Novel comparison: Ayn Rand and Ralph Nader

By Justin Moyer

Ralph Nader -- capital-L Liberal, safety-fetishist, and presidential-election spoiler -- might not want to share a bookshelf with Ayn Rand -- small-l liberal, objectivist, and all-around mean girl. Yet, both authors felt it necessary to produce lengthy works of fiction to present their fuming ideologies: Rand's published the 1088-page "Atlas Shrugged" in 1957, and Nader put out the 733-page "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!" this past month. Other than high page counts, do these two novels have anything in common?

Atlas Shrugged: Features John Galt, a fictional, super-rich inventor who organizes a strike among the entrepreneurial class to protest the American government's burgeoning collectivism.

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!: Features Warren Buffet, a real-life, super-rich investor who organizes an intervention by the entrepreneurial class to protest the American government's laissez-faire love affair with capitalism.

Shrugged: Gathers like-minded objectivists in "Galt's Gulch," a remote valley, to plot overthrow of the government once "the code of the looters [i.e., the paying and/or benefiting from taxes] has collapsed."

Super-Rich: Gathers like-minded "strong-willed, nonconforming successfulists" -- including Ted Turner, Bill Cosby, and, of course, Yoko Ono - in a "high mountain redoubt" on Maui to plot "an entire sub-economy that builds markets and employs solutions kept on the shelf by vested interests."

Shrugged: Presents Galt's objectivist philosophy in a 56-page radio address. Memorable line: "I swear - by my life and my love of it - I will never live my life for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine," Galt says.

Super-Rich: Presents Nader's meliorist philosophy in a speech given by Buffet to 16 other "megamillionaires." Memorable line: "I had planned to go on increasing the value of my estate and use it to establish a huge posthumous charitable foundation, but now I realize that's just a rationalization for continuing to do what I do best while escaping responsibility for what's done by others."

Shrugged: Frets over intervention in the free market. "Your law holds that my life, my work and my property may be disposed of without my consent," an industrialist who has ignored governmental regulations tells a judge. "Very well, you may now dispose of me without my participation in the matter."

Super-Rich: Frets over the erosion of judicial review. "And don't forget the diminishing freedom to sue the bastards, a freedom curtailed under the guise of controlling a phony 'litigation explosion,' " complains "lawyer of the centuy" Joe Jamail.

Shrugged: Looks forward to an objectivist "utopia of greed" where men of ability can freely use their gifts to benefit themselves and, hopefully, everyone. Closing line: " 'The road is cleared,' Galt said. 'We are going back to the world.' He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar."

Super-Rich: Looks forward to a remaking of government where the "rebellious rich take on the reigning rich." Closing line: "Yoko laughed and gave [insurance magnate] Bernard [Rapoport] a confident hug. 'It's time for a little pathos...I'll just say that wonderful Hawaiian word that means both hello and goodbye, greeting and farewell, gratitude for the past and hope for the future. Aloha.' "

By Steven E. Levingston |  October 23, 2009; 5:30 AM ET Politics , Steven Levingston
Previous: In Praise of Human Organ Sales | Next: Marriage of opposites: Darwin and his devout wife


Please email us to report offensive comments.

And yet Rand has become the poster child of the teabagging right... It's the "utopia of greed" thing, right?

Posted by: dianaraabe | October 23, 2009 2:07 PM

"utopia of greed"?

Clearly, the phrase is an agenda generated false assumption. You can't get that out of anything Rand ever wrote. Her philosophy specifically condemns any quest for unearned values of any kind, tangible or intangible. Her politics prohibits all involuntary transfers of values. The only way an Objectivist can morally obtain a value from anyone is to offer them something they value more in exchange, i.e. they must earn it.

The deceit in this is the use of the word "greed" in the not un-Randian and morally harmless context of eagerly pursuing wealth to enhance one's life with the confident expectation that non-thinking readers will take it to mean "greed" in the non-Randian context of pursuing *unearned* wealth.

A fifty year string of uninformed and dishonest critics such as this author have contributed mightily of the rise of Objectivism from a half dozen fans in a small New York apartment in the 60's to the millions of adherents the world over today and its recent breach through the fortress walls of academia.

False and unsubstantiated assertions hurled carelessly at Rand alienate those intelligent enough to see through them, pushing them nearer to her, and they simultaneously cull out those unable to tell the difference.

Gratitude is in order. Keep up the good work, soldier!

P.S. Galt was a railroad worker with an idea — not one of the wealthy targets of the author's palpable bigotry.

Posted by: MikaelM | October 23, 2009 4:19 PM

I think it should be immediately stated that in the novel John Galt *was not rich*. He worked as a menial, railroad workman for the Taggart corporation. Genius he was, rich he was not.

Second, how can you possibly make comparisons between these two lengthy books with a series of quotations isolated from any context? How can you avoid distortion and misrepresentation?

Your post is a great example of intellectual dishonesty at best. Perhaps you should have stuck with discussing Nader's work, because it's quite apparent you know nothing of Rand's.

Posted by: Brandonk1 | October 24, 2009 1:59 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company