Who Really Was John Galt, Anyway?
Ayn Rand was nothing if not a contentious and controversial figure. She was not as clear a thinker as she thought herself to be (her arguments in favor of abortion are among the weakest on the market). Indeed, in her writings and public appearances she almost seemed to relish the offense she gave for her strident, brash, and relentless defense of reason, human freedom, and laissez-faire capitalism. If she ever suffered a fool gladly—if she ever suffered a fool at all—one would be hard pressed to find any record of it. She was the antithesis of Mother Teresa, and would have bragged about it.
I disagree profoundly with Rand; her attenuated definition of faith as unreason and her notion of sacrifice as wholly lacking dignity are unrecognizable to a Christian. Even her economics are better spelled out in Mises or Hayek. Her esthetic philosophy is paper thin and idiosyncratic; her malevolence toward children and the vulnerable is exceedingly distasteful.
For these and many more reasons, people who reverence Western Civilization must reject Rand. And yet, there is something in Rand that remains intriguing, and following years of pondering the question and speaking with others, I think I detect what people might see in her.
"Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God." This is how G.K. Chesterton expressed the idea that there is in each heart an innate human thirst for beauty and Truth.
But it is unwise and unnecessary to merely dismiss out of hand Rand's ideas or the impact of her writings. It is especially off-putting to see the left employ images of her to tar and feather political opponents in a dishonest way very much reminiscent of the McCarthyism they so frequently denounce. They do not argue with Mr. Ryan—for their own ulterior motives, they merely associate him with an admittedly flawed and mean woman, and think they have done society a service.
The question Rand poses at the outset of Atlas Shrugged reveals more of this sad woman than I think even she realized. One can only pray that in the infinite mercy of the God in whom she did not believe, that Rand in the end may actually have found out who John Galt really is.