Atlas Shrugged

UPDATE (2019): If you enjoyed my review of Atlas Shrugged, you may also like my new book, Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, now publishing serially through Patreon. Sign up for as little as $1 a month, or if you don’t feel you can afford that, just e-mail me and I’ll share the manuscript with you.


A Novel for the 1% (March 22, 2013)
Atlas Shrugged is more popular than ever among economic conservatives, precisely because it offers a full-blown defense of rapacious, predatory capitalism in a time of vast inequality.

Part I

Chapter 1

In Medias Res (March 29, 2013)
The story begins in the middle of the action, but we never find out how things came to that pass.

Signal Passed at Danger (April 5, 2013)
Rand’s protagonists are always right, even when they make patently foolish or dangerous decisions.

Intellectual Property (April 12, 2013)
How does a libertarian worldview justify the idea of patents and copyrights?

Chapter 2

Beauty Equals Goodness (April 19, 2013)
In the world of Ayn Rand, square-jawed physical attractiveness is a reliable way to tell the heroes apart from the villains.

World’s Worst Boss (April 26, 2013)
Rand’s protagonist Hank Rearden is in favor of child labor and doesn’t think pain or injury is a reason not to work.

Rearden Family Values (May 3, 2013)
Hank Rearden sulks over having to see his wife on their wedding anniversary and despises his family for wanting to spend time with him.

Corporate Philanthropy (May 10, 2013)
Rand’s protagonists view the idea of giving money to charity with bafflement and loathing.

Chapter 3

Regulatory Capture (May 17, 2013)
In Ayn Rand’s world, highly-paid corporate lobbyists jump to careers in the civil sector, rather than vice versa.

Unfortunate Implications (May 24, 2013)
An individual choice to work harder is rarely an effective way of overcoming entrenched prejudice.

How to Build a Railroad (June 3, 2013)
Building infrastructure without public funding; also, why committing violence against government representatives is completely fine in Rand’s worldview.

Washington Ability (June 12, 2013)
Why women shouldn’t be in charge.

The Ruling Class (June 21, 2013)
Ayn Rand wants to have it both ways, saying that her heroes excel solely due to competence, but also that it’s normal for a business’ owner to pass on a controlling interest to his descendants.

The Invention of Fire (June 28, 2013)
Smoking: all the cool Objectivist kids are doing it.

Chapter 4

The Social Safety Net (July 5, 2013)
Rand treats it not as a deplorable cost of capitalism, but as a positive moral good, that those who lose out in competition should be trampled and ground underfoot.

World-Movers (July 12, 2013)
More on why Ayn Rand seems to argue that violence and threats are an acceptable means of conducting business.

Chapter 5

Meet Francisco d’Anconia (July 19, 2013)
The concept of the Mary Sue defined, and why bad philosophy leads to bad writing.

You’ll Never Fail Like Common People (July 26, 2013)
When it comes to predicting success, background matters.

The Code of Competence (August 2, 2013)
Competence at evil makes you worse, not better.

The Ubermensch (August 9, 2013)
Nietzsche’s influence on Rand shows in her male protagonists who can drag around, hit and rape women at will.

Marge vs. the Monorail (August 16, 2013)
Francisco d’Anconia’s scheme to cheat the looters is the same as the plot of a villain from a classic episode of The Simpsons.

Chapter 6

Sleep Deprivation (August 23, 2013)
Individual willpower can’t overcome the mental and physical need for rest; people don’t hate businessmen just for being businessmen.

Trust-Busting (August 30, 2013)
Laws that break up monopolies are pro-capitalism, not anti-capitalism.

Author Appeal (September 6, 2013)
Ayn Rand thinks everyone should be into kinky sex; the looters are human slime; and some unexpected sentimentality.

Terror on the High Seas (September 13, 2013)
Piracy is a problem of too little government, not too much.

Chapter 7

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (September 20, 2013)
What’s wrong with a little bribery in the name of pursuing profit?

Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt (September 27, 2013)
It’s just so unfair to ask inventors to prove that their products are safe.

Government Science (October 18, 2013)
State-funded science has never invented anything useful, except space flight, nuclear power, GPS, and the Internet.

The Heroic Sociopath (October 25, 2013)
Cold-blooded murder in the name of capitalism is A-OK.

The Resource Curse (November 1, 2013)
Just what makes people think they have a right to benefit from the natural resources of their country?

Kim Jong-il Looking at Things (November 8, 2013)
The omnicompetence of Randian protagonists.

Chapter 8

Things That Don’t Exist in Randworld (November 15, 2013)
There’s somehow no crime in a society that’s disintegrating into poverty and chaos.

Labor Relations (November 22, 2013)
Only evil socialist union officials care about the health and safety of union members.

