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Written by Johann Hari
Posted on THE SLATE, Monday, Nov. 2, 2009new window

I appreciate Johann Hari's writing, and send thanks for posting such a timely and well-written article. Finally, some exposure of Ayn Rand's true life as lived. We are fools if we believe what fools tell us without question. Anything that certain irrational political orators or hate-radio hosts try to sell as a wonderful cure-all for every contemporary social problem we may have, I investigate with distrust and doubt. This is not an article that is meant to inflame tempers or destroy heroine-worship. It's a result of Johann's research of two recent books about Rand, and a result of my own on-line research. I present only a few of the thousands of search engine results for these matters. I feel that it's important to know as much as we can about a person whose writings we are about to use as a template for our country's new social and economic philosophy - and eventually for our very system of government itself.

Ayn Randnew window is one of America's great mysteries. She was an amphetamine-addicted author of sub-Dan Brown potboilers, who in her spare time wrote lavish torrents of praise for serial killers and the Bernie Madoff-style embezzlers of her day. She opposed democracy on the grounds that "the masses" - her readers - were "lice" and "parasites" who scarcely deserved to live. Yet she remains one of the most popular writers in the United States, still selling 800,000 books a year from beyond the grave. She regularly tops any list of books that Americans say have most influenced them.

Since the great crash of 2008, her writing has had another Benzedrine rush, as Rush Limbaugh hails her as a prophetess. With her assertions that government is "evil" and selfishness is "the only virtue," she is the patron saint of the tea-partiers and the death panel doomsters. So how did this little Russian bomb of pure immorality in a black wig become an American icon?

Two new biographies of Rand- Goddess of the Marketnew window by Jennifer Burns and Ayn Rand and the World She Madenew window by Anne Heller - try to puzzle out this question, showing how her arguments found an echo in the darkest corners of American political life. But the books work best, for me, on a level I didn't expect. They are thrilling psychological portraits of a horribly damaged woman who deserves the one thing she spent her life raging against: compassion.

Alisa Rosenbaum (her original name) was born in the icy winter of czarism, not long after the failed 1905 revolution ripped through her home city of St. Petersburg. Her father was a self-made Jewish pharmacist, while her mother was an aristocratic dilettante who loathed her three daughters. She would tell them she never wanted children, and she kept them only out of duty.

Alisa became a surly, friendless child. In elementary school, her class was asked to write an essay about why being a child was a joyous thing. She instead wrote "a scathing denunciation of childhood," headed with a quote from Pascal: "I would prefer an intelligent hell to a stupid paradise."

But the Rosenbaums' domestic tensions were dwarfed by the conflicts raging outside. The worst anti-Jewish violence since the Middle Ages was brewing, and the family was terrified of being killed by the mobs- but it was the Bolsheviks who struck at them first. After the 1917 revolutions, her father's pharmacy was seized "in the name of the people." For Alisa, who had grown up surrounded by servants and nannies, the Communists seemed at last to be the face of the masses, a terrifying robbing horde. In a country where 5 million people died of starvation in just two years, the Rosenbaums went hungry. Her father tried to set up another business, but after it too was seized, he declared himself to be "on strike."

The Rosenbaums knew their angry, outspoken daughter would not survive under the Bolsheviks for long, so they arranged to smuggle her out to their relatives in America. Just before her 21st birthday, she said goodbye to her country and her family for the last time. She was determined to live in the America she had seen in the silent movies - the America of skyscrapers and riches and freedom. She renamed herself Ayn Rand, a name she thought had the hardness and purity of a Hollywood starlet.

She headed for Hollywood, where she set out to write stories that expressed her philosophy—a body of thought she said was the polar opposite of communism. She announced that the world was divided between a small minority of Supermen who are productive and "the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human Incompetent" who, like the Leninists, try to feed off them. He is "mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned." It is evil to show kindness to these "lice": The "only virtue" is "selfishness."

She meant it. Her diaries from that time, while she worked as a receptionist and an extra, lay out the Nietzschean mentality that underpins all her later writings.

