Published April 20, 2009
Mon, 20 Apr 2009 14:57:15 +0000 – By Dr. Yaron BrookExecutive Director, The Ayn Rand Center
The U.S. economy is in shambles. Government intervention into the economy is increasing by the day. Americans are alarmed and desperate for answers: What caused the crisis? What is the solution? That might sound like a description of today's world, but in fact it's sketch of the world of Ayn Rand's 1957 classic novel "Atlas Shrugged."
"Atlas Shrugged" has exploded in popularity in recent months. Pundits talk about a widespread "Going Galt" movement inspired by the novel, book sales are higher than at any time in the novel's 51-year history, and at virtually every anti-tax day tea party you could find protest signs referencing the novel or its author. Given the ominous parallels between the book and today's events, none of that is surprising.
What "Atlas"shows is how our culture's ideas--particularly its ideas about morality--are moving us step by step away from the Founding Fathers' ideal.The tea parties testify to the outrage that many Americans feel toward Washington's explosive growth in the past few decades -- especially under Presidents Bush and Obama. "Atlas Shrugged" not only gives voice to this outrage, it provides both a profound explanation of the cause of today's crisis--and a positive solution to it.
"Atlas Shrugged" argues that ideas shape society. A society that values reason, the individual, and freedom creates the United States of America. A society that denounces the mind, preaches self-sacrifice, and worships the collective creates Nazi Germany. What "Atlas"shows is how our culture's ideas--particularly its ideas about morality--are moving us step by step away from the Founding Fathers' ideal.
Virtually no one in Rand's time -- or today -- questions the precept that we are our brother's keeper, that self-sacrificially serving others is good, and that being selfish is evil. What Rand saw was that this was irreconcilable with the vision of man as an independent, self-sufficient, sovereign being who deserves and requires freedom. If a society believes man's duty is to sacrifice for others, then it cannot countenance capitalism -- a political and economic system that enables and encourages men to pursue their own interests, their own profit, their own welfare. Such a society, necessarily, looks to the collective, to government for solutions, just as we are seeing today.
But "Atlas Shrugged" provides a way out: it provides a defense of the individual'smoralright to pursue his own happiness, which is the precondition for upholding the individual's political right to pursue his own happiness.
To show how Rand's ideas help make sense of today's events, and to show how her radical new conception of morality--what she called rational selfishness--can help return us to the Founders' ideal of limited government, the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights regularly speaks and writes on current events. Recent engagements including UCLA, American University, Duke University, University of Texas, and the University of Maryland. I will also be appearing at the University of Minnesota, Mankatoon April 21 at 6 PM.
Those interested in learning more about Ayn Rand and "Atlas Shrugged" can visit ARC's Web site: www.aynrandcenter.org.