â€œMr. Rearden,â€ said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, â€œif you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling, but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater the effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders â€” what would you tell him to do?â€
â€œI . . . donâ€™t know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?â€
Bruce Webster decides to re-read Atlas Shrugged and finds that Ayn Rand’s dystopian predictions are starting to read like the morning paper.
For a work written half a century ago, Atlas Shrugged remains surprisingly timely. In an eerie echo of today, many (if not most) critical economic and political decisions are made not by the President or Congress, but by a host of civilian advisors who spend as much time jockeying amongst themselves for position and influence as they do trying to solve the countryâ€™s problems. In the novel itself, the focus on trains, mining, steel, and manufacturing, especially within the United States, all seem very quaint and archaic in our digital/silicon/networked/globalized civilization, but every few pages, Rand will have a passage that is not only relevant but often prescient.
For example, consider this passage regarding one major (unsympathetic) character who ends up as a powerful government bureaucrat:
â€œMy purpose,â€ said Orren Boyle, â€œis the preservation of a free economy. Itâ€™s generally conceded that free economy is now on trial. Unless it proves its social value and assumes its social responsibilities, the people wonâ€™t stand for it. If it doesnâ€™t develop a public spirit, itâ€™s done for, make no mistake about that.
Orren Boyle has appeared from nowhere, five years ago, and had since made the cover of every national news magazine. He had started with a hundred thousand dollars of his own and a two-hundred-million-dollar loan from the government. Now he headed an enormous concern which had swallowed many other companies. This proved, he liked to say, that individual ability still had a chance to succeed in the world.
â€œThe only justification of private property,â€ said Orren Boyle, â€œis public service.â€ (p. 45)