I’m going to throw a curve-ball into this forum which has so far been impeccably liberal and politically correct. My fascination with Ayn Rand’s ideas and ideals is the nearest I will get to a sado-masochistic relationship with someone devastatingly attractive but utterly unsuitable.
Ayn Rand and her philosophy that she called Objectivism were progenitors of the neo-conservative "small government, Free Market" philosophy in the USA. She is far more of a household name in the USA than the UK, though I suspect her followers exaggerate her influence compared with better-known Right-Wing Libertarian Free Marketeers such as Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard, She cited both as influences but later fell out with them over minor nuances of doctrine.
Briefly, some background: She was born Alyssa Rosenbaum to a well-to-do family in St .Petersburg, Russia in 1905. The family had all their wealth confiscated after the Revolution which left her with an abiding hatred of Communism, which she widened to incorporate any kind of collectivism. She managed to get permission to visit the United States in 1924, and was instantly dazzled by the wealth, freedom and dynamism that she found there, and became a leading advocate for Capitalism as a force for the liberation of humanity from poverty and oppression. She would have witnessed the poverty of many citizens but believed that Freedom and initiative were all that was necessary to get out of it. She worked as a script-writer in Hollywood, and managed to get married and therefore gained US citizenship and permission to stay there. She stayed married to her husband, an artist named Frank Connor, for the rest of his life despite at least one affair on her part, but he played very little part in her philosophical or literary life. She published several novels and plays, hit the big time with “The Fountainhead” in 1943, and gained the peak of her influence with her magnum opus “Atlas Shrugged” in 1957, which has sold 30 million copies. One survey found that Americans cited it as the second most influential book after the Bible (which has quite the opposite message). Essentially, it is a dystopian fantasy with science fiction elements, where the heroes are capitalist entrepreneurs and the villains are anyone who tries to limit their freedom. She was the centre of a group of disciples who helped disseminate her ideas into American politics. She had celebrity status and was in great demand as a speaker. She died in 1982 in New York, from lung cancer that was probably consequent to her belief that cigarettes symbolized Man’s conquest of fire.
I went through a phase of reading up on her a few years back; I read "Atlas Shrugged" and some of her books of essays. Objectivism appealed to me due to its emphasis on the heroic individual (I have always suspected that I am too much of an individualist to be a true socialist!) and due to its emphasis on the supremacy of Reason. She twisted these ideas into a belief that "Ethical Selfishness" is good and that unfettered Capitalism is a force for good that will benefit the whole of humanity. I was almost seduced by this way of thinking, but soon became disillusioned by it's limitations. She certainly believed in the trickle-down theory of wealth generation which has signally failed. Regarding Reason, for instance her argument against State Healthcare would be: “If Mr. X, who I don’t know, has cancer, why should the government take money from me via taxation to pay for his treatment?” Using Reason alone, this seems like a valid argument, but it ignores the fact that human beings are emotional creatures, and the element of Reason that is left out is that almost all species including humans have evolved to find that co-operation is good for their survival and well-being. The balance of collectivism against the freedom of the individual is probably the basic question that underpins all politics and much of philosophy.
One of her disciples was Alan Greenspan who was later chairman of the US Federal Reserve under Ronald Reagan, and a leading light of neo-liberalism. I haven't been able to find a direct link between her thinking and Margaret Thatcher's but clearly many of their ideas were the same ("there is no such thing as Community, there are only individuals and their families"). Sajid Javid has cited her as an influence (and he was the Health Secretary!). Ayn Rand's heyday was in the late 1950s and the 60s, and when I read her stuff Obama was POTUS and her ideas seemed to be more or less of historical interest only. But with the rise of Trumpism and the polarisation of US politics her ideas, if not her actual influence, are relevant again: the idea that free state healthcare is socialism and therefore evil; the fear of Big Government; the right to carry guns, etc. All these ideas seem weird, even alien, to the European mind, but are perfectly normal to many Americans, and a reading of Ayn Rand will help to understand the mentality of the US Republicans. Not in every respect though; she was an atheist, and her libertarianism led her to support the removal of restrictions on homosexuality and abortion, none of which would go down well with the Religious Right, and as a Jew she also wouldn't be welcome in some sections of White America. Also, many of the villains in her books are not socialists, but businessmen and politicians who get their wealth and influence from their contacts and their devious and corrupt political dealings, so I am not certain that she would have approved of Trump. His concept of “false facts” is completely antithetical to any concept of Reason, from Rand or anywhere else, and she would have (rightly in my view) deplored the retreat from Reason that we see in the West. Elon Musk is much more like the heroes of Atlas Shrugged; and I confess that I have mixed rather than negative feelings about him: he is a man of vision for the future of humanity who gets things done rather than talk about it.
Having said all that, for all her championing of Absolute Freedom and Absolute Reason, she was not particularly receptive to deviations from her beliefs among her followers, and the Objectivist Movement developed into pretty much of a cult; it still exists, but her followers have elevated her to a Kim Il-Sung type figure, and they have a massively inflated sense of their importance. She made a distinction between her Objectivism on one hand, and Libertarianism and Anarcho-Capitalism on the other, for reasons that are hard to fathom except that people thought of the last two before she did. Her movement, before and after her death, suffered schisms over obscure points that mirrors splits among the Protestant Churches especially the Plymouth Brethren, and ironically also the splits among Marxism-Leninism. For me, the Covid restrictions were the final nail in the coffin for a position that says the government has no right to tell us what to do. An absolute belief in Libertarian-type freedom was what led to the anti-vax and anti-mask position, but when you apply Reason properly, the science tells us that masks and vaccines should be compulsory for the greatest good of humanity and the survival of individuals.