Atlas Shrugged Atlas Shrugged discussion

Loved The Book But Have Issues?

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Alya I loved the book. I thought it was intriguing, exciting (though at times boring) and very philosophical. I do have my issues with it, however. These are the main things:

Why is it that almost every character in the book falls in love with Dagny?

I thought John Galt's radio broadcast was slightly ridiculous. In my edition, it was more than 60 pages of a continuous and droning speech (to which I fell asleep reading).

Sometimes, it felt like Rand was berating anyone who did not believe in the same things she did. She specifically makes a point in the story that she does not believe in a middle ground. So basically, you are either with or against her.

How about you?

Donald Elton Yes the book could have been about half the length and might have had a larger readership without giving up the points she was making. I have no problem with the lack of middle ground.

Northern K Sunderland absolutely right, Rand was berating anyone who didn't believe in objectivism. This book is basically one long lecture, or manifesto of her philosophy (compounded in Galt's 60 page speech).

It is ridiculous yes, but I love it.

Geoffrey Hohum. Can I go to sleep now?

Donna I think it takes guts to read this book. I also think everyone should read it.

Vince Ayn Rand's deal with the publisher was that it not be edited. "Would you edit the Bible?" she asked.

However, had it been edited, it could have been a great read. As it was, a great premise executed with a heavy hand so that it was a philosophical treatise masquerading as a novel.

I loved parts. Hated parts. Oh well.

Donna Yes Vince I agree. Ayn was a bit arrogant about her writing tho I think she had something there.

Vince Donna... yes... she was on to something... and was a bit sure that she was... I love The Fountainhead.

Donna Agree Vince.

Donna Vince, a funny lil comment: While reading Atlas, my daughter would always leave funny little FaceBook status comments like, "Where's John Gault" etc. I really got good laughs from those comments. We ended up making it such a fun read. I have pictures of her reading Atlas in the Smokey Mountains, while eating lunch during ziplining etc. Sorta a scrapbook of Places I was as I read Atlas.

Donna Agree Ego. I didn't read that part either and still feel guilty about it LoL!

Justin I fully admit to also skipping Francisco's rant about money somewhere in the middle sections.

Denise Eggleston As Ego (message 11) pointed out, the book is the author's philosophy wrapped up in fiction. For her, spreading her philosophy was much more important than telling a good story. And yet, as Ego pointed out, the story is pretty darn good.

message 14: by Lily (last edited Apr 07, 2011 08:29AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lily When I was in my 20s back in the 60s, a boyfriend talked me into reading Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Enjoyed them very much at the time. Then I went on to read Ayn Rand's book acclaiming the value of selfishness. While there were parts that said things that needed to be said, she had finally gone into deeply questionable views and ideas about human relationships for me.

Later, when going through some periods of self doubt, I picked up the work of Nathaniel Branden on self esteem -- he wrote a lot of solid stuff on the subject. Eventually that led me to learning of the relationship between Branden and Rand and the ways they treated other commitments in their lives. For me, they became issues of human integrity and thereafter it has been hard for me to give the ideas of either of them the credence which they may be due -- the gaps between words and integrity in action just moved too far to seem consistent.

A few years ago it was interesting to read Alan Greenspan's memoirs, because I knew he had been influenced by Ms. Rand and her school of thought.

To me, the issues become ones of discernment -- what to embrace, what to reject. (But, as one of you wrote, Ms. Rand often seemed to seek, even expect, uncritical acceptance of her positions.)

Justin Lily

I tend to think that Rand holds up if you don't get too into her head. It's like anything. Christianity when taken to the extreme leads to the Crusades. Objectivism or whatever label you want to put on Rand's philosophy when taken the extreme leads to anarchy or hedonism.

I just think you have to look at it as a philosophy not a day to day guidebook on how to live your life. In the abstract I think there's a great deal of value. In a practical sense it's somewhat horrifying.

message 16: by Lily (new) - rated it 1 star

Lily An wrote: "I have to say though, I think a lack of integrity might be the last thing I would accuse Rand of, since to me it seems she lived and breathed every aspect of her philosophy."

