Atlas sells [update 2]
And no wonder.
As The Economist pointed out recently, it’s usually Hollywood that takes fifty-year-old novels and makes them best-sellers again. This time however it’s Washington that’s boosting sales, where they’re now doing everything Rand said they would do when the world starts turning into the place she said it must under their meddling. A complicated sentence (perhaps) but an important point.
It wasn’t crystal ball gazing that allowed Rand’s predictions to come true – it was her understanding of cultural trends and what causes them.
The fact that Atlas is tops again is frightening some people. “Of all the scary things you can get a graph to show, surely the most terrifying is a surge in sales of Ayn Rand novels,” says a Guardian literateur who does her best to shut her eyes and stamp her feet and insist it go away.
“An analysis of the reasons it was so hated,” notes Lindsay Perigo, “yields also the reasons it is still so loved.
Atlas, far more explicitly than Ayn Rand's previous best-seller, The Fountainhead, challenges, in Rand's own words, "the cultural tradition of two thousand five hundred years." It demolishes the sacrificial ethic that permeates the belief systems of that entire period. It repudiates the proposition that man's highest purpose and duty is to sacrifice himself—be it to God, the state, society or his neighbour. It roundly condemns the equation of ethics with suffering. "The purpose of morality," says one of its heroes in a startlingly direct and outrageous formulation, "is to teach you not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live."
Thus did Ayn Rand enrage religious conservatives and secular "liberals" alike.”
Still does, as the reactions from around the place to Atlas’s renaissance demonstrate. Edward Cline notes that the rise of Atlas. the re-emergence of John Galt and the whole Tea Party phenomenon looks like a hopeful sign amid the political and economic gloom, that “the nation -- indeed, the world -- is waking up to the idea that ideas have consequences.”
The world seems to be emerging from a moral and intellectual coma . . It is discovering that other ideas have other consequences, as well, ideas that promote life, promote prosperity, promote ambition and personal success, and that they are possible only in political freedom, and that this freedom has been violated, abridged, and nullified by the first set of ideas. True, politics is the last thing to be affected by a philosophical revolution. But one cannot help but be pleased with how startled the collectivists and altruists are now by the knowledge that they have not successfully pulled a fast one on Americans. These Americans have come knocking on the doors of elitists or leaning over the café railings or invading their legislated smoke-free bars and restaurants to ask: What in hell do you think you are doing?
The Americans who recently protested the spendthrift policies of the Obama administration and Congress with “tea parties,” and who plan to protest them on an even larger scale in the near future, one can wager are not regular readers of The New York Times. They cannot have much in common with its columnists and editors, nor with the news media.
So the collectivist and altruist elite become very touchy when the people for whom they are “doing good” for their own sake, even to the point of enacting coercive and felonious legislation, exhibit signs of intelligence, resistance and anger. How dare these yokels!
And nothing raises their hackles higher than any mention of Ayn Rand.
For the self-anointed and the power hungry, the idea that people see through their scam must be truly frightening.
Fact is, as Ayn Rand Institute head Yaron Brook says in the Wall Street Journal, what’s most frightening is the constant calls for more and more government power, and deeper and deeper sacrifices, every time the previous sacrifices and the earlier abuses of government power get us in yet another hole. And what’s most necessary is to grasp the fundamental cause of today’s crisis, which as Brook makes clear is not primarily economic, but moral.
Economic crises and runaway government power grabs don't just happen by themselves [says Brook]; they are the product of the philosophical ideas prevalent in a society -- particularly its dominant moral ideas. . .
Rand offered us a way out . . .
Which is the chief reason she’s both so loved, and so hated . . . and presently so popular again.
UPDATE 1: Pajama TV interviews Yaron Brook about “Going John Galt” and the Atlas phenomenon. Don’t “Go John Galt,” says Brook: fight back!
Watch: Is Atlas Shrugging? – PAJAMAS TV
UPDATE 2: Philosopher Greg Salmieri says ATLAS SHRUGGED: It's more than just a political novel.
Most of the recent discussion of Atlas has focused on its political themes, creating the impression that the novel is essentially a condemnation of government intervention in the economy. However, its scope, its relevance to the current crisis, and the reasons for its enduring appeal go much wider and much deeper than this. . .