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Ayn Rand, Before Capitalism

5,078 words

YoungRand [1]Editor’s Note:

This essay was written in 2000 and published online at a long-defunct website. It contains some good ideas and good writing, so I believe it deserves to live again. 

“The capitalistic world is low, unprincipled and corrupt.”

—Ayn Rand, Journals of Ayn Rand

“The mob had not yet been taught to openly and consistently worship itself as a mob; it still has vestiges of respect for individualism ground into it by centuries of aristocracy.”

—Ayn Rand, Journals of Ayn Rand

“The free market . . . is the greatest of all educators. It continually raises the knowledge of the citizens, the caliber of their tastes, the discrimination of their pleasures, the sophistication of their needs . . . the growing statism of a mixed economy promotes the increasingly debased mass tastes we see today in such fields as art, literature, and entertainment.”

—Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand was the 20th-century’s best-known philosophical defender of laissez-faire capitalism. But nobody is born a capitalist. Thus it makes sense to ask: When did Ayn Rand become a capitalist?

Considerable light is thrown on this question by Rand’s Russian Writings on Hollywood, ed. Michael S. Berliner (Irvine, Cal.: Ayn Rand Institute Press, 1999). This volume contains her earliest known published writings, two illustrated Russian-language “fanzines” about the movies: a biography of actress Pola Negri (1925) and Hollywood: American City of Movies (1926). Both texts show evidence of a pre-capitalist—indeed an anti-capitalist—phase of Rand’s thought.

In the first chapter of Hollywood, she describes economic competition in the language of “struggle”: “Throughout the life of Hollywood runs the red thread of that constant of competition, struggle” (RW, 73). Note the choice of color. In the second chapter, Rand again casts competition in negative terms: “The enormous studios of Hollywood belong to competing movie companies, which fight with each other like enemy powers” and “vie for dominance of the American screen” (RW, 76). Advertisements are described as “imperiously compelling” (RW, 76). Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky of Famous Players Lasky Corporation are described as, “count[ing] their profits by the million, earned by the effort and talent of their employees and actors” (RW, 76).

Attentiveness to social class is also apparent:

on [Hollywood’s] streets you will meet representatives of every nationality, people from every social class. Elegant Europeans, energetic, businesslike Americans, benevolent Negroes, quiet Chinese, savages from colonies. Professors from the best schools, farmers, and aristocrats of all types and ages descend on the Hollywood studios in a greedy crowd. (RW, 77)

In the third chapter, we again encounter the language of exploitation. Rand refers to “the stars” as “all those from whom the cinema businessmen squeeze out their million dollar profits” (RW, 78). She points out the fickleness of the marketplace, which can make and break a director: “One fine day he creates a picture which may not be any better or worse than preceding pictures. But this picture enjoys colossal success” (RW, 80). Rand describes the studio owner (the businessman) as the “omnipotent and indomitable enemy” of the director (the artist). “The owners and presidents of film studios force their views and demands on the directors. They greedily pursue the public’s tastes. Like obedient slaves, they strive to satisfy every desire of the omnipotent public. They want to release only that which is popular. They are frightened by the new and the unusual” (RW, 81).

After recounting the struggles of such famous directors as Joseph von Sternberg, Monta Bell, and Erich von Stroheim with the studio bosses, Rand adds, “It is not hard to imagine the working conditions of those who are less famous and more dependent on the movie-sharks” (RW, 81).

The fourth chapter also displays the language of Marxist class analysis. Of D. W. Griffith, Rand writes, “He portrays the lives of small, provincial people, the tragedies of everyday petty bourgeois lives” (RW, 82).

Rand also seems to disapprove of the American public’s disdain for Erich von Stroheim: “Erich von Stroheim occupies a unique place among American directors. He is the most abrupt, the most tempestuous, the most uncompromising of all of them.” These are characteristics of which Ayn Rand would approve, even though, “His pursuit of naturalism, of the portrayal of the most repelling aspects of life, is incomprehensible to Americans. His abrupt straightforwardness is alien to them. He is faulted for ‘his desire to show us dead cats instead of a sunrise.’ Stroheim is too serious for Americans” (RW, 84).

