Ayn Rand's message of individualism resonates in these troubling times
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 20:10
Atlas is a particularly potent concept in dangerous times like those we are living in now.
We live in a time where more and more we see the increase in terrors across the ocean from people who hate us and do not care about the preservation of our humanity.
However, we also see terrors at home that are threatening our liberties and rights as citizens of the United States.
At the same time, the United States government is trying to accumulate as much debt as it can while the Federal Reserve tries to buy up more of the mortgage-backed securities and sub-prime mortgages that were laid onto the financial securities market by American banks while spending more on every bill a member of Congress supports.
There was a prominent 20th century author and philosopher named Ayn Rand who spoke to these situations, which are reflected in her novel “Atlas Shrugged.”
Growing up in 20th century Russia, Rand knew well the tyranny that takes away one’s ability to make decisions.
Her novel is essentially about a mysterious man named John Galt who continues to appear mysteriously amongst the disappearance of nearly every man or woman involved in some type of business, whether finance or creative. They effectively “go on strike.”
This was her philosophy and thought about how it might impact an economy if the people who pushed the economy forward left society. Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden are the eyes through which the reader experiences the effects of this, and they become the eyes through which we see the rest of the story.
I cannot help but wonder if there are many truths to the story.
What if the government does indeed lose its most productive citizens through over-taxation and over-regulation?.
The core idea here is lack of freedom: Why can’t I decide to keep my profits or decide to make decisions for my own creative pursuits on my own?
It is something I can relate to being in college and fighting for my life to create a resume and net worth that will allow me to survive in a global economy. But more taxation and more regulation don’t just impact me. They impact my home, as well.
My father would probably be the person I have seen it affect most.
My grandfather was an auto engineer working for General Motors. My other grandfather, who died before I was born, worked for Ford Motor Company.
My dad was lucky enough to be able to start his own business in commercial real estate development. He learned the trade through going to college and graduate school.
Things went pretty well for my family in the 1990s when I was growing up, but about when I was starting my junior year my dad was getting a bit nervous.
The housing market was plummeting from banks dropping off these loans and from lack of confidence on the part of investors.
This caused my dad’s business to suddenly decline when his clients (chain pharmacies and others) had no reason to expand because they did not see it as a sound move for increasing their profit margin.
The old cost-benefit ratio would not have paid off. It’s good for the companies but bad for my dad as he lost business. It came to the forefront when he had to get another job working for someone else.
Luckily, he’s doing the same thing but it’s not as if he doesn’t wish he will get his own business back.
“Atlas Shrugged Part II,” the second of a three-part cinematic adaptation of Rand’s novel, comes to theatres this weekend.
Rand’s ideas about freedom and individualism have continued to strike me in the way I view my own life.
In the end, I continue to wonder about my generation. We continue to vote away our freedoms and liberties in this “we can all work together” scenario that politicians are telling them because they heard this same thing when we grew up.
Our parents told us we could do anything, and we generally have taken that to try to reform government.
I think we can do anything but should not try to reform government as it functions its own way as it always has. We should try to reform the errors of our society through our own individual efforts to work with each other collectively independent from that which governs us.
I am hoping eventually things don’t turn sour ad they do in the novel but we are seemingly headed down that path.
I am worried not only for my own future but for those I care about: family and friends.
In the end, I’ll be forced to conform no matter what happens; hopefully, not to the point where I cannot decide for myself.
Yet, the question still remains for me: Can Atlas really carry all of that on his shoulders?
Zimmer is a VN assistant editor