Monday, April 5, 2021

Atlas is Shrugging


March, 2020: simultaneously, hundreds of millions of people were forcibly put out of work while at the same time multiple-trillions of dollars were created out of thin air.  What could possibly go wrong when demand is stimulated while supply is depressed?

·         The world is experiencing a computer chip shortage…

·         Resin shortages are affecting production…

·         Seat foam shortage could cut car production…

·         Shortages in lumber, steel, electrical supplies and lighting affect the construction industry…

·         Skyrocketing steel and lumber costs threaten to slow construction jobs…

·         Price increases in fixtures and fittings….

·         Oil and gas prices increasing…

·         Global food commodity prices rose for the ninth consecutive month in February…

Add to this, mother nature: Weather slams the economy….

All summed up nicely by the Wall Street Journal:

Everywhere You Look, the Global Supply Chain Is a Mess: Winter storms and crammed ports in the U.S. add to disruptions of production and supplies during the pandemic

Meanwhile, government deficits and central bank balance sheets have the full green light to grow…to infinity and beyond.


Taken from the Cliffs Notes book summary of Atlas Shrugged:

The country is in a downward economic spiral with businesses closing and men out of work.


Worsening the economic depression in the U.S. is the unexplained phenomenon of talented men retiring and disappearing.

Not exactly.

None of this is happening in our world because talented men are retiring or disappearing.  It is those believed to be the talented men – that our society rewards as the talented men – that are behind today’s reality.


Francisco d'Anconia: If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders-what would you tell him to do?

Hank Rearden: I . . . don't know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?

Francisco d'Anconia: To shrug.

It isn’t talented men that are shrugging.  It is something far more valuable and far less forgiving.  It is the natural law ethic, and the natural rights of private property that are derived from this.  Natural law is shrugging, and she is a far less forgiving master than was John Galt.


Jeff Allen, citing John Galt: "'I will put an end to this, once and for all,' he said. His voice was clear and without feeling. That was all he said and started to walk out. He walked down the length of the place, in the white light, not hurrying and not noticing any of us. Nobody moved to stop him. Gerald Starnes cried suddenly after him, 'How?' He turned and answered, 'I will stop the motor of the world.' Then he walked out."

It is the talented men that stopped the motor of the world, all right.  Not for any righteous, John Galt-type crusade, not for any noble purpose – and certainly not for the purpose for which man was made.  Their purpose is wealth, control, and power.  Their purpose could be even more sinister – population reduction and some sort of trans-humanism.

They are proving that they don’t need seven billion people in order to have their lives of pleasure and happiness.  They have just put hundreds of millions of people out of work, and at the same time seen their wealth explode.  Why support these hundreds of millions with government handouts and the like?  What use are they?


My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.

-          Anthem

Ayn Rand was both right and wrong about this.  Happiness is man’s highest purpose and highest end, but not the happiness as lived out by the heroes in her novels.  This is the superficial happiness that today’s society embraces. 

If providing and being provided material goods was sufficient for man’s happiness, we would have no reason to complain about anything.  Ayn Rand’s heroes were exemplars of this type of happiness.  While we live in a world where our every material need and want is met, reasonably so, we are a very unhappy population.

Today’s superficial happiness is the happiness that allows today’s talented men to stop the motor of the world in order to increase the level of their happiness to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Corruption, lust and greed

Define the new nobility

-          The Gift of Music, Dream Theater


Happiness, as man’s purpose and as properly understood, is from the Latin, beatitudo; better translated fulfillment through other-regarding action: love.  It is that which gives a target to man’s aim, for his highest end.  It is kind of the opposite of the virtue of selfishness.

Love.  Even this term should not be taken as commonly understood.  There is no love without truth, there is no love without discipline, there is no love without responsibility – both from the one loving and from the one being loved.

This is man’s purpose – it is that which provides the target for natural law – an ethical law.  This, not to be confused with natural rights – limited to life and property.  Man’s ethical law expects of him to be charitable.  No man has a natural right to demand that another be charitable; he only has a natural right to his life and his property. 


Atlas Shrugged is not merely a novel. It is also — or may I say: first of all — a cogent analysis of the evils that plague our society…. You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: "You are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you."

Ludwig von Mises, letter to Rand (23 January 1958), quoted in Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism (2007)

This is quite true, and it is what gives the novel enduring value.  Unfortunately, the novel offers examples of talented businessmen that are nowhere to be found today.  Frankly, society would be better off if today’s talented men all went on strike.

When free-market capitalism is placed as the highest aim, the talented businessman will use any means to achieve the end of wealth creation.  What would stop him from doing so?  What virtue is higher than selfishness if wealth creation is the highest aim?


(T)he idealized world Ayn Rand has created to facilitate her wishful theorizing has no more logical connection to our real one than a world in which an author has imagined humanity ruled by intelligent cups of yogurt. This is most obviously revealed by the fact that in Ayn Rand’s world, a man who self-righteously instigates the collapse of society, thereby inevitably killing millions if not billions of people, is portrayed as a messiah figure rather than as a genocidal prick, which is what he’d be anywhere else.

John Scalzi, What I Think About Atlas Shrugged, 2010

Scalzi is more right than he knows, but not for the right reasons.  John Galt and the others were right to strike, as those who went on strike were turned into the slaves of those who were benefiting from their labor.  So, Scalzi is not right for this reason, the reasons offered in Rand’s novel.