How familiar are you with the way she and Nathaniel conducted their affair and treated their "significant others"? As reported in what I have read, they certainly did not match my perceptions of integrity in relationships to other human beings, although they probably defined them into theirs.

message 17: by Lily (new) - rated it 1 star

Lily Over forty years later, I can no longer give you specifics without redoing a lot of research; you are now about one year older than the age I was when I first read Rand. If you are interested in specifics, start with Nathaniel Branden's My Years with Ayn Rand and keep reading the viewpoints of others. Look specifically at the treatment by each of them of the significant others in their lives and decide for yourself what aspects you consider "integrity", but also whether there are other actions that might justifiably be labelled else wise.

Donna One of my favorite questions is If you met Ayn Rand would you hit it off or would you find her unapproachable?

Donna Agree Linda. Get this, I just found out the movie, Atlas Shrugged is coming out soon. Among other big actors, Brad Pitt is in it. I can not wait to see it!

message 20: by Anne (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne Maven I was about fourteen when I read Atlas Shrugged. I believed everything she said was "it" for a while. Two decades later, I think she made valid points. But I think it is as impractical to dismiss what others find to be true to their belief systems as it is to accept without questioning. The portrayals of the characters are also extreme. The extremely action oriented, good and noble people against a whole bunch of evil fumblers.
Even if she did not believe in shades of grey, there are too many to be ignored. To relegate an opinion/belief/practice to one category or the other would be dangerous.
Yes, her own choices that she tailored to fit into her philosophical framework made me wonder often if she didn't suffer from some sort of megalomania.
Her ideals are still powerful and valid. At least for me.

Melissa Dee This was a very important book to me. We hear a lot about the morals of various religions and the purpose in life it gives you. As an atheist it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that your life really does mean nothing.

What Ayn Rand has done is to present a philosophy which says you can be an atheist and still be a moral person. You can still have worthwhile values and your life can have meaning.

So, while the speeches did go on for a bit, the meaning which she conveyed was far more important to me than the luxury of an easy read.

I think you're right that she allows for no middle ground in the book, but her views are so original, that I think they have to be presented in this way for them to be fully understood in their own right and not as an extension of something else.

And if your ultimate goal in life is to be happy, without preventing others from striving for that same goal for themselves...that sounds fairly balanced to me.

message 22: by Lisa (last edited Jun 08, 2011 08:34PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Grace I believe Rand's father lost his business and wealth during the Boshevik? revolution in Russia. Maybe even during two uprisings. It's been twenty years since I read it and researched her background.

I didn't take it to be pro-athiesm in the least.

I took it as a treaty against governmental control over the doers and those with ideas. How government stamps out or drowns the very ideas that make commodities accessible to the masses through blatant capitalism which is ultimately what makes society work.

When you take away the entrepenuers (who are risk takers who make things happen) like socialism does, you are left with a society that denigrates and eventually falls apart.

Nora aka Diva I liked the novel for the most part, as a work of fiction that is alhtough I had gotten the feeling Rand felt that the "thinkers" were more important than the "doers" and to me that seemed rather crass and unrealistic. It's been over a decade since I read the book though.

message 24: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Waterman "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand

I agree with most of the remarks expressed by the folks who have posted to this topic above. Many readers despise Ayn Rand because they are put off by her militant attitude. I also found her to be intolerant of people who disagreed with her, so even if a reader only mildly disagrees, he or she might be repelled. Also, many people do not choose to read her philosophy with a goal of truly understanding the reasoning, but only achieve a gut feeling for what appears on the surface.

I read “Atlas Shrugged” as a young man, and was attracted to Rand's philosophy. She helped to influence my thinking as a budding capitalist, and to implant a distrust for socialism. I have also read most of Ayn Rand's other works and found some of them to be difficult to understand, because she uses a lot of heavy professorial terminology from philosophy. One example is "The Virtue of Selfishness," which I did not deeply understand until I read it again, many years later.

