What Would John Galt Do?- Facebook Edition
By Taylor Marvin
Libertarian Facebook ads: the gift that keeps on giving.
If the phrase “marathon of literature” describes any book, it’s Atlas Shrugged. If you want to be able to make it through 70 pages of one character speaking you better put in some serious training beforehand, and even then you might collapse halfway through anyway.
There’s a serious angle to this. A few months ago it was reported that Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and one of the most influential drivers of Republican economic policy, requires his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. This is troubling. If I was an important congressman and required all of my staffers to watch Star Wars I’d be seen as quirky, but no one would have any real reason to be concerned. However, if I believed that the politics of Star Wars offered literal policy solutions for the US and I was in a position to enact those policies we’d have a problem, because Star Wars isn’t reality. Atlas Shrugged actually has a lot less in common with the real world than Star Wars, because the characters in Star Wars occasionally behave in a way that actual humans do. Sure, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are entertaining- they’re easy to read and are genuinely suspenseful. But Rand’s depiction of the world isn’t even a simplification of reality but a wholesale fantasy replacement for it. Members of society don’t neatly separate themselves into intellectual supermen and worthless looters, and real people would actually die if the government didn’t provide social services, a fact that Rand conveniently ignores. If you’re mature enough to read Atlas Shrugged and see it as an entertaining fantasy, fine. However, if, like Ryan, you describe Rand’s work as “the reason I got involved in public service” then you’re probably taking it too seriously. If Paul Ryan is truly influenced by Atlas Shrugged then he’s designing fiscal policy to fit a universe that doesn’t exist.