The newspapers were filled for months with stories about serial killer called William Hickman, who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl called Marion Parker from her junior high school, raped her, and dismembered her body, which he sent mockingly to the police in pieces. Rand wrote great stretches of praise for him, saying he represented

"The amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should." She called him "a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy," shimmering with "immense, explicit egotism."

Rand had only one regret: "A strong man can eventually trample society under its feet. That boy [Hickman] was not strong enough."

It's not hard to see this as a kind of political post-traumatic stress disorder. Rand believed the Bolshevik lie that they represented the people, so she wanted to strike back at them- through theft and murder. In a nasty irony, she was copying their tactics. She started to write her first novel, We the Living (1936), and in the early drafts her central character - a crude proxy for Rand herself - says to a Bolshevik: "I loathe your ideals. I admire your methods. If one believes one's right, one shouldn't wait to convince millions of fools, one might just as well force them."

She poured these beliefs into a series of deeply odd novels. She takes the flabby staples of romantic fiction and peppers them with political ravings and rapes for the audience to cheer on. All have the same core message: Anything that pleases the Superman's ego is good; anything that blocks it is bad. In The Fountainhead, published in 1943, a heroic architect called Howard Roark designs a housing project for the poor - not out of compassion but because he wants to build something mighty.

When his plans are slightly altered, he blows up the housing project, saying the purity of his vision has been contaminated by evil government bureaucrats. He orders the jury to acquit him, saying: "The only good which men can do to one another and the only statement of their proper relationship is - Hands off!"

For her longest novel, Atlas Shrugged (1957), Rand returned to a moment from her childhood. Just as her father once went on strike to protest against Bolshevism, she imagined the super-rich in America going on strike against progressive taxation- and said the United States would swiftly regress to an apocalyptic hellhole if the Donald Trumps and Ted Turners ceased their toil. The abandoned masses are described variously as "savages," "refuse," "inanimate objects," and "imitations of living beings," picking through rubbish. One of the strikers deliberately causes a train crash, and Rand makes it clear she thinks the murder victims deserved it, describing in horror how they all supported the higher taxes that made the attack necessary.

Her heroes are a cocktail of extreme self-love and extreme self-pity: They insist they need no one, yet they spend all their time fuming that the masses don't bow down before their manifest superiority.

As her books became mega-sellers, Rand surrounded herself with a tightly policed cult of young people who believed she had found the One Objective Truth about the world. They were required to memorize her novels and slapped down as "imbecilic" and "anti-life" by Rand if they asked questions.

One student said: "There was a right kind of music, a right kind of art, a right kind of interior design, a right kind of dancing. There were wrong books which we should not buy." Rand had become addicted to amphetamines while writing The Fountainhead, and her natural paranoia and aggression were becoming more extreme as they pumped though her veins. Anybody in her circle who disagreed with her was subjected to a show trial in front of the whole group in which they would be required to repent or face expulsion. Her secretary, Barbara Weiss, said: "I came to look on her as a killer of people."

The workings of her cult exposed the hollowness of Rand's claims to venerate free thinking and individualism. Her message was, think freely, as long as it leads you into total agreement with me.

In the end, Rand was destroyed by her own dogmas. She fell in love with a young follower called Nathaniel Branden and had a decades-long affair with him. He became the cult's No. 2, and she named him as her "intellectual heir" - until he admitted he had fallen in love with a 23-year-old woman.

As Burns explains, Rand's philosophy "taught that sex was never physical; it was always inspired by a deeper recognition of shared values, a sense that the other embodied the highest human achievement." So to be sexually rejected by Branden meant he was rejecting her ideas, her philosophy, her entire person. She screamed: "You have rejected me? You have dared to reject me? Me, your highest value?"

She never recovered. We all become weak at some point in our lives, so a thinker who despises weakness will end up despising herself. In her seventies Rand found herself dying of lung cancer, after insisting that her followers smoke because it symbolized "man's victory over fire" and the studies showing it caused lung cancer were Communist propaganda. By then she had driven almost everyone away.

