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Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  46 reviews

Thirty years after her death in March 1982, Ayn Rand’s ideas have never been more important. Unfettered capitalism, unregulated business, bare-bones government providing no social services, glorification of selfishness, disdain for Judeo-Christian morality—these are the tenets of Rand’s harsh philosophy.

In Ayn Rand Nation, Gary Weiss explores the peop

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by St. Martin's Press
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May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Book takes a reality-based look at the consequences of her ideas. Anyone who has a strong understanding in history and political economy knows what a world would look like if the Randians were to take over. If you want to know, look at the third world but actually it is much worse. More like the 19th Century. They (Randians) are not concerned with the social consequences, but this is at their own cost. The forces of the market cannot provide genuine conditions for freedom any more than the p ...more
Jay Lamm
Jan 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
I initially bought this thinking that it was going to chronicle how Ayn Rand's philosophy has shaped the current political culture. Not so. This book is written by a guy that has read the Ayn Rand novels, didn't quite get the point of them, then interviewed a bunch of people that like Ayn Rand. That's the crux of it.
This guy grossly misinterprets the the very language that Ayn Rand uses.
Any Objectivist can tell you that Ayn Rand draws a distinct line between "altruism" and "benevolence." She d
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Gary Weiss builds the case that Ayn Rand is the prime mover of today's right wing anti-government political culture and that Rand ideology brought about the current financial crisis.

He begins with those still alive who were part of Rand's inner circle. He enlarges this to those who never met her but say they are influenced by her. Most of this new generation speak of reading Rand's novels in high school and finding their thoughts given voice. Many are unaware of Rand's passionate atheism, despit
Susan Paxton
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars
Vital reading for any thoughtful person who wonders what on earth has been going wrong in America for the last 30 or so years. Lurking behind the wreckers is the pernicious "philosophy" of the vile Soviet exile Ayn Rand. Preaching a doctrine of pure selfishness, this atheist's writings have managed to convert altogether too many Republicans who believe they are Christians to agree that the rich "Job Creators" are over taxed and over regulated, and that everyone else is a parasite. Conservative w ...more
Pippa Abston
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
A Must-Read!! Enlightening to say the least. Helps me understand the where some of the strange things our current crop of politicians say originated. Those of us who care about influencing policy for the better need to know what we are dealing with.

The only thing I wish Weiss had addressed is what appears to me the fatal flaw in her logic. She completely fails to address the reality of how we affect each other-- it is simply not possible to live in this world without being influenced by what ha
McGrouchpants. McGrouchpants!
Gary Weiss pulls Ayn Rand's pants down (now THERE'S an image!) and finds a fixated, fanatical malcontent who, through a lifetime of whining "Pro-America as I see it, Con-Russia as I left it!" Capitalist-boosting, succeeded in convincing very few persons of much influence (save Alan Greenspan) about her ideas. (So long as we skip Ted Turner and his campaign to ask "Who is John Galt?" of various members of the populace driving American roads, via his unsolicitedly-purchased billboards!)

Years later
Michelle Cristiani
Jan 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
I know what you expect, because I gave this book one star: I discovered Ayn Rand at a young age. I read all her fiction and most of her nonfiction works. It's true! But wait. I live in the real world, and I believe it's impossible to live in the real world as objectivists would. Rand's books are a fantasy - albeit for me an alluring one. Regardless, it's hard for me to pan this book and sound like I have a reason other than knee-jerk defensiveness. But I do.

Weiss clearly has an axe to grind; his
Apr 12, 2012 rated it liked it
pretty depressing.
if you're wondering why america is in the crap state it is currently in, this book offers a pretty solid reason why: rampant selfishness.

i find it sad that we as a country have so eagerly jumped into the ethic-less morass of Rand's Objectivism; we would rather let other people starve then lend a helping hand.
Instead of creating a country that believes in helping the weak, we are turning into a neo-feudal state, where the uber-rich get richer and keep themselves more and more s
Julie Marsh
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I confess: I read Rand 20 years ago. I thought Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead were boring. I did, however, enjoy the philosophical essays.

Then I grew up, saw a lot more of the world, and realized that Rand's philosophy was untenable on a broad scale (i.e., reality).

