Matt Zwolinski over at Bleeding Heart Libertarianism posits a counterfactual with a side of point-scoring, some of which is well-taken, about how Ayn Rand’s political perspective colors the way she is treated by the academic/literati community, which tends left-leaning. But beyond the simple and obvious way this is true one of Zwolinski’s fundamental assumptions – that there even could be such as thing as a “left-wing Ayn Rand.” Ayn Rand was a very talented writer, but it’s simply not possible to seperate her aesthetic and formal choices from her ideology. To analogize but not equate I would point to Susan Sontag’s famous essay about Leni Reifenstahl’s “fascist aesthetics.” You can’t just peel the Objectivism off Atlas Shrugged and be left with a well-written book about executives and trains. The very way Rand writes is suffused with her ideology, which is to her credit but also makes it a little difficult to just neatly treat them seperately.

Also, Zwolinski makes the error of thinking that, in such a universe where you could judge Rand’s work outside of its political and ideological context, that Atlas Shrugged would be a good book. In fact it’s a terrible book. It’s The Fountainhead that actually has a compelling narrative with interesting characters. Atlas Shrugged is pretty hollow and dull.