93. Why Is Ayn Rand Important?

Tuttle Twins fans might be familiar with the book “Search for Atlas” but some might not know that this book was inspired by a book called “Atlas Shrugged” written by a woman named Ayn Rand. On this episode, Brittany and Connor explain who Ayn Rand was and why she was such an important public figure.

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Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So we’ve dedicated a few episodes to discussing very specific people who’ve been important to the world for one reason or another. Some of them good, some of them not so good. Like Carl Marx, I think we talked about a few episodes ago. But today I wanna talk about somebody who’s mostly good, that she has some flaws, which we’ll get into. But she is a writer who helps kind of expose the evils of communism and socialism, some of these isms we’ve talked about in past episodes. But she also helps bring the ideas of free market capitalism and individualism to the masses during a really important time in American history. And her name was, Ayn Rand some people call her Anne, or what is it? Yeah, Ayn Rand. But I always call her, Ayn Rand, I believe that’s how you say it. She’s Russian. So Tuttletwins readers are already familiar with the book Search for Atlas, but not everybody would be familiar with the fact that’s actually based off an Ayn Rand book called Atlas Shrugged. So before we dive into that book and why it’s so important, let’s talk a little bit about Ayn Rand and what made her such important and very interesting. She was a character. I think that’s a way to describe her. Ayn Rand was a character.

Connor: That’s a good way to put her. I think even those who love her the most would concede that is a good way to describe her. So, Ayn Rand yeah, she’s a very interesting person. She was born in Russia, to an upper-class family. Yes. Which means that they were pretty well to do financially. And at the time in Russia, the political climate, the government, they were very opposed to the free market. And people like her family who had, you know, a bit of money, there was this kind of feeling that everyone should have their fair share and there’s, you know, too much inequality. so she eventually got out of Russia and made it over to America without her family. And, you know, when she got here, she got started in Hollywood. So she started working on like, film scripts. And what was really interesting for her, and I’ve actually seen this story play out with many people more recently, she was very surprised having left, you know, Russia to see people here in America, the land of the free, championing socialism and communism. And she had just fought really hard, you know, to get away from these things. Right? so she wrote, you know, a series of fiction books based on, anti-communism themes and pro-capitalism, in other words, free markets. Atlas Shrugged, of course, you mentioned is one of the ones she is very well known for. You know, there’s the Fountain Head and many others.

Brittany: which I’ve never read, which is pretty surprising. Cause I’ve heard That’s a Good one too.

Connor: Very interesting book. and a lot of her books are, she’s often attacked by people you know, from the left, if you will, big government people for being kind of an evil capitalist. she’s deceased so, you know, know back when she was alive, but people still attack her ideas, you know, and, they think that she preached too much individualism. and, you know, a lot of people who have come to believe in these ideas first discovered their ideas or, really, you know, began thinking about them clearly as a result of, Ayn Rand’s writings. Atlas Shrugged in particular, was so popular, that it sold like many millions of copies. and, for that reason, you know, it was important. So we dedicated a TuttleTwins book about it. The kids listening will remember that in the story. We, put, a Russian, Calliope player, you know, who is seeing what’s happening in the circus. He’s seeing the socialism, principles unfold just in this little circus. And as a result, he says, you know, this destroyed my Russia like this. And he’s kind of, he’s kind of speaking to what we just shared right here, right? Ayn Rand was coming from Russia and seeing, well, wait a minute. These same ideas, you’re letting them destroy America. This destroyed, Russia will destroy here. And so her writings were meant to kind of wake people up and say, we can’t let these same principles play out here in America because look at, the problems that they’ve done elsewhere. So, in her stories, in this kind of fictional worlds, just like in our book with a fictional circus, she was trying to show how in these fictional worlds, these principles would lead to disaster as kind of a way to warn all of us that Hey, we need to, you know, not support socialism, otherwise, this is the kind of stuff that happens.

Brittany: Yeah. And what’s funny about it, and I should be, this is funny, I have never finished the book and I’m gonna explain why I haven’t finished the book. It’s a really, really long book. How many, it’s what? 1500? Something Like that.

Connor: Some of the speeches in the book alone are long enough to be their own books,

Brittany: Which, is great, is it the Cuz it’s what’s his name? well, I won’t Get to it,

Connor: Francisco d’Anconia and then John Galt.

Brittany: I love the winning speech. But what’s cool about this book, so the premise of the book is, you have these people who are making the world better with their innovations, with their inventions, right? what’s the main guy’s name? Who does the steel? it’s not, or not that clear yet.

Connor: Hank Rearden.

Brittany: Hank Rearden, Thank you. So Hank Rearden, he’s, invented this like lightweight steel that’s amazing. And they’re building these trains with it. And instead of the public praising them and the government saying like, wow, we’re so happy for what you’re doing for us. And we’ve talked about in past episodes how, you know, entrepreneurs and innovators really make the world go around. Instead of that, they’re saying, how dare you make so much money? How dare you not share with the rest of the world? You know, this isn’t your success. This is our collective success. So much so that the people get so mad that they just decide to leave society altogether. So they just start disappearing. All the important people in society just start disappearing cuz they’re saying, you know, you don’t even appreciate us. Why are we doing this for you? And they go start their own society called gulch. Was it Gulch? It’s kinda hard to say. That’s right. So, it’s a really cool premise. And even though I haven’t finished it, I love the story.

Connor: you’re not alone. Let’s say that you’re not, which, as I’ve talked to a number of people, they tend to say like, well now you, we have the condensed version. We just need to read the Tuttletwins version of the book and get, you know, the similar ideas. What’s really interesting to me is that Ayn Rand is kind of,  like a, oh, there’s a word I’m trying to think of, but she is kind of the person that people will attack when they want to attack, you know, capitalism. she’s very

Brittany: like a scapegoat kind of,

Connor: Yeah, maybe she’s kind of the focus of people’s attacks, I guess is a good way to say it. And, what’s interesting is I think she actually made it a little hard to defend sometimes. And so let’s talk about this. One of her, in fact, I think she even wrote a book, about the virtue of selfishness. And, this Very provocative title. Very shocking title.

Brittany: Absolutely. And this was a theme that, you know, is in many of her other books as well. And so her attitude, her perspective is that, you know, charity and certainly forced charity is, demeaning. And, you know, we shouldn’t be expected to help other people. People need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Of course, I’m very much simplifying here, but she’s definitely took this approach where selfishness is almost a virtue in the sense that that is the individual focusing on their own needs. Rather than being dependent on others. Rather than relying on support, you need to be able to, provide for yourself and focus on yourself and not be a burden on other people. And you can kind of see where she’s getting at from a broader government-society standpoint, right? Like, there are a ton of people who simply refuse to take care of themselves. They are a burden on society. And, by that, I mean taxpayers, right? They’re living on welfare. They won’t go out and get a job. And of course then there are people who legitimately cannot provide for themselves. And we as a society, you know, would do well to figure out good ways to actually help those in need and not have to support all these other lazy people who were just 

Brittany: The moochers. I think she called them. Right? And she

Connor: That’s right. Yeah. moochers. And so, you know, she and the moochers certainly applies to like bureaucracy, which is like government workers, right? Who were just living off of taxpayer dollars? I just learned today, I was in a presentation this morning for this government agency and they shared, information on how many people work in their particular government agency. And my mind was just blown. I’m like, why do you need all those people and you’re spending all this money? and so, yeah, what are your thoughts on selfishness? It seems to me, the reason I brought it up, Brittany, is, the people who wanna attack capitalism, that becomes an easy argument to attack, right? Like, look, you’re selfish. That’s all you, you only care about yourselves. Whereas I, you know, am an enlightened, progressive socialist, I care about all the people, therefore, you know, socialist policies, you know, know, help all the people by forcing you, you know, selfish piece people to help them. So, do you share that perspective, or what, are your thoughts on the selfish people?

Brittany: I have two kinda different thoughts on this. As I’ve grown older, I’ve grown wiser in my year. So the first one is that I don’t see it as selfishness, as much as I see it as incentives. And we’ve talked about incentives before. So if you have an incentive to make money, but the thing you’re creating that makes money like is helping other people, then everybody wins. So I have a hard time seeing that it’s selfish, right? If I create a vaccine that’s gonna cure, I don’t know, whatever, or not even a vaccine, let’s do something better than that. Let’s see if I’m gonna create something that’s gonna help put people in houses or, or solve some social problem that people are trying to solve, something like that. And I’m helping people, but I’m also making money. I don’t see that as selfish. I see that as problem solving and there’s an incentive to problem solve. I think that’s great. Now, Ayn Rand’s personal life was a little bit of a mess because she was a little bit selfish in general. And so I think that you can take it too far. I think like everything in life, you can kind of take it too far and, go further than you need to, and then it becomes a problem. But as far as what she talks about in the virtue of selfishness, that’s one of, that’s one of my favorite essays. I don’t think it’s a book, right? I believe it’s just an essay.

Connor: Yeah, you might be right.

Brittany: I think it’s an, yeah. I think she makes great points that people always think capitalists are so evil and, you know, and only self-centered. But if you’re solving a problem, like, let’s look at Jeff Bezos, I get whatever I want delivered to my door in 48 hours, and I think that is pretty great. I’m okay with him being a trillionaire or whatever he is now because there’s an incentive for me to buy cuz I get things quicker and more conveniently. And there’s an incentive for him to be doing what he is doing with Amazon. So I, don’t really see a problem with that. So I think there’s good kinds of selfishness and there are bad kinds of selfishness.

Connor: So let me next ask you another criticism that people, make of Ayn Rand. And, this is typically from people who want to totally dismiss her ideas and just avoid even, you know, addressing them or talking about them. And that is that Ayn Rand for all of her criticisms, for all of her attacks on socialism and, moochers and, so forth, that she herself lived on welfare programs, in her older years that she participated in these government programs. And so what are your thoughts there?

