Atlas Shrugged Part Two: Better Actors, Longer Polemics

TYG likes the book and even she didn’t care for the new movie. Unsurprisingly, neither did I (I weighed on the first part’s flaws in three parts: One, two and three).
Suffice to say, everything from the first film continues: The economy collapses. More brilliant businessman and creative geniuses disappear. The government gets more oppressive. Dagny Taggart investigates the mystery of John Gault. And the setting is still some near future time when economic crisis has turned the government insanely socialistic.
As I noted when the first film came out, setting the film in the future just makes it ridiculous: As we can see from the current economic crisis, where even raising taxes on the poor to the level of 1999 is controversial, we’re hardly sliding into socialism (as compare current proposals from the candidates to the 1956 Repub platform). Though having argued with people who are convinced Obama’s re-election will lead to government nationalizing EVERYTHING, it’s quite possible the film-makers think they’re presenting gripping economic realism.
The future setting gets even more ridiculous here than in Part One. A crucial plot point is the government blackmailing Rearden (inventor of the Rearden metal) into giving up his rights to his invention to the government (side note: Much as I complain about how Bush and Obama have violated legal precedent, Rand—assuming the movie is reasonably faithful to her work—is utterly clueless about how law and government work) by threatening to expose his affair with Dagny (necessary because he can’t get a divorce) and ruin her.
Unless the future government revoked no-fault divorce in-between movies, why exactly can’t Rearden get out of his marriage? Hell, even in the 1950s, a few weeks in Reno would do the trick (though I admit he’d be resistant to tearing himself away from his steel mill). And even allowing a double-standard exists, the days when having an affair would be the kiss of death for Dagny’s career or her social standing are long gone.
And while it’s key to the movie that we respect Dagny—that she’s one of the creative talented people crushed by altruism and socialism—she frankly comes off incompetent as hell. When one of the locomotives break down while she’s out of town brooding, nobody has any idea what to do about it. It’s quite clear that if she were there, she’d have been the one making the call.
That’s insane. I’ve been in several airplanes that needed a part replaced or something else fixed at the last minute, but I never imagined the airline’s chief operating officer actually had to make the decision. That’s what you have underlings for—so why doesn’t she have any? In fairness, it’s implied Galt has been snatching all the good people, but that should have been emphasized a lot sooner.
I’ll get into two big logic-deadened parts of the movie in the second post, but let me close this one by saying Ayn Rand is pretty much wrong about everything. She sees a complete dichotomy (altruism vs. selfishness) when they can exist in the same person, the same life. As the Jewish scholar Hillel once put it, if I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I?
In the same way, Rand assumes that if we operate at the level of a society, linked together, and the government does anything to take care of the weak, then there is no justification for taxing the rich. Me? I don’t want the return of the 90 percent tax rates on the rich we had when I was born, but I also don’t object to the rich paying to keep the poor from dying in the streets.
More next post.

5 Comments

Filed under economics, Movies, Politics

5 responses to “Atlas Shrugged Part Two: Better Actors, Longer Polemics

  1. Pingback: Ayn Rand’s logic isn’t any better than her polemics | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: A movie and some TV | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Dystopia | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: The Story Behind the Story: Atlas Shagged (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  5. Pingback: Woman as hostage, as engineer, as office drone, as widow: movies and TV | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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