Climbing the Mountain of Atlas Shrugged

As sharp-eyed readers may have noticed from my sidebar, I’ve decided to take up the challenge of reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged – all 1,074 pages of it, in my softcover edition. Say what you will about the woman, but no one will ever accuse her of failing to deliver a low price-to-word ratio.

I’ve expressed my differences with Ms. Rand in the past, but I can’t see any harm in giving her one last shot at changing my mind – and this book may be the subject of another chapter-by-chapter review, probably sometime next year after the current The Language of God series is completed. So, will Atlas Shrugged turn me into a jargon-spewing Randroid? Will it lead me to a nuanced and thoughtful libertarianism? We’ll have to wait and see!

This is an open thread. Has anyone else actually read this entire book? What did you think of it, if so?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Mark

    I read it maybe 30 years ago when I was in High School. At the time I was mostly impressed with what I saw as the outrage at the Orwellian abuses of the government vs. the individual person. Some of the imagery called to mind those old art deco representations of trains and industry and was effective. The whole homage to selfishness never appealed to me – regardless of any characterization of helping other people as some horrible, self defeating, parasite encouraging undertaking, there really is a need to do that sometimes. The story moved along and held my interest, though. Ultimately, it seemed to be about someone deciding to destroy the world because he felt unappreciated – kind of extreme if you ask me. I haven’t reread it since so perhaps I’d see it differently now.

  • Gordon

    I read it soon after college…I’m 68 now. At the time I read it, I liked it. I thought its ideas were powerful and clear. I wouldn’t have called myself a Randian but I supported many of the concepts. Now I think Atlas Shrugged is utter nonsense. The ideas are unworkable and produce chaos in the real world. You should read it since Randians have returned to torment us with their nonsense. You need to know what is in their heads.

  • Andrew

    The work is at times interesting. But the writing is wordy and at times evokes laughter when Rand is trying to be serious. It’s worth a read to say you did it, it has some redeeming qualities, but the book is twice as long as it needs to be and didactic to the point of frustration–how Christians can get behind this book is beyond me.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    I read The Fountainhead, never got around to Atlas Shrugged. I had a sneaking suspicion throughout the whole book (and afterward) that I was finding the “wrong” characters sympathetic. In general I think I like about 90% of Ayn Rand’s attitude and am creeped out by the rest.

  • David

    Just read Nietzsche. It is far better, far more intelligent and insightful.

  • A’Llyn

    I read it when I was maybe 17 or 18. I remember I enjoyed it at the time, although I was dubious about how well the ideas it presented would work out for most people in real life. I remember trying to think of some way that it would be workable to NOT be stupendously talented in that world, and yet still have an OK life.

    I found her writing style entertaining, though (I second the comment about it calling up “art deco representations of trains and industry”), which I think is why I enjoyed it. I read The Fountainhead and Anthem a couple of years later, with the same general result.

    Haven’t reread anything of hers since, so I’m not sure what I’d think now.

  • Mark c.

    I read it around my first year of college, just a handful of years ago. At the time, I thought it was brilliant, and I became something of a Randroid. I went to Objectivist websites and spewed the rhetoric. I met with a fellow Objectivist at my university and I only wanted an Objectivist for a girlfriend. It didn’t take more than a year or two (two at most) before I realized that there were some glaring fallacies in Rand’s and other Objectivists’ works. But what really jarred me, I think, were two things: a long forum discussion I had with a non-Objectivist school teacher (I don’t remember the details), and the realization that Rand’s reasoning, because it was so poor and because there were so many equivocations, could justify any action whatsoever. I became something of a small-L right libertarian after that before realizing that clinging exclusively to those ideas was also nutty, mostly given the emphasis on non-existent so-called “natural rights”. I have no idea how I’d be categorized now, but I’m all about well-being and fairness, though the latter doesn’t get subordinated to the issue of rights.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    I’ve read it twice – although both times I skipped the 40 page radio speech towards the end of the book (I suggest you skip it, too – it’s just the author preaching).

    I enjoyed the plot, and even though the characters are 2-dimensional they are still iconic and appealing. It’s a good story, if rather over-long.

