1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16542/the-continued-relevance-of-rands-villains/

The Continued Relevance of Rand’s Villains

April 19, 2011 by

So long as Ayn Rand’s villains continue to resemble the reality in Washington, the story of Atlas Shrugged will remain popular. The average American may not be a powerful railroad executive or steel magnate, but most believe they are entitled to the fruits of their labor.

FULL ARTICLE by J. Patrick Rhamey Jr.


Drigan April 19, 2011 at 9:35 am

Just one quibble with your article:

You say that the parties are fighting over peanuts, and monetarily you may be correct. But when viewed from the perspective of those that oppose it, it’s quite understandable. If you believed that your money was being stolen to finance torture, murder or slavery, you’d likely object more than if it were stolen to finance feeding orphans. That is exactly why Planned Parenthood is a big deal.

Eric B April 19, 2011 at 9:58 am

Which would you rather have, pennies stolen from you for and used for something you absolutely hate, or for thousands of dollars to be stolen from you and for it to be something you disagree with?

Mike H April 19, 2011 at 11:53 am

Eric B., you provide a false choice. One can simultaneously be vehemently opposed to the “peanuts” funding such operations as Planned Parenthood (count me among those) and also frustrated beyond belief at the stratospheric levels of spending in areas where government has no business. My heart and sense of moarality react most viscerally to the former, and my wallet the latter.

Eric B April 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm

You can split your efforts however you choose – and that is your right. My previous comment was not intended to be an ultimatum so please forgive my poor writing style. I was just trying to point out the equivalent of what is happening on a national scale to a personal scale.

Your time and efforts are scarcities and how you spend those resources are your choice. I personally think it’s foolish to fret over pennies no matter how passionate I am about the topic. To me it is even more foolish when you could spend those resources to save thousands of dollars.

tillurdizzy April 19, 2011 at 10:21 am

Rand’s main characters are cartoonist “super heroes” and “super villains”. The super villains actually exist…and people are actually fooled by them. What a bunch of comic book clowns we’ve elected.

Erik A April 19, 2011 at 10:53 am

Thanks for the review of the film. I suspect most readers of your daily articles already have a good understanding of the villainy showcased by the book and film. It is so depressing to think people have to keep endurring the same old sleaze, century after century.
Seeking and getting protection and escape from the consequences of bad or even evil decisions has been and will be the way until the host can no longer sustain the parasites. If history is an indicator, reform will not happen because society demands it, but when society no longer exists.
I think we are headed for a “Solon” solution.

Robert Meyer April 19, 2011 at 11:16 am

You hit it right on about the villains in Atlas Shrugged. However, I disagree with the statement “The primary protagonists of the book are emotionless industrialists, stilted and one-dimensional in their behaviors, thinking only of metal, railroads, and factories.” I found the characters somewhat colorful and definitely inspirational—they weren’t emotionless. They displayed an intense love affair with their highest values. In fact, some of the characters showed some fire with each other.

HL April 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Me too. I found the main characters to be quite “romantic” in the Randian sense of the term. Eddie Willers is, to me, an terribly under-appreciated character. When he collapses in front of the disabled train I had to put the book down and choke back a tear or two. Eddie is all of us.

Robert Meyer April 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Under a system of accelerating government interventionism, the fate of Eddie Willers may be the fate of all Eddie Willers of the world.

Stephen Grossman April 19, 2011 at 11:28 am

It’s as if he wanted us to believe the printing press was harmful to the economy because it decreased the demand for scribes.

Scribes caused massive unemployment in the tom-tom and signal fire blanket industries.

billwald April 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

People should be encouraged to leave the US if they think they would be happier someplace else. If Medicare is the BIG budgetary problem then we should pay old people a bonus if they leave the US and renounce their US citizenship.

Alpheus April 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Billwald, I have the impression that you think a 1.6 trillion dollar deficit isn’t a problem, and that those who live in the US should just accept it. I almost have the impression that you would accept anything that our politicians would want to inflict upon us!

Jim April 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Much as I hate to admit it, billwald has something of a point (not about the deficit not being a problem, but about leaving the country). We constantly state that people should “vote with their feet” to leave states with severe fiscal problems to go to places which are better run, but most of us are not willing to do that in regards to nationality. Why don’t more of us “vote with our feet” to leave the US, given the clearly unsustainable economic trajectory we’re currently on?

I would advance the theory that as long as immigrants are literally queuing up to get in, the US gov’t has no incentive whatsoever to change any of it’s behaviors, because it’s still the “destination of choice” for so many. Competitive capitalism only works if the purchasers (citizens) are willing to stop giving the provider of poor services (gov’t) their dollars. Unfortunately (and I include myself in this critique), most of us seem perfectly willing to just keep on forking over the funds to the gov’t in exchange for ever-diminishing returns. Sure, there’s capital flight as companies off-shore some to escape US taxes and regulations, but none of the people seem willing to leave. And that makes us complicit.

