Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Atlas Shrugged

I've finished reading Ayn Rand's 1070-page tribute to liberty, reason and capitalism this week. I am ranking this as the best book I've ever read. It was written in 1957, but strikingly relevant to today's world. And I have no doubt as to why it is relevant.

The issues of freedom vs government are still with us today as much as any time in history. Even through the turmoil of the Great Depression, and then WW2, our history is filled with examples of socialism destroying an economy and crushing a society.

The book is the most powerful weapon for the cause of liberty and freedom I've come across. We all accept that reason and logic are universally good values. From reading Atlas Shrugged, it should also be accepted that capitalism, free enterprise and social freedom are all goals which are part of humans using reason and logic. Atlas Shrugged is a moral defence of capitalism.

It is an enthralling story, because it gives a practical example of the downfall of society brought about by the great minds, the succesful industrialists, the best talents, all withdrawing their abilities from the world and retreating because they are held back and targetted by the overly oppressive government. The narrative really shows the cause and effect, the destruction of wealth, the illogical reasoning and the conflicting outcomes caused by government regulation and control.

It is a deeply philosophical and moral book, as Ayn Rand strongly puts out her philosophy of objectivism, summarised by the quote "A is A!". The characters who do not accept reality, logic and reason are expertly attacked and cast as stupid, destructive and emotional villains throughout the novel.

The bureaucrats and social progressives who advocate more government control at every crisis, who ignore the effects of their previous laws and regulations in bringing about the crisis, who refuse to use logic but instead use feelings to justify laws and statutes, are the complete villains in the story.

Towards the end, the society totally disintegrates as a direct result of their laws and their philosophy of equality, brotherhood and rewarding need. The committee of head bureaucrats are exposed as nothing more than desperate, violent, thugs who cast aside all pretenses of morality and improving society, and reveal to the world their impulses to steal, murder and establish power for the sake of power.

That is why, throughout the book, the capitalists and the industrialists had always described their philosophy as one of violence and one that relies on the gun. The very idea of taxation makes no mention of acceptance between two parties. The idea of government laws and regulation that restrict speech, commerce and travel make no mention of an individual's circumstances, their right of appeal or their right of recourse. It simply applies and governs human action.

The ruthless thugs who bring about each new law are shown to possess massive cognitive dissonance. To avoid looking at the reality of each situation. To avoid stating their true goals and true aims. To conceal their motives with empty and vague rhetoric about social justice, improving society, getting rid of vicious competition, about brotherhood and helping each other.

You've got to look at the reality of those ideas, as nice as they sound, and what they involve. If ideas involve guns and coercion (police and prison), they should be thrown aside.