gates, with the only disagreement at the picnic table being the merits of Blue Moon over Red Stripe or Bud Lite.

So what does this Washington adventure tell us about Sgt. James Crowley, the wronged party who never received an apology? The righteous victim in this charade who traveled from Cambridge to Washington for a beer with his two nemeses?

It tells us that either Sgt. Crowley never read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, or, if he did, that he never understood the meaning of a cardinal moral/political principle that Rand superbly dramatized through one of her major characters.

That principle is called “the sanction of the victim.”

“There comes a point in the defeat of any man of virtue,” Rand wrote through the voice of the novel’s protagonist hero, John Galt, “when his own consent is needed for evil to win—and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent.”

Rand’s heroic character who, for much of the novel, struggles with the weight of self-accepted victimhood, Hank Rearden, is liberated only when he identifies that principle and acts on it—as James Crowley should have, by boycotting Obama’s little getogether.

Pick up Atlas Shrugged, Sgt. Crowley. It will not only enlighten. It will liberate you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moonstruck: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Mourned The Death Of Space Exploration

This coming week marks the 40th anniversary of the first landing on the moon.

Ayn Rand was on hand to celebrate that history-making achievement.

On July 16, l969, after having concluded a tour of Cape Kennedy’s Space Center the day before, Ms. Rand—an honored guest of NASA—witnessed the launching of Apollo 11.

Two months later, in a fifteen-page article (“Apollo 11,” The Objectivist, September 1969), Rand described in some detail to her readers (as well as to a rapt audience of her personal friends at my apartment in Manhattan) just how meaningful were those breathtaking seven minutes from countdown to liftoff.

I have always thought of her description of that launch—written and oral—as “beyond eloquence”:

“[T]his spectacle was not the product of inanimate nature . . . ” she wrote. “[N]or of chance, nor of luck . . . . [I]t was unmistakably human—with ‘human,’ for once, meaning grandeur . . . . For once, if only for seven minutes, the worst among those who saw it had to feel—not ‘How small is man by the side of the Grand Canyon!’—but ‘How great is man and how safe is nature when he conquers it!’ ” (Emphasis Rand’s.)

Ayn Rand would have welcomed columnist Charles Krauthammer as a spokesman—a spiritual comrade-in-arms, one might say—on the matter of space exploration. In his recent July 17 column, “The Moon We Forgot,” Krauthammer bemoans what he describes as America’s retreat from space:

“After countless millennia of gazing and dreaming, we finally got off the ground at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Within 65 years, a nanosecond in human history, we’d landed on the moon. Then five more landings, 10 more moonwalkers, and, in the decades since, nothing . . . . America’s manned space program is in shambles. Fourteen months from today, for the first time since 1962, the U.S. will be incapable not just of sending a man to the moon but of sending anyone into Earth orbit. We’ll be totally grounded.”

And Ayn Rand would have relished Krauthammer’s telling rhetorical question:

“So what, you say? Don’t we have problems here on Earth? Oh please. Poverty and disease and social ills will always be with us. If we’d waited for them to be rectified before venturing out, we’d still be living in caves.”

Not surprisingly, Ayn Rand had anticipated such negative fallout would follow in the wake of the Apollo launch. She wrote derisively about the sort of people who can always be counted upon to lobby for a “better” use for our money—such as fighting a war on poverty. She knew better.

So does Charles Krauthammer. Raising the question of why a manned space program is important, he says emphatically, “It’s not for practicality. We didn’t go to the moon to spin off cooling suits and freeze-dried fruit. Any technological return is a bonus, not a reason. We go for the wonder and glory of it. Or, to put it less grandly, for its immense possibilities.”

When Rand expressed hope that the flight of Apollo 11 would be “ . . . the first achievement of a new age . . . not a glorious last,” she got her wish—for a time, that is: those five more landings and ten more moonwalkers. And while she knew all too well the pitfalls of this country’s “mixed economy,” she wrote—with, arguably, a touch of defiance—that “ . . . [I]f the United States is to commit suicide . . . let some of its life blood go to the support of achievement and the progress of science . . . .” (“Apollo 11,” The Objectivist, September 1969). Sadly, this was not to be.

