After hearing reports of "Where is John Galt?" signs at Tea Party gatherings, I purchased a copy of Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, earlier this summer. Though I am still slogging through the tome, which weighs it at over 1168 pages, and though I have not reached John Galt’s 70 page radio address/rant to the American people, it is apparent that he is a kind of Nietzschian ubermensch.
Galt invented a motor which could have provided massive amounts of low cost power, but then makes sure that the device is destroyed so that looting government bureaucrats and their wimpy businessmen sidekicks can’t use it to support their parasitic exploitation of industrial geniuses like himself. Standing Marx on his head, Galt organizes a strike not of the proletariat, but of the productive geniuses. The striking captains of industry, with sidekicks from the intellectual and artistic elite, retreat to a hidden valley in the mountains, over which a gold dollar sign hangs as a symbol of the almighty good, while the good old USA and the rest of the world fall to pieces without their abilities to leech off of.
The prose is often purple and didactic, the politics and moral philosophy are antithetical to caring about others, while the characters are humorless and one dimensional, but I must admit I’m finding Atlas Shrugged a pretty good read, partly as a hymn to the rugged individualist human spirit and partly as a gripping story. Surprisingly, a cover piece in a recent issue of the right-wing National Review panned Atlas Shrugged, for its cruelty to, and absurd portrayal of, those in the story who do not partake of the gospel according to Rand. The article cited an episode from the book in which Rand portrays passengers who perish in a train catastrophe as receiving their just desserts for supporting the status quo.