Atlas Shrugged At 50

The Wall Street Journal notes the golden anniversary of that great polemical novel, in Michelle Malkin’s words, Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand’s signature epic on objectivism and the moral compass of unfettered capitalism remains as topical and controversial than ever, and David Kelley explains the fascination:

Businessmen are favorite villains in popular media, routinely featured as polluters, crooks and murderers in network TV dramas and first-run movies, not to mention novels. Oil company CEOs are hauled before congressional committees whenever fuel prices rise, to be harangued and publicly shamed for the sin of high profits. Genuine cases of wrongdoing like Enron set off witch hunts that drag in prominent achievers like Frank Quattrone and Martha Stewart.
By contrast, the heroes in “Atlas Shrugged” are businessmen — and women. Rand imbues them with heroic, larger-than-life stature in the Romantic mold, for their courage, integrity and ability to create wealth. They are not the exploiters but the exploited: victims of parasites and predators who want to wrap the producers in regulatory chains and expropriate their wealth.
Rand’s perspective is a welcome relief to people who more often see themselves portrayed as the bad guys, and so it is no wonder it has such enthusiastic fans in the upper echelons of business as Ed Snider (Comcast Spectacor, Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers), Fred Smith (Federal Express), John Mackey (Whole Foods), John A. Allison (BB&T), and Kevin O’Connor (DoubleClick) — not to mention thousands of others who pursue careers at every level in the private sector.
Yet the deeper reasons why the novel has proved so enduringly popular have to do with Rand’s moral defense of business and capitalism. Rejecting the centuries-old, and still conventional, piety that production and trade are just “materialistic,” she eloquently portrayed the spiritual heart of wealth creation through the lives of the characters now well known to many millions of readers.

I have to admit that I don’t necessarily share the enthusiasm for AS as many on the Right do. While agreeing with Rand on the underlying philosophy of the novel, I struggled to maintain interest in the book while I read it through to completion. I found the conflicts in the book contrived, the characters two-dimensional at best, and the stark good/evil perspective simplistic. I was glad to have read it when I finished, and just as glad to leave it on the shelf afterwards.
It’s good to have capitalist heroes, as Kelley writes in his review. Unfortunately, it’s better to have engaging and real characters in novels, and while Rand had unquestioned brilliance and a singular perspective on tyrrany that only George Orwell and Aldous Huxley match in modern literature, Atlas Shrugged didn’t provide many. Dagny Taggart may have come closest, but everyone else was an obvious straw man constructed for philosophical purposes instead of a representation of reality.
Kelley notes that even Rand saw the “producer’s strike” at the end of the novel as a fantasy sequence. In one sense, it was even contradictory, since it involved organizing for the good of a group (the producers) and not of the individuals, a contradiction that few note. However, it has unfortunate echoes in history, of groups that run off to the mountains to bide their time and deliver the next revolution in human society. The Islamists do that now, and even Charles Manson tried something similar. The notion that all of human enterprise would crash to a halt awaiting the gurus of capitalism/hippieness/Mohammed is at once a staggeringly arrogant and completely unconstructive notion. Changing human behavior requires engagement, not taking one’s ball and going home.
At least Rand tried serving the right notions in her less-than-engaging polemic. As Michelle says, we have had a drought of popular-culture defenses of capitalism and individualism. We need another Rand or perhaps someone even more talented, who can write a narrative that uses realistic situations and approachable characters to exemplify the virtues of economic liberty and the dangers of statist policies. We have plenty of examples from real life in the history of the past century, but few seem willing to mold them into the kind of literary icon that Atlas Shrugged truly is.
What did you think of Atlas Shrugged? The comments are open…

81 thoughts on “Atlas Shrugged At 50”

  1. Couldn’t finish it. I got tired of reading the same speech for the umpteenth time, plus I didn’t particularly care for any of the, as Ed mentioned, two dimensional characters.
    A short story might have been a better choice, as that seems to be about how much material she had. Atlas Shrugged ~ a novel length Harrison Bergeron.

  2. A polemic touchstone it may be. The problem with Atlas Shrugged, however, is that as a NOVEL it pales in comparison to The Fountainhead. Rand did indeed know how to create characters, and she could evince desperation as well. Just not in the pages of Atlas Shrugged.

  3. By contrast, the heroes in “Atlas Shrugged” are businessmen — and women. Rand imbues them with heroic, larger-than-life stature in the Romantic mold, for their courage, integrity and ability to create wealth. They are not the exploiters but the exploited: victims of parasites and predators who want to wrap the producers in regulatory chains and expropriate their wealth.
    Rand clearly never met any real life businessmen.
    The legacy of AS is the mistaken assumption on the right that businessmen are some sort of Heros of the Capitalist Revolution. That has been a dreadful influence on the GOP.
    For a different perspective, here is Milton Friedman.
    “The two chief enemies of the free society or free enterprise are intellectuals on the one hand and businessmen on the other, for opposite reasons. Every intellectual believes in freedom for himself, but he’s opposed to freedom for others.…He thinks…there ought to be a central planning board that will establish social priorities.…The businessmen are just the opposite—every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that’s a different question. He’s always the special case. He ought to get special privileges from the government, a tariff, this, that, and the other thing…”
    But the influence of Rand is such that a great many Republicans think that it’s unpatriotic to question what businessmen want.
    The agribusiness interests have been sucking at the public teat for generations now. And they are trying to get a further taxpayer subsidy in the form of more cheap labor from Latin America. But since they are “businessmen” they get shielded from much criticism on the right.

  4. Rand basically wrote good bad novels, which is why they’re still around. But they’re certainly not literature or of any interest philosophically as all she did was push her version of warmed-over egoism.
    BTW, The Fountainhead just demonstrated that Rand had no idea about what architects actually do, which is work with their clients to give them what they want, not just what the bloody architect wants.

  5. I thought the Fountainhead was a better book. I think it is a little odd to say that popular culture does not produce lots of material where businessmen are portrayed in a good light. Think of all those movies where the underdog entrepreneur goes against the entrenched big business and wins the day. The notion that hard work and integrety can still get you ahead in America is still alive today. Being suspicious of big business is a healthy thing. I’m not sure what the WSJ is aiming for in its argument.

