Friday, April 08, 2011

P.J. O’Rourke On Atlas Shrugged (Movie): A Hundred Years Spent Proving Classical Liberalism Right

Libertarian author P.J. O’Rourke reviews Atlas Shrugged The Movie (source Wall Street Journal Blog; bold emphasis mine)

But I will not pan “Atlas Shrugged.” I don’t have the guts. If you associate with Randians—and I do—saying anything critical about Ayn Rand is almost as scary as saying anything critical to Ayn Rand. What’s more, given how protective Randians are of Rand, I’m not sure she’s dead.

The woman is a force. But, let us not forget, she’s a force for good. Millions of people have read “Atlas Shrugged” and been brought around to common sense, never mind that the author and her characters don’t exhibit much of it. Ayn Rand, perhaps better than anyone in the 20thcentury, understood that the individual self-seeking we call an evil actually stands in noble contrast to the real evil of self-seeking collectives. (A rather Randian sentence.) It’s easy to make fun of Rand for being a simplistic philosopher, bombastic writer and—I’m just saying—crazy old bat. But the 20th century was no joke. A hundred years, from Bolsheviks to Al Qaeda, were spent proving Ayn Rand right.

Then there is the audacity of bringing “Atlas Shrugged” to the screen at all. Rand devotees, starting with Rand herself, have been attempting it for 40 years. The result may be as puzzling as a nude sit-in anti-Gadhafi protest in Tripoli’s Green Square, but you have to give the participants credit for showing up.

In “Atlas Shrugged” Rand set out to prove that self-interest is vital to mankind. This, of course, is the whole point of free-market classical liberalism and has been since Adam Smith invented free-market classical liberalism by proving the same point. Therefore trying to make a movie of “Atlas Shrugged” is like trying to make a movie of “The Wealth of Nations.” But Adam Smith had the good sense to leave us with no plot, characters or melodramatic clashes of will so that we wouldn’t be tempted to try.

Patching it all up, P.J. O’Rourke simply says that a hundred years had been spent proving classical liberalism right.

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