Atlas Shrugged has an extremely black-and-white quality; either you are an embodiment of highest virtues or you are unredeemably evil. There is no middle ground. All the characters in this book are as if they had come from some sort of a Baroque opera. No doubt, Atlas Shrugged would have benefited, if it had had a better editor.
Like Albert Einstein the physicist (and the philosopher), Ayn Rand has an absolute belief in the law of
causality. One could not help but wonder what her views on quantum mechanics and Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle were.
Notwithstanding these flaws, the book makes many a good point:
- Reason is the main epistemological tool of acquiring knowledge about reality. Thinking and rational mind are what separate us most clearly from other animals. - Do not apologize for your virtues. - Altruism, when forced upon by the State, is a grave sin. - Mankind makes quantum leaps forward by brilliant and free individual minds. - In its core, capitalism is a system of individualism, thus inherently capable of making quantum leaps forward (in science, innovation, etc). - Communism, or any collectivism for that matter, cannot work, not even in theory. Enforced socialism is to be opposed. (Ayn Rand's views on socialism and capitalism were probably influenced by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich A. Hayek).
I find it rather fitting that exactly 50 years after Atlas Shrugged was published (1957), the Nobel Prize in economics (2007) was awarded to Leonid Hurwicz, Eric Maskin, and Roger Myerson for their work on mechanism design, which deals with the problem of arranging "our economics interactions so that, when everyone behaves in a self-interested matter, the results is something we all like." Since the 18th century, we know (thanks to Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson) that the pursuit of self-interest is not a zero-sum game.