Rediscover: The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand's writing has left an indelible mark on political thought. Rand's Objectivist philosophy--a rejection of altruism and spirituality, an embrace of laissez-faire capitalism and the pursuit of individual over group happiness, among other tenets--entered the mainstream through her bestselling books. Rand (1905-1982) was born in the Russian Empire, educated in the Soviet Union and moved to the United States in the 1920s. She worked as a screenwriter before becoming a novelist.

May 7 is the 75th anniversary of Rand's first major success, The Fountainhead, in which a young modernist architect refuses to conform to his industry's standards. The book sold millions of copies and made Rand a public figure. By the time she published Atlas Shrugged in 1957, Rand had attracted a loyal personal following (humorously called the Collective) that included future Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. She retired from writing in 1976 after treatment for lung cancer, and, ironically, was enrolled in Social Security and Medicare until her death in 1982.

Rand's work remains a major influence on the political right, especially with libertarians, guiding the likes of Paul Ryan and Rand Paul. For the morbidly or morally curious, The Fountainhead is available in paperback from NAL ($25, 9780452286375). --Tobias Mutter

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