In 1982, she died alone in her apartment with only a hired nurse at her side. If her philosophy is right - if the only human relationships worth having are based on the exchange of dollars - this was a happy and victorious death. Did even she believe it in the end?

Rand was broken by the Bolsheviks as a girl, and she never left their bootprint behind. She believed her philosophy was Bolshevism's opposite, when in reality it was its twin. Both she and the Soviets insisted a small revolutionary elite in possession of absolute rationality must seize power and impose its vision on a malleable, imbecilic mass. The only difference was that Lenin thought the parasites to be stomped on were the rich, while Rand thought they were the poor.

I don't find it hard to understand why this happened to Rand: I feel sympathy for her, even as I know she would have spat it back into my face. What I do find incomprehensible is that there are people- large numbers of people- who see her writing not as psychopathy but as philosophy, and urge us to follow her. Why? What in American culture did she drill into? Unfortunately, neither of these equally thorough, readable books can offer much of an answer to this, the only great question about her.

Rand expresses, with a certain pithy crudeness, an instinct that courses through us all sometimes: I'm the only one who matters! I'm not going to care about any of you any more! She then absolutizes it in an amphetamine Benzedrine- charged reductio ad absurdum by insisting it is the only feeling worth entertaining, ever.

This urge exists everywhere, but why is it supercharged on the American right, where Rand is regarded as something more than a bad, bizarre joke? In a country where almost everyone believes- wrongly, on the whole- that they are self-made, perhaps it is easier to have contempt for people who didn't make much of themselves. And Rand taps into something deeper still. The founding myth of America is that the nation was built out of nothing, using only reason and willpower. Rand applies this myth to the individual American: You made yourself. You need nobody and nothing except your reason to rise and dominate. You can be America, in one body, in one mind.

She said the United States should be a "democracy of superiors only," with superiority defined by being rich.

Well, we've got it. As the health care crisis has shown, today, the rich have the real power: The vote that matters is expressed with a checkbook and a lobbyist. We get to vote only for the candidates they have pre-funded and receive the legislation they have preapproved. It's useful- if daunting- to know that there is a substantial slice of the American public who believe this is not a problem to be put right, but morally admirable.

We all live every day with the victory of this fifth-rate Nietzsche of the mini-malls. Alan Greenspan was one of her strongest cult followers and even invited her to the Oval Office to witness his swearing-in when he joined the Ford administration. You can see how he carried this philosophy into the 1990s: Why should the Supermen of Wall Street be regulated to protect the lice of Main Street?

The figure Ayn Rand most resembles in American life is L. Ron Hubbard, another crazed, pitiable charlatan who used trashy potboilers to whip up a cult. Unfortunately, Rand's cult isn't confined to Tom Cruise and a rash of Hollywood dimwits. No, its ideas and its impulses have, by drilling into the basest human instincts, captured one of America's major political parties. - Johann Hari

 

Ayn Rand (real Russian-Jewish name Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum), said some other pretty iffy tidbits;

  • "If you mean whose side one should be on, Israel or the Arabs, I would certainly say Israel because it's the advanced, technological, civilized country amidst a group of almost totally primitive savages who have not changed for years and who are racist and who resent Israel because it's bringing industry, intelligence, and modern technology into their stagnation." - Source: Q and A session during taping of Donohue, Live in New York [1]

MORE AGONY:

  • "The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it's the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are." - Source: Ayn Rand Ford Hall Forum lecture, 1974, text published on the website of The Ayn Rand Institute [2]

AND MY FAVORITE (sic):

  • "They (Native Americans) didn't have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their 'right' to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent." - Source: Q and A session following her address to the graduating class of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974

There may be something to be said for living a simpler "primitive" life, especially when one examines billionaire Tony Hayward and his BP 'empire'. Many people reportedly admire Bernie Madoff. This positions confuse me.

