Whittaker Chambers and Ayn Rand are two of the most important American conservative icons. Both abhorred collectivism and spoke on behalf of individual freedom. Chambers’ autobiography, “Witness,” is one of the defining conservative documents of the 20th century. Rand’s most influential novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” continues to inspire and orient conservative and libertarian thought.
John Allison, former chairman of bank holding company BB&T Corp., admires author Ayn Rand so much that he devised a strategy to spread her laissez-faire principles on U.S. campuses. Allison, working through the BB&T Charitable Foundation, gives schools grants of as much as $2 million if they agree to create a course on capitalism and make Rand’s masterwork, “Atlas Shrugged,” required reading.
U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket, has said that Ayn Rand, the author of “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” lit the inner fire that led him to public service.
With the ascent of Paul Ryan, the chain-smoking, Russian-accented, flinty-hearted figure of Ayn Rand has once again elbowed her way into the American conversation. Will her name come up during the debate between the vice-presidential candidates on Thursday?