The book that shaped me and most affected my political philosophy is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I loved (and still do love) Rand’s political ideas. Because of my affinity for Atlas Shrugged, I thought it would be prudent to do a review of Atlas Shrugged from the perspective of a Gen Z conservative college student. Many conservative college students are interested in Atlas Shrugged, but in 2019 there are few good reviews of it that appeal to conservatives. By reviewing Atlas Shrugged and showing you why it is a book that you should definitely buy and read.
That needs to change. There are many young conservatives and libertarians and they need to learn about Atlas Shrugged and the other works of Ayn Rand because those works will help them push back against the socialist ideas of their college peers. As defeating socialism should be the top goal of every American conservative, it seems like we need to be doing more to get young conservatives reading Ayn Rand. Well, this is my contribution. Atlas Shrugged is my favorite book, for the reasons I will outline in this review. Read it!
Summary of Atlas Shrugged:
Normally, I would do a full summary of the book. I think that would be a bad decision for Atlas Shrugged. I would be unable to do it justice. For one, it is a very long book. It would be impossible for me to concisely summarize. Additionally, the book wouldn’t be as interesting or exciting if I spoiled it. Suffice it to say, by the end you will understand the meaning and significance of the famous phrase “Who is John Galt?” You will enjoy the book if you buy a copy, so I won’t spoil the plot for you.
All you really need to know about the plot of Atlas Shrugged before starting it is that it’s about what happens to a society as Big Government and socialism gradually sink their teeth into it. It’s not the story of a socialist military junta like in Cuba or China, but rather Britain after World War II or America during the Great Depression and FDR presidency, or, more recently, during the Obama presidency.
As depicted by Ayn Rand, such a world is gray and depressing. Industry first stagnates and then slowly dies. Goods and food slowly become scarce as people lose their incentive to work. And make no mistake, as discussed by Francisco D’Anconia in his famous money speech in Atlas Shrugged, when people no longer have a monetary reason to work the government or their masters start to “motivate” them with whips and chains once the slide from stagnation to open decay becomes apparent. My summary of Atlas Shrugged is just that; that the book shows how a once prosperous nation decays and falls apart once it begins the slide to complete socialism.
I found the characters engaging and thought they did a great job, through dialogue, of showing the hypocrisy of the left. The story drew me in. The economic points made sense. The ideals of hard work, ingenuity, and having a business-like demeanor set me on my path to success. It was truly the book that shaped me more than any other.
Because I love it so much, I have read that book every summer since my 8th grade year in middle school. The characters, setting, and ideas expressed in it had a huge impact on me. Despite it’s length and complexity, I couldn’t put it down. One reason for that is its realism.
Realism in Atlas Shrugged:
Realism might seem like an odd point to bring up in a review of Atlas Shrugged. One major criticism of the book, actually, is that it seems somewhat like a comic book because of how cartoonishly good or evil the characters are. But, I don’t agree with that view at all. In fact, I think Atlas Shrugged is incredibly realistic and does a better job than almost any other book, perhaps with the exception of The Gulag Archipelago, of showing the evil nature of socialism.
As with The Red Line, the realism Ayn Rand is able to create makes her magnum opus all the more compelling. By making it seem real, the otherwise hard to understand economic, political, and philosophical concepts she discusses in it are easy to understand. The characters might, as critics contend, seem slightly too black and white. But, the realism of the setting makes that fade away. It’s just too great to notice the flaws.
In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand crafts an engaging world that I think is topped in how real it feels only by Tolkien´s “Middle Earth.” The realism of her world is what makes the book so politically meaningful to me; Rand is able to show through that world what the effects of both her policy recommendations and the liberal, socialist policy recommendations would be if implemented.
She shows the slow drift from a thriving capitalist society to a stagnant and hopeless socialist country, ruled by an authoritarian bureaucracy in Washington. That shift was striking to me even as an adolescent because of the realism of Rand’s writing.
It was striking because I could see it happening to our society during the Obama administration; an army of bureaucrats took over and began regulating the economy into stagnation. The actions of the government in the book seemed to tie in perfectly with the actions of the Obama administration. Atlas Shrugged is realistic, as I hope you agree after reading it or this review of it, because the events Rand creates to move the plot along in it are happening and becoming more accurate by the day in America.
Everything was either done corruptly, ineptly, or not done at all. The actions of Welsley Mouch and his army of bureaucrats closely paralleled the actions of Eric Holder, Barack Obama, and Valerie Jarrett. That showed me that the realism of Rand’s work is timeless. There will always be socialists seeking to destroy our capitalist system. The lesson taught by the book is that we must fight them. They can’t be allowed to gain ground. People like Bernie Sanders and AOC have to be fought back against. That’s why I think all young Americans, but especially young conservatives, need to read Atlas Shrugged; it describes why America is stagnating. Big Government and socialism.
