Over the past week, an extraordinary wave of “Tea Party” protests has erupted across America. Citizens around the country have expressed outrage at the government’s mishandling of the financial crisis. And one of the most intriguing developments has been a resurgence in interest in Ayn Rand’s classic novel Atlas Shrugged.
Denver’s Tea Party protest opened with a reading from Atlas Shrugged. A sign at the New York City protest read, “Ayn Rand Was Right.” One banner at the Atlanta Tea Party said, “Read Atlas Shrugged Before It Happens.” The Ayn Rand Institute reports that sales of Atlas Shrugged have nearly tripled compared to last year due to Americans’ concerns about the economic crisis.
So why has there been such a renewed interest in Ayn Rand?
Stephen Moore identified one reason in his Wall Street Journal column, “Atlas Shrugged: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years.” Atlas Shrugged depicted a future in which America descends into economic chaos due to ever-increasing government regulations. Each new problem spawns new government controls that merely deepen the crisis. The result is a downward spiral that nearly destroys America. Many Americans are finding Rand’s predictions uncomfortably close to real-life events.
Another reason for Rand’s appeal is her emphasis on the moral dimension. One of her themes was that no country can survive when its government constantly punishes good men for their virtues and rewards bad men for their vices. Americans correctly recognize that it is unjust for the government to take money from those who have lived frugally to bail out those who have lived beyond their means. Honest men should not be forced to pay for the irresponsibility of others.
Finally, Atlas Shrugged resonates with many Americans because they recognize that our current crisis is not just about bailouts and budget deficits. It’s also about a more fundamental issue — the proper scope of government.