This book's primary objective (heh) is not to skewer Objectivism, but to examine the roles of Rand, her views, and her followers in modern politics. The author cautions that while it's tempting to write off Rand and her disciples
Marco den Ouden
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm a huge Ayn Rand fan so it may seem unusual that I would like a book that is, frankly, very critical of her and her philosophy. But aside from the first and last chapters which have a lot of flaws, the book is very interesting and offers a lot of insight into Rand's influence. Weiss, despite his dislike for Rand, finds himself liking many of her notable followers who he interviewed. There is a part of him that, I think, likes Rand in spite of himself. The book didn't change my appreciation of ...more
Kevin Stephens
Feb 21, 2015 rated it liked it
If you ever find yourself in a serious dialogue with a Randophile (and I hope you don't) this book can provide you with some background that will most likely only serve to piss off whoever you are debating. ...more
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Truly nutty people, Ayn Rand acolytes.
Charles Wagner
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Who will be John Galt?

Author Gary Weiss introduces the first lady of the politics of reaction as a relic whose extremism is no longer on the fringe. Her desire that income taxes would end along with almost everything the taxes paid for is a major principle of the you know who party. Survival of the fattest…

No longer a college student read, Ayn’s principles permeate politics, religion, and “ethics” in the United States. In fact, Ayn Rand has risen from the dead and now sleeps with Jesus Christ
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is well researched, but not always well thought out or well edited. He has interviewed a wide range of people, from die hard Ayn Rand fans to Oliver Stone (one of the best chapters). He really tries to understand and explain their points of view, whether or not he agrees with them. He is able to place their opinions in the wider scope of American political life. The middle section slowed down because it got bogged down with too many details (I almost stopped reading at that point). The ...more
This took a while to get going, but by second half I understood that he was building his case, making sure the reader could understand Rand’s philosophy, its adoption by a sizeable portion of the population, and why this matters.

“It seemed that everything [Rand] said about government was aimed not at the reality of America but the Russia she left in 1926,” Weiss writes. “Her acolytes, not fully comprehending the nature of her dogma, blithely accepted her vision of an American Gulag archipelago.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Author made it seem like Ayn Rand ran over his dog and then backed up to make sure it was dead. He mentions her having an abortion as evidence of her faulty moral compass.
Craig French
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Three things about myself before you read this review:
1. I'm no Randian. Haven't read Ayn Rand, either, but am familiar with Objectivism.
2. I'm not a Tea Partier.
3. I'm not a Libertarian.

I give this book two stars instead of zero stars because Gary Weiss can be rather amusing and use a clever turn of phrase at times. It also gets two stars instead of zero because it's very interesting and thought-provoking...but not for the author's intended reasons.

In the end, this book tries to thread togeth
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Disclaimer: I'm not an Objectivist.

I view Rand as a curiosity. Like most, I read her books in my mid-teenage years, and although I'm certain that they helped shape my belief system, there's a good deal to them that I outright rejected. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am a neutral reviewer, but I do consider myself a moderate when it comes to Rand.

As for Wiess, I found his analysis of Objectivism interesting for about the first hundred or so pages. Having never met an Objectivist, it was in
Nov 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I despise Ayn Rand, and it's a very difficult thing to find works that critique her, without being bashed by Randroids who are so commonplace online. There is no really great critique believe it or not of the woman who idolized serial killers, sociopaths, and social Darwinism. I was hoping that Ayn Rand Nation would be that real scathing judgmental book that is needed to combat the tripe that Beck, the Tea-Baggers, and Limbaugh crowd are spewing. Alas, this is not quite the book. Gary Weiss does ...more
Maria C.
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is very well written, and Gary Weiss says everything that I felt about the Tea Party and the conservative movement. What I wonder from reading this book, is how can the followers of Ayn Rand continue to hold the premise that government is always bad for business (at least in America) when from the time of the robber barons the Rocekefellers and others raided the country's natural resources; when the Chicago stockyards were full of manufacturers selling rotten meat; when only once throu ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great
ethnography of that strange group, the Ayn Randists, that subscribe a huge part of their identities and activities to being followers and promoters of Ayn Rand. This book lets us meet businessmen, housewives, etc., that embrace Ayn Rand's teachings passionately. It is also a hardhitting study of the contradictions inherent in Ayn Rand, both in her personal character and in her philosophy. It is frighteningly relevant because some of her disciples, starring the fervent Alan Greenspan, have used t ...more
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it
An interesting read, and I certainly agree with Weiss's premise and call-to-arms, but I disagree with his focus. Weiss does what I have been telling my daughter NOT to do while she participates in mock political debates in social studies class - Weiss bases a political arguement on morality. In this book, he focuses on the amorality of Objectivism and asserts that we need to support altruism because it's moral. But, politics is about money, and when it comes to money, arguements must be based on ...more
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
A quick journalistic look at the Ayn Rand legacy, much of it held occult by her robot minders. Wish there was more on her current political and social influence which is extraordinary. Had she not been an atheist the books would sell even more briskly than they continue to do. It's actually tragic her atheistic tendencies were not more influential. It is hard not to respect her to some degree and although Atlas Shrugged is a slog sometimes- compared to the superior The Fountainhead, the notion t ...more
John Ellis
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
In a well written book, Gary Weiss gives a rough sketch of the history of the Objectivist movement, as well as explaining Rand's ethics and epistemology. Throughout the book, Weiss is continually connecting dots and building a compelling argument that Objectivism was the common denominator of the mortgage crisis and market crash of 2008. Weiss also argues cogently that the ideology that undergirds much of the far right (Tea Party) is Objectivism.

