Christopher's Reviews > Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
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Dec 04, 13

Read in January, 1999

As Ayn Rand's immortal opus, Atlas Shrugged, stands as a tome to a philosophy that is relevant today as it was in her time. Basically, the major moral theme is that there are two types of people in the world: the Creators and the Leeches.

The Creators are the innovators who use the power of their will and intelligence to better humanity. The first person to create fire is often referenced as the paradigm for these people. In the book, each of the major protagonists also represent Creators improving the human condition with their force of will.

The Leeches (my word) are the people who create nothing, but thrive off feeding on the Creators. In Rand's view, they are the bureaucrats, politicos, regulators, etc. Throughout human history she tells us, these people have benefited through no ingenuity of their own, but merely from piggybacking on - and often fettering - the success of the Creators.

Where the conflict in this book arises is when the Creators decide they have had enough and revolt. I won't spoil the book by describing specifics, but let's just say it causes quite the societal drama. For Leeches can't feed where there's no blood.

All that is fairly significant and involved and worth the read to begin with, but where this book really stimulates me is in the fact that it is still relevant. Today we have Creators and we have Leeches. Some titans of industry and technology move our culture forward and others hold it back to their own benefit. I work in Silicon Valley and I see this all the time. That's why in many ways I consider this voluminous novel to be as important to a business education as Art of War.

To cite other readers' posts, you don't have to agree with what Rand is extolling, but I think you'd be foolish to try and deny the existence of this struggle since it is ingrained in humanity. Yes, Ayn does get long winded and arrogant in parts as she draws the battle lines, but I don't think an author could have crafted such a powerful conflict without copious quantities of ego to accentuate the differences.
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Comments (showing 1-37 of 37) (37 new)

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Tom the Mesa Engineer Haws Are infants creators or leeches? Is your invalid grandma a creator or a leech? Is your quadraplegic neighbor a creator or a leech?

How about--
-your employees?
-your spouse?
-your grown children?
-your neighbor with the weedy yard?
-the homeless guy at the freeway?


Christopher Your comment seems to imply that I am saying Creators and Leeches are defined by their financial contributions. I am not.

When I say "...Creators are the innovators who use the power of their will and intelligence to better humanity..." this can apply as easily to my grandmother as it can to a homeless person or child. The essence of my argument is that Rand defines an internal philosophy and moral code. One's stature in life and/or actions are not the sole barometer of one's adherence to this. One's internal perspective and the way with which they greet the world also counts and in many ways is the most important part. So, if you have an invalid, or a homeless person who believes in self-betterment, but finds themselves in an awful situation brought upon them by life, I would say that person in Rand's view is probably a Creator just because they want to be and have that internal perspective. In many ways, just having people who think like that is a betterment to humanity.

Although if one's sole goal internally and externally is to feed off or exploit other people's ideas and contributions, then yes - in a Randian world - that person is a Leech. I'm not saying I totally agree with that, but that is my read of her highly-polarized perspective.

Of course, all life is a spectrum, and there are people who "just don't care" in the middle, but I would argue even they are slightly expressed to one side or the other even if it is barely perceptible.

Tom the Mesa Engineer Haws That's a cool way to look at it. I like your attitude.


Christopher Thanks! :)

message 5: by Bob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bob An excellent review. It sounds like you got the same thing I got out of this book.

Christopher Thanks. It's great to hear from people who also found value in this book. I still find it stimulating, which is - in my mind - the mark of a great book when one is still thinking about it 10 years after the first read.

message 7: by Walter (new)

Walter Piper Janine wrote: ""The Creators are the innovators who use the power of their will and intelligence to better humanity." Though I am only one-fourth of the way through this book, I haven't yet found that the Creato..."


message 8: by jennbunny (new) - added it

jennbunny Byrkit That is a nice review. Admittedly, I was intimidated by this book, but decided to give it a go. I felt the beginning a bit long winded, but soon felt really drawn into the story. I am only about 1/3 of the way through the book at this point, but it is an interesting story with a lot of different views.

Christopher Thanks Jenn. I had the same initial reaction. Started it a few times, but many moons later, looked back on reading it and realized Atlas really stuck with me. Enjoy!

