Ayn Rand's Niche
By Arnold Kling
What accounts for the continuing and increasing interest in the work of Ayn Rand? Clearly, the attraction of her ideas has much to do with it. This is true despite the fact that most people, even in America, are probably hostile to most of her philosophy. In a capitalist society, one need not please a majority in order to be successful; one need only find a market niche.
He goes on to say that novels are more popular that philosophical tracts. Note: see also Bryan’s comments on Huemer’s essay.
Here are my thoughts on Rand’s niche:
1. In terms of the psychological factor known as Agreeableness, I speculate that people who tend to lean libertarian tend to be low relative to the average person. We place relatively low value on going along to get along.
2. Those of us who are low on Agreeableness really resent situations in which Agreeableness confers high status. When we think that guys are winning approval, status, and girls by expressing nice-sounding political opinions, we get ticked off.
3. Rand makes a virtue out of being low on Agreeableness. This is almost unique in literature. Few other writers, if any, use their writing to express and advocate for low Agreeableness. Instead, most writers either are dispassionate or are strongly Agreeable. When people who are low on Agreeableness encounter Rand, they feel that they have found a rare soulmate.
4. In my own life, I have had to work very hard to overcome my low Agreeableness. I can think of many situations in which I failed to do so, at some cost to my position on the career ladder. To this day, people with very high status trigger my disagreeableness in ways that I cannot really control (see my posts on Jonathan Gruber).
5. I encountered Rand’s work relatively late in life. My reactions were mixed.
6. One could argue that my own writing is aimed at the same niche. Perhaps it is all an elaborate justification for low agreeableness.