On «Atlas Shrugged». Essay I: Atlas’s freedom in times of national emergency

Jo-ann Peña Angulo



On the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of the work “Atlas Shrugged” (1957/2017) of the philosopher Ayn Rand, reviewing the postulates of her thinking, expressed in the plot of her characters, becomes a thorough intellectual work, which seeks to study and understand objectivism, as part of liberal thinking.


Divided into 3 parts: Non-Contradiction One thing or the other and A is A , the dense work raises among others, the idea of ​​freedom in a fictional world, which alluding to a declining American society, may well reinterpret -with the historical care required- to those societies that are protected from the State by non-individualism, attempt against any form and content of free will.


The spinning of life itself, is the epistemological scenario, in which human virtues and miseries unfold, separated from each other by reason, being for Rand, the only possible connection with reality, sustaining life as a value. In this context we see how his absence materializes historical realities, which impose individual self-sacrifice in favor of collective well-being, being the supporters of the latter – gathered in Washington, like Eugene Lawson – who say: « In the past there was an age of the reason, but we have surpassed it and now we live in the age of love»1 as a preamble to Decree 10.289, wielded in times of national emergency, in the name of general welfare and public safety, being its strict compliance, responsibility of the Office of Unification of the State.


Now, to understand the emergence and scope of this decree, we will return to the words of the unscrupulous Wesley Mouch , another supporter of collective well-being:


The economic conditions of the country were better two years ago than last year, and those of the latter were better than the current ones. It is clear that at this rate we will not be able to survive another year. So therefore our only goal will resist in order to return to the previous rate and achieve total stability. We must maintain the line of conduct. Freedom had its chance and failure, so it will be necessary to impose stricter controls. Since people are incapable, or do not want to solve their problems voluntarily, we have to force them2.


Decree 10,289 seemed then to be the ideal mechanism to achieve it. Eight laws conformed the decree, each of which delineating and molded individual and group freedom, at the mercy of employers who opposed to reason, rose to please collective ideals, those who can not tolerate the ingenuity and creativity of individuals entrepreneurs, as creators and supporters of the world system. On these individuals, the Atlases , Decree 10,289 looms, in the world of Ayn Rand, and on which we will write 8 essays, corresponding to each of the 8 clauses , being this, the first of them.


We will begin our journey, through the third clause , not only because it is the same, which invited the successful businessman of Rand’s work, Hank Rearden , creator of the Metal Rearden , to fail , but because it becomes the simile that allows us to reflect on the arguments, that from the State, and under the premise of collective well-being, is imposed on good and individual property. He prayed his first part:


All invention patents and intellectual property rights of devices, devices, discoveries, formulas, work processes and tasks of any kind will be transferred to the nation as an emergency patriotic gift, through Voluntary Grant Certificates, which will be signed by the owners of such patents and copyrights 3


This compulsory transfer of the individual – inventor, creator, innovator – to the State – collective – as an emergency patriotic gift, is the legal contraption that not only deprives the individual of the rights to his own creation, but that separating him from it, emerges the depersonalization, a mechanism widely used by authoritarian and totalitarian systems. Thus, the dispossession of intellectual property by the State, under the Voluntary Grant Certificates document , becomes an accurate attack on the human condition, since by violating -materially and symbolically- the effort and work involved in production of individual intellectual property, not only does it represent for the inventor the loss and mourning of separating -by decree – from his creation but that the kinship of his name and the product of his effort cease to exist, losing himself in anonymity thus succumbing to what collective.


In times of national emergency, the Atlas owes , for the love of the country and in a patriotic effort, “voluntarily” offering the product of its individual effort to the nation. Thus the third clause , materializes arguments such as those of Doctor Ferris:


A genius is a coachman intellectual and a selfish hoarder of ideas that legitimately correspond to the society from where he stole them. All thought is a robbery. If we end up with private fortunes, we will get a better distribution of wealth, and if we end up with geniuses, we will achieve a fairer distribution of ideas 4


Decree 10,289 seems to perfectly delineate the war that, under the collectivist discourse that accompanies the populist state, looms over Atlas , and whose officials such as Eugene Lawson said: “It will give security to the people. Security, just what people want. And if they want it, why not give it to them? Just because a band of rich people opposes? ”5 Intellectual and genius, they become targets of persecution of a collectivist State, which will blur the nominal contribution of both to the nation, thus making use of individual rights, taking forcibly what Do not belong to you.




1 Ayn Rand, La Rebelión de Atlas, Buenos Aires: Grito Sagrado, 2003, p. 591
2 Ayn Rand, Op.cit,  p. 587
3 Ayn Rand, Op.cit,  p. 590
4 Ayn Rand, Op.cit, p. 591
5 Ayn Rand, Op.cit, p. 591




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