    There is a train accident around the middle or so, which lays bare the ugliness behind her views, but if you just skim that part, you can enjoy the book without thinking about it too much.

  • Charlie

    I loved Atlas Shrugged, but like Yahtzi said, the speech at the end is brutal. I barely made it through, and that’s coming from someone who enjoyed the book. Skip it unless you’re ocd like me and the thought of not reading every single page drives you crazy :)

  • Ben O.

    I read it 20 or so years ago, and it is one of those books that makes you think, and stays with you. But Paul Krugman summed it up far better than I could:

    “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.”

  • Janothar

    Check out The New Scum. He’s Slacktivizing Atlas Shrugged. So the rest of us don’t have to.

  • http://www.commonsensethoughtcontrol.com Tawnos

    I have read both it and The Fountainhead, fully. The Fountainhead was better, in my opinion. I could go on about it, but I’ll suffice it to say that I enjoy part of what she says, and think part of it is completely unfeasible in the real world, not to mention an unrealistic portrayal.

  • bbk

    I hate it so much I’m just going to save you the trouble by providing a spoiler: the world falls apart because nobody listened to the titans of industry. Bitter, they form a secret society in a remote valley powered by Galt’s perpetual motion machine. Which powers a cloaking device that makes their village appear as an impenetrable mountain. But the really important part, which Rand painfully explains as if to a five year old that she’s trying to torture, is the pure, unadulterated economic system that, once perfected, made all the other achievements effortless. The titans of industry simply rolled up their own sleeves and solved every remaining challenge facing mankind by tinkering on the front porches of their cottages. The real book ends with the tunnel disaster where Rand’s creepy revenge fantasy gets fulfilled. It’s Animal Farm as told by Napoleon: Snowball dies a horrible death and Napoleon builds the greatest windmill ever known.

  • http://www.commonsensethoughtcontrol.com Tawnos

    I’ll counterpoint bbk with this:
    The world falls is in a weakened financial state from a series of policies that have rewarded non-work at the same level as work. Frustrated by the increasingly burdensome policies, those who have headed many of the large companies decide to opt-out of heading up their companies, and move to a secluded valley where they establish a private commercial system. There, they use nuclear power “Galt’s perpetual motion machine” (as bbk calls it) to stop being bothered by those who want a cut of everything they make.

    While this is going on, the government is taking over more and more of their old industries. When confronted with something it doesn’t want to hear, government leaders say “screw it” and press on anyway, leading to the death of many civilians. That’s the train incident, where those who don’t really have a lot of knowledge about the trains legislatively demand they be run, despite the fact the only available train is coal, and therefore unsafe to use in the tunnel they desire to use it in. The government forces the issue, and everyone on the train dies from asphyxiation.

    As things are falling apart, the government officials ask for help in solving the problem. The answer they are given is one they dislike, because it was essentially “stop taxing us so much, and let us do our jobs” (remember, at the time this was written, the top marginal tax rate was something like 80 or 90%). So, they keep going on with their policies, ignoring any plan that doesn’t fit a model they’ve already decided is true, and eventually cause things to collapse. As a result, the leaders decide to send out a broadcast for anyone who wants to listen. It’s a long schpiel about their belief in monetary policy (amazingly(?), it rants about replacing gold with paper before Nixon dropped the gold standard in 1971). Many of the leaps of logic are somewhat incredulous, and it certainly requires a system of near-perfect information in order to be feasible. However, I think there are a few good points in the book, but you have to serve them with water. In their natural state, they are too potent as to be poisonous and don’t consider the means by which real people act.

  • Scotlyn

    My college education was obviously stunted by my complete ignorance of the existence of Ayn Rand and all her works. I only became aware of libertarianism as a movement or a trend of thought, within the past couple of years through discussions with my brother-in-law, who is a Christian businessman with a libertarian bent.

    It seemed odd to me, in that few other Christians I have met would want to “aspire” to selfishness and his main arguments appeared to boil down to mere justifications for why the rich need to be protected from the poor, and why the strong need to be protected from the weak. Both of which points seemed to me to be utterly repugnant. Although, on reflection, when I looked around, I quickly saw that both of these points are being raised regularly (if not overtly) in what passes for political/economic debate.

