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Kakha Bendukidze. Source: Novaya Gazeta – The cover of the first edition of Atlas Shrugged (1957) by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged, a 1957 novel by the libertarian thinker Ayn Rand, is an ode to the free market, the minimalist state and the sovereignty of the individual.[1] It is also a useful text to read if one wishes to understand the worldview of Georgia's most influential policy makers.

The main character in the novel, the engineer John Galt, escapes from an America that has become a breeding ground for socialist ideas. Galt calls on other men and women of talent and ambition to follow him to the remote mountains of Colorado in order to establish a utopia of pure capitalism. For Galt, the engineer, the scientist and the entrepreneur are the true heroes of mankind. In the end, America discovers that it cannot survive without the talents of Galt and his fellow libertarians. They return from Colorado, defeat the collectivist morality of the grey, submissive masses and bring down the oppressive state. As Galt puts it, triumphantly,

"With the sign of the dollar as our symbol

Suggested readings

To learn more about Ayn Rand's philosophy, watch her 1959 interview with CBS's Mike Wallace. The interview, posted on YouTube, is divided into Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Atlas Shrugged (1957) sets out Rand's ideology in 1,200 pages of prose. John Galt, the book's protagonist, captures Rand's philosophy in a speech praising selfishness as the basis of true ethics and explaining why justice requires small government:

"The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law." (p. 1062)

A survey conducted in the US in 1991 ranked Atlas Shrugged as the second most influential book in print, right after the Bible. With over 12 million copies sold to date, sales increased further in 2008 and 2009, owing in no small part to the onset of the financial crisis.

One expression of renewed interest in Atlas Shrugged is the publication of two recent books examining both the origins and the impact of Rand's ideas. In a 2009 book called Ayn Rand and the World She Made, Anne C. Heller ascribes Rand's hostility to liberal social programs to her years growing up in Bolshevik Russia. Jennifer Burns, in Goddess of the Market

April 2010

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