Posted by: bkivey | 2 February 2011

Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum

A tip of the ushanka to Russia for their contribution to American letters and free-market economic thought through the birth today in 1905 of Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, better known by her Anglicised name of Ayn Rand. Primarily recognized for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Ms. Rand was also the founder of the Objectivist school of philosophy and an outspoken proponent of capitalism, free markets, and limited government. She was equally vehement in her opposition to state control over the individual, whether by means coercive (socialism, communism) or ostensibly benign (the welfare state).

A Jew and a woman in a time and place where neither was easy, she was among the first women to graduate from Petrograd State University. She came to the U.S. in 1926 on a temporary visa and never left, which probably made her an illegal alien for a time until she gained American citizenship in 1931 after her marriage to Frank Conner in 1929.

Like a lot of people I read her two seminal works when I was in high school. I  found out much later in my 20’s that my father was something of a Rand expert and had succeeded in bringing her to speak at West Point during our second tour. I understood that this was something of a coup on his part. When he asked me what I thought about her books I mentioned that the characters were two-dimensional. His response, without elaboration, was that I wasn’t the first to make that observation.

I have since read Anthem and am currently reading Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, a collection of her essays on a variety of subjects as they pertain to capitalism. The work includes a couple of essays by Alan Greenspan. While no-one will ever accuse Ms. Rand of using a scalpel where a sword will do, she is consistent in her arguments and unapologetic in her philosophy.  There are areas I don’t agree with her: she completely discounts the role of religion in the human experience, for instance, but there is much that proponents of individual liberty can learn from her.

Just Wondering

Now that the Midwest and New England states are experiencing their sixth(!) major storm of the season, I’m wondering how the ‘green’ technologies would cope with this. I don’t think you can run windmills during a blizzard for the same reason you avoid flying an aircraft through one: the wings (blades) ice up and cause vibration and loss of efficiency and will fail if allowed to continue.

And what about those electric cars? Battery capacity diminishes rapidly as the temperature drops. If you run out of gas AAA can bring out a gas can and you’re on your way. If your electric car runs out of juice, are you going to hope that the tow truck has a Leyden jar on board? And just how are you going to charge your vehicle if the power is out?



  1. She didn’t “discount the role of religion in the human experience.” She described it as pernicious and destructive, and brain numbing.

    • Hi Misterioso,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I did not mean ‘discount’ in the sense of ‘failing to take into account’. Your reference is the very definition of what I was talking about.



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