As I transition to doing more research for the Atlas Falls cycle, which is a parody of Atlas Shrugged, I think that the current administration makes the work highly trenchant. Indeed, part of my research!
Part of my criticism of Objectivism is that it doesn’t work because people aren’t anything like the heroes or villains of Atlas Shrugged. What makes this highly apropos is the relationship between Rand-devotees in the Senate like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul with Donald Trump.
I have thought a long time to the extent that Trump shares the goals of Objectivism. While Trump is the kind of man that would be created by Objectivism, that’s because of its ideological idiocy – the idea that ruthless ambition has a limit, an idea that is verbally expressed in the novel but ignored in practice. But, in the end, Trump is one of Ayn Rand’s enemies: a crony capitalist who finessed government regulations to get taxpayers to foot the bill of his construction contracts, using tons of insider pull. In the parlance, Trump is a looter, raiding the public trust to subsidize his business ventures, succeeding more because of federal largesse and elaborate contacts than holding himself to the tenants of laissez-faire capitalism.
Yet, he is the President, and none of the government Randroids have the guts to call him what he is: a crony capitalist. Not only has Trump gotten one over on the disciples of Rand in the government, Ryan, in particular, has his tongue so far up Trump’s ass that he knows what Trump ate for dinner two minutes before Trump does.
When writing a parody of Atlas Shrugged, though, this dynamic between the followers of Rand and a man that Rand would consider an archenemy (if one consistently adhered to Objectivist philosophy) is fascinating.
I acknowledge that this is a lot of interpretation, in part because the characters of Atlas Shrugged don’t live up to Rand’s stated ideology. From murderous piracy of Ragnar Danneskjold to the intellectual property theft of Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden to innumerable breaches of contract (which are supposed to be the bedrock of Objectivist law and order), the characters of Atlas Shrugged don’t live Rand’s ideology. So, given the immense failure of the cast of Atlas Shrugged to live up to Objectivism, Trump is very much like a Randian hero as written.
You read Atlas Shrugged without understanding the supposed ideology of Objectivism, the lesson of the book is clear: it’s okay to do anything, to break any law, destroy any contract, to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to kill to get your way. In this regard, Trump is very much like Rand’s heroes, even down to the sexual abuse of women.
Which, ultimately, is a big part of what the Atlas Falls cycle will be about: how Rand’s heroes aren’t who they think they are, how they violate all the principles they claim to hold. That Paul Ryan and Rand Paul’s horror at Trump is simply the horror over the lessons of Atlas Shrugged.