Objectivist seance: Interviewing Ayn Rand

In 1998, freelance writer Paul Spinrad pitched a story to Wired magazine. He wanted to write about Ayn Rand, who I guess has written a couple of books about stuff, but that wasn’t good enough for Wired.

So at the editor’s request, he set out to interview Rand. That Rand died 16 years earlier was of little consequence.

After what must have been a mind-bending amount of research, Spinrad churned out an impressive, coherent “interview” with Rand, clocking in at more than 4,000 words (written, admittedly, “for an editor to cut down”). He pieced together quotes from Rand’s written and spoken work, dutifully citing each comment.

The piece was never published — until this month. Boing Boing, one of the world’s most popular blogs, published Spinrad’s piece.

Through Spinrad’s hard work and dedication, we now are treated to the great libertarian’s thoughts on everything from Microsoft’s monopoly to Monica Lewinsky’s psychology, from the development of the Internet to the argument for school vouchers. I’m glad this piece finally saw the light of day; it’s a fun read. An excerpt:

WIRED: Last March, when Bill Gates testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation, I thought of you.

RAND: [Margin 195] This is as crude a case of penalizing ability for being ability, and of national suicide via anti-capitalism as one could invent in any fiction. Straight out of Atlas Shrugged – [Obj News v1 5] the sacrifice of productive genius to the demands of envious mediocrity. [Margin 195] This is horror and vicious insanity.

But isn’t there a point at which monopolies can injure competition?

[Letters 61] Boy, oh boy! If this isn’t collectivist Party Line, I’ll eat Das Kapital unabridged. [Margin 210] Just how are you going to compete if you cannot “injure” competition?

Read the full piece here. And feel free to argue the strengths and weaknesses of Rand’s philosophy below.