Capitalism in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged : An Essay

“Intelligence? It is such a rare, precarious spark that flashes for a moment somewhere among men and vanishes. One cannot tell its nature, its future…or its death (181)”
Dragging an economy through utmost vulgarity, Atlas Shrugged presents a so-called ‘moral’ Capitalist system left with no supply, and all demand – the result of a ban on individual rights and a lock on its core mechanics.  Rand dunks the reader into the vilest of societies,where the inept consider themselves competent rule makers and preach that, “the purpose of ability is to serve incompetence (703).”
The novel visits the darkest nature of a system where men rule others by force, where favors are exchanged as currency and men exist without any moral significance . Rand’s story is an exemplary display of society, for a people that continue to disregard the power of man’s genius – a world that shies away from its true potential at the cost of the image of a public good.
All this, under the pretext of the need for man’s social responsibility; an image that has been reinforced by the evil legend of ‘Robin Hood.’  To steal, snatch and take away from those who create and give to those, who deserve.  The new rule makers create a doomed Capitalist system whereby salaries are fulfilled on the principle of need, rather than ability. Rand brings readers to experience the consequent, and misfortunate, climax of a mankind – one with disregard for the thinking man.
To exist in a world where to think of oneself first is sin; and to produce for the people a public duty (all while being selfless!) Atlas Shrugged journeys a world that crumbles believing that, “when a Man thinks he’s good – that’s when he’s rotten. Pride is the worst of all sins, no matter what he’s done(248).”
The traditional definition of Capitalism suggests the right to private ownership of capital, but Rand’s ‘New World Leaders’  practice a value system that promises to absolve the same, thus establishing a framework of absolute power and control of production. Under the false pretense of defending Capitalism’s supposed ideal, these unscrupulous leaders of upper society work for the people’s good; albeit while playing a game of favors.
An idea maybe something a man may have tapped into, but does not deserve to claim to have created – says a guest at a party at an important turning point in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged- and we already know that all moral codes of this human race no longer stand for any value.  The simple declaration made to instantly discard all of man’s inventions and creative abilities  across all time – brushes any claims of originality off as mere manifestations of a self-indulgent fallacy.
“Ideas are just hot air [ … ] right is whatever’s good for society (130),”  can make any reader with a thinking mind cringe at the mindset of its speakers, and also disregards every ounce of respect one has for the group of people in question as mere shallowness. Especially, when these are supposed to be people of high intellect and social standing – the head of the food chain, as it were.
Lying beneath these emerging powers, the non-thinkers and non-doers are rewarded for simply being a part of the system, while those who have achieved any success or have any entrepreneurial capabilities have their hands tied behind their back. The ‘Moratorium on their Brains’ leaves them with no control over how much they produce, who they can hire or with whom they trade with; the citizens are forbidden to think or do much out of free will.
Of course, the rules for the influential are easy and relaxed – with an every growing list of impending favors as the payoff as they try to control the emerging monopoly over the nation’s producers.
What ensues is a ploy to uproot the country’s train line – the ‘Taggart Transcontinental Railway’ system – and the stubbingof a new miracle alloy lighter and sturdier than steel (Reardan Metal) – to prevent new breakthrough in the laying of the new railway lines.  The aforementioned group of ‘intellectuals’  quickly raise themselves to rule  the economy and impose control over all those who are flourishing in society; all in the name of the public good.  The industrialists are made to suffer as their reins on the system get tighter and the domino effect causes the industries to suffer. And the production of the new wonder metal is blocked.
Soon, in the wake of this ‘whatever’s good for society’ gimmick, competent individuals start to give up their production duties and disappear overnight, leaving the system to thrive on the absence of its core.
In this race for power, more well connected people (ranging from a Biologist at the State’s Science Institute, to a Mooching lobbyist!), turn to Media messages to convince the people that the industrialists’ selfish behavior needs to be curbed, and that the people’s best interests are at hand. They try to convince  the people that the runners of the new society want to render them “ a chunk of pulp that screams with fear,” and wanting “the people to adjust to moulds as seen fit (829).”
Soon a group of capable individuals comes together to fight this corruption –  working to destroy the industrialists from the inside,  united by the pursuit to bring down the successful, self-sufficient bullies.
When industry bigwigs shut shop and vanish,who is to take care of those who depend on them?
Production is halted, development is prevented – and any form of progression automatically curtailed. This new government enforces equal employment opportunities for all – but what happens when men who have never worked at a railway are employed as Station Masters as a quick-fix? The newly enforced laws begin to crumble in the absence of expertise, within two years of enstatement and the economy begins to quickly collapse, and at an irreparable rate.
When the powers that be are the mercy of those who have now abandoned them, there arises the question of the morality of their method. Contrastingly their need to destroy the thinkers that have dared to question the power that is so rightfully theirs, causes more people to helplessly abandon their companies – in-spite of  the new law forbidding them from doing just that.

So what happens when you take away a child’s favorite toy? And what good is an athlete without his legs? What happens when you take away the right to think, from a man who is a product of his ideas?
In defense of all that is wrong with the world that becomes, emerges Rand’s protagonist, one John Galt : a man who quits the Twentieth Century Motor Company early on in the plot, and promises to stop the motor of the world – rebelling against the idea of earning a wage to fill the stomach of someone who has a greater need for the money than he.
Galt proceeds to fulfill his promise in the course of the story, by displaying the importance of moral values for an economy’s progression. His relenting disbelief in the animal of collectivism leads him to pursue the now struggling industrialists to abandon the new society that preaches immorality, and persuades them to join him in his strike against the world.
John Galt’s intention to refute the Moratorium on thought, his refusal to work for something that doesn’t benefit him and his strong resistance to a mankind that can claim things they need, is driven with a purpose to remove from the corrupt society all individuals without a moral compass.
He singlehandedly decides to take on the government by withdrawing from it ‘his’ people who don’t deserve to exist in a world that is controlled by “unthinking men of unlimited power, [who] rule a world where favors come first, ideas second (863)”.
In order to save themselves from a death of sorts, Galt and his followers abandon the collapsing world and disappear, though after much coaxing.  They escape to establish a secret haven (Galt’s Gulch) where incompetence knows no name, and all of its jobs are performed with honor and self-interest, founding a community where one man’s love for another’s ability is the strongest bond.

When John Galt returns to save the drowning world, he is projected by the rulers as nothing but a destroyer. He is attacked with a torture device that threatens to render him mindless, take away his questioning mind and leave him with nothing but the empty headed will to nod – and do as told.
As the prime defender of true Capitalism’s moral ideals, John Galt convinces the others to shrug a world that they do not believe in, and succeeds in saving those who stayed true to their love of life. Nothing explains the true essence of his ideal better than his pledge, “I pledge by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
Capitalism’s defenders may appeal to the public good, but Ayn Rand shows the true nature of Capitalism as man’s moral and absolute selfish right. Through the spirit of Galt, Rand shows the reader how hard it can be for a man of moral values to exist in a world that sees them as frivolous, idealistic and for most parts, entitled.

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