Sione April 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm


So because a man does not leave his family, his home, his friends, his neighbourhood, most of his possessions, his career, his way of life, and all the rest, THAT makes him complicit in the crimes of those who persecute him.

Yeah. Riiiiiight.


Jim April 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Then there can be no such thing as “voting with your feet”, because by your definition, it sounds like everyone is entitled to stay right where they’re at. Which blows up part of the argument for anarchocapitalism, part of which is the concept of voting with your feet if you find yourself in a community which you don’t like. And you know you see that argument on here all the time. Another example is when talking about the Civil Rights act, which most of us dislike because it takes away the ability of a store owner to choose who he serves. Someone always makes the argument, generally agreed upon by libertarians, that if some group was dissatisfied with the lack of options in their area, they could always move to an area more amenable to their group. By your logic, those people shouldn’t have to have that burden, which narrows the options down to 1) stay and suffer, or 2) enforce equal treatment.

Perhaps “complicit” was too strong a word, but I don’t see “neighborhood” as being an entitlement. It’s all consumer preference. If the US is really so bad…then leave. If you place a higher preference on your area, and the things which you could not take with you (primarily extended family & friends), then you’re expressing your preference in the marketplace by staying put. It’s like if you purchased a Ford, was dissatisfied with it, but then continued to purchase Fords for the rest of your life regardless. Granted it’s a weak analogy, because in this case, the Ford (initially) chose us, but once any of us is of the legal age to become a citizen elsewhere, the choice became ours.

Also, when were laws passed stating that a man cannot bring his family, or transport his possessions, or embark on a new career, in a new area that he moves to? Why would one have to leave those things?

A. Viirlaid April 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm


Great point about people who stand up and fight instead of submitting and/or fleeing.

I will never understand why some equate Complicity with Willingness to Stay.

What if the Original Americans in The Thirteen Colonies had “voted with their feet”?

Don’t get me wrong — in some cases, leaving may be the only option, if the alternative is familial and societal suicide.

But that is not [yet] the case in America.

America still has a democratic system, as faulty as we, individually, may differentially judge it to be.

Americans are not remotely (IMO) at that point that would require them to give up their birthright.

The struggle carried on at this particular website is, on its own, sufficient evidence of that.

Seattle April 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm

If a bully is stealing your lunch money the proper response is not to transfer to another school (where there are surely more bullies), the response is to break their legs.

I Am The Walrus April 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm

“Also, when were laws passed stating that a man cannot bring his family, or transport his possessions, or embark on a new career, in a new area that he moves to? Why would one have to leave those things?”

Almost every country in the world has a dense immigration code preventing the free movement of incoming peoples. You cannot just walk into a new country. You usually require one of various visas, pre-established employment sponsorship or refugee status. Otherwise you are put on a waiting list and evaluated according to a list of nationally sought technical skills. After that there is still the possibility of a massive fee, upwards of $15,000 from what I have heard from people I know who have moved here to Canada.

And that only brings you to the new country. You then must sponsor your family which usually requires being a resident for a set period of time. Fees are demanded at that point as well.

We don’t live in the anarcho-capitalist world you describe where people can freely choose communities based solely on economic opportunity and values consonance. “Voting with your feet” is not an option for many people. For most people in the world, you are stuck in the country you are born in.

Gil April 20, 2011 at 12:20 am

Depending on how desperate you are you could qualify as a refugee.

Alpheus April 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

If you can leave the country, then go ahead and go–it may very well come to a point where we have to do that! But there are more obstacles in moving to another country (placed there by BOTH the United States AND other countries), than there are to another town, or county, or even state.

I, for one, would like to reform cities so that I could move from one to another, without moving myself or my property. Why should I have to move to a new location, just because a city is misbehaving with regulations?

For now, I intend to try to keep my profile low (in particular, avoid making a lot of money, so I won’t get taxed as much), and see what I can do to convince others that we need to cut spending as much as possible. I will, as a last resort, leave, but it would be hard to say where.

Sione April 20, 2011 at 4:39 pm


How about you quit your job right now and try to migrate to somewhere easy like New Zealand, say, or even the Lucky Country (helpful hint: you can get into Australia once you have NZ citizenship). Write an article for this site in six months and tell how you’ve progressed, what you’ve learned and how successful you have been (or not). List what you’ve left behind and why that is. Explain the differences in culture in your new abode and explain what you have had to forgo or alter in order to get there and fit in. Discus the difficulties of being a foreigner in that land.

OR, you could relate how all your friends and family and colleagues have all come across with you. Explain how your way of life is exactly as it was. Relate how the Kiwis and the Okkers are the exactly same as North Americans in their way of life, culture, common practices, ways of doing things- speaking, working, relationships, friendships and so on. Explain how they altered their attitudes and ways of dealing with each other and doing business in order to allow for you, a foreigner, to continue to behave as you always did in NorAm. Discuss how your house and car and boat and all your possessions are all with you now and how the kindly politicians and bureaucrats in NZ or the Lucky Country allowed you to import absolutley all of your possessions without let or hinder so that none were left behind. Explain how you were granted a job with exactly the seniority, benefits and salary as you had previously and how your career was unaltered by your move. Tell us about how they all changed the content of their TV news reports and magazines to make them the same as what you are used to seeing in NorAm.