I'm no saint, but it's a privilege to help my lesser-endowed neighbors, because I AM my brothers and sisters. And they keep me and I keep them.

Politically she's all the rage right now because of our economic state. Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and their ilk (including poor Alisa Rosenbaum) are people I'd rather not be stuck in an elevator with. I'll take Alice Walker, The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, and others of compassion and caring.

Ayn has a profile that's clearly clinical psychopathy in its iron-clad resistance to cooperation and its violent resistance to any form of dependence or weakness. No altruism, no civilization, no love. In her illustrious name and by the political maneuverings of greedy representatives of her beliefs, our beloved country is becoming weaker, meaner-spirited, more violent, less tolerant, terribly polluted, and certainly lower on the list of places the Italians may want to visit. Nearly 75 million Americans have either left this country or died in the streets of this country since 1990.

And yes, I read every book of hers when I was very young. They left me feeling empty and somewhat cruel. I found THE FOUNTAINHEAD most troubling. In that book, and in the movie with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, the rape scene stands out as one of the most repugnant examples of Ayn's illness.

I believe this: "Let me help" may be the noblest of our human phrases.

And this is just plain scary: http://www.alternet.org/books/145819/ayn_randnew window
and there's much more (google away for days!)

-JW

Warning: to be read only by those with a strong constitution. Click Here

Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer by Mark Ames on Alternet

Her works are treated as gospel by right-wing powerhouses like Alan Greenspan and Clarence Thomas, but Ayn Rand found early inspiration in 1920's murderer William Hickman.

There's something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don't have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be so hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population that thought like this, but the U.S. is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?

It turns out, you can trace much of this thinking back to Ayn Rand, a popular cult-philosopher who exerts a huge influence over much of the right-wing and libertarian crowd, but whose influence is only starting to spread out of the U.S.

One reason most countries don't find the time to embrace Ayn Rand's thinking is that she is a textbook sociopath. In her notebooks Ayn Rand worshiped a notorious serial murderer and dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of "ideal man" she promoted in her more famous books. These ideas were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade, including the key architects of America's most recent economic catastrophe -- former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox -- along with other notable right-wing Republicans such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

The loudest of all the Republicans, right-wing attack-dog pundits and the Teabagger mobs fighting to kill health care reform and eviscerate "entitlement programs" increasingly hold up Ayn Rand as their guru. Sales of her books have soared in the past couple of years; one poll ranked Atlas Shrugged as the second most influential book of the 20th century, after the Bible.

The best way to get to the bottom of Ayn Rand's beliefs is to take a look at how she developed the superhero of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation -- Danny Renahan, the protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street -- on him.

What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," she wrote, gushing that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'"

This echoes almost word for word Rand's later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: "He was born without the ability to consider others." (The Fountainhead is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' favorite book -- he even requires his clerks to read it.)

I'll get to where Rand picked up her silly superman blather later -- but first, let's meet William Hickman, the "genuinely beautiful soul" and inspiration to Ayn Rand. What you will read below -- the real story, details included, of what made Hickman a "superman" in Ayn Rand's eyes -- is extremely gory and upsetting, even if you're well acquainted with true crime stories -- so prepare yourself. But it's necessary to read this to understand Rand, and to repeat this over and over until all of America understands what made her tick, because Rand's influence over the very people leading the fight to kill social programs, and her ideological influence on so many powerful bankers, regulators and businessmen who brought the financial markets crashing down, means her ideas are affecting all of our lives in the worst way imaginable.

Rand fell for William Edward Hickman in the late 1920s, as the shocking story of Hickman's crime started to grip the nation. He was the OJ Simpson of his day; his crime, trial and case were nonstop headline grabbers for months.
Hickman, who was only 19 when he was arrested for murder, was the son of a paranoid-schizophrenic mother and grandmother.

