“Atlas Shrugged” Riding High

It was first published in 1957, and its author has been dead for more than a quarter century, but Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is riding high once again. The once-and-future bestsellet occupies both the first and second spots on Amazon.com’s bestseller list for “Classic” works (representing two different editions of the book). For all of us who reject the Big Government policies of the two major political parties and of their two most recent advocate-presidents, and who remain deeply concerned for the survival of free enterprise and other indices of Freedom in the U.S., this is a small but hopeful sign.

As Yaron Brooks, head of the California-based Ayn Rand Institute correctly noted, a major factor accounting for the resurgence in “Atlas” is the fact that it has become clearer than ever in this current economic mess that government control of the country’s economy — which now includes concrete steps being implemented for the direct running of American companies and banks by the government — is causing the very catastrophe Rand described more than half a century ago.

Whether or not one accepts all aspects of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, as spelled out in her many novels, papers, speeches, interviews and non-fiction books, the essence of her philosophy is of increasing relevance in today’s world in which government control at all levels of government has dramatically reduced the sphere of personal freedom to but a small fraction of what it was even at the time “Atlas Shrugged” was written.

Even though it is good news to see “Atlas” enjoying a revival of sorts, we need to do much more than buy a few more copies of the book in order for us to have any realistic hope of reversing the trends about which its author wrote and which we the living, now suffer under.

80 comments Add your comment

BigVern

April 27th, 2009
9:59 pm

My goodness! Such hostility on this topic…Atlas Shrugged, a great read, written by one on the most brilliant minds in the last 100 years. Predictions, based on a deep understanding of the political machines that all intertwine to create chaos worldwide. Someone handed me a copy of this great work back in 1980..little did I know that it would totally change me politically. I am amused by the statements being posted here. Atlas Shrugged is not merely a book to read for enjoyment but a book full of what the future would resemble if left in the hands of the whiners and the liberals. Those who heap damnation upon the successful…those who would steal from the producers…don’t any of you get it?? When the whiners and liberals have taken everything from every company, every business, every individual…those who have made this country great, what then will they take? Where will the money, the food, the energy come from when there is nothing left???
GOVERNMENT produces nothing…it takes form those who do produce and doles it out to those who don’t or won’t. WAKE UP AMERICA! The path of Obama is leading this country to a future so dark, so bleak that mere words can’t describe its horror. Obama is a great wordmeister and that’s just it they’re only words.
Now back to Atlas Shrugged, I have read this book once a year for the past 29 years and many of you who blindly comment would do well to read it before you write it off as ‘just a novel’…

Ayn Rand was Right

April 27th, 2009
11:27 pm

It is quite clear that most of you have not read the book. Your assumptions point the direction of this country. Quiet sad indeed. Big Vern…see you on the other side brother.

Tom Knighton

April 28th, 2009
5:44 am

It’s amazing the number of people who don’t understand blasted THING about what Ayn Rand talked about. Yes, she espoused a “selfish” ideology, rational selfishness though…meaning one should do that which was in their best long term interests. Meaning making sound business decisions.

While plenty of people screwed up, it’s not the government’s place to bail them out then all but take over the company (including essentially firing a CEO). Instead, let them fail or file for bankruptcy, and let them learn from their mistakes. Otherwise, you’re going to create a cycle of this kind of thing.

The government can screw up almost anything, so I definitely don’t want them involved in building my car or home or my health care. Instead, let them keep our nation safe from invasion, and make sure I get my mail. I’ll be happy.

Dave

April 28th, 2009
6:14 am

The problem in America is basically government has become a toy box for Americas companies to milk us consumers by passing laws that give corporate welfare to the biggest companies to protect them from price competition, government subsidies, government bailouts. When half of Washington DC is littered with lobbyists whose sole job is to extract money from us consumers you know capitalism is in trouble in America and has been for many years now. Bush constantly talked about small business yet try to get a government contact as a small business you don’t stand a chance those contracts are on a no bid bought and paid for congressmen with cost overrun expectations included. Lobbying should be made illegal in the US.

