Laissez-Faire Shrugged – Atlas Wept

When I was in junior high I read a lot.  I read books I didn’t understand  (Fear  and  Trembling and the Sickness Unto Death) because I thought there might be a secret key to knowledge inside.  

I sucked at baseball and had little interest in team sports.  I was one of those kids who a teacher might have commented “…bright, but a bit of a loner…  Today kids like this bear watching because teachers find them hard to reach and are apprehensive about what they don’t know.  

On the other hand I was a boy scout and sang in the Presbyterian church choir (until I became a 2nd soprano).  I wasn’t prospected for De Molay. Mostly I liked to hang around the library.  I thought it a really cool idea that people would write stuff and they would store it in one place.  That’s where I read  Sinclair Lewis “The Jungle,” Steinbeck’s ‘” Grapes of Wrath,” and Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead.”  

I admired Roark’s independence of vision, his Irish name, willingness to suffer for his art.  Easy things for a peripubescent boy to admire.  I didn’t read Atlas shrugged, knew nothing of objectivism. Perhaps I should have, peripubescents are easy to influence.  

Anyway, I’m adding it to my summer reading list and scratching Marx’s “The Revolutions of 1848.”  Marx certainly is one of the most influential  philosophers in the world and least read in America because his name is “Marx.”  – carlos


Love for Ayn Rand goes unrequited.

Libertarians love her, but she rejected them as “emotional hippies of the right.”

Conservatives love her, but she opposed Ronald Reagan, saying, “His likeliest motive for entering the Presidential race is power lust.”

Right-leaning Christians love her, but she was an atheist, an abortion supporter and a champion of the anti-Christian ideal that selfishness is a virtue. She also called religion a “sign of a psychological weakness.”

Her fans — including Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — would be crushed to learn she might never love them back, either.

Ms. Rand has been dead since 1982, but today she’s as loved as ever. Her 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged” champions laissez-faire capitalism and individual achievement. She vilifies communism, socialism and unionism. She dubs government redistribution of wealth immoral.

Some of her ideas are central to the American Dream. But Ms. Rand did much of her writing while hopped up on amphetamines and nicotine. And like most people who abuse this combination, she went too far.

She crafted philosophical arguments and wrote bizarre works of fiction to prove their premises. Then, in the delusional grandiosity that only chemicals can inspire, she declared herself, “the most creative thinker alive.”

Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series of vampire-romance novels, is far more imaginative. Unlike Ms. Rand’s works, Ms. Meyer’s are well-written — and many of the people who read them will grow out of them.

Ms. Rand mentored former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, yet look what he did. He poured gasoline on the free market until it exploded. Banks then required unprecedented government assistance. It’s difficult think of a single individual who has redistributed more wealth and interfered in more free markets than Mr. Greenspan.

The Tea Party, however, keeps drinking Ms. Rand’s Kool-Aid, not realizing the extent to which she inspired the very Fed that many Tea Party members now want abolished.

They love Ms. Rand because they think she foreshadowed our dystopian nightmare. In “Atlas Shrugged,” Ms. Rand describes a big government takeover of business amid an economic crisis.

Unproductive citizens of the welfare state, whom Ms. Rand dubbed “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers,” lobbied politicians to regulate businesses, confiscate wealth and destroy productivity. We now know corporations are the real “parasites” in an economic crisis.

Ms. Rand warned, “Government ‘help’ to business is just as disastrous as government persecution.” And I agree. But she did not imagine executives would loot their shareholders, cause an economic crisis and then beg for government help.

Her brand of laissez-faire capitalism led to corporations growing bigger and bigger until “too-big-to-regulate” became “too-big-to-fail.” She never imagined big business telling big government what to do or a government that only takes over failing businesses — not successful ones.

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard also sells millions of badly written books. Ms. Rand is just like him. She’s become something she also wouldn’t love: a religion.

—Al Lewis is a columnist for Dow Jones Newswires in Denver. He blogs at; his email address is

About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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2 Responses to Laissez-Faire Shrugged – Atlas Wept

  1. peakers82 says:

    That’s an interesting take on Rand. I was never a fan of her writing, but knew little about her. That article is a great look at how we see somehow from the past in the light we wish to see. Republican’s touting an abortion supporter as their champion is telling indeed.

    I’ve studied Marx, but I’ve never read “The Revolutions of 1848.” I would like to however. 1848 is a fascinating year in European history

    • carlos says:

      I’ve got the “Marx Lite” superficial knowledge of Marx. I was not encouraged to read him in social studies in HS and economics/polisci in college was not much more enlightening. However, the breadth of his influence is incredible, hence my purchase of the 3 vol set:
      I …1848
      II The 1st International…
      III Surveys from Exile
      I have come to see that this is a large effort. In that category I already have “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past,” and Camões’ “Os Lusiadas.”
      I was 12 when I read Rand. Cheers!

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