Update March 10, 2009: Recent news releases show that the sales of Atlas Shrugged soared in 2008 and sales in the first weeks of 2009 are on pace to exceed last years’ record sales. If you listen to talk radio, Ayn Rand’s book is mentioned every day.
Update – December 10, 2008 : I published this book review less than two weeks ago. In the last two days I have heard Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Jim Quinn all talk about Atlas Shrugged. A common thread of their comments was the fact that we seem to be living this book. The names have changed, but the chill is there!
I had a boss a few years ago (actually 15 years ago) who often would tell me to read Atlas Shrugged. He was only a few years older than me, but had much more real world experience as I had spent the better part of my career working for government. In fact, he once told me that he had a hard time convincing his superiors to hire me. They thought that I was “damaged” goods because I worked for government for such a long time (It was actually a little over seven years). He actually ended up buying me the book so I read it.
It took me a while to get into the book, but it was worth the effort. I really don’t want to give too much away, but I am astonished at Ayn Rand’s foresight into human nature and society. I often have the opportunity to speak with school students about nature and living things…producers (plants), consumers (us), and decomposers (worms). This book offers American Society’s parrallel through the conflict between producers (manufacturers) against consumers (society) and decomposers (bureaucracy). As I got more into the book, the situations got more and more outrageous…but we seem to be living this book 51 years after it was first published. Read this book!
I won’t say that this book changed my life, but it sure opened my eyes. This book should be required reading before you graduate from high school or college. I tend to harp at my kids to read this book…repeatedly! I have a standing offer that any of my family that reads the book gets a “Who Is John Galt t-shirt.”
I actually bought the anniversary hardback edition of this book a few years ago to display on my bookshelf. Most folks comment on its girth and are unwilling to take it on. I read this book again last summer and am still amazed at Ayn Rand’s foresight. I bought my own John Galt t-shirt and am impressed at how many comments that I get.
I heard this story a few years ago as told by President Reagan and thought that it fit with the theme of this book:
The Little Red Hen
Once upon a time there was a little red hen who scratched about the barnyard until she uncovered some grains of wheat. She called her neighbors and said ‘If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant it?’
“Not I, ” said the cow.
“Not I,” said the duck.
“Not I,” said the pig.
“Not I,” said the goose.
“Then I will,” said the little red hen. And she did. The wheat grew tall and ripened into golden grain. “Who will help me reap my wheat?” asked the little red hen.
“Not I,” said the duck.
“Out of my classification,” said the pig.
“I’d lose my seniority,” said the cow.
“I’d lose my unemployment compensation,” said the goose.
“Then I will,” said the little red hen, and she did.
At last the time came to bake the bread. “Who will help me bake bread?” asked the little red hen.
“That would be overtime for me,” said the cow.
“I’d lose my welfare benefits,” said the duck.
“I’m a dropout and never learned how,” said the pig.
“If I’m to be the only helper, that’s discrimination,” said the goose.
“Then I will,” said the little red hen.
She baked five loaves and held them up for the neighbors to see.
They all wanted some and, in fact, demanded a share. But the little red hen said, “No, I can eat the five loaves myself.”
“Excess profits,” cried the cow.
“Capitalist leech,” screamed the duck.
“I demand equal rights,” yelled the goose.
And the pig just grunted.
And they painted “unfair” picket signs and marched round and around the little red hen shouting obscenities.
When the government agent came, he said to the little red hen, “You must not be greedy.”
“But I earned the bread,” said the little red hen.
“Exactly,” said the agent. “That’s the wonderful free enterprise system. Anyone in the barnyard can earn as much as he wants. But under our modern government regulations productive workers must divide their products with the idle.”
And they lived happily ever after, including the little red hen, who smiled and clucked, “I am grateful, I am grateful.” But her neighbors wondered why she never again baked any more bread.