Statists Fear 'Atlas Shrugged' Flick

APRIL 25, 2011

By STEVEN GREENHUT

Editor’s note: The movie “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” opened in California on April 15 and is currently playing at a number of theaters throughout the state. Check your local movie listings for times of showings.

The packed audience for the San Francisco premiere of “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” seemed thrilled with the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s classic 1957 novel, despite the low-budget nature of the flick and the fact that this was only the first of three planned installments. Multi-part adaptations are common these days, but many people, myself included, find it hard to experience the full force of a story when the movie ends about a third of the way into the plot.

I’ve read the reviews, which range from gently praiseworthy to scathingly critical, but mostly concur with the enthusiasm expressed by the audience at the premiere. The movie was strangely satisfying, and its flaws — turgid dialogue, preachiness, one-dimensional characters — don’t bother me, given that they are the same flaws typical of 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. Online movie reviewer Will Schiffelbein, writing last year, called on Hollywood to stop the “Atlas” production out of social consciousness:

I believe that if this project actually sees the light of day, we could be in for some turbulence up ahead. A movie version of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ isn’t just destined for failure — it could turn out to be one of the biggest mistakes Hollywood could ever make.

Rand’s Philosophy

Rand’s pull-no-punches philosophy is best described in her own words, taken from a 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.

It’s not hard to see why this philosophy offends so many people and is viewed as dangerous not just to leftists, but to many religious conservatives who are appalled by Rand’s views on sacrifice. It’s no surprise that Rand was an atheist, although it does surprise many people that Rand insisted on total obedience to her full philosophy even though many of us, who like many elements of that philosophy, retain strong religious beliefs and do not embrace the philosophy in its totality. I’ve heard many stories of Rand booting people out of her circle for ideological disagreements and heresy.

To Rand, religion is mysticism because it relies on experiences and beliefs that are outside observed reality and that defy reason (miracles, the virgin birth, etc.). Our entire political system is designed around the use of force by those who have political power, and that force often is employed to make individuals sacrifice their interest to what the government claims is the greater good. Our culture celebrates those who pursue “public service” and political activism and criticizes people who defend their right to pursue their own financial self-interest.

Yes, this is dangerous stuff. The entire California government, and the Democratic governing majority in Sacramento, in particular, is organized around the belief systems that Rand railed against. Not that Republicans are fundamentally different in their willingness to use power to enforce their will on others.

California’s wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers pay 45 percent of California’s income-tax burden, and yet we still constantly hear the drumbeat that the rich do not pay their fair share. California legislators pass hundreds of bills, almost all of which are based on the idea that we, as individuals, do not have the right to manage our own affairs.

California’s highly regulated economy is not even close to laissez-faire capitalism — nor is any other state’s economy, although we are further down the road toward serfdom than most other states. California’s government recognizes few restraints on its power, and every law and rule is about force — about the threat of violence (arrest, imprisonment, fines) against those who disobey. The government is in no way a referee.

Rand’s Targets

Many Californians know this to be true. That’s why we love 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 whores, 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 punishes hard work, savings, entrepreneurship and risk. We’re tired of listening to the whines of an overpaid government union elite. We’re tired of crushing tax bills to fund government programs that do little to improve our lives and never live up to the promises made. We’re sick of a national-security state that constantly pokes, prods and searches us. We’re tired of the rules and the taxes and the assaults on our freedom and the arrogance and unaccountability of the powerful people in government. And we’re tired of the rhetoric from politicians that sounds more appropriate in a socialistic society than a free one.

Yes, Rand had many flaws, and “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” is no different. Who cares? Go see it, and enjoy it anyway.

 

 

 

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  1. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 26 April, 2011, 13:34

    Well said, statists *do* fear the ideas of Ayn Rand. I haven’t seen the movie yet but it’s on my short list.

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  2. keep da peace
    keep da peace 27 April, 2011, 12:06

    Thoughtful article from a man I isually dismiss as a whiner. This is an editorial worthy of you, Steve.

    This brings up the fact that not many of us are willing to give up our belief systems when it comes to dealing with government or each other. This is the flaw in Rand’s theory. To dismiss religion as Rand does, is to dismiss humanity as a whole. I usually have curt for Randism but they really don’t do justice to my thoughts on her and her philosophy.

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  3. bobcat
    bobcat 30 April, 2011, 09:40

    “California’s wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers pay 45 percent of California’s income-tax burden, and yet we still constantly hear the drumbeat that the rich do not pay their fair share.”

    The statement here regarding equity is only true if the wealthiest 1 percent accounted for 45 percent of the total income. Sadly this fact is a piece of incomplete data that implies, quite incorrectly, that 45 percent of the the total personal income is made by the wealthiest 1 percent. It is far higher than 45% and thereby proves that the ‘drumbeat’ is not propaganda, but a statement of fact.

    “The top 1 percent of California’s earners, with an average income of $2.3 million, pay 7.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the bottom-fifth of earners, with an average income of $12,600, pay 11.1 percent of their income in state and local taxes. This is partly because lower-income individuals pay a greater share of their income in sales and property taxes than do higher-income Californians.” – California Budget Project

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