Brittany: See, and that’s where I just think it’s, hypocritical, but that would be by gut instinct. But then as I’m even thinking about this more, I’m thinking, well, she paid into the system, right? So I’ve heard this argument with unemployment. A lot of people won’t take it on principle because they think it’s welfare. However, for those of us who are paying taxes and who’ve been employed and who’ve been, you know, taxed to death, what it feels like sometimes we’ve paid into these programs. So sometimes you think like, well of course I’m gonna use it, I paid into it. So it’s a very, very fine line. And it’s one of those things I struggle with. Now, I personally would like to tell you that I would never take it, but I’ve not been in a situation where I’ve had to take it. So I don’t wanna answer in case it happens, but I would like to tell you that I wouldn’t, I would like to believe that I wouldn’t, especially if I was someone like Ayn Rand who’s made my living talking about not, you know, how we shouldn’t do this. Right? That seems a little bit hypocritical. That’s so those are my thoughts.

Connor: It makes it a little harder, and this is kind of tangential, but it is, kind of consistent with talking about Ayn Rand because yeah, it’s one thing to stand up on these principles and then when the rubber meets the road can you live the principles that you’re telling everyone else to live. So you’re right to point out, I think that there was some hypocrisy there, perhaps in, not practicing what was so vocally preached, um, in all of her, you know, books and writings. but the point that you made, I’ll push back on gently here, and that is, and this is a discussion I’ve had with a lot of people, over the years, this idea that we’ve paid into the system, therefore we can benefit from the system. And I think the way that argument, becomes harder to make is when we understand that these, socialist kind of welfare programs are actually pyramid schemes. So all of the money that we’ve paid in over the years, let’s use Social Security.

Brittany: I was gonna say that’s the best example. Yep.

Connor: Yeah. So Social security is a program where, you know, old people and some others can receive support from the government in their older years. and, you know, they’ve paid, into the program all along the way when in reality the way it works is in their earlier years, those people were paying to support all the old people at the time. And that money, it’s not like an investment account that you might get if you wanna invest in stocks. It’s not like savings account at the bank where, you know, the money that you’re paying along the way is being held for you to then use later in your life. and frankly, the government would be like the worst investment broker in the world to you know, I’d rather just use that money to go invest myself in the market.

Brittany: Just like money on fire, really. I think you’d get the same accomplished.

Connor: Totally. And so in reality, what’s happening is that like, I’ll use me as an example. I’m paying in my whole life, if I were to participate in social security later in life, I’m not getting back what I’ve put in. I’m perpetuating, in other words, I’m continuing a program and making other people pay on my behalf. And I think that’s where the critics of someone like I rand and of course, you know, she’s not the only one who has preached one thing and done another when, you know, life became difficult. but I think that’s where the argument becomes a little valid. It’s, not just that you’re using money that you’ve put into the system, it’s like, well, you’re making other people pay for you. How is that any different? And so I think if, anything, maybe one of the takeaways, Brittany, from this episode, sure. You know, go learn about Ayn Rand. There’s a lot to learn. Go read some of her stuff. There’s even websites out there that have just Iron Rand quotes, and you can just, you know, rather than

Brittany: Look at the point

Connor: Exactly, just rather than diving into a full book, you can just go read some of those snippets. Ver she’s a very interesting person. Go pull up her Wikipedia page. You know, go try reading Atlas interviews,

Brittany: Some interviews with her.

Connor: Absolutely oh yeah.

Brittany: To watch. She’s a character like I Said.

Connor: On YouTube, you can find some interviews. I remember watching the one with Phil Donahue, who was the old, what do you call those? Talk show hosts. so yeah, spend some time looking up. Ayn Rand and learning a bit more. However, I think, an interesting takeaway here that you and I maybe didn’t anticipate when we planned this episode is the importance for us to try and create our lives in a way where we can be consistent with the principles that we believe in. you know, I don’t know all the particulars of Ayn Rand’s life. Maybe she mismanaged her money. She made quite a bit of money.

Brittany: She did from a biography I just read, about her. She did, So that’s a good point.

Connor: Okay. Yeah. And so, you know, had she saved and invested and prepared for retirement, then she would not have had to, she could have been faithful to her message. And in my opinion, that would’ve made her that much stronger of an advocate for these ideas to not have kind of this, another term as an Achilles heel, right? Mom and dad can tell the kids kind of what that’s in reference to kind of exposing yourself to a weakness, an argument that someone else can attack you on. And so for those of us who believe in freedom and limited government and individual rights, I think it’s very important that we create our lives in a way, that will allow us to be faithful to that message. We’re gonna make, the job a little easier for you guys. We will share a couple of resources about Ayn Rand that are worth looking into on the show notes page for today. And so head over to Tuttletwins.com/podcast, check those out, go find your own, and maybe have a family discussion about, the importance of us being consistent and how can we create lives, our lives in a way that will allow us to stand up for these ideas that we believe in and, and not have to, deviate from them later in life. So until next time, guys, thanks as always for subscribing. We’re glad you’re listening and we’ll talk to you next time. Brittany.

Brittany: Talk to you next time

 

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