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

April 28th, 2009
7:05 am

The heroes of Rand’s novels are perpetually adolescent males, Peter Pans. Rand glorifies their narcissism and sociopathic behavior. Let’s face it, the struggles of her Roarks and Galts are really just temper tantrums.

neo-Carlinist

April 28th, 2009
7:34 am

Vern, my issue with you and Rand is this insipid “government provides nothing” mantra. reallt? does our government (the Constitution) not provide freedom? does it not provide for “the common defence”? the problem is not “government” per se, it is the private sector’s infiltration of the government (lobbyists, special interests, etc); the “toy box” cited above. Rand, like many narcissistist/children, wants to have her cake and eat it too. She champions individualism and self-interest, but all from the comfort and security of the the government/laws/regulations she so vociferously bemoans. I don’t remember the name, but the post about Somolia was spot on. maybe Atlas Shrugged was thought provoking or the impetus for serious debate about the role and function of government, but it is not the Constitution, and the faux-libertarians and who venerate Rand seem to forget that Atlas Shrugged was a work of FICTION (as was the Godfather, Lonesome Dove, Dr. Suess, and Gone With the Wind.

Hmmmm

April 28th, 2009
7:42 am

Thanks BigVern. You hit a HOMERUN, but it’s too late for people like copyleft or byteme. The crazies have finally taken over the asylum. Tragic!

Chris Broe

April 28th, 2009
7:54 am

Whether or not one accepts all aspects of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, as spelled out in her many novels, papers, speeches, interviews and non-fiction books, the essence of her philosophy is of increasing relevance in today’s world in which government control at all levels of government has dramatically reduced the sphere of personal freedom to but a small fraction of what it was even at the time “Atlas Shrugged” was written.

Tim Wooten is jealous of your syntactical rhythms and your preposterous use of prepositions, sir. Ditto Gay Bookman. Not many writers can accomplish that.

For you, this was a good day.

Jklol

Corporal Punishment

April 28th, 2009
8:05 am

The truckling parrots who lionize this pathetic tome are the same boobs who bought Enron stock and insisted that others “don’t get it!”

The self-labeled “objectivist” crowd is way too taken with their own sense of self-importance. (see YouTube for Greenspan saying “.. I failed to see the markets self-regulating”)

If someone mentions Atlas Shrugged as a life changing event, run away quickly. It’s like letting a Jehovah’s Witness in your house – unbearable! .

Barf! Please get over yourself.

saywhat?

April 28th, 2009
8:15 am

The Ayn Rand fanatics are like the “Fair Tax” fanatics, they both assume that because you don’t agree with them, that you haven’t read the book(s). Sorry folks, I’ve read the books, studied the philosophy and come to the obvious conclusion that they are faulty beyond repair. Go ahead and live in your little self-absorbed fantasy world, and by all means, feel free to go “John Galt”. Somalia really does sound like the perfect place to practice your ideals. You will not be missed nor mourned, and will be doing the rest of us a favor by saving us from your insufferable whining.

Alan Greenspan

April 28th, 2009
8:16 am

I still find it shocking that our Captains of Industry and Finance did not behave appropriately. Ayn always told me that they would.

Shannon, M.Div.

April 28th, 2009
8:23 am

Haven’t read _Atlas Shrugged_. I did go through a two-week Ayn Rand phase in high school where I read _The Fountainhead_… and I’ve both read _Anthem_ (during the same two week phase) and listened to it on CD (about two years ago).

Bottom line: the poster who said you can’t be an objectivist and a Christian is dead on right. If you believe at all that some of what happens to people in the world is outside their control, then being an objectivist is just plain silly.

I think Rand (and other libertarians) are self-deluded into believing that everything good that happens to them, they’re responsible for. That’s the big problem with it… they don’t recognize what role white privilege and male privilege have played in their “success,” and they don’t recognize how very deeply their “success” depends on the networks of support that lift them up (and to which not everyone has access).

Personal drive, ambition, and hard work are necessary for success. With that much, I agree with libertarians.

Their shortcoming comes in failing to understand this: Drive, ambition, and hard work are not sufficient for success.

Shannon, M.Div.

April 28th, 2009
8:25 am

(Yes, I know Rand wasn’t male).

Hmmmm

April 28th, 2009
8:38 am

Shannon… they don’t recognize what role white privilege and male privilege have played in their “success,” and they don’t recognize how very deeply their “success” depends on the networks of support that lift them up (and to which not everyone has access).

This is HORSECRAP! The sooner that you release your self doubt, you will soar to higher heights! The above statement is old, tired, and just a EXCUSE for your shortcomings, and or failures…

Rand simply stated what we are seeing, and what we have seen for the last 100 years. A government that is so intrusive and oppressive that it will snuff the life out of anything it touches. An overly simplistic statement I know, but the truth.

