Recently I read Francisco d’Anconia’s monumental speech about the virtue of money in Atlas Shrugged (pages 387-391 in my Signet 35th Anniversary Edition). In answer to someone who quips that “money is the root of all evil,” d’Anconia argues that the root of money is production, and the root of production is the reasoning mind. It is a speech well worth perusing, and it is often discussed.
On this reading, I was equally struck by the discussion that d’Anconia holds with Hank Rearden immediately after the speech. I have heard the claim that Atlas Shrugged encourages emotional repression. However, Ayn Rand presents some of her heros as emotionally repressed precisely to point out why that’s a problem. Rearden mentions some “fool woman.” D’Anconia replies:
That woman and all those like her keep evading the thoughts which they know to be good. You keep pushing out of your mind the thoughts which you believe to be evil. They do it, because they want to avoid effort. You do it, because you won’t permit yourself to consider anything that would spare you. They indulge their emotions at any cost. You sacrifice your emotions as the first cost of any problem. They are willing to bear nothing. You are willing to bear anything. They keep evading responsibility. You keep assuming it. But don’t you see that the essential error is the same? Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences. There are no evil thoughts except one: the refusal to think. Don’t ignore your own desires, Mr. Rearden. Don’t sacrifice them. Examine their cause. There is a limit to how much you should have to bear. (page 394)
So, Rand points out, emotionalism, letting one’s emotions guide one’s life without rational oversight, stems from essentially the same error as emotional repression. That error is evasion, the pushing out of one’s mind relevant knowledge or questions. Because Rearden tends to evade certain types of facts, he becomes emotionally repressed. This leads him to actively help those who are trying to tear him down and to damn his own desire for romantic sex. In presenting emotional repression in certain characters, Rand is exploring the roots of such repression so that it can be overcome.
Outstanding! Leonard Peikoff has just released his first podcast. He says he’ll produce a new one every week or two. He does an excellent job answering difficult questions in a way accessible to a general audience. In his first podcast, he answers four questions sent to him via e-mail (in my wording):
1. Is “non-initiation of force” the main ethical principle?
2. What should one do if one’s relatives are upset about one’s atheism?
3. What is the theme of mystery and adventure novels?
4. Do religions as such tend to become militant? How should a country defend itself against terrorist states where good people live?
Inspired by the 50th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, I decided to read the great novel again. I’m nearly a third of the way through. The novel is a magnificent accomplishment — and it’s as though I’m reading it for the first time. The first third focusses on the characters of Dagny Taggart, the great railroad executive; Hank Rearden, the steel producer; and Francisco d’Anconia, the copper owner who has apparently fallen to depravity. The dramatic tension, as when Dagny and Hank meet at a party or celebrate an accomplishment, is gripping.
I thought that I would include a few quotes on this web page. They’re not necessarily the most central quotes; they’re just what happen to grab me. Here’s what Dr. Pritchett has to say about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, which forces business owners to sell off all but one enterprise:
But I believe I made it clear that I am in favor of it, because I am in favor of a free economy. A free economy cannot exist without competition. Therefore, men must be forced to compete. Therefore, we must control men in order to force them to be free. (page 129)
Ridiculous? Nobody would ever actually say that? But my previous entry quotes just such a statement.
Often I come across tidbits in the popular media and think, “Wow, that could have come straight out of Atlas Shrugged.” Indeed, Ayn Rand’s ability to read and predict cultural trends can seem uncanny. So, as a fun way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the publication of the novel, I’m suggesting Atlas Shrugged — The Game.
It’s simple to play. Just blog the best example you can find from (let’s say) the past eight weeks of commentary that sounds like it could have been lifted straight from the pages of Atlas Shrugged. I imagine that nearly all examples will sound like the voice of a villain, unfortunately. Edit out specifics and leave only the general points. Let’s give it, say, till the end of October. Here’s my entry for the sort of mealy-mouthed gibberish common among Atlas’s political “reformers:”
It’s heating up. The debate… is picking up speed… Unfortunately, this naturally leads to polarization of opposing views regarding a critically important issue for all of us. And this cheapens and oversimplifies the discussion.
Our [industry] can’t be corrected with one liners and political scoring points.
We need cooperation. We need compromise. We don’t need political hoopla.
Thankfully, the continued work of the… Commission is a good example of how a group of people with differing views can work together on a critical issue. It would be premature to grade their efforts. However, they are making progress and we all should support their endeavor.
Source: Dr. Michael J. Pramenko, “Time to find people ‘medical homes’,” Grand Junction Free Press, September 28, 2007.
From the Colorado Freedom Report:
“Today marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s seminal novel about producers who go on strike to oppose their treatment at the hands of political plunderers. The novel celebrates the greatness possible to the freed human mind in pursuit of life-enhancing values. The work unabashedly endorses the moral doctrine of rational self-interest. …
“Atlas Shrugged lays out the vision of heroic people who refuse to compromise their principles — and thereby refuse to compromise their happiness. Such people realize the full value of life on earth, and they therefore apply their reason and efforts to the goal of living. They hold productiveness as a moral virtue, and they seek to protect the political liberty that allows individuals to act, create, and trade according to their own judgment.”