Atlas Shrugged [Book Review]

Atlas Shrugged

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Atlas Shrugged
By Jonathan Roseland

Book Review: The Ethical Sociopath's Guide to Living in the Idiocracy of Modernity

For those unacquainted, this novel is a vehicle to explain the philosophy and practical application of objectivism...

I've read non-fiction books about philosophy. Most are pretty boring and a lot of times after reading them, while they're intellectually stimulating, I'm not sure if they gave me anything actionable. I'm not sure if they've done anything for me other than make me seem a little smarter at dinner parties - which I guess isn't so bad. Atlas Shrugged is a different story, it's a book about business people, deal-making, industry, technology, and how the government prevents innovation. If those are things that you feel passionately about, then this book will overlay a philosophical framework that I think will give you an interesting perspective. After reading Atlas Shrugged, I can ask myself: what would Hank Rearden do in this situation? How would Dagny Taggart handle this negotiation?

Since so many millions of words have been written, by Ayn Rand and other philosophers, about objectivism I will try to describe it with brevity here. Objectivism is the antidote to the most insidious idea of the 20th century, which is...

You deserve to be taken care of.

This is the idea that is mostly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people who were killed by their own governments in the 20th century. In the 20th century, we had the worst wars in human history, which I'm sure you know all about but governments actually killed a lot more of their own citizens than these wars did and these governments came into power telling their citizens that they deserved to be taken care ofWhile a simplification, this isn't a conspiracy theory, any credible source of history you can read will confirm this.
20th century deaths from ideologyAs you may have noticed, this idea is NOT EXACTLY on the decline, turn on the TV or browse the internet a little and you will find no shortage of people saying that...
You deserve to be taken care of. You will find no shortage of intellectuals pontificating remixes of the socialist creed:

From each according to his ability to each according to his need.

The Atlas Shrugged movie adaptations are not great as the book is primarily driven by these powerful, long dialogs between the characters. There are a couple of scenes of cool stuff blowing up but mostly it's a story driven by conversations and this just doesn't translate well into a movie. There are so many important parts of the book that explain the philosophy that get left out of the movie. The protagonists are somewhat sociopathic, if you don't understand the philosophy - which you won't just by watching the movies - you may be turned off by the sociopathic characters.

While reading this book it's important to try to imagine the author's perspective coming from the communist world. I recommend reading it while learning about the transformation of the old aristocratic European world into the Soviet beast...

Learning about these histories, while reading Atlas Shrugged you will much better be able to understand this feeling of utter despair that people must have had watching their world just become insane around them. The author was one of the very few people who managed to escape this insanity, she made it to America, and then she saw the ideas that proceeded communism taking hold in America. The themes of Atlas Shrugged are all the more vivid when you can immerse yourself emotionally in its context by learning about the history of communism.

More and more I feel like I'm living in the world Ayn Rand prophesied, where laziness and mediocrity are rewarded and virtue is punished. Every time the television is turned on, I feel like we are getting closer and closer to living in a real-life Idiocracy...

All you see from popular media is slogan chanting, religious platitudes, images of mostly naked women, and cartoon-like characterizations of masculine and feminine sexuality.

It just seems like the world is fucked sometimes doesn't it?

The counter-argument to this is that it's been over 60 years since Atlas Shrugged was published and America is still there. Western society is still mostly a capitalist society. No one is going to throw me in a gulag for criticizing the government publicly. Maybe the world isn't getting worse, maybe we have always lived in the Idiocracy. Is the entire world going to adopt Ayn Rand's philosophy? No. The idea that you deserve to be taken care of is just too convenient and too seductive.

Personal development takeaways from Atlas Shrugged...

  • Reading this book I've abandoned the idea of deserving things, what I have is objectively what I deserve. This outlook is incredibly liberating!
  • This book has reignited my passion for the business and entrepreneurial world where virtue and hard work are rewarded. The Biohacking industry is certainly an enclave of the business world that has not succumbed to the Idiocracy.
  • Hank Rearden's lack of social intelligence; in the first half of the book, we see him frequently refusing to practice emotional intelligence and it costs him a fortune. For contrast, I would encourage you to watch the movie Shindler's List about Oskar Shindler who shared a lot of Hank Rearden's philosophies but he had some social intelligence. He was the guy who would be partying and negotiating inside deals with the Nazis while at the same time-saving Jews from concentration camps.
  • James Taggart wants his wife to love him unconditionally when she loves him for what he has and what he is. He has this childish idea that you deserve to be loved simply for existing, not for what you do. This is something that has helped me understand my relationship with my own family a whole lot more.

This is a book that has heavily influenced a lot of successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, as a result, it's discussed a lot. You may feel like you don't need to read it because you are already aware of libertarian, entrepreneurial values. I would say, try reading it anyway! Because it's so long and detailed - the depth of content it contains - it is worth reading all +1100 pages.

In the book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill begins the book by saying that there's this secret to becoming rich and getting whatever you want in life, but he doesn't come right out in the book and say exactly what this secret is. It kind of depends upon your emotional intelligence and ability to read between the lines to distill what the secret to thinking and growing rich is. Similarly, Atlas Shrugged contains the secret to living with sanity in the Idiocracy but it doesn't come right out and state it blatantly, you'll have to distill it through a filter of your own intelligence, rationality, and cross-study of history.

Thanks to Free Domain Radio, RSD Brad, and my old friend Francisco who recommended this book so highly to me!

