Dear Mrs. Rand:
I am not a professional critic and I feel no call to judge the merits of a novel. So I do not want to detain you with the information that I enjoyed very much reading Atlas Shrugged and that I am full of admiration for your masterful construction of the plot.
But Atlas Shrugged is not merely a novel. It is also (or may I say: first of all) a cogent analysis of the evils that plague our society, a substantiated rejection of the ideology of our self-styled "intellectuals" and a pitiless unmasking of the insincerity of the policies adopted by governments and political parties. It is a devastating exposure of the "moral cannibals," the "gigolos of science" and of the "academic prattle" of the makers of the "anti-industrial revolution." You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the efforts of men who are better than you.
If this be arrogance, as some of your critics observed, it still is the truth that had to be said in this age of the Welfare State.
I warmly congratulate you and I looking forward with great expectations to your future work.
Ludwig von Mises
Bold emphasis mine. The letter was dated Jan. 23, 1956. Depending on how loosely we might interpret Mises' use of the word "better" we might agree with him here. I have antibiotics because people who were better than I at inventing antibiotics invented them. But given that this letter is written in praise of Atlas Shrugged, I think such a reading of that line would be beyond charitable. Having in the last couple of weeks read some of the liberal/leftist debate over Corey Robin's book, specifically with regard to the question of what role elitism plays in the conservative tradition, I