His schoolmates said that as a kid Hickman liked to strangle cats and snap the necks of chickens for fun -- most of the kids thought he was a budding manic, though the adults gave him good marks for behavior, a typical sign of sociopathic cunning. He enrolled in college but quickly dropped out, and turned to violent crime largely driven by the thrill and arrogance typical of sociopaths: in a brief and wild crime spree that grew increasingly violent, Hickman knocked over dozens of gas stations and drug stores across the Midwest and west to California.

Along the way it's believed he strangled a girl in Milwaukee and killed his crime partner's grandfather in Pasadena, tossing his body over a bridge after taking his money. Hickman's partner later told police that Hickman told him how much he'd like to kill and dismember a victim someday -- and that day did come for Hickman.

One afternoon, Hickman drove up to Mount Vernon Junior High school in Los Angeles, telling administrators he'd come to pick up "the Parker girl" -- her father, Perry Parker, was a prominent banker. Hickman didn't know the girl's first name, so when he was asked which of the two Parker twins, he answered, "the younger daughter." Then he corrected himself: "The smaller one."

No one suspected his motives. The school administrator fetched young Marion, and brought her out to Hickman. Marion obediently followed Hickman to his car as she was told, where he promptly kidnapped her. He wrote a ransom note to Marion's father, demanding $1,500 for her return, promising the girl would be left unharmed. Marion was terrified into passivity -- she even waited in the car for Hickman when he went to mail his letter to her father. Hickman's extreme narcissism comes through in his ransom letters, as he refers to himself as a "master mind [sic]" and "not a common crook." Hickman signed his letters "The Fox" because he admired his own cunning: "Fox is my name, very sly you know." And then he threatened: "Get this straight. Your daughter's life hangs by a thread."

Hickman and the girl's father exchanged letters over the next few days as they arranged the terms of the ransom, while Marion obediently followed her captor's demands. She never tried to escape the hotel where he kept her; Hickman even took her to a movie, and she never screamed for help. She remained quiet and still as told when Hickman tied her to the chair -- he didn't even bother gagging her because there was no need to, right up to the gruesome end.

Hickman's last ransom note to Marion's father is where this story reaches its disturbing end. Hickman fills the letter with hurt anger over her father's suggestion that Hickman might deceive him, and "ask you for your $1500 for a lifeless mass of flesh I am base and low but won't stoop to that depth." What Hickman didn't say was that as he wrote the letter, Marion had already been chopped up into several lifeless masses of flesh. Why taunt the father? Why feign outrage? This sort of bizarre taunting was all part of the serial killer's thrill, maximizing his sadistic pleasure. But this was nothing compared to the thrill Hickman got from murdering the helpless 12-year-old Marion Parker. Here is an old newspaper description of the murder, taken from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on December 27, 1927: "It was while I was fixing the blindfold that the urge to murder came upon me," he continued, "and I just couldn't help myself. I got a towel and stepped up behind Marion. Then before she could move, I put it around her neck and twisted it tightly. I held on and she made no outcry except to gurgle. I held on for about two minutes, I guess, and then I let go. When I cut loose the fastenings, she fell to the floor. I knew she was dead. Well, after she was dead I carried her body into the bathroom and undressed her, all but the underwear, and cut a hole in her throat with a pocket knife to let the blood out."

Another newspaper account explained what Hickman did next:

Then he took a pocket knife and cut a hole in her throat. Then he cut off each arm to the elbow. Then he cut her legs off at the knees. He put the limbs in a cabinet. He cut up the body in his room at the Bellevue Arms Apartments. Then he removed the clothing and cut the body through at the waist. He put it on a shelf in the dressing room. He placed a towel in the body to drain the blood. He wrapped up the exposed ends of the arms and waist with paper. He combed back her hair, powdered her face and then with a needle fixed her eyelids. He did this because he realized that he would lose the reward if he did not have the body to produce to her father.

