Okay, enough of the tom-foolery and pettiness.
When I graduated from undergraduate the most influential book I read was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. To this day, nothing else has come close.
Whether or not you ascribe to the type of objectivist (read: capitalistic) philosophies that permeate Rand’s writings, this book is a must read. In terms of overall influence Atlas Shrugged has been recorded as second only to the bible (see 6.4). Shortly after the Enron scandal, USA Today ran a story citing the many executives dusting off their editions to help justify the principle of ethical egotism, aka, self-interest. Atlas was the last work of fiction written by Rand, prior to her concentrating exclusively on philosophical essays.
So how can I, a liberal and quasi-socialist come to love an outdated (1957) book with an extreme almost libertarian view point? First, the overall plot is extremely compelling ’â€œ make no mistake about it, this is a page turner. Next, I think it’s important (whether or not you agree with any of the underlying philosophies) to understand what motivates many people in Corporate America. Third, I believe Atlas offers a true devil’s advocate approach to the multitude of ’greater-good’ philosophies that tend to dominate the media. Finally, for someone just starting out in business, or for someone with entrepreneurial leanings, many of the book’s passages can be tremendous sources of inspiration. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the theme of Atlas Shrugged is that ’independent, rational thought is the engine that powers the world.’ Hard to argue with.
Ayn Rand was an extremely interesting woman. She was an immigrant to America by way of St. Petersburg Russia. While her relationship with Alan Greenspan has long been stuff of legend, what is true is that Greenspan’s first public writings (a letter in the New York Times) had nothing to do with economics ’â€œ rather it was a letter to the editor countering a hostile review of Atlas.
So does Atlas Shrugged live on in 2007? It sure does, even as social media. There is an Atlas Meetup.com group in New York City with 193 members. The Atlasphere is an online hub (borderline social network) dedicated to linking up Rand Admirers and even has its own dating service. Atlas the movie is scheduled for release in 2008 (51st anniversary) and IMDB now has a website up. Even young Ben Casnocha has reviewed it.
Bottom line: Do yourself a favor and take the plunge. It’s a long read, but well worth the effort.
What are your thoughts?