Tag Archives: conservativism

Book Review: Atlas Shrugged

662Finishing Atlas Shrugged has given me a feeling of invincibility – the kind that necessarily comes with the completion of a philosophical and political manifesto dressed in novel threads and clocking in at just under 1200 pages. Booyah.

Finishing Atlas Shrugged has also given me a feeling of exasperated curiosity – the kind that desperately wishes to ask Miss Rand a single, pointed question: How could you get so much right, and yet get so much wrong?”

The novel’s title refers to Atlas, that Titan of Greek mythology who was doomed to bear weight of the world on his shoulders (quite literally). The significance of the reference can be seen in this conversation between Francisco d’Anconia and Hank Reardon, two of the main characters:

“Mr. Rearden,” said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, “if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders – what would you tell him to do?”

“I… don’t know. What… could he do? What would you tell him?”

“To shrug.”

The consequences of such a move would be cataclysmic – and that is exactly Rand’s point. Atlas is a man of myth; but what about the great men and women who keep the world going, all while being violently maligned as “greedy” and “self-centered” by the looters and moochers of society? What if these builders and producers – these Atlases – simply shrugged? What would happen if they abandoned their responsibilities altogether and left the world to fend for itself?

Rand’s answer: Political anarchy. Societal collapse. Economic ruin. Hell on earth.

Rather than trying (and failing) to address everything Rand and her novel have to offer, I’ll limit myself to two points. And they are:

I. Rand is an excellent writer who knows how to express her ideas with bold and unequivocal passion.

II. Anyone who believes her philosophy is or should be the moral bedrock of conservatism needs to do some serious rethinking. Continue reading Book Review: Atlas Shrugged

TR and FDR

“There are two figures that dominated the American scene in the twentieth century. the first was Theodore Roosevelt. The second, remarkably, was his young cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Both men possessed great personal charisma, keen political instincts, penetrating social consciences, seemingly boundless energy, and brilliantly diverse intellects. Both of them left a lasting impress upon the world. But that is where the similarity between the two ends. In every other way, they could not have been more different.

“Theodore Roosevelt was a conservative social reformer who wanted to firmly and faithfully re-establish the ‘Old World Order.’ Franklin Roosevelt, on the other hand, was a liberal social revolutionary who wanted to boldly and unashamedly usher in the ‘New World Order.’

“Theodore Roosevelt’s motto was ‘speak softly and carry a big stick.’ Franklin Roosevelt’s motto was ‘good neighbors live in solidarity.’

“Theodore Roosevelt spoke forcefully, but led the world into a remarkable epoch of peace – he even won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905. Like his mentor, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt spoke of peace, but led the world into the bloodiest confrontation of man’s tortured history.

“The difference between the two perspectives was fundamental and presuppositional. Whereas Franklin Roosevelt’s liberal global vision was informed by an unhesitatingly humanistic worldview, Theodore Roosevelt’s conservative civic vision was informed by an uncompromising Christian worldview. In fact, while Franklin Roosevelt rejected the faith of his fathers in early in his life, Theodore Roosevelt held tenaciously to the spiritual legacy that had been passed on to him by his father and grandfather. He often reveled in his Dutch Reformed and Scottish Covenanter roots. And the family ties to ‘that stark Puritan divine Jonathan Edwards’ was for him a point of special pride.

“The practical outworking of these two models for American life and culture was dramatic: Franklin Roosevelt’s led to invasive bureaucracy at home and intrusive adventurism abroad, while Theodore Roosevelt’s led to progressive grassroots reform at home and sagacious cooperation abroad. Franklin Roosevelt’s vision paved the way for modern liberalism, accomodationism, federal interventionism, and the New Left. Theodore Roosevelt’s vision paved the way for modern conservatism, anti-communism, communitarian responsibility, and the New Right.

“Both men understood the very critical notion that ideas have consequences. As a result, the twentieth century in America has largely been the tale of two households – of the Roosevelts of Sagamore Hill and the Roosevelts of Hyde Park.”

~ George Grant, Carry A Big Stick (Pt. II, pp. 179-181)