Steve Horwitz at Bleeding Heart Libertarians has a nice reminder that Ayn Rand’s ideas, specifically in Atlas Shrugged, are not entirely what they are popularly portrayed to be:
My point is not to turn leftist critics of crony capitalism into fans of Rand. Rather it’s simply to point out that 1) the “rich=good; poor=evil” reading of Rand is wrong on the facts of what is in the novel; 2) the relevant moral distinction is between “producers” and “takers,” each of whom might be rich or poor depending on other circumstances; and 3) when read correctly, Atlas Shrugged is an extended criticism of the sort of “crony capitalism” that characterizes the current US political economy. Rand is arguing against unearned political privileges, and arguments against unearned privilege are often found on the left. If all of the above is correct, then leftists should, at the very least, get their facts straight and stop arguing the novel says something it doesn’t. Beyond that, actually reading the novel (which I suspect not all of the critics have) might cause them to agree with aspects of it, to the extent their complaints about the 1% really are based on their use of political privilege and connections to enhance their wealth at the expense of the 99% rather than their wealth per se.
The parallels between the world of Atlas Shrugged and the US today are part of what has brought it back into intellectual discussion in the last few years. Libertarians are not talking about it because we wish to defend the wealth of all of the 1%. Rather we see in all of the current crony capitalism exactly the sort of issues that the novel raises: people are getting and staying rich through privilege and connections, creating the aristocracy of pull Rand warned about.