Few 20th century authors have enjoyed as profound and lasting an influence as Ayn Rand (1905-1982). A novelist, playwright, and pioneering philosopher, Rand effectively communicated her ideas through her novels before elaborating further in her nonfiction. 

Her fourth and final novel, Atlas Shrugged, has sold more than 10 million copies since its publication in 1957.

Rand’s work presented a unique perspective, defined by heroic characters and compelling stories. Indeed, Rand’s approach to her craft is itself deeply rooted in her philosophy of Objectivism.

Ayn Rand has inspired countless readers from various walks of life, including some you might have heard of. 

Many notable people from fields as diverse as comic books, rock music, activism, and business have credited her as a significant influence.

Let’s look at five such individuals…

1. Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has acknowledged Ayn Rand’s influence on his thinking, particularly in relation to her philosophy of reason and individualism. Wales has expressed admiration for her ideas, particularly regarding the importance of personal autonomy and intellectual independence.

In an interview with Tim Ferris, Jimmy Wales stated that, like many people, he read Ayn Rand when he was about 20 years old, driven by his interest in philosophy and economics. He described Rand’s 1943 novel The Fountainhead as a “mind-blowing, eye-opening book.” 

As a proponent of open knowledge and decentralized information sharing, Wales’ work with Wikipedia reflects principles of individual empowerment and the pursuit of truth — a sentiment that resonates with Rand’s emphasis on reason and self-determination.

2. Neil Peart

Renowned drummer and lyricist for the rock band Rush, Neil Peart (1952-2020) was deeply influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy, particularly her celebration of individualism and moral independence.

Throughout his career, Peart’s lyrics served as a canvas for exploring philosophical themes, and his admiration for Rand’s celebration of individualism and moral independence was evident in many of his songs.

Peart’s lyrical compositions often delved into themes of personal freedom, self-reliance, and the relentless pursuit of one’s values — a testament to his profound affinity for Rand’s message. In songs like “Anthem” and “2112,” Peart vividly depicted the struggle against collectivism and the importance of individualism in the face of societal conformity.

The storyline of the titular song in Rush’s 1976 album 2112 resonates with Rand’s themes of individualism and resistance against oppressive systems, drawing parallels with the narrative elements found in her writing.

Peart explicitly credited the inspiration he drew from Rand’s work, with the text inside the cover of 2112 reading: “With acknowledgement to the genius of Ayn Rand.”

3. Joan Kennedy Taylor

A pro-liberty feminist journalist, author, and activist, Joan Kennedy Taylor (1926-2005) emerged as a notable proponent of individual rights and autonomy within the feminist movement of the 1960s. 

Inspired by Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, Taylor’s work in advocating pro-liberty feminism emphasized the importance of personal freedom and self-determination.

Through her work, Taylor played a significant role in shaping contemporary discussions on women’s liberation and individualism. She provided a platform for exploring the intersections of feminism and personal freedom.

Moreover, from 1964 to 1968, Taylor edited Persuasion, an independent monthly political magazine tying trending topics to broader principles. It took a strong stance against the draft, echoing Rand’s view that conscription represents a statist claim of ownership over individuals’ lives in the name of duty and sacrifice.

Ayn Rand gave the magazine her personal recommendation, stating that: “It is of particular interest and value to all those who are eager to fight on the level of practical politics, but flounder hopelessly for lack of proper material.”

4. Steve Ditko

Steve Ditko (1927-2018), the legendary comic book artist and co-creator of iconic characters like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, was profoundly influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.

In Ditko’s storytelling, themes of individualism and moral heroism abound, reflecting his deep-seated belief in the power of the individual to shape their destiny and confront adversity. 

Characters like Spider-Man, with his mantra of “With great power comes great responsibility,” epitomize Ditko’s reverence for moral integrity and the triumph of the individual.

Ditko even introduced characters more explicitly influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, such as Mr. A, whose name relates to “A is A,” the central axiom of Objectivism — in other words, reality exists.

In 1989, Ditko specified that: “Mr. A is based on Ayn Rand’s theory of justice, on Aristotle’s law of identity, his definition of man, and his view of art.”

With his iconic steel mask and metal gloves, Mr. A symbolized the pursuit of truth and justice through reason and uncompromising morality. His encounters with moral dilemmas and societal corruption served as a platform for exploring Objectivist ideals.

5. Terry Goodkind

Terry Goodkind (1948-2020), acclaimed author of the bestselling “Sword of Truth” series, acknowledges Ayn Rand’s profound influence on his work, particularly in the exploration of philosophical themes such as individualism and the struggle between good and evil. 

Goodkind’s epic fantasy novels delve into complex moral dilemmas and the quest for personal freedom, echoing Objectivist principles of rational self-interest and morality.

In his fictional universe, characters navigate a world fraught with moral ambiguity and existential challenges, where the pursuit of truth and personal integrity takes center stage. 

Through his narratives, Goodkind explores the inherent conflict between individual autonomy and societal constraints, drawing parallels to Rand’s emphasis on rational self-interest and the pursuit of one’s values.

In a 2007 interview, Goodkind asserted his verdict on Rand’s unique intellectual legacy:

“I consider her the greatest thinker since Aristotle. She made advances in the world of philosophy that no one since Aristotle has made. Her thinking on concept formation is truly groundbreaking and explains so much about philosophy that’s never been explained before.”

Ultimately, the five individuals we’ve discussed represent just a handful of the many who have been inspired by Ayn Rand’s philosophy. 

Whether through literature, music, activism, or entrepreneurship, their lives and works continue to reflect the enduring influence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism on contemporary thought and culture.

Could you be added to our list of those inspired by the ideas of Ayn Rand? If you’d like to find out more, be sure to click on the button below to get your free copy of the e-book “The Morality of Capitalism,” where you can find a strong moral defense of capitalism through a collection of articles written by experts, including Nobel Prize winner Vernon Smith.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.