Sunday 3 January 2010

Wishful thinking

David Boaz at Cato says Ayn Rand is in. Maybe. I've heard book sales are up. But you've gotta compare it to the competition. I haven't data on relative book sales, but we still have Google search data.

Google Search Insights shows a mild up-blip in Rand-related searches in the first quarter of 2009, then a drift back down; searches on Marx continue to dominate both in volume and in linked news stories. Boaz also notes resurgent interest in Hayek; Google Search Insights says nothing to see there.

Again, Marx in blue, Rand in red, Hayek in yellow. Clicking through on the Google link shows that in none of the top-ten Rand countries does Rand beat Marx in search popularity. Hitting any of the tags below will bring up previous iterations of the Rand vs Marx on Google Search Insights; do check there to see if your immediate objections to the use of this method have already been answered.


  1. I like this method, despite its faults, and actually love the idea that it reveals Rand to be more popular than both Max Weber and de Tocqueville. I wonder if the demand for Rand's brand of libertarianism outstrips Mill or Bentham.

    Marx and Weber both seem to peak at certain points of the year - the previously noted academic cycle in the northern hemisphere.

  2. Also, I think the biographies are half the reason for the increased interest. There is one thing that Boaz completely misses though, when he calls for a wider engagement with Rand.

    If you're having difficulty discerning arguments within the immediate body of work of an author because they are, as often argued, highly derivative, simplistic and (like her biographers argued of Rand herself) closed to real debate, and have to turn to the contemporaneous works of Branden for an interpretation you can use, then there's something seriously wrong. I think it's perhaps comparable to taking Don Delillo and calling his ideas a grounded philosophical movement because someone extrapolated a more conventional philosophical order from the texts.

    Maybe the idea should be to look closer at Branden, then, if you really want to explore and engage with a version of Objectivism that has at least some depth of argument.

  3. Hadn't checked against Weber and de Tocqueville; doesn't surprise me that Weber follows the same academic cycle as Marx.