The packed audience at the San Francisco premiere of the movie version of Ayn Rand’s classic 1957 novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” seemed thrilled with the result, despite the low-budget nature of the flick and the fact that this was only part one of a three-part series. Multi-part adaptations are common these days, but many people, myself included, find it hard to experience the full force of a story when it ends one-third of the way into it.
I’ve read the reviews, which range from gently praiseworthy to scathingly critical, but mostly I concur with the enthusiasm expressed by the audience at the event. The movie was strangely satisfying, and its flaws — turgid dialogue, preachiness, one-dimensional characters — don’t bother me because they are the same flaws epitomized by Rand’s quirky, yet deeply moving and influential novels.
Rand’s fictional works are powerful not because they are flawless or without annoying features, but because they are based on simple truths that the public doesn’t usually hear. Haters of Rand’s philosophy find her ideas to be dangerous, which indeed they are to the cast of unseemly characters running our national and state governments.
Rand’s pull-no-punches philosophy is best described in her own words, in this 1962 article reprinted on the Ayn Rand Institute website: “Reality exists as an objective absolute — facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears. Reason … is man’s only means of perceiving reality … . Man — every man — is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. … The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit… . The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.”
Yes, this is dangerous stuff. The entire California government, and the Democratic governing majority in particular, is organized around the belief systems that Rand railed against. That’s why we need Rand, warts and all. Instead of just political philosophy, Rand offered fictional accounts that are apt descriptions of the conditions of our current society. She skewers the union thugs, petty despots, heartless bureaucrats, craven trade-association fools, favor-seeking business owners, functionaries and freeloaders that run Sacramento and most of this country.
My prediction is that the movie will be a huge success in DVD format. Americans are hungry for the ideas the book presents. We’re tired of watching a government that constantly penalizes hard work, savings, entrepreneurship and risk. We’re tired of listening to the whining of an overpaid government union elite. We’re tired of massive tax bills to fund government programs that do little to improve our lives and never live up to the promises made.
Yes, Rand had many flaws, and the movie adaptation is no different. Who cares? Go see it and enjoy it any way.
Steven Greenhut is editor of CalWatchdog.com, write to him at email@example.com.