Rand’s depiction of the slide to complete socialism, as I mentioned in my summary, is only a useful heuristic tool because it is so realistic. Every aspect of that long, slow, miserable slide is presented in excruciating detail. Some chapters are actually painful to read. That’s not because they are full of gory details, but rather because they are so sad and infuriating. You can feel the pain of Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, Ellis Wyatt, and others as they try to deal with increasingly onerous government mandates and regulations.
Yet worse, the realism is such that those regulations seem perfectly plausible in modern America. Perhaps not plausible during the Trump presidency, since he and his advisers actually believe in economic freedom. But, if a Democrat were to seize the White House again, Atlas Shrugged would once again transition from fiction to fact. That’s the essence of realism in Atlas Shrugged; everything in it, other than some of the technological innovations, could very conceivably happen at any time.
A Young Conservative’s View of Atlas Shrugged:
Although I don’t agree with all of the ideas Rand expresses in Atlas Shrugged, especially her views on personal relationships, I think that Atlas Shrugged is a book every conservative should read. It shows both how our society could devolve into an authoritarian, socialist, bureaucratic state and what the benefits of a pure laissez-faire economic system would be.
Atlas Shrugged significantly affected how I view capitalism, socialism, and individual rights. After reading it I still would not call myself a libertarian, but economically I agree with the libertarian philosophy almost completely because of this book.
Atlas Shrugged does a better job of turning the plot into a political philosophy than any other book I have read. That’s an opinion that I think many other young conservatives have of Atlas Shrugged. Rand does a masterful job of turning fiction into political philosophy. Rather than making the plot a background to her ideas, Rand is able to use it to put both her ideas and the ideas of her socialist detractors into practice.
The undeniable conclusion is that capitalism is better. A rising tide lifts all ships, and capitalism creates a quickly rising tide. It leads to innovation, higher standards of living, more wealth, and most importantly freedom. There is no way freedom can survive without economic freedom. Capitalism provides that economic freedom.
In addition to showing the effects of capitalism, Atlas Shrugged shows the effects of socialism. They are polar opposites, as a comparison of Venezuela and the US shows right now. While capitalism leads to shared prosperity and freedom, socialism leads to sinking living standards and tyranny. Capitalism made America the most prosperous state to ever exist. Socialism, on the other hand, destroyed Venezuela. Anyone who has read Atlas Shrugged, especially the young conservatives that tend to be the most partial to it and grasp onto Rand’s ideas more forcefully than anyone else, would be able to immediately tell you why; socialism doesn’t work, just like its supporters!
Atlas Shrugged also shows how to fight back against socialism. As a young conservative that often has to fight back against the socialists on college campuses, that aspect of it inspired me more than any other part. I hate socialism and communism with a burning passion. In Atlas Shrugged, Rand gives young conservatives the ammunition and morale boost they need to fight back against the evil socialists they deal with on a seemingly daily basis. Read the book if you are a young conservative that wants to find out how to fight back against your socialist peers, I highly recommend it! Those, I think, are the views of an average young conservative on Atlas Shrugged.
Atlas Shrugged is a book that you should definitely buy and read thoroughly. If you read it closely and really examine Ayn Rand’s ideas on government and economics, you will finish it as a much stronger fiscal conservative. Conservative college students should read it because it will teach them why their ideas are right and why Big Government doesn’t work. Liberal college students should read it because it will show them why their socialist leanings are incorrect; socialism always fails, no matter how the left tries to obfuscate that fact by changing our language in an Orwellian manner.
In fact, there is not a single person that I don’t think would be benefited by reading Atlas Shrugged. It shows conservatives and libertarians why they are right to oppose regulations and support small government. It shows leftists why they’re wrong. And it gives moderates a reason to run in the exact opposite direction from the Democrats that want to implement the same socialist policies that Rand shows the evils of in Atlas Shrugged.
Finally, people of all ages should read it because of what Ayn Rand teaches about the human spirit in it. Men (and women, of course) are meant to strive towards something. Build a business from nothing like Hank Rearden. Strengthen and add value to an existing one like Dagny Taggart. Create and draw supporters to an ideology like John Galt and Francisco D’Anconia. Life is too short and too valuable to waste. Humans are meant to build something and make their lives worth living. Do so. After reading this book, you will want to be a titan of industry. And it will give you the motivation you need to make that dream a reality.
By: Gen Z Conservative
Atlas Shrugged is all about freedom! Show you are too by ordering one of these FREE Gadsden Flags here: I Love My Freedom
Buy Atlas Shrugged here: https://amzn.to/2KekNAm
Check out two great quotes from it here: https://genzconservative.com/francisco-danconia-on-money/
As Atlas Shrugged shows, socialism always fails: https://genzconservative.com/why-socialism-always-fails/