Fact is, you won’t. Guess you’re complicit in hoisting yourself by your own petard.


Joe April 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm

You have to start thinking outside the box. Instead of a bonus you need to take all senior citizens out into the desert and strip them nude. You give them a 30 minute start and then you hunt them down. If any senior citizen can last 24 hrs they get to stay.

Sione April 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm


That’s too horrible. I hope you’re not formally referred to as Mr Stalin!


Joe April 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Sometimes I am a little dramatic in my sarcasm. Truly there were only a few like Joseph Stalin in the world. (Or one can only hope)

Sione April 21, 2011 at 12:05 am


I got your sarcasm.

The imaginary scenario you painted reminded me of Stalin. All goes to show how adopting the wrong ideas has terrible consequences.

Your point is made.


ET April 19, 2011 at 11:59 am

At the end of the piece on Jackson blaming the ipad for our woes, there was an interesting addendum:

‘It seems that Jackson has changed his views significantly since last month when he said that the iPad was “revolutionizing” the country” and that it would “fundamentally alter how we will educate our children” followed by making a suggestion that there should be an “iPad for every student in the nation”.’

In the old days, a politician could say something completely opposite to two different groups and not have it reported all at the same time. If this quote is accurate, we should see this on John Stewart who likes to juxtapose these sorts of sound bites.

Horst Muhlmann April 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm

If this quote is accurate, we should see this on John Stewart who likes to juxtapose these sorts of sound bites.

Not bloody likely.

john galt April 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm

If only our condition could be reduced to the theme of government versus the men of the mind, soltions to our problems would be simple and could be resolved through the democratic process. However, what we have is goverment AND the industrialists against those whose response is merely to utter “who is John Galt?” and do nothing. The best we can do in cinema for these folks is usually authored and directed by Michael Moore or Charles Ferguson. The masses are placated, the credits roll, and off they go to Walmart for everyday low prices.

Jeff Hamrick April 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Two comments:

(1) My mother, age 60, went to a theater to see this movie last weekend in Tampa. She and her friend left with the impression that they were the youngest people in the room. (They did say the theater was full.)

(2) And, as I posted on Facebook recently, my thoughts about Ayn Rand’s “fiction” can be summarized as follows:

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” –Screenwriter John Rogers.

Vanmind April 25, 2011 at 10:06 am

Nice summary from Rogers. Atlas Shrugged is a hack piece, almost comical.

Anna April 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I read Atlas Shrugged at 30 and then again at 40. It is one of the best written novels of the 20th century, the plot-theme integration is on par with the best of classic fiction, the writing beautiful, and the philosophy consistent throughout, intricate and profound. I studied graduate philosophy at a tip-top Ivy League U and count among my favorite authors Julio Cortazar and Nabokov so, you know, none of this “for 14 year olds” nonsense

The “unbelievable heroes” are hardly that. They are excellent role models of personal discipline, achievement and energy. When I need a boost, I reach for Hank Rearden’s reflections.As for “emotionally stunted”–how..why..who? By being grace under pressure? By laughing off the absurd , dumb, vile, and idiotic in life? and charging forth with one’s goals? By falling passionately in love beause of intense admiration for another person and not in the fashion of today’s little romantic comedy average schlubs bandaging each other’s flaws?

“Unable to deal with the real world?” you quote. But who saves “the world” in the end and who are the ones evading it? The moral and the intelligent versus the jaded and ignorant.

I have yet to read a “critic” of Rand who wasn’t a sneering ignoramus when it came to this book; her fans aren’t my favorite either. I do not like the looks of the film, the lack of aesthetics, and Dagny was not like the actress here portrays. She was a class act, not “hard”…

I will say most 14 year olds still are uncynical about life. How sad that many people read her at a young age and then throw in the towel with their early values and ideals. Says more about them than about Rand

By the way…Who is “Screenwriter John Rogers” and what has he done?

Jeff Hamrick April 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I have read literally all of Ayn Rand’s works, so an ignoramus I am not. I think the writing is terrible; the characters thin as paper; the plot lines ridiculous. There are ideas in Ayn Rand’s works that are worth discussing. Everything else is crap.

Most 14-year-olds have never earned a paycheck and are (particularly the middle and upper class ones) living off parental teat. They have never seen what it’s like to get laid off. They’ve never stepped through the embarrassment of personally applying for food stamps. They’ve never been accused of being lazy or rent-seeking when life hands them a massive plate of rotting lemons (cancer while being uninsured, getting in a horrible car accident that prevents you from working and puts you on disability, etc.). Fourteen-year-olds are in the special position of actually believing they are amazing and independent and actualized and what-not, even though they have not done much yet at all. So are many enthusiasts of Rand.