    I look forward to any posts you might put out on this book, which is clearly influential. I don’t know if I would want to attempt it myself.

  • http://ornerypest.diaryland.com/ OrneryPest

    I’ve read it. Ayn Rand is partly right about some aspects of the economy (land, labor, and capital) but she misses the essential feature that makes land fundamentally different from labor and capital. (Read Progress And Poverty by Henry George for more on this.) She appears to hold the view that more productive people have the right to oppress less productive people, over and above the right to just be richer.

  • Katie M

    The only Rand books I’ve read are We the Living and Anthem. I don’t think I could stomach either Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I too have read it. It was given to me by a coworker who is a libertarian, and I was fully prepared for the crazy from some of the conversations we had had before he gave it to me. It’s basically a superhero story, and a bad one at that. The best and brightest are perfect in everything they do and Rand seems to want for these superheroes to exist and to rule the world and tell all the rest of us what’s best. If we all simply listen to them and do as they want us to do, we’ll all be fine.

    Also, her conceptions of love and romance are rather stunted and infantile.

  • Kaelik

    Rand fails to realize that in her fictional society, she isn’t a titan of industry, and never was. Her specialty was conning people out of money, which she did when she first came to America and convinced her family there to lend her several thousand dollars which she never payed off.

    Everyone universally thinks the world would be better if the smart elite who know what they are doing make all the decisions. Everyone also universally thinks that they are a member of the smart elite who knows what should happen.

    Any Rand isn’t one of her own elite. She’s a leech on the back of the Titan’s of Industry, and she would be disposed off as soon as everyone agreed to the new system.

    My desire to read yet another fantasy about the smart people taking over.

  • Fargus

    All you need to look at to refute Randian ideology is the real world. More and more the “titans of industry” aren’t super-learned men and women who’ve rolled up their sleeves and produced things that the world really needed. Now, they’re overgrown adolescents who went to just enough business school to forget that they have no idea what they’re doing.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I also read it about 20 years ago. None of the details have stuck with me, only the glorification of overwhelming selfishness, and an attempt at a justification for complete disregard of the wellbeing of one's fellow human beings. Feh. I had a friend who began reading it, but only got about halfway through. He was so disgusted that he hurled the book across the room, and never read any farther. Perhaps I should have done the same, and spent the time on a more worthwhile book. I guess I’m glad I read it once, but I won’t be reading it again, or any of Rand’s other writings for that matter.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Rand fails to realize that in her fictional society, she isn’t a titan of industry, and never was. Her specialty was conning people out of money, which she did when she first came to America and convinced her family there to lend her several thousand dollars which she never payed off.

    Well, she was smart enough to figure this out: she would never have gotten rich by telling poor people it is morally acceptable to be poor.

    I read it a couple decades ago. The biggest lesson to be learned from Atlas Shrugged is for novelists: don’t let your characters get caught monologuing.

  • Quath

    My mother is pretty religious (Christian) and she recommended this book to me. I thought it was odd since I knew that Ayn Rand was an atheist. So I read it (had to skim the speech at the end).

    The emotional message is that hard work should pay off and in a utopia that will happen. She did that part well. However, in detailing her utopia, I just saw flaw after flaw. One big problem was that the final utopia looked more like a commune than a capitalist society full of competition.

  • Elizabeth

    …But the writing is wordy

    Holy cow, is that the understatement of the century! I read it about 10 years ago, when a couple of coworkers and I decided to do so and discuss it. I was the only one who finished it. I wanted to cry when I finally made it through the (in my version) 50-page radio broadcast.
    Painful doesn’t begin to describe reading that book. The Fountainhead, I think, said exactly the same thing with a lot less book.
    Not that I’m recommending that book either!
    We did have fun saying “Who is John Galt” a lot, though.

  • bbk

    One big problem was that the final utopia looked more like a commune than a capitalist society full of competition.

    That’s not the only similarity to Communism. The deification of work is eerily similar. There’s only a slight difference in attribution – instead of the worker being the moral breadwinner of society, Rand thinks the title belongs to the heads of industry. It’s like a Calvinist Communism.