  6. Yes it was difficult to read…and yes she lived part of her life under real tyranny.
    I still enjoy scanning through some of her detractor’s comments…. You trolls are so much better and so much more intellectually consistent than Rand ever was…she would roll over in her grave and…YAWN in your general direction….LOL.

  7. Never read “Atlas Shrugged,” but I just saw the movie version of “The Fountainhead” a few days ago. Preachy and polemical as it was, I loved it. I love fantasy films that turn reality on its head in a completely stylized, elegant way and create a world that has nothing to do with our grubby, violent, scary existence.
    Plus, I never knew Patricia Neal was such a hottie. She had a torrid affair with Gary Cooper during and after the film, but then he dumped her. Crazy.
    I’ve put Patricia up on the pedestal with Joan Fontaine, another outrageously gorgeous, weird, bewitching, kinky, entirely unique presence with about a zillion times the attraction of whatever brainless young skank is being promoted at the moment.

  8. One of the most overrated novels in history; endless, boring, contrived, propagandistic, and fundamentally flawed (can someone tell me the objective value of anything)? I wish I could get a refund on the time I spent reading it.

  9. I’m a great fan of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged, and normally I’d argue back against Ed, but he stated his thoughts in good faith, and I’m not really in the mood to counter-attack.
    I did want to second the notion that Patricia Neil in the movie The Fpuntainhead was indeed a hottie. I can’t beat Tom W’s description, except that I might add the word “alluring.” Before that movie, I knew her primarily through the denture adhesive commercials she did in her final years. The contrast between the two images only reaffirms my already strong opposition to aging and death.

  10. Ayn Rands fans got into power and guess what? Enron couldn’t keep up the electrical grid, which is exactly what happens at the end of The Fountainhead. The bad guys are staggeringly incompetent looters, they have a complete disregard for science and scientists, and the system is based on political loyalty, cronyism, and rampant bribery. Finally the infrastructure collapses.
    As long as they were out of power, Ayn Rand’s conservative fans could fantasize about being the heroes, but once they got in power it became painfully apparent that they were the villans who would kill the rest of us through indifference and incompetence. “Heckuva job, Brownie!”

  11. The single most important book in my life. It gave me the philosophical foundation on which to base my life. I am a Capitalist! And thanks to Ayn Rand I can say that proudly. You know, as I read many of the other comments, I realize that “they” just don’t get it. But that’s their loss.

  12. BTW, The Fountainhead just demonstrated that Rand had no idea about what architects actually do, which is work with their clients to give them what they want, not just what the bloody architect wants.

    No, she understood that implicitly. She was portraying the one in ten thousand architects who stands at the vanguard of new thoughts and methods and who has to fight to see them implemented… it was a brilliant work.

  13. Would you like to take the Star Trek Challenge? Name an item of popular culture that has anything good and hopeful to say about science, technology and the future of humanity. If you can answer with anything but “Star Trek”, you win.
    No one’s won yet. Ayn Rand’s works are in a similar position regarding Capitalism. They aren’t much, but they’re all we’ve got.

  14. Atlas Shrugged is, beyond any shadow of doubt, the greatest single achievement in recorded history. It is a sweeping epic that illustrates the role of the mind in man’s existence — and what happens when it disappears.
    The novel dramatizes a completely new, revolutionary philosophy, a philosophy that refutes the false alternatives, the contrived dichotomies and phony conundrums that underlie all conventional philosophies. I challenge any of you to refute a single idea of Objectivism.
    Captain said: I found the conflicts in the book contrived, the characters two-dimensional at best, and the stark good/evil perspective simplistic.
    The conflicts in the book are precisely the conflicts we are facing right now: it’s the conflict between those who wish to be left alone versus those who wish to control every aspect of our lives. The former are in desperate need of philosophical defense because the latter are relentless in their crusade to extend government control over every detail of our lives.
    Atlas Shrugged makes the case that capitalism is the only moral and just system — and that as a result, it is also the only practical system.
    If you found the characters two dimensional, I can only conclude that you didn’t read carefully. There is Rearden’s long, agonizing effort to understand his family and his wife Lillian — whom he constantly gave the benefit of the doubt even as they plotted to destroy him. There is James Taggart’s relentless scheming to use the claim of working for the “public good” as an excuse to destroy his competitors — and there is his marriage to Cheryl who thinks he is a hero only to eventually discover that he is a thoroughly rotten scoundrel. There is Dagny Taggart’s effort to save her railroad — and her long quest to find the inventor of the motor she discovers in the ruins of the Twentieth Century Motor factory. There is the mystery of why the motor was abandoned – and just what happened 13 years ago in the Twentieth Century Motor factory when the heirs of Gerald Starnes implemented a bold new plan — “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
    There is Eddie Willers’ struggle to understand what is happening to society around him, whose character demonstrates what happens to good, basic, honest men of limited ability when the men of high ability are destroyed. There is Francisco D’Anconia, copper king of the world, who has to abandon his love — giving her no explanation and giving her every reason to damn him — and secretly work to destroy his company — all for the sake of creating the kind of world his love deserves. There is Ragnar Danneskold, a pirate who attacks shipping all over the globe — but only a certain kind of shipping. There is Dr. Robert Stadler, who starts out as an advocate of freedom but eventually delivers the looters a terrible weapon for the enslavement of the population.
    And behind it all is the mystery of “Who is John Galt?”. When you learn that, you will learn the answer to the book’s central issue: “What moves the world?”

  15. I don’t want to sully my dainty white toes in this anti Ayn Rand thread, but I shall splash in anyway to defend the honor of Atlas Shrugged.
    Millions of people (and I’m one) were awakened by the amazing, pulse-pounding thriller that is Atlas Shrugged. All my life I had thoughts inside me, but I never knew I was right, and that I was moral, and that I could achieve and be proud of it. Atlas Shrugged taught me that. Atlas Shrugged broke me free of my chains.
    The story itself is a romantic suspense novel. Also, an end-of-the-world novel. Plus, a first rate thriller. There are archtypes — I’ll never forget when a close friend told me “I was married to Lillian Reardon.” Did he need to say another word? Nope. But Atlas Shrugged runs like a finely tuned watch and every plot point works perfectly. Try to do that. Really. Write a book and tell me how easy that is. (I know — I’m a published author. And it’s bloody hard.)
    Now I shall remove my dainty toes from this mud pit and return to production, wealth creation, and boffing my husband the way Dagney does John Galt. Heh.

