Atlas Shrugged Is A Ridiculous Book

Atlas Shrugged is a hugely popular book among American conservatives and libertarians who see it as a symbol of resistance to government tyranny. This is surprisingly because it is a horrendous book containing cardboard characters, over necessarily long speeches, absurd plot lines and at least 500 pages more than it needs.

The greatest and most obvious flaw with the book is how terrible the characters are. They are all one dimensional cartoons that are either perfect in every way or horrible in every way. If a character agrees with Rand’s ideology, then they are smart, beautiful, strong, noble and rich. If a character disagrees with her ideology, Rand makes them fat, ugly, stupid, lazy and hysterical (most of the villains of the book speak in exclamation marks). Even when villains have sex, it is made clear that they are not attracted to each other and gain no pleasure from the action. Because if you’re not a fanatical libertarian, you are wrong in literally every way.

The descriptions of the heroes are so over the top absurd it’s almost funny. Hank recalls his first day working at the age of 14 in an iron mine and how he cursed himself for being tired and feeling pain, but kept going because “he decided that pain was not a valid reason for stopping.” He then ends up running a series of steel mills and then inventing an entirely new form of steel. I don’t know how Rand thought it was credible that the CEO of a major corporation could also spend years working in a lab on research or that those skills crossed over. As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, he causally invents an entirely new way of building bridges one evening as if that was the kind of thing that happens all the time.

Francisco has to be the most ridiculous/funny. As a child he instantly becomes an expert in everything he does. He sits in a boat and automatically knows how to drive it. When he was 12 he snuck off and got a job working on the railroads, which was nothing because the year before he ran away and worked on a cargo steamer for the summer. Also while he was 12 he single handedly discovers differential equations. When he was 16 he went to college but also worked in a copper factory. By the time he was 20, he owned the factory. How? By speculating on the stock market, because it is so easy to see which stocks will go up and down. It is weird that none of the heroes have times in their life when they were fun loving children, in childhood they were merely miniature adults.

All of the heroes have this absurd element to them. They don’t stop to eat or rest a single time in the book and it is casually thrown in that they haven’t slept for two or three days as though that would have no effect on them. They have no hobbies or interested outside work. Even when they are bleeding they don’t feel any pain. In other words they are soulless robots, machines good for working and nothing else. Atlas Shrugged bears a strong resemblance to Fascist propaganda in its treatment of heroes. There is a strong emphasis on the cult of personality, of worshipping men of action in contrast to the masses who are too stupid and cowardly to achieve greatness. Democracy destroys accountability whereas dictatorship is the only system where anyone is responsible. All of the best firms in the book are named after their owner and collapse without them.


Atlas Shrugged is less of a novel and more of an excuse for Rand to promote her ideology. The characters are prone to burst out in long winded speeches at the drop of the hat. The climax of the book is a 60 page speech in which remarkably little is said. However, I noticed that Rand completely avoided debates. The moochers give speeches in isolation as do the heroes; at no point do their paths cross. At one point one of the capitalist heroes Dagny is being brought to give a speech. When she finds out that someone will be there to respond and debate her, she drops out of the car and runs away. At another point, the board of directors are considering some daft policy that will cause enormous damage. Yet Dagny, the hero stays silent and makes no attempt to criticise their error. The other board members even ask her for her opinion several times, yet she refuses to say anything. In the end Dagny runs out devastated that they made the wrong decision, having done nothing to prevent it.

The key element of the book is that all the richest and smartest people (for the two are the same) have gone on strike and run away. Yet despite having over 1,100 pages to do so, Rand never explains why that is the best course of action. At no point do the capitalists try to do what any normal person would do and criticise the policies that are destroying the country. No speeches are made, no campaigns are organised and as crazy laws are being introduced the capitalists ignore them and don’t try to oppose them. They merely watch the world crumbling around them yet do nothing to save it. In the real world, the threat by business leaders that anti-business laws will damage the economy is usually enough to stop any laws. Yet in Atlas Shrugged, the capitalists do nothing and then are surprised that they are losing. They make no effort to win people over, yet are surprised that no one supports them.

We’ve tried nothin’ and we’re all out of ideas!

We’ve tried nothin’ and we’re all out of ideas!

For a book that glorifies capitalism and profits, Rand says very little about how businesses are run. We know Dagny is heroic and brave and decisive, but it’s not clear what she does that is so decisive. It is as though she has an unexplained magical power that makes money appear. Strangely, for someone who thinks that making money is the most important thing in the world, the heroic capitalists never seem to actually do anything with the money. They never treat themselves or go on holiday or even take a day off. They rarely go home and their homes are Spartan in appearance. Work is its own reward and they would probably do it even if they made a fraction as much profit (which undermines Rand’s key point).