    But what really vexed me about her version of a City Upon a Hill is the complete absurdity of her entire premise. Apparently, these titans were not only the breadwinners of her society, they were actually burdened by the seas of workers that mindlessly toiled for them in their former industries. Look at how much more productive they became once they gave up pointless pursuits such as job creation. Rand really thinks that her titans gained nothing from employing workers. Everything trickled down from the top. The most ridiculous part about her titans is that they could have done that in the first place. Instead of cultivating vast industrial empires, these people could have just sat around their homes and invented their perpetual motion machines all by themselves. No need for a secret City On A Hill. But Rand thinks that poor people are so insidiously evil that even that would have been impossible.

    There, they use nuclear power “Galt’s perpetual motion machine” (as bbk calls it)

    The machine worked by collecting “atmospheric” static electricity, of which there was an inexhaustible supply. It’s a perpetual motion machine: it violates the first law of thermodynamics. Rand was probably one of those people who thought that if you pinched an electrical wire, the electrons would stop flowing. So what do you call the cloaking mechanism? A mushroom cloud? But no matter – the conclusion speaks volumes about Rand’s narrow minded and incurious nature. Once she decided that her pet theories would save the world, she didn’t actually give a damn about how those ideas would actually work out in real life. Everything would sort of just take care of itself. Her deified economic ideology was imbued with magical powers.

  • http://daylightatheism.org J. James

    Rand does have a few good points though. I think her analysis of government being simultaneously incompetent at accomplishing what they set out to accomplish(utopia, protecting the poor, etc.) and ending up with totalitarianism is pretty accurate, if not obvious.

  • http://ggracchus.blogspot.com/ Gaius Gracchus

    Forty years ago, when I was in high school.

    My sister’s boyfriend and future husband suggested it.

    He was then a convinced Randian.

    But I thought she was a crazy, greedy bitch who talked a lot of rot about everything.

    Though I agreed with her atheism.

    Heck, so did Bertrand Russell, noted lifelong leftist.

  • TomG

    I’m surprised that no one has really brought up Ayn’s aggressive atheism.
    Yes, her novels are pretty easy targets of ridicule. But if you read what she has said and written about religions and priests, she presented a strong defense of the morality of atheism YEARS before Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.
    I won’t defend every extreme viewpoint she held, but I do admire her willingness to vociferously challenge the hegemony of the established churches.

  • Alex Weaver

    All you need to look at to refute Randian ideology is the real world. More and more the “titans of industry” aren’t super-learned men and women who’ve rolled up their sleeves and produced things that the world really needed. Now, they’re overgrown adolescents who went to just enough business school to forget that they have no idea what they’re doing.

    To what extent was that ever not true?

  • http://www.commonsensethoughtcontrol.com Tim

    Bbk, there are certainly science fiction aspects to it, but the idea of Galt’s machine was most certainly brought about by her study of Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb.

  • Fargus

    To what extent was that ever not true?

    True, true. I stand corrected.

    I guess what I was referring to with “now” was the heavy role of the financial industry on our economy, where people are messing with economic forces that nobody even pretends to understand, and all in the pursuit of moving money around to turn it into more money. They’re not even pretending to make anything anymore.

  • Naked Ape

    John Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey has the best summary on this topic of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ that I have seen so far:

    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.

    original here: http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2009/03/ephemera-2009-7.html

  • Douglas Kirk

    Fantastic quote naked ape. After reading the comments at ebon’s other objectivist post, I can see just how terrifyingly on the nose that is.

  • David

    Anyone want to take bets on how long before the first Randroid shows up? Speak of the Rand and they appear.

  • bbk

    Bbk, there are certainly science fiction aspects to it, but the idea of Galt’s machine was most certainly brought about by her study of Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb.

    That doesn’t change Galt’s machine. Just makes it worse – it says that she couldn’t tell the difference between nuclear energy and perpetual motion. That’s in keeping with every Objectivist I ever met: they all share an inability to grasp the concept of economic externalities. I’ve always suspected that this was rooted in sociopathy.

    I’m surprised that no one has really brought up Ayn’s aggressive atheism.

