Spoiler alert. I have been reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I still am, it is a long book yet it has left me in a dilemma. At times I think it is the most fantastic of books while at others I don’t agree with some of the sentiments it contains. Perhaps that is the point that book is making but I won’t know until I get to the end. It could be that it is forcing me to think of some of the contradictions that exist within our so-called free market.
Should business be free from all constraint? Are the captains of industry the real global motives of power? Are economic outcomes the only true measure of success?
In part three of the book, in the hidden utopian mountain valley there was an inscription above the door of an important building. It says:
‘I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.’
My dilemma is that the inscription flies in the face, for me, of what it means to live within a society. Humans are social animals. We can only thrive by working together and I am convinced that my actions are intended to aid and assist my fellow creatures – if only in some small way.
It is not possible to separate an individual’s actions from the whole. All lives, whether intended or not affect those around them, sometimes in a good way and at others less so. It is the same for business. Businesses cannot divorce themselves from the society in which they operate. Businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail. Like it or not we all have a social responsibility.
This is where my interest in business ethics lies.
On reading the inscription again perhaps it lends itself more to a belief in freedom and indebtedness. I am sure I will find out.
9 thoughts on “Atlas Shrugged”
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Let’s look at the quote backwards — Do you ever ask another person to live for you? Do you feel the need to take what they earned? This is all about choice. You choose to help fellow man as you posted. But what if you were forced? Forced to give up money, food, whatever – why in the world do you think that is ok, if you do? How does that kind of equality help? How does my or your being forced to just give something to someone who hasn’t earned it benefit either party? That’s not just the point of the quote, but I believe, the entire book.
This is very useful thanks. It is a great book and I really enjoyed it yet I don’t think life is so simple. In many ways I am forced to give money in taxation and have no real say on how it is spent. Indeed there are many things that I don’t agree with yet this is the price I expect to pay to live in society. I don’t expect to take from anyone but have inherited money from parents which I have not earned and I have gained money on speculation which again I have not earned. Interestingly Dagny inherited her position at the railway. I also am blessed to live in a country which is well off due to it taking of wealth form other nations during its empire.
Ok, but this book is not about taxes. I think you’re looking at it too simply.
Yes I know that and I guess you might be right. I thought the book at times us simplistic though. I don’t know where you are but I see some of the traits in the book happening in Great Britain. Nice to talk to you.