Posted by: michelle2005 | December 22, 2008

Any Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”…I Think Not!


I was driving on an icy freeway across a frozen Midwestern state when I heard commentator Paul Harvey over the airwaves.  His bold staccato voice punctuated the air as he told of a woman and her son waiting for a husband who never arrived on a cold day in New York.  The father had left the family, and as the son grew up, he became a famous entertainer.  Years later the son starred and produced a show that allowed him to bring his mother and father back together each week.  After breaking to talk about the wonders of Maxwell House Coffee, Mr. Harvey told the rest of the story.   The young man was Jackie Gleason who famously recreated his Brooklyn family life every week as people sat in front of their television sets to watch The Honeymooners. His own father had left his mother when Gleason was very young.   Gleason was able to recreate his mother and father in their Brooklyn Tenement through the characters of Ralph and Alice Kramden.  No matter how angry and frustrated the couple became they ended each show with Ralph saying to Alice “baby you’re the greatest, Gleason’s way of reconciling the dissolution of his parent’s marriage. 




I have been thinking a lot about a book I read many years ago.  Recent events have made me think more retrospectively.  Last week I had read that many of today’s conservatives would need to change their philosophy of free enterprise given the state of our economy.  I have long believed that there exists a finite amount of debt that society could assume and hence a limit to economic growth.  I have been proven wrong, as I now know that investment traders found ways to leverage very risky mortgage securities thousands of times over.  I recall that the book advocated the absence of any government regulation with regard to businesses and businesspersons.  It is easy to see the influence of the writer today.  Advocates use the same themes that were echoed in the book.  Businesses forced to comply through the power of a gun, individual rights, and man’s absolute dominion over the earth are repeated in almost every publication and newsletter released by those who adhere to the principles of the book.



The writer of that novel that by now many have deduced is an influential writer named Ayn Rand.  Rand’s family was deeply scarred by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia that led to the formation of the Soviet Union and the take over of all private business interests by the government.  Her family business a pharmacy was subsumed under the state.  Deeply troubled by the trauma she had witnessed, Rand was convinced that businesses needed absolute control over their interests and that any regulation was deeply reminiscent of life in a communist country. 



Her devoted followers use terms such as socialism or collectivism to describe any effort to regulate business.  What many of us term capitalism to Rand was a mixture of socialism and true unfettered capitalism.  To them businesspersons always dealt with each other honestly in a mutual exchange of goods and services.  Those who are dishonest will be revealed by the market, and their ill-gotten gains will not prove lasting.  They point to Adam Smith whose 1776 writing The Wealth of Nations claimed that the markets influenced by many millions of decisions were impossible and foolish to attempt to control.  Mr. Smith further noted that the market would always move in positive directions, read produce growth and wealth as if led by an invisible hand.  Given that, the market will always produce good intentions efforts to regulate the market could only lead to frustration for the people most responsible for the success of the market the business people who lead our major corporations. 



The book Atlas Shrugged, posited that the movers and shakers would one day become fed up with the endless “shackles” of government regulations and themselves go on strike.  All men of talent would abdicate their commitment to making the world a better place.  In their stead men of lesser ambition, indecision, with no sense of responsibility would now run these businesses into the ground.  The book reads like a superhero novel, the courageous and charismatic leaders of businesses finally succumb to ridiculous pressure by governmental types that Rand labeled “looters”.



The heroes wait until complete destruction is assured and then return to show the foolish the error of the ways of regulation.  Looters were anyone who did not produce and whose sole existence and income was subject to the “minds of men”, the leaders of business.  Persons labeled as looters in the book are such agencies such as today’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) among others.  The Ayn Rand institute notes that government has two roles to protect against theft from looters and moochers, and to provide for national defense.  Get out of our way, is their unofficial motto.




To the followers of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism, people who populate the offices of these programs are looters who derive their income from unconstitutional taxation of business. Efforts to regulate lead to destruction of wealth and income.  To Rand there is no nobler cause than enriching oneself through love of one’s work and the resultant monetary gain.  A moral and just man uses his mind to develop creatively and these talents produce goods and services that should be traded for the best value.



