Atlas Shrugged: Why Are All the Main Characters Rich and Powerful?

I think a lot of critics don’t like that the main characters in Atlas Shrugged are all rich, powerful, and have fancy titles. I think the reason why the main characters had to be wealthy and powerful is in the title of the book – the book is mostly about specific people becoming the next new hope for the broken economy… and then disappearing and taking their industry with them, leaving the country to fend for itself and find the next new hope. They are the people who extract/produce stuff we all depend on – fuel, raw materials, the infrastructure. When they shrug, bad shit happens. A lone worker or an academic shrugging wouldn’t have the same effect.

However, it doesn’t mean such a person’s story is not worth telling. I think this happens to philosopher Hugh Akston. He was a professor at a university, and a known advocate of reason. After a while, reason fell out of favor and his teachings were no longer marketable. Not only that, but John Galt calls on him to strike and contribute at little as possible to the world. So Dr. Akston gets a job flipping burgers. He’s extremely good at it. Dagny finds him and can’t believe a philosopher would work as a cook. She tries, unsuccessfully, to get him to work for her, for a much higher pay.

“ ”But . . . but what are you doing here?” Her arm swept at the room. “This doesn’t make sense!”

“Are you sure?”

“What is it? A stunt? An experiment? A secret mission? Are you studying something for some special purpose?”

“No, Miss Taggart. I’m earning my living.” The words and the voice had the genuine simplicity of truth.

“Dr. Akston, I . . . it’s inconceivable, it’s . . . You’re . . . you’re a philosopher . . . the greatest philosopher living . . . an immortal name . . . why would you do this?”

“Because I’m a philosopher, Miss Taggart.””

What I like about this is that Dr. Akston abandons his fancy title for a low-status job, for justice. When he says “Because I’m a philosopher”, I hear “Because I live my principles”. Although the first time I read that, I interpreted it as “I can’t just be a philosopher, getting a monthly paycheck from the government, I’d rather do something real people are willing to pay for”. And perhaps my original interpretation is not entirely wrong. Even while he’s striking, Dr. Akston is doing a great job at work. I think someone who values competence and reason can’t stop themselves from living up to those values, even when their goal is non-contribution. They want to live off of something real people are willing to pay for.

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6 Responses to Atlas Shrugged: Why Are All the Main Characters Rich and Powerful?

  1. Eric says:

    I agree. Anybody worth anything gets satisfaction from what they’ve earned. Men will chafe under getting handouts—except for the bums and dirtbags who think they’re entitled just because they exist.

    I heard some stupid bum on the bus awhile back tell another bum that ‘everyone should experience homelessness for a year to know how it feels.’ What an A——e. I felt like punching him in the mouth. But that’s the kind of scum Liberalism breeds: an arrogant underclass, like parasites resenting their host.

    I’ve known men like Dr. Akston— our culture calls them ‘losers’ but they’re the ones whose spirit drives it.

    • Liz says:

      I agree with your overall assessment, Eric, but I think these types of “entitlement” justifications go further than just the underclass or people we typically think of as parasites. Donald Trump did go bankrupt several times yet his credit remains sound in the spirit of “too big to fail”….most of us don’t have that luxury to continue to get loans for our failing business ventures. He probably doesn’t use immigrants himself but I’d bet a good sum of money (and have a lot less of it than Trump) he looks the other way when all the contractors under him do. It’s the same throughout…Trump is just an easy example of corporate cronyism. At least he’s refreshingly un-PC.

      A person in one of the military forums I frequent wrote the following. He lives in South Korea now: “The American Dream is no longer in America…
      …unless you are an illegal alien living in the shadow economy where none of the rules really apply to you… seemingly by design.
      But to work hard and build a successful independent stable life integrated with society is increasingly difficult… that requires a lot of hard smart work as it is… yet also requires additional stress, time, and expense to maneuver through the needless bureaucracy designed to protect big companies.”

      He’s exactly right. And I don’t believe any of it is ignorance either, any more than I believe Mister “if I had a son he’d look like Trayvon” actually wanted a son like Trayvon, nor did he ever think that was a “really cool clock” Ahmed made.

      Side personal anecdote re upper-level entitlement:
      A friend of ours recently went to a meeting for Generals. They had a guest speaker who left enough books for everyone. Twenty Generals total. But nearly half of them…eight of the Generals out of 20, didn’t get a book because some of the others took more than one. The book’s title which is ironic in the context: ‘Leaders Eat Last’.

      • Eric says:

        The failure of Ameroboobs to understand what you just said is how the two-party Duopoly remains in power here. lol On one hand, the so-called Conservatives protect the interests of the parasitic rich while the so-called Liberals protect the interests of the parasitic poor; and both penalize the Middle Class to support either one.

        What we really need is a new economic paradigm, something like this:

        1. The Productive Class: those who produce something of value and benefit society.

        2. The Nonproductive Class: those excluded from the first class by circumstances like age or disability or other factors beyond their control; and by necessity are supported though unproductive.

        3. The Counterproductive Class: those who cost society more than they benefit it without the mitigating circumstances of the second class. A rational society would suppress this element; but ours instead puts it in control.

  2. Liz says:

    “I think someone who values competence and reason can’t stop themselves from living up to those values, even when their goal is non-contribution. They want to live off of something real people are willing to pay for.”

    That was my interpretation of Dr Akston’s character as well. He was still the same person, fundamentally…his value system precluded him from remaining a part of a system he no longer believed in.

    • Now I also reached the part of the book where Dagny meets Galt’s Gulch. I like how everyone is “an aristocrat working a lousy job”. Most of them are intellectuals and can do art, science or philosophy, but since those things are not immediately sellable, they also work jobs that are needed (farmer, sales clerk, janitor, mechanic, etc.).

      • Eric says:

        That’s what American pioneers did. Most of the people who settled the frontier were educated or skilled labor from the Eastern states or from Europe who built all those early communities.

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