With the film version of Ayn Rand's classic novel Atlas Shrugged to be released in the next year or two, a whole new generation will be exposed to Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. The definition and overall concept of Objectivism is still subject to interpretation by philosophers and followers alike. For a film fan who might not have read her lengthy books, a basic look at her philosophy will be beneficial in understanding the film version of Atlas Shrugged. Current changes in the economy and political atmosphere are making Rand's works like Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead appear highly relevant to modern society some 50 plus years after their release.
A universal truth
Ayn Rand's philosophy incorporates elements of economics, politics and social behavior. The basic tenet is that there is a universal truth that exists and it is up to man to use reason to gain knowledge in life. Emotions confuse reasoning and should be tamed. Reasoning is man's greatest asset according to Rand and the way he gathers knowledge.
The second principle of Rand's involves the total rights of the individual to be self-serving and independent. Being asked to serve a collective is unfair and intrusive. It is okay to be a capitalist and look out for self-interest. Furthermore, there is no particular obligation to look out for the welfare of others. Abuse of the rights of the individual to serve the betterment of a collective is never acceptable under Objectivism.
The overall philosophy of Rand's Objectivism is far more complicated than can be summed in a brief article. There have been hundreds of essays and dozens of books written both for and against her particular philosophy. In recent years, the values she presents have once again come into favor in America especially with the Republican Party. Small government, unbridled capitalism, limits of welfare and trickle down economics are all notions proposed by Rand that the GOP find appealing.
In a society where socialism is practically the curse word of the day, Rand could easily become the patron saint for individual rights. It will be interesting to see how widespread her system of thought becomes in the next ten years. Many powerful people are devotees. Just one highly influential follower of Objectivism includes Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan who was an original member of her inner circle known as the "Collective" during his younger years. Other famous followers of Objectivism include Rush drummer Neil Peart, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, comic artist Steve Ditko and television reporter John Stossel as well as many closeted CEOs that quietly follow Rand.
Because of its anti-altruistic and anti-religious themes, it may never become a widespread philosophy, but it will certainly be practiced and adhered to in secret by many people fed up with the current state of affairs. As the film debuts the world will once again be asking "Who Is John Galt?", but may also be asking "How Can I Be Like John Galt?". Many people will see the success or failure of Atlas Shrugged as an indictment or defense of modern society.