The book is a criticism of beliefs that no one holds, a denouncement of an ideology that no one believes in and condemnation of things that no one would ever say. In this fictional world, everyone (especially CEOs of major corporations) has inexplicably turned into a liberal who thinks greed is evil and we should share everything with each other. They make speeches that no one would ever make to defend laws that no one would ever pass. There is no criticism of socialism or the Soviet Union or taxes or unions or anything that actually exists. Instead Rand goes to battle against phantom ideologies that only exist in her head. The main laws are rules that forbid companies from competing with each other, that force steel mills to share their steel with everyone who asks for it and the climax is Directive 10-289 which freezes the economy. No one is allowed change job, no one can open a new business or close an existing one, and no one is allowed to invent anything new. Production must be the exact same as it was last year and prices, wages, dividends and even how much people spend must also be fixed and not allowed to change. Why anyone would pass this law is beyond me and it is not clear what it is supposed to be a criticism of.

The most detestable and horrific part of the book is the scene where the coal train goes through the tunnel. A politician is in a rush to get to a political rally so when the train breaks down (which is the government’s fault) and there is no replacement train (also the government’s fault) except for a coal burner. Everyone knows that if a coal burner goes through the tunnel everyone will die, but the trainmen are such cowardly government-lovers that they send it through to save their jobs. However, the disgusting part is how Rand claims that the 300 people who died were not innocent victims; in fact each and every one of them deserved it because they supported the government. There was a man who got a government loan, a school teacher brainwashed her students into supporting the government, a worker who thought he had a right to a job, a consumer who thought she had a right to transportation, a mother who carefully puts her two children to sleep but is married to a man with a government job, a woman who thought she had the right to vote. Rand says that each one of the 300 people on the train had one or more of these bad ideas and therefore deserved to die.

Considering the enormous length Rand goes to in criticising the government, when Rand finally reveals her utopia (eventually after 700 pages) it is ridiculous. Here, hidden away in the mountains the captains of industry are secretly living. Yet none of them are practicing their trade. Instead the aircraft manufacturer is now a hog farmer, the judge is a chicken farmer, the banker is a wheat and tobacco farmer and the orchestra composer has an orchard. The plumbers are former professor of economics and history, the lumberjack is a former car manufacturer and the fishmonger was a writer. What is ridiculous is that this is supposed to be heaven but it sounds like hell. Farming pays very little and just because you are a good banker doesn’t mean you are a good farmer (though Rand doesn’t seem to realise this). Even with high taxes, they would still earn far more money than in farming (I guess there’s more to life than profit after all). This is also an enormous waste of skills and talents (which is hypocritical because Rand complaint with the government is that it prevents business men from fully using their skills).

The utopia is called Galt’s Gulch and sounds like an advertisement for a creepy cult where everyone worships John Galt. Dagny, who runs a transcontinental train network, is delighted to be Galt’s servant. The currency is of course gold, which Galt claims is objective (it isn’t its price changes every day and is relative to other commodities). There are no laws in the utopia which doesn’t matter because there are literally zero disagreements between people. Everyone builds their own house and all the resources you need for life are suddenly available. There is even a shale oil rig beside people’s houses which causes no problems whatsoever.  Everyone promises not to live for another person which would make marriage and raising children difficult. In fact there is only a slight mention of children in the whole book, otherwise no one is too old, no one is sick, no one needs the government (how convenient).

The way Rand treats love is bizarre and disturbing. Marriage and sex are just a transaction like any other. Hank neglects his wife and she is portrayed as the villain for wanting to spend time with him. Hank only buys Dagny jewellery because it makes him happy, he makes it clear that he doesn’t give a damn what she thinks. The sex scenes between the two heroes are borderline rape and described as an “act of hatred”. Dagny and Hank are in love, but when a better offer (John Galt is more anti-government and therefore better looking and therefore everyone understands Dagny for sleeping with him) comes along they break up in five seconds without the slightest difficulty. Rand goes to great lengths denouncing the idea of love; to her you can only love someone if you are getting something out of it.

