The Fountainhead... Most Harmful?
Cliopatria HNN'er, Ralph E. Luker, gives us a list of the "Ten Most Harmful Books." I have to admit that I've got a real problem with the whole category of "harmful books," not because I believe that no book can do harm, but more because I think "harmful" comes with a stigma attached to it ... that perhaps such books should not be read. But it is the books that are most "harmful" that often require the most study.
Some of Luker's books are predictable: Hitler's Mein Kampf, Lenin's What Is To Be Done?, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and so forth. But on that list, Luker mentions Ayn Rand's two mega-novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Jonathan Rees chimes in and thanks Luker for including Rand on that list, since her books offer "a philosophical excuse for extraordinary selfishness."
Rand's work has been an inspiration to people of all different walks of life, including individualist feminists, libertarians, conservatives, and even a few liberals, those who see in architect Howard Roark, protagonist of The Fountainhead, an exemplary model of artistic integrity, self-esteem, and authenticity. These same liberals may not like Rand's advocacy of laissez-faire capitalism, but not even they would suggest that those who have emulated Roark will be predisposed to go out and blow up public housing projects.
To be fair, I personally know a few people who were deeply harmed by some of the more "cult-like" aspects of the Objectivist movement, and by some of the brutal comments that Rand made on such subjects as homosexuality. I'm not in any way belittling the real hurt and damage that some have experienced in that context.
But all this is a far cry from the mass murder of the Nazis, Soviets, and Maoists. If the most significant policy-maker to come out of the Randian movement is Alan Greenspan---who, himself, has departed fundamentally from his earlier Randian views in favor of the abolition of the Fed ... can't we have a sense of proportion here?
Even poor Herbert Spencer, whose Evolution of Society [ed: I was wondering about that title] also makes Luker's list, wasn't the "Social Darwinist" his critics make him out to be. Roderick Long, where are you?
Mr. Luker, at the very least, couldn't you provide us with the reasoning behind your list? Right now, I find it unreasonable. For this Rand-influenced libertarian scholar, I find it obscene, quite frankly.
Comments welcome, but readers are invited to participate in the L&P and HNN discussions.