The Works of Ayn Rand

I recently signed up to a new gold account which allowed me to buy expensive audiobooks cheaply, which justified me picking up the two massively tomes ‘Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand.

The two books, which I bought unabridged, totalled 80 hours of reading time which has kept me busy for the last couple of months. I read Fountainhead first, followed by Atlas. I really enjoyed both, with the caveat mentioned below*.

Rand uses characters which represent either extreme of ‘supermen’ like Howard Roark in Fountainhead and Hank Reardon in Atlas Shrugged, or the ‘seconds’ (people that only survive by leaching off and controlling others) like Peter Keating/James Taggart.

The main protagonist is female in both cases, and struggles with an increasing self awareness of where they fit in this polarized world. Also common to both works is the love quadrangle where this female protagonist finally decides on the most ‘super’ of supermen.

*I wouldn’t recommend reading them back to back, as I did, since the themes are very similar, and can even get quite tedious after a while:

    • The benefits of pure capitalism
    • The evil of religion (somewhat indirectly)
    • You do yourself a great disservice when living your life for the benefit of others
    • The only purpose of government should be military, police and courts
    • The purpose of life is to use your mind to create
    • Socialism/collectivism is bad

I am sure I am forgetting a few, but I have to say I agree with her point of view for the most part.

She is a little too radical when it comes to the line between where government should and should not get involved. For example, health care would definitely fall into the private domain, where I -as a Canadian- believe in universal health care. There is a big difference between someone who chooses to live off of others vs. someone who has dependence thrust upon them by bad health or accident.

I took the time to read Ayn Rand because I always like to find a balance in what I am reading. After reading Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine, I needed something pro-capitalist, and this hit the spot. As usual my opinion is in the grey zone somewhere in between.

As a final note, it is very likely that Ayn Rand’s work will soon experience a Renaissance, with Angelina Jolie slated to play the role of Dagny Taggart (good choice) in a film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. It is currently slated for 2009, but turmoil over the director of the project may change this significantly.

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