  16. I love Ayn Rand, and I always find it amusing that even those who defend her feel the need to pooh-pooh her novels. Stand up Atlas Shrugged beside just about any modern day trade paperback “artsy” fiction and you have a masterpiece. But the conservative-types who always have a negative word for Rand’s writing ability don’t feel qualified to denigrate anyone else’s work.
    And Flenser, Atlas Shrugged has many examples of the kinds of businessmen you mention – the kind who suck at the government tit. And they aren’t heroes. Rand knew better than to paint all businessmen with the same brush. Hopefully with context that Friedman quote wouldn’t be such a frightening generalization. I’m sure you wouldn’t dare to make such sweeping statements about “the poor”, or “the Mexicans”, or what-have-you, so why demonize businessmen in such a way?

  17. burford wrote:
    Ayn Rands fans got into power and guess what? Enron couldn’t keep up the electrical grid, which is exactly what happens at the end of The Fountainhead. The bad guys are staggeringly incompetent looters, they have a complete disregard for science and scientists, and the system is based on political loyalty, cronyism, and rampant bribery. Finally the infrastructure collapses.
    What a load that is. First, are you sure that everyone working at Enron has even read Ayn Rand, let alone followed her philosophies in the running of Enron.
    Second, I seem to recall that Enron was doing much of its shenanigans under CLintons watch. What does that say vis a vis clinton (ie the democrats) in relation to the corrupt companies.
    Third, how about companies that did well. Are they all non readers of Ayn Rand, or did only the readers of Ayn Rand go on to found the corrupt companies, and all the good companies, or even the companies that are successful, were founded by those who rejected Ayn Rand.
    Fourth, Ayn Rand is relatively contemporary. What about all the companies pre Ayn Rand who were founded. Did those companies who predated Ayn Rand somehow have a total regard for science and cronyism and corruption a thing of myth?

  18. Burford Holly wrote:
    Ayn Rands fans got into power and guess what? Enron couldn’t keep up the electrical grid, which is exactly what happens at the end of The Fountainhead. The bad guys are staggeringly incompetent looters, they have a complete disregard for science and scientists, and the system is based on political loyalty, cronyism, and rampant bribery. Finally the infrastructure collapses.
    Obviously, you have never read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and know next to nothing about the philosophy of Objectivism.

  19. Captain Ed, will you forgive me for violating your commenting policy for a second?

    Atlas Shrugged is, beyond any shadow of doubt, the greatest single achievement in recorded history.

    You’re insane.

  20. You have to remember that Ayn Rand was writing at a time when, among the intellectual elite, the ideal of individualism was increasingly under suspicion, in favor of collectivism. Rand was one of very few who pushed back in defense of the inherent moral value of liberty and the right of the individual to live for himself rather than for the collective. Odd as it seems to us today, an individual’s right to delight in llife and live it to the fullest was a notion that required courage to espouse.

  21. The single most important book in my life. It gave me the philosophical foundation on which to base my life. I am a Capitalist!
    Dale Wilson, capitalism isn’t a philosophy, it’s an economic system. Please do yourself a favor and read a few actual philosophers to learn something besides Rand’s warmed-over egoism.
    No, she understood that implicitly. She was portraying the one in ten thousand architects who stands at the vanguard of new thoughts and methods and who has to fight to see them implemented… it was a brilliant work.
    ROTFLMAO! Christoph, that’s what every freshman architecture student thinks of their suuuuuper genius – until they go through their first jury and are reduced to a quivering lump of jello after their precious design has been ripped, torn, shredded and flushed by their peers. Then they start paying a little more attention to what other people think. Frank Lloyd Wright was a genius, but even he fell on hard times when he took himself waay more seriously than his clients. Fools and their money may soon be parted, but for some odd reason very few of us hand over our money after being told we’re fools. Doh. I used to work for a landscape architect and trust me, while they their egos they listened and worked with their clients as equals.
    John Stephens, you need to start, like, reading science fiction instead of watching it on the teevee. Ten percent of it’s pretty good.

  22. She wasn’t describing every freshman architect student, starfleet_dude, she was describing a rare genius, someone more along the line of a da Vinci. Plus she was describing a man with a certain economic and political philosophy he happened to be said genius.
    She’s not describing either you nor the masses of architects. And architects could have been any profession… she was describing the self-determined revolutionary, the kind of man who if he succeeds, succeeds big, but is more often destroyed or forced to grovel. In his case, he wasn’t and didn’t.

  23. Stand up Atlas Shrugged beside just about any modern day trade paperback “artsy” fiction and you have a masterpiece.
    Or at least a brick masquerading as a book.
    Publishers love big brick books because like furniture made out of particle board that weighs a ton, buyers think they’re getting more, more, more! Order in mass quantities now! Objectivism demands it!!

  24. starfleet_dude, you’re saying a bunch of words, but you’re just showing yourself to be an unserious idiot. You’re not even trying to discuss this seriously.
    Publishers love any book that sells. But you know that, you’re just being an ass because it appeals to some juvenile part of you.

  25. She wasn’t describing every freshman architect student, starfleet_dude, she was describing a rare genius, someone more along the line of a da Vinci. Plus she was describing a man with a certain economic and political philosophy he happened to be said genius.
    Well, what does artistic genius have to to with philosophy? You might as well praise fascism based on what Heisenberg did for physics and Werner Von Braun did for rocketry. Ayn Rand plastered her cut-out paper doll of a fictional geeeeenius on the profession of architecture, and it has about as much to do with the real profession as Tom Corbett Space Cadet does with NASA’s astronaut program.
    She’s not describing either you nor the masses of architects. And architects could have been any profession… she was describing the self-determined revolutionary, the kind of man who if he succeeds, succeeds big, but is more often destroyed or forced to grovel. In his case, he wasn’t and didn’t.
    John Galt isn’t real. Objectivism isn’t a real philosophy either. Please, do yourself a favor and try and read some actual philosophy. But don’t start with Nietzsche!