Sione April 19, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Wow Jeff, no need to get your knickers in sich a knot.

It is not necessary to be laid off or get cancer while uninsured, or have a car accident or any of those sorts of set-backs in order to understand that ideas and values are important, that role models are important, that heros exist, that evil exists, that life is not fair, that morality is vital, that standards are vital, that some people are failures, that some failures will remain that way for the rest of their lives while others lift themselves up from their losses and try again, that some people learn from their mistakes while others never do, that the best things in life require serious long term striving and effort to attain, that being amazing and indepedent is exactly what a man should strive to be and that perfecting one’s life, although difficult on occasion, is honourable and worthwhile.

On the other hand, whining and moaning on about what terrible occurances have happened in one’s life, wallowing in disaster, demanding everyone else should be obligated to provide for one’s welfare, dismissing other people’s lives as worthy only of collectivisation so that they can be exploited for one’s own short-sighted greed, is exactly what a man should avoid doing. those engaging in such behaviours are not fit for anything more than being despised and rejected.

Fact is, at 14 a young person is well able to understand and learn. At this age they already have sufficient experience of life to make some important decisions for themselves. They already do that. Your denigrations of these young are unreasonable and illogical.

For the record and from my persepective in life, people (such as you) who argue by attacking the young for their youth are most likely non-achievers in life themselves- failures who resent the fresh start which is the gift of youth. Don’t attack others for the failures you project onto them. Pull your head in and start trying to improve your own life.


RS April 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm

doubly well put!

Jim P. April 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Somehow, your entire point seems to rest on a mythical 14 year old made of straw.

Robert Meyer April 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I don’t see how anyone could fail to realize that both Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead demonstrate Ayn Rand’s “off the charts talent.” She writes with a passion few possess. In addition her scenic descriptions show beauty and sublimity. Plus, she’s philosophically brilliant.

RS April 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm

well put!

Patrick Barron April 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Who knows what may tip the American political scene back to liberty…maybe our newest adventure in Libya…maybe Atlas Shrugged. No one thought that the self-immolation of a young man in Tunisia would spark a revolution, but it did. Maybe a poorly produced movie about a difficult to read book will become the American wake up call.

Bill Sims April 19, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Before this movie came out, I anticipated, regardless of its actual quality, much heated commentary – if not withering criticism. Sure enough we have been treated to a wide range of very subjective arguing against Ayn Rand.

From Ebert’s laughable “[Rand's] philosophy reduces to ‘I’m onboard, pull up the lifeline!’”

To the Huffington Post’s “… the ideology of Atlas Shrugged, and by extension the Republican party, is misguided and disturbingly cruel. But [the movie] is a cold, muddled mess that even your craziest Teabagger will find hard to like. Though it’s hard to say, since those people are crazy.”

All the way to the Harrisonburg, VA, Daily News Record’s “Objectivism, then, is objectively evil” because it is “radically anti-Christian” and is rooted in the Enlightenment’s “atheist rationalism”, which has visited torment upon the world. (This last has a link to Wikipedia’s entry for The Black Book of Communism, which catalogs millions and millions of deaths.) (And this about arguably history’s most effective anti-Communist.)

Wow! I thought “some people ARE crazy”.

But then I read the review by J. Patrick Rhamey, who believes “Atlas Shrugged is compelling, not for its heroes, but for its villains.” While the heroes are “emotionless industrialists, stilted and one-dimensional in their behaviors, thinking only of metal, railroads, and factories.”

Say what?

I thought it was the villains who were one-dimensional in the movie: secretly out to cash in on the successes of those they want to rule. The novel, in contrast, explores a full range of villainy: from the “cash-in” types (like a Clinton), all the way to those who lust for power for power’s sake (too long a list to enumerate).

On the other hand, the essence of the movie’s part of the story is Dagny’s heroic struggle to build the John Galt Line despite opposition from just about everyone. The acting was not great but I certainly felt an emotional surge of triumph when the train crossed the beautiful Reardon Metal bridge at 250 mph.

As for the applause at the end, which I also experienced and contributed to at my viewing, I think it was not just reading Wyatt’s sign “I’m leaving it as I found it…” There was also a voice-over of Wyatt saying “You have the moral right to your own life.” That is what produced the surge of triumph in the audience, that’s why Wyatt WAS a hero and THAT, I submit, is the essence of Ayn Rand’s “obscure” moral code.

pussum207 April 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Yes, and that is precisely why Rand triggers such a visceral and primal response from collectivists of all stripes (including “libertarian” collectivists, too, it seems!). She dared to seek the source of our instinctive and oh so durable collectivism. Polite society will never forgive her for that. We, as a society, are absolutely insistent that other individuals live for US and acquiesce to our taking of their property for OUR purposes. Oddly, we think of ourselves as virtuous and generous as a consequence. Rand exposed the corruption, greed and viciousness inherent in this idea. No wonder they can’t stand her.

