Ayn Rand was a very interesting woman. I’ve not really studied her life, having only read a little about her – both good and bad. And I’ve never read any of her books.
She seems to be both loved and hated. Of course, with her exposure of the cronyism and political manipulations of our socialistic country (even recognized when she was young), there are many among the elite who despise her writings. But she does not seem to identify with the poor man at all, unless I simply misunderstand her. She sees the evils of socialism and elevates reason as the fountain from which the most noble pursuits flow. Many religious people resent her because of her staunch and unflinching atheism. But, all too often, because we see one error on someone’s thinking, we throw out what’s good in right in their ideals. Most free-market capitalists greatly appreciate her insights, including Ludwig von Mises.
The setting for Atlas Shrugged is America, 2016. Political maneuvering continues to be corporate policy for most, offering a great challenge to those who strive to rise simply on their own ingenuity and business savvy. An irresponsible businessman who has political connections has a much greater opportunity to rise than an excellent businessman who refused to sacrifice his integrity on the political altar.
The movie does a good job of setting up the tension, the fulcrum developed within a family owned business. The sister is intelligent, savvy, integrous (from a business perspective) and very industrious. The brother is lazy, manipulative and tries to ride daddy’s coattails through political mechanisms. He’s not smart enough to do business well, so relies on favors, bribes and litigation. Eventually this results in a split between the siblings, with each taking a part of the company with them. The sister works hard and develops a network of people who are like-minded. The brother continues to degrade the business and pursue political manipulation in his effort toward greater prosperity. For her it’s about a job well done. For him it’s about holding on to what he has and gaining more power.
The messages in this movie are unmistakable. However, there are innuendos that might be easily missed. I’ve only watched it once, and even after watching it realized I’d missed a few things. Therefore, in an effort to understand it better, I’ve ordered the book.
Apparently the book is long enough that the producers of the movie have opted for a trilogy. While this book is definitely a geopolitical and socioeconomic polemic in many ways, it’s also a classic novel in its own right. And don’t let the low budget for the movie fool you. The acting is good and the intrigue well developed. It’s a mystery, with the reader/movie-goer constantly wondering what’s around the next corner. And, of course, making a trilogy out of a mystery movie can be a bit of a downer. But, if I understand the reviews correctly, it was necessary. There apparently is far too much to this story to try to fit it into a single movie. So, with this in mind, I’m glad they made it a trilogy. I’m eagerly anticipating part 2, due to be released in the Fall of 2012. Yes, I’m frowning too.
One of our favorite movie review sites is Plugged In. They don’t grade the movies on a scale. They simply tell you what they observed and the implications. You can learn more about the movie by visiting their review.
As I read it I found myself struggling with a tension of a different sort. Capitalism is good. It rewards hard work, industriousness and ingenuity. Those who refuse to work go without. Of course, there are always exceptions. These we leave in the hands of divine providence. But Rand’s version of capitalism is, in many ways, cold. It’s correct in many of its perspectives. But it leaves humanity out in many ways as well. As image bearers of God we have an opportunity to reveal His character in all that we do, including our business pursuits. Our lives should flow from the two great commandments – Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Love does not provide handouts. Love, rightly dispensed, equips others to provide for themselves. Love does not enable laziness or entitlement. It promotes a productive life. And love does not pursue wealth as an end. It may pursue it as a means though, by which others can be provided jobs and through which those who have less may be ministered to through works of charity.
Ultimately, love is more concerned with the souls of people than their physical condition. This is a good and necessary manifestation of a virtuous love of God. Therefore, ultimately, love is expressed in the sharing of the gospel. If Ayn Rand had realized this then her book would have been much more powerful. Rather than the rise of man in his individualism being the focus, the glory of God would have been set forward as the end, with capitalistic pursuits being a means. But, with a little effort in how we perceive her vision, we can grasp the truth of what she said from a biblical perspective. If we do so, we’ll be better for it.