Living the Life of an Ayn Rand Hero

by | Jul 18, 2011

An excerpt from the Introduction to “I am John Galt” by Donald L. Luskin and Andrew Greta. ?Ayn Rand’s heroes are larger-than-life projections of her ideals. They lead lives of virtue based on consistent personal convictions with a coherent philosophical system to guide them. Today’s real-life heroes universally did the hard work, tedious at times, […]

An excerpt from the Introduction to “I am John Galt” by Donald L. Luskin and Andrew Greta.

?Ayn Rand’s heroes are larger-than-life projections of her ideals. They lead lives of virtue based on consistent personal convictions with a coherent philosophical system to guide them. Today’s real-life heroes universally did the hard work, tedious at times, to achieve their success based on their own effort and mental acuity. Steve Jobs created the revolutionary Apple II through what one observer called “moxie and energy,” and then engrossed himself in mind-numbing details for every nuance of the Macintosh user interface to deliver a tangible product that was often called “insanely great.” T. J. Rodgers studied the molecular structure of silicon to make subatomic improvements and create ultrafast memory chips. Bill Gates spent tens of thousands of hours immersed in the inner workings of computers, writing millions of lines of code.

These heroes are not typically motivated by money per se, but they see money as a tool with which to create and build. Steve Jobs returned to Apple Computer at a symbolic salary of $1. Bill Gates flies commercial without an entourage. He agonized over a $12,000 boat purchase even though he had the means to buy a dozen luxury yachts.

The Randian innovator’s life purpose is not some do-gooder vision of altruism or charity, but a core drive to work hard, produce value, and follow an inner vision with supreme self-reliance. Steve Wozniak once said about his Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, “He’s not concerned with what contribution he’s making. He wants to astound himself, for himself.”17

Heroes work from fact. Milton Friedman came to his conclusions about free-market economics through empirical analysis, discovering for himself that the New Deal promises of his early career were patently false in the face of hard evidence. Bill Gates was known as a nimble businessman able to quickly change direction if the facts didn’t support his initial ideas. For them, truth is objective and concrete. “Silicon doesn’t lie,” says T. J. Rodgers.

Heroes stand for principles, not expediency. BB&T CEO John Allison denied his bank millions in fat fees because he believed that exotic mortgages were bad for his customers. T. J. Rodgers resigned from the board of a company he helped found rather than be pressured into lobbying the government for subsidies.

By contrast, modern-day villains are just like Rand’s literary ones—expedient, scheming, and leaching value from others rather than doing the hard work of creating. Barney Frank is a lifelong politician who never spent a day working in a bank, brokerage, or financial institution—yet he weaseled his way to the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, where he presided over governmental interventions in housing that catalyzed a historic mortgage bubble. Angelo Mozilo at Countrywide Financial overlooked blatant fraud in his company to make a quick buck off of the government subsidies created by Frank. Together, in the name of the noble-sounding altruistic goal of universal home ownership, the two of them very nearly destroyed the world economy. And they also wrecked the financial and emotional lives of countless individuals they purported to be helping. So much for altruism.

Villains ignore the facts of reality in favor of their own irrational opinions. Their idea of truth is whatever the collective believes, regardless of empirical evidence. Mozilo told investors that his company was sound, as he secretly sold his own shares ahead of the collapse

he saw coming. “Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending . . . they didn’t do any subprime,”18 said collectivist apologist Paul Krugman, while Fannie Mae itself published facts admitting to buying up subprime debt. Jesse Jackson’s camp called T. J. Rodgers’s company (with a 35 percent minority employee base) a “white supremacist hate group,”19 as punishment for Rodgers publicly challenging Jackson’s own hate-based tirades about race.

Why It Matters Today

We could conclude by arguing that living by Rand’s philosophy is important today because the threat of collectivism is as salient as ever. Indeed it is as salient as ever, with the United States having just effectively nationalized health care, 14 percent of the economy—and the most innovative and vibrant part of it—by claiming that it is “broken.” And indeed the threat is as salient as ever, with China, a totalitarian dictatorship over 1.2 billion souls, now leading the world in industrial development.

But we won’t say that. The reason to live Rand’s philosophy isn’t that it’s good for the world. That’s altruism talking. The reason is that it’s in your own interest to live Rand’s philosophy. Do you want to have integrity? Do you want to devote yourself to creative, constructive work? Do you want to be happy and wealthy as a result?

Do you want these things for your own sake? Then make it so. We’ll help you by showing you how others have done it, by profiling both the heroes who make our world great and the villains out to destroy it.

If it just happens to save the world in the process, then so much the better.?

Copyright 2011 Donald L. Luskin and Andrew Greta. Republished in Capitalism by permission of the authors.

Donald L . Luskin is Chief Investment Officer of TrendMacro, an investment strategy and economics research firm. For over thirty years, he has been a leading figure in investment management and financial markets. He was formerly vice chair of Barclays Global Investors (now BlackRock) and is the founder of Investment Technology Group and Luskin appears weekly on CNBC’s Kudlow Report and contributes frequently to the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of Index Options and Futures: The Complete Guide and editor of Portfolio Insurance: A Guide to Dynamic Hedging, both published by Wiley. Andrew Greta is an author and business executive with more than fifteen years of experience in the financial markets and currently holds an appointment with the College of Business at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. He formerly led corporate and business development at CME Group in Chicago. Greta is a former contributing editor for His articles on finance and investing have appeared in numerous national publications including SFO magazine,,, Online Investor, and Individual Investor.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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