I finally finished reading the novel “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand – all 1165 pages!
Despite finding Rand’s writing style repetitive and superfluous the content was quite entertaining – particularly the relationship between the political, social, and economic sentiment of today and that of the novel (written in 1957). After conducting my own online investigation (Ayn Rand – CNN), I realized that there is an entire subculture devoted to objectivity and intellectualism; mostly composed of Gen Yers and Gen Xers – who I suppose have found themselves drawn to the libertarian movement that is gaining increasingly popularity in America.
One of the major themes within the novel that caught my attention was Rand’s commitment to defending the private ownership of technology. While I agree that each individual should prosper from his or her own efforts, I am not entirely convinced that society will lose its motive power and entire productive capacity through socialization of some functions. Within the 21st century we have seen drastic changes in the way that we think about production and idea generation – particularly with the large assimilation of people on the internet. In 1957, intangible assets were not valued in the same way that they are now – particularly considering that virtual assets like a website or social network did not exist in the same capacity. Clearly, ideas are better off in the private domain; however, there are strategic functions and societal needs that must be delivered publicly because they may not be economical under merchant principles i.e corn subsidies (over production), rail roads (oligopoly), banking (lender of last resort principle), and utility services (water).
I would love to see how Rand respond to the likes of Sergei Brin and Larry Page – the founders of the now multi-billion dollar company Google. Would they be invited to John Galt’s secret oasis? If so, what role would Sergei or Larry play in a society solely created for production and consumption? I imagine a secret island filled with individuals who benefit from free electricity, wireless internet, and laptops – everyone would also be addicted to World of Warcraft.
Despite our differences in prose and opine, I completely agree with Rand’s philosophy that the critical input of society is human intelligence. Without the human mind and exploration of ideas we would all inevitably perish. In fact, we would probably starve to death after a few weeks without the productive capacity to create food or build shelter. This is why it is absolutely critical to have societal rewards and incentives that allow those who improve the productive capacity of the world to prosper and those who do not……well….I guess that is something that we still need to work out!
All in all, I found the book to be an interesting read. I would recommend it to others who have an appetite for intellectual debate and can bear over 1000+ pages of intense writing.
In association with this blog I have included several resources below that I find particularly interesting – hopefully you find them insightful as well.
I would like to note that while there are some lessons to be learned from reading a wide variety of works – the ideas, concepts, or philosophy of any author, by no means whatsoever, defines my individual character nor does it represent my personal approach to life.