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Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Brief Review

November 5, 2009

If you want my quick advice: This is an important book, and you should read it. You will probably be better off reading it yourself, and drawing your own conclusions – than reading my evaluation of it, since there is no possible way I can adequately address the many ideas covered.

Instead, I will provide a introductory overview:

Atlas Shrugged is a philosophical social commentary written in fictional form, that challenges many, if not all, commonly held ideologies. I would say that the core criticism of Atlas Shrugged is against the idea of altruism. In other words, the central question could be, does a person has the capacity to act completely and totally without self-interest – and if so, is this a good thing? Should a society of free people be based on altruism? Where does such a concept ultimately lead? Can and should people be compelled to act altruistically?
The book is certainly not without it’s faults – and I can honestly say that I was glad to have finished it. The tone of the writing in places could be described as ‘clubbing you over the head’, and can become tiresome. The book itself is written with a very black and white approach. You won’t really find characters that are a mix of good and evil. However – I think Atlas is a picture of extremes, in order to make valid points. (For instance, I think that it’s criticism of collectivism is complete valid – though I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who fully and openly advocates for the destruction of self, individual identity, and rights.) But none of this should stop you from reading this book. Rand’s arguments are relevant, important, and deserve be considered, even if you do so only to disagree and argue against them.
You can order a copy of Atlas Shrugged from Amazon.
I have included an interview with Rand below where she briefly discusses some of her ideas which she presents in Atlas Shrugged. Again – the point is not to simply agree, but her arguments can’t simply be ignored:
Here is an excerpt of her commentary on Rights:

Jobs, food, clothing, recreation(!), homes, medical care, education, etc., do not grow in nature. These are man-made values—goods and services produced by men. Who is to provide them?

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.

Any alleged “right” of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.

No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as “the right to enslave.”

A right does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort. . . .

The right to property means that a man has the right to take the economic actions necessary to earn property, to use it and to dispose of it; it does not mean that others must provide him with property.

“Man’s Rights,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

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