# Obama Spurs Ayn Rand Revival: Sales of Atlas Shrugged Surge

Discussion in 'Politics' started by madanthonywayne, Mar 4, 2009.

1. ### madanthonywayneMorning in AmericaRegistered Senior Member

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In the fifty years since its publication, Atlas Shrugged has grown more and more popular. In fact, last year saw sales of the book reach the highest levels ever (about 200,000 copies sold). And this year, with Obama in office instituting statist policies at a pace never seen before, sales of Atlas Shrugged have tripled over last years record setting level.

Who is John Galt?

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Sales of “Atlas Shrugged” Soar in the Face of Economic Crisis

Washington, D.C., February 23, 2009--Sales of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” have almost tripled over the first seven weeks of this year compared with sales for the same period in 2008. This continues a strong trend after bookstore sales reached an all-time annual high in 2008 of about 200,000 copies sold.

“Americans are flocking to buy and read ‘Atlas Shrugged’ because there are uncanny similarities between the plot-line of the book and the events of our day” said Yaron Brook, Executive Director at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “Americans are rightfully concerned about the economic crisis and government’s increasing intervention and attempts to control the economy. Ayn Rand understood and identified the deeper causes of the crisis we’re facing, and she offered, in ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ a principled and practical solution consistent with American values." http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=22647

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5. ### madanthonywayneMorning in AmericaRegistered Senior Member

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Yeah, I saw that episode (the Chicken Fucker). On a more serious note, check out this WSJ article:

Some years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read "Atlas Shrugged" a "virgin." Being conversant in Ayn Rand's classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement. If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster.

Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated "Atlas" as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.

For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

In the book, these relentless wealth redistributionists and their programs are disparaged as "the looters and their laws." Every new act of government futility and stupidity carries with it a benevolent-sounding title. These include the "Anti-Greed Act" to redistribute income (sounds like Charlie Rangel's promises soak-the-rich tax bill) and the "Equalization of Opportunity Act" to prevent people from starting more than one business (to give other people a chance). My personal favorite, the "Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Act," aims to restrict cut-throat competition between firms and thus slow the wave of business bankruptcies. Why didn't Hank Paulson think of that?

These acts and edicts sound farcical, yes, but no more so than the actual events in Washington, circa 2008. We already have been served up the $700 billion "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and the "Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act." Now that Barack Obama is in town, he will soon sign into law with great urgency the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." This latest Hail Mary pass will increase the federal budget (which has already expanded by$1.5 trillion in eight years under George Bush) by an additional $1 trillion -- in roughly his first 100 days in office. The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the$2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."

When Rand was writing in the 1950s, one of the pillars of American industrial might was the railroads. In her novel the railroad owner, Dagny Taggart, an enterprising industrialist, has a FedEx-like vision for expansion and first-rate service by rail. But she is continuously badgered, cajoled, taxed, ruled and regulated -- always in the public interest -- into bankruptcy. Sound far-fetched? On the day I sat down to write this ode to "Atlas," a Wall Street Journal headline blared: "Rail Shippers Ask Congress to Regulate Freight Prices."

In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal -- stronger but lighter than steel. The government immediately appropriates the invention in "the public good." The politicians demand that the metal inventor come to Washington and sign over ownership of his invention or lose everything.

The scene is eerily similar to an event late last year when six bank presidents were summoned by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Washington, and then shuttled into a conference room and told, in effect, that they could not leave until they collectively signed a document handing over percentages of their future profits to the government. The Treasury folks insisted that this shakedown, too, was all in "the public interest."

Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.

One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:

Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"

Mr. Thompson: "Yes!"

"And you'll obey any order I give?"

"Implicitly!"

"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."

"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?"

"Oh, no!"

Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as Barack Obama puts it.

David Kelley, the president of the Atlas Society, which is dedicated to promoting Rand's ideas, explains that "the older the book gets, the more timely its message." He tells me that there are plans to make "Atlas Shrugged" into a major motion picture -- it is the only classic novel of recent decades that was never made into a movie. "We don't need to make a movie out of the book," Mr. Kelley jokes. "We are living it right now." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123146363567166677.html

7. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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There are those who say that the Ayn Rand "objectivist" movement is like a cult. It has a figurehead who can apparently do no wrong in the minds of her followers. She is considered all-knowledgable on every subject, and infallible. Her words of wisdom apply for all time to every situation.

Sound familiar? Compare, for example, L. Ron Hubbard.

8. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

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The current crisis was created by a bunch of Ayn Rand acolytes - you can make a case that her "ideology" has had more influence over the past thirty years of US governance, and especially the last ten or so, than that of any other writer.

Alan Greenspan is perhaps the most famous, but all those guys - Paulson, Griffin, Lay, Abramoff, the PNAC crowd - they've all read her stuff.

The most interesting aspect of her novels, to me, is the fact that the bad guys are self-conscious - they know what they are doing.

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9. ### TylerRegistered Senior Member

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I gotta be honest... I didn't like her books.

I'm about as sympathetic as you can get towards libertarianism without being a full-blown Ron Paul fan. But frankly, her books sucked. The stories were boring, the characters were often one-dimensional and highly predictable. I'm not that big a fiction fan, so maybe that's why it didn't work for me. They seem like fiction written for people who like economics but don't like real hardcore philosophy stuff or most fiction.

I majored in philosophy (and math) and can honestly say Rand's stuff was some of the worst "philosophy" I've ever read. Honestly, I'm a sympathetic libertarian who - like us all - despises fascism, but I still enjoy Plato 100000 times more than Rand. And I don't like Plato.

So, for the three big supporting cheers I hear from Rand fans, she failed on all counts to me.

It's not good philosophy; arguments are poorly put forward, not eloquent to the degree of the great philosophers, not introspective to the degree of the greats and, frankly, not particularly original.

It's not good fiction; this is impossible to claim any sort of "objective" opinion on, but I'm not a big fiction reader and I could still name about 20 authors I find more enjoyable to read. Her books were, as I said, one-dimensional and thoroughly predictable. I imagine full-blown libertarians enjoy reading it just because it 'affirms' all of their suspicions and sentiments.

It's not good economics; I like math, and I like psychology. If you want to teach me something about the economy, give me hardcore proof. If you want to argue that economics necessarily involves some sort of psych element and cannot be reduced to math - a sentiment I agree with - then give me extensive studies and research analysis to give yourself some sort of credibility.

As one who feels strongly pulled to the libertarian side of most issues, I appreciate what she is going for... but it just kind of sucks.

10. ### madanthonywayneMorning in AmericaRegistered Senior Member

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Objectivism is not a religion. Yes, for a time she had a bunch of followers that idolized her, so did the Beatles. Does that detract from their music? As for her being able to do no wrong, just look at her personal life. It was a mess. Nevertheless, she must have done something right to still be selling over 200,000 books a year (and on track to sell 600,000 books this year) 50 years after publication!

She was, as far as I know, the first to argue that capitalism was the best system not only because it worked, but because it was the most moral economic system.

11. ### S.A.M.uniquely dreadfulValued Senior Member

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Yeah, look at how good its been for the criminals!

12. ### spidergoatLiddle' Dick TaterValued Senior Member

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The Left Behind series is popular too.

I doubt any Republican here would want to follow objectivism, since the corporation is an entity that violates personal rights all the time. Individual freedom is a worthy goal, but how can we have that if corporations are given the same rights as individuals? Lassaiz-faire capitalism as practiced in this country goes against Ayn Rand's principles, since they are able to do things like pollute the air I breathe and the water I drink.

Guess who has said she was inspired by Ayn Rand? Hillary Clinton.

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13. ### quadraphonicsBloodthirsty BarbarianValued Senior Member

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Atlas Shrugged is one of the worst-conceived, worst-executed pieces of political fiction of all time. It is the equivalent of a trashy supermarket romance novel, except instead of pitched at housewives, it's pitched at insecure narcissists with superiority complexes.

And this is coming from someone that actually enjoyed Atlas Shrugged when I first read it, and still thinks Fountainhead was decent (and has been considering reading Anthem, partially out of genuine interest and partially to see if Ayn Rand is really as ham-fisted as I recall). I consider the changes in my opinion of Atlas Shrugged emblematic of my maturation as a reader and thinker, since my teenage years.

If you want to read political fiction, I'd say that Watership Down is a far better use of your time than anything from the Objectivists. And, really, the pitfalls of statism are more artfully and insightfully illuminated in the classics (1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World, Handmaid's Tale, Repent Harlequin Said the Ticktock Man, etc.) than in anything Rand ever produced. The whole "objective philosophy" stuff is so half-baked, and the exposition so blatantly propagandist, that Atlas Shrugged would be considered a sarcastic criticism of fascist ideology, if it weren't for the fact that Rand (and so many others) apparently sincerely believed in this idiocy.

