Atlas Shrugged Updated for the Financial Crisis

I plodded through Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead before I entered college. I detested her loathsome individualism and proselytizing of the laisezze faire myth. I haven’t read her Atlas Shrugged yet. Here’s a portion of Jeremiah Tucker’s updating of Rand’s long winded work (read the whole thing at McSweeney’s). Humorous unmasking of the essential greed behind all the self-righteous free market rhetoric:

“I heard the thugs in Washington were trying to take your Rearden metal at the point of a gun,” she said. “Don’t let them, Hank. With your advanced alloy and my high-tech railroad, we’ll revitalize our country’s failing infrastructure and make big, virtuous profits.”

“Oh, no, I got out of that suckers’ game. I now run my own hedge-fund firm, Rearden Capital Management.”


He stood and adjusted his suit jacket so that his body didn’t betray his shameful weakness. He walked toward her and sat informally on the edge of her desk. “Why make a product when you can make dollars? Right this second, I’m earning millions in interest off money I don’t even have.”

He gestured to his floor-to-ceiling windows, a symbol of his productive ability and goodness.

“There’s a whole world out there of byzantine financial products just waiting to be invented, Dagny. Let the leeches run my factories into the ground! I hope they do! I’ve taken out more insurance on a single Rearden Steel bond than the entire company is even worth! When my old company finally tanks, I’ll make a cool $877 million.” ■



  1. To make your comment concrete, allow me to cite an example. Now you surely would be happy if you’re one of the executives of the 9 largest US banks who owed more than $40 billion for compensation and pensions as reported in an October 31 Wall Street Journal article.

    Now these banks received a combined $125 billion in public funds as part of the $700 billion bailout: a third of the US taxpayer’s hard earned money given to these banks will ultimately go to the pursuit of happiness of these multimillionaire Wall Street executives.

    Wealth-getting and attaining happiness…

    …and a constant source of misery for many. :)

  2. oh that depends. if there really is a causal link between wealth-getting and misery to others and not just in the situation you have given. ;-)

  3. In class societies, the relations arising between people in the process of production has always led to the concentration of wealth to a few and the pauperization of the majority.

    No other time in history has this gap between the classes, in short, between exploiter and exploited, been more wider than under the capitalist system. The situation cited above is an extreme concretization of this Marxist insight.

    As the great French novelist Honore de Balzac (who is a million times greater than Rand!!!) once wrote: “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” :)

  4. once we prefigured ourselves to this marxist insight, we forget that there are other political and social views out there that may well be at par or even more rational than marx’s dogma. :-)

    If every action as an equal amount of reaction, is being happy, a crime?

    1. I think it would be foolhardy for anyone to try to uncritically apply Marx’s writings to everything whatever the context. As Engels said, their works should not be treated as dogma but as a guide to action.

      Yet, we must remember, there is nothing wrong with taking stock of important lessons from the past to explain the present. Writes the French philosopher Alain Badiou: “The realization of the world as global market, the undivided reign of great financial conglomerates, etc., all this is an indisputable reality and one that confirms, essentially, to Marx’s analysis.” :)

      Honestly, I do not have any right answer to your rhetorical question/soundbyte attempt. You philosophers have been debating those abstractions – happiness, the meaning of life, etc. – for the past millenia.

      My point is this: there is something wrong when a few makes a cult out of monopolizing the means of happiness at the expense of the ability of the many to attain the same. :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s