How did a Russian-born novelist become such an influential “thought leader” for American CEOs, entrepreneurs, and MBAs — and even Alan Greenspan? Consider the message behind Ayn Rand best sellers The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, which speaks to anyone with ambition and a big ego: The gifted should do what’s in their self-interest. If you have a sharp mind, it is your moral responsibility to make yourself happy. The weak are not your problem. “I am for an absolute laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy,” Rand told CBS interviewer Mike Wallace in 1959. “If you separate the government from economics, if you do not regulate production and trade, you will have peaceful cooperation, harmony, and justice among men.” Rand’s critics claim that the current financial crisis proves her theories unrealistic and selfish. “Her economic ideas were never really relevant or workable,” says Rick Wilson, a sociology instructor at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., which offers a class on Rand’s writings. “The time we’re living through is just another example of that.” And yet 51 years after Atlas Shrugged was published, Rand’s writing still wields considerable influence in business.
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