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I know this is an endeavoring financial blog, but let me digress for a moment, if you don’t mind.
The book is titled Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.
Long, deep story short; it’s about an America that has lost ambition, that attacks entrepreneurs, and demonizes anyone who thinks of their own welfare and profit over the general welfare of all society. More specifically, it follows the actions of various successful industrial CEOs that fight the good fight against big government, anti-business legislation, and society’s overall belief that retaining the wealth and success that one earns through their own honest hard work is the very definition of immorality.
The reason I bring this book up is that, aside from it simply being an entertaining book, many of its 52 year-old themes are becoming eerily relevant in today’s America.
Socialized industries, distribution of wealth, financial help for those who don’t deserve it and do nothing to better their situation… all of these things were written about 52 years ago, and each one of them is happening today, in our society right now.
The Poor, The Downtrodden…
Let me shed a little more light on the America Ms. Rand has created in her book; it’s dirty. It’s poor. The feeling one receives from reading this book is of a country completely past its prime, its greatest glories and achievements lost to legend, many even choosing to believe they are legends, that nothing that magnificent could ever actually happen anywhere on Earth.
The rhetoric of the common person focuses on the fact that circumstances are not their fault, that there could be no way for them to be personally blamed for any of their own problems. It’s always someone else’s fault for the members of Rand’s fictitious, but potential, America.
Gone are the notions of personal responsibility, hard work, individual rights, and the entrepreneurial spirit that once made America so grand, replaced with progressive notions that have done nothing but slowly bring down American success and prosperity to the level of its lowest citizens, so that no one is possessing of an “unfair” amount of wealth, luxury, success, or even pride. The very spirits of Rand’s Americans are defeated, depressed, and simply pathetic.
There’s Always Hope
Perhaps it’s just me, or perhaps Rand can really spin a good yarn, but I found myself completely sucked into this book, for hours and hours at a time. It probably helped that I feel very strongly about what America is and is not doing right nowadays, and as you can probably guess, I feel it’s doing more wrong than right.
The thing that makes this book compelling and oddly scary is this; a government, viewed as a single entity, can be brought down, can be rebelled against, but only if it’s people are willing. What happens if what you’re fighting against is a society that has accepted its situation, that has lost all passion, convictions, and drive…a society that is willing to slip away into obscurity, in the name of some supposed high-minded ideals that really only exist to mask one’s own true nature of laziness and addiction to luxury and ease?
Ayn Rand has been right about things in the past, such as the decline of communism, which occurred after her death. She’s currently right about many of the social issues of our day, despite being dead for 27 years… will she one day be right about the state of the future America and the spirit of its citizens?
Who knows? Who is John Galt? (you’ll understand if you read the book)
Long post this time, I know. And I haven’t even finished the book yet.
http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2009/04/the_economy_nee_1.html (a very short debate on the economical implications of Rand’s work)