In many ways, the world that Ayn Rand created in such novels as The Fountainhead, and Alas Shrugged and much later, her advocating of self-interest and selfishness appear to be her way of remaking her Jackie Gleason moment.  That is to say, that she rallies against such concepts as collectivism and government regulation of businesses in much the same way as her own family’s business and lifestyle was violently overrun by the Bolsheviks.  It is safe to say that when Rand was still alive the fear of communism was at its height.  The phrase “better dead than red” was prominently rolling off the lips of every conservative from John Birch to Archie Bunker.  Rand created a fairy tale world just like Jackie Gleason.  The only problem is that everyone who enjoyed “The Honeymooners” knew that it was a work of fiction.  Those who sing the praises of Ayn Rand’s novels and her belief in the selfish nature of man refuse to see the fiction in her work.



Intelligent people have written ad infinitum some may even go so far as to say ad nauseum about the wonders of true unfettered capitalism.  Those at the Ayn Rand Institute, Capitalism Magazine, and a host of other Rand influenced people swear to the allegiance of the following statement: “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”  This statement may be the epitome of selfishness; ironically, to Objectivists this is a complement.  Rand leaves herself open to Orwell speak when she equates selfishness with morality. Remember that George Orwell rallying against doublespeak noted that “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength”.



These were the predominate slogans of Big Brother in the novel 1984. Why then should one be so generous as to believe that the captains of the industry produce wealth by conducting honest trades of goods for services?  Again, this type of thinking is akin to giving corporate businesspersons superhero status.  I read one article in which the writer insisted that we need more people like Dagny Taggart the protagonist of the novel, who if she were a banker, would have told the government “to hell with your bailout”.  The author of the article insisted that the government had forced banks to appear and sign statements thus taking away their rights.  The reality is a little less super hero and more like incompetency.  Banks were heavily leveraged with near worthless sub-prime mortgage securities repackaged as AAA bonds the highest bond rating.  No one forced banks to purchase these bonds; they did this because they were making tremendous amounts of money courtesy of deregulation. Now holding billions of dollars of vastly overvalued holdings, they had a choice.  Without government help, the banks would have failed.


In the super hero world of Ayn Rand and the Objectivists, banks failed because of too much government regulation.  They remark that the greatest era of wealth building in our country coincided with a time of minimal regulations, the late 19th century.  More on this ideal later.  Apparently, these conservative, rather libertarians would have had banks say to government, “we will not take your bailout, and we believe it was government’s reckless policies that led us to the brink.  We have a better idea, we do not want your money, we are strong enough to rebuild after the economy collapses”.  This of course is the reality in the book Atlas Shrugged.  Their cry for corporations to act suddenly like the protagonist of a novel is like expecting Super Man to defeat Al Qaeda capturing Osama Bin Laden and defeating the evil Jihadists preserving the world and fighting for truth, justice, and the American way.  They would be wise to remember that Dagney Taggert like Superman could perform these feats of strength because they were fictitious characters in a novel. 



In the real world, they are moral people and immoral people who earn money, just as there are moral and immoral people in all lifestyles.  I am not ready to trust that the market is always moral and self- correcting. 





I have one word for those would embrace a free market without any regulations…Thalidomide.   In the late fifties and early sixties pregnant women who suffered from morning sickness were prescribed a medication known as Thalidomide.  The medication was freely available for use in countries other than the US.  In the United States, a pharmacologist named Frances Oldham Kelsey had doubts about the medication.  Kelsey worked for the regulatory agency the Food and Drug Administration.  Thanks to her efforts, that drug was not prescribed in great numbers to Americans.  Over 10,000 children were born without fully formed limbs.  Some were missing arms, some legs; vestigial limbs resembling flippers were frequently noted in many cases.   





It is a testament to the strength of the human will and spirit that these children have lived very productive lives.  Nonetheless, they should not have needed to adapt had there existed greater regulations examining the use of the medication.  This is but one example of the power and necessity of regulation.  The “minds of men” and reason do not always work to the mutual benefit of all. I could list many more examples but this case is illustrative of how regulations benefit man.  Free market advocates would argue that such a drug would quickly be taken off the market.  However, they do not consider that unlike thalidomide some effects of unfettered decisions are not readily apparent until many years after the product comes to market.  Does profit always benefit man? 