Krauthammer aptly describes what has been stripped from our lives:

“We are now deep into that hyper-terrestrial phase, the age of iPod and Facebook, of social networking and eco-consciousness . . . . But look up from your Blackberry one night. That is the moon. On it are exactly 12 sets of human footprints—untouched, unchanged, abandoned. For the first time in history,” he notes, “the moon is not just a mystery and a muse but a nightly rebuke. We came, we saw, we retreated.”

And when he wonders aloud, “How could we?” Charles Krauthammer speaks not only for those of us who never lost our sense of adventure and magic, our sense of wonder.

He speaks for Ayn Rand.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How Would Ayn Rand's Response To The Iranian Crisis Have Differed From Obama's?

For many conservatives, libertarians, and even some objectivists, the answer is not self-evident.

It depends on one’s definition of “self-interest.”

An articulate critic of California’s spendthrift politicians recently blasted away at a seemingly infinite list of special-interest groups lobbying for government handouts—until he veered off track with a wisecrack remark about “Randian self-interest” being in the same league with the “self-interest” demands of teachers’ unions, civil service bureaucrats, and the like.

But anyone conversant with the philosophy of Objectivism and its uncompromising defense of individual rights is acutely aware that when Rand spoke of self-interest, it was with a crucial modifier in mind: rational self-interest. And to seek the unearned, as the above-named special-interest groups do, is both patently irrational and antithetical to the concept of individual rights.

Bearing this in mind, what would be Ayn Rand’s take on the current Iranian crisis?

In “The Wreckage of the Consensus” Rand wrote about the
“ . . . need for a foreign policy based on long-range principles, i.e., an ideology.” (Emphasis Rand’s.) “But,” Rand stated emphatically, “a revision of our foreign policy, from its basic premises on up, is what today’s anti-ideologists dare not contemplate. . . . ” She went on to point out that “[a] proper solution would be to elect statesmen—if such appeared—and with a radically different foreign policy, a policy explicitly and proudly dedicated to the defense of America’s rights and national self-interests….” (Emphasis mine.) (The Objectivist, April 1967.)

In other words, unlike Obama, whose “foreign policy” is so fuzzy as to be almost devoid of principles (not even short-range, let alone long-), Rand would have advised a newly elected president to give high priority to a clear-cut foreign policy as soon as he took office, thus eliminating the possibility of being caught off-guard—as Obama was—five months into his first term by the Iranian crisis.

Nor is it hard to predict how Ayn Rand would have defined America’s “self-interest” today in dealing with the likes of Ayatollah Khamenei or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if some talk show host were to interview her. All one has to do is extrapolate from a revealing 1964 Playboy interview, substituting Iran for Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or Cuba.

Playboy: What about force in foreign policy? You have said any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany during World War II . . . .
Rand: Certainly.
Playboy: . . . And that any free nation today has the moral right—though not the duty— to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba, or any other “slave pen.” (Emphasis mine.) Correct?
Rand: Correct. A dictatorship—a country that violates the rights of its own citizens—is an outlaw and can claim no rights.
Playboy: Would you actively advocate that the United States invade Cuba or the Soviet Union?
Rand: Not at present. I don’t think it’s necessary . . . . I would advocate a blockade of Cuba and an economic boycott of the Soviet Union; and you would see both of those regimes collapse without the loss of a single American life . . . . ” Rand also told her interviewer: “I do not believe that an individual should cooperate with criminals, and for the same reason, I do not believe that free countries should cooperate with dictatorships.”

In other words, Ayn Rand would disagree with well-meaning conservatives and objectivists who think that we necessarily have a duty to intervene in Iran.

Robert Tracinski, in his June 22, 2009 TIA Daily newsletter, writes that “[w]e have the opportunity to encourage the collapse of the longest-standing, most militant modern Islamic regime—a leading sponsor of terrorism.” He also makes this understandable assumption: “The success of the new Iranian revolution is, of course, vital to American’s interests.”