    She was influential, but her influence was not in the area of atheism. So were many Communists. So is Karl Rove. I’m satisfied in differentiating myself from them by the fact that these crazies deify their leaders and worship their unfalsifiable socio-political ideology like some Millenarian cult.

  • Jormungund

    Will it lead me to a nuanced and thoughtful libertarianism?

    I should hope that this isn’t an implication that libertarians are Objectivists or vice-versa.

  • Chris

    Apparently, these titans were not only the breadwinners of her society, they were actually burdened by the seas of workers that mindlessly toiled for them in their former industries.

    They were also apparently burdened by the people who made their lunch, did their laundry, etc. Does Galt start doing all those things himself? Invention is important, but it isn’t the only thing that’s important; you still need someone to implement the idea and do lots of other mundane, inglorious, necessary work. But if Rand admitted that the hewers of wood and drawers of water were necessary to the continuation of Galt’s existence, then she’d be forced to the conclusion that he needs them just as much as vice versa, at which point her whole idee fixe falls apart.

    You can’t live in a blueprint or eat a recipe. Implementation matters. And furthermore, it has to be *competent* implementation, or the actual object that exists and that you are trying to use won’t live up to the potential of the plan. There’s a lot of work, and skilled work at that, between a great idea and it providing actual use to someone.

    Ironically, the same reasoning even applies to Rand’s own trade; only one person at a time could read her manuscript, but with the labor of many others, printed and bound copies can be made and distributed all over the world and allow millions of people to receive the benefit (?) of her ideas.

  • Orion

    I’ll chime in to say it has value in an arena that hasn’t been commented on yet: on an entirely different level from the preaching on economics and policy, it’s also about relationships and society. Now, her teachings there are *also wrong*, and in many cases despicable; the protagonists makes essentially no attempt to help someone who ends up committing suicide when she has plenty of opportunity.

    But, the problems that Rand identifies–that people can be stifled by guilt and conventionality–are vididly rendered and, I think, of legitimate concern.

  • heliobates

    Let’s be clear about something: Rand intended her novels as a sort of “working out” of her (ahem) philosophy.

    So this Objectivist, who prides herself on unflinching (atheistic) rationalism[1], can only demonstrate the validity of her worldview by writing a fantasy novel in which her idealized society comes about as the result of deus ex machina. That’s right, her utopia doesn’t exist without magic.

    Not really sure why anyone pays any attention to her at all.

    [1] We could fill a book with an analysis of how her parcissistic personality disorder informed every aspect of her philosophy. And don’t get me started on her ridiculous misogyny.

  • Roy

    I’ve read it twice, separated by 30 years. I see only one previous comment about what I thought of it: A rather lengthy diatribe about “moochers” and “looters”. A class of people filled with wealth envy who want the benefits of modern society without working for them and a government willing to provide those benefits in exchange for the power to do so.
    The combination drives the producers to give up (shrug). These leaders of industry valued all the common workers who pitched in to help. What they especially didn’t like was a government boot on their necks and the policies their competitors begged for (and got) to even the playing field. Kinda like crabs in a bucket.

  • bbk

    @Roy: you mean it’s about libertarians and Republicans?

  • lpetrich

    Seems to me that Randism is like Marxism, but with different identifications of the working and exploiting classes. Tawnos’s and Ray’s comments show it very clearly. The proletariat is the captains of industry, while the bourgeoisie is the “looters” and “moochers”, who seem to be just about everybody else.

  • http://www.commonsensethoughtcontrol.com Tim

    Bbk, do you hate all science fiction because it uses implausible or impossible ideas as a story element? Or is that loathing reserved for those who offend your sense of politics?

  • Karen

    That Krugman quote (if indeed it is attributed to him) is priceless! So true.

    Like many here, I read it as a teenager after reading The Fountainhead for the compelling storyline/romance, etc. I liked Atlas Shrugged much less and also found myself skimming the speech at the end, which gets terribly tedious.

    As an evangelical back in those days, I found Rand’s philosophy both riveting and repulsive. It goes against any of the better teachings of Jesus and most Christians I knew then and still know absolutely reject it. To me Christianity and Objectivism (and even libertarianism) are totally incompatible.

