So, this morning there was a piece on NPR about Ayn Rand studies in college. The piece itself was interesting, but what really stayed with me as I was riding in was the nagging question of why is Ayn Rand so persuasive for teenagers and undergrads? (I get why she's popular with CEOs, no problem.)
For much of high school, I self-identified as an objectivist and might have called her my favorite author. I remember breathlessly reading the infamous John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged on a bus ride for a museum filed trip (really, who reads when you've got three unstructured hours on a bus with your friends?). I remember fervently arguing objectivist viewpoints in social studies classes.
Anyway, I don't think I was particularly weird in role as an Ayn Rand fanboy. I wasn't alone. The Ayn Rand Institute is pretty aggressive about promoting the books in schools (posters, contest, schwag for teachers, etc.). An English teacher actually gave me a copy of Anthem and said I should do the contest. When I got to college, there was an objectivist club and I wasn't the only freshman interested. (My own obsession didn't survive first term, however, and it has so far never returned.)
So, what's the appeal? Why does her way of presenting capitalism and self-interest pack such a wallop for so many young adults? Or am I imagining this?
(For what it's worth, I'm not suggesting that adolescent objectivism is necessarily a bad thing. So long as it's a temporary thing.)