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Reading Atlas Shrugged


I’ve been having a nose in Atlas Shrugged, which I read in conjunction with several book bloggers. One quote has been recurring throughout and I have only begun to realize its significance:

But what can you do when you have to deal with people? (Part I, Chapter VII)

This question is uttered on many occasions by Dr. Stadler, first in Part One, Chapter VII. Dr. Stadler on the government’s behalf asks the exclusive rights to “Rearden Metal”, a new metallurgical compound invented by Hank Rearden. The blue-green metal is tougher than steel and would be an asset to the railway industry. Rearden refuses and the government proceeds to indict him for violation of directives. The quote in question demonstrates Dr. Stradler and the looters’ (people gang up on successful industrialist like Rearden) belief that people are generally irrational and must be dealt with in a manipulative or repressive manner. Stadler believes most people are incapable of rational thought and must be told what is best for them. He believes they will support pure thought only if it is government-sanctioned, and this is why he has supported the creation of the State Science Institute. As the story progresses, this view of people becomes a justification for the increasing power of the government and its adoption of brute force. The question is also stated by Dr. Floyd Ferris at the unveiling of Project X. While coercing Stadler to deliver his speech praising the monstrous machine, Ferris reminds him that at a time of hysteria, riots, and mass violence, the people must be kept in line by any means necessary. He underscores his message by quoting the question Stadler himself is known for asking.

Does this sound relevant to some of the governing bodies nowadays?

4 Responses

  1. How far in the book are you? I am beginning part II.

  2. I have the book, keep picking it up, but then I can’t seem to get started. One of these days, it’ll happen.

  3. When I read this the first time about ten years ago, I was struck by how much hit home. The government and people of the Atlas Shrugged world are a bit too much like our current government. Now that I’m reading it again, I am even more uncomfortable at how similar some of the rationale is. I think that is what makes this book so powerful, or at least certain parts of it.

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