Yes it’s too long, yes it belabors its arguments, yes the philosophy is heavy-handed, yes the characters are cardboard…but there’s a reason Atlas Shrugged is widely considered one of the best novels of all time. Despite being more or less ignored by the media and academia, it continues to sell hundreds of thousands of copies every year.
The story takes place in what seems to be the 1950s, and in a time of political and economic turmoil. There’s a recession that’s worsening, the ineffectual bureaucrats have no idea how to solve the nation’s woes, and men and women of great industry–the people providing tens of thousands of jobs and the economic backbone of the society–are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Enter Dagny Taggart, the protagonist of sorts. She’s capable and intelligent, serves as the VP of Operations of the largest railroad left in the world, and will do whatever it takes to keep the company alive. And while the story piles on the complications, making it harder and harder for her to fulfill her mission, that’s not really what it’s about.
This book is an elegant exposition of Rand’s philosophies about individualism vs. collectivism, and whether you agree or not, it will make you think (and will probably give you some pause regarding what is going on in today’s political and economic climate). It’s an exploration of human psychology–of our motives, ideals, and standards of morality and ethics.
While I don’t fully agree with all of Rand’s beliefs, I share her fundamental critiques of collectivism, and I loved the messages in Francisco’s speech on money, Galt’s (admittedly long-winded) final radio transmission, Dagny’s stubborn optimism, and the parasitic nature of government and ineffectual whiners.
I truly think this is a book everyone should read and reflect on. Whether you agree with Rand’s core tenets or not, this book will change the way you view the world.