A Free Cartoon Biography of Ayn Rand: Her Life & Thought

rand cartoon bio

Ayn Rand is one of the most divi­sive fig­ures in 20th Cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can thought. In some cir­cles, par­tic­u­lar­ly on Wall Street and in Wash­ing­ton DC think tanks, she’s seen as a patron saint of lais­sez faire cap­i­tal­ism. She preached the virtues of indi­vid­u­al­ism and decried gov­ern­ment hand­outs and tax­es before it was cool, after all. In oth­er cir­cles, her best­selling books are thought to be lit­tle more than jus­ti­fi­ca­tions of socio­path­ic behav­ior couched in stilt­ed, preachy prose. Whit­tak­er Cham­bers famous­ly dis­missed her final book, Atlas Shrugged, in a review for William F. Buck­ley’s Nation­al Review: “Out of a life­time of read­ing, I can recall no oth­er book in which a tone of over­rid­ing arro­gance was so implaca­bly sus­tained. Its shrill­ness is with­out reprieve. Its dog­ma­tism is with­out appeal.”

Yet Rand’s thought found a great deal of appeal among Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tives. Alan Greenspan, the for­mer head of the Fed­er­al Reserve, was a mem­ber of Rand’s inner cir­cle. For­mer vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Paul Ryan and like­ly pres­i­den­tial con­tender Rand Paul are both not­ed fol­low­ers. Whether you agree with her or not, Rand is some­one you need to under­stand if you want to get a sense of what’s going on with Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. So for those of you who might blanche at the thought of wad­ing through one of her phone­book-sized tomes, check out Dar­ryl Cunningham’s car­toon biog­ra­phy of Rand.

Cun­ning­ham traces her life — her family’s loss of wealth and prop­er­ty at the hands of the Bol­she­viks dur­ing the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion, her immi­gra­tion to Amer­i­ca at age 21, and her even­tu­al rise in fame and for­tune. Ele­gant­ly and con­cise­ly, Cun­ning­ham not only lays out Rand’s phi­los­o­phy but also paints a com­plex por­trait of a deeply con­tra­dic­to­ry per­son. All with the help of car­toons.

Rand preached the virtue of indi­vid­u­al­i­ty but she ruth­less­ly excom­mu­ni­cat­ed any­one in her cult-like inner cir­cle who devi­at­ed from her ide­ol­o­gy. She praised rea­son over emo­tion but her spec­tac­u­lar­ly com­pli­cat­ed per­son­al life was rid­dled with pet­ty jeal­ousies and long sim­mer­ing feuds. She abhorred gov­ern­ment aid for the poor but she lived on Social Secu­ri­ty at the end of her life. And per­haps strangest of all, con­sid­er­ing the cur­rent Amer­i­can polit­i­cal cli­mate, Rand vocal­ly sup­port­ed both athe­ism and abor­tion rights, but she has been utter­ly embraced by the Amer­i­can right.

You can see a page of Cunningham’s work above, or you can read his entire work, 66 pages of com­ic good­ness, at ACT-I-VATE.

via io9

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Eco­nom­ics & Eco­nom­ic The­o­ry Explained with Comics, Start­ing with Adam Smith

William F. Buck­ley Flogged Him­self to Get Through Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand Talks Athe­ism with Phil Don­ahue

Great Shake­speare Plays Retold with Stick Fig­ures in Three Sim­ple Draw­ings

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new draw­ing of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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Comments (12)
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  • Skid Roe says:

    Her fam­i­ly’s loss of wealth and priv­i­lege? That pret­ty much explains every­thing.

    • John Donohue says:

      Agreed, since that type of psy­chol­o­gism can be applied to any­one. For instance, Freed Black Abo­li­tion­ists in the 19th cen­tu­ry were only against slav­ery because they suf­fered the tor­tures of slav­ery, and Pro­gres­sives only hate cap­i­tal­ism because grow­ing up they saw they would nev­er suc­ceed.

  • Burke says:

    For over 50 years I’ve had one piece of advice for any­one who wants to under­stand Ayn Rand’s ideas. Go read her works. Don’t start out read­ing *about* her. There is no sub­sti­tute for the orig­i­nal, not even the writ­ings of her sup­port­ers.

    If after read­ing her works, you don’t like her, there is no hope for you and argu­ing with you is a waste of time-except some­times in a pub­lic forum, as a foil.

    Sim­ple as that.

    If this seems closed mind­ed, I ask only that you remem­ber that she is vir­tu­al­ly the only real voice of rea­son among major philo­soph­i­cal fir­gures today.

    And I have no dif­fi­cul­ty what­so­ev­er dis­miss­ing mys­tics out­right.

    • John Donohue says:

      Agreed and nice­ly put.
      Add: sug­ges­tion for any­one infu­ri­at­ed by the title of her book “The Virtue of Self­ish­ness” to read it. If you can’t/won’t read the entire book, just read the intro­duc­tion; your eyes will be opened to exact­ly what she means by “self­ish­ness.”