There is an enormous amount of hypocrisy in the book. Rand condemns the government for doing the exact same thing that the heroes do. When a capitalist ignores safety warnings and drives the train into a tunnel, she is being heroic and decisive. When the government does the same thing, everyone dies. The government is condemned for cronyism and friends’ helping friends, yet that is exactly what Hank does repeatedly for Dagny. The heroes refuse to live for anyone but themselves yet they refuse to betray each other. Ragnar steals money in the name of self-interest and profit yet he gives it away to strangers instead of keeping it. Getting money for nothing is condemned yet the heroes of the novel, Dagny and Francisco both inherited their wealth and jobs.

Atlas Shrugged is a mammoth book in dire need of a good editor (it could have easily been cut in half or even by two thirds). The plot was dragged out far longer than necessary with needless sub plots and unnecessary characters. The prose is overblown, the dialogue is melodramatic (half the characters seem to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown) and plot simply sucks. It is bad to only read books that agree with your point of view, it is often good to hear the other side of the argument. However, Atlas Shrugged is not the book for that. It is a combination of all the worst aspects of libertarianism, so much so that I’d imagine most libertarians are embarrassed by it.

UPDATE: Somehow or other this has been posted on Galt’s Gulch Online a forum board to discuss the Atlas Shrugged movies. The comments are good if you want a laugh. Obviously the fans aren’t pleased with my take, the consensus being that I mustn’t of read the book because no one who read the book could disagree with it.

2nd UPDATE: A rebuttal has been written that contains a strange obsession with calling soccer socialism and Europe primative.


Filed under Books, Politics

67 responses to “Atlas Shrugged Is A Ridiculous Book

  1. M Stack

    I think you’ve done a fine job of explaining why only a few crackpots have ever bought this book. Thanks for making the effort.

    • Still nearly half a million crackpots a year, nearly 50 years after publication. I don’t know that popularity equals quality, but since you’ve chosen that yardstick, M Stack, we’ll go with it. You are as completely wrong in your comment as Mr Neilson was in his article.
      I’d have preferred to study and refute the intellectual arguments proffered by Mr Neilson. Disappointingly, I didn’t find any.

  2. Hang on. The resolution to the whole story is that the rich leave all their assets for the poor and run away – making themselves poorer and the rest of society richer in the process.

    • Yeah the ending completely contradicts the entire premise of the book. Working for others is terrible so lets all run off to a commune and work together. Greed is good so lets quit our highly paid jobs to become farmers.

    • Unless you missed the point of AS completely… that ‘the rich’ got that way by USING their assets (skills, intellect, work) and that ‘the rich’ do NOT ‘give up their assets’ when they escape to The Gulch… they take their MOST VALUABLE assets with them.

      Of course, moochers will never understand that…. You’re funny!

  3. Spot on. I caught a few minutes of the film the other day and almost gagged.

    • The film is a complete disaster. They’ve had to replace the entire cast for each film, because they’ve all been awful. The free market has decided that making these films is not efficient, yet they keep pushing on for political reasons.

      • I’ve never read the book, but your statement concerning the one-dimensional nature of the characters rung so true from my brief exposure to the story’s film adaptation.

      • Thanks, Mr. Nielsen, for making up that explanation. Nothing to do with the original actors having landed other gigs that kept them from even auditioning for AS2 or 3, OR maybe some were so well-received by the viewers who DID watch AS1 that they priced themselves out of their own market for AS2… You are such a zealot! And you complain that folks who think AR made sense are bad, for the same reason. PotKettle.

        • “Nothing to do with the original actors having landed other gigs that kept them from even auditioning for AS2 or 3”

          Really? Every single actor was too busy to return? All of them? Funny that every other time a sequel is made, the directors somehow manage to find away to get the actors to return. It sounds to me like you are acting like a moocher and making excuses for failure.🙂

          “OR maybe some were so well-received by the viewers who DID watch AS1 that they priced themselves out of their own market for AS2”

          Seeing as AS1 lost a huge amount of money, I highly doubt this.

          • …. and you are aware, of course of the amount of funding and the sources of funding for all three of the movies, right? It might be easier than you think for an actor to price themselves out of a market like that.

        • Holden

          What does the Atlus Shrugged movie have to do with a critique of the book? If you read the book, you realize the movie wasn’t really all that true to the novel.

  4. The creator of the first two has announced he will Kickstarter the third one. But he’s totally convinced the trilogy will end up being profitable!
    I haven’t read the book, but a friend of mine previously pointed out how much Galt’s Gulch looks like a communist/hippie utopia where everyone works the land and live simply.
    Your description of the capitalists refusal to engage in politics or persuasion reminds me of some self-pitying stories about writers I’ve run across. The kind where the writer considers himself such a genius he shouldn’t have to write stuff that sells (Pandering to the Masses!!!!!!!). He just deserves to be a success anyway.

