Atlas Shrugged: Trust-Busting


Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIAs Hank finishes dressing and goes downstairs to the party he's dreading (which is being thrown, remember, to celebrate his wedding anniversary), his mind is elsewhere. He's dwelling on a newspaper editorial he read earlier, about a proposed "Equalization of Opportunity" bill:The editorial said that at a time of dwindling production, shrinking markets and vanishing opportunities to make a living, it was unfair to let one man hoard several business … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: You’ll Never Fail Like Common People


Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VAmerica loves rags-to-riches stories. The idea of the U.S.A. as a land of opportunity is deeply ingrained in our national self-image - we want to believe those Horatio Alger fairytales about how any poor-but-honest young boy with pluck, grit and spunk can start out by sweeping floors and rise to the executive boardroom.No surprise, Ayn Rand is a passionate devotee of this idea. But this does make it all the more surprising that she chooses to write her … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Invention of Fire


Atlas Shrugged, p.63-64To finish out this section, there's a short scene in the Taggart Terminal at night (the same place where the statue of Nat Taggart stands that Dagny uses for ancestor worship). She's leaving work after an argument with Jim, who's found out that she's only running a few old and broken-down trains on the San Sebastian Line, but who, as always, refuses to take the responsibility of changing anything when she invites him to.In the corner of the concourse, by the main … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Corporate Philanthropy

Atlas Shrugged, p.46-47I've got one more point to make about Hank Rearden, and then we'll move on to the next scene. Hank's brother, Philip, asks him to donate money to a charity he's working for, an group called "Friends of Global Progress":Rearden had never been able to keep track of the many organizations to which Philip belonged, nor to get a clear idea of their activities. He had heard Philip talking vaguely about this one for the last six months. It seemed to be devoted to some … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: World’s Worst Boss


Atlas Shrugged, p.34-37It's late at night when the first pouring of metal is done, and Hank Rearden is walking home from his mills and reminiscing. He's reflecting on his past and his climb up the corporate ladder, which gives us a rare opportunity to examine something Rand doesn't discuss much: her ideas as to how a business should be run.You might think this a strange statement, considering that this is a book about capitalism, but it's true. Rand doesn't spend much time dwelling on … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Intellectual Property

Atlas Shrugged, p.25-32After solving her little railroad problem, Dagny returns to New York to report to her brother, Jim, on the state of the decaying Rio Norte Line. She proposes rebuilding it - actually, that's not right. She's already placed the orders to start rebuilding it, without consulting anyone. More, she's canceled their contract with Jim's preferred supplier, Orren Boyle's Associated Steel, since he never delivers what he promises, and is placing the order with a competitor, … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: A Novel for the 1%

Way back in 2011, I read Ayn Rand's magnum opus Atlas Shrugged - all 1,074 pages of it - with a promise that I'd eventually get around to doing a chapter-by-chapter review, like my review of Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator. I got sidetracked by other projects for a while, but now it's about time to fulfill that promise.If you haven't read Atlas cover-to-cover yourself (and who could blame you?), here's the plot in a nutshell: In a twenty-minutes-into-the-future United States of America, … [Read more...]

The Box Office Shrugs at Atlas Shrugged


Way back in 2011, I wrote about the hilarious box-office trainwreck (see what I did there?) that was Atlas Shrugged: Part I. Inexplicably, Ayn Rand's dense, multi-hour soliloquies in defense of capitalism failed to translate well into the medium of film. The last news I heard after the movie's belly-flop was that its producer, heroic rich guy John Aglialoro, was threatening, John Galt-like, to turn his back on our society of ungrateful looters and parasites and not make a sequel.But it … [Read more...]

Why I Should Pay Higher Taxes

If you're an American, you probably know that this week is income-tax time. (If you didn't already know that, sorry to tell you, but you missed the deadline.) Most people anticipate tax season with dread, but for me, this isn't an especially painful time. In fact, I almost look forward to it, because my withholding schedule is set up such that instead of having to pay more in April, I usually get a big refund. As pleasurable as it is to get that refund, I'm aware this makes no rational sense. I … [Read more...]

Why We Should Tax the Churches

This essay was previously published on AlterNet. Last November, I attended a debate in the NYU Intelligence Squared series on the topic, "Would the World Be Better Off Without Religion?" One of the audience questions concerned the enormous wealth hoarded by churches, which Christian apologist Dinesh D'Souza defended as follows:I think in the case of the Vatican, the wealth of the Vatican is in priceless treasures, tapestries, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, art. Now, let's remember... it … [Read more...]