Book Reviews

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to 2003 Book Review List


Getting It Right by William F. Buckley, Jr.


Rating: (Mildly Recommended)


Click on title or picture to buy from




In his new novel, Getting It Right, William F. Buckley, Jr., uses the genre of historical fiction to convey so much of what he knows about the origins of the modern right in the John Birch Society and the followers Ayn Rand. Among the Randians was Alan Greenspan, and if there’s just one reason you need to read Getting It Right, reading Buckley’s portrayl of Greenspan might be just reason enough. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 23 (pp. 152-4):

There had been an inkling of it a month earlier. Ayn Rand had not left her Park Avenue apartment in weeks.

Nathaniel and Barbara Branden worked night and day, it seemed, on the concerns of the Nathaniel Branden Institute. Ayn said at a gathering of the Collective on Saturday that she thought there was a little pallor in the handsome face of Nathaniel. Her eyes searched the room and touched down on the faces of the seven Collective members in attendance. Only Leonard Peikoffwas absent—he was in California and had served notice he would not be there. The deliberated passage of Miss Rand's questioning eyes gave the impression that this was a forum, and that the views of everyone there were being consulted in a probe for consensus.

But of course it wasn't that way with Ayn Rand. If she detected a pallor, there was a pallor; and if others did not espy it, the explanation was as simple as that they were blind. Even so, her eyes looked about inquisitively as if seeking confirmation of what needed no confirmation.

Alan Greenspan attempted to contribute to the question being explored. He said, "Yes. Nathaniel, perhaps you and Barbara should get away for a day or two? As an economist, I know something about the allocation of effort. It is economically profligate to deploy high skills that are not required for the undertaking at hand. You may say that there is an inelastic demand for work of a clerical nature being done to promote the fortunes of the Nathaniel Branden Institute, and I would acknowledge that—but without acknowledging that the allocation of your special skills to such work is the reasonable way to proceed."

Ayn liked the direction in which the talk was proceeding. She elucidated with manifest pleasure.

"As Alan says, there are demands which, because they are inelastic, by definition need to be met, and it is in the nature of social accommodation that these are often—note, I am not saying necessarily—undertaken by persons whose time, measured by their resources, is not reasonably used in such activity.

"Consider me—" She pointed to Barbara, seated to her left, next to Frank, and traced one of her habitual finger arcs over the heads of all the members of the Collective, reaching finally Nathaniel, seated at her right hand. "I spent thirteen years composing Atlas Shrugged. With my fingers depressing exactly the right keys on that typewriter"—she pointed to the hallowed object on the desk in the corner. "I was fully allocating my mind to the work in hand. As most of you know because of the frequent readings I did here with the Collective, the words—the language, the images, the ideas—were the product of intense thought and—"

"A brilliant imagination," her husband interposed.

Ayn Rand nodded her head slightly and produced a faint smile.

She resumed: "And the end product could not have been effected except by the allocation of my entire attention. Now. . .." She paused dramatically, leaning over to light a cigarette. There was silence.

"Sometimes, working alone at, say, two in the morning, I would need or desire sustenance. And then? Are you following me, Joan?"

Joan Mitchell, who had been married briefly to Alan Greenspan, nodded her head and volunteered, "You made your own tea."

"Exactly," Miss Rand said. "You have here the actualization of the economic conundrum. Aristotle and I both boiled water, which is work that does not tax the resources even of an illiterate slave boy.

The point, as applicable to Nathaniel and Barbara, is that they should give more thought to the distribution of the work of the Instiute so that they do not need to spend so much time, so to speak, boiling water."

Mary Ann Rukavina asked, "Ayn, might it be contended that the use of ones mind in such activity as is unrelated to that which requires the full application of the mind could be understood as nature's means of exacting rest? I mean, when you were writing at two in the morning, there has to come a point when you had to stop in order to rest. And, clearly, when sleeping, one is, in a sense, just going one step beyond the boiling of water—"

Ayn stopped her. "We are hardly discussing the natural biological requirements of the human body, which engages in activities – the use of  the mouth to eat, of the alimentary canal to process, the anus to excrete—necessary to the cyclical demands of organic life. If you are saying that a pause in order to boil water is a means resting the mind, giving it surcease from the level of exertion required for hard rational application, the answer is: No. Alan is correct. It is a misallocation of economic energy.”


After most of the Collective dispersed, at about one in the morning, Ayn tilted her head back and blew smoke up toward the ceiling.

"We have established, Nathaniel, that the pallor I spoke of is there. You and Barbara must go on a few days' vacation.”

As readers come to expect, Buckley is playful, irreverent, and opinionated on the pages of Getting It Right. If that’s what you’re after, and have any interest in the Randians or the John Birch Society, this is the book for you.

Steve Hopkins, May 27, 2003


ă 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the June 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: It Right.htm


For Reprint Permission, Contact:

Hopkins & Company, LLC • 723 North Kenilworth Avenue • Oak Park, IL 60302
Phone: 708-466-4650 • Fax: 708-386-8687