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Atlas Shrugged book review

The book "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand was written decades ago, but the story of capitalism becoming socialism is even more true today. In fact, it's eerie how the fiction she wrote is becoming reality.

This book is a big one--over 1000 pages, so it's a commitment to read. But it draws you in, and you soon love the characters so much that you can't put it down. I undertook to read this book when my son was two months old. While he napped, I read. It transported me to another world, a rather dark world, where capitalism was ripped apart by government policies purported to be "fair."

The main character is a woman named Dagny who is a railroad executive. Her grandfather founded the railroad, and she remained one of the principal executives under her brother. She's smart and very tough, which her brother envies because he knows she is both smarter and tougher than he is. The only reason he is in charge is because he's a man, and he knows it.

But she's also sentimental. She loves that railroad--the business and the people.

What happens over the course of 1168 pages is an unraveling of capitalism by government policies affecting business that are supposed to make things more "fair." For example, patents are abolished so that knowledge can be shared equally and, supposedly, benefit all equally. The idea is that no one or no company should have an advantage over another.

One premise of the bureaucrats in charge is that everything must be for the greater good, as they define it. A company must have a social purpose. Another key character in the book, Francisco, argues in a long speech at a party that businesses have no obligation to fulfill a social purpose. Rather, businesses provide goods and services people want, and that is their only obligation.

That speech made me pause. I realized that I had somewhat accepted this idea myself--that businesses must "give back" in addition to doing whatever it is they do as a business. We hear a lot about companies that donate a percentage of their profits to charities, and we applaud that. I think that is admirable, but it's not a requirement of a business to do. That's a very socialist perspective to think that they must.

That's what I took away from the book. This is really a treatise on capitalism. Socialism squashes incentives to create or even to work, and while capitalism has been smeared as selfish, it leads to incredible developments and inventions. And it also spurs people to work harder because they can achieve more. If what they strive to achieve more of is money, well, that's not so bad if in the process, they create something that people want to buy.

This is the situation we find ourselves in politically now. Anyone who tries to justify capitalism is labeled as greedy, and money is called "bad." But money, as Francisco says, is just a tool. I would say that power is more evil than money.

I said this book transported me to a dark world, and that's how it felt to me as capitalism was destroyed by the government policies in the story. If you think that it's all fiction, read the book, and see how it seems to be rather prophetic.

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