Now for the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would have informed us.  Objectivists claim that if only business leaders could have unfettered access to produce and trade as they pleased, then the world would begin to appreciate the wonders of true capitalism.  Then and only then can one begin to understand that selfishness is a truly moral principle.  They make no apologies for the apparent contradiction of arguing that a “me first” attitude is a just position to take. To them an apparent contradiction is a misunderstanding of one’s premises.  If self-interest appears immoral one only need to reexamine the premise of morality and presto-chango selfishness is revealed to be the greatest of moral tenets since it serves the greatest of agents… man.




Those who work tirelessly at the Ayn Rand institute and their minions of acolytes believe that the book is of such quality that it should be a guiding principle in everyone’s life.  They encourage impressionable adolescents to read and follow without question the words of their cause.  They have posted contests on their website encouraging adolescents to write about the key points of the novel.  Upon remarking the assignment, one would note the conspicuous absence of any true academic pursuit.  They never ask the student to compare and contrast the key points; rather just regurgitate the facts in one’s own words.  This is akin to writing about what makes our country so great for a fourth of July essay.



The philosophy of Objectivism as explained in Ayn Rand Institute material contains many failsafe propositions to defend against any questions or detractors.  One of the most frequent is that apparent contradictions are not really, what they seem.  Secondly, whenever someone gives examples of a fallacy in Objectivism they are attacked as not presenting the whole picture.    Many advocates will claim that detractors are arguing Ad Hominen; that true advocates of Objectivism would not behave in the manner of the example.  This is what advocates would say about the above Thalidomide history.  They would claim that discussions regarding problems such as Thalidomide or the falling of the economy are deliberate attacks, employing agents such as the manufacturers of Thalidomide or the Investment bankers against true believers of objectivism.  The problem is how one determines a true believer from a dishonest person.    




Lastly, advocates of Objectivism who argue passionately for a free market, without any regulation, explain that whenever the market produces undesired results that the issue is government regulations.  The harm surely must have come from the government overly regulating business.  This is the equivalent of stating that if a tiger in a cage at a zoo attacks a passerby that person had not experienced a true tiger since it was regulated by a cage.  In light of the recent events on Wall Street, I would rather not experience true unfettered capitalism without the protection of the cage.






  1. Masterfully written.


    Thank you for taking the time to read this post and leaving a comment. The photo you included in your email is precious!


  2. What an air head. You totally miss the point. If you’ve read Atlas Shrugged as you’ve said, you would never come away with this attitude.


    When I read your comment, I laughed out loud. I’ve been called many things, but “air head” was never in that list.

    Unfortunately, your attitude further proves my point. However, I am grateful that you’ve taken the time to read the post…education begins one step at a time.


  3. Bryan,

    It is comments like yours that do more to prove the point of the post. Michelle and many others who have read the book have a difference of opinion. Mature people can agree to disagree.

    Her lifelong pursuit of selflessness informs her that Objectivism flies in the face of everything that she knows to be true.

    This book is not such a godsend that it provides for the salvation of mankind. Try a little compassion be kind you will find that these behaviors will go a long way towards creating happiness.


    Your comment to another reader was ‘on point’. I couldn’t have stated it better. I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and for leaving a comment.

    Yet, I am most grateful for your continued support of my writing.


  4. Ayn Rand never said that people would always deal honestly and fairly with one another in a laissez faire capitalist system. In fact, that is one reason she despised the anarachists of the Libertarian Party. She believed that government is vital to protecting individual rights. There will always be a need for policemen, and even between honest men, there can be misunderstandings and disputes requiring the courts to sort them out.

    The laws that she objected to are those that represent an initiation of force by government against the citizens; those laws which assume guilt and demand that people prove their innocence before being allowed to engage in an economic activity.

    We know, for example, that young males commit the most crimes in society. Yet, wouldn’t you object to a law requiring young males to file quarterly papers with the government recording their activities for that period to show that they had not been engaged in any crimes? That is how businessmen are treated across the board.

