The Antidote to inhumanity is to know what it means to be human: Ayn Rand Vs David Sloan Wilson
- Kamran Mofid
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"It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically.”
Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as "refuse" and "parasites", and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for the government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax."...Continue to read
The Autobiography of John Galt III
A Novel by David Sloan Wilson
“Call me anything but John Galt. That is my name, but it is also the name of my father and grandfather. I am not like them and the world they created is not the one I desire. The III after my name does not sufficiently set me apart.”
With these words, famed scientist and nonfiction writer David Sloan Wilson launches a devastating critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and its impact on the world. Just as Rand advanced her ideas through fiction in addition to nonfiction, including her iconic novel Atlas Shrugged, Wilson pursues his quarry into the fictional realm with the story of John Galt III, the grandson of the main protagonist of Rand’s novel, and his quest to defeat the Evil Empire constructed by his father, grandfather, and grandmother—Ayn Rant.
‘Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is one of the most iconic novels of the 20th century, selling over seven million copies since its publication in 1957. Rand is widely credited for providing a moral foundation to the “greed is good” ideology that now dominates modern life. Alan Greenspan, who served as chair of the United States Federal Reserve between 1987-2006, was a devotee, and one still hears about politicians assigning Atlas Shrugged to their staff as a kind of indoctrination. The Atlas Society has chapters on college campuses around the world and the Atlas Group is one of the most effective conglomerates of libertarian think tanks. As Internet memes, the names Ayn Rand and her fictional hero John Galt are mentioned as often as Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek.
Rand promoted her philosophy, which she called Objectivism, in many ways, but Atlas Shrugged was unquestionably her most effective vehicle. She understood that fiction can be more effective than dry philosophical discourse when she wrote, “Art is the indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal.”
I have written Atlas Hugged in the same spirit and as an antidote to the “greed is good” worldview that Rand championed. Like Rand, I am not primarily a novelist. In fact this is my first, although I come by the craft easily since my father, Sloan Wilson, wrote two other iconic novels of the 20th century: The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1955), which described the corporate army that formed after World War II, and A Summer Place (1958), which described changing sexual mores during the same period. I became a scientist rather than a novelist, which enables me to critique the “greed is good” worldview on intellectual grounds. I have done this in many academic works and three nonfiction books for the general public, most recently This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution. Conveying the same themes in fictional form for me is a kind of homecoming.
The idea of critiquing Rand’s worldview with a sequel to her novel (in the form of satirical academic critique) is delicious. I wish I could claim credit for it, but it was suggested by someone else during a workshop on economics that I had organized. Since Rand had been so successful at promulgating her ideas through fiction, shouldn’t someone be doing the same for the ideas that we were developing? Within minutes, the title Atlas Hugged flashed into my mind, along with the beginning of a plot line. The protagonist would be an entirely new character – the grandson of John Galt – whose father is a libertarian media giant like Rush Limbaugh. Ayn Rand was not a character in her own novel, but – since anything goes in fiction – I could transport her into mine in the form of Ayn Rant. It was too delicious not to indulge!
That was seven years ago and I worked on it between my other projects ever since. I was amazed by how the story stayed alive and developed in my mind, even when I didn’t have a chance to write anything for months. Every now and then a new plot development would bubble up into my consciousness and I would think: “Of course! That’s how it must be!” We truly evolved as storytelling animals and creating my own story at such length has been a delight.
When I began to think about sharing my story, the typical publication route was cluttered with obstacles. Whatever my reputation as a scientist and nonfiction author, I was still just a guy peddling his first novel. Also, literary critics hated Atlas Shrugged – and rightly so! Judged purely as a story, it is a terrible novel. The same can be said for B.F. Skinner’s utopian novel Walden Two, which was rejected by two publishers and only accepted by a third under the condition that Skinner write a textbook for them! Nevertheless, both novels had a huge impact and continue to be read because the stories, despite their flaws, were good enough to serve as a vehicle for the ideas. I would like to think that my story is much better than either of those, but there is no getting around the need for a bit of speechifying to communicate the ideas.
In the end, I decided that the anti-Rand thing to do was to market my story online and let the reader decide how much to pay (including nothing for the e-book), with all proceeds going to support my nonprofit organization, Prosocial World. Such things are easy to do in the age of electronic publishing. If readers hate it, then no harm is done and maybe I’ll even learn from the feedback and write Atlas Hugged 2.0. After all, writing novels is not my main line of work and there is nothing to be gained from keeping it to myself.
Like Atlas Shrugged and Walden Two, Atlas Hugged is a novel of ideas and a vision for the future. I would never have written it just to tell a story. Exchanging “Shrugged” with “Hugged” also communicates a very different moral ideal. If you want the nonfiction version, read This View of Life and my other works. Or, you can learn about it through John Galt III, Eve, and the other characters that I have grown to know and love so well. And don’t worry, reading Atlas Shrugged first is not necessary. Enjoy!’ Read Chapter one HERE: Who is John Galt?
HOW MUCH WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE?
The word “give” was banned from the vocabulary of the ideal society imagined by Ayn Rand in her novel Atlas Shrugged. It is restored in David Sloan Wilson’s novel Atlas Hugged.David is pleased to give you a copy for free in the electronic version and at cost for the print version. Please give what you want and are in a position to give in exchange. All profits go to support Prosocial World, which is dedicated to making the imagined world of Atlas Hugged a reality. Your contribution to either the physical or e-book version entitles you to free membership into the Atlas Hugged Readers’ club. Buy this must-read book HERE
...and this is how, lest we forget, a very keen and brain-washed follower of Ayn Rand
is sowing the seeds of global catastrophe and destruction
...And finally, the fundamental question at this moment is: Can we ever build a better world?
The answer to my mind is an emphatic NO, unless the following is understood and addressed accordingly:
To reverse this destructive path we need a different model of education and we need a different economic value and economy. However, these are not possible to achieve so long as The Fraudulent Ideology reins supreme. Full stop. Carpe Diem!