The Ethical Sociopath’s guide to living in the Idiocracy of modernity
For those unacquainted, this novel is a vehicle to explain the philosophy and practical application of objectivism…
I’ve read non-fiction books about philosophy, they are pretty boring and a lot of times after reading them, while they’re intellectually stimulating, I’m not sure if they give me anything actionable. I’m not sure if they are doing anything for me other than making me seem a little smarter at dinner parties — which I guess isn’t so bad… Atlas Shrugged is a book about business people, deal-making, industry, technology and how the government prevents innovation. If those are things that you feel passionately about, then this book will overlay a philosophical framework that I think will give you an interesting perspective. After reading Atlas Shrugged, I can ask myself: what would Hank Rearden do in this situation? How would Dagny Taggart handle this negotiation?
Since so many millions of words have been written, by Ayn Rand and other philosophers, about objectivism I will try to describe it with brevity here…
Objectivism is the antidote to the most insidious idea of the 20th century, which is…
You deserve to be taken care of.
This is the idea that is mostly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people that were killed by their own governments in the 20th century.
In the 20th century, we had some really bad wars, that I’m sure you’ve heard all about but governments actually killed a lot more of their own citizens than these wars did and these governments came into power telling their citizens that they deserved to be taken care of.
While a simplification, this isn’t a conspiracy theory, any credible source of history you can read will confirm this.
As you may have noticed, this idea is NOT EXACTLY on the decline, turn on the TV or browse the internet a little and you will find no shortage of people saying that…
You deserve to be taken care of.
You will find no shortage of intellectuals pontificating remixes of the socialist creed:
From each according to his ability to each according to his need.
The Atlas Shrugged movie adaptations are not great, the book is primarily driven by these powerful, long dialogs between the characters, there are a couple of scenes of cool stuff blowing up but mostly it’s a story driven by conversations and this just doesn’t translate well into a movie. There are so many important parts of the book that explain the philosophy that gets left out of the movie. The protagonists are somewhat sociopathic, if you don’t understand the philosophy — which you won’t just by watching the movies — you may be turned off by the sociopathic characters.
While reading this book it’s important to try to imagine the author’s perspective coming from the communist world. I recommend reading it while learning about the transformation of the old aristocratic European world into the Soviet beast:
Learning about these histories, while reading Atlas Shrugged you will much better be able to understand this feeling of utter despair that people must have had watching their world just become insane around them. The author was one of the very few people that managed to escape this insanity, she made it to America and then she saw the ideas that proceeded communism taking hold in America. The themes of Atlas Shrugged are all the more vivid when you can immerse yourself emotionally in its context by learning about the history of communism.
I feel more and more like I’m living in the world Ayn Rand prophesied, where laziness and mediocrity are rewarded and virtue is punished. Every time you turn on the television you feel like we are getting closer and closer to living in the Idiocracy, probably a lot of the people reading this feel the same. All you see from popular media is slogan chanting, religious platitudes, images of mostly naked women and these cartoon-like characterizations of masculine and feminine sexuality.
It just seems like the world is fucked sometimes doesn’t it?
The counter-argument to this is that, it’s been 50 years since Atlas Shrugged was published and America is still there, Western society is still mostly a capitalist society, no one is going to throw me in a gulag for criticizing the government publicly.
Maybe the world isn’t getting worse, maybe we have always lived in the Idiocracy. Is the entire world going to adopt Ayn Rand’s philosophy? No. The idea that you deserve to be taken care of, is just too convenient and too seductive.
Personal development takeaways…
- Reading this book I’ve abandoned the idea of deserving things, what I have is objectively what I deserve. This outlook is incredibly liberating!
- This book has reignited my passion for the business and entrepreneurial world where virtue and hard work are rewarded. The Biohacking industry is certainly an enclave of the business world that has not succumbed to the Idiocracy.
- Hank Rearden’s lack of social intelligence; in the first half of the book, we see him frequently refusing to practice emotional intelligence and it costs him a fortune. For contrast, I would encourage you to watch the movie Shindler’s List about Oskar Shindler who shared a lot of Hank Rearden’s philosophies but he had some social intelligence. He was the guy who would be partying and negotiating inside deals with the Nazis while at the same time saving Jews from concentration camps.
- James Taggart wants his wife to love him unconditionally when she loves him for what he has and what he is. He has this childish idea that you deserve to be loved simply for existing, not for what you do. This is something that has helped me understand my relationship with my own family a whole lot more.
This is a book that has heavily influenced a lot of really successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, as a result, it’s discussed a lot. You may feel like you don’t need to read it because you are already aware of libertarian, entrepreneurial values. I would say, try reading it anyway… Unlike other books that get talked about a lot, because it’s so long and detailed, the depth of content it contains, it is worth reading all +1100 pages.
So in the book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill begins the book by saying, there’s this secret to becoming rich and getting whatever you want in life, but he doesn’t come right out in the book and say exactly what this secret is. It kind of depends upon your emotional intelligence and ability to read in between the lines to distill what the secret to thinking and growing rich is. Atlas Shrugged contains the secret to living with sanity in the Idiocracy but it doesn’t come right out and state it blatantly, you’ll have to distill it through a filter of your own emotional intelligence, rationality, and cross-study of history.