In the fifth chapter, Rand notes that, “The best, greatest stars always appear alone in a cast comprised of little-known actors. Why pay large sums of money to other celebrities, when only one name is necessary for a full profit?” (RW, 87). Rand also laments the indifference of the public to real beauty in actresses: “Beauty means nothing. It is much more important for an actress to possess unique, original, unusual facial features, distinguishing her from the others” (RW, 90). Rand also laments the fickleness of the marketplace: “The American public forgets its old favorites just as quickly as it brings new ones to fame. Movie stars are helpless puppets in its whim-driven hands” (RW, 91).

Rand blames the lack of good American film scenarios on the profit motive: “In their chase for profits producers are more likely to adapt a successful literary work for the screen, than to take chances on unknown scenarios specially written for the movies” (RW, 101). She deplores the corruption of artistic standards by the tyranny of the public’s dubious tastes:

The technically perfect films are far from perfect artistically. The American public considers the movies to be more a pleasant pastime than an art form. It wants the movies to entertain, but not to make a lasting impression.

A tragic end of a movie is not acceptable for American moviegoers. They will not go to the movies, if they know that the hero or heroine dies. They like sentimental, naive plots. They rate ‘family’ movies, those movies which you could show to children, the highest. (RW, 105)

Pola_Negri_by_Ayn_Rand_cover [2]As noted earlier, Hollywood was published without Rand’s permission. It appeared with an introduction by a Soviet writer who condemned Hollywood. Editor Michael Berliner suggests that, “It is also likely that the publisher and not Ayn Rand was the source of occasional Marxist interpretations in the text, such as the characterization of owners as exploitative, making millions of dollars from the efforts of their employees” (RW, 43). There is a serious problem with this suggestion, however. If the remarks in question are not Rand’s, then we would not expect to see them in Pola Negri, which was published with her permission while she was still in Russia. But in Pola Negri Rand also employs the rhetoric of Marxian “internationalism” and class analysis:

Pola Negri is international [Rand could have chosen the more apt “universal”]. She is able to portray every social class and nationality equally colorfully and convincingly. A Spanish woman, an ancient Egyptian, a modern-day Frenchwoman, a child of the people, a worldly noblewoman—this great actress is equally good at each of these roles . . . (RW, 32)


Even the American petty bourgeois, who demands a movie actress with the face of an angel from a cheap postcard, kneels before this strong, energetic talent. (RW, 32)

Rand later repeats the claim that Negri’s “heroines are not limited by nationality, age, or social class” (RW, 36–37).

Certainly, there is not as much Marxist rhetoric in Pola Negri, but this is to be expected, for two reasons. First, Hollywood is 40 percent longer. Second, Hollywood deals with the film industry as a whole, providing more occasion for political commentary, whereas Pola Negri is simply a biographical essay. Since both booklets contain Marxist terms and anti-capitalist sentiments, it is reasonable to conclude that it was Rand who put them there.

But how could Ayn Rand write such things?  Either she was sincere or she wasn’t. If she was not sincere, what was her motive? The most plausible motive is fear of the Soviet regime. Rand may have included such language to protect herself from suspicions of ideological unorthodoxy. Such suspicions could have led to the denial of employment, imprisonment, and even under certain circumstances death. Rand may have been trying to establish herself as an ideologically reliable film scholar in order to gain permission to visit America, where her relatives ran a movie theater in Chicago. One pretext for her visit was to study the American film industry. Thus it is perfectly plausible that the Marxist terminology and anti-capitalist sentiments of Rand’s Russian writings were insincere.

Rand was not, moreover, loath to deceive the Soviets. She lied about her intentions when she applied for a visa. And, as noted earlier, in The Passion of Ayn Rand, Barbara Branden relates how Rand considered the possibility of feigning Communist sympathies in order to write for the screen (Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1986], 38).

Furthermore, the hypothesis that Rand was sincere has two problems.

First, we have to square the remarks in question with the individualist sentiments that are also evident in the Russian writings. Rand clearly sympathizes with such unconventional artists as Pola Negri and Erich von Stroheim, who did not pander to the public’s tastes but tried to transform them.

Second, we have to square these remarks with the mature Ayn Rand’s own autobiographical reflections, which say nothing about a “Marxist” period in her thinking; in fact, Rand claimed that she was opposed to Marxism as soon as she heard about it, at age 12, at the very beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution.

