10 More Depraved Lessons I Learned Reading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged can teach us a lot about the vaunted American ideal of pompous, adolescent selfishness. The primary message of the book can be boiled down to the general theme that all economic regulations and worker safeguards should be abolished and that rich corporate executives should be allowed to do anything they want. But even so, you may be surprised by some of the ways Rand applies this principle. Here are 10 things I’ve learned from diving into Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (Part 1 here).
1. World-changing inventions are created out of nothing by solitary geniuses.
At the end of Part I, Rand’s heroes — industrialist superwoman Dagny Taggart and steel titan Hank Rearden — find, in the wreckage of an abandoned factory, a broken prototype of a magic perpetual-motion motor that can produce infinite energy for free. The overarching plot of Part II concerns their search for the inventor in the hopes that he can make it work.
Dagny takes the partial blueprints she found to the scientist Dr. Robert Stadler, who’s both baffled and impressed:
The pages where he writes about his converter — you can see what premise he’s speaking from. He arrived at some new concept of energy … Do you know what that means? Do you realize what a feat of pure, abstract science he had to perform before he could make his motor? … Did you say you found this in the research laboratory of a plain, commercial motor factory?
Stadler is upset that the inventor, whoever it is, never published any scientific papers about his discovery. That’s because, contrary to Isaac Newton’s famous quote about standing on the shoulders of giants, Ayn Rand asserts all scientific progress is individual, not collaborative. In her world, all revolutionary new inventions are the product of lone geniuses who come up with ideas in isolation and turn them into working, marketable products in a single step. There’s no slow progress, no incremental improvement, no group brainstorming or peer review.