But is it?

Despite the heart-rending plight of literally millions of Iranians (many of them young men and women whose “Death to Dictatorship” protests and brave defiance of a monstrous regime have been met with bloody slaughter), from Ayn Rand’s perspective whether our government should intervene—and if so, how—rests on what is in America’s self-interest.

That said, I think a strong case can be made that Ayn Rand would conclude it is in America’s rational self-interest to intervene.

On June 22, 2009, Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the late Shah of Iran—who normally keeps a low profile—addressed a packed room of sobered reporters at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. ten days after the protest movement began. “If the popular uprising in Iran is crushed,” Pahlavi warned, “this would not only threaten global stability but could lead to nuclear war . . . . [F]anatical tyrants who know that the future is against them may end their present course on their terms: a nuclear holocaust.”

Columnist Pat Buchanan recently noted that despite Obama’s efforts to sweet-talk the ayatollahs into linking their nuclear program to energy purposes, the regime has continued to engage in the process of enriching uranium.

Columnists Dick Morris and Eileen McGann are convinced that Iran is a “dire threat to our national security.” That the president of the United State’s “pathetic performance vis-à-vis Iran . . . cannot but send a message to all of America’s enemies that his “transparent appeasement of Iran’s government and it’s obvious lack of reciprocation” show him to be “a wimp” and sends a clear signal to rogue nations that Obama is “clueless” about handling foreign policy crises. (Emphasis mine.) That “ . . . [A]s North Korea prepares to launch a missile on a Hail Mary pass aimed at Hawaii, Obama’s Democrats slash 19 missile interceptors from the Defense Department budget.”

To be a “wimp” under these circumstances is to be an appeaser, which is what Barack Obama is. And in Ayn Rand’s view, rogue nations like Russia and Nazi Germany (read Iran, North Korea, Putin’s Russia) “ . . . like any bully, feed on appeasement.” Such bully regimes, Rand stated, would “retreat placatingly at the first sound of firm opposition.” (Emphasis mine.) (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 1962.)

Obama has proved deaf to the arguments Ayn Rand would have made about how to deal with the revolution in Iran. It took him one week of dithering with his advisors before he saw fit, in the words of Jonah Goldberg, Editor-at-large of National Review Online, to give “a full-throated denunciation of the regime’s clampdown and a statement of support for the protesters.” (And only after Congress and the Europeans had beat him to it, Goldberg noted dryly). “[I]f the clerical junta prevails,” Goldberg warned, “anyone who shakes hands with Ahmadinejad will have a hard time washing the blood off his own . . . .”

All things considered, I think that Ayn Rand would have quickly sized up the Iranian crisis and weighed the threats to our country’s national security. She’d have grasped that if the most powerful man in the world—the president of the United States—did not confront the ayatollahs and voice strong unqualified support of the protesters, our country would risk nuclear proliferation, not just in Iran, but in other rogue nations. That the unthinkable—nuclear holocaust—was a real possibility.

I think that, as Robert Tracinski correctly argued, “The success of the new Iranian revolution is . . . vital to America’s interests.”

And I have no doubt that Ayn Rand would have written a scathing denunciation of President Barack Obama for not recognizing and acting on his moral duty to—if not invade Iran—then at least to support the Iranian revolution with all the means at his disposal.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Boost In Sales Of ATLAS SHRUGGED . . . But Why ATLAS?

The March 31, 2009 issue of TIA Daily ( ran a feature article entitled “Obama and the Ayn Rand Factor” in which editor Robert Tracinski correctly characterizes “ . . . the astonishing surge in the sales of Ayn Rand’s epic 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged as the biggest under-appreciated political story of this year,” He goes on to cite some telling Amazon statistics:

“. . . [T]he ranking page…showed the novel surging into the top 20, climbing as high as #16. Remember that this is a thousand-page-long, 52-year-old novel that is heavy on philosophical content. And these rankings surely understate actual sales, since the novel is listed under at least three separate editions, each showing strong sales in its own right.* * * Atlas has been steadily in the top ten in "Literature & Fiction". . . . and has been switching between the #1 and #2 spot in "Classics" . . . .” (Italics mine)

