The Anti-Intellectuality of Donald Trump: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump
by Onkar Ghate | November 06, 2017
The Immigration Debate
by The Editors | April 17, 2017
Why Our Campuses Are Boiling over in Left-Wing Rage Instead of Discourse
by Steve Simpson | March 13, 2017
At Free-Speech Event, UCLA Tried to Ban My Book
by Elan Journo | February 11, 2017
One Small Step for Dictatorship: The Significance of Donald Trump’s Election
by Onkar Ghate | November 17, 2016
Ayn Rand at the Ford Hall Forum
by The Editors | June 18, 2015
Independence Day: What July 4 Really Means
by Tom Bowden | June 26, 2014
An Introduction to Objectivism
by Leonard Peikoff | 1995
Capitalism without Guilt
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2013
How The Welfare State Stole Christmas
by Yaron Brook | December 23, 2012
A Liberal Ayn Rand?
by Onkar Ghate | November 02, 2012
Time to Read Ayn Rand?
by Keith Lockitch | October 19, 2012
Ayn Rand’s Appeal
by Onkar Ghate | August 21, 2012
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Paean to American Liberty
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2012
Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand — Why Are You Still So Misunderstood?
by Don Watkins | February 02, 2012
How Did Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Predict an America Spinning Out of Control?
by Onkar Ghate | October 31, 2011
Atlas Shrugged: With America on the Brink, Should You “Go Galt” and Strike?
by Onkar Ghate | April 29, 2011
The Radicalness of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged
by Onkar Ghate | April 25, 2011
The Tea Party Will Fail — Unless it Fully Embraces Individualism as a Moral Ideal
by Tom Bowden | January 21, 2011
Let’s Take Back Columbus Day
by Tom Bowden | October 08, 2010
Atlas Shrugged’s Timeless Moral: Profit-Making Is Virtue, Not Vice
by Yaron Brook | July 20, 2010
Why is Ayn Rand Still Relevant: Atlas Shrugged and Today’s World
by Yaron Brook | August 10, 2009
Is Rand Relevant?
by Yaron Brook | March 14, 2009
After Ten Years, States Still Resist Assisted Suicide
by Tom Bowden | November 02, 2007
The Influence of Atlas Shrugged
by Yaron Brook | October 09, 2007
The Real Museum Looters
by Keith Lockitch | June 03, 2003
Ayn Rand's Ideas — An Introduction
by Onkar Ghate | June 02, 2003
Shame on Casey Martin
by Tom Bowden | January 31, 2001
The Joy of Football
by Tom Bowden | January 26, 2001
Whose Children Are They?
by Tom Bowden | January 05, 2000
Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial
by Leonard Peikoff | December 25, 1996
Cultural Update
by Ayn Rand | April 16, 1978
The Moral Factor
by Ayn Rand | April 11, 1976
Metaphysics in Marble
by Mary Ann Sures | February and March 1969
Of Living Death
by Ayn Rand | December 08, 1968
Our Cultural Value-Deprivation
by Ayn Rand | April 10, 1966
The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus
by Ayn Rand | April 18, 1965
Is Atlas Shrugging?
by Ayn Rand | April 19, 1964
by Ayn Rand | September 1963
Through Your Most Grievous Fault
by Ayn Rand | August 19, 1962
The “New Intellectual”
by Ayn Rand | May 15, 1961


Culture And Society in Voice for Reason
Culture & SocietyMore

The Radicalness of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

by Onkar Ghate | April 25, 2011 | Fox News Opinion

If you’ve seen the new Atlas Shrugged movie but haven’t yet read the book, you may be wondering what the novel itself has to offer.

For most people, reading Atlas Shrugged is an unforgettable experience. The story is gripping, involving numerous mysteries and unexpected but logical plot twists. The characters are unique — what other book features a philosopher turned pirate? And the writing is that rarest of combinations: at once clear and deep. But for many readers, Atlas is even more: it’s life-changing.

How can a novel exert this powerful an effect? Because in its pages Ayn Rand forces you to look at the world anew.

To give a taste of its radicalness, consider that today it’s taken for granted that the man of virtue is Mother Teresa-like; he selflessly lives to serve others and demands that you do the same. The man of vice is selfish; he pursues his own interests and demands that his actions bring him a profit. Whenever a television show or movie needs a stock villain, one whose evil motivation will require no setup, you can be sure a businessman erecting an office building on treed land or a corporation testing an experimental drug will be written in. Simply to point out that they are pursuing profit is sufficient to damn them. Judging from my experience, more murders on television are committed by businessmen than by mobsters.

It is this entire viewpoint, entrenched for centuries by religious and secular thinkers alike, that Atlas Shrugged challenges. What emerges from its pages is that the moral man is in fact truly selfish: he chooses to embrace his own life by choosing to purposefully, systematically, and unwaveringly do the thinking and take the actions necessary for his own happiness.

On this approach, ruthless rationality and the ever-increasing production of life-serving values — the core of what it takes to be successful in business — become the essence of the moral life.

There is a scene early in the novel (omitted from the movie) that perfectly captures the novel’s new portrait of moral greatness. In the scene, the industrialist Hank Rearden looks back over his creation of a metal superior to steel and remembers “. . . the nights spent at scorching ovens in the research laboratory of the mills . . . the meals, interrupted and abandoned at the sudden flash of a new thought, a thought to be pursued at once, to be tried, to be tested, to be worked on for months, and to be discarded as another failure . . .the one thought held immovably across a span of ten years . . . the thought of a metal alloy that would do more than steel had ever done . . . the acts of . . . driving himself through the wringing torture of: ‘. . . still not good enough . . .’ and going on with no motor save the conviction that it could be done — then the day when it was done and its result was called Rearden Metal.”

Before Atlas Shrugged, no one had ever thought of men like Aristotle, Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, Edison, and Vanderbilt as moral exemplars. But this — the man alone in his lab or office, who chooses to exert the effort necessary to think and to create his values — is the novel’s image of a moral hero.

What then of an entrenched moral code that demands that, in the name of the “poor in spirit,” a man like Rearden selflessly sacrifice his creation, profit and happiness to those who have not earned them?

This whole code, Atlas Shrugged declares, is in fact immoral. What the story’s logic reveals is that the very purpose of this code is to get the good voluntarily to surrender to evil. Atlas is the story of the rebellion of men like Rearden against a moral code that damns selfishness and demands the sacrifice of those rich in spirit to those poor in spirit.

With the publication of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand became the most remarkable of thinkers: a moral revolutionary. For anyone interested in ideas, it’s a book which deserves to be read and re-read. No movie can substitute for this incomparably rich experience.

About The Author

Onkar Ghate

Chief Philosophy Officer and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute