Atlas Shrugged Part II

Shunning fixed and stable concepts, the abdication of philosophy from present-day decisions has left its indelible mark on our popular catchphrases as much as drinking from a poisoned watering hole: “You think too much!” “Who am I to judge?” “We have to pass the Bill so that you can find out what’s in it!”

In other words, there is no need to think, just follow and swallow and drown in whatever has been determined as beneficial to the “common good.” But the question remains: determined by whom?

In her novel, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand asks “Who is John Galt?” because it’s rumored Galt was the first man of ability that pulled out and left a collapsing society in the hands of the plunderers, those compromising goodwill ambassadors who rely on political pull to divvy up the spoils of productivity, who force the rich to pay “their fair share.”

She wrote three novels which she described thusly: We the Living about her experiences growing up in Soviet Russia as “good lost out to evil;” her most famous was The Fountainhead about an architect of integrity as “good triumphs over evil;” and then, Atlas Shrugged about “the good vs. the good” – and there is a difference between them!

Upon completion of Shrugged, she visited college campuses, hoping to connect with future thinkers. First, she approached the “liberal” students with her message that a happy man is a self-contained man. Her logic was that it would resonate with the New Left. To her dismay they were immersed in collective thinking, debating semantics as sub-factions plotted revolutions. So she turned to the conservatives, who immediately advised her not to waste time on the Left because “they’re all a bunch of atheists!” Rand herself was an atheist. Disillusioned at her inability to find an outpouring of intellectuals, she retreated to the confines of her inner circle.

As independent political observer David Boles points out, from the opening scene of this movie Atlas Shrugged Part II, “It’s clearly a science fiction story, with its emphasis on science, rather than political science.”

It was Rand’s prophetic vision in her testimony before HUAC where she said, “What are you working for? What are you leaving to your children? The money, home or education you plan on leaving them will be worthless or taken away. Instead your legacy will be a totalitarian America, a world of slavery, of starvation.” Forty years later, the Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, confirmed that, emphatically saying that the goal of Democrats was to see that you made less money, kept less of it and were prevented from leaving it to heirs!

The reason Rand is so hated among statists in Washington is she proposes a way out of their snare.

This second installment in the movie trilogy contains the meat of its story. With the disappearance of those who are able to respond to crisis and provide innovative ideas, the government steps up its regulatory stranglehold. As head of the State Science Institute, Dr. Robert Stadler represents the general consensus: like his federally-funded counterparts promoting “junk science” for “global warming” today, he only wants to keep his subsidy check coming, and has no regard for “the men who make the gadgets.” And yet, even he admits that since the disappearances, “finding a real mind has been difficult.”

As the pseudo-CEO of Taggart Transcontinental, James Taggart marries the single most unimportant person he can find, a dime store cashier named Cherryl. At their reception, Francisco d’Anaconia, head of copper mining operations in Mexico, confronts that age-old cliché, “money is the root of all evil.” He asks, “And what’s the root of money?” sparking debate. But money is a tool of free men that stands as proof that men can deal with one another without resorting to force or fraud. When anyone – and I’ll repeat that for voters – anyone claims the right to “redistribute” wealth that’s been produced by the effort of others, what they’re claiming is the right to treat those who produce as slaves! So where do you stand on slavery? It’s either/or.

Atlas Shrugged could just as easily have been set in the musical arena, or about the production of industrial strength floor wax, but Rand appreciated how trains connected commerce from coast to coast, and chose to theorize how essential ideas are to seed freedom, using transportation as her catalyst.

Any social movement that begins with the promise to redistribute income ends up distributing human misery. The point of Atlas Shrugged is that a choice must be made: to live as free men, or as slaves. It’s either/or.