I’ve been enjoying the Ayn Rand book, Atlas Shrugged. Yeah, finally getting around to reading it. At least I’m pretty sure I didn’t read it before. I read a lot as a kid, and this may be one of those books we had to do in school, that I might have forgotten. Though frankly, I don’t think I really forgot the books I did have to read, even if I have forgotten the content of them.
Lots of good stuff here, although I do have some problems with her weird saintly-by-way-of-selfishness, nobility-because-of-purity-of-purpose picture of industrialists. Lots of stuff to admire in many of them, but they are a bit of a caricature (or romanticization) the same way Burroughs and others wrote of the Noble Savage ideal (Tarzan, et al).
Real industrialists and real industries are/were not always so noble. Witness the rape of my home state, West Virginia. The unfortunate legacy of that is really powerful unions, rampant corruption (union, corporate, and government–and their unholy alliances), and a heavy welfare state attitude. Which is why WV almost always overwhelmingly votes Democrat. And to paraphrase Sam Kinison, while I certainly don’t approve of it, I do understand it.
Her “everyone who is not super highly obsessed by building monster businesses is a loser” portrayals are little tiresome, too. Though some of the best stuff in the book, and I mean it is wonderful, is the circular logic (or better–“illogic”) of her villains or antagonists.
Here’s a scene I just have to share–as a cabal of fellows are together engineering the slide of the country into socialism, the economic situation keeps getting worse and worse. The “government” keeps gutting the business class, basically punishing productive people for being productive through outrageous laws, regulations, harassment, taxation, etc. Yet none of them seemed to have figured out that it’s their seemingly altruistic (but at base, actually selfish) motives and resultant policies that are driving the country to hell in a handbasket, and fast (at least so far it’s not been revealed that any of the antagonists actually know that they’re doing it. Maybe there’s an evil mastermind at the center of it all. I haven’t gotten there, yet). Herewith:
Well, if you want to talk practice,” said Fred Kinnan, “then let me tell you we can’t worry about businessmen at a time like this. What we’ve got to think about is jobs. More jobs for the people. In my unions, every man who’s working is feeding five who aren’t, not counting his own pack of starving relatives. If you want my advice–oh, I know you won’t go for it, but it’s just a thought–issue a directive making it compulsory to add, say, one-third more men to every payroll in the country.
I about busted a gut when I read that one. And there’s tons of beautiful examples like that sprinkled liberally (though I hesitate to use the word 😉 ) throughout. Well, sprinkled is also too light of a word–“pounded in like railroad spikes with a sledgehammer” is more like it–as if she were trying to make a point… 🙂
Thanks to Nicki for asking me to read it–it’s one of those I’d been meaning to, but never got around to. Though it’s in some ways pretty depressing, with the slide of the world into a really dark place (so far); there is plenty of humor, and some glorious triumph as well.
There’s lots of the same thing in the C.S. Lewis book, That Hideous Strength, in case anyone was curious. Lots of the same looming ominousness, and the heroes fighting a battle against forces that are subtle, sneaky, and hide behind all manner of good-seeming intentions (the bad guys are organized into an organization called “N.I.C.E.,” a masterstroke).
He makes a great statement at one point, about the ominous intents of the antagonists, if I may paraphrase from memory: “Our main advantage is that they hate each other as much, if not more than they hate us.” That sentence would serve as well for the villains of Atlas.
Oh, and anothah thing. Starting on the bottom of page 380 (of my Signet 50th Anniversary Edition) is the best rant I’ve read or heard in a long time, and it goes on for five pages of small type. Awesome. Literally.
And it’s probably the most uplifting rant that I would ever actually name a “rant.”