    I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on the book after all these years, Adam. I hope you’re able to write a series on it!

  • Nathaniel

    Tim, the difference is that other Sci fi novels don’t claim to have real world prescriptions. Rand claims that her fantasy does.

  • bbk

    Tim, okay, if that’s what you call science fiction then you can be sure that I won’t be interested. Heliobates nailed it when he mentioned deus ex machina. The only pieces that resemble science fiction are incredibly annoying, banal plot devices that should insult anyone’s intelligence. The book is a cheap economic fantasy, if anything. These scientifically impossible moments don’t add to the story, they just manage to kill whatever hope the reader might have had for finding a believable moral or economic insight that could actually be applied to real life. Food for thought is all I was looking for.

    The characters were flat, predictable, and inhuman, but the lead up to the conclusion was pretty suspenseful. She develops a scenario where some freeloaders manage to pry power and wealth away from her titans and we hope that they will come around to save the day. For a few pages of suspended disbelief, I was actually thinking that Rand might come up with some clever solution to her fantasy world’s problems. Instead, all that writing, all my wasted time reading, all those dead trees wasted on printing this garbage book, it all came down to this: anyone who disagrees with Rand will die a tragically ironic death while those who follow her will be rewarded with perpetual motion machines. Here’s why this laughable “science fiction” moment destroys the entire book: if you have perpetual motion, it doesn’t matter what economic system you pick. An economy with unlimited resources and no negative environmental consequences can be exploited indefinitely, we can all be billionaires – nay, who even needs money, just make everything free. It’s a stupid way to conclude a work of fiction that tries to tackle economics.

  • heliobates

    An economy with unlimited resources and no negative environmental consequences can be exploited indefinitely, we can all be billionaires – nay, who even needs money, just make everything free. It’s a stupid way to conclude a work of fiction that tries to tackle economics.

    This! ^^^^

    I acknowledge the need for artistic license and the ways in which certain practical aspects of artistic necessity can blur a writer’s commitment to a particular ethic, but come on! When I propose a coherent philosophy, shouldn’t it at least, yanno, be coherent?

    And when someone who wants her ideas to be taken seriously fails so badly at presenting them seriously, that calls everything about that someone into question, on epistemological grounds, if nothing else.

    Atlas Shrugged is representative of Rand’s failings as a thinker as well as a novelist. I repeat, there’s no reason to take her or Objectivism seriously, since she obviously didn’t.

  • Em

    The art deco train images were definitely the highlight. Okay, and she did a good job of showing how incompetent, entitled people who refuse to admit that they don’t know best can screw things up horribly. What I hated, even when I was a gullible teenager sucked in by the pretty trains and the secret society where everyone recognizes that you’re a persecuted genius (also a big reason for the popularity of Ender’s Game, I suspect), was how she would say sensible things about there being no mystical destiny or magical “feelings” telling you all the answers and then completely contradict that at almost every turn.

    Take that train tunnel incident. So, people are incompetent windbags or pass the buck, and people die. So far, so good for showing how you don’t need deliberate malice to cause horrible tragedies. But then she goes into a rant about how it isn’t true about victims of such horrible accidents being innocents, and tells you how ever person on that train said or did something to contribute to the awful state of their society, so really they brought it on themselves. Seriously. Never mind that in the middle of an economic depression, even a good Randian might have a legitimate reason to be on that train – traveling to a place where they might get a job, for instance. Maybe even a secret job in the secret valley of geniuses. Or that one of the people sh mentions is a mother tucking her kids into the sleeper car, and even Rand doesn’t claim the kids deserved to die. She just hopes you won’t notice them in her catalog of “not-innocents.”