In her “Biographical Essay” in Who is Ayn Rand? Barbara Branden writes:

When, at the age of twelve, [Rand] first heard the communist slogan that man must live for the state, she knew, consciously and clearly, that this was the horror at the root of all the other horrors taking place around her. Her feeling was one of incredulous contempt: incredulity that such a statement could be uttered in human society, and a cold, unforgiving contempt for anyone who could accept it. (Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, Who Is Ayn Rand: An Interpretation of the Novels of Ayn Rand [New York: Random House, 1962], “Biographical Essay”)

Rand claimed, furthermore, that these attitudes only intensified with time. However, to be anti-communist is not necessarily to be pro-capitalist, as the phenomenon of National Socialism illustrates.

The best evidence that Rand’s anti-capitalist sentiments are sincere is the fact that they appear in some of her writings after she left Russia. At that point, Rand had no more reason to feign anti-capitalist views. In fact, she had every reason to conceal them.

Consider, for example, the following remarks on Hollywood from Rand’s first notes for The Fountainhead, dated December 4th, 1935:

As a ridiculous and petty but clear example of this type: the movie producers and the Hollywood type of mentality. The movies have produced no great work of art, no immortal masterpiece to compare with the masterpieces of other arts. Why? Because the movies are not an art? Rubbish! Because those in charge do not create what they think is good. Because those in charge have no values of their own (and refuse to have) but accept blindly anything and everything approved by someone else—anyone else.

The movies are the perfect example of collective ideology and of “living for others.” Why did all the other arts reach heights the movies never attained? Why did they prosper and survive in spite of the fact that they did not consider the “box-office,” the mob’s approval? Precisely because they did not consider the mob’s approval. They created—and forced the mob to accept their creations. But the movies “live for others.” And—they do not live at all. Not as an achievement and an end in themselves. Those working in the movies work to make money, not to work in the movies. Fine, if that’s all they want. But what do they get out of the money? What do they get in exchange for giving up the reality of their work and of their lives? They spend their lives at a second-hand task, a task secondary to their real purpose, a task which is only a means to an end. What is the end? Shouldn’t the end be precisely that at which they spend their lives? But—they’re only second-hand people with second-hand lives! (Journals of Ayn Rand, ed. David Harriman [New York: Dutton, 1997], 87).

Although Rand ultimately treats the artistic corruption of Hollywood as an example of moral failure rather than market failure, she treats the profit motive as a contributing factor. The goal of the studio bosses was to make as much money as possible by catering to the vulgar tastes of the mob. The only way to create great art, however, is to aim at creating great art, not at creating  a popular product to make money. Great artists must operate in sovereign contempt of the “box-office.”

There is one way of reconciling Marxist terminology and anti-capitalist sentiments with Rand’s early individualism: Rand could have been anti-capitalist precisely because she was such a strong individualist. If, moreover, Rand were anti-capitalist for non-Marxist reasons, she could still have adopted certain terms and elements of the Marxist critique of capitalism while rejecting Marxism itself.

But how could Rand have been anti-capitalist for individualist reasons? I wish to suggest that the early Ayn Rand, like Nietzsche, did not think that the fundamental political alternative was between communism and capitalism. Instead, she regarded communism and capitalism as two species of the same genus: mass society.

Thus, she writes in her 1928 notes for her first planned novel, the bitterly misanthropic and deeply Nietzschean The Little Street, “Communism, democracy, socialism are the logical results of present-day humanity. The nameless horror of [these systems], both in their logical end and in the unconscious way that they already rule mankind” (Journals, 25). Note that at this stage of her thinking Rand refers to “democracy,” not capitalism. The differences between economic systems seem less important to her than the common mass character of socialist, communist, and democratic societies.

The same subsumption of capitalism and communism under the genus of mass society is evident six years later in her notes on fellow-Nietzschean José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses. Consider also her notes for The Fountainhead, dated December 22, 1935:

Either “man” is the unit and the final sovereign—or else “men” are. And “men” means the mob, the State, the nation, the Soviet—anything one wishes to call it, anything that implies a number of humans, a herd. Man must live for the State, claim the communists. Well, man is living for other men, for the mob, completely and hopelessly, only we don’t say so. . . . Proper life is possible only when man is allowed (and encouraged, and taught, and practically forced) to live for himself. (Journals, 85).

