Why Businessmen Love Atlas Shrugged
October 11, 2007
Irvine, CA--Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's epic novel, celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. In newspapers across the country, successful businessmen have recounted how the book changed their lives. Why do businessmen love Atlas Shrugged?
"Because," said Alex Epstein, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute, "in the form of a thrilling novel with inspiring heroes, it does something no other book has ever done: it presents the essence of business, the pursuit of profit, as a profoundly moral activity.
"We live in a society in which profit-seeking is widely regarded as morally suspect, if not evil. Pharmaceutical companies that successfully develop and sell life-saving drugs are castigated for putting 'profits before people.' Oil companies, that explore the ends of the earth to extract more of a vital resource, are denounced for 'windfall profits.'
"To businessmen used to such a view of their profession, Atlas Shrugged presents them with a radically new, life-altering perspective.
"The heroes of Atlas Shrugged are a group of great achievers, mostly businessmen, who, like businessmen today, live in a world that damns, shackles, and drains productive businessmen. But these achievers will not resign themselves to this treatment; they fight back. They go on strike, refusing to work in a society that at once depends on their achievements but brands them immoral for seeking to profit from them. They let the world see what happens when their 'immorality' is removed--when there are no more thinker-creators who forge steel by the megaton, keep transcontinental train networks running on time, and bring new inventions to the masses. The result is a spiral of poverty and destruction.
"As readers of Atlas witness how the world treats its Atlases, and what happens when they shrug, they gain a new appreciation for these 'dollar chasers,' and begin to question their premise that the profit motive is immoral. They are compelled by Ayn Rand's view that the selfish pursuit of profit--the pursuit of one's own well-being by independent thought, production, and trade--is the essence of what human life requires, and therefore, the highest of moral virtues.
"Atlas Shrugged gives businessmen the moral endorsement they deserve, and the inspiration of heroes like Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, and John Galt. No wonder it has inspired so many businessmen to greatness. Let us hope that in the next 50 years, it inspires even more."
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Alex Epstein was a writer and a fellow on staff
at ARI between 2004 and 2011.