  5. skeen66

    I must wonder what took Nielsen so long to (maybe) read Atlas Shrugged. This is 2014 and it was published in 1957. Perhaps he’s just a twenty-something and never heard of the novel before. But his review is the typical sneering diatribe against a literary work that has sold millions of copies, his reservations and objections to the contrary notwithstanding. The two Atlas movies were disasters which took more liberties with the novel than Nielsen could imagine even at his snarkiest best. Of course, he couldn’t know, or doesn’t wish to know, that Atlas Shrugged came in a close second behind the Bible as the most popular or influential work in America, according to a Library of Congress poll. And the leitmotif of Neilsen’s review is a shriek: I don’t want you to read this book! You might learn something! And that is the motive of every “rotten review” of any of Rand’s novels.

    • “I must wonder what took Nielsen so long to (maybe) read Atlas Shrugged. This is 2014 and it was published in 1957.”

      Well the main reason why I didn’t read Atlas Shrugged in 1957 was that my father was only born in 1958.

      Yes I do know that the book as sold millions and was rated highly in a poll, but since when did we judge books on their popularity? Have you no mind of your own or must you only follow other people? Considering that a core point of Atlas Shrugged is an indictment of democracy and popular opinion it is ironic that you base your argument on it. Might Atlas Shrugged not be objectively wrong regardless of what some people think?

      • skeen66

        I didn’t base my argument on how popular the novel was or is. Not knowing your age or anything else about you, I was simply pointing out a fact. Yes, I do have a mind of my own. I’m not a “follower.” Atlas Shrugged does not “indict” democracy, but it does in many scenes, especially in dialogue, mock popular opinion. The master of that mockery is the Argentine, Francisco D’Anconia. In fact, Rand was against “democracy,” or majority or mob rule, but nowhere in the novel does she mention any specific political system, except laissez faire capitalism, and statism. And for a novel you say ought to be forgettable, I should point out that when the economic meltdown began a few years ago, people were saying, “Just like in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged!” That sentiment was everywhere, in polls, mainstream newspapers, and financial publications. No one was saying: “Just like in Joyce’s Ulysses!” Things are not “objectively wrong regardless of what some people think.” Things are wrong because people can objectively think about them. Finally, I think you ought to see this Amazon Books link. I’m not someone easily bamboozled.

        • “And for a novel you say ought to be forgettable, I should point out that when the economic meltdown began a few years ago, people were saying, “Just like in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged!” That sentiment was everywhere, in polls, mainstream newspapers, and financial publications.”

          People were saying, eh? You couldn’t sound more Randian if you tried Sceen.

          • skeen66

            If you doubt me, check back issues of the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investors Business Daily, and other prominent publications. I didn’t write the articles. The articles weren’t written by “Randians.” And, it’s “Skeen.” And I’m not a “Randian.” If you can’t think of anything better to say than pen snooty rejoinders, then don’t bother.

            • “If you can’t think of anything better to say than pen snooty rejoinders, then don’t bother.”

              Just trying to dispel the notion you seem to want to create here that Ayn Rand was a prophet. And who is to say that “those people” weren’t at some level advocates for Rand’s philosophical views? Because of where there comments were published? Right-wingers have penned Op-eds in the NY Times. That doesn’t attribute their comments to some general population view.

          • Ibwoodgate… just a note… some years ago, during one of the PREVIOUS recessions (before the Big One), legislators in NY State proposed a law to stop companies from laying off employees “in order to maintain stability in the economy.”

            If you read Atlas, wait ’til you get to the part about Directive 10-289. See if you see any similarities. 🙂

            • Sources please. Unlike you, I don’t base my views on unverified internet rumours. Seeing as that law was never passed, it shows that most people don’t believe its the right approach. Nor would I generalise based on the actions of a handful of people in minor position.

                • Did you even read your own link? The laws only requires that businesses give their workers warning that they will be laid off (and has many exceptions), it doesn’t forbid them from firing people or hiring new people or changing their prices or closing their business or changing their level of production or their profit or any of the other ridiculous features of Directive 10-289 that have no basis in reality.

                  • You missed the part where I said, ‘comes close,’ didn’t you?

                    Actually, NY State, in providing for the ‘common good’ was employing the use of force to make employers do something which, under some circumstances, might be literally damaging to themselves.

                    If you owned a company bleeding money and were forced to keep profit-losing employees on the payroll for a few extra months, well… you’d just bite the bullet, right? And if your savings had gone to zero in the process, bankruptcy is only a ‘fair reward’ for lack of business management skills, right? Oh, wait…. my arguments are invalid but yours aren’t… game over.