Industrial Accidents (November 29, 2013)
No matter how many risky decisions Rand’s heroes make, things always work out for them. In real life, we aren’t so fortunate.

Job Satisfaction (December 7, 2013)
Rand’s idea that work and achievement are their own reward is eerily similar to the ideas of communists; why Dagny Taggart is an agent of collectivism.

Gasland (December 14, 2013)
Ellis Wyatt discovers hydrofracking; Hank proves his contempt for Dagny by having sex with her.

Chapter 9

The Madonna-Whore Complex (December 20, 2013)
Rand’s ideal of a sexual relationship includes sexual double standards, possessive jealousy and outright physical violence.

Battle Cry of Freedom (December 27, 2013)
Why do businesses prefer the states that libertarians rank as the least free?

The Price of Progress (January 3, 2014)
How a libertarian ideology deals with pollution and environmental degradation.

Burma Shave (January 10, 2014)
The majestic vista of wild nature is greatly improved by advertising billboards.

Motor City (January 17, 2014)
Dagny and Hank discover perpetual motion, and why it’s cheating to introduce magical technology into a work of political fiction with pretensions to realism.

Chapter 10

The New Deal (January 24, 2014)
Ayn Rand makes a persuasive, though unintentional, argument for New Deal programs like deposit insurance and Social Security.

Strawman Has a Point (January 31, 2014)
Designated villain Lillian Rearden’s complaint that her husband Hank is neglecting her and ignoring his marriage vows is completely true and reasonable.

Bonsai People (February 7, 2014)
In Rand’s ontology, there’s no such thing as people who have the potential to succeed but lack the resources to make it happen.

Masters of the Universe (February 14, 2014)
The Wall Street apologists who think we’re living in this book and they’re the heroes.

The Thin Red Line (February 21, 2014)
The subprime crisis was caused by greed, not by government.

The Middle Path (February 28, 2014)
A little bit of Buddhism might have done Rand some good.

The Fires of Kuwait (March 7, 2014)
Why environmental mass destruction is a justified response to new regulations on rail shipping.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1: The Movie

Drill, Baby, Drill (March 14, 2014)
The movie does at least one thing right that the book never does; why libertarians don’t like solar power.

Miscasting Call (March 21, 2014)
The actors cast in this movie don’t respect Rand’s strict dichotomy of angular, beautiful heroes and fleshy, jowly villains.

Vice-President of Exposition (March 28, 2014)
Making a good movie from Atlas would have required a more ruthless trimming of Rand’s clunky speeches.

All There in the Manual (April 4, 2014)
Without the copious omniscient narration of the book, the naive filmgoer will quickly be lost.

Part II

Chapter 1

Intrusions of Nature (April 11, 2014)
The increasingly destructive intrusions of nature on human civilization are caused, not prevented, by industry.

Publish or Perish (April 18, 2014)
Open access as a scientific value.

Second Amendment Remedies (April 25, 2014)
If you make nerve gas, you’d better make good nerve gas.

The Gini Coefficient (May 2, 2014)
Ayn Rand accidentally argues for living-wage laws; why severe inequality is bad for capitalism.

Chapter 2

Ayn Rand vs. Carl Sagan (May 9, 2014)
Why the wildly successful Voyager mission was a contradiction in terms.

Black Lung (May 16, 2014)
In Atlas Shrugged‘s mirror universe, coal mining would be a safe job if not for government interference.

The Marital Contract (May 23, 2014)
Objectivism doesn’t make for healthy marriages.

Offshore Accounts (May 30, 2014)
Why don’t the elites of Randworld just move to an accommodating tropical island?

The Incorruptibles (June 6, 2014)
Things that don’t exist in Randworld, part 2.

The Three-Fifths Compromise (June 13, 2014)
Slavery? Never heard of it.

Pump and Dump (June 20, 2014)
The good capitalist Francisco d’Anconia heroically defrauds his investors.

Chapter 3

Cherchez la Femme (June 27, 2014)
In which Hank Rearden heroically manages to refrain from murdering his wife.

The Lion’s Share (July 4, 2014)
The problem of coercion in capitalism.

Men with Guns (July 11, 2014)
Law that’s made to be broken.

The Glory Days of Child Labor (July 18, 2014)
A better, simpler time when twelve-year-olds were free to toil in coal mines.

No OSHA Compliance (August 1, 2014)
Things that don’t exist in Randworld, part 3.

Chapter 4

Supervillain Morality (August 8, 2014)
Billionaires behaving badly.

Indian Givers (August 15, 2014)
In the New World, who were the productive people and who the moochers?

Pound the Table (August 22, 2014)
This whole damn court’s out of order.

