50 Year Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged

As a libertarian I have been interested in the writings of Ayn Rand. I was surprised that today marked the fiftieth anniversary of her influential book Atlas Shrugged. It was a delight to read of John Piper’s thoughts on her work – I saw that he and I shared the same struggles and feelings. Though she was a champion of capitalism and individualism, she was an ardent atheist and hedonist. In some senses, her views tend towards bolstering the misconceptions many have about capitalism, as she was rigorously self-centred (note her views on abortion). I sometimes think that if someone like Rand became the leader of a country, the poor would have some problems. Granted, I don’t know enough about her thought to really back the statement up!

Yet, in a strange way, it is her atheism that I am intrigued by. She is a living example that a capitalist system that is based on the autonomous rationality of men and women provides no real incentive to do good. The poor would get left behind, not because of capitalism, but because the atheism behind it (in her case) provides no foundation for ethics. Capitalism, in my opinion, needs an objective authority (more than Smith’s ‘invisible hand’) that changes the naturally selfish inclinations of people. Of course, I argue that the only objective authority for this is Christ and his Word.
Anyways, after that ramble, don’t get dissuaded from reading Piper’s note. It’s very good. And while you’re at it, read this evaluation of Rand’s ethics also written by Piper some years ago.
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2 responses to “50 Year Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged

  1. Rogers Meredith

    Rand’s version of capitalism fails because of its individualism. Out- side of Covenant (the Covenant) an individual is a rogue, indeed an individual may only be human (and a true individual) by virtue of conection with others. Individualism is ok but only in the covenental/Tinitiarian sense the same hold s true for capitalism etc. Unitrain versions of captialism, the church, goverment or the family are not only totalitarian but domed to failure and will (soonoer or latter) collapse under its own weight.

  2. Mark

    Ian,

    Interesting post and links! Just yesterday I posted a quote from my reading of a book by Rand (Without knowing it was the 50th anniversary).

    The book I’m reading is a collection of her writings on the New Left. Pretty good stuff! I find most of her criticisms pretty compelling and well-said. She does a fine job of defending the property rights of the Universities and also showing how, philisophically, the kids were ironically most eager students/followers of the Establishment.

    However, the book does contain the problems that are pretty typical of her work. Also, she is quite obnoxious in her portrayal of others at some points and also ridicules religion at other points.

    Rand has done a lot to further liberty and libertarianism. She connected to a lot of people and she has been very influential in the development of a lot of libertarians. It isn’t hard, though, to see her flaws and see that she shouldn’t be seen as a total spokesperson of the libertarian movement.

    It may seem counterintuitive, but interestingly enough I see some traces of totalitarianism in her and her following. Almost a sort of a zombie-ish devotion.

    One interesting piece of food for thought, though…. I’d HATE to have to live under the mirror opposite of Ayn Rand.. ie.. someone who is a collectivist sort of person to the extreme degree that Ayn was a individualist. Now, to have someone in office like that, that would be torture!!!!!

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