Ian's Reviews > Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
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's review
Jul 12, 07

Recommended for: socialists
Read in January, 2003

I only gave this book 3 stars because it was so tedious and repetitive. I actually have some things to say in defense of the usual criticisms, but more on that in a minute. Whether or not you agree with her philosophy, Ayn Rand does make some good points in favor of her argument. I can forgive it for it's exaggerated depiction of socialism as a system which rewards the weak and lazy and parasitizes the intelligent and productive. Honestly, if you install any system which allows people to thrive as parasites, plenty of people will take advantage of it. It's just human nature.
Unfortunately, this book only seems to be aware of human nature where it guarantees the failure of the system it's trying to shoot down. It never takes into account the inevitable abuses of capitalism by fallible human beings. Special interest groups, politicians making laws which favor corporations they hold stock in, sweat shops, the whole military industrial complex, etc. While the author's point of view is understandable given the communism she came to america to escape, and the fact that the issues I listed above probably weren't in the news as much back then as they are now, I still don't think her long long long argument holds up.
The brilliant, attractive, articulate, morally perfect industrialist heroes of Atlas Shrugged are not real people. Ayn Rand herself said, in defense against her critics, they are not man as he is, rather man as he should be. Which would be great in another book, I have no objection to admittedly portraying non-existant ideals if it makes a good point. If such people really existed capitalism could work. Ayn Rand seems perfectly aware of the shortcomings of human nature when they manifest themselves under communism, but then offers as an alternative another system which could only actually work for the non-existant ideal men she made up.
So as a piece of propaganda, It doesn't fully convince me. I suppose if I were completely on the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture debate on human behavior, I could have simply bought the idea that installing an economic system based on moral principles could create a better culture and thus better people. Though if there's anything history shows us over and over again it's that no new belief or set of rules has ever succeeded on that front. As a novel, well, it's full of excessively long-winded monologues and drags on. But, it did keep me interested enough to see it through to the end, and forced me to think so I have to give it some credit.
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