  26. As I said, you’re an unserious moron, starfleet_dude. If you’d read the book, you’d realize his main interests were mathematics, engineering, and new applications in materials science and he used Architecture as his vehicle for bringing about his visions.
    You can try to analyze such a character, but, being stupid, you won’t understand him.

  27. Publishers love any book that sells. But you know that, you’re just being an ass because it appeals to some juvenile part of you.
    Publishers also know that people like buying Big Books because the think they’re getting More. Writers for some odd reason pick up on this and, like, write Big Books because they want to make publishers happy and eat. Of course such book bloat generally results in fairly badly written books, and lots of them too as you have to have at least three of them on the shelf at the bookstore.
    Rand just liked the sound of her own voice enough that she rambled on as if every word was pure gold. You could easily toss out half of Atlas Shrugged and still have plenty of filler left over.

  28. It’s telling that the great entrpeneurs- the ones who introduce new ideas and build great companies that change the world- think Rand is full of it. Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Richard Branson, and Sergei Brin would all laugh at her book. In my experience, the second-rate blowhards are the people who seem to get a hard on after reading AS, believing that their own experience and talents are somehow reflected in the storyline. Guess what- many untalented people make a lot of money by being at the right place at the right time, and by using others.
    Anyway, for those who know corporate America, reality has a way of interfering with a Rand novel. Michelle Malkin should stop wasting her time blogging and get a low level job in corporate America so she can experience the rush of working with the great geniuses who bravely manage the titan corporations of America.

  29. As I said, you’re an unserious moron, starfleet_dude. If you’d read the book, you’d realize his main interests were mathematics, engineering, and new applications in materials science and he used Architecture as his vehicle for bringing about his visions.
    Um, architects do study mathematics and are well-acquainted with engineering and the properties of materials they incorporate into their designs. I guess that makes every architect a, a John Galt then! Woah dude, that’s incredible! [/George Carlin facepalm]
    You can try to analyze such a character, but, being stupid, you won’t understand him.
    There’s not a lot to understand about two-dimensional sock puppets when it comes down to it.

  30. Atlas Shrugged was an allegorical story. Not sure why people are surprised that the characters were often two-dimensional representations of archetypes, or that they frequently stopped the action in order to deliver long philosophical treatises.
    That being said, the plot of the book was pretty damn good, and the writing descriptive and colorful. I skipped past Galt’s enormous speech the first time through to see what the heck was going to happen to everybody, and I bet a lot of other Rand fans did, too.
    I don’t think it’s the greatest book ever written, although I am a Rand fan, but anything still selling in the hundred thousand a year range (#107 on Amazon in paperback) after fifty years has to have something going for it.
    It would be nice if our popular culture at least partially recognized the contribution our entrepreneurs and businessmen have made to our well-being and prosperity. I racked my brains trying to remember some TV show or movie that didn’t show wealthy businessmen as universal crooks, and the only things that came to mind were “Hart to Hart” and “Working Girl.”

  31. I think nearly everyone here is trying too hard to look smart when they really have very little to ad to or subtract from Rand’s work. Well, I’ll except Bonnie from that. So far I think she has the best handle on what AS, capitalism, Objectivism and life in general is about.
    Rand was probably ahead of her time and certainly did a great job of weaving her ideas into a work of fiction. She also probably wove in some ides that were less than completely thought out. That does not make the good ideas any less good. I, for example, don’t agree with her ideas about God. Ayn was an avowed atheist, and I am an avowed Christian. But that does not cause me to reject her views on the virtue of individualism, or of capitalism.
    I think Ed makes a very important error about a basic issue when he says, “Changing human behavior requires engagement, not taking one’s ball and going home.” All human endeavor is not about changing human behavior; especially that of others. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not limited to consensus, except in the world view of liberals. I should be free to pursue my dreams, benefit from my creations, and enjoy the bounty of any productivity from my efforts, with no regard whatsoever to how others feel about it. I am responsible only for my behavior, and you are responsible for yours.
    And the hidden valley of John Galt is not intended to be a real, physical place; but a place within each of us. If the takers and non-producers require more of my production than I feel is worthwhile for whatever reason I might make that decision, I will withdraw my abilities, or reduce my production to a level that makes me a less attractive target. If society wants to continue to benefit from my abilities, then society must make it of value to me in some way to allow them to so benefit. That is simply the way humans work, and there is nothing anyone can do about it, short of enslaving us. And even then, while perhaps getting some sweat and labor, you would not get the maximum from the mind of the slave. That he will always reserve for himself.

  32. Read her key novels in reverse order with “We the Living” last. This book (1934?) appears to have formed the basis for all her main characters, their belief systems and their motivations in her later books….. including and culminating in ‘Atlas Shrugged’.
    Given she was born in Russia and grew up in the Stalinist period, it is not surprising she held forth with her later views in life- individualism, capitalism etc. Her observations have stood the test of time and are as applicable today as they were 50 years ago. (It is also an extraordinary disection of totalitarian regimes and thinking in general)
    Couldn’t put any of them down, lots of literary flaws but always on message. (Thought AS needed a editor with a 100 page ‘delete’ pen)

  33. Um, architects do study mathematics and are well-acquainted with engineering and the properties of materials they incorporate into their designs. I guess that makes every architect a, a John Galt then! Woah dude, that’s incredible! [/George Carlin facepalm]
    The point is he isn’t every architect, he was a person with his own design goals who was using architecture to achieve them. He was a revolutionary ahead of the cutting edge. He was a genius at these subjects, and required little study of them to master them. Then he went into production and struggled to bring his visions to fruition. He was everything the masses were not, but you’re too retarded and dense to see it.
    There’s not a lot to understand about two-dimensional sock puppets when it comes down to it.
    Umm, again, do you know what you’re talking about? A sock puppet is a person on the internet who uses

  34. Let me say this again.
    Ayn Rand would have recognized the collapse of the California power grid and the destruction of New Orleans as perfect examples of the man made fiascoes she was warning us against.
    However, these disastors happened at the hands of two of 43’s inner circle, “Kenny Boy” and “Browny.”
    “Kenny Boy” and “Browny” did not need to read Ayn Rand, because they are the subhumans Rand warned us against, and who rose to power under Bush in a creepy replay of The Fountainhead.
    Traditionally, Rand fans used her work as a fantasy of Communist/Democrats gone wild, but instead the GOP has become everything she warned against.

