In an article that starts out in a reasonably objective manner, Johnathan Chait at The New Republic attempts to explain Ayn Rand and Objectivism, then to "debunk" them, unfortunately slipping into the usual bromides about both.
I composed some comments, then found that I needed to subscribe to TNR.com to post it. Being a good capitalist, I need to see the profit in things, and I can't justify that particular $29. I sent an LTE instead.
My comments on certain specific themes apply beyond the scope of a particular article and are as follows:
You Earn What You Are Worth - The primary standard for whether a salary is justified is whether it's worth it to the person who is paying, and the person receiving. Secondarily, because on balance people are smart and will generally try to get the best value for their money, this result coincides with other standards of worth such as intelligence, macroeconomic productivity, and so on.
The Role Of Luck - Ayn Rand did not ignore the role of "luck". For example, she was eternally grateful to people like Cecil B. DeMille and Archibald Ogden, an editor and important supporter; people who she might never have met had circumstances been different. However, Rand's ceaseless hard work allowed her to capitalize on the so-called "luck" of meeting people who recognized her talent and greatness and helped her.
The Rand "Cult" - The idea that a group of people sharing a philosophy of reason constitutes a cult is simply absurd, like the idea that accepting the laws of physics would constitute the same thing. One only has to read first-hand accounts of Rand's insistence on rational justification to realize that blind worship was the last thing on earth she was seeking.
Nietzsche - The effect of Nietzsche on Rand's thought is greatly overstated. Although they share a very general spirit of individualism, the actual content of Nietzsche's philosophy is diametrically opposed to Objectivism. Rand's reality- and reason-centered approach and her focus on what is good for the flourishing of the human organism, or eudemonia, places her squarely in the Aristotelian camp.
Rand The Vengeful - The account of Rand's personal life and attitude has been unduly colored by the negative views of her detractors. Those who wronged her have exacerbated the view of her as a vengeful excommunicator. Rand, unlike many people, was unwilling to live with half-truths once clear evidence was brought to light. She was decisive, not spiteful. If decisiveness is a crime, well so be it.
The Failure Of Objectivism - The notion that the Objectivist movement has failed is rather premature, in light of the fact that her books continue to sell quite well, her ideas are moving into academia, the Ayn Rand Institute and Center for Individual Rights are flourishing, and Objectivists are more intellectually and politically active than ever. Classical ideas lay buried under the ponderous weight of medieval mysticism for a thousand years, and yet were revived. I would not confuse the battle with the war.