Atlas Shrugged — and shuddered
by Kevin Foley
Columnist
July 18, 2013 11:43 PM | 1784 views | 12 12 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged” is the guiding light for many a tea party conservative, most notably the GOP wunderkind, former altar boy and 2012 vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan.

“My philosophy,” wrote Ayn Rand, “is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

“Objectivism,” the so-called philosophy she concocted, is better summarized in the title of one of Rand’s later books, “The Virtue of Selfishness.”

“If I had to credit one thinker … it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said when asked who influenced his entry into politics.

I read “Atlas Shrugged” some time ago and found something lacking. Thanks to professional football player Chris Kluwe, I discovered what it was — and I realize now how monstrous that missing something is.

“The only thing Ayn Rand forgot to take into account when writing ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is empathy,” Kluwe explains.

“Who is John Galt?” asks the first sentence in “Atlas Shrugged.” In his new book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies,” Kluwe has the answer:

“John Galt … is a deeply flawed, sociopathic ideal of the perfect human. … John Galt is brilliant but doesn’t have the long-term vision to maintain the society that allowed his brilliance to flourish.”

Galt, Rand’s story goes, is one of many spectacularly accomplished men and women fed up with leeching mediocrities living off their hard work. They all flee to an oddly Communist-like utopia in the Rocky Mountains where they watch the world crumble without their collective genius.

Rand’s fantasyland is the political ideal espoused by Ryan and other tea party politicians like Sen. Rand Paul, who conveniently forget they were educated in society’s schools, use its highways, are protected by its police and military, and, yes, have their snouts buried deep in the public trough.

In fact, Ayn Rand would have considered Ryan a leeching mediocrity, such was her contempt for politicians.

Empathy is not only missing in Rand’s novel, it’s also absent in today’s tea party conservatism. Recall those lusty cheers when, during the 2012 Republican debates, the moderator asked if a man without health insurance should be left to die of cancer. And what is Rand’s “virtue of selfishness” if not a pithy description of discredited trickle-down economics?

“John Galt talks about intelligence and education without discussing who will pay for the schools,” Kluwe continues. “John Galt has no thought for his children. … John Galt does not recognize the societal structure surrounding him that allows him to exist. … John Galt spends his time in a valley where no … real life takes place.”

“I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault,” Ryan declared in 2009.

Only a lifelong politician with zero business experience and who’s beholden to billionaires would describe capitalism as moral. Unlike Ryan, I’m a capitalist who owns a business with employees. I have learned first-hand after 30 years that capitalism is completely amoral.

I’ve also discovered I’m not some lone organism floating haphazardly around in a matrix of oxygen and carbon, as the congressman believes. My success and happiness is contingent on the success and happiness of the people around me; I’m part of an interconnected web, where the common good is the common denominator.

“(John Galt) takes in everything he requires for his own happiness without thought of the cost to others,” concludes Kluwe, “rending and tearing the stability of social interactions until his once-teeming world is barren and lifeless, collapsed under the gluttonous appetite of self.

“Are you John Galt?” Kluwe asks.

Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.

Comments
(12)
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LAS81
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July 28, 2013
"I have learned first-hand after 30 years that capitalism is completely amoral"

This is hyperbole presented as an argument that Mr. Foley makes no attempt to back up, because he can't. Capitalism is far from perfect, but it certainly isn't "completely amoral". Anthony Weiner isn't completely amoral, and neither is communism.

"The common good is the common denominator"

Sorry Kevin, but the "common good" doesn't exist, because we live in a subjective reality with dynamic individuals. Since you spend the entire article ridiculing objectivism, this contradiction should be a priori, but apparently they don't teach Philosophy up north.

The fact of the matter is that while objectivism is merely an idea that hasn't been implemented, the liberal template of utopia continues to fail worldwide, because someone actually has to pay for all this common good. Free gyros didn't work out too well for the Grecians, and Kevin's feel good Yankee utopia won't work for us either.



CobbCoGuy
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July 24, 2013
Who is John Galt?

No, wait; who is William Wilkins?
John W. Bales
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July 23, 2013
I often hear the charge that Objectivists lack empathy. This sounds heartless unless you examine what they mean by such a charge. What they mean is that Objectivists do not believe it is proper to extort charity at the point of a gun. We believe that charity is a private matter and not a function of government, that charity should not be supported by the government's legal monopoly on the use of force.

As Objectivists we lack neither empathy nor charity. But we do oppose extorting values from others using legally sanctioned theft.
anonymous
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July 22, 2013
Just look at Detroit, a failure of a city.

Under Democratic Foley-like control for five decades now. Ambulances with over 200,000 miles on them, a 55 plus minute police response time, almost half the residents illiterate and almost all on welfare. Tell us how your balonified critique of accomplished author and thinker Rand fits in with this scenario? You got lots of nerve taking on Atlas Shrugged dude, with your limited brain power. Not too good.
Mike Woodliff
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July 22, 2013
You never read the book. If you had actually read the book, you'd have been in love with both Rand and the thinking of John Galt. You either didn't read the book or you had really lousy literature teacher.

Kevin Foley
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July 23, 2013
So, Mike, it's not possible for two people to read a book and draw different conclusions? You just assume I didn't read Atlas Shrugged because my opinion isn't the same as yours? How enlightened.
Mike Woodliff
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July 25, 2013
Kevin, perhaps you read it, but I still maintain that you, misunderstood it. Probably, so does Paul Ryan. The essence of Rand's philosophy is that productive achievement is the most noble activity of man and the only thing that is absolute is reason.

I'm not necessarily a fan of hers, I'm more of a Rousseau, Hobbs and Locke follower and those philosophies would drive Rand up the wall.

Entire courses are created to study Rand and her writings. It's doubtful that anyone's opinion or knowledge of her is likely to be increased or influenced by either you or me in a 500 word column in the local paper.

Mike Saenz
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July 20, 2013
Shame on you. What a bunch of blatant misrepresentations and straw men. I encourage any of your readers who value reason, productivity, independence, and the upward glance to check out Ms Rand's novels for themselves.
John Galt
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July 19, 2013
Empathy is a two way street meaning that empathy and understanding goes both ways.

In Stephen Covey's best selling self improvement book "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" habit number five is to... "Seek first to understand, then be understood." Covey's describes this as empathy and empathetic listening. It's a two way listening... not a one way. Like Rand's John Galt we 21st century John Galts have become weary from empathetic listening and not being heard or understood. For far too long this has been a... one-way street and like John Galt more and more of us are throwing in the towel and letting things go the way they are bound to go.

Empathy? As Covey described it, empathy is building an emotional bank account of respect and trust with one another. For us modern day John Galts we've been making a lot of deposits and the others have been making a lot of withdrawals.

John Galt 2013
seine
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July 19, 2013
Wow, what a profound ability you show at missing the obvious. Sometime, in one of your more rational moments, maybe spend a little time trying to understand the meaning of two words - productive and destructive.
Steve Rhinehart
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July 19, 2013
Synopsis: "Paul Ryan is a selfish, unfeeling capitalist, while I am a lily white Puritan. Just look how bad Ryan is and how beautiful I am!"

Critque: "More rubbish from the same rubbish heap."

Jack Crawford
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July 19, 2013
Ha ha, Communist-like utopia in the Rocky Mountains. Ha ha, Galt's Gulch was private property, something that doesn't exist in a

"Communist-like utopia." What does exist there are slave-labor death camps.
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