  35. great post…
    truly interesting and a great topic.
    this confuses myself:
    “As Michelle says, we have had a drought of popular-culture defenses of capitalism and individualism.”
    who is responsible?
    for example, why wasn’t Michelle championing President Bush endlessly, who promoted private ownership repeatedly, especially when he was trying to bring private investment into the Social Security wasteland?
    sure, i remember a few posts, but mostly they targeted Democrats denying the need for change.
    i do remember the intense focus was on pork spending and illegal immigration…
    but the big picture was missed.
    we had a huge chance after 2004, and perhaps some who remark on these issues, did not realize they had a chance to make Atlas smile.
    perhaps, the mirror has more to do with the lack of reaction and the shrug.
    critics-pundits are healthy, but we all are responsible for the Government and Community we live in.
    for some reason, after the reelection of 2004, a President was seeking climbing a huge mountain, a priority of massive importance, and a vast number of Conservatives moaned instead.
    if we are losing the game, best look at our own team…

  36. buford wrote:
    Ayn Rand would have recognized the collapse of the California power grid and the destruction of New Orleans as perfect examples of the man made fiascoes she was warning us against.
    The collapse of the power grid was Bush’s and conservatives fault? And didn’t the destruction of New Orleans have something to do with faulty levees collapsing, which is the fault of the engineers building the levees. And of course those levees were under construction for years prior to Bush taking office. But carry on with your trolling.

  37. buford,
    and Kenny Boy didn’t in fact rise to power under Bush. Kenny boys company collapsed under Bush and Kenny boy was prosecuted.
    I think if you look back a few years earliers you’ll note that Kenny Boy was alive and doing quite welll for himself under Clinton.

  38. 1. If a government seized private property because it was being “improperly” used for the private benefit of the owners rather than for the benefit of the whole community, would a true capitalist condemn it?
    2. If a government seized private property because it was being “improperly” used for economically suboptimal things and could be more profitably used for another purpose (aka. the Kelo Decision), would a true capitalist condemn it?
    3. Does a true capitalist respect private property rights even when they think the property is being “improperly” used?
    4. Does a true capitalist respect the private property rights of all people – even those who do not believe in respecting them?
    Did you answer “yes” to all of the above?
    Do you think Ayn Rand would have?
    Ayn Rand: “[The Native Americans] 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 they were fighting for, if 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, just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it. Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.”

  39. I have read Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead several times since the mid 60’s, both good stories. But the Rand book I still go to is The New Left – The Anti-Industrial Revolution. Rand pointed out how the “New Left” operates. The wisdom is still valid today. She must have had some talent or we would not be celebrating the golden anniversary.

  40. I think the tale of what happened to Twentieth Century Motor Company when it decided to operate on socialistic principles is one of the best parables on the results of Communism. But other than that I agree the story was contrived and moralistic, the characters were more like caricatures and not believable.

  41. Mark Lindholm
    I’m sure you wouldn’t dare to make such sweeping statements about “the poor”, or “the Mexicans”, or what-have-you, so why demonize businessmen in such a way?
    I don’t know what “sweeping statements” you are referring to.
    I will note that our noble capitalists, in the form of the Chamber of Commerce, found themselves a left-wing San Francisco judge today who will allow them to continue to break the law and to assist others in doing the same.
    So unless you consider the Chamber of Crooks to be distinct from “businessmen” I think you’re greatly mistaken in your views.

  42. for some reason, after the reelection of 2004, a President was seeking climbing a huge mountain, a priority of massive importance, and a vast number of Conservatives moaned instead.
    If Bush had expended ten percent of the energy into Social Security reform as he has into his witless amnesty schemes, he would have accomplished all he set out to do. But I don’t recall seeing White House aides hitting the conservative blogs on this issue of “massive importance”. Bush just didn’t care about it that much.

  43. flenser, you realize Bush failed at his amnesty schemes using, by your estimation, 1000% of the energy he placed into social security reform… so, will you admit you’re an idiot or should I do it for you?

  44. jr565, there is no simple definition of philosophy because it is so broad as to encompass logic, metaphysics, epistemology, the theory of mind, and more. But what good philosophy always, always tries to do is ask the right questions, which is far more important than any answers that may follow. To paraphrase novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. we must be careful what we think to ask, because we only can answer what we ask. Rand started out with her answer in mind already, namely the virtue of selfishness, and her questions thereafter followed. That’s not a process of inquiry, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.
    FWIW, all you need to know about sophomoric level of Rand’s philosophy is her blithe claim to have resolved David Hume’s famous “is-ought” problem, writing, “The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do. So much for the relation between ‘is’ and ‘ought’.” As the Guinness commercial goes, “BRILLIANT!” [/clink]

  45. I think the part that is most disturbing to me when i read the book 40+ years ago was that the bad guys weren’t actively evil. They were mushy, whiny, wimpy, they wanted to be well thought of, but they had neither the talent nor the will to excel at anything. They destroyed the world around them not so much out of malice as it was done absently, unaware of the impact of their actions. I look around me today and I see how depressingly prophetic she was.

  46. you realize Bush failed at his amnesty schemes using, by your estimation, 1000% of the energy he placed into social security reform…
    I gather that you think you have made some sort of clever point, but I can’t imagine what it is.
    I notice that you don’t even attempt to argue that Bush expended as much energy on SS reform as he has on his neverending effort to grant US citizenship to all of the Americas. Or even ten percent as much. Why is that?

  47. If Bush had expended ten percent of the energy into Social Security reform as he has into his witless amnesty schemes, he would have accomplished all he set out to do.
    Social Security privatization wasn’t going anywhere in the face of stiff opposition from Democrats in Congress. Bush could have spent ten times the time and effort pushing his, well, what? He never had a plan, just an attitude about the subject. So it wasn’t ever going to go anywhere anyway.

