Rebirth of Reason


Objectivism as a Strong Undercurrent
by Michael E. Marotta

According to the Ayn Rand Institute April 7, 2008, total sales of Ayn Rand’s works was “over 25 million.”  I believe that actual sales are much greater.  How many books are unique sales, and how many others the “typical” reader purchases are unanswered. 
 The numbers indicate that anyone who buys Anthem, The Fountainhead, or Atlas Shrugged will buy the other two, though not always.  Sales of Atlas slightly outpace the others.
  The very low numbers for the technical books such as Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal suggest that people who agree with the presentation in Atlas Shrugged largely seem uninterested in the complicated details of formal philosophy.  Perhaps, such individualists are unlikely to be true believers.  Agreeing with the sentiments of The Fountainhead, Anthem, and Atlas Shrugged, they have only no interest in adopting the catechism of Objectivism – which I expect of those with individualist personalities. 

 I also believe from the numbers that while some few may buy Philosophy: Who Needs It? or Introduction to the Objectivist Epistemology these are acquired by those who are interested in the technical philosophy having been introduced to it from the novels.  Beyond that, even fewer people find reflection of their own values in Ayn Rand’s personal opinions. 

The low sales of Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal may be a result of its being tied to the times in which it was written.  The case study for big business as a persecuted minority was General Electric (now an ally and beneficiary of President Obama's vision for "green energy").  Since then, Michael Milken or Martha Stewart have come and gone. The principles remain valid and important, but the details of delivery are dusty.  Alan Greenspan’s defense of Wall Street stock brokers as persons of integrity remains factually true, but today certainly rings hollow, if not perhaps an example of post modernist irony.  Ultimately, it may be that today the argument for laissez faire has been made so long and well that most of the book seems superfluous. When left wing demogogues such as Roseanne Barr and Elizabeth Warren rant against corporate greed, they parenthetically note their strong support for big rewards to true innovators who are not crony capitalists bailed out by the Treasury.
 Similarly, Ayn Rand’s praise for Victor Hugo in The Romantic Manifesto may be timely, with Les Miserables running long on the stage and now coming to the screen, but probably remain as dated as her good words for Mickey Spillane and Charlie’s Angels.  Message boards for Objectivists and fans of Ayn Rand often carry debates, recommendations, and condemnations about new works such as Lord of the Rings and The Watchmen.  That, too, suggests more missing numbers.  We read and write online.  Buying a book, and reading it alone may not be how millions discover new ideas. 

Mass media as the primary mechanism of opinion formation is being replaced by social media - if it is not so already. With so much news pouring in, millions decide what to follow based on what is socially useful. The publication of derivative works especially the biographies by Heller and Burns demonstrates that admirers of Ayn Rand and those interested to whatever degree in her philosophy of Objectivism, continue to influence the wider political and social scenes.  Ideas have consequences.

Tallies from the Ayn Rand Institute April 7, 2008
1- We the Living - 3 million (guess 4 million)
2- Anthem- 4 million (guess 5.5 million)
3- The Fountainhead - 6.5 million (guess 8.3 million)
4- Atlas Shrugged - 6 million
(Other sources such as The Economist reported +.5 in 2009 and .445 in 2011) (therefore, I guess .5 in 2010 and .5 in 2012 for a total approximation of 8 million, a 33% increase over 2008. That 33% generated my other guesses here.)
5- For the New Intellectual - 1 million (guess 1.3 million)
6- Virtue of Selfishness- 1.5 million (guess 2 million)
7- Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal - .650 million (guess .875)
8- The Romantic Manifesto - .350 million (guess .470)

Approximate subtotal- - 36 million tallied as sold, but not including these below

“Official” works by Ayn Rand and members of her Collective
9- Introduction to the Objectivist Epistemology
10- Philosophy: Who Needs It? -
11- Return of the Primitive (formerly The New Left: the Anti-Industrial Revolution)-
12: The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought
12- Early Ayn Rand vol. 1-
13- Three Plays- (Early Ayn Rand vol. 2)
14. The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z by Harry Binswanger
15. Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q&A by Robert Mayhew
16. Who is Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden
17. The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand edited by by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen

18. The Psychology of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
19. What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi (an outlier as its authors are not publicly identified with the Ayn Rand Institute, but as far as I know nothing in this book contradicts Rand’s theories on art.)

Other works from within the social context of Objectivism
20. Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (film and accompanying book) by Michael Paxton
21. Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden
22. The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden
23. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by Chris Matthew Sciabarra
24: The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics by James S. Valliant

Other works from outside the Objectivist movement but contributing to it
25. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns
26. Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller
27. Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement by Brian Doherty
28. It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand by Jerome Tuccille
29. Is Objectivism a Religion? by Albert Ellis

[Edited in:  Teasing out the facts behind the numbers, realize that I own 18 of these books myself, including three copies of Atlas Shrugged, one of them "Books on Tape." That is probably typical of the one to three million dedicated admirers.   Also, when teaching middle school in Albuquerque 2002-2003, I saw cartloads of Anthem coming and going as assigned reading along with other easy books such as Call of the Wild and Animal Farm. How many young people come to Ayn Rand's ideas via this route cannot be tallied by book sales alone.]

As a suggestive postscript, allow me to point to this Wikipedia article about “The Objectivist Movement in India.”

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