One Small Voice: I gave Rand a chance. She failed

by Lynn Mandaville

When I was a teenager of about 17, and my father was a devout Republican and firm believer in the capitalist system, Pop encouraged me to read Ayn Rand. He said it would temper my youthful liberalism and my belief in a more socialistic approach to American society.

I gave her more than a fair try, and I simply found “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” unreadable, much the way I later found John Irving unreadable. I attempted both Rand books at least three times each. Never made it past the first hundred pages.

Even later, in my 50s, when I tried her again, I still couldn’t get into the books. But this time I found her characters abhorrent and her philosophy overly simplistic and impossibly rigid.

Pop called her a leading advocate for the virtues of selfishness, that hers was a philosophy of enlightened self-interest, and I didn’t disagree with him.

Socialism in its purest form is, I believe, what columnist Army Bob most rails against. And by hisown admission, something with which he is obsessed. Therefore, his opinion about socialism should be read with a sense of wariness.

Socialism does, indeed, squelch entrepreneurship and creativity by making everyone equal.

Capitalism, its antithesis, seeks to make everyone unequal by virtue of those who can accumulate the most wealth at the expense of those who toil for them.

Both, at their worst extremes, do not allow for all individuals to grow to their best potentials, and capitalism does not provide a mechanism to take care of those who fall through the cracks in the system.

It behooves a true CIVIL-ization – particularly one that claims a Christian ethic for caring and providing for the least among them – to rise to its highest aspirations and find that sweet spot between the two philosophies where reasonable financial rewards come to those who are high achievers, while a modicum of responsibility is shown by those to whom much has been given by offering a hand to those less fortunate or able.

To advocate for one extreme or the other is, in my opinion, not a reasonable nor a noble pursuit.

It is possible for one to modify one’s beliefs without abandoning them completely.

Pop, by the way, became a Democrat and a liberal in the early 1970s, declaring Rand to be overrated, and misguided by her past experience. He became something of a philanthropist within his modest means, while still participating in the capitalist system and paying his fair share of taxes.


  • Lynne…maybe you could give Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Milton Friedman a chance to enlighten you on the power of the free market system.

    • Dick, I’ve heard of Milton Friedman, and I’ll be glad to take a look at each of these men’s writings. Thanks so much for the suggestions.

        • Dick, I don’t read econ books, per se. I read a fair amount of current political books, and lately am concentrating on Black American fiction, and some memoirs. If you’d like some good fiction written by Black writers I’d recommend “The Water Dancer” by Coates, and anything by Colson Whitehead. Their characters are compelling and complex, and the story lines keep you turning pages.
          I’ll see what I can find on socialist econ. That’ll open up a whole new world for both of us.

          • Hey Jake,

            Thanks for that suggestion! Does that mean I have to know what E=MC squared means🤔

          • Mr. Miller, I sure hope not because I don’t know what the theory of relativity means either. But this essay mirrored and clarified many of the same perspectives I’ve had regarding how we collectively approach the economic systems that determine our livelihoods. I’m planning to teach this essay paragraph by paragraph to kids one day in class just to see what happens.

  • Mrs Mandeville and Mr Miller I can tell you that there are a few economist that have published a couple of books you might be interested in, Hyman Minsky, Richard Wolff, Stephanie Kelton, and John Maynard Keynes. I will check out the books you recommended.

  • Ms. Mandaville, thanks for your column, and I commend your sincere efforts to understand the “…isms” that might help to inform and guide us.

    Old political and economic theories, systems, interpretations and authors can be interesting at times, and they may occasionally be useful in today’s world. But I do hope we always consider them in context with that old parable about the blind men and the elephant.

    Like a dog chasing its tail, your fellow columnist clearly enjoys sharing his opinions on socialism, and how everything relates to socialism, over and over again. But his touchpoint on the elephant is likely much different from our own. And though I have found his obsession and self-assurance occasionally amusing, I’m also sad to say that his opinions and representations have seldom informed my own point of view. I agree with you that his readers should be wary.

    I also suspect that 18th century economic and political philosophies may have limited relevance in our “elephant-in-the-mud-puddle” world of today. We may be much better-served by focusing our future study, our columns, our comments, our collaboration, and our calls to action on the much bigger and more important issues that confront us today and in the future. Examples include the continuing pandemic, the environment and climate change, infrastructure investments, international relations, scientific research, education, voting rights, health care… The list is pretty long, I’m afraid, and there is much more to learn and write about.

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