  48. “It’s good to have capitalist heroes, … it’s better to have engaging and real characters in novels, … obvious straw man constructed for philosophical purposes instead of a representation of reality.”
    Capt. Ed:
    I read AS in my late 30’s. Rand changed my perspectives on several life-directing things. But I didn’t buy into AS’s lack of reality representation any more than, earlier in life, I didn’t buy into the Bible’s philosophically constructed straw men lacking reality.
    Both books have their character-building, non-contrived character specific messages worthy of consideration and adoption as desired.

  49. I think Ayne Rand was great. I also think objectivism and individualism are both good for our culture and the United States of America.
    As long as we do not to confuse capitalism with corporatism. In some ways it is a matter of degree, just as socialism breeds fascism.
    If the individual remains sovereign under our constitution things work rather well. When the group, institution or corporation assumes sovereignty ……… in some ways it has ……by influencing corrupt politicians ………..you get decisions such as Judge Breyer made.
    Remember this decision was actually one which favored businessmen and is 180 degrees from Rands portrayal of a businessman.
    Orwell illustrated this same point in “Nineteen Eighty Four” by introducing newspeak or doublethink.
    For instance we have an executive branch which negotiates free trade agreements in order to facilitate business and our economy. These are much more managed trade agreements than free trade agreements. If you are in on the negotiation, you can do rather well other wise they are as obscene as doublethink.
    For instance, is free trade allowing American companies to import food and other products from China that are poisonous …..?? Is free trade allowing illegal aliens into our country to lower wages of American workers ……..?? Is free trade using eminent domain power to confiscate peoples property for the sake of facilitating commercial development, corporate trade and transportation of goods on a global scale ………?? Is free trade negotiating non representative laws and business deals with partners by presidential decree in the name of security and prosperity ………….??? Is free trade opening up strategic ports, border crossings and enacting border procedures detrimental to the security of Americans in the name of prompt delivery and just in time services ……….?? Is free trade selling publicly owned infrastructure assets such as roads, airports and ports of entry to corporations, thus taking them out of the management of citizen review ……………?? Is free trade allowing border checkpoints in the heartland of our nation to operate primarily for the sake of expediency, false security and to the detriment of advancing criminal syndicates beyond our borders …………??? Is free trade unlimited immigration ………….??? Is free trade establishing a world body that can tax the American people (law of the sea, United Nations) …………??? Is free trade a global initiative if when followed it will undermine the sovereignty of our nation and the power the American people have under our constitution (the world court, European Court decisions, WTO) ……??? Is free trade supreme court justices making decisions based upon world views) …………..??? Is free trade business executives, spiritual leaders, foreign national governments, political action committees and 501K groups coalescing with law makers and lobbyists to foist additional social spending (education costs, health costs, incarceration costs for illegal alien workers and guest workers) onto an already strapped tax payer including shifting of health care costs from employers to government ……………?? Is free trade protecting corporate agriculture subsidies and tariffs ……….?? Is free trade falling into line with a global warming ideology that proclaims dogma that is more religious in it’s nature than scientific ………….??? Is free trade allowing foreign trucks and drivers to cross borders delving far inland before being inspected, potentially transferring illicit cargoes and contraband being delivered into our communities …………?? Is free trade allowing the breakdown of our national sovereignty, social relationships and spreading lawlessness by the lack of enforcement of federal law and regulation …………??
    I believe the above examples are a good representation of corporatism, not capitalism or free trade. And if the individual or the ideology of objectivism was utilized to negotiate these trade deals ……….. they would be far different.

  50. Personally, I did not enjoy the novel. I read it and The Fountainhead at the urging of a friend. However, even though I did not enjoy the novel, it really struck me how much of what happened to the heroes in the novel is happening today. It seems every time someone is able to come up with a new innovation, our government finds a way to make it more impossible. The looters of the world do not want success. They want to bring everyone else down with them, just as we saw in the novel. Ayn Rand was ahead of her time and in my opinion very prophetic.

  51. starfleet_dude wrote:
    jr565, there is no simple definition of philosophy because it is so broad as to encompass logic, metaphysics, epistemology, the theory of mind, and more. But what good philosophy always, always tries to do is ask the right questions, which is far more important than any answers that may follow. Who defines “good philosophy” and what defines the “right questions”. Totally subjective. For those that gravitate towards Ayn rand, the questions she asks are the right ones and for those who gravitate towards, say, Plato or Kant, his questions are the right ones. All you’re arguing is you personally don’t like Ayn Rand.

  52. I notice that you don’t even attempt to argue that Bush expended as much energy on SS reform as he has on his neverending effort to grant US citizenship to all of the Americas. Or even ten percent as much. Why is that?

    Well to start with, I was agreeing with your premise, moron.

  53. jr565
    I don’t know anyone who would regard Rand as being a “philosopher”. She was a novelist, that’s all.
    Christoph
    So far you have called me a “moron” and an “idiot”. But you have completely failed to make any sort of case for why that is so. Is that because you are too stupid or too lazy to do so?

  54. Who defines “good philosophy” and what defines the “right questions”.
    It doesn’t matter who defines it, and the “right” questions are those that lead to answers giving us a a deeper understanding of things. David Hume’s “is-ought” question was one that really blew the doors open philosophically for Kant and others to free ethics from the clutches of the past and it’s insistence on how, as Voltaire put it so archly in Candide, that this was the best of all possible worlds because, well, things were the way they were. To put it in popular culture-speak, that’s just the way it is. Some things will never change. But don’t you believe them… 😉

  55. flenser,
    “I don’t know anyone who would regard Rand as being a “philosopher”. She was a novelist, that’s all.”
    We are all free to agree or disagree with the philosophy of Objectivism, but denying it exists is in part the self imposed limits of knowledge that it was meant to combat. Before saying Ayn Rand was not a philosopher, you might at least want to look it up. You don’t have to accept it as a valid philosophy to know it exists. A is A, and saying it is not does not make it not be.

