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Why Atlas Shrugged

Economy

Why Atlas Shrugged

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Ayn Rand’s Objectivism glorified wealth-creators over moochers, but the Wall Street traders who worship her might be surprised to learn which category they’re in.

As the dysfunctional nature of our economy becomes increasingly apparent, the media is appropriately focusing on the whether the ideas of economic thinkers from earlier eras can help to solve today’s problems. Recently, NPR devoted a segment to the thinking of Ayn Rand.

The NPR segment quoted from an extensive television interview with her conducted by Mike Wallace in 1959, now available on YouTube. As the segment noted, Rand is a hero to many Washington politicians who advocate free markets. In the Wallace interview, Rand said, “I am opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute, laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy.”

The Washington establishment has, in fact, misinterpreted what Rand valued and what she would advocate today.

At this moment, what’s relevant to our nation is not the laissez-faire policies Ayn Rand advocated in the late 1950s as an outgrowth of the philosophical system she called “Objectivism,” but what the philosophy itself considered important, how these principles should be applied to our modern economy, and whether we believe implementing these ideas would aid the economy.

The central statement Rand stressed repeatedly in her interview with Wallace is that entrepreneurs and businessmen are the producers who create the goods and services that make our economy run. They deserve their wealth, are her heroes, and no one including the government has the right to take their property. As NPR notes, “In Atlas Shrugged, which Rand considered her masterpiece, the wealthy corporate producers are the engines of the American economy.” In this fictional tale, the economy starts to stagnate when these producers go into hiding, leaving behind what she calls “the moochers.”

Bruce Judson

Bruce Judson is a bestselling and award winning author, a successful entrepreneur and one of the nation’s leading experts on the implications of rising inequality in America. Most recently, he has been developing, and writing about, a practical theory of sustainable capitalism in America, and how this often differs from current federal and state policies. He writes a regular column titled “Restoring Capitalism” for the Next New Deal Blog, a project of the Roosevelt Institute, and recently served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Judson’s most recent book, published in 2009, It Could Happen Here: America on The Brink , forecast the rising levels of economic inequality in America, if unchecked, would lead to extreme political polarization, absolute political paralysis, anger and mistrust throughout the society, the collapse of the middle class, followed by protests and reform or political instability.

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7 Comments

  1. terango.lf November 19, 2011

    Before the melt-down, I used to use this simplistic adage to depict how I felt about high finance “these people can write any figure on a blank piece of paper and say that this piece of paper is worth $$$$$$$$, what ever value they say it is.” To me it was still just a piece of paper…to the high financeer it was a valuable dirivative. It produced nothing of tangable value, yet over $65 trillion world wide just vanished into thin air, $14-15 trillion US dollars (the same value as the GDP) also evaporated. If you or I mishandled $500, we would be in prison.

    Reply
  2. WendieS.Jekabsons November 19, 2011

    I never would have thought I would agree with Ayn Rand about anything….but this article has certainly made me pause…maybe indeed she did get something right after all in ‘Atlas Shrugged’…

    Reply
  3. steve phillips November 20, 2011

    Any Rand hit the nail squarely on the head and got most of it right cause when u look at all the Jim Taggerts, Wesely Mouches, Dr. Floyd Ferris ect., and don’t see any Hank Reardons and Dagny Taggerts plus the fact there is no John Galy to really stick it to those GOP and teabaggers we have a real crisis with what we have…trillions on two unwinnable wars, the country going to hell and alll the funds going into the same pockets as it was during George W’s tenure,it’s horrible.

    Reply
  4. steve phillips November 20, 2011

    WE HAVE LIVED IN A MIXED ECONOMY FOR AT LEAST FIFTY YEARS AND THE REAL CAPITALISTS HAVE BEEN RUN INTO THE GROUND BYWHAT WE HAVE TODAY…ALAS

    Reply
  5. steve phillips November 20, 2011

    ANY RAND SHOULD BE A REQUIRED TOPIC IN ANY PHILISOPHY CLASS…STUDENTS WILL LEARN SOMETHING BESIDES EMMANUEL KANT AND OTHER ANTI-LIFE SO-CALLED PHILOSOPHERS

    Reply
  6. trimmerman November 23, 2011

    Mr Judson, Your article started out not too bad and then turned. You acknowledge Ayn Rand wanted to eliminate Government Regulations. You indicate it’s impractical and go on to complain how much trouble it is to do business with government red tape. Please get your priorities straight. You are the Entrepreneur-in-Residence. It’s your job to stand up for Business.

    Reply
  7. Dagny 1978 November 25, 2011

    The financial sector, including the speculators, perform a vital function in the economy. It’s not true that they “produce nothing.” They might not literally create a physical, material product that one can buy, but they do create the venture capital necessary to fund those who create products. See Dr. Brook’s (director of Ayn Rand Institute) excellent explanation in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYUQMR8cuhE&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

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