A. Viirlaid April 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm

pussum207 also makes a germane point, albeit needlessly politely and indirectly, in my opinion.

This point is that we all (voluntarily) work together at some level. We are social beings. And as a radio show last night suggested we achieve great things by recognizing that “we are wired to care, share, and be fair”.

But this point is incomplete if we do not recognize that there is no moral code that DEMANDS that we share —— such an involuntary code is necessarily IMMORAL and anti-life. Sharing under duress is not fair nor is it one that has CARE as its wellspring.

Hank Rearden has not created his life’s work without help from other people, but we all know that without his personal efforts, his life’s work would never have happened.

This is where our political class fails us. Our political class and a lot of the rest of us fail to see the contributions made to our welfare by the Hank Rearden-s of the world, whether they are researchers, scientists, or entrepreneurs.

The “emotionless industrialists” do not reciprocate this attitude, thank God, at least not most times. Sure there will be some “I did it My Way” egoists amongst the mix, but most of them are more humble and more perceptive.

I don’t think most Hank Rearden-s of this world think that they did it all on their own, regardless of how “one-dimensionally” they are perceived to be in their emotional makeup by the rest of us. Perhaps the explanation for this nearsighted attitude of ours (a one-dimensional attitude if I ever heard of one) is simple.

Perhaps, sometimes, to make a great industrial initiative into a going concern, a “Hank Rearden” can mostly only be concerned with pouring their time and energy and even their health into ensuring that their life’s work becomes an enterprise that survives them and that succeeds in fulfilling their vision.

While the rest of us play video games and network socially, they are the ones that enable us to do so. But many of us will never know it, let alone acknowledge it.

We did not move from using rocks to crack open nuts to solving the riddles of the universe by chance. The efforts of a lot of people were involved.

The problems start with a lack of knowledge of our social and technological history and when we thus lose sight of the implications of that knowledge. This is especially true when our political class ignores history, and seemingly wallows in its own ignorance as being somehow capable of offering a ‘solution’.

Meanwhile, these politicians are gambling with our lives and prosperity, risking the well-being of hard-working individuals in thoughtless policies designed merely to secure reelection.

I might add to J. Patrick Rhamey Jr.’s quote that when The Federal Reserve does essentially the same thing that the politicians are doing, no good can come of it. Pissing away our personal inheritance is one thing when we do it has individuals —— pissing our societal inheritance away when the political and bureaucratic class do it on our behalf is another.

Americans are growing tired of politicians gambling away their prosperity to preserve their own power. The crowd in Reno applauded as Ellis Wyatt walked away, not because he was some great hero, but because they understood the pain of working tirelessly while a reckless and unproductive government needlessly spends away the results of your labor and rewards your hard work with mounting regulations.

The idea of walking away has become attractive — and indeed, Americans are increasingly leaving the United States for opportunities abroad, with record numbers emigrating to Australia and East Asia.

I certainly hope this does not become a trend, because the inner cities have already suffered the blight that comes with “walking away”. If the same thing happens to the American nation, then there really is no hope. The Hank Rearden-s will not come back, once they have been driven away. The communists found that out the hard way.

I am forced to agree with J. Patrick Rhamey Jr.’s conclusion:

So long as Ayn Rand’s villains continue to resemble the reality in Washington, the story of Atlas Shrugged will remain popular.

The average American may not be a powerful railroad executive or steel magnate, but most believe they are entitled to the fruits of their labor.

Many are beginning to realize that their future is being gambled away by politicians whose only risk is losing the votes of the individuals who have lost everything.

pussum207 April 19, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Didn’t realize I was being polite. I’ll have to work on that :).

A. Viirlaid April 19, 2011 at 5:33 pm

No pussum207 don’t work on it — IMO you are balanced and fair.

Stay with it. You will be more effective with your relatively restrained language than others.

At least compared to people like me, given my occasional stridency.

For example, one can only be so effective, given my calling FED officers “clowns” and “money-printing perverts”.

Or, for example, quoting myself here from the above:

… when The Federal Reserve does essentially the same thing that the politicians are doing, no good can come of it. Pissing away our personal inheritance is one thing when we do it as individuals —— pissing our societal inheritance away when the political and bureaucratic class does it on our behalf is another.

pariah1 April 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Hmmm…Rhamey is reviewing a movie that his parents saw in Reno on Saturday. Apparently he didn’t meet up with them there, but he knows how the audience in Reno reacted. What he doesn’t seem to know or care about is how the audience reacted in the theatre in which he saw it. Or did he even see it? He doesn’t say so. Maybe his parents should have written this “review.”