I long harbored a desire to write my own book on the same kind of subject matter. It would have to be nonfiction, less militant than Ayn Rand, and more user friendly. When I finally decided to write my book, I wanted to call it “Capitalism Explains Everything.” During my research in the public library I discovered that most of the books with the word “capitalism” in the title were actually anti-capitalist screeds. But then I visited my my local university library and discovered the book “Capitalism,” by George Reisman. Well, my goal of writing a definitive book about capitalism was thus blown out of the water, because this magnum opus by Dr. Reisman had already accomplished the job, far better than I could ever hope to achieve.

Undaunted by this setback, I went ahead and wrote “48 Hours to Chaos: An Engineer Looks at Life and How the World Really Works.” I like to say it is a guidebook to lead you safely through the minefields of science, economics, history, politics, religion, philosophy, government and other forms of human behavior. I did include a chapter on capitalism, where the first sentence is “Capitalism explains everything.”

If you enjoy reading Ayn Rand, you may find that “48 Hours to Chaos” helps you to understand the actions of her characters, both the good guys and the bad guys.

By the way, if you read this post before July 4, 2011, you can even sign up to win a free copy of “48 Hours to Chaos” on GoodReads. For access, merely click on my little picture to the left.

Later, John.

Melissa Dee **************SPOILERS(ish)************

@Nora - One of the chaps who was in the "strikers area" had been a lorry driver out in the real world, so it wasn't just "thinkers", although I agree there was a bias.

I understood her view of "good people" included pretty much anyone who would do the best they could to earn their keep, who would take on responsibility for doing a good job and appreciate they weren't going to get anything for free.

And that her view of "bad people" were those who just expected handouts and refused to take any responsibility for themselves, let alone for anyone else.

***********END SPOILERS*****************

@John - sadly I'm not in the US so can't enter, but looks interesting.

Mel :)

Russell I wonder if Alan Greenspan is still enamored with Rand - after all his beliefs helped push us into the recession we are in today & he has already admitted he was wrong about his objectivist approach to market economics.

and Rand was definitely an Athiest. She did not suffer fools (religious people) well. No grey area there.

Nora aka Diva Melissa wrote: "**************SPOILERS(ish)************

@Nora - One of the chaps who was in the "strikers area" had been a lorry driver out in the real world, so it wasn't just "thinkers", although I agree there ..."

Well it has been a very Long time since I read it last.

Prateek Joshi Lengthy but readable and man!! she is good at writing!!!
The most profoundly philosophical fictional work i have ever read!!

Shanna_redwind For some reason I couldn't put the book down, even though I was repelled by much of what it said. Ayn Rand's philosophy and mine are almost polar opposites, although she did have a few points that I agreed with.

I guess the book was just good enough that I was willing to put aside my personal viewpoint (for a while) and immerse myself in her philosophy.

Halina I don't think Ayn Rand is "berating" those who disagree. I think her "objectivism" Philosophy is so different than what we are forced into believing in our society and especially European society that it freaks some people out. I think what she is trying to say is that "feel good" socialism has been proven that it just doesn't work. She came from a Bolshevik Soviet background...and being Jewish. It makes perfect sense that society should reward those who "produce"...there is no room for "slackers" because everyone at any level can be productive. This is what's has destroyed I write this...Germany (the biggest economic power in Europe, is faced with the terrible consequences of carrying "slacker" countires (ie Greece). After awhile, Germany decided not to baio Greece out anymore...and what happens...Greece revolts...they want their "goodies" without working for it. That what rampant Socialism does to society. In "Atlas Shrugged"...I was cheering for the "producers" who finally decided to stop what they do and just go off and make their own society. Why should my family I work 15 hours a day at our business (Employing 50 others) and paying more and more taxes so my "slacker" friend gets his welfare. It's a worker bee's fantasy...let them make it on their own. We get beaten down enough for being wiser and working harder. Of course, our President wants us to feel sorry for the "poor" instead of helping them become more productive...he his great at that. Ayn Rand is brilliant..if only people can really see this.

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Stephanie I agree that Rand is brilliant, but her philosophy of Objectivism vs. Collectivisim is often oversimplified. She is referring to an ideal capitalist system butting head with the worst case scenario socialist system. Generally speaking, I enjoyed the Fountainhead so much more. Roarke is much more likable and human than Galt.