E

April 28th, 2009
9:50 am

I am amazed at the venom which can be generated by those of different interpretations regarding a work of fiction. As a person who believed accountability, hard work, and original ideas were a path to success, I was introduced to “The Fountainhead” as a college senior, particularly enjoying the theme of original thought as a means of expression in a search for greatness. Following several years of experience in the corporate world, and watching my hard work and original thought go unnoticed in favor of those who lacked the latter but enjoyed promotion through networking, I came to notice the same theme in “Atlas”. While many people want to look for complex and hidden meaning within Rand’s best known work, the most obvious commentary surrounds the impact of “those who can, quit” and remove their ability and knowledge from society. As our government has become a cesspool of purchased lobbyists posing as representatives and senators, devoid of original thought and offered to the highest bidder, when those who can “quit”, the government will having nothing left to take and ultimately fail. While I’m sure this post will be blasted by someone it may offend, I calmly submit that the best Americans have “quit”, and left the country in the hands of those who “can’t” and have found new and exciting places to live where “what you know” is more important than “who you know”. Thank you.

Here we go again

April 28th, 2009
10:02 am

Hmmm said: “The sooner that you release your self doubt, you will soar to higher heights! The above statement is old, tired, and just a EXCUSE for your shortcomings, and or failures…”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA You OBVIOUSLY have soared to heights the rest of us could only imagine soaring to, as you just like the rest of us are commenting on an AJC.com opinion article at 8:38 on a tuesday morning. I’m tired of right-wing rational atheists telling me to “free my mind,” and realize that poor people are just getting what they deserve for their life choices.

Daedalus

April 28th, 2009
10:19 am

What a hoot. All the right-wingnuts here are blaming the unbridled greed of Wall Street on the government. Talk about taking responsibility for your actions.

Oh, and Sam, sure there were 2000 people (or so) working as SEC investigators during the Bush years — but they were led by a political appointee who did not want them to do their jobs (just like at FDA, EPA, DOJ, etc.)

So the response to unbridled greed and cheating (Enron, Madoff, Ebbers, AIG, etc.) is to competely remove all govt oversight and let business do what it wants. After all — we can trust corpporate execs– they would never put their short term profits over the interests of oridinary Americans. That’s unthinkable!

Right.

Hmmmm

April 28th, 2009
10:23 am

Yikes, here we go again needs to stay off the caffeine….. Funny, I had No idea I was a right wing atheist… Thanks for the information. I will submit, nothing is guaranteed in this life, when it comes to success or failure, but the odds are definitely against those that blame their predicament on something other than themselves. Yes, I have soared to great heights, but I am not where I want to be, not even close, and I will not limit myself by these negative thoughts of how OTHER people are holding me back. But hey, it’s your right to wallow in self pity and doubt, please continue….

Copyleft

April 28th, 2009
10:33 am

The core failing of Rand’s philosophy is the belief that churches, governments, and all other types of power will inevitably be abused at the expense of human liberty… EXCEPT financial power.

That power, and that alone, is pure and incorruptible. Pursuit of wealth will ALWAYS serve the best interests of society, and that’s best achieved by pursuing self-interest in a fanatical, singleminded fashion.

This belief is obvious nonsense, and that’s WITHOUT the copious real-world examples of how things actually work out when businesses are left to ‘regulate themselves’ or be subject to the ‘invisible hand of market correction.’ It just don’t work that way, children.

Rand’s fanatical, unquestioning faith in the market is amusing, but naive.

Here we go again

April 28th, 2009
10:42 am

Hmmmm:

I never technically said you were a right-wing atheist… that was mainly just for the sake of being inflammatory. Because we know traditional right wingers and traditional atheists just loooooooove each other.

As a young, white, Christian heterosexual male born into a middle-upper class household with no mental or physical disabilities to speak of, I don’t blame ANYONE for holding me back in life. I think I’m doing pretty well for myself and have all the potential in the world. That being said, I obviously don’t work too hard if I have time to troll online newspaper blogs on weekday mornings, but overall I’m headed in the right direction. I’m more concerned about people born with the same advantages I had — and maybe you were, maybe you weren’t — but that somehow think the reason they are successful or have the potential to be successful is solely because of their own hard work and upstanding character. Overall, I’m a fan of “liberal”-minded rich people (ie, they believe their success has been dependent on social advantages outside of their own control) and “conservative”-minded poor people (who refuse to just accept hand-outs, and believe that they can be successful if they accept personal responsibility for their lives).

