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Activist Approach to Ayn Rand

As former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan continues to spin his defense of his legacy, we noted this week that his early mentor, Ayn Rand, would have approved of his unapologetic stance on laissez-faire capitalism and his aversion to government regulation of the financial markets. We also explained that the late author once had a cultish following that has waned in popularity. Some people pick up her books as youthful readers, then never look back. As one Huffington Post reader put it, in response to the story: “I read “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” and I was very impressed WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL.”

But Rand always has had a devoted following in the business world. And Bloomberg reports that some of her supporters are looking to make sure academia stops turning up its nose at her.

BB&T’s charitable arm has pledged $1 million to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in return for requiring that students read “Atlas Shrugged.” The bank’s foundation also pledged $2 million to establish the first U.S. chair in the study of objectivism at the University of Texas-Austin. Objectivism is a philosophy Rand embraced that espouses individualism. BB&T CEO John Allison also requires his managers to read “Atlas Shrugged,” which he considers the greatest defense of capitalism that has ever been published. Other titans of the business world, such as billionaire Mark Cuban, are Rand devotees.

The Ayn Rand Institute, set up to support her beliefs, thinks academia is softening in its negative attitudes toward Rand. Of course, pledging a million or two to make sure her books are required reading is one way to make sure that happens.

Not everyone’s buying it. Harold Bloom, a Yale University Humanities and English professor, told Bloomberg he still refuses to include her books on his compilation of the great works of Western Literature, no matter how many CEOs might throw money around. He also made his opinion of her literary legacy quite clear:

“Rand could not write her way out of a paper bag.”

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