The Atlas Shrugged Paradox

Newberry, Promethia 2: The Noble Soul Has Reverence For Itself, 2013, oil on linen, 78x58" 2013, oil on linen 78 x 58 in
Newberry, Promethia 2: The Noble Soul Has Reverence For Itself, 2013, oil on linen, 78×58″ 2013, oil on linen 78 x 58 in

I have had over 45 years of experience with Objectivism and the influence of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. There is an interesting elephant in the room, in that it is obvious to nearly everyone that Rand was an individualist and promoted individualism. Yet in the end of Atlas, the fictional creators all agreed to take a vow not to initiate force on anyone, gave up their independent lives, gave up on civilization, and joined a hippie Kibbutz in the middle of nowhere. This, as an influence, led to some very strange things in reality.

Atlas inspired the simplistic libertarian party, whose single mantra was not to initiate force. This, in turn, led some members to embrace anarchy, which projected that the ideal of socialization was to have tribal groups with their for-profit militias. Not so much like the Wild West with at least a lone sheriff, rather more like competing mafia groups. So much for individualism.

On the other end of the spectrum, her influence also inspired numerous groups and think tanks, that oddly have among them past Israeli intelligence officers and CIA handlers. A few of these groups have annual meetings with a romantic ideal that for one week out of the year, members get to live in a secular heaven by being in the social setting of other like-minded “individuals.” For the rest of the year, many of them share memes, articles, news items, and videos produced by the think tank organizations, like so many useful soldiers fighting for a cause bigger than them. So much for individualism.

For all of Ayn Rand’s brilliance and genius in the storytelling of Atlas Shrugged, she did not figure out how to get her heroes and heroines to create a course-correction of civilization while still maintaining their independence. It is nearly impossible to criticize a creator for the actions of their followers, but I wonder if she had addressed this monumental problem in Atlas, more individuals would have been empowered. Would this have potentially prevented the United States and other freedom-loving countries from devolving into postmodernism indoctrination, corporate-government mafias, rampant media propaganda, and massive government censorship? Possibly.

By rejecting belonging to a group, you can unleash your creativity and refine your goals with your irreplaceable uniqueness. So many people feel they are powerless on their own, yet the truth is the opposite. By boldly standing up as yourself, you empower everyone around you to throw off propaganda and inspire them to personally evolve. Whether it’s through your art, your career, or your everyday actions, you can make a huge and meaningful difference in the lives of those around you. Bravo for so much to be gained by individualism.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, April 11, 2023

Link to my essay on Promethia.

2 Replies to “The Atlas Shrugged Paradox”

  1. Love this superb analysis, Michael. Absolutely brilliant and original. Bravo indeed. 


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