Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What if...

I have finished reading Atlas Shrugged. It took me about 4 months but then again I was only reading it during my lunch hour until this last weekend when I decided it was time to finish it.

Now what to say about the book, it is long and wordy. I have read several of the James Michener books, and Ayn Rand is more given to long drawn out descriptions than Michener. (Wonder if she was paid by the word?) But like the Michener books, Atlas Shrugged is a good read – you must have the right attitude when tackling a book with more than a thousand pages.

Atlas Shrugged explores the question of what would happen to a civilization if all the inventors, entrepreneurs, the creative, the problem solvers, and the “doers” went on strike. What would happen if the people, who see a problem and then look for an answer, were suddenly removed from society? What if the only people left in a society were the ones that needed to be told what to do – not necessarily bad people but people who lack imagination, willpower, or courage to resolve problems. If the world was made up of followers, what would it look like?

The premise starts innocently enough – there was a need for everything to stay the same for a period of time to allow everyone to get caught up, for work to be completed, for no change. The government steps in and declares everything is frozen as it is on a certain date. Frozen – no one can change or quit their job, no jobs can be created or eliminated, no new inventions may be made, no new ideas may be introduced, and no new businesses may be started or businesses closed. As the government takes over control of businesses, the industrialists begin disappearing. Horrible accidents begin happening destroying mines, factories, etc. No one is left to run, repair, or solve simple problems, such as how to repair a motor, or take on the national problems of ways to deal with rising crime, food shortages, transportation, and economic woes.

Under the new economic structure, everyone is entitled to work even if the company is bankrupt. Those people who are capable of doing more work are required to do more work, while those that cannot do as much are expected to do what they can. After all, there are others that can do the work.

Everyone is entitled to whatever they need. For example food even if the farmers cannot harvest the crop for lack of workers, working equipment, or trains to move the crop. The idea is because I need it, it will be provided by someone – no idea who or how but it will happen. Everyone should provide for everyone else because we want to – to want to be paid for your services, knowledge, training, and time is to be guilty of being a capitalist. The book points out that being a capitalist (someone who wants to be paid for doing a job or providing a service) is selfish.

In this story, the capitalists win out because the civilization collapses and is returning to an era before machines and central governments. People become roaming bands in search of a place, a leader. The government leaders at the end have trapped the strikers’ leader. They resort to using physical torture to make him accept the role of leader/dictator so he will think, resolve the problems, and tell people what to do.

Today we see people who want everything provided to them – education (but not have to pass all those silly tests or pay the teachers), healthcare (but not have to take responsibility for what I do to my body or pay the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.), a home (but not pay the fair price for it), or transportation (but not have to pay the cost of the vehicle, maintenance, or fuel), etc. What would happen to us if our inventors, entrepreneurs, the creative, the problem solvers and the “doers” went on strike? What if the only people left were the greedy and the needy? Who would provide all of the things we need?


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At 2:36 PM, Blogger BellsforStacy said...

Great review! I need to hunker down and read this one all the way through.

Hope you are well!


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