The Dire Message In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged
By Alicia Colon
After thoroughly researching the history of capitalism, Rand concluded that it was the economic freedom that created the progress made in recent history. Most major inventions were created by individuals who were undeterred by government interference and regulations.
Next to my computer is a bookshelf overstuffed with books I've read and enjoyed but one book stands out because I just can't get past its first 25 pages. Friends have told me how much they enjoyed 'Atlas Shrugged' so I have tried on numerous occasions to tackle this tome that has had such a lasting impact on libertarians and VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan. Alas, all efforts have failed so I resorted to my college year's backup plan - I bought an 'Atlas Shrugged' Cliff Notes.
I can't comment on Ms. Rand's talent for writing but I found the Cliff Notes version written by Dr. Andrew Bernstein infinitely more readable. For the first time I understand how omniscient and how pertinent Ms. Rand's novel is to what is happening to our country today.
Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905 and saw firsthand the communist revolution and takeover of her native country and the subsequent oppression that swallowed it up. Her family escaped to the United States but she kept up with her relatives left behind in Russia until Joseph Stalin's murderous policies made her lose track.
The Twentieth Century had spawned the worst dictatorships in history. Rand witnessed the results to individual freedom in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, China, Cuba and around the world. Dr. Bernstein describes the state of the world that led to her signature novel: "For years, the specter of national socialism had haunted the world, exterminating millions of innocent people, enslaving millions more, and threatening the freedom of the entire globe. The triumph of the free countries of the West over Naziism was achieved at an enormous cost in Human Life. However, it left the threat of communism unabated."
Now here are the portions in the Cliff Notes that really stood out for me: "Collectivism was an increasing popular philosophy among American intellectuals and politicians. In the 1930s, both National Socialism and communism had supporters among American thinkers, businessmen, politicians, and labor leaders... Many American professors, writers, journalists, and politicians continued to advocate Marxist principles... When Ayn Rand was writing Atlas Shrugged, many Americans strongly believed that the government should have the power to coercively redistribute income and to regulate private industry. The capitalist system of political and economic freedom was consistently attacked by socialists and welfare statists... Individual rights and political freedom were threatened in American politics, education, and culture."
This explains what's happening today in our high schools and universities responsible for teaching our children. The indoctrination of Marxism into modern curricula by leftwing academics has given entire generations a warped sense of entitlement from government largesse while punishing individual achievement. No wonder Obama has that, "you didn't build that" mentality.
After thoroughly researching the history of capitalism, Rand concluded that it was the economic freedom that created the progress made in recent history. Most major inventions were created by individuals who were undeterred by government interference and regulations. Alexander Bell, Thomas Edison, George Eastman, Cyrus McCormick, Elias Howe are just a few of the many creators that revolutionized our daily lives and brought this country prosperity and the highest standard of living. What about the most recent creative thinkers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg?
Would these men have become billionaires with their innovative inventions if they had to deal with a socialist government? What would happen if economic freedom were lost?
Ayn Rand provides the answer in Atlas Shrugged. Dr Bernstein writes, "In the story, she projects the culmination of America's Twentieth Century socialist trend. The US government portrayed in the story has significant control over the domestic economy. The rest of the world has been swallowed up by communist, 'Peoples' States' and subsists in abject poverty."
Hmmm. Does this sound very familiar? Think GM, Obamacare, bank bailouts, EPA regulations, eminent domain? How about the European economic crises in Spain and Greece? While the Cliff Notes provided a summary of all the chapters in the book, I never read it and I applaud those who managed to read the novel itself. I confess to preferring cozy mystery books in my senior years for entertainment. I did, however read the quick synopsis to the story and in this serious election year I have become intrigued with Rand's omniscient message in Atlas and also more frightened at its implication. Atlas Shrugged II opened in theaters last week and I hope the film can break through to the minds of those who refuse to recognize the disaster that the Obama administration has been to our country.
The aftermath of last week's VP debate was a depressing signal that way too many people are blinded by style over substance and who concluded that VP Biden's manic and obnoxious treatment of Rep. Ryan was the right way for him to behave. Even Democrat pundits refused to acknowledge the innumerable lies Biden told because he told them so confidently. Seriously? Syria geographically five times larger than Libya?
How about the fact that Libya is almost ten times larger geographically? But never mind enumerating Biden's gaffes and lies because they don't matter - he's a Democrat.
Although I agree with much of Rand's defense of capitalism I disagree completely with her philosophy which she calls Objectivism. This idea maintains that reason - not faith or emotionalism - is man's sole means of gaining knowledge. Rand believed that an individual has a right to his or her own life without the view that man should sacrifice himself to God or society. I believe that the creativity and individualism Rand reveres is a gift from God and that faith is what has saved us thus far from the evil machinations of despots. It is the reason why dictators clamp down on Judeo/Christian religion once they come to power.
When Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, it created a great deal of controversy and criticism but nonetheless reached millions of readers. One can appreciate and accept Rand's dogged defense of the capitalist system and still reject her dismissal of faith and religion. I'm sure that VP candidate Paul Ryan has accepted the basic precepts of Rand's theory while still remaining a devout Roman Catholic.
Whenever I see those beautiful ads on television for Korean Air, I can't help but compare the lives of the North and South Koreans. South Korea is teeming with growth and a high standard of living while in communist Northern Korea the people are starving and live in poverty and destitution. Those who try and oppose the leaders are thrown into jail or prison camps. Communism, Marxism, Socialism, collectivism - whatever you call it - doesn't work and never has.
I may never finish Atlas Shrugged but the warning within its pages is as important as Paul Revere's ride 236 years ago. It's time for another revolution and on November 6th we'll find out if it's begun.
Alicia Colon resides in New York City and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.aliciacolon.com