Slash Fiction (August 29, 2014)
No gay stuff.

Chapter 5

Triage for Dummies (September 5, 2014)
Selflessness isn’t the same as stupidity.

Homo Economicus (September 12, 2014)
How we got out of the caves.

Make the Trains Run on Time (September 19, 2014)
Inequality is a security issue.

Ad Baculum (September 26, 2014)
We don’t believe in force, and if you argue I’ll punch your lights out.

Chapter 6

Pointy-Headed Intellectuals (October 3, 2014)
Ayn Rand versus the eggheads.

Interesting Villains (October 10, 2014)
Evil bad guys are evil because they’re evil.

Solidarność (October 17, 2014)
The socialists who brought down communism.

The Living Wage (October 25, 2014)
Atlas Shrugged teaches a good principle; blink and you’ll miss it.

Violence Vouchers (October 31, 2014)
Patent rights and what constitutes “initiation of force”.

Chapter 7

The Highwayman (November 7, 2014)
Bringing capitalism to the masses by force.

Prince of Thieves (November 14, 2014)
He steals from the poor and gives to the rich.

Goldbuggery (November 21, 2014)
You can fondle the cube, but it won’t respond.

Death and Taxes (November 28, 2014)
Voluntary government doesn’t work.

Midnight Train to Death, Part I (December 5, 2014)
The most infamous scene in Atlas Shrugged.

Midnight Train to Death, Part II (December 12, 2014)
Yes, conflicts of interest exist in capitalism.

Midnight Train to Death, Part III (December 19, 2014)
Why you deserve to die.

Chapter 8

Buy Local (December 26, 2014)
The world is flat.

To Have and To Hold (January 2, 2015)
Only moochers want sympathy from their loved ones.

Trying to Tell You All It’s Sabotage (January 9, 2015)
What aren’t Rand’s protagonists justified in doing?

IOKIYAR (January 16, 2015)
It’s OK if you’re a Randian.

Chapter 9

Work-Life Balance (January 23, 2015)
Feeling more at home at work than at home.

Objectivist Mating Rituals (January 30, 2015)
The philosophically proper attitude of homicidal jealousy.

Kiss with a Fist (February 6, 2015)
Domestic violence really, really isn’t sexy.

Good Men Are Hard to Find (February 13, 2015)
No love for the nice guy.

Chapter 10

Hobo Sign (February 20, 2015)
Clinging to property is what makes you worthy of life.

Sixteen Tons (February 27, 2015)
Shopping at the company store.

Thank You For Riding Taggart Transcontinental (March 6, 2015)
Objectivist customer service.

The Rapture of the Capitalists (March 13, 2015)
Being whisked away to Corporate Executive Heaven.

Atlas Shrugged Part 2: The Strike

The Craft of Not Acting (March 20, 2015)
The versatility of a blank stare.

Bring Me a New Black Guy (March 27, 2015)
A change of faces.

Talking Is Not a Free Action (April 3, 2015)
The Randian Monologue doesn’t translate well to film.

Bells and Whistles (April 10, 2015)
Missing the point of the train crash scene.

Part III

Chapter 1

Welcome to Atlantis (April 17, 2015)
Utopias only exist in fiction for a reason.

Only a Flesh Wound (April 24, 2015)
Things that don’t exist in Randworld, part 4.

Objectivist Batman (May 1, 2015)
The superhero who only saves himself.

The Social Atom (May 8, 2015)
Don’t give me your charity.

There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom (May 15, 2015)
The capitalist society where everyone’s net worth is above-average.

Fiat Motors (May 22, 2015)
Let there be tractors.

Natural Capital (May 29, 2015)
Destroying nature wipes out more value than it creates.

The Post-Scarcity Economy (June 5, 2015)
Rand’s ultra-capitalists take a huge step toward making capitalism obsolete.

One Steve Limit (June 12, 2015)
Whatever happened to competition?

The Hippocratic Oath (June 19, 2015)
You know he’s a good doctor because he puts profit above human lives.

The Colossal Contradiction (June 26, 2015)
Collective action is always evil, unless the good guys do it.

The Workers’ Paradise (July 3, 2015)
This space for rent.

Hume’s Meadow (July 10, 2015)
Wildfires, public works and the tragedy of the commons.

Chapter 2

The Lilies of the Field (July 17, 2015)
The famous orange groves of Colorado.

The Jolly Roger (July 24, 2015)
One guy has all the guns. What could possibly go wrong?

Bare Branches (July 31, 2015)
Galt’s Gulch needs women.

L’Etat, C’Est Moi (August 7, 2015)
No laws in this utopia, except the ones I make up on the spot.

The New Feudalism (August 14, 2015)
Get back to work, peasant.

