Posts Tagged ‘Alex Epstein

19
Dec
09

Rand Illusion

“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – what would you tell him to do?”

“I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”

“To shrug.”

Regardless of how much you may revere the writings of Ayn Rand, it cannot be denied she made one definite mistake with Atlas Shrugged. To be fair, it’s a mistake so commonly made that it would be irrelevant anywhere else, but with Rand it takes on a unique significance. The purpose of citing Atlas, as we see above, was to serve as a metaphor for the rich and powerful whose strength, hard work and moral clarity are what support our society as we know it, and how state interference in their businesses and profits causes the world to “shrug”. However, in the original Greek myth, Atlas didn’t hold up the world. This is a misnomer that has somehow been accepted as his defining trait. In the myth, Atlas was the titan who held up the heavens. Now, if we instead apply this as a metaphor to Rand’s work, it suddenly takes on a new meaning, not terribly unlike that of another literary giant, Chicken Little. Instead of a tribute to “those who produce the most”, it becomes a tale about a bunch of gullible sycophants running around in a panic because the sky is falling.
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