Through the 1960s and early ’70s, Ayn Rand edited and published a series of periodicals. The last of these was a biweekly newsletter called The Ayn Rand Letter, which was published from October 1971 to February 1976. This 400-page volume reproduces the entire contents of each issue.
While the articles in The Ayn Rand Letter address a broad range of topics—from the Vietnam war to the TV show Perry Mason to the metaphysical lessons of chess—they are united by a common theme: that philosophy is not an ivory-towered diversion divorced from practical concerns, but is an indispensable guide to understanding the real world and acting successfully in it. In her article “Philosophy: Who Needs It”—originally delivered as a lecture to the 1974 graduating class at West Point—Rand’s answer to the question implied by the title is: everyone.
Many of the articles that Rand wrote for the Letter were collected in the books Philosophy: Who Needs It, which was published after her death in 1982, and The Voice of Reason, published in 1990. In addition to the essay “Philosophy: Who Needs It,” these include “The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made,” an analysis—drawing on Rand’s view of the basic nature of reality—of what is and what is not open to change, and “The Lessons of Vietnam,” in which Rand identifies in fundamental philosophic terms the causes of America’s failure in the Vietnam war.
But while many of the articles in the Letter are reprinted in these books, many are not, and like all of Rand’s essays, they offer the intriguing perspective of a world-historical philosopher commenting on the major issues of her day. In “The Principals and the Principles” and “The Energy Crisis,” for example, Rand identifies the essential similarity between the Watergate scandal and the 1970s energy crisis: both illustrate in different ways the corruption inherent in, and the destruction wreaked by, a mixed economy. In “Ideas v. Goods” and “Ideas v. Men,” she condemns the intellectual bankruptcy of conservatives, as revealed by a conservative economist’s attack on freedom of the press. And in “The Shanghai Gesture,” Rand explains why President Nixon’s historic visit to China—which is widely regarded today as a triumph of Nixon’s presidency—was, in fact, a total failure of moral principle.
(Hardcover; 400 pages)