    She also objected to the disguised confiscation of property that the government practices when it inflates our money supply. If you look at any graph of inflation over the past hundred years you will see that prices were fairly flat as long as we had a gold currency. When FDR took us off the gold standard, prices began to rise. When Nixon abdicated any effort to keep the money supply in line with gold, prices soared upward. Or, to be more accurate, the value of our money plummeted as its supply was artificially increased.

    It was the actions of the Federal Reserve that brought us to the point where we’re at today. By keeping interest rates artificially low, it encouraged continual borrowing. Congress helped give the bubble its shape by directing the money into the mortgage industry through the easing of lending standards. Together the two pumped a steady stream of funny-money into risky loans, and when the loans started to default, they panicked.

    Now they’re spending money trying to keep the ship afloat, but they’re just trying to recreate the situation we had a year ago. They’re not trying to get past the bubble, they’re trying to bring it back, as if it won’t just pop all over again.

    No, laissez faire has nothing to do with what’s going on right now. We haven’t had laissez faire–well, we’ve never really had it, but we haven’t even come close to it since the Fed was created over a hundred years ago.

    Your analogy about the tiger is off. We already know that humans can be bastards. What we’re arguing against is giving them coercive power over other people. You guys seem to think that the only way to make humans never be bastards is to give us all collars, and appoint an elite group of “good humans” to be our masters. It doesn’t work, because the quickest way to turn a human into a bastard is to give him power over other humans.

  5. Your title alone lets me see you’ll take a lot of heat for this article. Don’t back down from those that would spout all their ARI rhetoric. You see, I was once part of this elite club. I thought I had a good grasp of the ways of life and the working of the world, until reality hit me in the face.

    I’ve spent the last two hours reading through many of your post. They are all excellent. I commend you on your Humanitarian effort for so many years on behalf of those who couldn’t help themselves. This is one thing I was taught against in the ARI. It is “self” first and foremost.

    Your work on the NY Times is thought provoking. This is what led me to your blog.

    Thank you.


    Your email address allows me to see you’re an educator at a major university. Your comment meant a great deal, as I know the difficulty of teaching the next generation.

    I was impressed with what you said regarding the time you spent as an ARI believer. As you requested, I did not include your entire comment. However, I do believe that the readers would have benefitted from it.


  6. Allan,

    “Michelle and many others who have read the book have a difference of opinion. Mature people can agree to disagree.”

    When the disagreement is only over the difference in our opinions over what, as a result of reading the book, you choose to do with your life and I choose to do with mine, we can “agree to disagree.” However, you are using the emotional connotation attached to that kind of “agreement” to intimidate Bryan (and all laissez-faire capitalists) into turning the other cheek when we disagree over what you want to do with our lives, e.g. when you condone the use of force by majorities not just to defend the values owned by minority members of society, but also to take some values from them for yourself and others against their better judgment. The politics implicit in Atlas Shrugged may not engage in that practice. Therefore, regulations that constitute a taking by force are in that politics taboo.

    To wit: if the state claims the right to enforce its disagreement with a news organization over the content it publishes, do you really think Michelle will be “mature” enough by your standards to “agree to disagree”? I’m betting she will be as disturbed by the state’s erroneous opinion as Bryan and I are by the errors in her blog entry above.

  7. Michael M,

    Thank you for taking the time to read the post, and responding.

    We are not living in a Victor Hugo novel, Laissez-faire capitalists, are not being threatened out of existence. This is just a dialogue, words help people grow, no intimidation can possibly be read into the responses of readers such as Allan’s comment. We are engaged in an ongoing discourse in our country. Gridlock forms when people become so set in their beliefs that they can not agree to disagree.

    Your words Michael, indicate a need to defend against force that I did not advocate. This is the rhetoric of ARI. Taking by force is a common theme, employed to generate sympathy while you plan to deny others such benefits as medicaid and social security, as “Capitalism Magazine” advocates.