Highlighted Passages from Atlas Shrugged

Theme. What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike.

under the pressure of its own overabundance,

(p. 7)

causeless uneasiness

oddly incongruous with the rest of her...

fireman, “don’t ask questions nobody can answer.”...

the hard, exhilarating pleasure of action...

arrogant prodigality...

There was no emotion in his voice, not even the simple one of greed...

tone of ineffectual menace...

the lights of the city were like phosphorescent sparks on the black waves of steel and stone...

look of impertinent condescension

(p. 70)

its smooth curves provoked an irresistible desire to touch it.

(p. 85)

the tribute of feeling free to acknowledge one’s own greatness, knowing that it is understood.

(p. 86)

I want to be prepared to claim the greatest virtue of all—that I was a man who made money.”

(p. 96)

“What do you like about me?”

(p. 97)

“You have a great deal of courage, Dagny. Some day, you’ll have enough of it.”

(p. 126)

wondering how one went about forcing one’s mind into blankness, particularly after a lifetime lived on the axiom that the constant , clearest, most ruthless function of his rational faculty was his foremost duty.

(p. 127)

the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.

(p. 136)

I don’t like people who speak or think in terms of gaining anybody’s confidence. If one’s actions are honest, one does not need the predated confidence of others, only their rational perception . The person who craves a moral blank check of that kind, has dishonest intentions, whether he admits it to himself or not.”

(p. 146)

the insolence of exaggerated earnestness.

(p. 154)

the guilt of wasting an evening when she could not afford to waste an hour.

(p. 172)

existing, as it did, on the inertia of the momentum of the past.

(p. 219)

the unattainable form of everything she loved.

(p. 220)

“I have never been at the mercy of anyone’s word before.”

(p. 222)

“Well, it’s like this, Miss Taggart,” said the delegate of the Union of Locomotive Engineers. “I don’t think we’re going to allow you to run that train.” Dagny sat at her battered desk, against the blotched wall of her office. She said, without moving, “Get out of here.” It was a sentence the man had never heard in the polished offices of railroad executives. He looked bewildered. “I came to tell you—”

(p. 231)

and a contemptuously inscrutable face,

(p. 237)

He had the ease of an expert, so confident that it seemed casual, but it was the ease of a tremendous concentration, the concentration on one’s task that has the ruthlessness of an absolute.

(p. 240)

The motors were a moral code cast in steel.

(p. 246)

Fifth Concerto by Richard Halley—

(p. 247)

I am an animal who wants nothing but the sensation of pleasure which you despise— but I want it from you. You’d give up any height of virtue for it, while I— I haven’t any to give up.
(p. 255)

the casual, unannounced right of an owner.

(p. 267)

merely like a fellow cheat displaying his shrewdness to his partners in guilt.

(p. 297)

and Taggart Transcontinental was not a living plant, fed by blood it had worked to produce, but a cannibal of the moment, devouring the unborn children of greatness.

(p. 335)

with obsequious deference

(p. 347)

but to stress the audacity of expressing a sincere emotion.

(p. 354)

I don’t know whether I am getting older and more demanding, or whether the human race is degenerating,

(p. 357)

The boy had no inkling of any concept of morality; it had been bred out of him by his college;

(p. 362)

“You despise me, Mr. Rearden,” he had declared once, suddenly and without any resentment. “That’s impractical.”

(p. 362)

categorical imperatives about men.

(p. 362)

he had known that he was now condemned to constant vigilance against himself.

(p. 363)

virtue— this capacity of hers to feel the joy of being, as he felt it.

(p. 378)

himself: that Lillian had walked out of the hotel suite alive.

(p. 432)

why you live by one code of principles when you deal with nature and by another when you deal with men?”

(p. 451)

beat of time vanished in a heavy drop of silence. “No,”

(p. 452)

his bearing came from a civilized era and clashed with the place around

(p. 475)

and maliciously unkempt females,

(p. 481)

The men who think that wealth comes from material resources and has no intellectual root or meaning, are the men who think— for the same reason—that sex is a physical capacity which functions independently of one’s mind, choice or code of values.

(p. 489)

Guilty of a fierce desire to remain alive, they and Rearden traded like savages, without rights , titles, contracts or protection, with nothing but mutual understanding and a ruthlessly absolute observance of one’s given word.

(p. 501)

“A city is the frozen shape of human courage

(p. 512)

graph of a lifetime’s struggle on the cracked skin of her face;

(p. 520)

love of rectitude...

(p. 552)

Well, I’m the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich —or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.”

(p. 576)

came from a semi-wealthy, semi-distinguished family, but he sneered at wealth and distinction in a manner which implied that only a top-rank aristocrat could permit himself such a degree of cynical indifference.

(p. 585)

she saw the look of that luminous gaiety which transcends the solemn by proclaiming the great innocence of a man who has earned the right to be light-hearted...

(p. 613)

some irreducible absolute

(p. 704)

was the stamp of a mind grasping a problem and solving it...

(p. 728)

listening to the controlled violence and the mathematical precision of Halley’s music— had

(p. 784)

any part of your uncertainty,” said Galt, “is a conflict between your heart and your mind— follow your mind.”

(p. 802)

“that there be no criticism of anything at any time.”

(p. 826)

yelling unprintable curses

(p. 853)

haven’t any sympathy for that welfare philosophy . I’ve seen enough of them to know what makes the kind of poor who want something for nothing .” He

(p. 870)

woman, not as beautiful as she assumed,

(p. 865)


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Atlas Shrugged [Book Review] The Ethical Sociopath's guide
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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

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