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Atlas Shrugged Movie:

Variety reports yet another attempt to film Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Variety tags Angelina Jolie as a potential Dagney Taggart. Isn't her public persona a bit, er, altruistic for a role as Taggart? She's a bit young for the role, too. Maybe Sigourney Weaver or Sharon Stone. Meryl Streep as Lillian Reardon? Jane Fonda as Reardon's mother?

Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
I demand that Susan Sarandon be cast in this. Oh, and Janeane Garofalo for Taggart.
4.27.2006 10:33pm
Tareeq (www):
Tim Robbins as Reardon, Sean Penn as John Galt, George Clooney as Ragnar Danneskjold...endless possibilities here.

But will it be directed by Oliver Stone, or Bob Altman?
4.27.2006 11:09pm
Amber Taylor (www):
By this chronology, Dagny is in her thirties during the novel. Angelina is a tad young, but it's easier to age up with makeup than age down.

I think Charlize Theron would be a better Dagny.
4.27.2006 11:09pm
Huh:
Ooh, Charlize would be really good. And wouldn't Ralph Fiennes be pretty good as Reardon? And damn, Phillip Seymour Hoffman would have to be in here somewhere.
4.27.2006 11:50pm
Tacitean (www):
Antonio Banderas as Francisco D'Anconia. There can be no other.
4.27.2006 11:54pm
DFrancis:
By successfully making a great adaptation of this book wouldn't Hollywood be completely abandoning Rand's premise? If they don't succeed, how could they have foreseen the situation? Who is John Galt?
4.28.2006 12:08am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Oh my God, the worst, most pretentious (not to mention poorly written and boring) novel ever written made into movie. At least Marx, for all his faults, didn't attempt fiction.
4.28.2006 12:10am
GW 3L:
Boy, I can't wait to sit through that radio address.

Speaking of all things Angelina...if Jennifer Aniston had only read Atlas Shrugged, she'd have realized that Brad Pitt's actions in leaving her for Angelina were no different than Dagny leaving Rearden for Galt. Logically, she has no reason to be upset, should throw herself headlong into her career, and be content with a lesser partner.
4.28.2006 12:13am
Truth Seeker:
Somebody thinks it's the worst, most pretentious, etc., but in polls it ranks second to the Bible as one of the most inspiring books ever written. Don't take a leftist's word for it. Read it and see what you think.
4.28.2006 12:17am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Do people actually still read that book?
4.28.2006 12:18am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Jesus, Freder, honestly, could your posts here possibly be anymore bitter?
4.28.2006 12:22am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Oh and, "Marx didn't attempt fiction?" That sort of depends on how you view "Das Kapital."
4.28.2006 12:23am
Freder Frederson (mail):
but in polls it ranks second to the Bible as one of the most inspiring books ever written.

And what poll would that be? The poll of selfish, self-absorbed, pretentious, libertarian, young Republicans at exclusive Ivy League and Big Ten Universities.
4.28.2006 12:25am
Huh:
Well, I'm a liberal, but I really liked this book. I read it when I was younger, but what I remember about both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead is that they were wonderfully plotted, and the characters, if archetypical were at least archetypes of Rand's creation. Yeah, they were crudely drawn inhabitants of a binary world (you were either with Rand or against her), but these characters were still fun and larger than life. And of course I remember reading Galt's infamous 100 page speech and saying to myself, "uh, yeah, you said this already."

Really, a little exposure to Rand won't kill you liberals out there. And it's funny how often I find myself thinking about Atlas Shrugged when I'm studying Admin Law.
4.28.2006 12:26am
Joe Socher (mail):
It's not such a terrible book if you skip the speeches.
(The best bad review of it is Chambers's written for NR, recently published in "Ghosts on the Roof.")
4.28.2006 12:29am
Justin Kee (mail):
Where is the George Clooney smug cloud headed today?

/off-topic
//but still funny
4.28.2006 12:30am
GW 3L:

Somebody thinks it's the worst, most pretentious, etc., but in polls it ranks second to the Bible as one of the most inspiring books ever written. Don't take a leftist's word for it. Read it and see what you think.


Just because it's inspiring for those who make it through doesn't mean it isn't often boring, repetitive, and pretentious. The inspiration could have been achieved in 500 fewer pages.

I've read Atlas Shrugged, as well as The Fountainhead and Anthem. Of the three I would be seriously hesitant to recommend Atlas Shrugged to anyone. It has its moments, but on the whole it's just not very good.

And I can't think of anyone who would describe [i]me[/i] as a "leftist".
4.28.2006 12:31am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Jesus, Freder, honestly, could your posts here possibly be anymore bitter?

Probably not. I consider Ayn Rand to be one of the most evil women of the twentieth century, completely morally bankrupt and fortunately unable to see any of her warped philosophy or economic theories gain any credence. If they had, the results would have been every bit as disasterous as Hitler or Stalin. To me, Atlas Shrugged is as despicable and dangerous a book as Mein Kampf.
4.28.2006 12:32am
Just Visiting:
Benjamin Bratt would be a better Fransisco than Antonio, and as for Dagney, I would cast Angie Harmon over Charlize or Angelina any day. Of course, given that Atlas runs about a hundred thousand words longer than LOTR (the entire trilogy is about 478,000 words, Atlas is 565,000), it will never be made, or it will be butchered terribly (and with Hollywood's fingers in it, that wouldn't be a surprise).
4.28.2006 12:34am
Freder Frederson (mail):
That sort of depends on how you view "Das Kapital."

As completely unreadable. I tried, but I couldn't make head nor tails of it. In fact I became convinced that anyone who read Das Kapital and understood what the hell Marx was talking about was lying.
4.28.2006 12:37am
Lev:
Why would anyone expect a movie based on a screenplay based on an idea based on synopsis of a book by Ayn Rand, would bear any resemblance to the book by Ayn Rand?
4.28.2006 12:40am
Kim Scarborough (mail) (www):
I have no idea what Gary Cooper's politics were in real life, but I always found it amusing that he did The Fountainhead right around the time he did High Noon. You'd have a hard time finding two more philosophically-opposed films.
4.28.2006 12:40am
jfianell (mail):
blockquote>
If they had, the results would have been every bit as disasterous as Hitler or Stalin. To me, Atlas Shrugged is as despicable and dangerous a book as Mein Kampf.

Judging from the comments, Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" is the book you need to read Freder. You'll find that the irreconcilable conflicts inherent within socialism produced Adolf and Mein Kampf. If only 19th century Germany had Rand instead of Engels, a significant amount of bloodshed would have been spared in the 20th.
4.28.2006 12:48am
HLSbertarian (mail):
Mike said: Jesus, Freder, honestly, could your posts here possibly be anymore bitter?

Freder said: And what poll would that be? The poll of selfish, self-absorbed, pretentious, libertarian, young Republicans at exclusive Ivy League and Big Ten Universities.

It was a poll of "people," last time I checked, but I'll look into that for you.

And as much as I'd love to see a properly done production of Atlas, there's just no way it would happen. I'd rather not see what Hollywood would do to this book.
4.28.2006 1:13am
Nobody Special:
"If only 19th century Germany had Rand instead of Engels, a significant amount of bloodshed would have been spared in the 20th."

Because yeah, then they wouldn't have cheered the deaths of the useless eaters...
4.28.2006 1:13am
Jacob (mail):
I liked it better when it was the Ayn Rand holiday special.

As for polls that cite Ayn Rand's work as inspiring...those simply remind me of other "populist" best-of lists. Not exactly impressive.

That being said, I've certainly met a few left-leaning bookworms who actually dig Ms. Rand's style, if not her politics. They're few and far between, and not at all the most well-read friends of mine, but they exist nevertheless. We don't give them too hard a time about it.
4.28.2006 1:16am
fi99ig (mail) (www):
I'm not at all trying to stir up mischief, but I'm genuinely curious: does Rand tend to be viewed by conservatives or libertarians as an important intellectual? I've never read her myself, but her reputation in my circles (academic philosophy) is not good. She tends to be viewed as a simplistic thinker, and a sloppy writer to boot. But like I said, that's second hand. The pile of books to read is already high enough, so I'm not going to run out and grab Atlas Shrugged, but I'd be interested in knowing what people see in her.
4.28.2006 1:20am
BRL:
I have no idea what Gary Cooper's politics were in real life, but I always found it amusing that he did The Fountainhead right around the time he did High Noon. You'd have a hard time finding two more philosophically-opposed films.

Thank goodness. I'm glad I'm not the only person who saw The Fountainhead movie. I always thought that Gary Cooper looked too old and too tired to be playing Howard Roark. He simply looked weary the entire movie, hardly a characteristic belonging to Roark.
4.28.2006 1:24am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
"At least Marx, for all his faults, didn't attempt fiction."

I have always classified Marx as sci-fi/fantasy.
4.28.2006 1:35am
Truth Seeker:
Freder said: And what poll would that be? The poll of selfish, self-absorbed, pretentious, libertarian, young Republicans at exclusive Ivy League and Big Ten Universities.
Go to Google.
Type in "best books"
First link lists Atlas Shrugged as #1
It is one of the best, most inspiring books ever written and anyone who thinks it is evil is a Marxist or otherwise ill-informed.
4.28.2006 2:12am
Truth Seeker:
I'm not at all trying to stir up mischief, but I'm genuinely curious: does Rand tend to be viewed by conservatives or libertarians as an important intellectual?

Conservatives, or rather religious conservatives, don't like Rand because she was an atheist who relied on reason, science and objectivity for the answers to all questions.
4.28.2006 2:16am
Nobody Special:
"It is one of the best, most inspiring books ever written and anyone who thinks it is evil is a Marxist or otherwise ill-informed."

Or literate and emotionally beyond the "angsty high schooler" stage of life.

I can assure you, too, that you'd be hard pressed to find someone more conservative than I am. Rand's books are wooden and dull, and the cult of personality she constructed is nearly as disturbing as the self-righteousness exhibited by the five or six students in the various objectivist clubs infesting campuses.
4.28.2006 2:17am
Kieran (mail) (www):
At least Marx, for all his faults, didn't attempt fiction.

Well, as a matter of fact, he did (and I'm not talking about Capital, either). In terms of quality, Marx's unpublished novel gives Ayn Rand a good run for her money.
4.28.2006 2:20am
Chris of MM (mail) (www):
Haha... I think Jacob's first "populist" list says all you need to know about Atlas Shrugg's position on "best books" lists: it's #1, and L. Ron Hubbard makes the top ten twice.
4.28.2006 2:33am
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
"I'm not at all trying to stir up mischief, but I'm genuinely curious: does Rand tend to be viewed by conservatives or libertarians as an important intellectual? I've never read her myself, but her reputation in my circles (academic philosophy) is not good. She tends to be viewed as a simplistic thinker, and a sloppy writer to boot. But like I said, that's second hand. The pile of books to read is already high enough, so I'm not going to run out and grab Atlas Shrugged, but I'd be interested in knowing what people see in her."

My intuition is that she is the equivilent of some of the more dubious pomo figures--basically playing with idea's that she doesn't really understand and skipping over the more serious arguments on the topic. "A is A" being a prime example.
4.28.2006 2:41am
Kieran (mail) (www):
Somebody thinks it's the worst, most pretentious, etc., but in polls it ranks second to the Bible as one of the most inspiring books ever written.

Go to Google. Type in "best books"

Incidentally, I like it when fans of Ayn Rand appeal to the judgment of the masses as a source of authority. It shows they've really absorbed the message of her books.
4.28.2006 2:43am
Dell Adams (mail):
...William H. Macy as Eddie Willers, of course.
4.28.2006 2:48am
John McCall (mail):
I would agree that Rand is not taken particularly seriously by mainstream academic philosophers, but you should take that no more seriously than you take mainstream academic philosophers.

Rand has a sort of stopped-clock cachet for me. I'm sympathetic to her conclusions, but her reasoning is suspect: most of her work is a vast semantic playground, wherein she adopts some word (say, rational) as a precise term of art in one context, argues some straightforward result from that definition, and then proceeds as if she'd actually proven something about the term as it's commonly used.

But reall,y mocking Objectivist logic is a sport all to its own.
4.28.2006 2:54am
John Jenkins (mail):
I'm not sure that Rand didn't understand non-contradiction. She just didn't necessarily practice it. Anyone who denies moral luck just isn't paying much attention. At the same time, I just love that we have at least one Kool-Aid drinker on here.

Conservatives as such don't like Ayn Rand for much the same reason they don't like Marx. She wanted to set aside everything and institute her new, better, scientifically accurate society. Human beings, as perfectly rational beings, would logically fall into place doing exactly as they ought to. At the same time as she sung the praises of non-contradiction, she called for a system that contradicted human nature (as did Marx). Marx thought man was perfectable, Rand thought him perfect. Five minutes in the history section of your local library shows them both to be wrong.

Rand was not a good philosopher (lacking philosophic charity, for starters), but she serves at least one useful purpose: reading her works will get some people actually interested in philosophy. (I actually think that she was right about one thing: everyone has a philosophy, either one they've chosen and developed or one they've had handed to them, though it's not exactly a profound insight, and Aristotle said basically the same thing when arguing for non-contradiction).

If you're already a philosopher, she's mostly a waste of time. Read Nozick instead. It's better argued, better written, and much more coherent.
4.28.2006 2:57am
GW 3L:
Michael Shermer wrote an interesting article about Rand and her "inner circle":
The Unlikeliest Cult in History
4.28.2006 3:08am
John Jenkins (mail):
I wonder if GW 3L, like me, should be studying for his last law school finals, and is finding a way to procrastinate from said glorious endeavor (oh, and finishing a paper for a seminar).
4.28.2006 3:12am
HLSbertarian (mail):
John Jenkins said: Rand was not a good philosopher (lacking philosophic charity, for starters), but she serves at least one useful purpose: reading her works will get some people actually interested in philosophy.

I agree with that. She takes a lot of shortcuts to what are (in my view) mostly good conclusions. Perhaps more importantly and usefully, she does well in pointing out some important fundamental contrdictions in statist thought. Some of those inspired at 15 by Rand's ideas can, at 20, find the nuts and bolts for supporting them properly in Nozick and Hayek.

And as John points out, the most important contribution is a general one: Getting people to realize that fundamental philosophical choices should precede and dictate politicial/social/economic positions.
4.28.2006 3:13am
Ross Levatter (mail):
As to that poll of favorite books (or is it "most inspiring" books?):

1. The Bible comes in MUCH ahead of Atlas. Atlas is #2, but there's the Bible and then, much below, a clump of other books.

2. The poll is non-scientific; it was a response poll; they listed the answers of those who chose to respond to the question.

I report this as one who personally lists Atlas as one of my favorite reads, has read it many times and still gains enjoyment from many of its florid passages. But far too much is made of this oft-repeated poll. Think about it: #2 most favorite book, and yet most people you know in real life don't think that. What is the proper conclusion: that America is filled with illiterates? (OK, that may be true, too, but it doesn't follow logically!...:-> )
4.28.2006 3:39am
Mr. A-nonymous (mail):
Vodkapundit has a thread going on the pick-your-dream-cast thing.

Rand's #1 screw up was that she completely discounted the notion of children as *necessarily* dependent. Kids don't figure into her philosophy anywhere because they are inconvenient -- an a priori obligation to another lifeform.
4.28.2006 4:33am
Paul Sherman (aka GW 3L) (mail):

I wonder if GW 3L, like me, should be studying for his last law school finals, and is finding a way to procrastinate from said glorious endeavor (oh, and finishing a paper for a seminar).


That about sums it up. Good luck with 'em.
4.28.2006 4:35am
davod (mail):
I do not think Hollywood is capable of making a reasonable movie of this subject. Additionally, I think Grant was trying to show the driven, almost manic, nature of his part's character.
4.28.2006 6:31am
Cornellian (mail):
I'll probably get banned from VC for saying this, but I've never read the book and have no particular interest in doing so.
4.28.2006 7:59am
Fishbane (mail):
When I read Rand (yes, in high school), I had the 15 minutes of inspiration that she so often causes. Thereafter, I came to the realization that what she needed, and could never have due to her personality, was a good editor.
4.28.2006 8:39am
Fishbane (mail):
While we're casting this, It occurred to me that this would have been a great Rob Reiner movie.
4.28.2006 8:48am
Zywicki (mail):
GW 3L raises a good question--will they actually try to put the full radio address in the movie? And, if not, does anyone know whether those in charge of Rand's intellectual legacy permit a shortened version of the speech to occur? Or have they surrendered veto power over the script?
4.28.2006 9:14am
AppSocRes (mail):
Orwell once wrote an essay on good-bad poetry: poems that are compelling on almost every level but lacking one or more of the elements that distinguish great literature, i.e., the literature that is commonly studied and taught in the liberal arts. Kipling was his primary example. Ayn Rand is an extreme example.

Objectively -- no pun intended speaking -- Rand's writing is bad on almost every level: stultifyingly wordy, a stylistic disaster, absurd plots and characters, forwarding a logically inconsistent and psychopathically amoral philosophy. And yet she has a compelling vision of some basic truths about human beings and how they wish to run their lives.

I, and many thoughtful people I know, have read one or more of her books and been briefly galvanized by her world view. Intellectually-inclined, geeky adolescents, suffering from their inchoate and unsatisfied romantic inclinations, are particularly susceptible. Most readers who have the prerequisites to get through one of her novels are permanently influenced in some way or another. for this reason alone, she should be taken seriously.

Rand's novels could make better movies than books. Her over-the-top emotionalism is perfect in a movie setting. Putting her plots and two-dimensional characters with truncated dialogue into a movie could potentially create something with the force of "Triumph des Willens" or "Ivan the Terrible". However, Hollywood thinking is so antithetical to Rand's vision of the world, that any movie version of any of her novels is likely to wind up a travesty rather than a masterpiece.
4.28.2006 9:43am
DFrancis:
I'm not at all trying to stir up mischief, but I'm genuinely curious: does Rand tend to be viewed by conservatives or libertarians as an important intellectual?

The specific appeal of Atlas Shrugged is to a sort of upper middle tier of the intellectual spectrum. The lower end of the tier begins where individuals are comfortable enough with books to make reading selections which are not expressly for narrative value (no-one recommends Atlas Shrugged> as a fun story) but are instead for the purpose of saying "I've read Tolstoy and Rand, what are you reading?" This stage of development frequently hits senior high and undergraduate collegiates, but is by no means restricted thereto. The high end of the tier is at that strata of intellectuallism where one has attempted to mentally process a sufficient number of these "mind-expanding" novels to realize that what you feed into your brain affects how you think and should be carefully filtered.

Among the applied scientists (engineers, programmers, architects, etc.) the probability of falling inside this spectrum in college and then never bursting through the top is fairly high. As an engineer working among engineers I can say that Ayn Rand is held in very high regard by people who produce things not with non-technical management so much as despite them. Luckily there are some practical thinkers among us who can count females up to one, males up to 7 and then quickly assess the lack of appeal of Rand's solution.
4.28.2006 10:18am
Veritas:
While Rand may not have been a "great" philosopher, she was a good enough philosopher to have been taken seriously by Robert Nozick. See his paper, "On the Randian Argument"; also, he briefly discusses her in his book, "Anarchy, State, &Utopia" as an interesting thinker worthy of attention.

That is more than one can say for the vast majority of tenured academic philosophers.
4.28.2006 10:38am
Gary McGath (www):
The desperate hatred some people here are showing for the novel, and especially for its readers, just shows how influential it still is.
4.28.2006 10:49am
So what should they read?:
I'm wondering what DFrancis and others who think of something like Atlas Shrugged as appropriate for upper mid-level tier intelligence think those people should read.

I personally don't tie anyone's intelligence into what they read (unless of course we're talking about extreme devotees of any particular philosophy or outlook). I would tend to think that if you have the patience to sit down and read something like Atlas Shrugged and can grasp its points, you're more than capable of reading most literary works.

I'm certainly not trying to flame you JFrancis; I'm genuinely interested in what material you would recommend to such people. I've always tried not to ascribe an upper limit of intelligence to people based on what they read/like for various reasons. God knows there's a lot of books out there I'd love to read, but simply don't have enough time. Work late, go to the gym, make dinner and it's already 10 PM!
4.28.2006 11:08am
Houston Lawyer:
We used to play this game of casting Atlas Shrugged back in the 80s. As you can imagine, the list of actors and actresses was different, being from a prior generation.

Yes the book is overly preachy, but could be fairly easily adapted into a movie. I'd hate to see a happy ending added.
4.28.2006 11:09am
DFrancis:
I'm wondering what DFrancis and others who think of something like Atlas Shrugged as appropriate for upper mid-level tier intelligence think those people should read.

No flame taken. I don't think that Rand is inappropriate to read at any level of intelligence. I read Atlas Shrugged after completing my graduate work (when I finally got some free time to work through "the stack"). I read it specifically at the recommendation of a coworker. I asserted that the appeal of Atlas Shrugged, by which I mean it's ability to induce the desire to embrace its philosophy as a thinking model, does not reach people who regard reading it as "too bookish" and also does not reach people who exercise careful analysis of the content of books they read for the purpose of thinking new thoughts. The second group has invariably passed through a period of development where they would have been susceptible to the book's appeal, but might just as easily have picked up "The Celestine Prophecy", "Farnham's Freehold", "Flatland", or "The Power of Positive Thinking."

As alternatives, I would have to recommend Xenophon's "Memorable Things of Socrates", any aggregation of Epictetus, "Thus Spake Zarathustra", or even "The Prince", all of which are easily as accessible as Atlas Shrugged and have more lean meat per ounce.

I realize that my recommended list skews conservative but I gotta be me. I also reccomend the New Testament, but only if you're going to read the whole thing.
4.28.2006 11:40am
Meryl Yourish (www):
I read Atlas Shrugged in college, at the urging of a friend who thought it was the greatest book ever written, and Rand the greatest writer. Stangely, my friend was as liberal as I.

I summarize Objectivity as "the theory of selfishness."

Frankly, I was far more inspired by the Illuminati Trilogy (which also could have used some serious editing). "Think for yourself" is a much better philosophy than anything I could get out of Rand.
4.28.2006 11:51am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
DFrancis, I read "The Prince" about 5 years ago, at the recommendation of my admittedly Machiavellian company commander. (Not surprisingly, he was also really into Sun Tzu.) I found it very entertaining, and moderately useful, but I'd be lying if I said that I gathered from it a philosophical underpinning that would justify its worldview. Did I just plainly miss it? (I was sort of busy at the time I read it.) You seem pretty into it, so I'd appreciate some illumination on that subject. :) Thanks, Mike.
4.28.2006 12:19pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):

Jane Fonda as Reardon's mother?


how about Jane Fonda just as a rear?
4.28.2006 12:31pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):

At least Marx, for all his faults, didn't attempt fiction.


oh, no?
4.28.2006 12:32pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

At least Marx, for all his faults, didn't attempt fiction.

Freder really opened himself up there. What's that, like 5 "Das Kapital" jokes on this thread?
4.28.2006 12:34pm
observer:
For anyone who actually likes to think for themselves, the sheer vitriol, name-calling, and appeals to authority in denouncing Ayn Rand and her ideas should be a clarion call to investigate the writings and ideas first hand. Honestly, most of the criticisms here have barely addressed her ideas, resorting instead to intellectual intimidation. Sure, it's easy to lob off a comment like "she's a bad philosopher" or "her writing is bad" without actual reference to an example. Also, it would be helpful if those denouncing her would provide some standard (besides their own taste) by which they draw these conclusions.
4.28.2006 12:48pm
DFrancis:
"I'd be lying if I said that I gathered from it a philosophical underpinning that would justify its worldview."

I wouldn't characterize myself as "into it", since I find many of its technique's distasteful at best. The principal virtues which recommend it in this case are
A) Accessibility; which is a necessary requirement for the audience framed by the user "So_what..."'s request
B) Internal consistency; I find two great weaknesses in most accessible "viewpoint" texts. The first and most unpalatable is a double standard, where certain of the author's ideas are not sustainable under the justification for other of the author's ideas. This doesn't justify rejection of all thoughts in the text, but it certainly makes me more critical of the reasoning. It is exactly this weakness in some elements of my own worldview that keep me thinking critically.
C) Practicality; I am by duck-like impression an applied scientist and will have that thought pattern until I punch out. Many of the texts I reject (and for Freder's benefit, much of the so-called science I reject) I reject because it is useless off the page. This goes beyond indicting theoretical navel-gazing and into the realm of "Who picked up all the Dollar symbol cigarette butts dropped around Shangri-La Valley when these elitest jerks finished puffing? Why weren't they concerned about recruiting the world's most spectacularly intuitive garbage collector?"

That is a long way of saying Machiavelli's recommendations are openly manipulative and frequently distasteful, but he was thorough regarding the complications of their implementation.
With respect to philosophical underpinnings, his model of government systems is simplistic so he spends little time on it, and instead treats the motives and interactions of the individual, extrapolating to the group dynamic without showing his work. The underpinnings are probably best expressed in the chapters on being loved or hated and being respected or feared.

My experience with it in practice has been that it is useful for predicting the behavior of people who buy into manipulation as a management technique. :)
4.28.2006 12:56pm
John Jenkins (mail):
observer, what part of "Ayn Rand lacked philosohpic charity" do you find to be name-calling or an appeal to authority? She lacked it, and was *proud* that she lacked it, calling all of those who disagreed with her, not merely wrong, but evil.

I also just love how Randians always accuse others of not thinking for themselves when such others disagree with the Randians, however, if you agree with the Randians, then you're obviously a free-thinker. The hard left does the exact same thing, which I find at least a little ironic.

BTW, for what it's worth, I disagree with DFrancis about Machiavelli. I think he wasn't a fan of Christian morality and thought that the pagan Romans had a much better system for functioning. I think he was still concerned with "the good" but had a different conception of it. Reading The Discourses concurrently with The Prince makes it more difficult (moderns are more comfortable with The Discourses), but not so much so that they are totall incompatible.

Now, I SWEAR I'm going to finish this paper.
4.28.2006 1:18pm
Albarello (mail):
The desperate hatred some people here are showing for the novel, and especially for its readers, just shows how influential it still is.

For anyone who actually likes to think for themselves, the sheer vitriol, name-calling, and appeals to authority in denouncing Ayn Rand and her ideas should be a clarion call to investigate the writings and ideas first hand.

Hmm, yes, I wonder what other thinkers this line of argument would also apply to?
4.28.2006 1:24pm
Matthew in Denver:
Frankly, I was far more inspired by the Illuminati Trilogy (which also could have used some serious editing). "Think for yourself" is a much better philosophy than anything I could get out of Rand.

Actually, I think the philosophies espoused in the two novels are strikingly similar. But novels argue for an anarchist society against a fascist/socialist society. Both novels claim that man should shape his own destiny based on his on individualism, rather than be shaped by others. Come to think of it, I think Hagbard Celine's character is almost assuredly based off of Ragnar Danneskjöld. They are both sea pirates stealing from the fascist/socialists.

And I agree, both novels are way longer than they needed to be.
4.28.2006 2:12pm
ian (www):
I have never read Atlas Shrugged, but I have read The Fountainhead, on the basis of which I see no reason to torture myself again.
4.28.2006 2:22pm
Gordo:
There is no conflict between rejection of Ayn Rand's philosophical ideas and the embrace of her works of fiction as compelling reads. Especially to the mind of a young, intelligent, middle or upper class reader, her philosophy has great attractions (as it did for me). Only upon refletion and life experience did I determine that her philosophy was untenable and unworkable.

I've read three Ayn Rand works of fiction: The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and We the Living. All are compelling reads - they are utterly unpredictable upon first reading. The Fountainhead is the best of the lot for its storyline. Atlas Shrugged does get too preachy, but is still a great book. And We the Living is also a compelling read, with an utterly unpredictable ending.

Reject the philosophy behind the books but not their craft. They are no "Das Kapital," or "Mein Kampf."
4.28.2006 2:46pm
Jeek:
We used to play this game of casting Atlas Shrugged back in the 80s. As you can imagine, the list of actors and actresses was different, being from a prior generation.

Yup, I remember observing (not participating in) endless conversations about casting Ayn Rand's books as an undergrad at Harvey Mudd College back in the 1980s. Always intrigued me how many techies were Rand fanatics.
4.28.2006 2:48pm
Gordo:
As for casting, I think Angelina Jolie would make an excellent Dagny Taggart. The character is bigger-than-life, full of undisguised sexual energy, almost cartoonish. Jolie is an excellent fit, despite her personal politics.

The character of John Galt is a lot more difficult to cast. No one comes to mind.

How about Kevin Bacon for Hank Reardon. He's pretty versatile - I'm sure he could do it.

