Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Chick's Opinion: Who is John Galt?

Lest one thinks that I sit around all day and think about cooking (it's only about two-thirds of the day when food is on my mind), I thought I'd bring a little literary culture into the mix. Recently I finished some books, so I thought I would discuss them here. I would love to hear others' points of view as well, so if you have read, watched the movie of, contemplated reading, skimmed the chapter titles of, or looked at the last paragraph of any of the novels I talk about, drop me a line!

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

To understand Rand's rather economically conservative stance (to put it mildly), it is important to look at her background. Born in the early 1900's, the writer escaped Soviet Russia after college in 1924. Under Communist rule, she saw her father's pharmacy confiscated and the near-starvation of her family. Needless to say, Ayn Rand was vehemently opposed to the Marxist ideology, “From each, according to his ability; to each according to his needs.”

In this political climate, I definitely thought it was important to explore this work of fiction that was the culmination of Rand's work as an author and her philosophy of “Objectivism.” Regardless of one's point of view- democrat, republican, conservative, liberal- this is a book that should be read and analyzed, whether or not one agrees with the tenets that are put forth.

Some things to point out...

  1. It's long. Like, really, really long: over 1,000 pages.

  1. Economical philosophies aside, the actual novel is pretty entertaining. The main character, Dagny, is the strong-willed VP of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. She has a love affair with Hank Rearden, a successful industrialist in the field of steel-making. As the country's economic collapse unfolds, the brightest and most hard-working people begin to disappear. We come to find out that they're hiding out; lying in wait for the downfall of the country in order to return, unscathed, to rebuild.

  1. After reading this book, I have to say that the words "but it's not fair" scare me most of all. It was an entire generation that was criticized for believing that all children deserved a trophy, that there should be no "winners" or "losers," that everyone should share- regardless of circumstances.  We have learned, as a people, that this doctrine should be discarded; it promotes whininess in children, and adults who do not see the value in working hard.  What is the point in working hard if everyone reaps the benefits? Perhaps it is "fair" that everyone is rewarded equally, but the system just does not work.

  1. If that is agreed upon, then we should discuss what an appropriate reward should be for a job well done: possibly a certificate that allows one to obtain items that he or she desires, or "money" as it is commonly called?  Rand believes strongly in being paid as a reward for hard work.  She believes in bonuses, raises, and commissions. After reading this novel, I can say with confidence that money is NOT the "root of all evil."

  1. At times, workers are recompensed for their hard work with a higher salary, or better benefits.  Perhaps they receive a a more inclusive retirement package, a company car, a lollipop… The point is that if everyone acquires the same rewards, regardless of what they do, society no longer has a reason to "step up to the plate," and capitalism, as we know it, ceases to exist.  It may not be "fair," but it is a belief that America is built on.

  1. I completely understand that others may have different, and very valid, viewpoints. Believe me- I didn't agree with EVERYTHING that Ayn Rand said, however I did feel riled up after reading this book- and isn't that the point? I suggest that you go out and read it if you haven't already. I'm very interested in hearing what you have to say!


  1. She definitely has some valid point in her novel, unfortunately reading the novel first semester freshman year of college I probably retained MAYBE 1%. I do remember that I strongly disagreed with her perpetuation of patriarchy. If you could refresh my memory?

  2. I also agree that people should be compensated with respect to the amount of work they put in. However, you should know best that often some occupations require endless work with not so great salaries. How do we fix that? Some business big wigs may be good at their jobs, but really only put in a max of 20 hours per week while earning well above the average income. Personally, I wouldn't consider 20 hours per week hard work. Contrastingly some teachers, nurses, firefighters and law enforcement officers work well above their 40 hours, and will never get the rewards that their hard work deserves. So, although I agree with the philosophy, I guess I just don't think the system is as simple as we like to believe.

  3. Also...your next book should be "Egalia's Daughters: A satire on the sexes." It is crazy and very politically and socially controversial. Great for the blog.

  4. I was hoping that no one actually read what I said, and therefore just agree with me blindly. Oh well... I guess I should address these comments.

    1) I didn't necessarily think that she was perpetuating patriarchy in this particular novel. Ugh- too many p's in a row. I feel like I'm spitting as I type. The truth is, Rand was probably very feminist is her beliefs. She had a woman as the protagonist of the book, and Dagny was very intelligent, focused, and successful.

    2) The thing is that everyone in a free society (in theory) has the opportunity to pursue any occupation that they wish. The salary for that job doesn't really change drastically from the time a person trains for it to when they begin (in theory). So, people can take monetary output into account when they are deciding on a career (in theory).
    I decided to become a teacher for many reasons, the first of which was not the exorbitant salary, but that was my choice. The "big wigs" in an office may have gotten to their position because they worked their butts off early in life, took a lot of chances, and put the time in earlier in their career. I don't think that now that they've established themselves it is the country who should say, "Well, it's not really fair that Suzy has a very limited income, so we're just gonna go ahead and take yours."
    Should people like police officers, firefighters, and nurses be given greater compensation for their positions? Sure. How can we ensure that? We can't.
    I just wouldn't feel comfortable with the government "taking from the rich to give to the poor."
    So, what's the answer? Who the hell knows...

    3) I will definitely put that book on the ist- I'm always up for suggestions!


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