In order to atone for my past sins, I recently read Atlas Shrugged. It took me months, and it was a miserable experience. In short, Atlas Shrugged is a tedious tale consisting of haranguing monologues on the virtues of being selfish interrupted by the thrilling exploits of railroad schedules, grapefruit delivery, steel production and utterly unerotic adultery. Also there's an inexplicable death ray, which is still, somehow, not even vaguely interesting. This tome is about 800 pages too long. It should be noted that at least 100 pages of the book consists of people asking "Who is John Galt?" and then muttering and shuffling down the street. The book is just dreadful as a story and as a philosophical treatise. At least I've earned my penance.
But, I read Atlas Shrugged for reasons beyond self flagellation. I wanted to determine if Rand's Objectivist philosophy is really as horrid as I was led to believe. Spoiler: it is.
Objectivism boils down to:
1. I am awesome.
2. Screw you.
3. There is no higher power.
4. Screw you.
5. People who need help are weak and must be ignored.
6. Adultery is okay, as long as you are a titan of industry and your wife is a broadly drawn Margaret Dumond level shrew.
7. Screw you.
8. Trains are neat!
9. Screw you.
10. It's okay to blather on and on if you own a copper mine.
Another reason I wanted to read this book was because of the cultural influence it has exerted. Mainly on a video game called Bioshock. BioShock was set in Rapture, an undersea city clearly designed to be run on Randian philosophy. The leader of the city was supposed to be some John Galt like character named Andrew Ryan. The whole thing goes higgeldy-piggeldy and you get attacked by robots and drug addicts. But, it still has the Atlas Shrugged influence running throughout.
Recently, I unearthed some original script notes for BioShock. It was much closer to Atlas Shrugged than the final product. Here are some examples:
The player enters the richly appointed study, and sees a tape recorder. After pressing the button:
VOICE OF ANDREW RYAN
And so you enter my study. You, who would loot that which is not yours. You may take my property by force of gun or plasmid, but you can not take my mind. For a mind is that which no man may take, nor be forced to give. The looter can point a gun at a man and a man must comply with the physical demands of that looter. But no man, no looter, may take by force a man's mind. I want to say the same thing now in eighty two different ways. You see..... [cut to 1.5 hours later] That is why the mind is the one treasure the government may not tax! Have I made myself clear? I fear not. I will now repeat this speech.
Interior. Hallway. The hallway is a glass tube, so the player can see the crazy stuff in the ocean. Maybe a big fish of some sort.
As the player turns a corner, an overwhelming army of Splicers attacks. Just as it looks hopeless, NPC Frank Dacosta, a character that did not make the final version of the game, grabs the player and pulls them down into a hatch, safely away from the attack.
FRANK [speaking in a sexy, slight Anotonio Banderasesque accent]
You want to know why I saved you? I did so not for your good, but for mine. Though it clearly benefits you, somehow I am going to pontificate now on how it was really for my benefit alone. You see, a man should not mine the rock unless it is to his benefit to do so. Nor should I pay a man to mine the rock, unless it benefits me. I do not care about the man who mines the rock, only the benefit I gain from his labors. As it should be! Should that man toil with no benefit to himself? No! No! To do so would be great madness! But what of the looters? The want me to pay the man to mine the rock but gain no benefit! See, the looters can point a gun at me and make me give away my treasure, but they can not make me do so willingly. For the looters can not own my mind. Has anyone explained this concept to you? [For the next two hours, he basically repeats the speech Ryan gave in the study, but with a slight accent] And that is why my mind is mine and mine alone! Anyway, I'm going to inject you with thing that lets you fling fireballs now. Don't worry about how this fits into that thing about my mind. Oh, and try not to have a tedious affair with anyone you meet here. It will be dull, at best. Look out! There are looters!
Interior. Diner. The player is confronted by Fatty Moochinstuff, a bureaucrat who wants something for free. Maybe a sandwich. Whatever.
You will give me the sandwich, won't you? No, no, I won't take it from you! Let's be friends! We are your friends! Yes, yes, I have a gun. But why discuss that! I want to be your friend! Your sandwich would be appreciated! No. No. Let's be friends! Yes, I have a gun. But why must you mention that! Have I mentioned I just want to be friends?
Fatty then turns into some kind of zombie thing with a shotgun for a nose. I don't know why.
Interior. Ryan's Library.
The player enters and is immediately shot with a death ray that is completely out of place with the rest of the story. It is oddly uninteresting. As the player dies, we hear Andrew Ryan's voice:
I may have killed you, but I can not take that which is yours. I'm referring to your mind. I hope that makes sense. Let me explain this again. You should only do what you wish and what benefits you, for that is all that matters. A=A. A can be anything, so don't get too hung up on that. So, yes, A=A, and the looters can not take your mind. They can shoot you with a gun, or death ray. Yes, I know I am the one who did that, but it suited me to so do, and in the end save you from yourself, which suits my purposes. A=A. I am your friend. Looters are worse than anything. There is no higher power. A=A. My mind is my own. I can go on like this for hours. You see.....[Fade to Black]