Quotes From Atlas Shrugged

Over the last two weeks I’ve been churning through Ayn Rand’s epic novel, Atlas Shrugged. The book is close to 1200 pages long and covers Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. The story follows a man who said he would, “stop the motor of the world,” and did. Rand’s philosophy centers around the idea that it is a person’s selfish ego that is the driving force for human progress.

Here are some choice quotes:

On money…

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia, “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?”

“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values if he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’s evaded the choice of what to seek.”

“The man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.”

On the difference between thinking and feeling

“I don’t feel that you’re right, so I know that you’re wrong.”
“How do you know it?”
“I feel it. I don’t go by my head but by my heart. You might be good at logic, but you’re heartless.”
“Madame, when we’ll see men dying of starvation around us, your heart won’t be of any earthly use to them.”

Rand’s views center on the supreme right of the individual. That means that taxes, trade restrictions and charity are all forms of evil which punish the strong to sustain the weak. While I’m not sure I agree with Rand’s philosophy when applied to politics as a whole, there are more than a few individual lessons I’ve gathered from this book.

A few thoughts that I came across when reading this and Rand’s earlier book, The Fountainhead:

  • The Virtue of Independence. Few virtues are more important to Rand than independence, meaning that you survive, not on charity, but on what you have earned.
  • Profit is Virtuous. To most people making profit is a dirty, selfish indulgence. Rand claims the opposite, that it is the reward for creating value. As long as you don’t steal, coerce or con profit from your victims, then profit is a sign you are contributing value.
  • Love Can’t Make 2+2 = 5. Feelings of love, pity and charity can’t put food on the table or create progress in society, only production can. Who really contributes more–the person who cries for charity, or the person who creates value?

I can’t say I agree with everything Rand says, but the book is definitely thought-provoking.