                    Been there, done that, wasted much too much of my life in such ‘discussions.’


                    • “You missed the part where I said, ‘comes close,’ didn’t you?”

                      Except that it doesn’t come anywhere close. Not by a long shot. There is an enormous difference between freezing a company and merely requiring it to give their workers warning that they will be quitting.

        • Wow some people mentioned Atlas Shrugged during the crisis, therefore it must be right! Well people also mentioned Karl Marx and his books too, does that mean those are great books? The reason people don’t mention Ulysses is because it has nothing to do with politics. The fact you would use such a silly argument is hilarious.

          Finally, I’m not sure why you link those Amazon books. Did you write them? Am I supposed to be impressed? If that is you then why do you claim you are not a Randian when the bio of that author says “He is dedicated to Objectivism, or Ayn Rand’s philosophy of reason in all matters.”

      • LOL, Robert… no, typically we DO judge literature by its popularity…
        Good one! Thanks!

        And, no, if you go to Galt’s Gulch and meet and greet the bloggers and commenters there, you’ll discover (cancel that… you’ll deny) that the general feeling is NOT one of an ‘indictment of democracy’ at all. It’s an indictment of lack of critical thinking. But I’ll bet nothing will change your mind.

        • So you make no attempt to engage in debate or what I said, but are completely convinced that nothing will change my mind. Well so long as you feel superior to me, that’s all that counts.

          • Thanks! What, if anything, might bring you to a different perspective on the subject? You see, per one of ‘my Laws,’ “Stereotypes don’t come from nowhere,” so when we of the objectivist ilk read movie or book reviews like the one above, we’ve seen them before and have a lot of experience with how far an ‘intellectual discussion’ will go before most of the commentary becomes ad hominum blather.

            Sure, the characters in AS are two-dimensional. That makes it easier to get the basic concepts across to folks who might not have given them any deeper thought at all. One has to start somewhere in order to convey new concepts to people who’d never been exposed to them before or who had already been indoctrinated in ‘opposing views.’

            Did you start learning math with addition and subtraction or Laplace Transforms? 🙂

  6. Chris Morrison

    Well Mister Neilsen, perhaps you would care to pull the log out of your own ideolological eye before you start picking the speck out of that of Ayn Rand. Perhaps you could do your own and tell us about all the heroes that the antithesis of the book’s ideology have produced over the years. Mao, now there was a true and noble soul. Messrs Stalin and Lenin, those absolute paragons of all that’s good in humanity, and let’s not forget that remarkable progressive Pol Pot, by gum, there’s a character to be revered in song and story.
    The characters in AS are precisely that.Characters.Any schoolchild can comment or fiddle with what they see as the shortcomings of a character in a book. In England we are positively shown how to do it from 13 onwards in Literature classes. You aren’t clever for showing yours to the world, nor are you by any means necessarily right, even though the imperious and self important tone of your comments makes it clear that you think you are. Libertarians are quite capable of making their own judgements on the book and speaking as one of them I think you and your apology for an intellect ought to take an honest look and make some honest admissions about the unmitigated disaster of collectivism before you start trying to pull a set of better values than yours to bits. I think people like you are the ones who ought to be feeling embarrassment, and not on account of any work of fiction: rather by your works of history.

    • Just to be clear, you think that if I don’t like Atlas Shrugged, I must be a Communist? That you either love Atlas Shrugged or love Communist mass murdering dictators? Do you not think there might be a middle ground somewhere between the two extremes or do you share’s Rand’s abhorrence of the middle ground?

      You do realise that this is a book review? So criticising me for reviewing the book is a bit odd on your behalf. So discussion of the characters and how well or badly they are written is exactly what you should expect in a book review.

      • Chris Morrison

        You said it was a combination of the worst aspects of libertarianism, did you not? Sounds like you’re having a go at the values it represents AS WELL AS the book. And a quick check of your other “material” means I can happily bet the farm where you stand on political issues like collectivism.

        • Go ahead if it makes you happy, but I’m not a Communist or a Collectivist. But you are someone using all caps to prove a point so I guess I’m in the presence of a higher intellect.

          • We tend to use all caps if we’re not sure that html markup will let us use bold face for emphasis…. but I doubt that will make any sense to Mr. Nielsen.

            • All caps is usually interpreted as shouting and shouting in an argument usually undermines your case.