    So let me understand this because the food lines are getting longer. What would you do as the economy collapses all around? You must have forgotten that the “Red Death” (plague) did not spare the rich, go back and read about Prince Prospero. You said:

    “However, you are using the emotional connotation attached to that kind of “agreement” to intimidate Bryan (and all laissez-faire capitalists) into turning the other cheek”
    Quite the contrary Bryan called me “an airhead”. My reply was in no way rude or inconsiderate to either party.

    Michael, quite franky your belief is not shared by all. I have lived all over the world and too many people need compassion and help to believe that profit rules all. This is not as Rand has us believe an emotional plea it is reality. Your solution would lead to even greater calamities on the earth as less and less people would receive help.

    It is hard to believe that one could argue that business has a gotten a bad shake when we have seen the greatest growth in the top 10 percent of income levels in the US in the last decade. Does business really need more, perhaps if they avoid greed and avarice they would have more than what is necessary.

    A child born in hunger was brought into this world with no choice but to survive. The “minds of men” can’t help this child if their first instinct is to better their own superior station. It would be a wonderful world if people would willingly help. Nations have a greater obligation to thier citizens than to ignore them while they suffer just by being born.

    We can’t wait any longer for people who would say I am intelligent, why should I be forced to give up what my mind allows me to produce.

    When you concern yourself too much with what you possess then you inherit the wind.


  8. Unlike Michael I found no errors in your post. Why some people insist their way is the only way, I’ll never understand.

    My wife and I have been reading your blog for six months now. Like others, we can clearly see that you have a heart of gold. Thank you for your tireless work on behalf of those that cannot help themselves.

    The article you did for the Times was wonderful. Do you have any published works?

  9. Thank you Michelle for a brilliant post. As usual, your writing is clear and to the point. Your blog is informative and it feels warm like home. That is a combination that is hard to achieve – but you seem to do it with ease. I’m looking forward to reading more.


    This is the kindest comment I’ve ever received. To simply say thank you is an understatment of vast proportions.



    ***thanks SteadyCat for the wand she sent in her last email***

  10. Ardsgaine…

    I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and leave a comment.

    In a fairy tale world created by a writer who longed for the control that her family once held, the book cited by my post is an intriguing work of fiction. It even reflects Rand’s own “morality” of carrying on a romantic/professional relationship with a married man while she herself was married. Dagny sleeps with various men who present a higher ideal, who is John Galt indeed! This explains the tremendous rationalization that selfishness is of the highest moral standard.

    Let me understand this… Rand did not want government taking indiscriminately in the form of taxes. She also despised libertarians who advocated no taxes and no role of government in people’s lives? Where does she draw the distinction? Perhaps, by advocating that government always protect the interests of businesses no matter the consequence to others, I suppose.

    Here is basic problem of all Rand followers; they refuse to live in the real world. Arguing that the federal reserve seeks to create a bubble ignores the fact that businesses approve of these policies. No business producer has ever said do not help us. Wall Street responds rather favorably and pleads with the Fed to intervene.

    You imagine that unlimited growth would occur without regulations. It is not just that crimes are likely to occur; it is that they do occur when there in no regulation. How for instance would you prevent insider trading? This is one reason why businesspersons must file quarterly reports.

    Now pray tell would not these same people who encourage the Federal Government and currently receive corporate welfare also be the Laissez-Faire capitalists, or do they spring from the corn like some later day Jay Gatsby read Dagny Taggert and John Galt to save the day. Believe me there are always qualified people who would run businesses if the John Galts of the world wanted to abdicate their authority.

    Somehow, I get the feeling that members of this group supported by the Ayn Rand Institute ARI would impose a de-facto caste system, composed of those who were favored by their superior intellect and the brutes that deserved nothing since they did not produce. The amazing issue here is that society is not simply composed of producers, looters, and moochers. Furthermore the disparity of income between “high minded capitalists” (who behave like Major Major’s dad by insisting that one can never accumulate too much), and those who toil in factories, educate, heal, and provide for our citizens who can get by only by borrowing is too great. Trust me it is a good thing that interest rates are low, businesses would not pay a penny more if they were higher; they did not in the seventies when inflation ran rampant.


