2010-02-21

Atlas Shrugged

I recently finished reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, published in 1957.

This review contains spoilers, but I've tried to keep them at the minimum. The book describes a dystopian United States where socialism has become mainstream. Heavy government regulations are driving the country to its downfall when industries cannot make profit and eventually go bankrupt. At the same time the most brilliant minds of the country are mysteriously disappearing, and the government assigns jobs to people not based on their skill, but need. Everyone is asking, "who is John Galt?" and no one remembers where the question originally came from.

Dagny Taggart is a businesswoman running a railroad company with her brother James Taggart. The story clearly shows how regulations make their business harder and harder by the day.

Francisco d'Anconia is Dagny's childhood friend and is running a copper industry. He is smart, but intentionally makes bad business decisions.

Hank Rearden is running a steel company and has invented a new type of metal that is cheaper and stronger than any other metal, but the government does not like him and tries to prevent the metal from getting into market. Dagny Taggart is his biggest customer.

John Galt is a man who doesn't like the current society and wants "to stop the motor of the world", and leaves the society and builds his own secret society with other intelligent, productive people.

Main themes of the book include morality of capitalism, property rights, individualism, objectivism and rational thinking. There are many reasons for the downfall of the country. The society glorifies mediocrity and it's believed that no one can truly know anything about the reality. People talk using vague terms, restrictions can be broken if you have social status, and people try to get value from others without giving any value back.

The secret society is a free market and free mind utopia. Everything a man owns is earned through his own work. There is no government and thus no regulations on productivity. Every man is in charge of his own happiness. People value their life and work and produce high quality products and make new inventions.

Before I read this book, I read the Fountainhead. Atlas Shrugged contains many same themes but explores them in more detail. I liked the book very, very much. It's immensely deep when dealing with things like morality and property rights. Seven virtues are explained: rationality, honesty, justice, independence, integrity, productiveness, and pride. Every one of them helps man survive. The Fountainhead contains only one strong individual, but Atlas Shrugged contains many. John Galt and his friends are portrayed as men who are perfectly in control of their life, emotions and happiness. Every decision they make is based on rational thinking and they never violate their own moral code.

4 comments:

Michael M said...

Timo,

Nice review.

Note that while there would be no government in a place like the Gulch where there are not enough people to form a neutral third-party institution that would enforce individual rights, in not too much larger populations, a government is a necessity. If every man is to be in charge of his own happiness, every man must be free to autonomously apply his own reason to his own efforts in the service of his own life.

Rand recognized that physical force is the only enemy of such freedom. The politics of her philosophy, radical laissez-faire capitalism, is then an extension of the ethics that mandates that freedom in the context of an individual's life into the context of a society of men.

The government of such a society has but one assignment: to guarantee that no person shall initiate the use of physical force or the threat thereof to gain, withhold, or destroy any tangible or intangible value of another person who has either created it or acquired it in a voluntary exchange. In such a society, all human interrelationships must be voluntary.

I highly recommend that you continue your reading with 'The Virtue of Selfishness", Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal", and Leonard Peikoff's summary of the philosophy, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand".

In the meantime, The Ayn Rand Lexicon online contains excerpts from the books and essays about over 200 different topics: http://aynrandlexicon.com/
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glaze said...

Thanks for the comment. Yeah, those books are on my reading list. I agree that there should be a minimal government that protects people's physical safety and property rights. Of course that would entail laws concerning food/drug/medical/electric etc. safety.

RonMossad said...

What do Hank Rearden and the international Jewish community have in common?

http://ronmossad.blogspot.com/2010/02/sanction-of-victim-and-guiltiest-man-in.html

Who suffers from continued Palestinian terrorism? Israelis. Americans. Jews. Who allows it to happen? Israelis. Americans. Jews. Who, often FUNDS and ENCOURAGES their own suffering? Israelis. Americans. Jews.

Hank and the Jews...sanction of the victim and the guiltiest man in the room...

Michael M said...

" Of course that would entail laws concerning food/drug/medical/electric etc. safety."

No, there would be no such laws. The sale and purchase of those products and services do not involve any coercion by physical force. Therefore the government may not use the defensive force over which it has a monopoly to regulate them.

Standards of safety would be provided by competing private companies whose very existence would depend on a flawless record of certification.

The government would only intervene in them in cases of contract violation or fraud, both of which constitute the withholding by force of values due.