Reading Atlas Shrugged

I'm finally giving Atlas Shrugged its second chance, and I actually enjoy it pretty well this time around. I've learned enough about Rand and her ideas to know when to pay attention and to know when to laugh out loud and keep going. Here's an example of the latter (on page 131):

Lillian moved forward to meet her, studying her with curiosity. They had met before, on infrequent occasions, and she found it strange to see Dagny Taggart wearing an evening gown. It was a black dress that fell as a bodice with a cape over one shoulder, leaving the other bare; the naked shoulder was the gown's only ornament. Seeing her in the suits she wore, one never thought of Dagny Taggart's body. The black dress seemed excessively revealing—because it was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulder were fragile and beautiful, and that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.

I hate to think of an Objectivist out there in need of some guidance with women and turning to this passage for inspiration. Rand's ideas about love, sex, and relationships were weird enough already without this one passage being remembered.

Another complaint is how the main characters spend half the time giving each other speeches, but you couldn't miss that if you ever read two pages of Atlas.

On the positive side, the plot is excellent, the economic ideas are excellent, and we'd be way off the mark to underestimate Rand's contribution to the modern libertarian movement. I heard George Reisman say that when Atlas came out he and Murray Rothbard spent the next several days gobbling it up and discussing it, and Rand hyped Mises all over the place. Not to mention the influence on countless, less famous libertarians.

For kicks I'd like to know if anyone knows the exact number of times any of the following words appears: gaunt, angular, moral, or your favorite Rand buzzword.

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I sometimes wish I could

I sometimes wish I could find myself a Randian bitch! ... in the moral sense, of course. :smitten:

If only we could do drinking

If only we could do drinking games with books. Sadly, it just doesn't seem quite social enough for that...

I think Rand could have made

I think Rand could have made the book much better if she had packed all that into 600 pages, not 1100. I hate having to tell people that the book is great, *if* you can make it through the first 500 pages or so.

I've become a much bigger fan of Heinlein recently, though. I think he's a better writer, and has a much clearer view of human interaction with society, instead of worship of the god-king businessman.

And his female characters

And his female characters were hotter too!

Don't feel bad about

Don't feel bad about skipping the "This is John Galt Speaking" chapter. You can go back if you want to read a Castro-scale speech, after.

I'd really like a good essay

I'd really like a good essay reconciling Randian ethics with Godel's incompleteness theorem.

On the positive side... the

On the positive side... the economic ideas are excellent...

Oh, I don't really think so. Maybe in the general "Hey we should be economically free" sense, but when you get down to specifics, Ayn had some pretty weird ideas about the character and proper economic role of human creativity. She seemed to think that society owes something to brilliant minds merely on account of their brilliance. An example from Atlas Shrugged that comes to mind is Halley, who leaves for the Gulch in disgust because first no one likes his music, and then later they all do. And in Fountainhead, Roark is more concerned with having his way than satisfying his clients. Ayn's feelings (or at least those of her protagonists) toward the free market seem to include a good deal of arrogant loathing.

Randall, You "heard" George


You "heard" George Reisman, like, in person?

He wrote about Atlas in the preface to Capitalism: "When I finished, the only thing I could find to say in criticism, tongue in cheek, was that the book was too short and the villains were not black enough."


What do you think needs to be reconciled between the two?

Roy, Remember that Rorak had


Remember that Rorak had clients in order to build, he did not build in order to have clients. He was an artist first and businessman second.

Occurences of gaunt:

Occurences of gaunt: 10
Occurences of angular or rectangular: 24
Occurences of moral: 419
Occurences of A is A: 12
Occurences of chain/chained: 54
Occurences of little: 254

And last but not least,

Occurences of money: 363

I guess "moral" is the grand winner, which I guess you could sort of expect...

Roy, I interpreted Rand's


I interpreted Rand's POV as, if society wanted to benefit from the brilliant minds', then society needed to pay for it and not just take it. To that extent, it seems fair to me. But you're right, there is also a sense of artistic superiority -- that most of society is not worthy of their brilliance. That theme was even more prominent in The Fountainhead.

Joel - Careful! I got

Joel - Careful! I got kicked off an Objectivist channel for bringing that up, one time. According to their explanation, since I couldn't recite the theorem and/or its proof off the top of my head in real-time, I must be some sort of second-hander.:dunce:

Liking Atlas Shrugged does

Liking Atlas Shrugged does not automatically make one a card-carrying Objectivist. Its ok to say that we like it without qualifiers. This is to say nothing of the criticisms here, I'm sure they are all valid. I like Atlas Shrugged, speaches and all.

In the Fountainhead, Roark's

In the Fountainhead, Roark's problem stemmed from what was essentially a breach of contract, and its implications on intellectual property rights - from what I recall, he would say something like: "I'm going to design this building for you if and only if I have full license to design it and it will be built in accordance with my plans."

The other parties' failure to adhere to the terms & conditions of such a contract was what lead to his gunpowder plot.

I didn't have a problem with the rampant soliloquizing in Atlas though, I rather liked it - it's fiction, you know - we expect our fictional antagonists & protagonists to be larger than life; they do & say things that would never happen in reality.

He [Roark] was an artist

He [Roark] was an artist first and a businessman second

Nay. He was an *egoist* first, all else is second.

Guys, Remind me not to


Remind me not to delve into the Wikipedia treatise on Godel's Incompleteness Theorem during one of the most intellectually demanding work weeks I've had in months...

On any other week, I might have the brainpower to comprehend that... But now, my head is starting to hurt.

Joel wrote: I’d really

Joel wrote:

I’d really like a good essay reconciling Randian ethics with Godel’s incompleteness theorem.

There's nothing there to reconcile. Remember, Godel's theorem is a technical result about axiomatic systems that are at least as complex as number theory. It has only metaphoric bearing on ethics or politics or philosophy (except maybe epistemology). Much like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle has only metaphoric bearing on things that aren't physical measurements at tiny scale.

Exactly right,

Exactly right, Craig.

Regarding Atlas Shrugged, I think Galt's speech is the best part.

Craig, You just might


You just might appreciate this one...


Heisenberg is driving down the road, he gets pulled over.

Cop asks him, "Do you know how fast you were going?"

Heisenberg responds, "Nope. But I know where I am!"

I have to say that I love

I have to say that I love Rand as a literary entity - not nearly as much Rand as philosopher. I have to say though that I agree with Brad about Heinlein, he has the understanding and was, a libertarian of sorts. In fact I didn't realioze such a dichotamy was generaly acceptable but he was a libertarian socialist. I daresay he would never have admitted to the socialist part but that doesn't make it less true. And therin lies my issue with Rand, the whole idea that I'm not supposed to care about anyone else but me - I just can't do it.

But I have become quite the fan of her fiction. I love extra long books that I can immerse myself into for more than a day or two, the milage I get out of the average novel.

Hi Computer Nerd, Could you

Hi Computer Nerd,

Could you do 'gold' and 'cigarette' as well?

I first discovered Mises at the end of 'Atlas Shrugged'. And it's good that Atlas is 1,100 pages long, as it makes 'Human Action' seem manageable, which is the book I read immediately following it! :-)

In case anyone hasn't seen it, BTW, any Atlas fans have also got to see the free video of 'Mozart Was a Red' by Uncle Murray (and starring Jeffrey Tucker). Look out especially for the ''s a very rational brand' gag. Even Mr Heinlein would have approved of that one:

Mozart Was a Red

You even get to see Uncle Murray, at the end.

Just think how ugly Rand's

Just think how ugly Rand's dream city would be -- with stark, sheer architecture and everyone adorned with glinting metallic jewelry.

Give me Jacobean Gothic any day.

I find Rand's non-fiction to

I find Rand's non-fiction to be better than her fiction. Atlas Shrugged is a ponderous tedious Russian novel that just happens to have the right politics about it. Her verbiage is just tough to take at times. I would far more recommend the Virtue of Selfishness to anyone interested in reading Rand.

