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Objectivism

A Short History

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30 years after her death, Ayn Rand still invites controversy - and has inspired numerous national politicians, most notably Paul Ryan and Ron Paul, to try to bring her vision of a capitalist utopia to life. At the heart of this powerful and intimidating movement is a frightened child who witnessed firsthand the excesses of the Soviet regime, fled to the United States as an extremely vocal convert to the undiluted capitalist ideal, and soon found herself surrounded by both critics and admirers.

1905

Alisa Rosenbaum, later known as Ayn Rand, is born in Petrograd (Leningrad/St. Petersburg), Russia.

1917

The Russian Revolution. The Bolsheviks take over Rosenbaum's father's pharmacy, prompting her lifelong hatred of Communism.

1931

Alisa Rosenbaum becomes a U.S. citizen, having lived in the United States for five years and having decided, by now, to write under the name Ayn Rand. Interviewed in 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, Rosenbaum's cousin Fern Goldberg Brown recalls Alisa choosing the name while visiting relatives in Chicago:
"…I was a little girl, and I helped her pick out her last name, Rand. She had this little Remington-Rand typewriter and she had it on our dining room table … One day [Alisa Rosenbaum] said 'I'm going to change my name, but I want it to be an A and R.' We called her 'Alice.' She said, 'I picked out my first name, it's going to be 'Ayn'; it's sort of a [Finnish] derivative, she told me. She said, 'And I need an 'R.'' I was looking at the typewriter then and said, 'What about 'Remington'?' She said, 'No, that's too long. I want it short.' So then I said, 'What about 'Rand'?' And she said, 'Oh, good, that's it: 'Ayn Rand.' I think this was early on in her visit."
The rand is also the national currency of South Africa - one of the few in the world, ironically enough, that still adheres to the gold standard (which Ayn Rand vigorously supported).

1936

Rand's first novel, We the Living, is published by Macmillan.

1943

The Fountainhead, a novel that clearly articulates Rand's philosophy through the lens of the fictional architect-supercapitalist Howard Roark, is published by Bobbs Merrill. The novel was later adapted into a 1949 film starring Gary Cooper.

1951

Rand begins spending time with Nathaniel Branden, Leonard Peikoff, and a young Alan Greenspan. This circle of friends essentially creates Objectivism as an organized movement.

1957

Atlas Shrugged, the longest and most influential of Rand's novels, is published by Random House. The first half of the book is notable for its focus on Dagny Taggart, a quick-witted and compelling female protagonist, but the story loses steam as it shifts it focus to the blandly perfect and extremely longwinded John Galt. The final chapter of the book is interesting in its description of Galt's Gulch, a fiction capitalist utopia in which wealthy international power-brokers create a self-sustaining libertarian society—and turn out to be much better off without the rest of us slowing them down.

1958

Nathaniel Branden creates a speaker's bureau, later known as the Nathaniel Branden Institute, to disseminate Objectivist ideas. The NBI emphasized strict adherence to Rand's philosophy and suggesting that it should permeate every area of one's life, the first institutional example of Objectivism as a cult phenomenon.

1964

In The Virtue of Selfishness, published by New American Library, Rand characterizes altruism as an immoral impulse and harshly criticizes Christianity, charitable organizations, and social welfare policy.

1982

Ayn Rand dies, leaving behind four published novels, seven volumes of nonfiction, and countless volumes of unpublished material.

1985

The Ayn Rand Institute is founded by Leonard Peikoff, an early supporter of Rand. The ARI defined Objectivism as a "closed system" that should apply, but never question, Rand's philosophical tenets.

1989

New York philosopher David Kelley breaks from the ARI, describing Objectivism as an "open system" that should welcome innovation and debate. He creates the Institute for Objectivist Studies, now known as the Atlas Society, to promote a more inclusive version of Objectivism.
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