              • Oh, a revelation for all of us who’ve ever blogged, eh, Mr. Nielsen.
                As I said, some of us haven’t tried bolding and on this site it’s a lot more awkward than hitting a caps-lock key… Caps lock for emphasis isn’t all that bad. If used SPARINGLY. When whole paragraphs or messages go caps-lock, yes, most people stop reading.

                funny note… I had a manager once who always sent messages in caps-lock. When asked why, he said it was faster for him than having to hit the shift key so often.

                I sent a message to him that locked his laptop in caps-lock. He didn’t think it was all that bad until he tried logging on to the system later… seems as if his password was in lower case and he couldn’t log in at all. I was nice enough to send him another message unlocking his computer. And now, thirty years later, we’re still friends. 🙂

  7. Dominic

    A typical sneering review of “Atlas Shrugged” by someone who sees themselves reflected in Ayn Rand’s anti-heroes.

  8. Pingback: Ayn Rand Versus James Joyce: The Divorce of America from Europe | Overmanwarrior's Wisdom

  9. mattjutras

    “Rand says that each one of the 300 people on the train had one or more of these bad ideas and therefore deserved to die.”

    Best part of the book, and she was right.

    • Andrew McRae

      Thanks for the ‘review’, Robert, and for manning up so willingly against the most specious criticism; none of your critics here has attempted to address even one point in your commentary, aside, perhaps, from ludicrous straw man ‘reasoning’ by Chris Morrison and someone else’s admission that cardboard cut-out ‘characters’ actually assist in the dissemination of what is essentially propaganda.

      This book is one of the worst ever written, and I’ve known this since I was 14 years old, in the early 1960s, when my mother handed it to me and commanded me to read it. At the time I had a very painful ingrown toenail, so in fact this turgid and nasty tome distracted me from lesser pain. I was puzzled by my mother’s action because I knew she couldn’t have supported such ‘ideas’, or such literary bilge. She told me later that I had to arm myself against such tripe with the knowledge of it.

      Funnily enough, a few years later I became familiar with the notion of hippies, and remembered the formation of that absurd rural community of cardboard titans at Galt’s Gulch. How inadvertently prescient of the author.

      The evident popularity (but how many actually finish or even half-finish it?) of the book may help to explain for non-Americans why the USA has so much stupid thinking in the form of gun-toting-bible-bashing-creationist-teaparty-climate-denialist wingnuts, and at the same time so many absolutely destitute denizens. No offence intended, but it seems to me that illogicality, superstition and hubris have too much control of ‘mainstream’ thought in your country. It’s a great worry when prominent political figures still tout Rand’s books as formative and of having some sort of abiding objective truth, when what they actually stand for in real life, those figures, is nothing more than corporate cronyism and parasitic rent-seeking..Madness.

      • Andrew McRae

        Sorry, I did not intend the above to be a reply only to mattjutras’s blithely vacuous comment.

        • lockedandloaded75

          Two quick points, this “review” of Atlas Shrugged is a thinly veiled attack on people who distrust government and see no value in coercive collectivism.

          Second, while this novel is probably the most well know treatise against collectivism, and therefore the easiest to attack, it is hardly the only source of objectivist/individual thought.

          There are thousands of pages of non fiction essays by Rand and her associates that are superior to anything written in Atlas Shrugged, but these writings are ignored because it’s easier for the cry babies to point out “lack of plot” or “bad dialog” in a fiction novel, as if this criteria somehow dismantles the core ideas and philosophy of individualists or objectivists.

          • Actually, this book review is just a book review. I have no desire to critique Objectivism or Rand’s theories. This book alone is my sole concern. It is possible to make a reasonable case against government intervention in the economy, but Atlas Shrugged comes nowhere close to doing so.

            So when I criticize bad dialogue and a lack of plot, I’m criticizing bad dialogue and the plot. There is no secret agenda that I’m pushing and like most people I don’t care about Objectivism.

          • Yep, but your point will fall on deaf ears.. When I reread the treatise again, I realized when I got to this part..

            “At no point do the capitalists try to do what any normal person would do and criticise the policies that are destroying the country. No speeches are made, no campaigns are organised and as crazy laws are being introduced the capitalists ignore them and don’t try to oppose them. They merely watch the world crumbling around them yet do nothing to save it. In the real world, the threat by business leaders that anti-business laws will damage the economy is usually enough to stop any laws. Yet in Atlas Shrugged, the capitalists do nothing and then are surprised that they are losing. They make no effort to win people over, yet are surprised that no one supports them.”….. that, first, I hadn’t noticed the Euro/UK-centric roots of Mr. Nielsen, and second, What he’s critiquing Rand for NOT (oops… not doing, that’s exactly what we have been trying to do, here and elsewhere!