As to Rand’s “obscure moral code”, what exactly is obscure about holding that man’s primary values should be his own life and happiness? Or that he ought to relate to his fellow man by offering values in voluntary exchange, rather than using force or the threat of force? Early fans of Atlas in the ‘60s referred to that aspect of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism as the “non-aggression axiom.” Isn’t that the basis for modern libertarianism? And wouldn’t that explain why David Nolan, Bob Poole, Manny Klausner, John Hospers, Jim Blanchard, Harry Browne, and numerous other early (pre-Party) libertarians were all ardent Rand fans? As I recall Manny Klauser’s first issue of Reason magazine was devoted to Rand. And the demand for that issue was so strong that he subsequently had it reprinted and offered it free in his later promos.

Now has Rhamey actually read Atlas so that he can realistically compare the book with the corresponding movie script? He implies so by comparing a bit of wording, but doesn’t say so. Certainly he doesn’t maintain that he has thoroughly studied John Galt’s speech that explicitly sets forth Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, and is thus able to identify what elements of her philosophy, he, not anonymous others, finds “idiosyncratic” and “distasteful.” (We’re all too familiar with the old journalistic ploy of putting your own views in the mouths of anonymous others in order to avoid being challenged as biased or opinionated, aren’t we?)

Despite the fact that Rhamey commends the producer of an alleged “mediocre”, low-budget movie that is based on the writings of some defunct weirdo with a bent for identifying villains and their actions in government, it sounds to me like it’s not worth paying to see. And that may well be the intended bottom line for this not-so-subtle hatchet job.

So, I will pay to see it, even if that means a trip to Reno. Who knows, maybe, the flick is indeed mediocre and I’ll have to eat crow on that point.

Jacob Steelman April 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I am one of those who voted with my feet and left the United States for Australia 14 years ago. I read Atlas Shrugged in the early 1970s when a railroad, the New York Central, went bankrupt. At the time it was the largest bankruptcy in the USA, if not the world. It was dismantled and nationalized as Conrail, Amtrak, various state railways and other parts were sold off. It happened as Rand depicted in her book. Ever since during my business career and travels around the world I find it interesting to quietly analyze those with whom I am dealing or socializing to see which one of Rand’s characters they most nearly mirror. Rand’s depictions are amazing, her characters timeless and borderless.

A. Viirlaid April 19, 2011 at 6:10 pm

From Jacob Steelman

I find it interesting to quietly analyze those with whom I am dealing or socializing to see which one of Rand’s characters they most nearly mirror. Rand’s depictions are amazing, her characters timeless and borderless.

Given all the energy, treasure, and blood that America has spent in fighting Communism, especially since the Second World War, and given similar heroic efforts being expended today in “Fighting Terrorism”, one wonders what nation-state- or social-order- “characters” America herself is in danger of “most nearly mirroring”.

IMO the tragedy is that America is moving in a direction that sees her emulating the “character” of her worst nightmare — Communism.

She never lost the Cold War. She accomplished that mission. So what is happening today is not by conscious choice. But I submit that it is real.

IMO the very real danger is in her acquiring the defining characteristics of a Communist, or at least a banana-republic-type, society.

Namely in being overly-indebted, in relying on money-printing to run her financial affairs, in reducing her citizens’ civil liberties, and in wallowing in a dysfunctional morass of morally-compromised social- and political-disorder.

One new dawn, America could find herself with all the attributes of a communist society whilst always having “fought against it”.
In other words, “fighting the fight” will have created the conditions that surreptitiously impose these Communism “characteristics” onto America.

Will we one day lament that “America never recognized the danger of her chosen path”?

Maybe a poorly produced movie about a difficult to read book will become the American wake up call.

Let’s hope so.

But what if the “wake up call” is a “morning in America” that finds us all dispossessed of our property and liberty?

All because of the fear expressed by pussum207 continuing in a trend line to its inevitable conclusion:

We, as a society, are absolutely insistent that other individuals live for US and acquiesce to our taking of their property for OUR purposes.

Jacob Steelman April 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I am much more pessimistic about America hence the reason I came to Australia. America is on the way down rapidly. I see no turn around in America’s future except from the ashes of 100 years in the future. All empires self destruct and collapse. From an overseas perspective America can be viewed no differently than Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia – a huge warfare state engaged in oppression, violence, destruction and killing all around the globe and a huge mercantilistic-corporate welfare state looting the wealth of the American people. The fact that the American people have not revolted shows how soft the American people have become – tolerating murder and destruction of others and looting of their own wealth by their government without massive Vietnam era types of opposition, protests and demonstrations.

A. Viirlaid April 19, 2011 at 8:11 pm


What an indictment !!!

And here I was reproaching myself for “stridency”.

I know America is in trouble, but you give me cause for even more worry.

nate-m April 19, 2011 at 11:54 pm

I am much more pessimistic about America hence the reason I came to Australia. America is on the way down rapidly. I see no turn around in America’s future except from the ashes of 100 years in the future. All empires self destruct and collapse.

