“Since I am to speak on the Objectivist Ethics, I shall begin by quoting its best representative-John Galt, in Atlas Shrugged: "Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required” - The Opening of The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand
As a businessman and scientist I have always been interested in science and mystery fiction, as well as philosophy and reality. Pondering on the current economic collapse, I was intrigued what SF has to say about this situation. I always thought that the civilization / reality we have crafted around us would collapse [in golden age SF traditions] by an asteroid impact, an alien invasion of Triffids, a virus destroying plant life, Body Snatchers, a Mega-Volcano eruption, or a Nuclear Exchange, Martians or a man made virus escaping. It seems that Amy Rand’s 1957 novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was closer to the reality we see emerging since the economic crisis, as reported by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian -
Some products do comparatively well in times of recession: alcohol, chocolate, cinema tickets, cigarettes. But one surprise bestseller of the economic Armageddon is a decades-old science fiction novel about an imaginary economic Armageddon - popular now, its fans insist, because the collapse of civilisation it describes is on the verge of coming true.
Sales of Ayn Rand's 1957 book Atlas Shrugged - a hymn in praise of radical individualism, extreme self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism - are surging as the crisis deepens, according to TitleZ, a service that tracks sales trends on Amazon.
As of yesterday, the book's 30-day average rank on the website was 110, far above its average rank of 542 over the last two years. On 13 January it even briefly outperformed Barack Obama's wildly popular work The Audacity of Hope. Yesterday it was in 55th place, between The Reader and a book on cultivating very small gardens.
Atlas Shrugged tends to inspire either cult-like devotion or sarcastic mockery in readers, who are either thrilled or appalled by Rand's vision of a world in which the "men of the mind" - inventors, entrepreneurs and industrialists - withdraw their labour from a society intent on bleeding them dry with taxes and regulations.
Furious at being exploited by the government on behalf of the masses, who are described as "parasites" and "moochers", the striking capitalists retreat to a camp in the mountains of Colorado, protected by a special holographic shield.
Starved of their genius, society collapses and wars break out until eventually bureaucrats are forced to beg the rebels' leader, John Galt, to take over the economy. There is a reason, then, that Amazon categorises the book as fantasy. But Rand adherents see looming parallels in today's Washington.
The Obama administration's support for beleaguered homeowners and banks, they argue, smacks of tyrannical socialism, forcing the strong and successful to prop up the weak, feckless and incompetent. "The current economic strategy is right out of Atlas Shrugged," the commentator Stephen Moore wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal. "The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you."
Obama's frequently expressed view that the crisis demands that all Americans make sacrifices - and that those earning the most will need to "chip in a little more" - would have disgusted Rand, who believed that altruism was evil.
Read the full feature here
These are surreal times indeed and worrying so perhaps it’s time to listen to what Rand described in ‘Atlas Shrugged’
Atlas Shrugged sweeps the reader into its own world of larger-than-life characters—including the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy and the great industrialist who doesn’t know that he is working for his own destruction. The story is a mystery about a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world—and did. Society disintegrates, food shortages spark riots, factories shutdown by the hundreds. Is this man a vicious destroyer—or the greatest of liberators? What is the motor of the world? What is required to restart it?
The answers emerge in the novel’s logical yet astounding climax. The answers are of profound significance not merely for the resolution of the story’s central conflict— but also for man’s life in reality, today.