    And when it counts, her protagonists can read minds, or at least have infallible mystical instincts. In The Fountainhead, there’s a line where Dominique explicitly says to herself, “I’ve been raped by Howard Roark.” With the follow-up being essentially, “And it was hot and I feel like I have a special secret now.” Consensual domination/submission scenarios are fine by me, but the way Rand set it up, all Roark knew was that Dominique fought him when he broke into her house at night to jump her bones. So unless he’s a mind-reader or is always magically right, he intended to rape her, and either didn’t see this as a violation of another person’s autonomy, or didn’t care because he’s so special that the world owes him. So it’s hard to take her seriously when she then tells you what a horrible violation of Roark’s rights it is when someone builds his building a bit differently than he drew it. Which, hey, violation of contract is not cool, I agree. But you don’t get to say that non-violent breach of contract which doesn’t cost you money or put you in danger or even hurt your reputation is so much worse than violent assault that you should have the right to blow up the building in retaliation. Even though you have no legal claim over the building, because you’re letting someone secretly use your plans and take credit, which somehow means that you should have (secret) total control and no one who invested money or managed the construction has the right to change anything even though they don’t know you’re involved or that the secret contract exists in the first place. Or something. It’s hard to follow.

    Basically, Rand is all for reason and liberty unless it means her protagonists might not get what they want, in which case anything goes.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I dragged my way through several of her non-fiction works, but I couldn’t get a head of steam up for this monolith. Every time I tried, the embarrassingly awful writing drove me away.

  • Alex Weaver

    Basically, Rand is all for reason and liberty unless it means her protagonists might not get what they want, in which case anything goes.

    So, she truly is the patron saint of “Libertarianism.”

  • http://angel14.com/ evanescent

    It’s been a long time since I visited here – if you remember me, Ebon, you’ll know that I was originally a massive fan of yours (you played a key part in my deconversion years ago). I always considered you a very good writer (I still do), and an intellectual person. It’s no secret that your views of Objectivism and Ayn Rand always thoroughly disappointed me though, and I’m sorry to see that supposed defenders of reason like yourself, don’t get the wonder behind what Rand wrote – and actually discover an ally! (For example, your “Objections to Objectivism” article barely qualifies as a critique – it’s the creationist equivalent of the claim “fish turned into men.”)

    I will say there are too many distortions and inaccuracies about Rand and what she wrote, especially amongst your commenters, but I won’t address them here.

    Personally – I don’t believe Atlas Shrugged is the best book to just pick up and read to understand Rand or Objectivism. If someone is genuinely interested in an honest investigation, I would suggest a series of her shorter non-fiction essays. (This is my opinion).

    I heard that you were reading Atlas Shrugged recently, and genuinely hope/hoped, since I think your website is important for communicating ideas, that regardless of what you thought of it as a book (each to their own), Galt’s speech would have the some intellectual effect on you as it had on me. I was hoping you would read Galt and think “this is a victory for reason, for self-esteem, for man, for capitalism!” and all the goods things you ascribe to humanism.

    Now, if, just IF, Rand was right – and Objectivism is the only objective philosophical foundation to justify man’s view of reality (since metaphysical naturalism fails), his means of cognition (since we are told it’s subjective or at best a matter of probability), his ethics (since altruism is anti-human and leads to collectivism), and therefore his political system (since collectivism leads to statism and slavery) – do you not think it deserves a little more an honest and constructive consideration than (I believe) you have presented on your site?

    I challenge you to present a brief summary of your understanding of Objectivist metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics – and demonstrate from bottom up why Rand failed to get it right. In scanning some of your more recent articles I am truly shocked to see your concession to moral relativism and how you think anything you say subsequently can be considered meaningful? If someone like you cannot see the inherent nihilism and contradiction of subjectivism, what hope for the rest…

    Do you not challenge creationists to debunk evolution – by demonstrating that they actually understand it, and showing not only its internal contradictions but how their alternative is necessarily true? You show the same level of understanding and appreciation of Objectivism (and philosophy) as creationists do of evolution. There’s a sobering thought…

    If, you’d like to take this to private e-mail – please say so. I am much more interested in having a discussion with YOU than your readers (and I won’t be replying to them) – since it’s fundamental ideas I wish to get to.

  • Velma

    I read Atlas Shrugged along with the Fountainhead one summer in the early 1960′s when I was in high school. While I was infatuated by the character of John Galt as I read the book, the thing I found most interesting was the reopening of my interest in faith based philosophies. Her denial of these beliefs was so adamant that I found myself back in church and singing in the choir. When Rand’s Rants can take a high school agnostic and turn her into a Christian perhaps her teachings need a reread.