I read Atlas Shrugged sitting by my son’s bedside while he recovered from pneumonia in a Viennese hospital. His treatment cost us nothing, by which I mean nothing, as we not only benefited from European Union healthcare reciprocity, but also because I was not a taxpayer at the time and so made no financial contribution to social medicine whatsoever. I imagine this makes me what Rand would call a “looter.” It certainly made reading Atlas Shrugged all the more delicious; indeed, I could hear her bones rattling in her Westchester grave as I turned each page. Note to the Ghost of Ayn Rand: for all the looters like me, the Austrian capitalist economy has done pretty well over the years.
I enjoyed some of the book. I liked Dagny Taggart rather a lot and thought that she, rather than Galt or Rearden, was the real hero of the story. Dagny was at her best when she struggled against the economic implosion caused, not by looters like me, but sociopaths like Galt. Her dogged determination to keep going was admirable; her eventual acquiescence rather sad. The scene where she rides her new train is quite exhilarating as such things go. She is also a rather sexy minx, which might explain some of the appeal to a male reader, although I shall deny it vociferously if accused of such shallowtude.
The build-up to the John Galt reveal is also pretty good. In large part I kept turning those pages in that Vienna hospital because I wanted to know “who [was] John Galt”? I also found myself attracted to Rand’s celebration of human reason as an epistemologically good thing. These are about all the positives I can muster. Mostly, particularly the latter third when the polemic really begins, Atlas Shrugged is junk. Here’s why: [Read more…]