On another note, Atlas Shrugged should have never been made into a movie. It was beyond awful.

Ruth I enjoyed this book because it was an unusually read, but the ethics of the characters troubled me.

Michael I came to Rand late in life, led there by my 17 year old son. I think she is best understood in the context of the times she wrote. The USSR (which she escaped from) was the only other game in town, and in 1957 (see sputnik, cuba, etc) it was apparently giving capitalism a good run. With hindsight we see that the soviet republic was slowly eating its young, starting with Sakharov and ending with the debacle in Afghanistan in the 80's.

Rand idealized the capitalist principles, probably in reaction to her exposure to the soviet indulgence structure, and her characters are exceedingly one-dimensional. The heroes are uncharacteristically brilliant and morally integral, the villains are hopelessly vain, ignorant, and weak. Although she can turn a phrase nicely in many places, her creations are black and white. No person, except possibly Eddie Willers, has the least bit of 'grey' in their makeup.

I would enjoy a discussion with anyone on how Rand might bring her pristine ideas about capitalism to bear on the abhorrence of monopolies (i.e. Microsoft, Verizon, etc) and lobbyists (Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Banking) as they both bear on the suppression of ideas and competition.

message 34: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Waterman Michael:

Whose abhorrence of monopolies are you referring to? Also, aren't lobbyists merely organizations of people who wish to petition the government for redress of grievances? We could have an interesting discussion about these subjects.

Later, John.

message 35: by Michael (last edited Aug 22, 2012 06:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Michael John wrote: "Michael:

Whose abhorrence of monopolies are you referring to? Also, aren't lobbyists merely organizations of people who wish to petition the government for redress of grievances? We could have an ..."

Hi John! To take just one example, Microsoft has cornered the market on operating systems with a technically inferior product through market intimidation and political influence. I'm a software engineer, but I won't make this a technical argument. As a consumer, why doesn't my PC cost less if I choose not to take the Microsoft OS that is demanded by legal agreement to be installed? I have no choice in the matter, I am forced to pay a royalty to Microsoft no matter what. Definitely not a free market example!

As for lobbyists petitioning the government for redress; absolutely agree with the idea it is a basic right. What I disagree with is the bribery that accompanies it. Our politicians sell the right of access so that they can build their warchests for re-election campaigns. Most of their energies are devoted to activities other than governing. Some ideas on how to address this are

equal access to the media for all as a public service
term limits
five year moratorium on employment in any way with former constituent organizations

Sure, we might lose some efficiency in constantly having new people elected who are not so familiar with Washington power structures, but maybe that would provide for some more honest folks who have as their primary interest a real representative democracy and enactment of useful legislation.

message 36: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Waterman Michael:

You have hit upon one of the secrets of the universe: That politicians are responsible for the ills of society, because they are the ones who write the laws. An individual politician may be honest or dishonest, virtuous or corrupt, but very few of them actually know what they are doing. When you write the rules for running the machine, if you don't really know how the machine operates, disaster is not far down the road.

Many people blame capitalism for the problems of monopolies, but the actual fact is that monopolies are caused by government, not the free market. My favorite author, George Reisman, wrote the book "Capitalism." In Chapter 10 he deals with monopolies in excruciating detail. You can actually read this 1000-page book online for free. Here's the link:

Later, John.

Michael John. Thanks for the reference, it appears to be a rich source. Hayek found merit in Reisman's writings and apparently he (Reisman) labelled himself an Objectivist, the school of philosophy founded by Rand. I consider the first a reason to take him seriously and the second a reason to be guarded. I freely admit two things here; 1) I don't have time to stop everything and digest 1000 pages (if you could recommend a summary, that would be great!), and 2) what I know about Reisman so far is from Wikipedia. While I will read sections of this treatise, (the section on competition looks interesting as well) let me just respond to your comment at this time. When you write the rules for running the machine, if you don't really know how the machine operates, disaster is not far down the road. Would you write no rules at all? Would you replace a democratic mechanism for some other mechanism of electing the people who will write the rules? I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on these two points. While debating economic theory is fun, I'm also keenly interested in ideas that would be both effective and provide a compromise that was politically tenable for our times.