Finally, I think Gary Cooper was actually well-cast as the iconic Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. He also was an iconic Hollywood figure, no great actor, but with major star presence and charisma. The casting problems in the movie were with some of the other characters, namely Dominique and Peter.
4.28.2006 2:58pm
Chris Sandvick (www):
The recent publication of Dr. Smiths "Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics" by Cambridge University Press shows that the academic environment is not as hostile to Objectivism as it used to be.

Volokh.com seems to have a libertarian bent so I'll add a little context for the readers. Ayn Rand described the Libertarian movement as the "hippies of the right" and far more of a threat to Capitalism and Liberty than the socialists. Two statements I fully agree with. Contrary to what Matthew in Denver says you can not base a system of individual rights on anarchism and Rand was as opposed to anarchism as statism.

In my experience leftists are dismissive of Rand but every-time I come across a real hater of Ayn Rand they turn out to be a Libertarian.
4.28.2006 3:27pm
slobo:
How about Paris Hilton? She's an heiress. Also she is very self-interested.
4.28.2006 3:30pm
Erebus (mail):
Given Hollywood's recent penchant for remakes, I would much rather see a re-do of The Fountainhead, given the better plot, tighter message, and injustice done to it the first time around. And I suppose the casting should be something as ridiculous as Jolie and Pitt, if only so more lefties might be drawn in and actually learn a thing or two about human rights and intellectual integrity.
4.28.2006 3:41pm
markm (mail):
slobo: But can she pretend to have a functioning brain cell?
4.28.2006 3:48pm
Jaime non-Lawyer:
I read Atlas Shrugged while living in Eastern Europe observing the legacy of Marx's fiction, and I think she got a lot of things right. And yeah, the radio address was way too long.
4.28.2006 4:46pm
HLSbertarian (mail):
Chris said: Ayn Rand described the Libertarian movement as the "hippies of the right" and far more of a threat to Capitalism and Liberty than the socialists.

That may require some qualification. She seemed to despise libertarians to the extent that they represented a fad, a group as guilty as the American left of not grounding their trendy, anti gov't political stances in conscious, basic philosophical choices, leading them to contradictory and unprincipled results.

To some degree, many libertarians (both large-L and small-l) are still guilty of this, but many others (and in my experiece, most of the libertarian-leaning readers here) are not.
4.28.2006 5:12pm
DFrancis:
Returning to topic, I vote Johnny Depp for John Galt. I don't know how good the fit would be, but he has an uncanny knack for putting a completely unique performance on the screen for every role. I absolutely cannot reconcile any two of Willie Wonka, Captain Jack Sparrow, Edward ScissorHands, or Don Juan Delmarco as being the same actor behind the scenes, yet there he is. Oh and John Galt is a social nonconformist/misfit and that fits in very nicely with the list above.
4.28.2006 5:52pm
HLSbertarian (mail):
Daniel Day-Lewis for Galt? If he can be yanked out of his permanent semi-retirement, he's one of the few that could pull it off.
4.28.2006 7:14pm
SteveA:
Observer: Sure, it's easy to lob off a comment like "she's a bad philosopher" or "her writing is bad" without actual reference to an example.

Okay, here's an example from someone who liked the book as a teenager and would still rank it as one of the top five books that have influenced me: (SPOILER WARNING)

Just before Dagny Taggart's airplane crashes into the valley, she and Owen Kellog find themselves on a "frozen train." Now, Dagny is heiress to a railroad fortune and VP of Operations for that same railroad. More than that, she grew up around trains. She and her childhood friends spent hours, even days, playing hooky by hitching rides on her family's trains. How many hours of her life has she spent in the cab of a locomotive? And then there's Kellog, another competent train guy who Dagny's been trying to hire to run part of her railroad empire.

And when the two of them find themselves on a motionless train, abandoned by its crew (Where did the crew go, anyway? Cross-country on foot? In the middle of nowhere?), it doesn't occur to either one of them to crank up that old Diesel and chug it back to civilization. WTF? Even if they didn't know offhand exactly what to do, you'd think these two railroad hotshots could manage to get it rolling.

Instead, they decide to walk down the track to the next station, where they find an airport nearby. Now, until that scene, airplanes barely exist in the book, and there has been zero indication that Dagny knew anything about them beyond the occasional admiring glance. Nevertheless, she buys an airplane, has a mechanic give it a cursory check, and then jumps in and flies it away. No trepidation, no thought that maybe her flying skills are rusty; she treats this new and unfamiliar airplane the way you or I would treat the family car.

Sure, Dagny is a lot smarter, more competent, and more skilled with machinery than your average 30-ish woman in the mid-1950's. She has an engineering degree, highly unusual for a woman at the time and not so common then even among men. Still, most pilots would want a check ride in any new airplane. At a minimum, she would have needed to page through the flight manual and memorize data like the takeoff and landing speeds. But she just jumps in and flies away.

Maybe she really is that good with machinery. But if she is, why can't she start up the friggin' train?

Other flaws include the treatment of friendship, love, and human relationships in general. The best way to think of Atlas Shrugged is that it's a science fiction novel which takes place in an alternate universe populated largely by computers who look like people. Still an interesting read, though.
4.28.2006 7:36pm
just me (mail):
I nominate Juan Non-Volokh to play John Galt. After all, people here have been asking for years (and especially in recent days):

Who is Juan Non-Volokh?

When he comes clean, maybe he'll post a way-too-long podcast.
4.28.2006 7:52pm
Gil (mail) (www):
Brad Pitt as John Galt, perhaps?
4.28.2006 8:26pm
Gil (mail) (www):
Oops, I hadn't read the linked article that already suggested Pitt.
4.28.2006 8:28pm
Jack (mail) (www):
I think Denzel Washington would make a good John Galt. He might be a bit too old for the part now, but he has exactly the right sort of persona: omni-competent, unabashedly masculine and capable of both patience and passion. The way Rand describes Galt's character has always suggested itself as perfect for a black man: self-made, struggling against great odds, quintessentially American. The great thing would be to keep it a secret until the movie was actually released to maximize the shock value.

I like the idea of Johnny Depp as Galt, but I think he'd be better cast as Eddie Willers. Eddie has a certain unappreciated depth that I think most actors would miss, but Depp could nail it. Also, Depp is the only one I know who has both the talent and the humility to do justice to a role that has to be both major (Eddie gets a lot of face-time) and minor (since he isn't really one of the players).

Jolie is wrong for Dagny. She could pull it off (just think of the "Frankie" character in Sky Captain) but her beauty is the kind that anyone could not help missing, whereas Dagny's is the sort that people never notice unless they themselves are the right sort of people. I think Janeane Garofalo would be a brilliant choice, but I've always been partial to Jodie Foster.

Banderas is D'Anconia. No one else will do.

I've never come up with a good Hank Reardon. I used to think Harrison Ford since he needs to be a bit older than Dagny, but I think he is maybe a bit too old now. And when he plays tough guys, he usually goes for the Jim Rockford tough-guy-that-gets-beat-up-all-the-time schtick. Keifer Sutherland has possibilities but he has too much of a baby face.

Sir Anthony Hopkins for Hugh Akston? Or Max Von Sydow? Maybe this is the role Harrison Ford should play.

John Rhys-Davies = Midas Mulligan.
4.28.2006 11:02pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):

Daniel Day-Lewis for Galt? If he can be yanked out of his permanent semi-retirement, he's one of the few that could pull it off.


he's not in semi-retirement, he's semi-comatose.
4.28.2006 11:39pm
David W. Hess (mail):
I was first introduced to Atlas Shrugged in high school by my girlfriend in the 80s and have regularly reread it about every year since along with Lord of the Rings and a few other favorite books. I had a deal with my english teacher (it was a small school) to do book reports alternately on a book I picked and then one she picked (or at least approved of) but Atlas Shrugged never came up. I suspect she would have disapproved and I regret not having ever discussed it with her when I had the chance. I rather like extended plots but then being an engineer who regularly reads data books from cover to cover, it takes something like Milton Freedman's Monetary History of the United States to do me in.

I used to dream about casting Atlas Shrugged and it always came down to three tragic characters and scenes:

1. Eddie Willers representing the man equal to Galt in morals but not ability attempting to repair and restart the dead train after leaving the temporarily restored San Francisco terminal for New York.

2. Ellis Wyatt throwing his glass into the fireplace knowing that their accomplishments in Colorado will not last and that the looters will prevail. His guests, Dagny and Hank, recognize the danger in his foreshadowed violence. Oddly enough, I always hear James Horner's music from Dr. Lillian Reynold's heart attack in the movie Brainstorm here but it was very popular in trailers for many years.

3. Cherryl Brooks fleeing into the night toward her death after learning the nature of her husband and that she has been fighting the very people who share her values. There is no concern for the suffering of the innocent.
4.29.2006 3:38am
Chris of MM (mail) (www):
If you treat "Das Kapital" as fiction, than the 20th century leaves no doubt that Marx's fiction was infinitely more influential than Rand's.

Of course, it's a bit strange to treat things as fiction simply because you disagree with them.
4.29.2006 8:24pm
keypusher (mail):
For what it's worth, the Variety article claims Jolie is a Rand fan.

"As for stars, book provides an ideal role for an actress in lead character Dagny Taggart, so it's not a stretch to assume Rand enthusiast Angelina Jolie's name has been brought up."

No, that doesn't make sense to me either.
4.30.2006 12:00pm
Happy-lee:
Hoffman as Eddie Willers would be brilliant! I can see that talented fat man breaking into tears after failing to make the train go...perfect.
4.30.2006 10:15pm
Truth Seeker:
Saying
Marx's fiction was infinitely more influential than Rand's
is like saying heroin is infinitely more influential than Tylenol. One causes false happiness and millions of deaths and the other just makes a lot of people feel a little better.
4.30.2006 10:52pm