There are some literary beginnings so well-known as immediately to call to mind the books in which they appear: “Call me Ishmael”;1 “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times”;2 and, increasingly, “Howard Roark laughed.”3 So begins the novel, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Published in 1943, The Fountainhead continues to sell 100,000 copies a year.4 For millions it provides the introduction to a philosophical/social movement known as “Objectivism.” It has been suggested that Objectivism provided intellectual grounding for the decline of left-liberalism and the expanding influence of a libertarian shift in American culture.5
Yet despite its influence, the book has engendered scant academic attention6 and virtually no attention in the legal academy. In The Fountainhead, as in all of Rand’s mature fictional works, the law—more specifically, one or more trial scenes—figures prominently. Indeed, in all of them trials are essential elements of the plot development.7 Although Rand’s work is hardly unique in its use of the trial for dramatic purposes,8 it is distinctive in its use of the trial as illustrative of moral or philosophical principles.9 One would expect, therefore, that
at least in the philosophical literature of Objectivism, one would find discussion about the role and meaning of law; but one would be disappointed. Apart from occasional bromides about the importance of objective law, there is precious little, even in Objectivist literature, about law.
Leonard Peikoff, Rand’s intellectual heir, has written what is perhaps the most systematic exegesis of Rand’s philosophy.10 The index to his book has no independent listing for “law”; it lists law only as a subhead of government, under the rubric “as requiring objective law.”11 His discussion consumes just a few pages and is devoted almost entirely to criminal law.12 The couple of paragraphs on civil law are devoted entirely to the law of contracts.13 Moreover, the treatment is incredibly superficial and seems to equate objectivity to particular concretes, as if abstractions could not be objective—a position one would think Rand would find antithetical to her philosophy, which placed a premium on the conceptual level of awareness.14 The other leading book length interpretations of Rand’s work also lack so much as an index entry for law.15
This essay is an attempt at filling the void in legal scholarship and Objectivist literature at the intersection of law and Objectivism. I do not attempt a comprehensive examination of the Objectivist view of law.