"It is not death that we wish to avoid, but rather life that we want to live"
~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Last week, my wife and I were invited to attend a private screening of Atlas Shrugged Part III, based on a novel written by Ayn Rand and published 1957.
Although I had not yet seen the first two parts of the movie, I couldn’t help from accepting this invitation as Atlas Shrugged is one of my favorite books of all time.
A few years ago, the United States Library of Congress, in conjunction with the Book-of-the-Month Club, took a poll of their readers asking the question "what was the most influential book in your life?". The clear-cut winner was of course the Bible, however the second book on the list was Atlas Shrugged.
The book has sold some 20 million copies and despite being some 50 years old, it continues to be one of the best-selling books in the world to this day.
Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905 and was in her early teens at the outbreak of the Russian revolution in 1917. She witnessed firsthand the transition of Imperialist Russia to Communist Russia under Lenin.
Under Communist rule, her family’s business was confiscated for the "the good of the state" and the family was "displaced" to the Crimea Peninsula where she attended the Petrograd University while studying history.
In the fall of 1925, Rand was granted a visa to travel to America to visit relatives and she arrived in New York in February of 1926.
Ayn Rand never intended to return to Russia and instead moved to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, which was no small task due to her lack of English proficiency. She struggled to make a living but did meet a young actor by the name of Frank O’Connor whom she married in 1929 subsequently becoming an American citizen in 1931.
In the 1930’s she was moderately successful writing screenplays for several large studios in Hollywood but also published her first novel, a semi-autobiographical account, We the Living, in 1936. In 1940, her second novel, Anthem, was published. Both of these early works did not initially sell, but due to Rand’s later notoriety, both books have now sold over 3 million copies.
During the 1940’s Ayn Rand and her husband became politically active which gave her the opportunity to meet and associate with several intellectuals who espoused the ideas of free-market capitalism.
Ayn Rand’s first real commercial success came in 1943 with the release of The Fountainhead.
The book was based on a central character named Howard Roark, an architect of great skill and vision. Roark found himself in artistic purgatory, buried in a system of bureaucratic red-tape and conforming attitudes among his peers and the critics.
The book was a blockbuster hit which catapulted Ayn Rand into fame and life-changing wealth.
No longer needing to work full-time, over the next decade, she was able to devote a full-time effort in her work as an anti-communist spokesperson and a free-market supporter.
In 1951, she moved back to New York City and began writing her comprehensive novel surrounded by sympathetic admirers in a group known as the "collective" which included writers, philosophers and economists of whom which she entrusted as active advisors during her writing of Atlas Shrugged.
Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, which despite all of the negative media reviews, became an instant worldwide best-seller.
The book is set in futuristic dystopian United States where government policies have destroyed the capitalistic foundations of the economy.
The protagonist is Dagney Taggert who runs the Taggert Railroad, the only means of transportation left. Dagney is shown as a strong person who is intent on building her railroad despite the anti-business actions and regulations of the government.
The villain is James Taggert, Dagney’s inept brother who believes that it is only through more government that his wealth and power can be maintained.
Dagney aligns herself with other staunch capitalists such as Hank Reardon, the inventor and sole producer of a new type of "super metal" that replaces ordinary steel, Ellis Wyatt, oil wildcatter who has developed a new method of pumping oil that revitalizes old oil fields, and Francisco d’Anconia who copper mines produce much of the world’s copper.
While her brother James, has aligned himself with the political machine of Washington and owners of other corporations that believe in maintaining the status quo as opposed to developing new technologies. These men create laws and regulations to legally take the inventions of others under the guise of "the good of the people and nation" and/or tax their profits to give to those with more need.
A classic struggle is waged between the innovators and government "looters".
[Spoiler Alert - click here to skip the next several paragraphs if you don’t want to know the ending of the book]
Finally in desperation, the producers are compelled to stop working by striking and join a secret counter-movement.
The leader of this counter-movement is John Galt, a mysterious yet brilliant man who decided that he would not participate in this type of society where capitalism is vilified in lieu of socialism.
John Galt left the world behind to create a new Utopian society where men and women are free to ply their trades, producing goods and offering services in a pure capitalistic free-market and devoid of any government interference.
After much reluctance, Dagney and her allies, finally agree to join John Galt and the others but not before he takes to the airwaves giving a long speech denouncing the evils of government, academia, collectivism, and religious organizations while championing the virtues of self-interest, profits, morality, free-will, and the power of innovation.
This speech is the very essence of a new capitalistic philosophy espoused by Ayn Rand and is later coined "objectivism".
The reason that this type of work appeals to so many people, is that they see themselves in the same type of struggle against the ever growing long-arm of the government.
The basic themes found in Atlas Shrugged are the basis of the modern Libertarian, Tea, and Republican parties (except that objectivism also denounces all forms of God and religion... so these special interest group only accept certain elements of objectivism while rejecting others) offering a smaller and less restrictive government with less taxes being paid.
The problem with the pure ideas of socialism and/or objectivism is that these two diametrically opposed viewpoints are on the polar ends of the political / economical spectra.
What a majority of the people want is a blend of strong business ideals and basic governmental services.
Very few people want a pure socialistic society where hard work (i.e. profits) are redistributed to those who refuse to work or restricting the opportunities to better one’s self and family... nor do they want a society where profits are generated by polluting the environment, abusing workers, and/or creating monopolies that drive off competition.
Most people of the world are united in wanting the same basic things:
Freedoms of speech and travel, security for themselves and their family, safe food, clean water, access to education, roads and infrastructure, access to medical care, the opportunity to better one’s self through hard work, the autonomy to think for ourselves and freedom to make a difference in the world.
Most of us would agree that our government has now grown beyond that envisioned by our founding fathers but is still a long way from the oppressive rule of places like North Korea, Cuba or Mauritania (where still in 2014, slavery is still accepted and practiced).
Many would also agree that those (individuals and corporations) with wealth have some moral obligations to reinvest some of those profits to help better society as a whole.
The world is not the black typed words on a white page but rather a shade of grey...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we support freedom and the free-thinkers whose ideas move the world.
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter - @OptiFuse
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com