Here is a book to sink your teeth into. Reading Atlas Shrugged is real work.
I read it about a year ago, last summer, and it was with me for a number of weeks.
It’s a 1000 page novel, full of, as we all know, philosophical musings of Ayn Rand. It is her largest work, and the last novel, first published in 1957, before she dedicated the rest of her career exclusively to philosophy and cultural criticism.
Atlas Shrugged, with about 645,000 words, is supposedly one of the longest novels ever written in a European language. I just had to check and found that The Brothers Karamazov is ‘only’ 700 pages. World Without End is also over 1000 pages, but the print is not quite as small as Atlas Shrugged.
Another interesting fact is that this book is said to have had more influence over the lives of its readers than any other book, except the Bible.
I can vouch for that.
Being a business person, when challenged by obstacles, human, technical, procedural, or just by plain bad luck, I have often stepped back and asked myself what Dagny Taggart or Hank Rearden would have done in that situation, and amazingly, the right answer comes out.
Dagny and Hank are two of the protagonists, successful industrialists and the main characters through whose eyes we see the world.
The story plays in the middle of the 20th century. There are radios, cars, airplanes, telephones, railroads, factories, contracts, suppliers, labor unions and governmental bureaucracies. Of course, there are no cell phones, no Internet, no personal computers or actually computers of any kind, and little, if any, television.
You might think that a story about a 50 year old industrial society could not teach anything or inspire a modern CEO of a software engineering company, but surprisingly, the concepts haven’t changed at all and they are completely valid.
Communism, collectivism and socialism are shown as fundamentally flawed. Individual ingenuity, hard and relentless work, brilliance, perseverance, and pure quality of work and output is shown to win. Government, regulatory practices, decisions and rule by committee is ridiculed and shown as ineffectual at best.
The story plays in the United States. References to New York, Colorado, Arizona and many other actual locales permeate the plot. However, the political reality is very different from what actually occurred mid-century in the US. In Atlas Shrugged, society deteriorated to an almost standstill stagnation due to regulations by government agents and hopelessly incompetent politicians and leaders.
It is hard for me to imagine that you can run any type of corporation or other enterprise without at least once reading Atlas Shrugged. It should be required reading in business school. Actually, it should be required reading in high school.
There will be sections of political philosophical meanderings you will skim over at times. But there will be other sections you will want to read several times over.
And when you’re done, you will want to go to the bookstore and pick up Fountainhead, to catch up on what came before.
A must read. And yes, very hard work.
So who is John Galt?
You will just have to read the book to find out.