Strikes, Capitalism and Trump: A Review of Atlas Shrugged

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Ayn Rand’s divisive novel Atlas Shrugged offers both a frightening dystopia, where government regulation and totalitarianism force the gifted artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs to go on strike, and a hopeful utopia, where these gifted individuals are eventually free to produce great things. Rand warned in the 1960s that the US was a mixed economy heading towards dictatorship. With Donald Trump in The White House, it appears we are close to reaching that dictatorship stage, having perhaps reached it already.

There have been many protests against Trump, but strike action has also been taken. For instance, feminist groups have protested misogyny in the workplace and set up protests to close down streets, owing to Trump’s appalling treatment of women. Though unlike in Atlas Shrugged, these strikes are also targeting neoliberal policies that have eroded social provision and labour rights.

Rand warned in the 1960s that the US was a mixed economy heading towards dictatorship

In addition, 127 top companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, and Twitter have all filed court papers against Trump’s executive order on immigration, stating it “violates immigration laws and the Constitution”. Most of this action prevents the freedom of movement of workers,  simultaneously suppressing the progress and innovations these companies can make; Trump is blind-sighted to the fact that a large portion of the money America makes from companies comes from foreign workers. Hence, we would also be seeing how a society that uses force to over-regulate the private sector could stagnate and come close to collapsing, which is a major event that takes place in Atlas Shrugged.

What the book also shows, however, is that great thinkers with tenacious wills can overcome such forces of tyranny. In the future, more and more companies will likely strike out against Trump, and though they’d be unlikely to cease production, they might move production outside of the US, and stagnate the American economy. Once even the most ardent Trump supporters see that they have become worse off than before, they will defect against him, and America will come full circle.

Once even the most ardent Trump supporters see that they have become worse off than before, they will defect against him

The US probably won’t however, embrace laissez-faire capitalism with total free markets and minimal government regulation, given that this was the underlying cause of the financial crisis. Big banks abused minimal regulation, fuelled a prejudice against immigrants and poor people, that then helped lead to Trump’s rise to power. Nevertheless, the theme of individuals against the collective, that was paramount in Atlas Shrugged, is likely to resonate with many Americans today. Given that many people are furious at Trump’s love of mob-mentality, stupidity, and suppression of anything that disagrees with him, it is likely that his presidency is a ticking Atlas-Shrugged time-bomb.

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Comments (2)

  • Jack Crawford

    Scholars from the Ayn Rand Institute have expressed similar thoughts. It’s hard to predict the future with any precision.

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