  56. Coincidentally, I just finished reading AS this week. I did like the defense of capitalism, but as The Captain has already pointed out, the plot, characters, contrived conflicts and such were all rather weak. When Galt does his radio address, I read about five pages then skipped past the rest of it. To my astonishment, the entire sequence went over 50 pages.
    Rand must have been a very interesting person to know, but her writing style was less than stellar.
    I’d still recommend the book, I’d just do so with a warning.

  57. 1. Correct me if I’m wrong – it’s been a long time – but wasn’t Kant the one who proposed that the morality of an act was best gauged by the effect on society if -everyone- did it? I ask since Kant is being offered up as a “real” philosopher, you see. (Not that I disagree with that – he certainly deserves to be considered one, and I consider that idea quite formidable as a philosophical concept.)
    Given that, it’s rather fun to analyze leftist philosophy by that metric. Let’s see…
    Abortion. If everyone did it? Extermination of the human species.
    Gay marriage. If everyone did it? Extermination of the human species.
    Political Correctness. If everyone did it? A tyranny of thought control beyond Orwell’s wildest dreams.
    Socialism/Communism? Aw, come on now, the fact that not everybody does it is the reason it hasn’t wooooorked!
    Qwinn

  58. I read AS in my early 30’s and it gave me different perspectives to add to my already questing mind. I had been a “bleeding heart liberal” without truly understanding what it was I was actually blindly supporting. AS was definitely long, tedious and I didn’t read every word of the speech and I didn’t go further into her works. But, the basic ideas, based as they were after experiencing Russia, socialism and fascism were manna for me. I didn’t go to college like so many of you above, but, that didn’t mean I didn’t read, read and read. I just didn’t read the stuff most of you did and I still came out of my 30’s with my own philosophy. Some of what I believe is based on the Judeo-Christian principles; some on Ayn Rand and much, much more on my own questions, thought processes, watching and listening to everything around me. I have always started with the “why” of a thing. Proceeded to a conclusion and became a self described center conservative. I know for instance that working hard is not a guarantee of wealth accumulation or success except in a person’s personal, private life. Respect of oneself and others is paramount to living a decent and clean life…one cannot exist without the other. Responsibility to oneself, others and the world is necessary for a balanced life. But, the knowledge that 98% of homo sapiens subsist to get the most of whatever they can regardless of the cost to others and that the remaining 2% may never be enough to get this world to a higher evolutionary level, can, if allowed to be, very depressing. I understand that people are basically like toddlers: selfish, narcissistic, mean, loving, curious, self absorbed, and dangerous to themselves and others. But toddlers are also beautiful because at that age they can learn so much. Toddlers don’t label themselves or stick to untenable positions. But, toddlers don’t really think either. They just exist in their world and enjoy life if it is good.
    To Bonnie…hear, hear gal: Mitch Rapoport; Mike@ 4:55p.m., Chemical Engineer thanks for letting me see that Two Percenters are truly out there.

  59. Sue, Oh yea, we’re out here. If we were not, there would be internet, or Captain’s Quarters, or computers, or electricity, or heaitng oil, or mega farms, or much of anything else that makes the modern world what it is.
    I’m glad you are out there too. The looters wish we were not, and curse us with nearly every breath. But without us they would soon die from lack of ability to sustain even their most modest needs. Sometimes I feel it might be a good idea to just let them go and protect ourselves while they pass from the scene. And that is what the valley in AS is a ll about is it not?

  60. There’s something that shouldn’t be missed. When the producers go on strike–unlike the unproductive idiots like hippies or muslims–*production* stops. Rand’s point is that everyone depends on production or else they will starve to death. But at the same time, they resent and envy the producers, and undercut and undermine them at every step.
    If you don’t see the relationship between production and consumption, or why everyone needs to consume food and other stuff every day, then I guess the strike of the producers would seem no less silly than a strike of the Branch Davidians, hippies, or muslims.

  61. The biggest problem with Atlas Shrugged is that it hit just about the same time that television stunted the general comprehension capability of the populace at large and shortly after the Dewey method trashed reading comprehension.
    The number of comments here that evince an utter and total ignorance of philosophy, business, trade and markets, etc., is quite supportive of my point.
    As our nation completes it’s downward spiral into chaos, here prescient book continues to exonerate itself.
    Have a nice day, folks, and a nicer future.

  62. Responsibility to oneself, others and the world is necessary for a balanced life. But, the knowledge that 98% of homo sapiens subsist to get the most of whatever they can regardless of the cost to others and that the remaining 2% may never be enough to get this world to a higher evolutionary level, can, if allowed to be, very depressing.
    How nice for you to be one of the two percent, dear. Funny thing is though that those Chinese still produce quite a lot for us. Who knew?

  63. I’m rereading it now. It’s flawed; the sexual situations are loony, the intense materialism gets depressing, and by the end Dagny Taggart is behaving like Mike Hammer.
    What saves it from the trash heap is Rand’s dead-on criticism of 20th century America. Why do we give a damn where Paris Hilton drank last night, or who Jenny McCarthy’s dating–but clearly millions do. And I can still shudder to remember when Microsoft was hauled before Congress last decade, and Sun Microsystems demanded federal guarantees–not of a totally open playing field, but that Microsoft convert a monopoly into an ogliopoly? Who hasn’t gawked to read that unions are striking for a two-tiered pension–that newcomers will be frozen out of the benefits package, so the old-timers get the same sweetheart deal?
    What Rand made was a parable, in which the hero is anybody who gives a damn about doing a thorough job, and the enemy is anybody who hides, lies, evades, slanders, cheats, steals their way past blame for a lousy job, and their democratically chosen allies who want to create a society that serves the “looters”. The revolt in the novel is not just the gurus, the top men, but any honest engineer or laborer who won’t work as a slave to support incompetence and theft. And at the end, there isn’t a mass conversion of public opinion. The millions who didn’t support honest work perish, deprived of the legions of trained, dedicated operators of the mechanized agriculture that sustained them.
    Even rejecting its total materialism, you can appreciate Rand’s cry for people to think–because spontaeneous emotionalism will create a self-destructive culture that is just as intolerant of deviants–in this case, honest workers.

  64. Before saying Ayn Rand was not a philosopher, you might at least want to look it up.
    You’ll be telling me that Scientology is a religion at this rate. Rand and Hubbard have a lot in common.

