The Corner

Word Count

Adam Kirsch reviews Anne C. Heller’s new Ayn Rand biography in this weekend’s Book Review. His piece offers this nugget about John Galt’s long radio address in the novel Atlas Shrugged: A Random House editor told Rand that “if she gave up 7 cents per copy in royalties, she could have the extra paper needed to print Galt’s oration.”

Kirsch calls the agreement a “sign of the great contradiction that haunts her writing,” observing that “giving up her royalties to preserve her vision is something that no genuine capitalist . . . would have done.”

But Rand’s decision to exchange money — a portion of her royalties — for extra paper is capitalism at work. Rand bought something that had financial value to her: the ability to disseminate her idea in the form she desired.

Without such an elegant capitalist mechanism through which to make this trade, the alternative solution would have been messy and unsatisfying. Rand would have had to give up part of Galt’s speech or try to find a new publisher.

There’s nothing wrong with a little contradiction — consistency, hobgoblins, etc. — but this is not that.

— Nicole Gelinas, contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, is author of the forthcoming After the Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street — and Washington.