Tax Week, 'Atlas' still resonates on film
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, April 22, 2011

"Atlas," at last! And just in the nick of time. Though Atlas may not be planning to shrug this year, I wouldn't blame him if he did. Foolish politics may hurt his ability to carry the world on his shoulders much longer, even if he wants to.

Actually, in the ancient Greek myth, the Titan Atlas carried the heavens — not, as commonly thought, the Earth — on his shoulders, which explains where he was standing during the chore. But the concept is the same. Our civilization depends on someone holding it all up and together, so we should be grateful and supportive in our own way.

I discovered Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" when I was 18, after the first three boys I dated in college recommended it. When not working my factory assembly-line job, I spent much of the summer reading the 1,084-page paperback.

Waited 50 years for the movie. Heard a few years ago that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt wanted to make it, but couldn't get the rights from John Aglialoro (CEO of Cybex International in Medway); he finally released his version with relatively unknown actors last week.

This works fine for those of us who've been waiting so long, but may not get a large audience of people unfamiliar with the book, which would be unfortunate. Everyone should learn why today's economic equivalent of Atlas might shrug someday soon. The news-clip opening of the film shows what this event would look like. Many clips are already familiar; we can relate to crumbling infrastructure and rising oil prices, and even the sight of an airplane coming apart at the seams.

The book, written in 1957, predicted economic catastrophe in the near future: This may have begun during the Carter presidency but was deflected by the election of Ronald Reagan. The movie updates it to 2016 when the country is starting to fall apart because of ongoing bad decisions by Big Government, Big Unions and the very wrong kind of Big Business (which is familiar to us from the corporate welfare issue).

The heroes of the story are another kind of businessman, the entrepreneurs who "drive the engine of the world" or, as President Obama would call them, "the rich who make more than $250,000 a year."

This is the theme of the book/movie, that the American system functions because of the producers who create the economy with their ideas, ability to raise capital, hard work and ingenuity. Some of them, like railroad executive Dagny Taggert, have inherited wealth then improved the family brand (think of Fidelity's Ned Johnson); others are self-made billionaires and job creators (think of the Massachusetts High Tech executives who helped finance the Proposition 2˝ ballot campaign in 1980).

Rand is rarely credited with her admiration of other good citizens: people at lower levels in the economic hierarchy who work for the job creators, own the small businesses that provide goods and services for them, appreciate their contributions to the national wealth. She honors newsstand operators who distribute the morning paper, cooks who serve warm meals in clean diners. All of these carry the system with their honest hard work and often additional ideas for improvement and growth.

Best example: Eddie Willers, Dagny's childhood friend, helping her run the railroad her entrepreneurial ancestor founded. Most thrilling part of the first film occurs when union railroad workers defy their union boss to volunteer for the first trip over a bridge created by a new kind of steel.

I'm hoping others of my favorite characters will show up in the next two parts of the trilogy: Cherryl, the shopgirl who is disillusioned after marrying Dagny's "Bad CEO" brother; reporters who wish they could cover real news instead of pitching class warfare; students who question irrational liberal professors; the young bureaucrat who struggles with his admiration of the producers that his government loathes. There is someone in Rand's books for everyone to relate to and like.

The movie sometimes repeats the exact dialogue of the book. But it can't give the uninitiated viewer the pages of background necessary to understand the philosophy behind the plot; it has to get inside their minds enough that, as they watch events unfold in real life, they he can relate them to the Randian theme.

We who have always saluted her vision can only hope that those who like the movie will read the book.

After the first three days of limited release to 300 theaters nationwide, "Atlas" had earned $1.67 million, third only to the latest animated children's film "Rio" and the teenage hit "Scream 4," on which it's better not to dwell. Rand writes also about art and culture, preferring beautiful and inspirational to ugly and mediocre. I think Part 1 of the movie version of "Atlas Shrugged," while low-budget and at places somewhat campy, fulfills her vision; it certainly earned my applause at the end.

Please do me a favor and see it soon, so its success will make the producer begin “Atlas Shrugged Part 2” right away.

Meanwhile, ask yourself as the real-life political situation deteriorates: Who is John Galt?

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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