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Atlas Shrugged to be screened

By Leon Bertrand - posted Friday, 26 October 2007

In good news for economic rationalists, it finally appears that Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's magnum opus, is finally set to become a movie blockbuster. This follows the novel having been planned as a Hollywood movie for the last few years.

Vadim Perelman has been confirmed as the film's director, whilst Angelina Jolie will play Dagny Taggart, the railroad executive who encounters so much opposition and resistance - until she meets the protagonist, John Galt.

These exciting developments follow the 50th birthday of the ground-breaking novel, often said to be the second most influential book in America - second only to the Bible. Andrew Bernstein wrote an article, 'Productivity a moral virtue' published in The Australian on October 8 this year, to commemorate the anniversary.


Many people today criticise Ayn Rand's philosophy and championing of pure capitalism. And whilst such criticisms are often valid, (pure capitalism is a very imperfect system, even if it is far better than socialism) this is by no means a legitimate excuse for ignoring the central message of Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas is set in the early 20th century, in an American society with socialistic moral values which promote altruism and collectivism, and an economy which is increasingly being crippled by market-destroying government regulations. The more Dagny tries to advance the interests of her company, the more she is opposed by Government bureaucrats who resent her abilities and despise her successes. This is happening to all talented individuals who have created their own fortunes, as Government policy seems intent on ensuring that the proceeds of their work are shared evenly throughout the nation.

The major lesson from Atlas Shrugged still has great relevance today, particularly since the left today are continually questioning economic rationalism, and accusing its proponents of being "market fundamentalists", among other silly labels. Simply put, the primary message of Atlas Shrugged is this: that values which promote innovation, productivity and genius are superior to moral codes which do not value these traits. As a result, rational ethics will value individualism, moderate selfishness and freedom of choice above values to which many of us are more accustomed, such as self-sacrifice and substantive equality. A social system which rewards people for creating their own wealth, rather than enjoying the wealth of others, is always going to produce a wealthier and more peaceful society than one which does not provide such incentives.

Reality does support such attitudes. For instance, it is true that capitalism has resulted in far fewer deaths than socialist dictatorships, whether they be fascist or Communist in name. Further, capitalism and economic rationalism have brought the prosperity we enjoy today, whilst nations which have clung to the Socialist dream have suffered from abject despair and poverty, time and time again. Discouraging intelligence and hard work is effectively killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, as these qualities are indispensable to wealth being abundant in society.

Atlas Shrugged also provides strong rebuttals to the moral relativism of many in the left, such as those who support "mushy multiculturalism" and oppose citizenship tests. As Ayn Rand shows, values are an indispensable base that society must have in order to become free and prosperous. In order to have freedom and prosperity, it is vital that the majority of people in a society also value freedom, self-interest and hard work. Karl Marx once wrote that the economic system which exists in a society determines the values and dialectic which exists in that society. The reverse is in fact the case: values provide the intellectual and moral basis for the social and economic systems which exist. The left hence stands corrected in its view that socialist and other fundamentalist values are harmless, and should in fact be encouraged.

Not only would I recommend that you go and see this movie when it's out, I would also recommend that you bring as many socialist sympathisers along as possible, so that they too can witness the ultimate consequence of their political leanings in practice.

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About the Author

Leon Bertrand is a Brisbane blogger and lawyer.

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