            And the reactions to our opinions are quite similar to what we’ve been reading here… For the most part, we’re reconciled to being surrounded by people who’ve been steeped in the message that ‘government controls are good and necessary and there are no valid or effective alternatives.’

            So many of us get kind of sensitive to comments that imply at capitalism is evil and the rich steal from the poor. It has become a religious litany for so many folks who believe those things and keep repeating their catechism…. well, it annoys us, too.

            Ciao, again!

            • As the past couple of decades have proven, capitalism without government controls doesn’t take us anywhere good. So yeah, we do need them.
              I agree capitalism isn’t automatically evil. Of course it’s not automatically good, either: the belief that everyone who succeeds is somehow more deserving than those who do not is simply not matched by the facts.

              • and, as I’ve said above and before, when you say, “Of course it’s not automatically good, either: the belief that everyone who succeeds is somehow more deserving than those who do not is simply not matched by the facts.”… you need to take some time up front to examine the concept of “deserve.”

                Sort of right up there with the non-discussion of “fair.”

                • Let me phrase it this way then. It’s been consistently documented that CEO pay has zero connection with CEO performance. Successful executives get bonuses and stock options; executives whose performance is shit and see their companies tank still get bonuses and stock options. Or the fact CEO pay has skyrocketed compared to the pay of 40 years ago, or to pay in other countries, even though performance hadn’t. So that would be one example of not deserving their earnings.

                  • Well, temporarily ignoring the use of ‘deserve’ as the ‘hot word’ that it still is, keep in mind that most CxOs’ pay and perqs are set by a Compensation Board or committee appointed by the company’s Board of Directors, so I claim that root cause of ‘overpaid CEOs’ is not their own fault; it comes from stupid BODs that can’t seem to recognize, as you correctly point out, that the output is definitely not ‘forecast’ by the amount of pay they’re given.

                    Also, keep in mind that some years (decades?) back, tax laws were changed by ‘your government and mine’ (at least here in the US) so that executive pay (salaries) were taxed at high rates, so the CEOs (and those generous BODs and Compensation Committees) changed the way CEOs were financially rewarded, moving a TON of their compensation into stock gifts and options, all with the goal of increasing or maintaining pay levels while minimizing tax hits.

                    Blame Congress as root cause of that one, too… it’s an ‘unintended consequence’ of lawyers trying to solve economic and market issues.

                    Happens every time!

                    Now, they may not, in your mind OR mine, ‘deserve’ their high pay, but they’re just reacting to market constraints like many humans would and do.

                    I have a VERY conservative/libertarian friend who has a nice ‘racket’ though it’s totally legal. He just plays the cards he’s dealt: He works about three or five months of the year at full pay. He qualifies for all of the benefits that his employer legally offers, including medical and hospitalization and all those other goodies. He’s paid a high market-clearing price for his financial and accounting skills. And does this ‘part time work’ for the IRS every year.

                    Everything is available to him legally and he’s enjoying ‘the system’ that’s been created NOT by him, but in his own way, FOR him. If I had his skills and background, I might be tempted to do the same.

                    You’re, of course, free to use the word ‘deserve’ but please don’t imply that it’s immoral or illegal. It’s not.

                    • Actually CEOs do actually rig the game in multiple ways: the independent boards are often more beholden to the CEO than they’re supposed to be. And even if they’re not pushing for more pay, that hardly disproves my point that they don’t earn their pay.
                      I’m puzzled by your reference to your friend. How is working five months a year a “racket” if he earns enough money to support himself? Or is he not actually earning the money he’s getting paid for?

                    • Fraser, I was being a bit ironic when I referred to his ‘racket.’ I chastised him for his claims of being a free-market libertarian while mooching so hard … then he reminded me that everything he was doing was not only legal, but government-authorized and available to anyone who could qualify for the job. It was ironic to me that his employer was a local IRS office.

                      He’s earning (and deserves :)) the money he gets.

    • I can’t tell if you’re trolling or genuinely believe that everyone who disagree with you should die. Neither view deserves any attention.

  10. Holden

    I think what you said below sums up Rand’s point of view well, as someone who saw her family’s life confiscated by the Russians during the Russian Civil War.

    “Atlas Shrugged bears a strong resemblance to Fascist propaganda in its treatment of heroes. There is a strong emphasis on the cult of personality, of worshipping men of action in contrast to the masses who are too stupid and cowardly to achieve greatness. “

  11. I had similar responses to a review of the Fountainhead. I found that so bad I wouldn’t go near anything by Rand again. It was absolute drivel – carboard characters, ludicrous plot, despicable philosophy. Glad to see I’m not alone in feeling that way.