Hickman packed her body, limbs and entrails into a car, and drove to the drop-off point to pick up his ransom; along his way he tossed out wrapped-up limbs and innards scattering them around Los Angeles. When he arrived at the meeting point, Hickman pulled Miriam's [sic] head and torso out of a suitcase and propped her up, her torso wrapped tightly, to look like she was alive--he sewed wires into her eyelids to keep them open, so that she'd appear to be awake and alive. When Miriam's father arrived, Hickman pointed a sawed-off shotgun at him, showed Miriam's head with the eyes sewn open (it would have been hard to see for certain that she was dead), and then took the ransom money and sped away. As he sped away, he threw Miriam's head and torso out of the car, and that's when the father ran up and saw his daughter--and screamed.

This is the "amazing picture" Ayn Rand -- guru to the Republican/Tea Party right-wing -- admired when she wrote in her notebook that Hickman represented "the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should."

Other people don't exist for Rand, either. Part of her ideas are nothing more than a ditzy dilettante's bastardized Nietzsche -- but even this was plagiarized from the same pulp newspaper accounts of the time. According to an LA Times article in late December 1927, headlined "Behavioralism Gets The Blame," a pastor and others close to the Hickman case denounced the cheap trendy Nietzschean ideas Hickman and others latched onto as a defense:

"Behavioristic philosophic teachings of eminent philosophers such as Nietzsche and Schopenhauer have built the foundation for William Edward Hickman's original rebellion against society," the article begins.

The fear that some felt at the time was that these philosophers' dangerous, yet nuanced ideas would fall into the hands of lesser minds, who would bastardize Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and poison the rest of us. This aptly describes Ayn Rand, whose philosophy developed out of her admiration for "Supermen" like Hickman. Rand's philosophy can be summed up by the title of one of her best-known books: The Virtue of Selfishness. She argues that all selfishness is a moral good, and all altruism is a moral evil, even "moral cannibalism," to use her words. To her, those who aren't like-minded sociopaths are "parasites," "lice" and "looters."

But with Rand, there's something more pathological at work. She's out to make the world more sociopath-friendly so that people her hero William Hickman can reach their full potential, not held back by the morality of the "weak," whom Rand despised.

Rand and her followers clearly got off on hating and bashing those they perceived as weak. This is exactly the sort of sadism that Rand's hero, Hickman, would have appreciated.

What's really unsettling is that even former Central Bank chief Alan Greenspan, whose relationship with Rand dated back to the 1950s, did some parasite-bashing of his own. In response to a 1958 New York Times book review slamming Atlas Shrugged, Greenspan, defending his mentor, published a letter to the editor that ends: "Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should. Alan Greenspan."

As much as Ayn Rand detested human "parasites," there is one thing she strongly believed in: creating conditions that increase the productivity of her supermen -- the William Hickmans who rule her idealized America:

"If [people] place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral. Friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite."

Republican faithful like GOP Congressman Paul Ryan read Ayn Rand and declare, with pride, "Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism." Indeed. Except that Rand also despised democracy, writing that, "Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom."

"Collectivism" is another one of those Randian epithets popular among her followers. Here is another Republican member of Congress, Michelle Bachman, parroting the Ayn Rand ideological line, to explain her reasoning for wanting to kill social programs: "As much as the collectivist says to each according to his ability to each according to his need, that's not how mankind is wired. They want to make the best possible deal for themselves."

Whenever you hear politicians or Tea Partiers dividing up the world between "producers" and "collectivism," just know that those ideas and words more likely than not are derived from the deranged mind of a serial-killer groupie. When you hear them saying, "Go John Galt," hide your daughters and tell them not to talk to any strangers -- or Tea Party Republicans. And when you see them taking their razor blades to the last remaining programs protecting the middle class from total abject destitution -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- and bragging about how they are slashing these programs for "moral" reasons, just remember Ayn's morality and who inspired her.

Too many critics of Ayn Rand -- until recently I was one of them -- would rather dismiss her books and ideas as laughable, childish, and hackneyed. But she can't be dismissed because Rand is the name that keeps bubbling up from the Tea Party crowd and the elite conservative circuit in Washington as the Big Inspiration. Danger ahead!