She was trying to create an intelligent ideological counterpoint to radical collectivism. Her novels always suffered from heavy-handed, preachy writing; it’s sometimes hard to decide if the author meant what she wrote or if it was a clumsy attempt at satire. Still, the message of Atlas Shrugged is not to be shrugged off (pun intended). It is a magnificent defense of free market capitalism, enlightened selfishness as the driving motor of a successful society, but dragged down by collectivism, entitlements, corrupt politics and lobbying.
One thing Atlas Shrugged doesn’t represent is populism. In fact, it is the antithesis of populism. Which is why I found it ironic that some of the support for the recent movie adaptation came from neo-conservative circles such as the Tea Party. Perhaps they don’t realize that their views are almost as contrary to Ayn Rand’s teachings as the presumed “socialism” of Barack Obama. Ayn Rand’s enlightened capitalist heroes are not ignoring facts that they find inconvenient. They aren’t advocating off-loading hidden (e.g., environmental) costs onto the rest of society. They simply do not believe that anyone has a right to demand their self-sacrifice. They do not owe anything to society. They have a right to what they own: their assets and their ideas. Okay, Ayn Rand sometimes took it a bit too far; some of her heros, after all, turn to overt terrorism in order to defend their ownership rights.
Anyhow, I just finished watching Atlas Shrugged Part I, courtesy of Netflix. It’s not a great movie by any means, but it was better than I expected. As a matter of fact, it was less preachy than Ayn Rand’s book, which certainly helped. I am not sure I approve of the idea of moving the story’s setting to the near future. Ayn Rand’s original story had a sense of timelessness. Keeping its timeframe ambiguous, but with a kind of 1950s, early 1960s atmosphere also could have helped avoid a somewhat artificial explanation behind the importance of railroads. Still, the rewrite wasn’t clumsily done, and I am actually looking forward to the sequel, if it is actually produced. (Supposedly, it is in the works.)
Yes, I am looking forward to watching Atlas Shrugged, Part 2… even as I am rooting for Obama’s re-election. Does this mean that I am delusional?