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INTERVIEWS AND NOTICES

THE CONFERENCE BOARD REVIEW xliv, no. 5 (September-October 2007):  56-60

"In Search of Atlas: Ayn Rand's Magnum Opus, At Age 50"

A. J. Vogl

In this essay, Vogl discusses the influence of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, in October 2007.  Vogl interviewed Sciabarra, among others, for the essay:

"There are many ways to describe Atlas Shrugged.  Foremost, says Chris Sciabarra, who teaches politics at New York University and edits The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, 'it's an epic story that combines mystery, sci-fi, action, romance, and philosophy.'" 

Vogl also examines the meaning of Objectivism.  "According to Rand scholar Sciabarra, there are key distinctions between being a follower of Rand and a follower of Objectivism.  'The problem,' he told me, 'is that some of Rand's followers seek to identify the philosophy with the philosopher.  This is at least partially inspired by Rand herself, clearly seeing her own life as a concrete manifestation of her philosophy.  But it would never occur to me to evaluate the truthfulness or efficacy of Aristotle's philosophy or Marx's philosophy or Nietzsche's philosophy by focusing on the extent to which each of these men practiced their own philosophies consistently.'"

Sciabarra also discusses the relevance of Rand's critique of the mixed economy.  "Comments Sciabarra:  'Rand argued for "capitalism: the unknown ideal" and, to a certain extent, her celebration of businesspeople is a celebration of "business: the unknown ideal," that is, business and entrepreneurial creativity as practiced in a genuinely free market.'  But we do not have a truly free market.  Rather, as Sciabarra told me, it's a 'mixed economy defined by what Rand would have called "an aristocracy of pull"'—that pull being exerted by various special interest and pressure groups, not only from business but from every sector, angling for legislation, subsidies, special favors, and the like from the government.  The Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pay lip service to the importance of keeping the government at bay, but government  has become so big, so dominant, that sleeping with the enemy has become a matter not of philosophic choice but of survival.  'With today's business world so compromised by political engagement,' observes Sciabarra, 'I often wonder if there are any pure "Atlases" left to effect that kind of revolution.  It may explain, partially, why Rand hasn't inspired more businesspeople.'"


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