Later in his article, Tracinski sums up what Ayn Rand would call the “plot-theme” of Atlas Shrugged:

“As I wrote on the novel’s 50th anniversary, Ayn Rand ‘saw the dramatic potential in asking a single question: what would happen if the innovative entrepreneurs and businessmen—after decades of being vilified and regulated—started to disappear? The disappearance of the world’s productive geniuses provides the novel’s central mystery, both factually and intellectually . . . . The philosophical question raised by this plot is what is the role of the entrepreneurs and innovators in a society? What motivates them, what are the conditions they need in order to work, and what happens to the world when they disappear?’” (Italics mine)

What is “really radical” about Atlas, Tracinski says, is Ayn Rand’s answer to the question her plot raises: That the novel is “. . . a thorough philosophical defense of individualism.” (Italics mine)

Tracinski’s emphasis on the philosophical underpinnings of Atlas is well-placed. As I read more and more accounts like his about the surge in popularity of Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, I am not surprised that there seems to be no equivalent surge in her equally timely and politically relevant nonfiction (such as Capitalism:The Unknown Ideal and The Virtue of Selfishness).

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by Iwan Morelius, a foreign Libertarian journalist and Ayn Rand fan. (See While he is very familiar with Rand’s nonfiction, his interest throughout the interview was focused almost exclusively on fiction. His last question to me was: "Erika, I recently reread all of Ayn Rand’s books published in Sweden and found them well worth reading again. Written so many years ago, early 40s and 50s, they are all still so relevant. Can you talk about why that is?"

My answer in part was this: “Ayn Rand, thanks to the philosophy she brilliantly dramatized in Atlas Shrugged, is so relevant to the times we live in that not a day goes by when . . . I don’t reflect on . . . just how prescient she was . . . . Iwan, it’s a case of life imitating art!” (Italics mine.)

So why am I not surprised at this remarkable surge in sales of a 52-year-old thousand-page novel—a surge that has had no significant counterpart in politically relevant Randian nonfiction? Is it just because Atlas has so many parallels to the all-out assault on free-market capitalism and individual rights being waged by Obama and his gang? Or is some other phenomenon at work here?

If Ayn Rand were alive today, I’m confident she would point to a more subtle explanation—one that she discussed with me in detail. Back in the mid-60s, when my husband and I were Rand’s lawyers, the three of us took a break from business one evening to talk about writing (one of many such conversations). This occasion was particularly memorable because Ayn drew a fascinating distinction between the impact that art—fiction, as opposed to nonfiction—has on its readers.

“Reading nonfiction,” she told us, “is mainly an intellectual exercise whereas fiction involves the reader in a personal experience. It’s the difference between reading a technical manual on flying a jet airplane as opposed to experiencing the actual sensation of hurtling through space in one. The manual may be educational, even stimulating, but the plane ride is happening to you.” Expanding on her thesis, Ayn added, “If a novel is well done, the reader feels the dramatized events of the story on his own skin, so to speak. He is impelled to rage against some injustice. To root for characters he cannot help identifying with.”

“Boy, do I know what you mean!” I exclaimed. “Some years ago I came across an old news report about a lynching in Mississippi and I remember feeling disgust and horror. But later I saw a classic movie, The Oxbow Incident, and my emotional response was so much more intense. I mean, I was with the victim every step of the way, seeing things from his perspective—and yes, I did feel fear, like it could be happening to me, and rage at the injustice of it all.”

“Exactly,” Ayn agreed. “The difference in response comes from the very nature of a concrete news item. It’s more impersonal. It doesn’t necessarily lead you to draw a moral or a universal abstraction beyond its narrow facts.”

That more and more Americans are reading and responding so favorably to Atlas Shrugged in these troubled times is an encouraging sign. The parallels between events in the novel and the fascist-collectivist programs of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid axis may have initially attracted new readers, but the personal impact that Rand’s powerfully dramatized novel is sure to have on them is likely to be more profound and lasting . . . an effect that just might carry over to the next election.