Chaim Soutine-Portrait of a Mad Woman "La Folle," c. 1919
Ayn Rand is indirectly responsible for the political and economic problems that face the United States at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century. We must, however, view her with at least some degree of compassion, because of the emotional abuse she was the victim of as a child.
Born Alissa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg in 1905, she and her three sisters were despised by her dilettante, aristocratic mother as a child, who told them that she hated children and only kept them out of duty. This disdain of children carried over into Rand's own life, as well as her writings. In one of her interviews with Mike Wallace in the late 1950's, she stated that, "only the strong deserve to be loved." By logical extension, children--who are the weakest of all humans--deserve no love. Certainly this had been Rand's life experience.
I believe that this was the unconscious, emotional center for Ayn Rand's philosophy of selfishness, and was a symptom of her own post traumatic stress disorder. This in turn evolved into a deeply rooted neurosis or character disorder such as narcissism, an inferiority complex, or even being a sociopath.
For someone who claimed to stand for "personal responsibility," she demonstrated little such virtue in her own life. As a teenager, she went to the movies on money earned at a job that her mother and sisters were depending (and that she had agreed to provide) on to eat, according to one biographer. And yet, she felt no guilt in failing to live up to her responsibilities.
I believe this lack of guilt indicates that she was a borderline sociopath, and her "philosophy" was primarily a means to justify her own lack of human empathy or sense of duty to others. Even today, adherents of Rand's Objectivism use it primarily to justify their own self-serving actions.
In a 1957 interview with Mike Wallace, Rand stated she was "the most creative thinker alive." This was at a time when Erich Fromm, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, Theodor Adorno, Iris Murdoch, Michel Foucault, Simone Beauvoir, John Rawls , and Karl Popper were all in their creative prime, and Carl Jung, Bertrand Russell, and Martin Heidegger were still alive.