I remember when Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957. In the college dorm of my Jesuit University (St. Louis University) the book was passed about by all the business majors who decided the novel was better than the bible (not that Catholics ever read the Bible!). I attempted to read the book but couldn’t make it beyond the first page. Talk about ‘gag me with a spoon.’
I recently read about the novel (again) in a short and entertaining piece written by Henry Meininger, the publisher and editor (of all things!) The Berkshire Home&Style. This is a free give-away publication in western Massachusetts, a magazine “of home and good living”…I kid you not! Writing about Atlas Shrugged in his magazine shows you where Henry is coming from.
With all the talk by Paul Ryan, who made the novel required reading for his Congressional staff, I picked up the 1,168 page novel over the weekend and attempted to re-read the book. It is easily the worst novel I have ever read.
The central focus of the novel is a 59 page oration by the super-hero, John Galt. He sums up Ayn Rand’s philosophy in that speech. As Meininger writes, Rand (Galt) expounds on every conceivable aspect of human endeavor, much of it in conflict with itself, all of it dedicated to the proposition that selfishness is mankind’s salvation; charity and compassion is for losers. John Galt ends his oration with …”I swear–by my life and my love of it–that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
Bennett Cerf, Meininger points out, published the book back in ‘57, wanted the 59 pages cut but Rand told him, “Would you cut the Bible?” (yes, if it was written like this crap.) Cerf, I understand, had the good sense to tell her, “I find your philosophy abhorrent.” (But not the good sense NOT to publish the novel.)
Well, that book made (and continues to make) millions, and it has none-literate loyal fans like Paul Ryan (a nice Catholic boy) and aging and ageless former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (a nice Jewish boy.)
A review in The New York Times Review of October 29, 2009, Meininger says, compared Rand’s thinking to Friedrich Nietzsche. “Rand’s inclusion of businessmen in the ranks of Ubermenschen helps to explain her appeal to free-marketeers. At bottom, her individualism owes much to Nietzsche.” Rand denied any influence, saying only that Nietzsche ‘beat me to all my ideas.’”
Nietzsche ended up in an insane asylum. Rand founded a cult, the Atlas Society, found herself a young lover, and lived to a grand old age never doubting her view of the world. Now we have Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and VP candidate, carrying a torch for Ayn and her financial philosophy.
If the Republicans win, my guess is that the Peace Corps will be the first agency they will downsized. The Republicans will protect the military and the wealthy and go after the soft underbelly of the federal government, agencies like the Peace Corps. After all, the Peace Corps helps people! And that, in their view, is certainly the wrong way to run a government.