Philosophy Reviews

Atlas Shrugged

[openbook booknumber=”0451191145″]


My second attempt at reading an Ayn Rand novel went off even worse than my first. I’m going to basically cover all the things I found wrong with Anthem and include a few more basic problems I have with her philosophy.

Atlas Shrugged is a philosophical novel written by Ayn Rand, and her last before she turned from novel writer to full time philosopher. The novel outlines and supports her basic tenets of Objectivism.

The theory I don’t have a problem with, generally, my problem is mainly how it is applied in this novel and the way people are using this book to support conservative attempts to have the market limitations put in place during this latest recession be repealed as it is “harming market growth”. This novel is also being used as an argument against the new health care initiative and as a way of gainsaying the economic stimulus package and the green jobs it has created. All of these arguments ignore one vital point: in the novel the market failed because of the market limitations that were put in place on a market that was going on just fine before hand, in the real world the market failed because of circumventions to the market limitations in place and because some market limitations that needed to be in place were not there creating an untenable situation that ultimately collapsed. A circumstance most pundits seem to be glossing over for their own reasons.

Anyway, back to the story. In the story a man saw all of these market limitations and, taking it a step further, resulting socialist states in the novel and decided he would show them how their system would not, could not and should not work by “stopping the motor of the world”. And, he did. To keep from spoiling too much of the plot, since it is an interesting piece of literature, I will have it suffice to say that the main character, a woman named Dagny Taggart, learns along with the reader about the philosophy of Objectivism through out the story through a variety of circumstances and an increasingly dire state of living. Meanwhile she attempts to run her brother’s railroad against increasingly insurmountable odds as the government changes around her. Soon her world starts to give up and come to a standstill. The freeloaders and beggars win in a world where all is equal, since the hard workers have to give, and they have but to receive. Dagny gives until she can give no more, and then she learns the truth: Who is John Galt?

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[openbook booknumber=”0452281253″]


I tried my best, but there was so much of this book that I had problems with, and it was such a short book with so little plot it was very hard not to spoil it, so… spoiler ahoy in this review!

Anthem is a novel about a man named Equality 7-2521. Much in the style of other horrific Utopian novels he is one of many is a futuristic society, where everything is utterly controlled from education, to vocation, to sex, to death and (like Brave New World, 1984 and The Giver) the main character is seeking to throw off this yoke and go back to how things were before, though he hasn’t realized it yet.

For the first ten chapters he speaks in the style of Gollum, of Lord of the Rings. When he speaks of himself he says “we” and “us” for the collective is what is important, while individualism in any form breaks divine law. Everything is done for the betterment of all, for the will of many is greater than the will of the individual. The many’s needs are greater as well and therefore the individual must sacrifice himself for the many.

Equality 7-2521 is given a position as street sweeper and in his work finds two things that are his undoing: a beautiful woman, and an old underground sewer left over from the times before. He sneaks off there and writes his own private thoughts and does his own private research. But, the scientific discoveries he make are nothing next to the truth that he uncovers there.

Anthem is supposed to be a novel exemplifying Ayn Rand’s philosophy about individualism and collectivism and the pros and cons thereof. I have to say some of what she believes I don’t really agree with and actually reading the foreword (a fault of mine) kinda prejudiced me against her before I even got to the story.

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