  12. Kevin

    One can’t discuss with Randians, because owing to the underlying atheism it effectively fulfills the function of religion. They are ideologues. Rand, by the way, was a great fan of Jeffrey Dahmer. She admired the way he was not bound by societal moral conventions. In her eyes he was an ubermensch. Obviously the woman, who herself was patently a sociopathic personality (read her bio), was unable to distinguish transcending convention mores from above, as in an intelligent universalism which nonetheless honors differences in cultures, from escaping from below, infernally, so to speak. If Christ spoke of the love of God and neighbor as the essence of religion, and as corresponding to man’s profound nature, one could say that Rand is a type of antichrist, and for that very reason anti-human.

  13. Directive 10-289 is obviously (loosely) based on the National Recovery Act and Executive Order 9328.

  14. Andreas A

    Your review, Mr Nielsen, is insteresting, but it seems not to take into consideration factors like history and time. In 1957, half the world was under the control of the Soviet Union. The launch of the Sputnik put Chruscev’s USSR in the spotlight for technological and economic achievements. In some Western European countries, the Communist Party was more than a threat (scoring between 20 and 37% of the polls at national elections in Italy). Senator MacCarthy was fully engaged in his fight against internal enemies. The National Security Agency was applying strategies such as “containement” and “roll back” while fighting the Communists in Corea and Europe. This is just to mention a few facts that explain the difficult context in which Ayn Rand is wiritng.
    When you say that the characters of Atlas Shrugged are one dimensional – either too good, or too bad – you are right. But do you understand that in the bi-polar order of the Cold War, the fight was between partisans of a free world based on liberal democracy and capitalism, versus supporters of totally opposite principles? When you’re fighting against ideologies – like fascism or communism – there is no middle ground. You’re either standing with the free world, or with its enemies. And Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shurgged definitely qualifies as a partisan of the free world’s values.
    When you say that the plot is absurd and illogical – I would also add melodramatic – you are again very right. But is the narrative value of this book the secret of its success, which seems to endure over time, or even the ultimate goal of the author? Probably not. Is the Bible a book that sells many copies for the narrative values of its plot? Again, probably not. My guess is that the undeniable popularity of Atlas Shrugged might be resting on the passionate defense of some founding values of Western liberal societies – espcially the American people. Values that bypass history and time and are the cornerstone of the social identity of the West, such as rewarding merit, pursuing self-initative, defending rational individualism, etc.
    Now, think how wrong it would be to judge Chaucer or Dante’s works for containing biaised views on Judaism or sodomy. In principles, arguing that the Canterbuty Tales and the Divina Commedia were homophobic, anti-semitic works would be difficult to contradict. However, time and history always define the specific framework of literary works and their associated values and thoughts – and time and history decide what heritage is supposed to remain of these works and what, on the contrary, is doomed to decay. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is no exception – and the fact that today’s conservatives and libertarians are strumentalizing the book for whatever reason shouldn’t be held against Ayn Rand’s work. It would be just as wrong as reviewing Hegel and Nietsche’s work in the light of what the Nazis did with their philosophical thought.
    In short, you may argue that the book is badly-written, bloody-wordy, etc. etc. All books have flaws. But Atlas Shrugged is a book whose pages contributed to shape and reinforce many people’s social and moral identity, and whose enduring planetary outreach capacity still stands out as an undeniable fact. I am afraid that dismissing Atlas Shrugged as a ridiculous piece of literarure for the reasons you have diligently identified and accurately explained equals completely missing the point.

  15. Pingback: RE: Is It OK To Hate Reading? – Sketchy White Dude

  16. MrPete

    To me, the interesting thing about your review is your put-down of supposedly cardboard characters. Just because you’ve never known a brilliant and creative entrepreneur doesn’t mean they are pie in the sky ridiculous.

    A guy who is both CEO and brilliant inventor? Sure. AND invents a new kind of bridge at breakfast? No problem.
    A kid who makes zillions of dollars on the stock market in his spare time? Yep. (I know one who easily covered his full college costs and more in a minor amount of day trading at college library…)
    People who hold one kind of job in the “normal” world… but then make a big change and successfully do something *entirely* different… and enjoy the big change? You bet.

    I could go on but there’s no reason. Your review speaks volumes about who you are. It doesn’t really scratch Ayn Rand at all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s