Atlas Flexes His Muscles

12/07/2009 11:09 am EST

Focus: MARKETS

Terry Savage

Author, The Savage Truth on Money

When I wrote about my return journey to Atlas Shrugged earlier this summer, I truly touched a chord. Rereading that tome, which had so influenced me in my college years, started out to be a lonely pastime. 

It wasn’t until I posted my admiration for Ayn Rand’s work that I was overwhelmed with company. It seems there’s a huge wave of renewed appreciation for her writing, and her philosophy of objectivism.

Sales of Atlas Shrugged are estimated to be well over 400,000 copies this year. And that doesn’t include an additional 350,000 copies of various Rand books distributed free to high schools around the country, according to Yaron Brook, president and chief executive officer of the Ayn Rand Institute. 

Brook was in Chicago this past week to talk with a group of investment managers about the resurgent interest in Rand’s beliefs. Amazingly, in the midst of the leftward move in Washington, Brooks remains optimistic, suggesting that current events are creating a unique opportunity to spread Rand’s beliefs—and rebut the negative connotations that many in the media have given to the terms she uses.

For example, explains Brook, the word “individualist” is widely translated to mean either “selfish” or “isolated.” Those definitions couldn’t be further from the truth, he explains, noting that individualism is a win/win philosophy, and that individuals acting in their own self- interest often are generous regarding things they value, and frequently work with others. In other words, he says, “they give to get.”

Brook contrasts Rand’s belief in the individual with our growing social trend towards collectivism and altruism. Those terms imply self-sacrifice, or “giving without getting.” Since no rational, thinking person would make that trade, those terms imply coercion or force. The very basis of the American Constitution is the promise of our right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”—without force or coercion.

Far be it for me to try to define the principles of objectivism, although you can certainly learn more at www.AynRand.com. The point of revisiting this growing interest is to punctuate the backlash against the growing intrusion of government in business, health care, education, and even science.

One example: the recent release of e-mails in which some scientists were trying to discredit disbelievers in global warming. To fight global warming, the Obama Administration supports a “cap and trade” system, which has passed the House of Representatives, and is pushing carbon dioxide restrictions through the Environmental Protection Agency. 

If you take the time to re-read Atlas Shrugged, you’ll find it eerily predicted events that are actually happening in our country today. Did you ever think government would own a majority of General Motors, and have the power to name its chairman or chief executive officer? Did you ever believe we’d have a “pay czar”—setting compensation levels for corporate executives?

Did you ever believe the government would take your tax money and give it to those who couldn’t afford a new car, just to stimulate the economy? Did you ever believe that politicians would influence which auto dealerships would remain open in their districts, pressuring GM because, after all, the government “owns” the company? 

All of this—and more—was clearly foreshadowed in Atlas Shrugged. The plots of a popular TV show are often “ripped from the headlines.” Only Ayn Rand’s novel was all about these headlines, half a century ago. These changes are sliding by smoothly under the guise of “emergency” measures. Want to know where they’re likely to lead? Check out Atlas Shrugged!

What do you think? Please have your say and join the conversation.

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