Sunday, September 16, 2007

Atlas Shrugged

yesterday the new york times ran a very interesting piece on "atlas shrugged", the famed ayn rand novel. i found it to be a very interesting read, and interestingly enough, it has whetted my interest to read both "atlas" and "the fountainhead". maybe its living in new york, the heart of capitalism, or my microeconomics class that is forcing me to re-evaltate my stance on capitalism and government interference in the economy, but i have found myself questioning my own beliefs and philosophy.

from what i can tell about "atlas shrugged" i think there are some good lessons that can be learned, which don't necessarily point in the same direction of the lessons learned by people like alan greenspan and the neocons. again, based on my limited knowledge of rand and her works, it seems like she writes about characters that are lost and searching for meaning in a society that increasingly does not share their values. she almost serves as a counterpoint to authors like kerouac and kesey who wrote about similar characters in similar situations, albeit from a different angle.

the thing that intrigues me the most about "atlas" and rand's personal philosophy is the concept that an individual's pursuit of his own self-interest is good for society, and i got to thinking about this concept this morning at breakfast. i was sitting in a diner, eating my lox, eggs, and onions, drinking my coffee and reading my newspaper when i overheard these two elderly gentleman talking about bank ATM fees. one of them commented about how he feels the banks can get away with anything they want (re: fees) and how the politicians aren't doing anything about it. his companion then commented that the only thing the politicians are interested in is getting reelected. now, i've heard this comment before, but this time it struck a different chord with me.

according to rand, of course the politician is only concerned with getting reelected, because he is acting in his own self interest. but how does a politician get elected? they do what the people want because it is the people who vote the politician in, or out, of office, so therefore, if the politician acts in his own self interest (to get reelected) he will also be serving the will of the people, and if ATM fees are something the people want dealt with, any politician acting in his own self interest would be wise to take action (that is, unless you are someone like joe biden, the senator from MBNA, but that is a different story).

my point is, rand's philosophy does make sense. there are also things that someone like myself can learn from rand, despite our seemingly, but not necessarily, opposite world views. one of the problems with our political culture today is that not enough people take the time to do this. it is so easy for us to only consume the political information that is comfortable; conservatives can only watch their fox news and the liberals can only read sites like dailykos, but that doesn't help anybody really. all it does is confirm what you already know, but in the quest for knowledge you will never find the answer you are looking for if you can only see what is right in front of you. i actually think robert hunter put it best (sung by jerry of course) when he wrote "once and a while you can get shown the light/in the strangest of places if you look at it right".


just hip enough said...


You should keep posting. Its interesting to read you. There is an obvious flaw in Rand. I'll wait until it becomes evident to you.

Sapper1252 said...

Some minor hyperbole aside, there is absolutely no flaw in Rand's philosophy. Moreover, her predictions for the direction the world would head is dead on, even 50 years ago. The entire world has adopted a socialist governments, with the exception of the U.S. -- which is clearly, as Rand predicts, heading that direction as well. I doubt her strike prediction will ever prove true (at least I certainly hope not), but honestly who can blame the producers and the wealthy at this point? Man should not consume more than he produces... very simple, difficult to argue in my opinion.