14. ### Michael歌舞伎Valued Senior Member

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The video game Bioshock won an award as a new teaching medium. It's a story based on the ideas in Atlas Shrugged.

15. ### countezeroRegistered Senior Member

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They are acolytes because they've read her books?

Do you seriously believe this shit or do you just like saying it?

16. ### S.A.M.uniquely dreadfulValued Senior Member

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Thats an interesting point, I never thought of that. I always thought her heroes were closet sociopaths.

17. ### madanthonywayneMorning in AmericaRegistered Senior Member

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I'm not one who tends to read the same book more than once. I haven't read Atlas Shrugged since I was a teenager. I do wonder if I would like it as much if I read it again as an adult. I also agree that The Fountainhead was a better read. Anthem? It's not bad, and it's quite short. I read it in an afternoon. It was the basis for the Rush album 2112.
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I've read most of those, but I've never even heard of Watership Down. Who wrote that?

18. ### quadraphonicsBloodthirsty BarbarianValued Senior Member

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It's by Richard Adams; not sure if he's written anything else of note. It's become quite popular recently, due to being featured on some episodes of Lost (both deal with very similar themes). It also seems to enjoy wide popularity with writers and people in media, and you'll find references to it in lots of different places. Stephen King, for example, seems to find a way to work a plug for Watership Down into about 1/3 of his novels (this was how I first heard of it, although I didn't get around to reading it until many years later). Anyway, highly recommended: easily the best book about rabbits ever written. Picture a cross between Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies, but with more adventures and humor.

I don't reread many books either, apart from postmodern works that basically demand to be read multiple times, so I doubt I'll ever get around to revisiting Atlas Shrugged.

Also, Bioshock is probably the most salient, detailed repudiation of Rand's ideas I've ever come across. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a video game set in a collapsing, Atlas Shrugged-style enclave of unbridled capitalism run by the "most capable." The game explores numerous social issues that would arise in the actual operation of such a city, including exploitation, labor politics, smuggling/crime and unchecked, rapid technological innovation. I won't give away too much more, but I highly recommend Bioshock to any Ayn Rand lover or hater. Suffice it to say that it presents the result as dystopian, but in any case it's a lot more fun to kill your way through the ruins of Rapture with psychic powers than it is to read corny soap opera love scenes between Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden.

19. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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I am unaware of links to Ayn Rand for most of those, but Greenspan is famously associated with Rand. He wrote articles for her publications and was her friend for decades.

20. ### ashurathe Old RightRegistered Senior Member

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Articles which advocate policy positions that are a complete 180 from what he did years later as Fed chairman. I wouldn't call such a person an acolyte...

21. ### PandaemoniValued Senior Member

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He certainly admits to having made compromises, but he did hold to a more extreme form of capitalism than most economists. For example he seems to have believed that reputational benefits and losses alone would be generally enough to discipline most market participants even in the absence of regulation. I attended a talk where he speculated that the government did not even need to enforce contracts because that reputation of a contract breaker would ensure a person's failure in the markets. Several people near me openly wandered whether he was serious.

He was as close to a true objectivist as we're ever likely to see in government office, and there is a case to be made that problems stemmed from the quasi-objectivist views he implemented. One might disagree with that case, but it's clearly a strong undercurrent in the existing debate.

Whether we call him an "acolyte" is just semantics.

22. ### ashurathe Old RightRegistered Senior Member

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Losses should act as a way to discipline market participants, but Greenspan certainly didn't believe that. He was an active force in making sure financial institutions were protected no matter what kind of decisions, good or bad, they made. There's a reason he was called Mr. Bailout by some.

I agree that most of the problems we have today stem from Greenspan's stint as Fed Chairman, but to say that he was guided by objectivist policies completely ignored his belief in "too big to fail" institutions.

What the heck is a quasi-objectivist in economics anyway? Is that like being a "little" insane?

23. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

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That was after things fell apart. In the setup, he didn't believe they ever would fail - he believed that they had grown to be big due to their leadership's superior adherence to capitalist morality as laid out in Rand's novels, that in fact their success was demonstration of their leadership's adherence to such principles, and the economy was safe in their hands.

Would an Ayn Rand hero take advantage of loose money to scam and scheme and build foolish bubbles of debt for their own profit? Of course not. Hence no harm in loose money, regardless of banking regulations.

It's not that they follow Rand's specific ideological blueprints for governing - that would be impossible anyway, sophomoric as they are - but that they long ago bought into Rand's view of a world run by heroes unbowed under the pettiness of rules and the tyranny of secondhanders.