As someone pithier than I first pointed out, I think I now have an idea how Jewish kids feel at Christmas time. Lots of other people in the libertarian blogosphere are really excited about the new Atlas Shrugged movie, but I just can’t bring myself to care.
People have told me that, given my libertarian economic leanings, I really should read Ayn Rand, and I suspect they’re probably right. I had a copy of Atlas Shrugged at one time, but I was never able to get more than a few pages into it. The writing just didn’t grab me, and I lacked the willpower to force myself to read it.
I’ve been thinking of downloading a copy to my Kindle, so I could read it when I had nothing else to do, but the only available version costs $18.99 to download. That’s more than the printed editions, and it’s a crazy price for a book that’s been out for over 50 years.
Note to Objectivists: Of course I have no objections to the owners of Atlas Shrugged making a profit off of it, but if you hope to convert other people to your way of thinking, you might want to try making it easier for them to read the seminal works of your philosophy. By comparison, Capitalism: A Love Story is available on DVD for only $11.49, Keynes’s General Theory is available as an e-book for $2.99, and the Communist Manifesto is free.
Then there’s the problem that Objectivism smells just a little bit like a cult. For one thing, its adherents seem to be trying to tie the whole world into a single philosophy. I mean, I believe in a metaphysics of objective reality, and I believe in the inherent morality of free-market capitalism, but for the life of me I can’t understand how one meaningfully leads to the other, except in the most trivial sense. Throw in an Objectivist theory of art, and it starts to look like a serious case of overreaching.
The second reason Objectivism seems a bit like a cult is that it just seems weird that Ayn Rand and Objectivism are always so closely linked. In contrast, although Sir Isaac Newton invented classical mechanics, which is sometimes even called Newtonian physics, you can study mechanics and use it productively without ever having to learn anything about Newton’s life. Also, you don’t have to read Principia to be a physicist. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. An ordinary physics textbook, or even Wikipedia, will explain everything with far more rigor and clarity than Newton did the first time.
Note that none of this is an objection to the philosophy of Objectivism. As I said at the start, if I learned more about Objectivism, I think I’d probably find a lot that I agree with. In fact, essays like this one make me think I may be more of an Objectivist than I realized. For some reason, that really annoys me.
Mark is a computer programmer, website builder, photographer, and sometimes journalist in Chicago, where he also writes the long-running Windypundit blog.