In recent months there has been a surge of interest in Ayn Rand’s works. Fifty-two years after its first publication, her novel Atlas Shrugged is once again topping best-seller lists. As businesses are “bailed out” and quasi-nationalized; as one regulation leads inexorably to the next; and as the productive and innocent are increasingly burdened with the sins and failures of the guilty — many people recognize the haunting resemblance to the world depicted in Atlas. Some now characterize Rand as a “prophet.” Others, as seen on placards at “tea parties” nationwide, simply observe: “Rand was Right.” But that she was right is, in some respects, less important than why she was right.

To appreciate this, imagine a scientist in the Middle Ages who makes bold yet uncannily accurate predictions about planetary motion. Whatever value these predictions offered in facilitating navigation and timekeeping, the deeper question would be: “what led to them?” Asking this might reveal the scientist’s revolutionary theories of heliocentrism and gravity. Not only would such a questioner enjoy an astounding intellectual experience, he’d also get an immensely rewarding payoff — since grasping these theories would open the world to him in a way that no narrow prediction of planetary motion could. So, too, for questioning and discovering the source of Rand’s predictive accuracy.