Even if there WERE a utopian country filled with hard-working, intelligent John Galt’s, someone would still have to clean the toilets, take out the trash and cook the filet mignon dinners for everyone else. And in a free-market capitalist economy where wages are based on scarcity rather than the work’s importance to society, the people that do those jobs are going to make a whole lot less money than the rest of the country’s population.

Hmmmm

April 28th, 2009
10:51 am

Copyleft, did you even read the book…. Please read or most definitely read again. Yes, it is fiction, but draws scary parallels to our modern day experience. Your statements have completely missed the boat, so to speak…. IMHO.

Businesses do regulate themselves, if left to suffer the ‘invisible hand of market correction’. Don’t misunderstand, CRIMINAL acts deserve the consequences of the law. Funneling billions of dollars or our hard earned money to companies that are as corrupt as the hand lending, is ABSURD! People need to WAKE UP, our politicians on both sides are a travesty, and need to be dismissed!

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

April 28th, 2009
12:32 pm

What would happen if all you rightwingnutter Atlases shrugged?

I’d have to get someone new to deliver my paper, mow my loan, and pick up my trash…

Let’s face it – you’re a little full of yourselves, now, aren’t you?

cc

April 28th, 2009
4:43 pm

I’m a black conservative woman and didn’t vote for Yobama on the fact that he’s a left wing nut case and I’m for smaller government, If I work 40 hours a week I want to be paid for 40 hours. It’s my choice if I want to give to charity and not the freaking government. It’s my money I earned and to hell with all the welfare cases out there.

egoist

April 29th, 2009
6:09 am

While it’s true that AS does stand squarely opposed to big government [expansion], that is no the essential foundation; it’s the underlying morality of altruism that AS identifies as the root of these problems. Rand presents egoism as the alternative, needed to sustain life on earth.

Until altruism is rejected and replaced by egoism in our culture, it will continue to just be a question of how hard we push for increasing controls and dollar-bill printing press pages / minute.

Copyleft

April 29th, 2009
7:57 am

“I got mine, and to hell with everybody else.” That’s the Rand philosophy in a nutshell; thanks for stating it so clearly!

Is it any wonder that Rand’s books appeal primarily to clueless and self-absorbed teenagers with no responsibilities or real-world experience?

And Egoist: Thanks for another illustration of the shallowness and utter lack of character inherent in a Rand fanatic. Altruism really IS better than egoism, I’m sorry to break it to you. And all of Rand’s efforts haven’t changed that.

Libby

April 29th, 2009
9:50 pm

Davo. I am a Christian and I believe in the message of Atlas Shrugged. Actually the bible and Rand have a lot in common…those who don’t work, don’t eat. Check it out.

The Epicure

May 1st, 2009
10:48 pm

Atlas Shrugged is remarkably prescient in its portrayal of Socialist takeover of the productive sector of the economy, to the point that more than half the country becomes a parasite and votes for continuation of Socialism. Except that now the parasites are killing their golden goose, so 100% of us will end up on welfare as wards of the state.
Animal Farm, Common Sense, 1984 and others are equally prescient.
Remember that by the end of Atlas Shrugged, good conquers Government.
The pendulum has swung to Communism too far, too fast, and the counterrevolution will be DEVASTATING in dismantling this state.
The 2010 elections will remove the stranglehold of the lunatic fringe.
On January 20, 2013, President Bob Barr will invalidate every subversive, Socialist, Communist travesty propagated by the spendthrift Bolsheviks. Immediate cessation of the pork, of the “entitlements,” of the infringements on personal property and personal liberty.
Reduction of the Federal Government’s size from the 40% to which it bloated from last year’s 22% of GDP … down to the 5% that is, at its maximum, a “necessary evil.”

Salvatore Guiseppe

May 3rd, 2009
1:47 pm

Libby I think you missed the boat on either Christianity’s views or Rand’s, because they are certainly not compatible. Rand thought that religion was antithetical to reason. She held a very hedonistic philosophy. And while yes those words do appear in the Bible, the actual verse says “unwilling to work”. It is an admonishment of freeloaders, and not an opposition to the command to love you neighbor, nor of the work of the men appointed in Acts to give a “daily distribution” to the widows. Just because the government should not give out freebies, does not mean as Christians we do not have an obligation to offer charity(which itself is an idea opposed by Rand)

[...] he notes: … a major factor accounting for the resurgence in “Atlas” is the fact that it has become [...]

cdell

May 18th, 2009
5:34 pm

This is an awesome book. I’m only 14 and i understand the message behind it so I DEFINATELY would recommend it to anyone who wants to read a good book.