Atlas Shrugged

ATLAS SHRUGGED….Unlike most non-libertarians, I thought Atlas Shrugged was a perfectly entertaining book and about as well written as any other popular novel. Sure, the whole business with all the smart people hiding out in ? I forget, was it Colorado? ? and happily building their own little strife-free utopia was pretty silly, but I’ve read plenty of novels with sillier premises than that.

Anyway, the latest news is that the book is going to be made into a movie set in the near future, and Arthur Silber quotes Ian Hamet agreeing that this is probably a good idea:

Were I to foolishly approach this, I would set it in an indefinite past, and aim for a timeless quality. I don’t see how they can keep the Railroad central to the story 15 years in the future.

I was kind of wondering about this too. Setting the movie in a 1940s past when railroads ruled the earth probably wouldn’t appeal to that all important 18-25 demographic, would it? Arthur goes on to suggest various ways of updating this by substituting other industries.

But, um, isn’t there a bigger problem with the book’s “timeless quality”? I mean, the whole point of the novel is that socialism is taking over America, with the government steadily becoming more and more Soviet and full central planning and our own set of 5-year plans lurking right around the corner ? in fact, we’re just a few years behind the “People’s State of England.” Now, even in 1957 this was a stretch, but in 2003 it’s not going to inspire anything more than guffaws. The Soviet Union is gone, the Berlin Wall is no more, capitalism reigns supreme around the world, and small government Republicans have dominated the political debate in America since 1980.

So forget the technology. Hell, the Comet might even give the film a nifty retro feel. But the screenwriter, ignoring The End of History and the undisputed victory of capitalism in the 21st century, maintains breathlessly that “socialism has crept into everything.” I’m sure this kind of line draws mucho applause at Objectivist meetings, but doesn’t a major motion picture need to appeal to people who are rooted somewhere on planet Earth as well?

POSTSCRIPT: What if all the smart, entrepreneurial people really did leave the rest of us behind and started up their own little city state? Would it turn out more like Ayn Rand’s Galt’s Gulch or Robert Heinlein’s Coventry? Discuss.

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