It is difficult to overstate the influence that Ayn Rand (born a Jew) has had. It is used as justification for all kinds of selfish activity that the Torah would criticize. Money quote from the Times: "There is no conflict between private ambition and public benefit."
Chas v'shalom! The whole point of Torah is that we can not do just whatever we please!!! And that is not true just for social relationships or eating, but also for possessions. While there is clearly a limited right to private property under Torah and Rabbinic law, there are restrictions. For example, you can not permanently sell land in Eretz Yisrael. (Did HaShem know that there is no economic value to a free market for something that is in fixed supply, something that economists didn't discover until the 19th century?) While the Torah clearly expects us to run businesses, and property and business halachah takes up a quarter of the Shulchan Aruch, Halachah also grants the rabbinate to restrict business activity in some circumstances. Farmers have the most restrictions -- and the most mitzvot -- as the Torah limits when they can plant and harvest, what crops can be planted together, and imposes mandatory taxation.
One of Ayn Rand's long time disciples was Alan Greenspan. Fortunately, Dr. Greenspan did not follow Ms. Rand's hedonistic policies during his long successful tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. And judging from this speech, which I was fortunate to hear in person during my 20th college reunion, he is now basically a Classical Free Enterprise Liberal rather than an Objectivist Libertatian:
That Ayn Rand might not be the best mentor can be seen from this anecdote in the Times article:
'Rand had a reputation for living for her own interest. She is said to have seduced her most serious reader, Nathaniel Branden, when he was 24 or 25 and she was at least 50. Each was married to someone else. In fact, Mr. Britting confirmed, they called their spouses to a meeting at which the pair announced their intention to make the mentor-protégé relationship a sexual one.
“She wasn’t a nice person, ” said Darla Moore, vice president of the private investment firm Rainwater Inc. “But what a gift she’s given us.”'Some gift! Put yourself before others even if it hurts them. NOT!!! It is no accident that yeshivot would traditionally begin talmud study with the second chapter of Bava Metzia, the laws of returning a lost object. It reminds us that not everything is ours, that we can't just take things because we want them, that ultimately everything really belongs to HaShem -- and that life is NOT about pursuing material or sensual pleasure.
In our midrash, our aggadah, our more recent works that describe the actions of the sages of our time, we learn of their good midot -- and of their tshuvah after the times when they err. We should attempt to emulate Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, or the Chofetz Chaim, or Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, just to name three outstanding models for human behavior, and not Ms Rand.