Radicals for Capitalism

Atlas Shrugged is one of my favorite books of all time (right up there with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values.)  While I’m not a hard core mega-Objectivist, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead both spoke loudly to me at critical points in my life and have had a hand in shaping the way I think about the world.

Atlas Shrugged just turned 50 and I expect there will be plenty of chatter about it.  There’s an update on the continued effort to make a movie about it and an excellent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Brian Doherty titled Rand and the RightIt’s short, pointed, and ends strong:

“Why does she matter to modern politics? It’s not like she is around for conservatives to seek her endorsement. But it is worthwhile for political activists to remember that Ayn Rand was utterly uncompromising on how government needed to respect the inalienable right of Americans to live their own lives, and of American business to grow, thrive, innovate and improve our lives without niggling interference.

Her message of political freedom was enthusiastic, and optimistic, and immensely  popular. No major American political party has embraced her message in full. But millions of Americans have voted for her with their pocket books, and hundreds of thousands continue to do so every year.

On the 50th anniversary of her greatest novel, her advocacy of the still “unknown ideal” of truly free market capitalism is something that America, and the conservative movement, needs to reconsider.”

If you’ve either never read Atlas Shrugged or haven’t read it in a long time, you might give it a shot before the next election cycle gets into full swing.

  • The Fountainhead is one of my favorite books. Atlas Shrugged is also up there, but perhaps a bit lengthy, especially as John Galt’s 20+ page monologue drones on. Still, both are worth a read.. and a reread.

  • Walt

    Even though she’s not around, if she were what might she think of the liars in the arena? I would like a free market that self-governs with a relentless pursuit of truth and eliminates those that lie (intentionally) and then drag everybody else in an industry down with extra costs necessary to show good faith. Hank Reardon never lied about his metal. Dagny never lied about her railroad. Ken Lay lied. The guys at Worldcom lied. Sorry…you used the word ‘uncompromising’ somewhere in your post and it got me thinking about weaseling out of one’s promises versus holding the line with honor.


  • reno

    Okay I have to go read that book now. I bought it a while ago but didn’t want to tackle it because it was sort of thick, but now that you’ve mentioned it as having such a pivotal point in your life I’m going to have to start on it.

  • I’ve never read Ayn Rand… and I probably should take your advice.

    But my comment is about “Zen and the Art…” – I’ve read it twice when I was twentysomething in then communist Bulgaria (it was translated in Bulgarian)… and was strongly influenced by it.

    Then, in 1990, I came to the US… and since then… your reference here about “Zen…” is among the rare 3-4 times I’ve ever heard an educated American acknowledging the book.

  • fewquid

    Funny timing for your post. I just finished re-reading Atlas and didn’t even realize it was the 50th anniversary… and I could not agree more about it being a life shaping work.

    I can’t vote due to my criminal record from badly beating a pollster (just kidding, it’s a tea related thing)… But not one of the candidates seems to even come close to being objectivist. I should be a republican, but what they’ve done to undermine free market capitalism is appalling. And every word I hear from democrats seems to hinge on need and entitlement.

    Perhaps you should speed up your efforts to build the Gulch out there in Colorado…

  • I read The Fountainhead when I was about 18. It was hugely inspiring and one of my favorite books, but for some reason I never read Atlas Shrugged. Maybe now is the time. Zen has also been on my list of books to pick up next time I'm in a country with a good english book store.

  • Herb Morreale

    Hey Brad, did you know my daughter’s middle name is Dagny? We considered giving John he middle name “Gault” but thought that might be a little too much 🙂 He’s Aaron after Hank.

    I think I’ll crack Atlas Shrugged again. Thanks.

  • I’ve never read Ayn Rand either, but I’m aware that I’m probably missing out an important piece of our literary history. Maybe I’ll pick myself up a copy…

  • I read The Fountainhead when I was about 18. It was hugely inspiring and one of my favorite books, but for some reason I never read Atlas Shrugged. Maybe now is the time. Zen has also been on my list of books to pick up next time I’m in a country with a good english book store.

  • Truthteller

    Atlas Shrugged was a brilliant book, but Open Source is totally against her ideal of total selfishness. Thank God for Open Source. Her defense of Satanist doctrines in the mouth of Galt is a monument to self-destructive “selective logic”.

    That said, much of what she did have to say on the issue, and about socialism, was absolutely on target. Anyway, it never works, it only results in a part of the ruling class overturning the rest of them.

  • Truthteller

    Also, the mention of Ken Lay was good for the other point. For Ayn Rand’s little false Shangri-La to work, everybody had to exercise The Golden Rule–“Do unto others as you would have them to unto you”. Irony of ironies, Jesus Christ the Lord’s own words.

    But, it’s the same as a Republic with respect for recognized natural human rights –which supersede any imagined government prerogatives–, and capitalistic investment freedom, government with consent of the governed. None of this works without a moral people that respects those foundations, with an external moral source.

    Ayn Rand’s source for them have historically proven pathetically the worst possible.

  • fewquid


    I disagree. Rand’s point was to be against self sacrifice based on someone else’s demand (based on their “need”). Yes, this is often encapsulated as “selfishness” but what she mostly said was “rational self interest”.

    All of the open source guys I know are trading their time and effort for any combination of (a) peer respect, (b) self improvement, (c) sense of achievement or (d) desire to stick it to the monopolists. Not one of them is doing it because someone else demands it.

    Since it is a fair trade in the eyes of the person doing the work, I’d argue that open source fits squarely within Rand’s worldview. Also, given how much it has shaken up the status quo with regard to competition, I’d go so far as to say she would admire it.

    Just my $0.02 of course 😉

  • Scott

    This is hands down one of the best books ever written. I think in a totally different way because of this book, as do most that have read it. To think she wrote that in 1957 and Fountainhead in 1943.

    I read the script version of Atlas Shrugged while working in film and they did an ok job, but it won’t do the book justice. They have tried to make this movie for a long time, but it is such a rich book in terms of philosophy, politics & a way of thinking, that it is a struggle to bring it to the screen. It is currently in production for a 2008 summer release. We will see.