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May 29th, 2017

Ayn Rand: The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged ***1/2

 

There is a nonstop political battle between conservatives and liberals and many people are tired of taking sides.

According to this movie, an increasing number of people are embracing an exciting third way: the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

“Ayn Rand: The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged” isn’t a documentary about the writer. It’s about the meaning, importance, and growing popularity of her last novel: 1957’s Atlas Shrugged.

Director Chris Mortensen argues that Rand – a Russian immigrant who moved to the United States was she was 21 – was the most brilliant and original thinker of the 20th Century.

For thousands of years, people defined morality based on how you worship God, how you treat your fellow man, and how you benefit society. Ayn Rand tossed all those collectivist concepts in the trash and redefined morality in purely individualist terms.

Rand argued that you don’t owe anything to your neighbor, to your church, or to your government. If you do something meaningful for a living and make money, you are a success and a good person. And you have a right to keep that money.

But not just any job is morally acceptable. There are two types of people in the world, according to Rand: producers and moochers.

Anyone who produces should be proud. That includes farmers, carpenters, factory workers, artists – anyone who makes something tangible.

Anyone who mooches off the producers should be ashamed. That includes lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats, Wall Street insiders – anyone who takes your money without giving you anything tangible in return. Rand called them all “looters.”

The heroes of Rand’s society are great inventors and industrialists. But even the lowest laborer has dignity and worth. A woman who used to flip burgers and worked her way up to driving a bus is infinitely better than a man who made millions as a trial lawyer and then got elected US Senator.

Atlas Shrugged predicted a dystopian American future where slimy businessmen are colluding with an increasingly oppressive government to snuff out hard work and creativity.

Chris Mortensen reports that the book was universally dismissed by both liberal and conservative critics when it was first published.

But he says that Ayn Rand is more popular than ever because America looks more and more like Atlas Shrugged everyday. Mortensen’s main argument is that the 2008 financial crisis is proof that Rand was right all along.

“Ayn Rand: The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged” is definitely one-sided. But it’s also definitely thought-provoking.

If there are any politicians, bureaucrats, or lawyers reading this, I’d like to make it clear that I am not just pointing my finger at you. I am judging myself every bit as harshly.

I also do a job that creates nothing tangible. And because I fear losing my job, I am too cowardly to criticize the company for which I work. Or even to name it here.

In the dramatic climax of Atlas Shrugged, the villains and looters ride a train to their deaths. If I were in Ayn Rand’s world, I have no doubt that I would be one of the men on that train.

 

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