...discussions of Rand typically focus on her political and moral philosophy, but, as the Times article suggests, she inspired a lot of people, of all political, religious, and social views, to raise their aspirations and expectations of themselves. In my own case, I had always done well in school, but never studied hard or paid much attention to my classes. It was after reading Rand, and being at least as inspired by her example as her characters (an adult immigrant who didn't know English becoming one of the most influential English-language novelists of all time, in part due to her sheer force of will) that I started to apply myself--I think I'm somewhat unusual in that I still work much harder as a tenured law professor than I did in school.
I suppose. I had a friend once who was absolutely entranced by Rand's message of individualism. Of course, this was back in high school when nerds and geeks the world over look for something to counterbalance the relentless conformity of popular culture, and what message could be more inspiring and bracing than Rand's "me first" philosophy? That being said, my friend also grew out of that phase, and hence, out of Rand. It's also worth noting that Rand wasn't particularly interested in inspiring everyone, as becomes clear in this comment that Lawyers, Guns and Money highlights:
They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using . . . . What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.
This is the "philosophy" that these business leaders adhere to, an approach to life that is barely a step removed from fascism. And yet people cite to her approvingly still these days. There's no accounting for taste-or wisdom-in politics, it would seem.