    • fishygod says:

      I haven’t read all of Rand’s works, but I have read “The Foun­tain­head,” “Anthem” and “Atlas Shrugged.” I have also read the Bible and “Cap­i­tal.” And there is at least one thing that Jews, Chris­tians, Marx­ists and Ran­dites have in com­mon. They know that there is no hope for me, because I don’t like their books, their heroes or their con­clu­sions. Sor­ry, guys.

    • himagain says:

      Hi there, You are just “trolling” here aren’t you? :-)

      I per­son­al­ly am so old that I have seen it all and sad­ly, do not see any improve­ment in Soci­ety in my hard-won expe­ri­ence.
      It is hard to accept that you are not just anoth­er wide-eyed <25 y.o. of no real men­tal devel­op­ment yet.

      The great­est thinkers in the real world all tend to have many things in com­mon, not the least of which is the adage:
      “Know your ene­mies bet­ter than your own kind”
      You will nev­er, can nev­er, achieve wis­dom unless you do “learn to walk a mile in the oth­er man’s shoes.”

      “You are only fear­ing con­ver­sion, if you fear to lis­ten”

  • jackcade says:

    An argu­men­tum ad hominem, is a form of crit­i­cism direct­ed at some­thing about the per­son one is crit­i­ciz­ing, rather than the legit­i­ma­cy their val­ues or ideas. Often using some unproven, irrel­e­vant or inten­tion­al­ly mis­lead­ing sup­po­si­tions about the author or the per­son being crit­i­cized it rests on an appeal to igno­rance — seek­ing the acclaim of the ill-informed, see for exam­ple Cun­ning­ham’s crit­i­cism of Rand’s ‘self­ish­ness,’

    Is Cun­ning­ham a knave or mere­ly a fool? — hard to say but Cun­ning­ham’s uncrit­i­cal sup­port of the open­ly-racist Mur­ray Roth­bard speaks vol­umes.

  • himagain says:

    Jonathan Crowe’s sum­ma­ry on this page is an excel­lent intro­duc­tion to
    any­one inter­est­ed in under­stand­ing “the oth­er side’s view” — whether you
    are pro Rand or con!
    Indis­putably, she was a very sick pup­py! But the idea is to read her CLAIMED phi­los­o­phy, not her real oth­er life.
    devot­ed (lit­er­al­ly) fol­low­ers are the elite of the USA gov­ern­ing
    struc­ture. You can lit­er­al­ly ask these (nec­es­sar­i­ly) pro­fes­sion­al liars
    just one thing to get at their true beliefs :
    “What do you think of the writ­ings of Ayn Rand?”
    In mod­ern West­ern pol­i­tics there are two dia­met­ri­cal­ly opposed schools:
    1. Democratic/Socialist/Interventionist
    2. Totalitarian/Free Enterprise/Piratical
    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, nei­ther choice works for the ordi­nary indi­vid­ual.

    But, very obvi­ous­ly, if you are in the bot­tom 70% of the pop­u­la­tion any­where in the West,you do need to fear the Rand Acolytes.

    • John Donohue says:

      The mind blanch­es at the impulse to point out ‘false dichoto­my’ to this; it would be too pale a rebut­tal.

      Addi­tion­al­ly: what do you mean by “oth­er side’s view?” Hope­ful­ly you don’t mean his sum­ma­ry fair­ly rep­re­sents Ayn Rand, as worse than blanch­ing would then be called for.

  • John Donohue says:

    Objec­tivism (there is no such thing as “randy­ism”) is nev­er going away. This, despite irrel­e­vant attacks on Ayn Rand’s per­son by var­i­ous per­son­ages that you cite.

    Yes, some peo­ple fired in the soul by Ayn Rand give up their inner pas­sion and accept the gray default of duty, medi­oc­rity, and the bondage of polit­i­cal col­lec­tivism. No prob­lem. Unless you ban and burn all her books, you can’t stop the next gen­er­a­tion from being kin­dled by the fire.

  • Pavel Urubcik says:

    How about actu­al­ly con­sid­er­ing the ideas of Objec­tivism? Ideas are either valid, con­sis­tent and non-con­tra­dic­to­ry or they are not. Authors opin­ions are com­plete­ly irrel­e­vant. If new dis­cov­ery is made in physics, do we care what reli­gion and cul­tur­al back­ground the sci­en­tists grew up in? Same applies to all fields of knowl­edge. Just think about it or stay igno­rant. Your choice.

  • Eric says:

    I tried read­ing Atlas Shrugged: I seri­ous­ly thought I’d be read­ing some­thing that I’d dis­agree with but that was at least enter­tain­ing and well writ­ten. Nope! Bad writ­ing, one-dimen­sion­al char­ac­ters, and dumb themes no thanks!

    “There is no hope for you”
    If by that you mean there’s no hope for me ever becom­ing an objec­tivist, you’re prob­a­bly right!

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