Missing and Presumed (August 21, 2015)
Rumors of my death have been slightly exaggerated.

The Problem of Original Property (August 28, 2015)
The elephant in the libertarian living room.

The Marketplace of Ideas (September 4, 2015)
Education for sale – cheap!

Screw You, Shakespeare (September 11, 2015)
Philosophically appropriate entertainment.

Kinder, Küche, Kirche (September 18, 2015)
Childfree and loving it.

Rise of the Machines (September 25, 2015)
The post-scarcity economy, part 2.

Motive Power (October 2, 2015)
Rand’s characters pinball around in service to the plot.

Chapter 3

Guns and Butter (October 9, 2015)
Why the atom bomb was the good, capitalist kind of WMD.

A Most Mundane Resurrection (October 16, 2015)
Literature’s least satisfying return from the dead.

Full Disclosure (October 23, 2015)
At least there’s no slut-shaming.

Chapter 4

Horseshoe Theory (October 30, 2015)
Ayn Rand and Karl Marx: more alike than you might guess.

Kill the Redshirts (November 6, 2015)
No place for common folk in Objectivist Utopia.

Chapter 5

Too Much of a Good Thing (November 13, 2015)
More competition isn’t always better.

Job Creators (November 20, 2015)
Economic depressions are caused by insufficient groveling to the wealthy.

Big Soy (November 27, 2015)
This chapter brought to you by the wheat industry.

Damn the Humanitarians (December 4, 2015)
Why charity and the nation of India are both evil.

Randian Fidelity (December 11, 2015)
Till death do us part, or I find someone better.

Chapter 6

Antiheroism (December 18, 2015)
Hank Rearden bravely abandons his family to starve.

Fanfare for the Common Man (December 24, 2015)
No place for common folk in Objectivist Utopia, part 2.

Chapter 7

Do Not Adjust Your Set (January 1, 2016)
Ayn Rand belatedly remembers the existence of television; the Monologue begins.

Author Filibuster (January 8, 2016)
The mother of all monologues.

The Descent of Man (January 15, 2016)
Ayn Rand, creationist.

Imagine No Religion (January 22, 2016)
Things that don’t exist in Randworld, part 5.

Manifest Destiny (January 29, 2016)
What will happen when John Galt returns to a depopulated world?

Chapter 8

Loose Lips Sink Ships (February 5, 2016)
The vital importance of opsec.

The Work of Depressions (February 12, 2016)
Hyperinflation, stimulus, and economics as morality play.

America’s Most Wanted (February 19, 2016)
How not to be a fugitive.

The Golden Parachute (February 26, 2016)
The cult of CEO worship.

Won’t Somebody Think of the Children? (March 4, 2016)
Worst hero ever.

The Passion of Eddie Willers, Part I (March 11, 2016)
The cruel and tragic fate of the best character in Atlas.

Chapter 9

Collateral Damage (March 18, 2016)
I am become death, destroyer of civilian infrastructure.

The Survival Instinct (March 25, 2016)
Go, lemmings, go.

Does Not Compute (April 1, 2016)
The deadliest case of cognitive dissonance in literary history.

Chapter 10

To a Gas Chamber, Go (April 8, 2016)
Let the bodies hit the floor.

The Non-Altruistic Rescue Squad (April 15, 2016)
Why would an Objectivist risk his own life to save someone else’s?

The Galtocaust (April 22, 2016)
The happy ending where civilization collapses and tens of millions of people die.

The Passion of Eddie Willers, Part II (April 29, 2016)
The crowning infamy of Atlas Shrugged.

Exeunt Omnes (May 6, 2016)
Ayn Rand’s parting gifts of absurdity.

Atlas Shrugged Part 3: Who Is John Galt?

Take Our Word For It (May 13, 2016)
Show, don’t tell.

The Nth Doctor (May 20, 2016)
The all-new (again), all-different (again) cast of Atlas Shrugged.

They Just Didn’t Care (May 27, 2016)
The most unintentionally hilarious sex scene ever.

Also Starring (June 3, 2016)
Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Ron Paul aren’t good enough for John Galt.

Fix Fic (June 10, 2016)
The film flinches from the cruelty of the book.

Closing Thoughts

The Almighty Dollar (June 17, 2016)
How capitalism encourages immoral behavior.

The Wealth of Nations (June 24, 2016)
What makes some societies succeed and others fail?

The Great Chain of Being (July 1, 2016)
A place for everyone and everyone in their place.

The Ideological Event Horizon (July 8, 2016)
How a philosophy of reason and individualism became a dogmatic cult.

See also: Atlas Shrugged: The Cobra Commander Dialogues and If John Galt Invented the Internet.