1951, when he was 17-years-old, Leonard Peikoff made a trip to
California that changed the course of his life.
Through a friend
who knew her, he was invited to the home of Ayn Rand, the novelist
and Objectivist philosopher. Thus began a friendship and
professional association that was to last until her death on March
Peikoff, whose first book was The
Ominous Parallels is Rand's legal heir.
"I had read The
Fountainhead as an adolescent at a time when I was searching
for values," Peikoff says. "The novel had a hero I could
admire. He was a guide as to how to live, a beacon in a world that
seemed to be collapsing. Once I met Ayn, heard her speak, felt the
force of her conviction and grasped the logic of her ideas, I knew
I had found a direction."
Peikoff returned to his native
Canada where he finished his pre-med program at the University of
Manitoba. He traveled to New York every six months to visit with
Rand who had moved back to the East Coast. In 1953, he decided to
transfer to New York University and get a degree in philosophy. He
continued to study there under Sidney Hook until 1964 when he
obtained his doctorate. Through this period, his friendship with
Ayn Rand deepened.
"I had the extraordinary
good fortune to read Atlas Shrugged in manuscript as it was being written, and to ask the
author all the questions I wished about her ideas," Peikoff
says. "My knowledge of philosophy was primitive at the time, but
she was tremendously gifted at explaining her ideas. She was also
patient and recommended many books for me to read. We talked
philosophy late into the night on countless occasions. It was, for
me, an invaluable education."
Like several other bright young men who were part of the Rand inner circle
(among them Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and former
chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers), Peikoff was attracted
to Objectivism because of its view "of man as a heroic being, with his own
happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his
noblest activity and reason as his only absolute." From 1957 until 1973,
Peikoff taught philosophy at Hunter College, Long Island University, New York
University, the University of Denver and the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.
From 1973, Peikoff worked
full-time on The Ominous Parallels and gave lectures. His courses
on Ayn Rand's philosophy, were given regularly in New York City,
and were taped and played to interested groups in some 100 cities
in the U.S., Canada and Europe. In addition, he spoke frequently
before investment and financial conferences on the philosophic
basis of capitalism.
"The book began originally
as a three-lecture series titled 'Nazism and Contemporary America:
The Ominous Parallels,' given in the spring of 1968," Peikoff
says. "I was in the middle of the series, discussing the Nazi
mentality, the very week of the student rebellion at Columbia
University. This uprising was the final event that convinced me of
the dangerous course America was traveling. I decided to expand
the lectures into a book as soon as I could get enough free time.
It [took] a long time to complete the book, but the danger signs
are even more ominous today than they were when I first began
The thesis of The Ominous
Parallels is that all the philosophic principles that led to the rise
of Nazism in Germany have their counterparts in contemporary
America. As a result, the nation is moving, by default, towards
the establishment of a Nazi-style totalitarian dictatorship.
Dr. Peikoff, who is a naturalized
American citizen, was born in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1933. His father
was a surgeon and his mother, before marriage, was a band leader
in Western Canada. He has been a contributor to Barron's and
an associate editor, with Ayn Rand, of The Objectivist
(1968-71) and The Ayn Rand Letter (1971-76).
He is author of Objectivism:
The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Dutton, 1991), the
definitive statement of Objectivism.
In her introduction to The
Ominous Parallels, written about a year before her death, Ayn Rand
said the book " ... offers a truly revolutionary idea in the
field of the philosophy of history. The book is clear, tight,
disciplined, beautifully structured and brilliantly reasoned. Its
style is clear and hard as crystal — and as sparkling. If you like
my works, you will like this book. As to my personal reaction,
I can express it best by paraphrasing a line from Atlas
Shrugged: 'It's so wonderful to see a great, new, crucial
achievement which is not mine'."