Do you want to live in the world of Atlas Shrugged?

In her masterpiece of fiction, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand emphasizes three key classical liberal themes: individualism, suspicion of centralized power, and the importance of free markets. In this video, Prof. Jennifer Burns shows how Rand’s plot and characters demonstrate these themes, principally through innovative entrepreneurs who are stifled by laws and regulations instituted by their competitors. In the world of Atlas Shrugged, free markets and individual liberty have been traded away for equality and security enforced by the government. Burns ends by reviving Rand’s critical question: do you want to live in this kind of world?

Jennifer Burns is an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia and author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.



  1. Matt Wavle

    Doesn’t "regulatory capture" sound so much nicer than "Cronyism"?
    After all, the capture of something harmful ought to be a good thing, right?  Words matter.  It ought to be called "Partnership with Tyranny" or "Corporations killing Individual Liberty".  Don’t let anyone slip a term like "regulatory capture" by you, unchecked.
  2. Matt Wavle

    I really do NOT understand the statists who give a serious attempt at understanding freedom, free markets, and individualism, who then REJECT living in that kind of world.  The only people I know who are truly afraid of open and honest competition, are those who know that based on their own skill and competence level, will lose, without the status quo of the state’s monopoly of force to force for them a better outcome.  To them I’d say, Stop hiding behind your guard dog, and stand on your own two feet!

  3. Daniel Pealer

    Fear can be a really powerful motivator for those who haven’t lost everything yet.

  4. Greg Gauthier

    I would not want to live in the world of Atlas Shrugged. It is the world we live in now. It is a world full of aggressive second-handers, willing to self-destroy just to spite the man who wants to create.

    I wouldn’t mind living in a world that looks like the Gulch, however.

  5. Steve Davies

    Here we are today. Too big to fail. Taxpayers rescuing failing businesses. A rapidly growing social divide between those that work and those who won’t. 

    Many already think we are in that world, just before the Strike in Atlas Shrugged. 
    We sure are heading that way.
  6. GeF

    Individuals make the difference

  7. David Chapa

    Typical Libertarian analysis.  Leaves out morality.  That is why Rand hated you.

  8. juliansfree

    I first saw this in 2011. Learn Liberty has really improved a lot since then!

  9. Anonymous

    The popularity of this sort of uber-capitalist Libertarianism — there are other types with a much more Leftist and anarchist pedigree — is a distinctly American kind of syndrome that touts asocial individuals while being blind to their relationship to the society/culture that enables them to be individuals in the first place.  Europeans tend to find Rand’s middle-brow pseudo-philosophizing strangely antisocial and puerile, and not without reason.

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