If Atlas gave a damn

I wish I’d taken a photo. It was a year or so ago and there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the influence of Ayn Rand on tech startup thinking so I decided I should read the most famous of her novels Atlas Shrugged while I was on a trip to the US. For some reason I bought a hard copy from Amazon which was much bulkier than I expected and when I got to the airport to come home I realised my luggage was over weight and something had to go. I left Ayn Rand teetering on the top of a trash can at SFO.

If you’re unfamiliar with the metaphor, Atlas represents all the charismatic and entrepreneurial go-getters that Rand used to like to hang out with who are holding the world on their shoulders. When Atlas shrugs and lets the world fall, everything goes to pot. It’s as if the 1% go on strike because government and all those pesky poor people don’t appreciate their genius. The whole thing is silly and completely ignores the complexity and interconnectedness of society.

Barack Obama probably put it best:

Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity — that’s a pretty narrow vision.