Yes. American is el’fuckoed. I don’t see how Australia is a improvement though. Heavy gun control, active censorship of the internet, and all sorts of other things that they do lead me to believe that they are quite a bit further down the road to socialism then the USA is.

From an overseas perspective America can be viewed no differently than Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia – a huge warfare state engaged in oppression, violence, destruction and killing all around the globe and a huge mercantilistic-corporate welfare state looting the wealth of the American people.

Well were do you think that these people get their views? State-ran media runs rampant outside of the USA. We only have NPR and then the ‘corporatist’ media that benefits from government controls. With most places it’s much more blatant were the majority of the media is a direct agency of the government.

Although I suppose Australia did do a good thing and get rid of their TV tax:

The USA is, especially, the European’s scapegoat. I find it amazing that, especially with IP laws and surveillance that a lot of people lambasting the USA have a deeper understanding of our social injustices then their own. It’s actually quite hilarious sometimes.

I don’t know about Australia but in most western countries there is no need for things like ‘Patriot acts’ or presidents pushing for expanding wiretapping laws… those countries citizens had no rights in the first place.

USA is a convenient scapegoat. When Europe crashes and burns it’s going to be entirely their own fault, but they will still blame us. Maybe you’ll get buy due to Australia’s geographic location. I’d certainly rather live their then Germany or France….

The fact that the American people have not revolted shows how soft the American people have become – tolerating murder and destruction of others and looting of their own wealth by their government without massive Vietnam era types of opposition, protests and demonstrations.

The Americans are protesting and revolting. That’s what the ‘Tea Party’ stuff is about. But it’s being actively undermined and suppressed by the powers-that-be. Plus the people don’t understand what they are fighting against. They don’t understand the nature of the state and the cause of their discontent..

Given historical context people won’t start heavily protesting until they can’t afford food. Most people just want to get by and don’t want to be bothered with the politics of oppression. From a individualist perspective this is actually a healthy attitude.

For that to happen in the USA we will need to go through at least 2 major economic disasters (in my guestimation) and then implement price controls for food. Then those price controls will cause widespread shortages and then you’ll see the shit hit the fan.

Then I figure if our country doesn’t split up (which would be the best outcome), we would enter into a truly full-blown WW2-Italian-style fascist state and then all the fear mongering and blame tactics that foreign powers use to divert attention from their own failings will come true.

Tony Fernandez April 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm

The film has negative reviews because film reviewers are typically progressives. I wouldn’t expect many reviewers to give the film a fair shot.

Vedapushpa April 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Rand’s Villains have been there all along human history… but in the so termed modern Democracies where there is no distinct line of demarkation between the ruler and the ruled and more so for the fact of there being Rulers many…. the Villains are at once the ‘ruler and the ruled ”’ as and when it suits their villainy. And the ‘heroic minority’ are the hazy/lazy intellectuals busy making meaning out of the ISMS around – those illogical blurts by najority ‘lobbyists

‘Wait we must – I suppose for the child/children to cry out ‘Emperor has no clothes’ .

Ankur Chawla April 20, 2011 at 3:04 am

I freaking hate all of these goddamn looters like Rep. Jackson. It was so hard for me to read Atlas Shrugged because of how hard I raged when the looters got their way. Producers win, always.

Grammy Moon April 20, 2011 at 5:29 am

For some reason, writers “praising” Rand’s work always seem to feel the need to add in some mindless cheap shots, just to show their “middle-of-the-road,” “I-am-not-a-fawning-Rand-devotee” credentials. This author is no exception.

Whatever one’s view of Rand’s philosophy, it is hardly idiosyncratic or obscure. Aside from being widely read by the general public, Rand is one of the only philosophers I know of to have several academic journals exclusively devoted to the study of her work. Most of the elements of Rand’s philosophy have been around (at least in embryonic form) since Aristotle, and her primary innovation was to put them together in a more coherent way (though some of it is original). The result is similar to Aristotelian philosophy, and its innovations are harldy “idiosyncratic”. In particular, egoism has been around as a moral philosophy at least since the Greeks, and is a major and well-recognised theory in moral philosophy (though Rand certainly put her own stamp on it).

As to the claim that the protagonists in Rand’s novels are “emotionless”, what a bunch of crap. They show more passion for innovation, creativity and love than others experience in ten lifetimes. (Dagny has several passionate love affairs in the book, and shows a great deal of positive emotion and desire with respect to her railroad, and other acts of creativity in the book. Rearden makes his wife a bracelet of his precious metal, just to let her have something made from the first batch poured.) Rand’s novels do not sell because of the villains – quite the opposite. It is Dagny, not James, that holds the reader’s attention. It is Roark, not Toohey, that inspires readers of The Fountainhead.

