This is a dynamic, powerful book. It is filled with in-your-face pull-no-punches logic and reason. Oh these Ayn Randians (Bernstein has written and lectured with the Ayn Rand Institute for some time). Do they never stop spouting about individual rights, freedom of choice and rational self-interest?
It is a short book, 175 pages in hard cover 6″x 9″ format. It is easily digestible although this like-able academic does lay down a few vocabulary words I had to explore. (Ineluctably, sedulously, farrago, abstemious, exegetically. Penury wasn’t totally alien. Shudder that I should increase my vocabulary while reading.) (I attended a 3-lecture course he gave on the book this summer, Bernstein is a pleasant, down-to-earth, nice guy.)
He starts the book with a reminder/explanation of the Relevant Principles of Objectivism. It is a good condensation for Ayn Rand readers and non-readers alike. If you’re not sure you want to tackle Atlas Shrugged you can get the bare essence in simple terms here in less than 30 pages.
A few quotes:
“The proper name of Rand’s moral code is: “rational egoism.”
“She defines values as: “that which one acts to gain and/or keep.” A value is always the object of an action–it is not a wish, a dream, or a fantasy.” (Both p. 5)
“Therefore, Rand states: “Man [each man] must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself.””
“In Atlas Shrugged, Rand provides a comprehensive answer. The freethinking rational mind is the fundamental means by which human beings create values.”” (Both p. 9)
Part II consists of 6 chapters discussing various moral dilemmas we confront today. The first five are Environmentalism, Islamic Totalitarianism (woof! no-holds-barred here!), Health Care, Abortion Rights, and Free Market Education. The final chapter of the book has subsections discussing The Right to Bear Arms, The War on Drugs (Libertarians will love this one, waste yourself to death on drugs if you choose), Immigration, and Gay Marriage.
I find that books best speak for themselves. More quotes:
“Man is never so much a part of nature as when, by means of rational intelligence, he deploys the natural resources of his environment as a means of achieving life-giving utilitarian purposes.” (p. 48)
“What must be done? First, identify the enemy–second, specify the intended out come–third, use all necessary means to achieve it.
The enemy today is: Islamic Totalitarianism.” (p. 71)
“What is morally and practically, the right step for the United States to now take–and with what intended result?
As in the war against Fascism, so in the current war: the defense of America and American lives requires the utter obliteration of Islamic Totalitarianism and of its principal engine, representative, and standard bearer–the Iranian regime.” (p. 86-87)
[I said this was in-your-face, pull-no-punches. A man who speaks his mind AND backs it up with logic and reason. Chilling reality. Even hardcore Libertarian Ron Paul will no doubt run scurrying from this one. Of course you must read all chapters completely to get his reasons and total argument. -JH]
“The problem is its cost has become exorbitant, making it impossible for many persons to afford.” (p. 101)
“The lesson is clear: there is no limit to demand if those who purchase or consume a product do not themselves pay for it.” (p. 104)
“In broad terms, the solution is simple: get the government the hell out of the medical field and establish a fee market of medicine.” (p. 108)
Abortion: [Read it. Think ‘free to choose’.]
“The main reason for private school superiority is that such schools are immune to the problems that inescapably plague government schools.
A private school cannot force customers to purchase it product, nor can it compel anyone to finance its existence, nor can it regulate or curtail the activities of its competitors. …Having to earn their customers and money, private schools possess strong economic incentive to provide excellent educational services.” (p. 140)
War on Drugs:
“It is horrifically immoral to coercively prevent adults from indulging their drug(s) of choice. Such a policy is a manifest violation of an individual’s right to his own life, his own body, his own mind, and his own choice of which substance(s) to ingest into his body.” (p. 158) [Ron Paul is cheering on this one. -JH]
Epilogue – Re-stating the Theme:
“The book’s theme can be re-stated succinctly: in all cases, consistent protection if individual rights and establishment of a free market constitute the solution to America’s current dilemmas. There are no exceptions.” (p. 175)
You get the idea. Read this book. If you value a book by the weight or number of pages rather than the conciseness of thought then it is moderately expensive. You’ll find a way.
Liberal progressives (Democrats), Conservatives, and Libertarians will all find something to love and something to hate in this book (or at least disagree with). What will it be for you?
For me, I must re-read this book again soon. It is important.
- Ayn Rand: Patron saint or soulless capitalist? (investmentwatchblog.com)
- Why is Ayn Rand so popular? (bbc.co.uk)