On a personal level, I am bewildered whenever I he
Phillip Ramm
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Confirmation of what a rabid bitch she was, although objective and rational, and what a bunch of nasty people are following in her heels, non-objective and irrational. A series of interviews with people who have aligned themselves with Rand's philosophy or what they had absorbed of it from reading Atlas Meh'd and The Foutainballs...

Why are libertarians (whom she hated) and the religious right (she was a vigorous atheist) coming together in the Tea-Party essentially under her often unnamed patro
Catherine Fitzpatrick
May 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
While claiming to be a study of Randians and their pernicious effect on our society (Alan Greenspan is one! Eek!), it actually turns out to be more of a sociological study of scared liberals like Gary Weiss who fear Rand. It's gotten so you can't criticize socialism or communism without someone like Weiss freaking out that you are a Randian.

I find Rand loathsome because she's precisely a mirror image of Bolshevism, but Weiss hardly explores that aspect of this cult figure because to do so would
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Rampant stupidity down south as surprise there. Most of the modern tea party folks seem to not be well versed in who Rand was and what she really stood for. It's scary really .....

Finished. Ayn Rand came to this country from Stalinist Russia in 1926 and today people are tying to bring her ideas to this country including abolishing child labor laws, building codes, public education. Putting all in private hands, the free market, profit motive over all. Like any radical idea, it will f
Jun 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-for-mpaff
I devoured this book. It was a nice complement that Paul was listening to Atlas Shrugged on tape at the same time - so I got to listen to a bit while driving around this weekend.

Before reading this, Ayn Rand's name rang a bell, but I couldn't tell you which one. It was really interesting to start to understand the thinking behind many in the Tea Party and Objectivist movements. The author certainly is not a fan of Objectivism, but the writing is very engaging. I recommend to both literary and p
Harry Roger Williams III
After several starts (and renewals - thank you Thomas Crane Public Library) I only reached page 15. I think the topic of "selfishness and private enterprise versus public enterprise and public good" is important and in flux over the last few decades. I often speak and write about the Public Library and Public Education movements as practical "barn raising" endeavors by people who intuitively know that not all enterprises need to be shared in the same way. However, I returned and re-read those fi ...more
Adam Ross
A good introduction to the life and influence of a woman whose unpleasant and vile legacy still bears rotten fruit. Weiss is, of course, more balanced than this introductory sentence of mine. But the book does a good job of showing how Rand's economic and philosophical teachings are at the heart of the Tea Party and other conservative policies, having conquered the world through her devoted disciple, Alan Greenspan. If you want to understand the conservative movement and the polucy decisions of ...more
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I'm a journalist and author. My next book is AYN RAND NATION: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul (St. Martin's Press: Feb. 28, 2012).

I was an investigative reporter at BusinessWeek for many years, and I write weekly columns for and Salon. My previous books were Wall Street Versus America (Portfolio: 2006) and Born to Steal (Warner Books: 2003).

I was a contributing e

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“He was low-key and stating the obvious, but it was necessary because Rand's dogma is predicated on ignoring the obvious.” 2 likes
“Rand was willing to wipe out reality,' said Iris.” 1 likes
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