Ayn Rand was born in Russia in 1905 and witnessed the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. She escaped Lenin's communist state and came to America in 1925 to pursue a career as a writer. She began in Hollywood, first in wardrobe or other backlot jobs but ultimately as a screenwriter. In the mid-1930s, she began writing novels. From We the Living in 1936, a semi-autobiographical work about Soviet Russia, to The Fountainhead in 1943, the story of a daring architect who is a champion of individualism, Rand finally achieved publishing success. In the years after The Fountainhead (including working on the movie version starring Gary Cooper), she began work on a new novel, to be her greatest depiction of "man as he ought to be and could be."
Ayn Rand finished her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, in 1957. The novel is the single greatest literary depiction and celebration of capitalism in world literature. It chronicles the lives of leading industrialists, politicians, and intellectuals as the American economy begins to fall apart. In the face of the collapse of American institutions, the novel is a great whodunit, asking the question of who is to blame. The book was an overnight success, selling out its initial print run of 100,000 copies, hitting #4 on the New York Times bestseller list, and becoming a perennial favorite. To date, over 6 million copies have been sold, it has remained in print for over fifty years, and it annually sells more copies today (about 150,000 a year) than it did at any time when Ayn Rand was alive.
Atlas Shrugged marked Ayn Rand as unique among defenders of capitalism. She stood firmly on the side of capitalism, not merely for economic reasons, but because she argued that it was the only moral social system. Yet Ayn Rand's influence on capitalism was not just the remarkable feat of introducing millions of readers to a novel defending capitalism on moral grounds. She also spent the 1960s and 1970s developing a whole philosophic system, Objectivism, to present her views. From lecturing to interviews to television appearances, Rand became a widely-known, controversial, and influential intellectual who stood in defense of laissez-faire capitalism. Rand also wrote dozens of essays, articles, and books on her philosophy, including one of the greatest books ever written defending capitalism, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Her writing and ideas have influenced hundreds of thousands, and continue to be a part of the debate about our economy.
For all of her achievements, her inspiring example, and her uncompromising dedication to the moral defense of capitalism, I salute Ayn Rand as a hero among heroes of capitalism. Happy Birthday, Miss Rand.