Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand Guest Post: Joshua Wilfong

  • A friend of mine asked if I had ever read Ayn Rand. I said, "No. Wasn't she a proponent of the "elephants should rule the ants" philosophy? I asked him if he had read her books and what did he think of them. The following is his response.

    The Fountainhead focuses on personal talent and individualism. The protagonist is a talent visionary architect who refuses to adapt his designs to meet cultural norms. This works because he is a genius. The establishment is painted as lazy and lacking creativity.
    I always worry about this kind of encouragement of self direction. It works great if you are a genius but most of us are not. Her main point is the ability of a single human to succeed on their own merit and without support from society. This sentiment was echoed in other works of the time such as "Rollerball" (a movie about a sport player who was so good he didn't need a his team to win, and how he was hated for it).
    Her main Characters are examples of the spectrum of submission to society. Some wish they could be Roark (the architect) or fight him but, all represent levels of personal compromise (some simply lack talent and can only survive by copying established ideas).
    In the end all of Roark's horrible actions are validated by how talented and smart he is.
    Atlas Shrugged echoes some of these ideas on a corporate and national scale. The title discusses what would happen if the titans who hold up the world shrugged and walked away.
    Topics such as subsidies for companies that can't compete are discussed. The heroes are innovators who work hard to protect their businesses from overtaxing by the government and weak competitors who cry for "fairness."
    "Looters" is the term for people who break down monopolies or demand "fairness" in business. Nationalization is taken to extreme examples. The idea is that a business must fight to stay on top and if another can do it better then, naturally, the first will go away.
    Overall, Rand's examples are unbalanced and do support the Elephant idea you mentioned. I enjoyed cheering for the brave, smart, handsome heroes as they fight convention and an overbearing government. But, the untalented are cast to the side and there is little room for compassion. It fails to satisfy my Christian pallet.

    This is the first time I've posted a book review on my blog about books I've never read. If you have read these books, please share your opinions. 

    Joshua has his own blog where he kept a travelogue of his time in Antartica. You can visit it at: MacGuffin Hunting

1 comment:

Brian Joseph said...

Hello Sharon and Joshua - Rand seems all the rage these days. I read this book some years ago and also had mostly negative impressions. I wish that I had some quotations handy, but I find that she continually will turn useful insights into absolute dogma. For instance, in some circumstances collective action leads to bad results and represses the individual. Of course this is true at times. Rand translates this I to a belief that all collective human endeavors are bad.