Comments of the Day: What's So Bad About Atlas Shrugged Anyway?S

Today we heard that the producer of the new Atlas Shrugged Part 1 movie might not make parts two and three because the first one has been such a flop. Good, many of you said, because that book stinks. Or does it? One commenter wanted to know what's actually wrong with Ayn Rand's paean to individualism.

From SaraRueful:

I'm going to expose my ignorance here, I guess. I read "Atlas Shrugged" a couple of years ago and besides the fact that Rand badly needed a good editor (I hate 70-page radio addresses more than I hate 15-minute drum solos), I liked it. What *I* took away from it, knowing nothing about Rand, was that if you work hard, are smart, and put out the best product, you will reap the rewards. If the smart, hardworking people have their money taken away to give to lazy incompetent fucks, then that's when society goes to shit. As a smart person and hard worker I like this message. I'm also a liberal.

Bear with me, I'm trying to articulate this....

Why do right-wingers embrace it so much? Bush was the one who gave billions to bank chiefs who were too stupid and incompetent to keep their businesses going. Right-wingers support all manner of tax breaks and gov't incentives to corporations that wouldn't need them if they were truly the best on the market.

If you break it down just to basic welfare/state aid, yeah, I absolutely oppose giving money to able people who are just lazy. I have stopped talking to a relative and a "friend" from college who fought to the death for disability because they're too lazy to work (and found a doctor to pay off). However, I do not begrudge my blind uncle or cousin with Down syndrome the support they receive to live normal lives. I don't think Dagny or John Galt or Hank Reardon would either. Would they?

I also have a real issue with modern-day right-wingers embracing this book because the vast majority of them are so fucking stupid John Galt would never, ever let them in his magical valley. (Ooh, I'm going to start using that to describe my hoo-hah.) Dagny and Hank and Francesco (etc.) weren't greedy assholes, they were the best in the business. Today's Rand lovers are greedy, stupid and usually legacy babies who would have never gotten where they are if not for their parents.

Sorry to ramble on so. I don't really get the liberal hatred of this book, or the wingnut love of it, and if anyone can set me straight I'd really appreciate it.

Fair enough. Commenter tewkesbury responded:

there are several reasons to hate it, but just to address some of what you're saying:
First of all—and it really bears mentioning every time—the prose is terrible. It really doesn't function well as a novel, forget any underlying messages. The characters sound like automatons, the adjectives are too numerous by a factor of 20, the tone is insanely shrill, and there's not a whisper of dramatic ambiguity.

But that aside, the book doesn't actually advocate hard work, it advocates exceptionalism. Dagny and Hank, et al, DO work hard, but we're never allowed to forget that the work is both a result of and in service to their profound Greatness. And though they do have "enemies," you'll note that present around the edges of the narrative are all these nameless faceless workers who have to accomplish these grand and glorious projects that our heroes want to have done. (And you'll note also that part of the heroes' Essential Greatness is that they're never tempted to exploit the workers to increase their own wealth or status.) And not one of these workers seems to have any ambition for him or herself beyond doing a good day's work in service of the dreams of these Awesomely Exceptional People. Everyone who is good behaves nobly and everyone who is bad behaves shamefully, and there are no humans acting like humans.

So in order to love and believe in the book and get excited about the whole Objectivist line of crap, you pretty much have to believe that you are yourself one of these exceptional people—your ideas are the best, you're the best, and you were born to lead and stand out. It's like a massive dose of ego steroids for those who have always secretly suspected they were awesome. And the other side of this is why corporate welfare recipients are so comfortable letting the government bail them out whenever they do something bone-stupid like ruining the economy—they're not lazy bums taking a handout! They're Exceptional Awesomes who've just hit a little bump in the road on their way to fulfilling their Exceptional Destiny! And frankly, it's the government's RESPONSIBILITY to make their endeavors easier for them, because they're chosen!

Believing in these ideas—and believing that if we're just allowed to implement them in an completely unencumbered fashion, everything would be perfect—also makes it easier to swallow the sight of people struggling and suffering, because you can just tell yourself that it's their own fault, that you would never fall into that trap because you do work hard, and also you're super-special.

I think it's an evil book, I really do.

Well? Who's right here?