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And for years I've wondered whether they:"_Atlas Shrugged _was a life-changing event for me," says John Allison, who recently retired as the CEO of the BBT Corporation and remains the chairman of the huge North Carolina-based bank.
During his last five years as CEO, BBT's charitable arm awarded nearly million to support the study of capitalism from a moral perspective on college campuses—in most cases with the stipulation that "I was a 19-year-old at the University of North Carolina the first time I read it," Allison recalls.
But the two choices traditionally put forward by mass culture are Jesus or 'helping everybody,' which are both fraudulent and ridiculous.
And were both published in 1957, he adds, "Kerouac has had a more diffuse influence on American culture. Yossarian was a perfect antihero for the '60s generation, but does anybody give a shit about him now? A few days ago, I was watching an old clip of Andrew Dice Clay's stand-up act from 1987. (And not just because a Library of Congress/Book-of-the-Month Club survey conducted thirty-four years after its publication ranked the second most influential book ever written after, you guessed it, the Bible.) She viewed the Speech as the keystone to…everything.
It was tough for me, because as Ayn Rand herself says, we think alone.
And then to find this book, to have somebody defend ideas I agreed with, ideas that were inconsistent with what I was hearing at the university—it just gave me great comfort and strength."It speaks to Rand's mojo that when an ARA as off the grid as Michael Malice speaks of the hour he first believed, his thoughts and words all but duplicate those of an establishment Randian like John Allison."There is a reason she appeals to the young," says Malice.
We're talking about a phase, no different from purple hair and lip rings, right?
My friend, in the Objectivist world of Ayn Rand, whose funeral featured a six-foot dollar sign made out of flowers next to the open casket, greed is God. They run influential libertarian think tanks like the Cato Institute in D. But they also tend to be people who—unlike all those semiotics majors who'd written off Rand as Nietzsche in a bra even before they'd graduated—impact our lives in direct ways.
The third thing you must understand about the Speech is that it's extreme stuff—but it's not fringe. Randians run some of America's biggest companies (Ralph Lauren, John Mackey of Whole Foods), hedge funds (Victor Niederhoffer, Peter Thiel), and banks.
Thanks to them, the Rand Experience is no longer limited to those who have read the books. But most fell into that hapless group of Rand readers—the ones whose postadolescent insecurity was alchemized upon contact with into a bizarre unlaughing superiority.
Some snapped out of it after a semester or two, becoming people who later in life—like Hillary Clinton—could refer with a shake of the head to their "Ayn Rand phase." Some didn't, and I lost them as friends.
And realizes: That was nearly 2,000 pages (more, really, given that Rand's loathing of collectivist parasites is matched only by her loathing of paragraph indents) without a single instance of irony or humor. In time, he begins to understand that his ordeal consists of two phases. And then there is the digesting, which is quite another.