My latest column is now up on AlterNet, “10 Things I Discovered About Ayn Rand’s Addled Brain After Reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’“. It summarizes ten more of the very important political and moral lessons I’ve learned over the last year reviewing part II of Atlas Shrugged. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:
I do have to make one minor correction. In point 4 of the essay, I wrote that slavery represented 16% of America’s GDP before the Civil War. That was an error on my part: actually, slaves made up 16% of America’s total household assets, a much larger number. (I got this right in the original post making this point.) Thanks to the helpful reader who brought this to my attention!
If you’ve ever voted for politicians who passed safety regulations, or accepted any kind of loan or grant money from the government, or criticized the excesses of capitalism, or valued your own family more than rich strangers, or done any of a hundred other seemingly innocuous things, then according to Ayn Rand, you too deserve to die. The number of people who’d meet her very strict criteria for worthiness to continue living is tiny – which is precisely the point.
Just like Christian fundamentalism, Atlas Shrugged teaches a black-and-white view of the world in which only a small, elite handful will be saved, while the vast majority of human beings are incorrigible sinners who deserve only death and destruction. Whereas Christian evangelicals believe that the worthy ones will be raptured away to heaven to watch the world burn, Ayn Rand’s supercapitalists will be flown to the hidden mountain retreat of Galt’s Gulch to watch society collapse into anarchy and millions of people starve. That’s the future that her devotees anticipate and passionately long for.