Although its been many years since I've read Atlas Shrugged, one thing I did come away with is that the author was quite sincere, if somewhat misguided. I read The Fountainhead, which I believe is a more satisfying read and in which she first laid out her principles, or her philosophy, when I was sixteen. I was quite captivated by the persuasiveness of her writing. She was an artist and hugely talented and all that talk about being a genius was heady stuff. Frank Lloyd Wright was, quite obviously, her model for the hero of that book. Although they never met FLW was flattered by her admiration and he even designed a magnificent home for her and her husband. Unfortunately, it was never built.
What people who are so taken with her work and thus her political philosophy, must remember is that she was born during the comminist regime in a small town in Eastern Russia. In those days, attending party meetings on a regular basis, meetings where Marxist doctrine was foisted on all 'comrades' in the name of Progressive Enlightenment was a requirement of all Russians. Rand, like so many artists who lived in Russia during this regime felt stultified by the near worship of collectivism.
When Ayn Rand came to this country and began to write she did what so many expatriates do: she had a kneejerk reaction to the collectivism which the current regime in Russia had tried to shove down her throat. This kneejerk reaction took her to a radical conservatism as opposed to the Radical Progressivism she had left behind. She worshiped wealth and money and all of the attributes of Capitalism. But there were a few fatal flaws in her outlook, especially if she wished to be considered a true phliosopher. One such flaw was her near fanatical devotion to naive materialism. This was something she never got a handle on. She failed to realize that another name for Marxist pilosophy is Dialectic Materialism.
So she had not left behind what she ran from--- she brought at least half of it with her. This materialism is by nature atheistic. The Russian people have long been intensely religious and orthodoxy was built into the culture. She could not recognize in herself her own fundamental need for a god---a supreme and impossibly super human being. She couldn't shake it since it was in the very air she breathed as a child. Her atheistic materialism forbade her straying into mysticism or spiritual experience of any kind. So Rand created god-like heroes: cold, austere and remote. Those are also attributes of the God, Jehova, of the Old Testament. And the most telling attributes of her heroes was that they worshipped not only creative genius as expressed by the rugged individual, but also money, the dollar bill, as an icon of the hero's intrinsic worth. God equals hero equals money.
As I recall, she wrote an entire chapter at the end of Atlas Shrugged laying out her philosophic view. An Apologia. In Aristotle she found a champion of materialism. A equals A is Aristotle's statement. That which appears to exist is really real. And she stopped there. But Aristotle, though a good logician, was also what one might call a 'naive' philosopher. He got there early on--- but the nature of philosophy is that it continues on, more or less open ended, and raises ever more profound and complex questions. For example, there is the Zen Buddhist master who not too long ago said: A is not A, therefore we call it A. For those of us who inquire deeply into the nature of reality this is a more satisfying expression of apparent reality. [/i]In other words, the Zennist is saying, that which appears to exist, in fact, has no true basis in ultimate reality. And because we are uncomfortable with the flickering ambiguity of existence slash non-existence most of us choose to deny the possibility of its non-existence and blunder on by calling it this or that. If only we could perceive apparent reality without going through the mind which insists on cataloquing and naming all things which appear to exist, and experiencing them by virtue of perfect surrender to the radically present moment we would see that in fact a thing not only exists but also does not exist because of the fundamental law of the universe which is that all things are in a state of flux and constantly move through the monent from the past to the present and on to the future. And, as Einstein pointed out--- even the perception of time is illusory and varies from one individual to another depending on their position in the time-space continuum. And that brings us into the fourth dimension which cannot be seen but only experienced in an eternal present.
As you can see, just one example of a refutation of Aristotle's naive definition of reality is enough to bring Ayn Rand's materialism to a screeching halt.
So I would say again--- I do not deny Ayn Rand's sincerity, nor her talent as a persuasive writer, but rather, I would challenge the depth of her view. It's only an eighth of an inch. Like the depth of her mostly cardboard characters.
I hope this helps.
If you want to know what God thinks about money look at who he gave it to.