It is today’s talented men who are instigating the collapse of society, inevitably killing millions, if not billions, of people.  It is today’s talented people – the winners of the wealth-creation game – that are the genocidal pricks.


Except as otherwise identified, all Atlas Shrugged quotes taken from here.


  1. Contrary to John Galt being a genocidal prick, it is the men who forced him to do what he did who were the genocidal pricks.

    They could, at any time, have stopped or reversed the process John Galt put into motion had they stopped what they were doing to rape the productive.

    That's all that they would have been required to do. Give up their lust for control, their greed, their envy.

    They were responsible for what happened, not the man who got the ball rolling. They are the ones who set up the conditions for the failure. He was the pin that popped the balloon of their fantasies.

    1. Agree. To blame the slave for not working under whatever conditions the master chooses, and then blame the slave for the result of the slave's not working - it takes a warped mind to come up with that ethic.

  2. I have found it curious that there is virtually no discussion of Atlas Shrugged in our society today. In past downturns, Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand were hot topics, much to the chagrin of the left. Remember how, during the Obama recession, John Oliver led off with "Atlas Shrugged: How is that still a thing?" He then went on to trash Rand, capitalism, etc., demonstrating a twisted knowledge of her and her writings.

    Drawing parallels in life with a novel is never going to be perfect...after all a novel is a fictional world not subject to fact checking...and certainly Atlas Shrugged was not intended to be literally predictive. As you said, we are not witnessing a strike of the men of the mind...we are witnessing a takeover by those minds who turned from creating to manipulating. The crash about to happen was a product of their genius, fully intended, gamed, planned, and now being executed. Atlas Shrugged did not deal with this level of evil (except in the characters of the politicians and industrialists who opined for and pursued control of society...for society's own good. The current crop of elites make no secret of their desire to eliminate large swaths of population for the good of those who survive).

    There is one parallel that does continue to ring true, however. It is Rand's portrayal of people who continue to work, create, trade, and live moral lives despite the temptations to go on the lucrative dole and participate in the now acceptable debauchery. The reason there is still product to be purchased in the stores is because there are still people who would not think of taking handouts, who take pride in work well done, who consider their integrity more important than a short term gain. I work with these people every day. They are the ones whose jobs have become oppressive because there is more to do than ever before, creating, producing, transporting, stocking, in order to serve people who refuse to do anything. I've seen the herculean efforts of people who must get even small shipments to their destinations. Will these people someday 'shrug'? I expect so.

    I have a family member who has been thoroughly indoctrinated in the leftist mind set. His demands for free this and that, I remind him, must be provided by someone. Then I ask him Rand's question: What are you counting on? That these people, overworked, underappreciated, will voluntarily be enslaved to provide you with whatever you want, forever? What are you counting on?

    He must think I've gone daffy with such a silly question.

    1. Regarding your family member, Rand would describe his/her lack of reply as "blank-out."

      I hope nothing I wrote here is taken as an attack on the main theme and lesson of the novel. It is a valuable story; Rand just ignored and / or ridiculed the higher virtues necessary for free market capitalism to remain useful to the greater population.

  3. John Calvin said:
    “When God wants to judge a nation, He gives them wicked rulers.”

    Isaiah 66:4
    4 I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.

    John Bunyan 1628-1688
    “The reason why the Christians in this day are at such a loss as to some things is that they are contented with what comes from man's mouth, without searching and kneeling before God to know of Him the truth of things.”

    John Bunyan 1628-1688

    Folks, you are seeing the Lord's judgment on a pagan world.


    1. If you have not seen it, this sermon by John MacArthur is worth watching:

      Too Late for Grace: When a Nation Rejects God

  4. Atlas Shrugged is not talked about much because people have stopped reading anything that takes more than 2 minutes and does not have any pictures.

    People do not want to be unpopular so have stopped speaking truth in the face of lies.

    I agree John Galt was not the problem. He was the solution. The fall out is laid at the feet of those who elect to remain silent or ignorant and feed off the scraps of the corrupt.
    If the dire predictions come true it is the fault of the masses who begged for security in exchange for their freedom. Who gave their children to the state to be educated at the alter of the state.

    "There can be, therefore, no true education without moral culture, and no true moral culture without Christianity.
    The very power of the teacher in the school-room is either moral or it is a degrading force.
    But he can show the child no other moral basis for it than the Bible
    Hence my argument is as perfect as clear.
    The teacher must be Christian.
    But the American Commonwealth has promised to have no religious character.
    Then it cannot be teacher."
    Robert Lewis Dabney

    I know a man who got fed up as did those in Atlas Shrugged and took early retirement. He ran a large municipal utility. It quickly began a downward spiral as those who replaced him chose not to fight the corrupt city council that over the years changed from competent businessmen to the incompetent electable.
    As in the book, the good slowly left for the same reason as soon as they could.

    Federal Farmer

  5. Anyone who quotes Dream Theater must be a genius with impeccable taste.

    1. The glass prison which once held me is now gone
      A long lost fortress
      Armed only with liberty
      And the key of my willingness

      Fell down on my knees and prayed
      "Thy will be done"
      I turned around, saw a light shining through
      The door was wide open