Who is John Galt?

I finally started  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and I am absolutely enthralled. Ayn Rand is great at taking an idea about humanity in her books and turning it inside-out to show us the side we don’t usually see.  For instance, in Atlas Shrugged, the people who are stealing from the rich and giving to the poor are the villains and the money hungry capitalists are the heroes you find yourself cheering on.  The Robin Hood mentality takes on an entirely new perspective when you see how the talented and ambitious people in society are enslaved to silly regulations like limiting your steel production to the same amount as everybody else.  Just because this regulation is “fair” to competitors  it doesn’t fulfill the nation’s demand for steel.

The question of freedom and individual rights continually get brought up throughout Atlas Shrugged and has made me think about how I would react in the world that Ayn Rand created.  I believe in serving others and leading a life dedicated towards that belief.  I’ve always felt those who are better off should help out those in need yet at the same time I am very ambitious and pursue all of my goals with every talent and asset I have to offer.  My results and successes warrant what I deserve; my needs warrant nothing.  Ayn Rand is showing me that my views don’t necessarily match each other and, in fact, they almost contradict each other.

In my little fantasy world, I envisioned everybody helping each other in beautiful harmony.  Ayn Rand challenges my little dream by bringing to light that most people don’t want to give freely and therefore we would have to force them.  If we are in a world where people must give what they earned, then does that make them slaves to the laws and regulations?  It’s funny…I always felt that we were slaves to the dollar but here is a woman who has touched thousands of lives by writing about how the dollar, when earned for yourself by yourself, gives freedom.

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3 Responses to Who is John Galt?

  1. Angelina L. says:

    Hmm, I don’t know about her. I’ve recently read some stuff about her bio and it doesn’t jive well with me. Although I haven’t read the book, here are my thoughts:

    – regulation isn’t about fairness, it’s about protection against market failures

    -I think that requiring people to give what they earn is part of a social contract. I have always felt that there an inherent conflict in the creation of our democratic civil society between community and individualism, and that there will always be a tension or conflict between public interest and self interest. Living in a civil society has certain costs, and since our economy is so complex the cost is monetary. Depending on your perspective, these can been seen as social benefits/private costs or social costs/private benefits. We may not always experience or seen the benefits, especially if you hold the former view, but it’s a necessary part of societal life. rather than see it as being a slave to regulation/laws, i look it as a part of being a political-social world where it is necessary to balance self-interest and public interest. there are way to many examples of when capitalism in the name of self interest has cause so much harm to others.

    -i do think that individualism and capitalism have spurred most technology advances, and in that respect is great. but does the dollar (whether earned for your self or not) ever really give you freedom? sure money makes things a lot easier, but i don’t think it’s the answer. i think it’s a front to think that money leads to freedom. perusing your passion is more enabling. and not everyone is fortunate enough to ‘earn for yourself by yourself’. most people earn for themselves and for some other. i feel her views give a sense of entitlement to those who can stand up for their individual pursuits, and was a reaction to the Russian form of communism, but does account for when people are unable to or see a greater good in not pursuing their self-interest. I equate her ideology as a bit of libertarianism – when taken to the extreme has huge consequences to social life.

    sorry for the lack of caps (i was lazy!).

  2. Angelina L. says:

    I just wanted to follow up and say my comments are purely based on theoretical grounds. In practice, of course, things are much more complex!

  3. Courtney says:

    I enjoyed reading your perspective on this topic. I think you summed it up perfectly by saying “in practice, of course, things are much more complex”. The recent market failures are a clear example of why regulations are necessary. If banks had more regulations about who they could lend money out to then maybe the government bailout wouldn’t have happened. The problem, in my opinion, was that banks got greedy without considering how to sustain profit. The heroes in Atlas Shrugged may have been “greedy” but their greed promoted economic stability, created jobs, inspired inventions, and was to the benefit of mankind.

    I will continue this tomorrow when I’m not so tired…haha

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