Jun

28

Ayn RandFinally I could invest the time to start reading Atlas Shrugged. I have chosen the word invest advisedly here; I have finished reading Part I and decided to take a pause at the end of page 312.

Bearing fully in mind the introduction by Leonard Peikoff that begins by stating that Ayn Rand held that art is a “re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value judgments”, it strikes me very hard to seek your opinion if really in the America of the last century there indeed were characters such as Jim Taggart, Orren Boyle and the sort of hoi polloi that has been described continuously in these 312 pages. I have no doubt that there were a lot of Dagny Taggarts, Hank Reardens, Ellis Wyatts who helped (re)build modern America further, but it beats me if really there was a time when the over-riding thought and action of the day was being shaped by Jim Taggart and Orren Boyle types as well. What do you think? Has the author erred in stretching the shadows far longer to produce the effect or was there really an America like that also?

Alex Castaldo attempts a reply:

You are not the first non-US reader of Ayn Rand to be puzzled by this question. As a foreign-born American I was surprised that her books were set in the US when you could easily come up with better examples of government/business connivance from other countries. Americans can consider themselves lucky that they are better off in this respect than some others. Indeed I have often asked myself where is the Italian Ayn Rand who would speak up about how some of Italy's wealthiest people have made their fortune largely through political connections and improper operations, and explain the difference between this and true entrepreneurship. Sadly he/she does not seem to exist (possibly for lack of readers).

Part of the answer may be that Ayn Rand was most familiar with Russia and the US, so of course she chose to write about these countries. Also, she was concerned about trends and developments rather than the immediate situation; the US in her books is perhaps the model of what could happen to any country if the disturbing developments she saw around her were to continue. Her books are, among other things, a plea for the US to retain (and improve) its traditional values and not adopt those of the then ruling class in Soviet Russia.


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