As a libertarian I have been interested in the writings of Ayn Rand. I was surprised that today marked the fiftieth anniversary of her influential book Atlas Shrugged. It was a delight to read of John Piper’s thoughts on her work – I saw that he and I shared the same struggles and feelings. Though she was a champion of capitalism and individualism, she was an ardent atheist and hedonist. In some senses, her views tend towards bolstering the misconceptions many have about capitalism, as she was rigorously self-centred (note her views on abortion). I sometimes think that if someone like Rand became the leader of a country, the poor would have some problems. Granted, I don’t know enough about her thought to really back the statement up!
Yet, in a strange way, it is her atheism that I am intrigued by. She is a living example that a capitalist system that is based on the autonomous rationality of men and women provides no real incentive to do good. The poor would get left behind, not because of capitalism, but because the atheism behind it (in her case) provides no foundation for ethics. Capitalism, in my opinion, needs an objective authority (more than Smith’s ‘invisible hand’) that changes the naturally selfish inclinations of people. Of course, I argue that the only objective authority for this is Christ and his Word.
Anyways, after that ramble, don’t get dissuaded from reading Piper’s note. It’s very good. And while you’re at it, read this evaluation of Rand’s ethics also written by Piper some years ago.