Shalaka The review is good. But I think Ayn Rand also considers a third type of people. The people who are neutral- neither brave or powerful enough to challenge the leeches(as you call them) nor sufficiently efficient or interested to be a creator in any way. It's a great book.

Charlie The creators are everyone that works for a living. Period.

Christopher I don't know what kind of work environments you've been a part of Charlie, but I definitely wouldn't say all my previous co-workers were "creators". I've been lucky to have a large majority be productive contributors, but I've also seen at least a few people that just floated through work. And as Shalaka points out (correctly) I think at very least there are some people that don't leach but also don't create.

Charlie I wholeheartedly agree that not everyone that shows up to work works. One of the characters was Leslie Mooch I think. Great name. You don't have to be a genius to be a creator. A ditch digger is a creator of ditches and in my opinion is infinitely superior to the nepotistic beneficiary of the no work job or the CEO of the connected government company (solyndra) whose sole reason for existence is to collect and distribute government money.

Christopher If your point is whomever works should produce something of value to some part of humanity, than I completely agree no matter what the level. A ditch dug is something that helps us all and that in its own way is heroic.

Betsy I see here that I am years behind all of the preceding comments, but I just joined. I LOVE your comment! It succinctly, and thoroughly, described Rand's philosophy! Gosh, thanks!

Ashley Terrano I like your perspective. I am currently reading this book and loving it.

Christopher Ashley wrote: "I like your perspective. I am currently reading this book and loving it."

Thanks Ashley and Betsy!

Shannon Love your eloquent review! Very well & fairly stated! I listened to the audio book while driving across country almost 70 hours. Loved it! ;)

Manny I have read it thrice. Love it. Will probably read it again. I plan to pass it on to my son when he is old enough. Let down by the movies though.

Cecilia W Yu lol. as an artist I might feel that way re: your analysis...but her lack of compassion makes me think she really was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome! lol.

Christopher I agree her lack of compassion can seem off-putting. But like some art, I find the extremism of it helps describe the overall topic (for me personally). :) Again, we may not agree with all (or any of) her points, but it is nice to have such a lucid illustration of one side of the argument so we can better examine all the others.

Cecilia W Yu Great Art is a balance of Chaos and Order, Compassion and Cruelty. Extremism is unsophisticated..and that is where I think she lacked the Craft in her writing. But lets face it, I'm hardly going to disagree with her rant against the evil that constitutes Communism! oh well. cya later. have fun.

message 23: by Merry (new)

Merry Bell Clark How can one even be a Creator without utilizing (leeching off of) other people's creations? LIKE I have to use Facebook and Google in order to market anything or just to "connect" and don't even want to do it that way but I have to because the Creators are creating the playing field that other creators can't get around.

Christopher There is an important difference between leeching off a creation and utilizing it. Leeching, in my interpretation of Rand's world, means surviving off and often fettering the success of others without adding any benefit or offering any exchange of value. Leeches expect something for nothing even when they are capable of giving. I would contend when we use Facebook we are not leeching as our involvement is an exchange of value. FB gets our time and attention which is the mana of social networks, and we get access to a billion people in a way we never could before. We don't have to do it that way. MySpace is still around as are a number of other alternatives. But if we chose to use FB we are opting-in to an exchange of value. And that exchange - in her views - seems to be among one of the noblest ideals for able-bodied people.

In her words:
“He knew no weapons but to pay for what he wanted, to give value, to ask nothing of nature without trading his effort in return, to ask nothing of men without trading the product of his effort.”
— Narrator (referring to Hank Rearden)
Atlas Shrugged (Part 1, Chapter 10)

message 25: by Don (new) - rated it 4 stars

Don Creators who acknowledge The Creator don't fit well in Rand's story. She prefers an atheist paradise to a society based on Judeo-Christian values. A society that values selflessness over selfishness is a better society. This can be done without relying on government wealth redistribution.

message 26: by Gwen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gwen It is easy to get this understanding after you read 'The fountainhead' before this book. And those ones they are not ego or selfish, they did everything according what they believe and did not effect anyone else, the are the heroes for me.

message 27: by Josh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Josh Nice review. I just started a Good Reads account and of course five starred Rands books because I love them. What really is hilarious is how people dont review the book but shoot it down by ad hominem and loud words. They try to embarrass people who agree with her themes or philosophy and intimidate those who never read it by calling people stupid. The irony is that people judge these books with the same ferocity they claim Objectivists love her books. You can always tell the quality of a review by the way people reply to the review. Some people should be ashamed.

Thanks for the review.

August Wainwright Glad to see someone near the top of the reviews with the positive review this book deserves. Well done sir. Atlas Shrugged has to be in the Top 5 all-time for books used and quoted from to justify being an overall shitty person. Just because that happens, doesn't mean there isn't inherent value in the text.

Naftoli Hi Christopher, I finished Atlas Shrugs just a few days ago and rated it 5 stars. At 48 years old, it clicked & I realized that she completely represents my moral code. I enjoyed your review immensely. So many readers on goodreads write scathing reviews (and I know many of them to be socialists, so no surprise there) thank you for your contribution.

Stephanie Excellent review. I'm about half way through the book and I'm loving it. It's eerie how much of the story applies to the world today.

message 31: by Lizzy (new)

Lizzy How did all of these genius creators get to be so rich? By the rest of their society purchasing their products, that's how. It's convenient to think of the economy as being a gift given to us by "creators" but they need the rest of us slobs just as much as we need them. Without the "leeches" you just have a society of rich people trading goods back and forth with one another and in that case no one is actually rich...and everyone has all of the same things...wait that sounds a lot like socialism doesn't it? Hm.

message 32: by Christopher (last edited Sep 11, 2013 06:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Christopher You seem to be interpreting Atlas Shrugged as a battle of rich vs. poor, yet Atlas Shrugged - which was originally titled "The Strike" - is more about producers/Creators revolting against people who just take or extort without providing value (i.e. Leaches). Rand mentions several times that both these warring factions exist across the socio-economic spectrum. The perfect example is Eddie Willers, an "everyman" who - although he lacks the Promethean zeal of other main characters - understands and supports the Creator philosophy. He is not a rich man, but he is a Creator. As well, the book's quintessential character - John Galt - is never really (to my recollection) referred to as rich. He is an inventor, and philosopher, and ultimate Creator, but he is not rich.

Yes, Rand makes specific reference to money being the ultimate determinant of which camp we each belong to, but it is the QUALITY of our money, not the QUANTITY that matters. Money earned through one's own labor (no matter how menial) is heroic. Money earned through manipulating or fettering another's efforts is reprehensible.

The best quote for this is from Francisco d'Anconia. "Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce."

I don't read any of that to mean that only rich people's money is heroic. Quite the opposite. I read this as saying anyone trying to earn their own money through their own efforts - a teacher, a fireman, a poor poet - is a Creator/heroic being.

message 33: by Ira (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ira Thank you for your great review, precise and clear as the book itself. All my feelings were reflected so nicely. Just read the book in my own language and started it right away in original. And special thank for acknowledging the place of Eddie. One can think that he is somewhere in the middle, but he merely knows his place and serves the creators with all his heart and fully appreciates their importance. And as he said to John "I'm not any kind of great man. I couldn't have built that railroad. If it goes, I won't be able to bring it back. I'll have to go with it." For me, it's his greatest virtue, he knows his place and his purpose and he assesses himself objectively.

message 34: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy Kirk The mistake here is your categorical thinking, and the attempt to fit the complexity of society and human survival into such a general narrative. Lots of people make that mistake, which is often fueled by a certain amount of egotism, rather than a more emotionally labored depth of thought.

message 35: by Josh (last edited Mar 08, 2014 07:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Josh The mistake above is the categorical use of fallacious argumentation to imbue intimidation into those who agree with Rand's concepts. He does this by attempting to fit numerous opaque generalizations into his narrative without really saying anything or qualifying his assertions. Jeremy made this mistake a lot, which appears to be fueled by a unique amount of pretentiousness rather than an emotionally coherent depth of acumen.

message 36: by Nik (new)

Nik Brkic Some titans of industry and technology move our culture forward and others hold it back to their own benefit. I work in Silicon Valley and I see this all the time. Can you give me examples of the people and ideas that are being held back. Also, who or what is doing the holding back and how?

Tyler G great review of the book and well thought out

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