Notwithstanding the nice things said of Rand and her work in the article, the juvenile and uninformed cheap-shots really detract from it. To the author: Rand was a-thousand-times the writer (and the thinker) you will ever be.

pariah1 April 20, 2011 at 8:37 am

Good post, Grammy Moon. Over the years I’ve asked numerous college kids and recent graduates if they had read Atlas Shrugged. Of the few who had, not one said it was due to some professor’s recommendation or the fact that it was on the required or recommended lists in their humanities courses. Those who knew of Rand’s work, and therefore asked why she was not recommended reading, were told that she was a bad writer, her characters were unrealistic, and that reading anything she had written was a waste of time. No mention was ever made of the fact that, as collectivists, they hated any writer who championed individualism. So I saw the “cheap shots” by the reviewer as simply parroting the college line–i.e., what he had been told by his teachers. Perhaps he will have the courage to join the discussion by replying to my earlier post and yours as well. But I rather doubt that he will.

pussum207 April 20, 2011 at 9:10 am

Good post, Grammy.

I strongly recommend the author of the article (and all other libertarians as well, particularly those packaging themselves, in the recent fashion, as “Smithian” classical liberals in order to appear “respectable”, “reasonable” and not “radical” or disturbingly individualist) read the piece by Lee Harris at http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/5387 . Although I disagree with a good portion of his article (particularly as to what constitutes intellectual respectability and the need for/role of an elite ), he has a very good little section on the role of prestige and the intellectual elite’s ability, particularly in academe or the media, to discipline or discourage heterodox views by withholding prestige or respectability. The last paragraph of the article is particularly noteworthy.

El Tonno April 20, 2011 at 11:12 am

This just in my inbox – The Progress Report

“The Truth About GOP Hero Ayn Rand”

RAND’S PHILOSOPHY: The philosophy, such as it was, which Rand laid out in her novels and essays was a frightful concoction of hyper-egotism, power-worship and anarcho-capitalism. She opposed all forms of welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. She also insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts were the only appropriate arenas for government, and that all taxation should be p urely voluntary. Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between “moochers” and “producers,” with the small group making up the latter generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy, the successful, and the titans of industry. The “moochers” were more or less everyone else, leading TNR’s Jonathan Chait to describe Rand’s thinking as a kind of inverted Marxism. Marx considered wealth creation to result solely from the labor of the masses, and viewed the owners of capital and the economic elite to be parasites feeding off that labor. Rand simply reversed that value judgment, applying the role of “parasite” to everyday working people instead. On the level of personal behavior, the heroes in Rand’s novels commit borderline rape, blow up buildings, and dynamite oil fields — actions which Rand portrays as admirable and virtuous fulfillments of the characters’ personal will and desires. Her early diaries gush with admiration for William Hickman, a serial killer who raped and murdered a young girl. Hickman showed no understanding of “the necessity, meaning or importance of other people,” a trait Rand apparently found quite admirable. For good measure, Rand dismissed the feminist movement as “false” and “phony,” denigrated both Arabs and Native Americans as “savages” (going so far as to say the latter had no rights and that Europeans were right to take North American lands by force) and expressed horror that taxpayer money was being spent on government programs aimed at educating “subnormal children” and helping the handicapped. Needless to say, when Rand told Mike Wallace in 1953 that altruism was evil, that selfishness is a virtue, and that anyone who succumbs to weakness or frailty is unworthy of love, she meant it.

A. Viirlaid April 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm

The Big Lie, from WIKIPEDIA:

The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, for a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”


The question one has to answer, in response to the above quoted text, is simply whether Statists, Collectivists, Socialists, and other well-intentioned Wealth-Redistributors are the ones that create Society’s wealth or not. If they are not, they have no moral say in what is to be redistributed to whom.

Furthermore, the ideas that various individuals, including especially Ayn Rand, bring into this world are what we are here to discuss.

Be suspicious of those who cast aspersions with only one goal —- to so denigrate a person’s Life’s Work, that ALL of that WORK is thereby dismissed.

However if the idea is instead to pick out one idea or a few ideas from many and analyze and denigrate just those, then I have no problem.

But throwing a bucket of black paint, or tarring an entire body of work is pointless —— but much worse, it is unproductive.

So to say that a person is The Devil and that such a person’s ideas deserve no examination, is immoral, unkind, and harmful to all of us, to all Living Things.

Sione April 20, 2011 at 4:43 pm

A Viirland

Thank you for that advice. It is well worth remembering.


A. Viirlaid April 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm

To Sione


Joe April 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm

There are very few books that I have read in my life that grab you by the gonads. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was such a book. Here was a book that spoke to me because I kept on saying yes that is true. Someone other than myself was saying things that I felt and believed. There was another person who understood and boy did she understand. I have since read all of her books.
What a breath of fresh air and a person who could defend her positions and philosophy. Her villians in Atlas Shrugged are all around us today. More so than when she wrote the book. They are real villians not made up. They want to rule your life and world and they will use anything and everything to accomplish that. I call them the scum of the earth.
Anyway, Ayn was not perfect but than who really is perfect? They will always try to belittle her because they cannot not face the truth of their shortcomings. Thank you Ayn and with a few more like her we would have a chance.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: