Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overlong and outdated, this story is interesting to read because it was, and is, so influential on politics and – to a lesser extent – on organisational leadership, but it doesn’t really stand up on any other basis.

It starts quite well. It’s well-written and I enjoyed the early chapters about the challenges of running a railroad in 1950s America. However, the story soon deteriorates into a nonsense argument between the heroic industrialists who are talented and achievement-orientated, and the fake straw men who are spineless, stupid and corrupt.

The philosophical premise that informs this (and Rand’s theory of Objectivism) is so damn clumsy it gets quite infuriating.

The central argument is so simplistic and loaded it insults the intelligence. The good guys are hard-nosed, hard-working, focussed, and clever. They unashamedly make money and don’t apologise for it. So far so good; no problem with that. What they go on to do is reject most human relationships as unnecessary – Dagny Taggart, the most human of the “good guys” (who I quite fancied), at least admits she needs butch and uptight Hank Rearden in her bed and doesn’t mind saying so – Rearden, who needs a good slap if you ask me, insists (and insists!) that he’s only doing Taggart for his own pleasure and does not give a jot for hers. This seems very important to him. She sees this as a good thing.

Someone needs therapy.

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Stick to the rules, or it might go on too long

My daughter got a monopoly set for her birthday. She’s only seven, and already learning about the importance of greed and the pursuit of wealth. I guess they should have a new post-2008 Monopoly where the property is worth nothing and the bank charges you an administration fee when you pass Go.

The instructions specifically counsel against making up your own rules. It clearly states: “Stick to the rules” (“otherwise”, it explains, “the game can go on for too long”). The expectation that people will stick to the rules is another lesson that mightn’t translate all that well into the real-life world of business where the direction of travel seems to be toward Ayn-Rand’s objective selfish individualism.

I am sounding cynical.

I’m sorry, but I am a little … but I’m also hopeful that work can be a positive experience, and a lot of this is down to the people around us.

People at work

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