Mass society is defined in opposition to elite society, specifically aristocratic society, and Rand’s early writings also display pronounced elitist and aristocratic tendencies. Rand was an aspiring artist. She worshipped creativity, talent, and innovation. She saw that these qualities were possessed only by the few human beings who faced the world with their own eyes, minds, and imaginations. She saw that such creators were opposed by the masses, who tend toward ignorance and lack of cultivation, as well as timidity, intellectual sloth, conformism, small-mindedness, and mindless conservatism. It was natural, therefore, for Rand to see an elitist, aristocratic form of society as more consistent with the interests of creative individuals.

Communism, however, claims to rule in the name and the interests of the masses. Thus, Rand told Barbara Branden that when she heard the slogan that the individual must live for the state:

She saw, in that slogan, the vision of a hero on a sacrificial altar, immolated in the name of mediocrity . . . she saw the life of any man of intelligence, of ambition, of independence, claimed as the property of some shapeless mob. It was the demand for the sacrifice of best among men, and for the enshrinement of the commonplace . . . that she saw as the unspeakable evil of communism. (“Biographical Essay,” 157-58).

Communism is evil because it seeks to subordinate all of society to the tastes and the interests of the masses.

The same criticism could, however, be directed at American capitalism. Hence Rand’s assertion that, “The movies”—that is to say, the movie business—“are the perfect example of collective ideology and of ‘living for others.’“

Just as the state is the central institution of communist society, the market is the central institution of capitalist society. Just as the communist state legitimates itself by claiming to work for the interests of the masses, the capitalist market legitimates itself by being marvelously responsive to the interests of the masses. Businesses that wish to survive and succeed must cater to the public tastes, and the better they cater to public tastes, the better they succeed.

Thus capitalism, like communism, subordinates the central institution of society to the tastes of the masses. This is why defenders of aristocracy have disdained “bourgeois” commercial society: not because it is too individualistic, but because it is not individualistic enough. This tradition of thought includes such writers as Plato, Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Matthew Arnold, Lord Acton, Walter Bagehot, Jacob Burckhardt, and Gustave le Bon. The aristocratic critic of mass society who influenced Rand the most, however, was Nietzsche. Rand was also influenced to a lesser extent by fellow Nietzschean José Ortega y Gasset [3].

Although the political convictions of these writers varied widely, from socialism to classical liberalism to the radical right, they are united in seeing mankind as divided into two types.

The majority are ruled by their appetites, not by ideals. When faced with a choice between morality and expediency, they choose expediency. Philosophically, they are second-handers. Their metaphysical convictions are determined by culture and geography: In a Catholic society, they are Catholics; in a Buddhist society, they are Buddhists. Their values—moral, political, and aesthetic—are also determined by others. Any high ideals among them are then betrayed, cut down to fit the masses. They may pay lip-service to greatness, but in fact they value the common, mediocre, sentimental, and safe.

Because they aspire to little, they achieve little. Because they aspire to conventional values, they lead conventional lives. Because they live by imitating others, they turn out to be mere imitations of others. They conspicuously lack individuality, self-actualization, and spiritual greatness.

In the words of Rand’s 1928 notes for The Little Street: “humanity has and wants to have: existence instead of life, satisfaction instead of joy, contentment instead of happiness, security instead of power, vanity instead of pride, attachment instead of love, wish instead of will, yearning instead of passion, a glow-worm instead of a fire” (Journals, 25).

It is only a few human beings who become self-actualized individuals because they have the courage to think and live for themselves. Nietzsche and other critics of mass society associate this small elite with the institution of aristocracy. (An examination of Rand’s use of the concept of aristocracy and its cognates reveals a similar association.) This association seems, however, quite puzzling, for most aristocrats seem no more individuated and self-actualized than the masses.

There are, however, two plausible reasons for this identification. First, virtually every great artist and philosopher up to the beginning of the 18th century was either an aristocrat or enjoyed aristocratic patronage. Second, the ethics of self-actualization and individualism was first articulated by Greek aristocrats (Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon), and, after the fall of paganism, this ethic was preserved throughout the Christian era by European aristocrats. (Aristotle’s ethics is the “common sense” of the British aristocracy to this day.)

From the viewpoint of an “aristocratic” critic of mass man and mass society, the differences between capitalism and communism are less interesting than the similarities, for both systems share the same end: They seek to throw off vestiges of aristocracy and empower the masses. The systems differ only in their chosen means: Capitalism uses more carrots, communism more sticks. Because of this, communism does a better job of throwing off the vestiges of aristocracy (replacing it with elite rule by the worst), while capitalism does a much better job of empowering the masses.