  65. A is A
    Thank the Objectivist Gods that Rand came along to tell us this, like Moses bringing the Tablets down from the mountain top. Before her (BR), everyone was under the impression that A was not A.
    You people don’t take this charlatan seriously, do you?

  66. Murray Rothbard, a true libertarian, had some pointed criticism for Rand and her followers.
    Shortly after Atlas was published, one high-ranking cult leader chided me for only having read Atlas once. “It’s about time for you to start reading it again,” he admonished. “I have already read Atlas thirty-five times.”
    The rereading of Atlas was also important to the cult because the wooden, posturing, and one-dimensional heroes and heroines were explicitly supposed to serve as role models for every Randian. Just as every Christian is supposed to aim at the imitation of Christ in his own daily life, so every Randian was supposed to aim at the imitation of John Galt (Rand’s hero of heroes in Atlas.) He was always supposed to ask himself in every situation “What would John Galt have done?” When we remind ourselves that Jesus, after all, was an actual historical figure whereas Galt was not, the bizarrerie of this injunction can be readily grasped. (Although from the awed way Randians spoke of John Galt, one often got the impression that, for them, the line between fiction and reality was very thin indeed.)
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard23.html

  67. “Before her (BR), everyone was under the impression that A was not A.
    You people don’t take this charlatan seriously, do you?”
    Ever read the “World of Null-A” series, or heard of general semantics?
    There’s people who go crazy over the Beatles too. does that mean they really stank?

  68. [i]Before saying Ayn Rand was not a philosopher, you might at least want to look it up.
    You’ll be telling me that Scientology is a religion at this rate. Rand and Hubbard have a lot in common.[/i]
    Of course scientology is a religion. It may not be a very good one; or a very long lived one, but it is not a type of melon, or furniture. Nowadays global warming is a religion, as is environmentalism, animal rights, etc. These are organized social functions that deal with what people beleive. That’s what relegion is.

  69. Hello.
    I live in South Africa. That is a country on the tip of Africa, below, and neighboring, Zimbabwe.
    I am living Atlas Shrugged and 1984.
    You may call the book shallow, or two-dimensional, but it is True. Every day I see the effects of collectivism in this country.
    Good people (black and white) are leaving in droves and the useless, mindless, masses are replacing them. Food prices are soaring as Farmers are murdered causing reduction in production. Apathy sets in as people realize that non-ANC votes are useless, they have too many voters in their tribe who will vote for them even if they are guaranteeing grief, misery, death (via AIDS) and economic hardships to those voters. Besides, such voters can always be replenished from illegal Zimbabweans desperate for SA residence.
    After the ANC government got into power in 1994, they stopped most maintenance work on roads, electricity generators and transmitters, water works and sewerage treatment plants.
    They also replaced some skilled white workers with unskilled black ones to fill quotas. This was before BEE, or Black Economic Empowerment. Then BEE kicked in and the remaining skilled white workers were booted.
    Of course, BEE was not good enough as there are still some whites running companies and working so they have brought out BBBEE or Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment. Not quite implemented yet but when done, will mean that whites will find it very hard to work in the country. And if whites manage to survive, I’m sure they will bring in an extra ‘B’ or two to fill in the cracks. Hell, they might even throw in an extra ‘E’.
    Then the roads started failing and huge pot-holes appeared. It became very costly to replace the roads so they started (sort-of) maintaining the roads.
    Then the electrical sub-stations blew up and burned down (lack of oil, or stress failures) so they replaced those.
    Then Koeberg started having problems. Koeberg is South Africa’s only nuclear power station. The first generator died due to lack of maintenance and a transmission station died. It has been having major problems, some of which have been sorted out.
    Because new power stations have not been built since 1994, and with the growth of people using electricity, the existing generators cannot handle the load. So they are using load shedding (planned power outages) to reduce the load. Of course, the suburbs affected are the white suburbs, the people who actually pay their rates, taxes, and electricity bills. The townships (shacks with illegal electricity use), and predominately black areas remain lighted. Although I suspect that this is more due to the fact that SA whites don’t go around causing problems if you piss them off whilst the blacks would Toyi-Toyi. (I use white and black to refer to majority areas; terms used by the SA government).
    When the ANC lost the mayorship of Cape Town, they threw a hissy fit and tried to destroy the role of mayor to replace it with an ANC lead council. They were stopped, for now, but they have the means to rewrite the constitution and they have shown the will to do so.
    I can go on about water pipes failing, sewage running down the streets, lack of skills at the water treatment and distribution plants, corruption, nepotism, despotism ad nauseam but I think I have made my point. Atlas is taking strain here in South Africa.
    Take a good hard look at Zimbabwe. That is the future of South Africa. Every one knows it, even the educated, and skilled, blacks are abandoning ship. I know of four that have emigrated to Australia because they care more about their families and future than “tribal” affiliation (ie Black is Better) and don’t care who rules except that they rule according to the dictates of civilization.
    And that, is what is at the core of the problems with Africa. Complete lack of civility, respect, honesty, and care for the individual (except for the elite and their core followers). No civilization and a very primitive tribal social structure. That pretty much describes all forms of collectivism and is the thing that Atlas Shrugged is warning us about.
    As an aside, the government has started working with whites again but only as contractors. This is more due to the FIFA 2010 effort than anything else. Considering their attitude towards the whites, once 2010 is complete, they will restart efforts to be “free” of the dreaded, and most hated, whitey. Then they will be free to implement Zimbabwe V2.0 – aka billionaire elites with poorer, easily controlled, vassals, who have poorest and subservient serfs.

  70. South African, Wow! Thank you for bringing something to this conversation besides the meaningless prattle we have been getting. Your country is indeed reaping a harvest for the sowing of collectivist seed; some of which was sown by our countrymen in the USA. South Africa is showing those who would see, what happens when the engine stops.
    I also applaud your concern for your country, but please don’t stay too long. Find your Valley and go there to sit out the collapse.

  71. Yes, it was great to read SA’s post, having plowed past so many squabbles by the cads and bounders.
    Ayn Rand was the best, is the best, and I wish confusion to all her detractors!

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