December 11, 2010


So, anyway...

I noticed a while ago that one of my roommates has a copy of Atlas Shrugged, and since I was familiar with the basic premise and its apparent relation to certain events of the present day, I decided to finally give it a chance after years of avoiding it because of, among other things, its intimidating 1000+ page length and the cultlike behavior of some of its more rabid fans.

So far, the score is open-mindedness 1, CD 0. This thing is both genuinely interesting and slightly frightening.

I'm only about 300 pages in right now, so I'll probably have more to say if I ever manage to finish it, but it does contain a few plot points that are disturbingly similar to the current economic situation. For example, in the early stages of the book, the National Alliance of Railroads adopts the so-called "Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule," which limits supposedly unnecessary competition in the name of social welfare and is reinforced by the argument that if a large railroad system cannot survive on its own, it is entitled to public support because of the service it provides to the community. "Too big to fail," anyone?

As you may know, the main thrust of the book, and much of Ayn Rand's work in general, is that altruism is a self-defeating philosophy, and only rational self-interest can propel humanity to its greatest heights. In this case, this is represented by characters who give long, self-righteous speeches about how proud they are of having never made a profit, or of giving jobs to people who didn't deserve them (because hiring someone who is actually qualified is selfish) contrasted with characters who live for their work and actually help thousands of people by using their knowledge and skill to make money and provide goods and services, but who are viewed with suspicion because they didn't "sacrifice" anything in doing so.

Once again, look at this and compare it to our political climate today, with people railing against "corporate greed" and "Wall Street fat cats" while proclaiming that extending unemployment benefits and raising taxes on "the wealthy" is the best way to stimulate the economy.

Like I said, I'll probably have more to say if I actually finish the book, but I do want to point out one rather interesting difference. In AS, the characters who support the altruistic view actually live by their principles. The guy who brags about never making a profit is fucking serious when he says that (he ran a bank and blew all its funds on giving loans to people he knew couldn't pay them back). Another character who rants about the evils of making money has never held an actual job. These are broken individuals, but they are, for the most part, just really, really ignorant while still being fairly honest.

On the other hand, here in non-fictional 2010, the people who seem most obsessed with "greed," etc. are people who already have a fuckton of money. Our country is full of rich people who demand that the rich pay higher taxes even as they do everything they can to avoid paying theirs at all (John Kerry immediately comes to mind). And don't even get me started on people like Al Gore who feel that they're entitled to violate their own standards on economic or environmental concerns because they care so damn much that it's okay when they do it.

Thoughts? Anyone else read this entire book and want to correct me on any misconceptions?

Posted by CD on December 11, 2010 04:43 PM | TrackBack
Category: Liberal Stupidity
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Posted by: Crispyblogger at December 30, 2010 12:04 AM

Don't know if you bothered to finish it. If you did, I bet you skimmed Galt's speech.

Great book - only read it once - got old. The Fountainhead is a similar concept and a much better (and shorter) book.

Posted by: hln at December 31, 2010 10:49 AM
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