  11. That was absolutely fab girl. Show them what you’re made of. I loved the details and think you, as usual, are so on the money.

    Hey Sis…

    You are always so kind. You, too, are very detailed on your site. The time is past to hide under the shadow of someone else’s opinion.

    I’ve found out (through writing this post) it angered a lot of people. I hesitated on whether or not to post each angry comment. Then decided it would benefit no one. The rhetoric is always the same…they repeat what they are told with no original thoughts whatsoever.

    Thanks for all your support. Your an amazing woman!

    Kindest Regards,


  12. […] An Eclectic Array of Topics:  Any Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”…I Think Not! […]

  13. I agree with Ardsgaine and MichaelM. If you people have a need to go around being the do-gooders of the earth, do it with your own money. We’ve worked hard for the finances we have and aren’t willing to lay it out there for those that refuse to get off their lazy backsides.

    Sure you have plenty of ways to spin your do-gooder philosophy, but it all says the same thing. You want to take what is ours and give it to the lazy ones. Those that don’t contribute, shouldn’t have their hands out.

    Do yourself a favor and take a lesson in real life.

  14. William

    What you do not understand is that every commodity that you produce affects everyone. The dollars in your pocket are a transient expression of your worth. We are all connected whether you admit this or not, it does not change the fact. Again, you are guilty of lumping everyone who needs assistance into a large pit, that you would prefer did not exist.

    Have you ever spent a week living in the shoes of anyone needing assistance? Try this exercise: Attempt to get around in a wheelchair. Go to a shopping mall, do not tell anybody that you can walk. Try getting out of your car and into the mall. When in the store try reaching up to get anything. See how you are treated. Some will avoid you, some will overcompensate, some will help, few will understand. Now imagine that you have a can of Vienna sausage for dinner and nothing for tomorrow. Oh and you are in a wheelchair because you have spina bifida, or multiple sclerosis, or your spouse beat you and now you cannot walk, or maybe you are a military veteran, or got hurt on the job.

    Do be so quick to assume that you know everything about “do gooders”, or those people that you proclaim are “lazy”.

    Money cannot enrich a person and it will not buy happiness, but a few dollars here and there can go a long way to help those who can’t help themselves.


    I couldn’t have said it better! (Plus, it saved me the time from replying to their comments) Thank you for your wisdom. I appreciate the comments you’ve made regarding some of these folks that see no benefit in being of service to those that need help.

    It’s been my experience that those who are insecure protest the loudest when reality is knocking on the door.


  15. Excellent post, My partner at Chamayo’s sent this to me a couple of days ago and I got through the first half of this when I was interupted. I could hardly wait to come back and finish.



    Thank you so much for coming over here. Chamay0 is an amazing lady. Her site is one of my favorites…I love reading all that she posts. I have her on my blogroll.

    I’m glad you liked this post. I took a lot of ‘heat’ over this from the ARI followers. Yet, I made the decision not to engage all of them in a long reply. I learned long ago that you don’t need to study error to know the truth, but if you know the truth it will reveal error.

    Kindest Regards,


  16. Of course you know Chamayo and I are have started a new site together,

    Sorry but I had to put a plug in….And I’ll definately be back here as further reading here has proven you put much time and effort into your posts.


  17. I got introduced to the thinking of Ayn Rand at age 22. I was totally sucked in until age 36. It reminds me of the “reeducation” camps they had in the land of my birth. You don’t dare go against them. Which in itself seems odd as they never say anthing new. It’s always something they were told. Regurgitated information.

    Their focus is themselves. This is the pinnacle of selfishness.

  18. There is nothing I can add to your wonderfully written post. I, too, at one time was swept up in the Rand Philosophy. This lasted for almost 14 years. Like others have already commented, this lasted until reality woke me up.

    This type philosophy has one thing at its core. SELF! Pure and simple selfishness. I laugh when I hear that we are more like a socialist country than the Constitutional Republic that we are. Those that say this need to check their facts.

    I was born and raised in Albania. It wasn’t until 1996 that our family was able to come to the United States. I know Socialism and can assure you the United States is not, nor is it even leaning in that direction.

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