message 38: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Waterman Michael:

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, power should be as widely distributed as possible. Concentrations of power should be avoided, particularly in the political arena. The dictatorship is thus the worst form of government, because one man has all the power, and may easily use it to deny human rights to his citizens. Democracy, on the other hand, spreads power among the voting citizens, which is one of the better systems of government . However, the majority has the ability to deny rights to the minority, which is known as the tyranny of the majority. A constitutional republic, where the constitution grants certain rights to all people, is even better than the plain democracy. But the elected representatives of the people still need to respect the laws set forward in the constitution.

Evil may be defined as one person (or group of persons) violating the human rights of another person (or group of persons). Therefore, a balance of power is required to keep one batch of folks from denying rights to other batches of people. Rule Number One for a successful civilization is that no individual may initiate violence against any other person, and the group (or government) has the power to enforce the law and punish the wrongdoer. Successful civilizations follow the rule of law, not merely the rule of powerful men.

As far as Reisman's book, I would recommend reading Chapter 1 as an introduction, because that is where he lays out just about everything he will cover in detail later in the book.

Later, John.

Michael John wrote: "Michael:

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, power should be as widely distributed as possible. Concentrations of power should be avoided, particularly in the politi..."

You have my full agreement with your philosophy. What mechanics would you suggest? What changes would you introduce? I for one think we should repeal the super-majority rule imposed on the senate (under a Republican president, but then the president doesn't legislate) as it is a perfect example of the tyranny of the majority. Shifting more power to the states is another good idea, which would mean undercutting the military-industrial complex and abandoning thrusts to legislate abortion and marriage on a federal basis. Let the states decide! Allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines might be a good way for health insurance exchanges to be more organic.

These ideas cut across rhetorical camps, but until 'we the people' learn to discuss them sensibly, I'm not sure we deserve the republic you speak of.

Do you have any suggestions as to how to move towards this republic?

Spencer "Why is it that almost every character in the book falls in love with Dagny?"

Because she is worthy of it (in contrast to most others as portrayed in the book). The love stories in A.S. are a statement about the meaning of love, and when or to whom love is proper.

Janice Alya wrote: "I loved the book. I thought it was intriguing, exciting (though at times boring) and very philosophical. I do have my issues with it, however. These are the main things:

Why is it that almost eve..."

Re Dagny, I think it was her strength of character and conviction. She exemplified values and virtues. There is no middle ground between right and wrong. This is what must be understood. You are either doing the right thing or you're not. Middle of the road gets you squashed; easy to diffuse/brainwash. You either have morals, values, virtues or you don't.

message 42: by Lily (new) - rated it 1 star

Lily Janice wrote: "...You either have morals, values, virtues or you don't...."

Ah, that the world were that simple and straightforward!

Janice IMHO The world is not simple because man insists on convoluting simple concepts.

message 44: by Lily (last edited Feb 04, 2013 06:33PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lily Janice wrote: "IMHO The world is not simple because man insists on convoluting simple concepts."

Blessings on you! If you are given to prayer, do keep praying for help for the rest of us!

E=mc[2] is indeed simple and elegant. But I cannot consider its implications to be so. Similarly, a strand of DNA.

"Love thy neighbor as thyself" can likewise be considered simple and elegant. But its implementation can be devilishly (and divinely) complex and opaque.

Janice Dear Lily,

E=mc[2] . . . Like I said, man keeps complicating life. Human condition; will never change. Yes, you're right. Even those simple moral lessons can be difficult to implement. Must work at it all the time. That dang human condition again. ;-). All the best to you.

message 46: by Luke (new) - rated it 3 stars

Luke Alya wrote: "I loved the book. I thought it was intriguing, exciting (though at times boring) and very philosophical. I do have my issues with it, however. These are the main things:

Why is it that almost eve..."

the speech was more than slightly ridiculous....

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