I finally finished reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. As I said in my Goodreads review it was a very long read, but I could not bring myself to abandoning it. For me when a book is too long I find myself losing interest in the characters first. That did not happen here. While many of the characters were idealizations of people within the world of the book they made sense to me. I have to wonder if in toady’s publishing environment would a work with such characters find success.
The other reason for reading Atlas is of course the philosophy behind it. I decided to take the plunge after playing the video game Bioshock. The undersea world of rapture is full of references to the work. Also, despite it’s age, Atlas Shrugged is very relevant in our current political environment. It was very interesting to see people with the best of intentions come to defeat simply by relying solely on those intentions to provide for them. We have no analog in the world for Hank Rearden and his miraculous metal. Well, maybe Apple would have us believe their iPhone is one such product. But what if we did? Could the government allow such a monopoly to exist? Never mind the question of should. This would be the ultimate test of our resolve to the ideals of Capitalism.
Many people are angry with our current government. Flashing back to my seventh grade social studies class I remember that we are the government, so is this anger just misplaced? Going just one step further, how should the government appease that anger? In the book the government took the steps of equalizing production and even taking over Rearen’s metal. Yet that did not solve anything. Is the lesson that we cannot rely on the government to solve our problems? What does it say about us as individuals should we want to let government solve all our problems? I cannot help but think about the current debate on gun control. Now I have heard everything from rational arguments to, “I really think they are looking for you back at the home,” arguments and still do not think that progress is being or can be made. There again when we rely on the solution to come from outside of the individual we court disaster or at the very least failure. If the wrong solution is enacted would it take, “stopping the engine of the the world,” as John Galt did?
I really would have hated having to have to read this book. It is the kind of thing that for me was best approached or rather discovered on my own. The writing has inspired me and given me all sorts of ideas. The philosophy has even given me something more to think about. I suppose you can’t expect much more than that. If you have the stamina I would recommend you find a copy.