And I’ve been reading Atlas myself, for the first time since college (having read it the same pivotal summer that I read several of her books plus Locke, Smith, Mill, the Constitution, the Declaration, Reason magazine, Voltaire, Diderot, Hume, and de Tocqueville for good measure). Then, it was the collapse of Communism, not capitalism, that was the hot topic. Even then I objected to some aspects of Rand, such as the suggestion that altruism must lead to forced redistribution instead of, as has often been the case historically, being the antidote to forced redistribution. So, I was fully prepared to dislike Atlas now that I’m older and wiser — but I have to confess, at the risk of looking like a hopeless libertarian geek, that I like it even more now.
Despite people usually remembering Rand for her somewhat flat heroes, it’s all the weaseling, mushy-middle, business-oriented but non-capitalist, PR-obsessed, science-politicizing, continually-evasive, chronically-indecisive characters who seem so painfully, urgently real now — and who are not quite captured so well in any other novel of which I am aware, at least not in the sprawling, highly-relevant context of an increasingly hobbled economy. The book is really more about evasion than heroism in some sense, and it’s the former that is harder to understand intuitively (at least for some of us).
The brain doesn’t like to dwell on the ugly details of evasive, self-contradictory thinking, obviously, whereas the basics of heroism are so intuitively appealing that someone even paid $1 million for a copy of Action Comics #1, as noted by this article, which, oddly enough, quotes the drummer from System of a Down, who is also apparently a comic book dealer. (This is another reminder that I’d love to know how successful bands have to get before the members tend to quit their other jobs. Is anyone from Metric working in a Montreal bookstore? And come to think of it, don’t I love Metric songs like “Stadium Love” precisely because so much other 00s rock sounded wussy and evasive, even when feigning garage-rock wildness?)
If you feel that YOU cannot avoid the topic of evasive thinking and what to do about it, perhaps we can discuss it tonight shortly after 8pm with the group Drinking Skeptically, at the aptly-named bar the Four-Faced Liar in the Village. And more Rand thoughts tomorrow.