Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who Is John Galt? And Does Anyone Care Anymore?

Brian Murray, at On the Square, marking tomorrow's fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged
What made [Ayn] Rand’s works controversial, then and now, was their unashamed elitism and atheism—their contempt for the values and attitudes held by most human beings who must make their way through the real world with the usual sets of weaknesses and strengths.

--Terrence Berres


  1. Yes. I think that quite a number of people care who John Galt is. I find it odd that the author of this essay admits that it is quite common to run into a person who states that "Atlas Shrugged changed my life", yet dismisses the book as irrelevant and boring. Some intellectuals are intellectuals for reasons of vanity. As such, they take joy in criticizing things which are widely accepted. It helps them feel superior to the masses. Well, the financially and personally successful masses appreciate the lessons learned from the modern fable in Atlas Shrugged and grasp an exciting view of the romance of an energetic, successful life lived on ones own terms and in accord with ones own values: not living in submission to anothers value system nor asking anyone to sacrifice theirs for you either; offering only value for value and never using force or morality to coerce another person to your will, nor allowing anyone else to coerce you to theirs.

    Argue that the successful are selfish and unfair. Label people with passion for their life's work as "workaholics" or "heartless". That will comfort you in your mediocrity. Look upon love and charity as a moral duty until you come to despise those you serve. You can comfort yourself in your bitterness that, at least, you are better than the passionate and successful.

    Some day we all will realize that our mortal lives are about to end and we will look back over the years and ask the question of whether we lived vibrantly, energetically and beautifully enough to declare that it was worth it and that we wrung the last drop of joy from the cup of life. The life of energy and success is very likely to enable us to answer a resounding YES! I LIVED!

    Will the life of intellectual snobbery, criticism and moral submission offer the same satisfaction?

  2. Maybe Rand's outlook didn't transfer clearly from books to the screen. The movie version of "The Fountainhead" seemed to say that the world doesn't owe anyone a living, but does owe Howard Roark construction financing.

  3. I have never seen the movie of the Fountainhead. The book, in my estimation, had two major flaws which were not repeated in Atlas Shrugged. First is that Rand bought into the rape myth and had Howard Roark rape Dominique Francon. Rand later explained that it was "rape with an engraved invitation". I think she bought into the view, common in her day, that a sexy woman "was asking for it".

    The second flaw was that she had Howard Roark blow up an apartment complex that was based on a perversion of his original design by Peter Keating. She even had the legal system let him off. I think this was rhetorical and designed to show that society at large mooches off of talented people while vilifying them at the same time. Think of all the negative abuse the popula media subjects the successful to. Major religions and ethical systems all teach people to pretend that they had nothing to do with their own success and to give credit to everyone else. We even have trouble with the idea that successful people deserve their money.

    The book did point out how ironic it was that a second rate architect like Peter Keating who manipulated and slept his way to the top got jobs while a brilliant architect like Roark had trouble finding work. She even had Keating sneak over to Roark to have him complete the designs that Keating was unable to do.

    I never got any hint in the book that Rand suggested that the world owed Roark funding.