President Obama is adored by many on the left for, among other things, his supposedly high-brow and rigorous reading tastes. The Daily Beast ran a story saying “Obama has thrilled the intellectual classes with his frequent book talk from the days of his campaign onward.”
Like everyone else, President Obama obviously thinks some authors are beneath his standard. This week, in a Rolling Stone interview, President Obama gave his thoughts on Ayn Rand. When asked whether he’d read Rand, he responded “Sure.”
Replying to a follow-up question, Obama said this.
Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a “you’re on your own” society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.
Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged regained a great deal of attention recently, what with the economic crisis looming and much of the rhetoric coming out of Washington matching the rhetoric uttered by Rand’s various villains. References to the 1957 novel have made their way onto talk radio, cable television, and Tea Party protests throughout the land. In the book, the great minds of the world go on strike, and even sort of compared to Atlas – who holds the world up on his shoulders – shrugging.
Unfortunately, it’s never going to happen.
In Rand’s book, all the minds share common ideals. They all believe they have a right to make whatever they make. They believed they’re entitled to the wealth they earned from the products of their own mind. They believed that their own self interest was sufficient cause for their actions.
Reality is another matter entirely. For the record, I’m a fan of the book. As I write this, I’m actually wearing a shirt with the first edition’s cover on it. I’ve read the book four times, and as anyone who’s read it can tell you, you do not read it four times unless you like the book. However, I can’t escape the fact that Atlas will never shrug.
The reason for that is that many of the minds, the people who make the things that make this nation run, are no different in their own ideologies from the James Taggarts and Wesley Mouchs of Rand’s imagination. Bill Gates is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our day, and yet he leans left on most issues…and this is despite being hammered with antitrust violations in the past. Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, also tends to lean left on most issues.
On Friday evening, a close friend and I filed to a local theater with about a 100 other movie-goers to catch the first of three installments of Atlas Shrugged on its opening night. We were both excited to see the movie, based on the book that is considered to be Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, but there was also skepticism because every fan of the book knows that this would not be an easy film to make.
There has been talk of trying to bring this very long, very in-depth novel to the Silver Screen for close to 40 years. Albert Ruddy, producer of The Godfather, approached Rand in 1972 about bringing the novel to life. Rand wanted final approval of the script, and because of this, Ruddy declined to proceed. Talk of turning Atlas Shrugged into a movie or miniseries would come and go throughout the several years. As recently as three years ago, it was reported that the movie was in the works, it would have a $70 million budget, and Angelina Jolie would play Dagny Taggart, the book’s heroine. In all too familiar fashion, it fell apart.
There are few figures in the American libertarian movement that gave rise to as much controversy or passion as Ayn Rand. Love her or hate her, it’s hard to find a libertarian who doesn’t have an opinion about the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. For many of us, she was the one who lit the spark that sent us down the road toward becoming a libertarian. Even after her death, some still consider themselves hard-core Objectivists in the model of those who gravitated around the Nathanial Branden Institute in the 1960s.
On Friday, Atlas Shrugged Part II will hit theaters. With an entirely new cast, producers are hoping that they will be able to capitalize on the political and economic angst that has consumed the country over the last several years, which play into many of the themes in Ayn Rand’s most well known book.
From what I’ve read from people who’ve seen it, the film is much better than Part I, which had good moments, but it was largely a disappointment. Writing at Forbes, John Tamny says that the Atlas Shrugged Part II is a “must see film,” explaining, “Atlas Shrugged II is a very interesting movie to watch, and its message about what holds us down in terms of freedom and freedom to achieve couldn’t be timelier.”
The folks from Reason.tv recently caught up with the cast at the Hollywood premier of Atlas Shrugged Part II, asking them what they thought about the film and some of the ideas laid out by Ayn Rand in the book:
The release is much more broad this time around. Make sure you find a theater near you, take a friend and see this movie.
After posting teasers for the last few weeks, the producers of Atlas Shrugged Part II have released the trailer for the film, which is due to come out on October 12th. Filming began on the movie back in April. Reason stopped back the set in July to give us an idea of what was going on and to let fans meet some of the cast, which has been completely revamped since the first installment.
As noted before, many of us who are fans of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged, the book for which she is best known, are hoping for a better flick this time around. The first installment wasn’t terrible, but the such as the CGI and some of the actors left a lot to be desired.
Here is the trailer. Enjoy:
Shortly before voters head to the polls in the fall, the second installment of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged will hit the Silver Screen. There is little coincidence in the time of the film’s release given the themes of class warfare and persecution of society’s producers that we will hear during the presidential campaign.
However, many of us who caught Part 1 are no doubt hoping to see an improvement with this film. As I noted in my review, the chemistry between Taylor Schilling (Dagny Taggart) and Grant Bowler (Henry Reardon) was great, but the rest of the film left a lot to be desired. But Part 2 will, among other changes, see a new cast and a new director. These changes will hopefully be for the better in order to do the book justice, which is indeed hard to go given the low-budget for the film.
Reason.tv recently visited the set to meet with some of the actors and minds behind the film. You can also check out Brian Doherty’s account of his visit to the set from back in April:
Recently, Jason posted about Paul Ryan and Objectivism. It’s a good post, and you should go read it. I wanted to take a moment and comment myself.
First, understand that I have read Atlas Shrugged four times so far and understand Objectivism in a lot of ways. I am also a libertarian, something that Rand was not particularly fond of. Libertarians look at Rand as an intellectual parent of our movement, though Objectivists will not be thrilled with this description one bit.
Jason points out how many people who agree with much of what Rand wrote reject Objectivism for one reason above many others. Atheism.
I am, unlike many libertarians, a man of faith. I wasn’t always a Christian, though I always believed that there was some kind of higher power. Objectivism, a philosophy I agree with in many ways, would never fully be my own because of that one point. From my time with Objectivists, there was no room for the idea of faith, even if you understood that it wasn’t a rational decision based on empirical data.
So what does this have to do with Jason’s post about Paul Ryan? Simple. I have been heavily influenced by Rand. Atlas Shrugged changed my life in ways that I never thought it would. While I leaned libertarian beforehand, it pushed me over the edge and made me more of an activist for libertarian values.
Just as easily, it can push someone to embrace free markets and similar ideas while that person also clings to their faith like Paul Ryan. It’s not a “gotcha” moment as Jason believes the press sees it. Instead, it’s a lack of understanding that many people take parts of Atlas Shrugged and throw out other parts of John Galt’s famous speech.
After all, I did. So why couldn’t Paul Ryan?
During the last couple of years, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals have come under heavy fire from President Barack Obama and Democrats due to modest cuts to spending on social programs. Last May, Newt Gingrich characterized Ryan’s budget as “right-wing social engineering,” a line that many on the Left are now using to tear down Republicans.
Ryan has been pegged by some observers as a devotee of Ayn Rand, a philosopher who developed a moral defense of capitalism in her essays and books — such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. However, Ryan outright rejected Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, in an interview with Robert Costa of National Review:
Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, recently called Ryan “an Ayn Rand devotee” who wants to “slash benefits for the poor.” New York magazine once alleged that Ryan “requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged,” Rand’s gospel of capitalism. President Obama has blasted the Ryan budget as Republican “social Darwinism.”
These Rand-related slams, Ryan says, are inaccurate and part of an effort on the left to paint him as a cold-hearted Objectivist. Ryan’s actual philosophy, as reported by my colleague, Brian Bolduc, couldn’t be further from the caricature. As a practicing Roman Catholic, Ryan says, his faith and moral values shape his politics as much as his belief in freedom and capitalism does.