Given the nature of the masses, one can sympathize with the early Ayn Rand’s concern with the cultural consequences of the free market. Before capitalism, the realm of high culture was heavily influenced by the “given preferences” of a highly cultivated, idealistic elite deeply influenced by the pagan ethic of self-actualization. The result? The cultural atmosphere eulogized by Rand in the Introduction to The Romantic Manifesto:

As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War I world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history. . . . So powerful a fire does not die at once: even under the Soviet regime, in my college years, such works as Hugo’s Ruy Blas and Schiller’s Don Carlos were included in theatrical repertories, not as historical revivals, but as part of the contemporary aesthetic scene. Such was the level of the public’s intellectual concerns and standards. If one has glimpsed that kind of art—and wider: the possibility of that kind of culture—one is unable to be satisfied with anything less. . . . [That period’s] art projected an overwhelming sense of intellectual freedom, of depth, i.e., concern with fundamental problems, of demanding standards, of inexhaustible originality, of unlimited possibilities and, above all, of profound respect for man. (Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature [New York: New American Library, 1971], vi)

With the rise of capitalism and the decline of aristocracy, the realm of culture has been shaped more and more by the “given preferences” of the masses, i.e., those who are less cultivated, less idealistic, and more influenced by Christianity and other egalitarian creeds without the countervailing influence of pagan virtue. The result? Modern popular culture, which grows more lurid, coarse, violent, sentimental, and stupid every day.

So Leonard Peikoff is just plain wrong to argue as quoted above that the free market tends inevitably to increase the knowledge, caliber, sophistication and discrimination of the tastes expressed by the public. The only law that governs the creation of such cultural products as gangster rap, Marilyn Manson, and the moronic fare offered on networks like the WB is the law of supply and demand. The pop culture industry is simply catering to the “given preferences” of people with crude and vulgar tastes.

But it does not stop there. The culture industry actively conspires to corrupt the tastes of the masses. Why? To create demand for new products. At any given time, there are things that people will simply not buy because they find them obscene and revolting. But no matter what our scruples, human beings have dark and prurient curiosities. This is why we gossip; this is why we sneak peeks at tabloids in the supermarket; this is why we look for blood as we drive by accident scenes. If the culture industry can use these prurient curiosities to undermine our scruples, it can sell us new products. It is this combination of greed and cynicism that is so brilliantly satirized in Network, a movie that looks more and more prophetic today as millions tune in to the modern Coliseum, the Fox network, to watch people dying in plane crashes and being mauled by lions and bears. Sadly, it is far easier to create new demand by corrupting people’s tastes than by edifying them. The corrupters are aided by gravity, by the downward pull of our prurient curiosity. The edifiers have to fight against gravity.

If, however, Rand was influenced by this sort of aristocratic cultural critique of mass society, how did she come to be an advocate of capitalism?

First of all, we have to remember that Ayn Rand never became an advocate of capitalism as it exists today; she was an advocate of an “unknown ideal” she called capitalism. Therefore, there is no inconsistency in defending Rand’s unknown capitalism and harshly criticizing capitalism as it exists today.

Second, the essence of Rand’s unknown ideal is not the profit motive or private property, but a new moral code. Rand’s studies of and subsequent experience in the movie industry showed her the cultural and spiritual destructiveness of the combination of cynicism and greed. Rand’s experiences in Russia, however, showed her evil and futility of trying to stamp out greed. Therefore, she declared war on cynicism. This is made abundantly clear in her notes for The Fountainhead dated December 4, 1935:

The thing which is most “wrong with the world” today is its absolute lack of positive values. . . . Nothing is considered bad and nothing is considered good. There is no enthusiasm for living, since there is no enthusiasm for any part, mode or form of living.

(Incidentally, this explains the tremendous popularity of communism among people who are not communists at all, particularly young people. Communism, at least, offers a definite goal, inspiration, and ideal, a positive faith. Nothing else in modern life does. The old capitalism has nothing better to offer than the dreary, shop-worn, mildewed ideology of Christianity. . . . Furthermore, that same Christianity, with its denial of life and glorification of all men’s brotherhood, is the best possible kindergarten for communism. Communism is at least consistent in its ideology. Capitalism is not; it preaches what communism actually wants to live. Consequently, if there are things in capitalism and democracy worth saving, a new faith is needed, a definite, positive set of new values and a new interpretation of life . . .)

