Your Cocktail Party Guide to Ayn Rand

In 2005, Paul Ryan, said: “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” If all you’ve learned about Rand is that her name letters the spine of some thick paperbacks you’ve been lugging around since college with an intent to read, here’s a quick guide to all things Rand-ian. Because really, you’re never going to read Atlas Shrugged.

Ayn Rand, the Basics

Born: Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, 1905, Russia
Died: Ayn Rand, 1982, New York City (as a U.S. citizen)
Her life’s work: Rand was a writer and philosopher famous for her books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
Her philosophy: Objectivism
In plain terms: A reality exists whether we’re aware of it or not, man is and should be self-serving, and each man should operate as his own trader in a capitalist society.

What Would Ayn Rand Say?

On abortion: Let her choose.

  • “An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).”
  • “Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”

On gay rights: Government has no place in deeming it right/wrong.

  • It’s “totally improper for law to interfere,” … “so long as it is done by adults with mutual consent, it is not the province of the law.”

On government bailouts: No way.

  • “Government ‘help’ to business is just as disastrous as government persecution … the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off.”

On racism: Primitive nonsense.

  • “Racism is a doctrine of, by, and for brutes […] Racism is a quest for the unearned.”

On charity: Doesn’t matter.

  • “I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue”.

On love: Love yourself first.

  • “To say, ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.’”

On guns: End of morality.

  • “Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins.”

On religion: Nonsense.

  • “They keep telling you what it is not, but never tell you what it is. All their identifications consist of negating: God is that which no human mind can know, they say—and proceed to demand that you consider it knowledge—God is non-man, heaven is non-earth, soul is non-body, virtue is non-profit, A is non-A, perception is non-sensory, knowledge is non-reason.”


On money: Watch out.

  • “Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed.”

On capital punishment: It’s tricky.

  • Morally just, but legally dangerous
  • Jurors might wrongly convict

Notable Ayn Rand Fans (Then and Now)

  • Ronald Reagan
  • Paul Ryan
  • Ron/Rand Paul
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
  • Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Vince Vaughn
  • Eva Mendes
  • Hugh Hefner
  • Ed Snider