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Doctors forbidden from treating their patients as they see fit. Bankers forced to loan to those who cannot possibly pay their debts. Teachers prevented from inspiring and motivating students due to government standards. Does this look like an accurate description of 21st century America? It’s also a description of the world Ayn Rand feared and predicted more than half a century ago. For over fifty years, a silver screen adaption of one of the most powerful, prescient, and influential novels in history has eluded Hollywood. But no more.
With the release of the third part of the expansive Atlas Shrugged film trilogy (a format necessitated by the book’s 1000 page length), America is finally getting a much needed refresher course in the dangers of government grown out of control, and the malicious doublespeak that allows politicians to disguise theft and bullying as “fairness.”
The striking thing about this film is how closely its supposedly fictional world resembles our own. Although an anachronistic preference for rail travel over commercial flight and visions of motors that border on perpetual motion devices give the film a quasi-science fiction, alternate reality feel, the observational portrait of an economy in crisis - as well as a correct understanding of the causes of that crisis - is astute in the extreme.
From the Affordable Care Act, to Common Core Standards, to the government’s increasingly desperate attempts to control the internet, the policies supported by today’s political class might just as well have been dreamed up by the antagonists of Atlas Shrugged, a similarity that is borne out by how seamlessly snippets of cable news commentary shows fit into the film’s narrative. The scariest thing about Atlas Shrugged is its realism.
The world of Atlas Shrugged is peopled by two kinds of individuals: those that produce and add value, and those that do not, favoring instead the levers of political power to manipulate and coerce others into doing their bidding. Rand’s characters are intentionally drawn as exaggerated archetypes to highlight the differences between the men and women who create and those who can only destroy.
As civilization crumbles around them, the looters and moochers continually try to tighten their grip, only to find the last vestiges of control slip away from them. It’s the perfect illustration of the old saying “if you love something, let it go.” An economy can only prosper when it is free, when men are free to create, to innovate, to improve the world around them.
Atlas Shrugged Part III should serve as a warning to all of us, but more importantly, it should be an inspiration. We should all strive, like the inhabitants of Galt’s Gulch, to live for ourselves, and not ask others to live for our behalf. By simply embracing that individual principle, we can make a difference, make our country a better place and, ultimately, change the world.