. . . A new set of values is needed to combat this modern dreariness, whether it be communism . . . or the sterile, hopeless cynicism of the modern age. That new faith is Individualism in its deepest meaning and implications, such as has never been preached before: individualism of the spirit, of ethics, of philosophy, not merely the good old “rugged individualism” of small shopkeepers. Individualism as a religion and a code, not merely as an economic practice. . . . A revival (or perhaps the first birth) of the word “I” as the holiest of holies and the reason of reasons. (Journals, 80-81)

Even more revealing is a passage from her notes dated December 22, 1935, part of which was quoted as the first epigraph of this essay:

If all of life has been brought down to flattering the mob, if those who can please the mob are the only ones to succeed—why should anyone feel any high aspirations and cherish any ideals? The capitalistic world is low, unprincipled, and corrupt. But how can it have any incentive toward principles if its ideology has killed the only source of principles—man’s “I”’? Christianity has succeeded in eliminating “self” from the world of ethics, by declaring “ethics” and “self” as incompatible. But that self cannot be killed. It has only degenerated into the ugly modern struggle for material success at the cost of all higher values, since these values have been outlawed by the church. Hence—the hopelessness, the colorless drabness, the dreariness and empty brutality of our present day.

. . . Until man’s “self” regains its proper position, life will be what it is now: flat, gray, empty, lacking in all beauty, all fire, all enthusiasm, all meaning, all creative urge. That is the ultimate theme of the book—Howard Roark as the remedy for all modern ills. (Journals, 84) 

In sum: Rand’s answer to the aristocratic critique of capitalism is to try to graft an aristocratic ethics onto capitalism. Rand envisions a world in which businessmen have such a high sense of honor they would not pursue material wealth by flattering and corrupting the mob. Instead, they truly would strive continually to raise “the knowledge of the citizens, the caliber of their tastes, the discrimination of their pleasures, the sophistication of their needs.” They would have too much pride to produce inferior products and rely on slick and deceptive marketing to sell them. They would have such good taste that they would not sell gangster rap or pornography or Jerry Springer.

But there’s a problem: Was Rand reasonable to expect the masses to accept her new moral code? How did she expect to sell an aristocratic ethic to anyone but aristocrats? Did she expect to sell this ethic to the Larry Flints of the world? To the Snopeses? If she couldn’t, then wouldn’t we be right back where we are now?

This brings us to the third, and to my mind most problematic, aspect of Rand’s transformation into an advocate of capitalism: her increasingly unrealistic attitudes toward the masses— “the common man.” Rand came more and more to believe that America was being corrupted by bad ideas trickling down from the intellectual elites, and that the further one got from the elite, the better the people’s thinking. Like Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Rand came more and more to believe that “All hope lies in the proles.”

The transformation of Rand’s attitudes can be gauged by comparing her different treatments of jury trials. In her 1928 notes for the The Little Street, Rand indicates that she will model the jury that judges the hero Danny Renahan on the William Edward Hickman jury: “The whole must make a nice picture of society’s representatives, who sit in judgment over the boy even though they are not worthy to lace his shoes” (Journals, 39-40). Renahan is convicted and sentenced to death. In her 1935 notes for The Fountainhead, the first vote of the jury in the Cortlandt Homes case was to be “eleven . . . guilty to one . . . not guilty. The one swung the eleven” (Journals, 176). By the time The Fountainhead was published in 1943, however, Rand dropped the behind-the-scenes drama, casting the common man in a better light. In Atlas Shrugged, when Rearden is tried before the three judge tribunal, the support of the spectators sways the decision of the judges. Perhaps it is just as well that Rand didn’t live to see the O. J. Simpson trial.

I began by raising the questions: When and why did Ayn Rand become an advocate of capitalism? Based on The Letters of Ayn Rand and The Journals of Ayn Rand, I would argue that Rand became an advocate of capitalism sometime in the early 1930s, and that this conviction took progressive shape during the planning and writing of The Fountainhead. Rand became an advocate of capitalism because of her growing conviction that what capitalism lacked was an aristocratic ethic of self-actualization, and that this ethic could be sold to the common man. To this end, she created two of history’s most remarkable vehicles for popularizing philosophical ideas: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. You can judge her success for yourself.