Shrugged Happens

April 1st, 2013 | R. Rados 

“The events in Atlas Shrugged would never happen.” - Some Idiot

Atlas Shrugged is one of the most criticized books ever written. No other author that I can think of has gained as much attention and notoriety as Ayn Rand. One of the strongest and most intelligent women to have ever lived has been defamed, undermined, and disregarded by left-wing zealots, feminist hypocrites, and talentless journalists. They've attacked her writing style, her philosophy, and her character. She's been called a callous sociopath, a shitty writer, and a hypocrite. None of these things are true. Not a single word from any of these criticisms is anything more than the components of an ongoing smear. There is not a single, ideological lefty that would admit that Ayn Rand had an eerily prophetic vision of the future, or that her philosophy is valid and consistent, or that she actually lived by her own philosophy.

The Huffington Post once wrote an article accusing Rand of hypocrisy for receiving public assistance. Sophomoric writers and bloggers have used this information as a weapon. Unfortunately, that weapon isn't shooting bullets, it's shooting bullshit. The bullshit comes in the very same form of misrepresentation of facts that Rand herself despised. 

It is true that Rand received pubic assistance in the form of Medicare and Social Security payments while she was dying of lung cancer. However, it is also true that Rand was paying into those government schemes, not by choice but because she had to. She was paying for a service that she was entitled to get. So what? This whole criticism is based on the idea that Rand is somehow a hypocrite for accepting public assistance and that she told others never to accept public assistance. Again, as usual, none of this is accurate. Ayn Rand never told people to refuse public assistance when they were paying for it – she told them to refuse public assistance in its entirety as an idea. Ayn Rand believed in receiving the services that she was rightfully paying for. Had there been a choice, she likely would have opted out of both Medicare and Social Security.

Another fact that is often cited in the “Rand was a hypocrite” theory is that she received the payments under the name Ann O'Conner – her husband's last name. This acts as “evidence” that she was trying to conceal it from her followers. Even so, Rand knew that it would only act as another weapon against her. Her ideas and philosophy have been so widely misunderstood and misrepresented that it would have been in her best interest to conceal it, since she was no longer in good enough health to defend herself.

Ayn Rand didn't live in the ideal, voluntary world that she envisioned. She was being taxed, looted, and forced to adhere to certain social values like the rest of us. She did what she could in this world and she did it well. The point of philosophy is to set out an ideal or a purpose. Usually these ideals are meant to challenge the status quo. Rand did exactly that with books like Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. It's because she was so strong, vicious, and relentless in her beliefs that opponents have tried so hard to deter anyone from adopting her “dangerous” ideals by destroying her personal character.

Another weapon in the arsenal of Rand haters is ridicule. This weapon shoots more bullshit than the previously discussed weapon. This weapon aims to make anyone who takes Atlas Shrugged seriously feel like an idiot.

If every society unanimously adopted Ayn Rand's philosophy of objectivism, no oppressive government would survive. No tyrants or freeloaders would ever have a chance. Not a single parasite could feed off the labour and time of any productive individual in an objectivist society.

Ridiculing the events that take place in Atlas Shrugged goes against the grain of what is actually happening. The recent attempt by the Cyprus government to seize citizen bank accounts reminds every Shrugged fan of the events that unfolded in the book. The news reports of the events in Cyprus has left most of us wondering what will come next. How far will a desperate government go? Could it eventually happen in North America?

The death of Hugo Chavez should be a joyous occasion for Venezuelans who aren't freeloading parasites. The entire reign of Chavez is something from Atlas Shrugged fantasy. The despicable tyrant nationalized media, confiscated land, seized private property, jailed his opponents, and took away the entrepreneurial freedoms of innovative citizens. Now – fourteen years later – the country is struggling with a failing economycrumbling infrastructurecrime, and inflation. Go figure.

In Canada, the NDP's economic policies of social ownership are strikingly similar to the doctrines of Hugo Chavez and his “revolution”.

The events of Atlas Shrugged have already happened. Hugo Chavez did what he did in under a decade. Had Cyprus succeeded at seizing bank deposits, it could have set a whole new precedent in how other struggling European countries manage their emergencies. The United States and Canada haven't been backed into the same corners as some Eurozone nations, but if the time ever comes when they are, there's no telling what the ruling parties might do. The fact that a government, somewhere, has even entertained the idea of seizing assets is troubling evidence of an existing authoritarian paradigm.

The events depicted in Atlas Shrugged that haven't happened involve the actions of John Galt. To this day, we have yet to see major innovators and productive contributors go on strike and refuse to supply us with our basic goods and services – the ones we take for granted. The oil, the metal, the techie luxuries – all of these things wouldn't exist if someone, somewhere, wasn't willing to commit time and labour to producing them. The ones who designed and invented them are taken for granted just as much as those who do the dirty work. Without these innovators, financiers, designers, and inventors, we would be at an equal disadvantage. Without labour we would have no products – but without financial support and innovation we would see the same result.

When unions strike, they strike for the selfish purpose of receiving more for their labour or because they feel cheated and robbed. There is absolutely no reason why the greatest minds and financiers shouldn't strike when they feel cheated and robbed by self-serving groups and authorities. The so-called “difference” between the labourers and the financiers is that the financiers already have exorbitant wealth and, therefore, shouldn't have a right to feel disparaged when being forced to part with it. This is complete and utter bullshit. Another person's wealth isn't anyone's business and robbing others using the guise of some distorted moral ideal doesn't justify theft – not even if this theft has the backing of a majority vote.

When people say that the events depicted in Atlas Shrugged are unfeasible, they could either be talking about the efforts of John Galt or the efforts of a desperate, overbearing government. Regardless, both can and do happen. Governments exercise unmitigated oppression and groups of people go on strike when they feel cheated. It happens often. None of this is as unreal as opponents of Ayn Rand would like us to believe. The reality in Shrugged is a testament to Rand's accurate understanding of how governments and societies behave under stress. She also understood how individuals are often persecuted and misrepresented, largely because she had experienced it herself. Even when Atlas Shrugged was first published, Rand opened herself to hellfire. Knowing that her philosophy would hit all the wrong cords in a society moving towards egalitarianism, Rand 's bravery was one of the most inspiring elements of her character.