I agree that Rand was too

I agree that Rand was too verbose. But what do you really expect from a woman.

Her ideas about sex, relationships, love, etc. are right on.

I can simplily it...

Strong women love to be dominated... weak women love to think that they are in charge.

I have tested this theory and it appears to hold weight.

I hate to think of an

I hate to think of an Objectivist out there in need of some guidance with women and turning to this passage for inspiration. Rand’s ideas about love, sex, and relationships were weird enough already without this one passage being remembered.

Sorry but I have to say this... Its not the Fucking bible... Its a novel... its fiction. If someone is looking for inspiration in a random passage, or for guidance in regard to women from random passages in a work of fiction they are kind of missing the point. Yes she is trying to demonstrate her philosophy in the book and I think thats a good thing. If someone wanted to know more about objectivism, reading atlas shrugged would help, but it was still written as a novel and meant to be a novel.

Rand's non-fiction philosophy stuff came much later. She sat down to write fiction, and in her fiction she wrote scenes that appealed to her. This was her fantasy world in written form. If she found the idea of being chained or having rough sex in an abandoned tunnel to be erotic you don't need to read anything more into it than that.

Furthermore the whole "look of being chained" concept being feminine, while obviously weird and bizarre to us now was not necessarily so weird and bizarre 50 years ago when the book was written... and she was raised in Russia. So... different cultural background... different time... different ideas... different fantasies... different ideas about why diamond bracelets accentuate femininity (I think that's a word...)

I realize there are objectivists/randians out there with a "What would rand say... let's consult atlas shrugged" attitude... And its horrible. Imagine if you wrote a book of fiction and because it had strong philosophical views people long after you were dead decided to turn you into Jesus.

Hey look Jesus/rand had this character rape this other character and she liked it... rape must be good... Jesus/rand seems to think so...

The point is a lot of those quirky bizarre, weird ideas were just an extension of rand's imagination and not meant to be read as fully developed, researched works on the philisophical place of women/sex in society. Now the speeches are an entirely different issue...

Personally I had no problem with the passage. In spite of the fact that I don't think "the look of being chained" is somehow archetypically feminine, I understood exactly what she was getting at.

DuWayne wrote: "In fact I

DuWayne wrote: "In fact I didn’t realioze such a dichotamy was generaly acceptable but he was a libertarian socialist."

Considering that Heinlein, like Reagan, was a New Deal Democrat in the 1930's, that's not really all that surprising. That said, what I garner from reading Heinlein was that he felt a collective approach to social and economic problems was a valid path, even, perhaps, the best path. As long as two things were true, that is. The first being that no one forced such choice on any individual or group. The second being that the group should be small. Large groups, if I'm interpreting Heinlein's writing correctly, lead to tyranny of the majority, the proverbial Mrs. Grundy looking in the window. As much as Heinlein hated communists, he also detested the Bible Belt politics of the US. From his view, or mine at least, there just isn't that much difference between the two.

He certainly felt that a society could be built that would be anarcho-capitalist in nature. In fact, he wrote the blueprint for it in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". All of his Lazarus Long books written after that basically expand the idea and refine it. Because he also began to explore different family structures and foundations for sexual relationships, a lot of people get bogged down in the "confusing sexuality", as one reviewer put it, and miss the very important ideas around individualism and non-coercion. At the same time, he also made it clear that a society like Luna had could not last. Inevitably human nature and large populations would lead to government, bureaucracy and authoritarianism. He appears to have taken the view that liberty could only truly exist on the edge of the expanding frontier of humanity.

And his female characters were much sexier than Rand's. :grin:

Could you do ‘gold’ and

Could you do ‘gold’ and ‘cigarette’ as well?

In my copy there are only a measly 108 instances of 'gold' and 98 instances of 'cigarette'. As for the word which occurs most often in Atlas Shrugged, I think I will write a perl script later to determine it when I'm a bit less groggy.