A friend of mine pointed me to Paul Krugman’s blog, but the post there pointed me to a post that John Rogers (one of the creators of the TNT series Leverage) put up on his Kung Fu Monkey blog. He called the post “Ephemera 2009 (7);” but it is basically a collection of unkempt thoughts that Rogers assembled on March 19, 2009. The particular thought that caught Krugman’s attention was this one:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Krugman offered it up without comment, but I never seem to be able to leave well enough alone. This may be because I recently put up a post of my own with the following sentence:
There is something infantile about reading only for the comfort of experiencing what we already know.
For all the bulk of Atlas Shrugged, I suspect one can apply that sentence to many, if not most, of its readers and probably all of its staunchest advocates. Rand herself declared that her Objectivist philosophy was grounded in egoism; but, in the midst of all of her professions to reason (which seem to have foundered on applying rigorous logic to false premises), hers is the egoism of the lower levels of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, the levels concerned only with the self-satisfaction of deficiencies. As I wrote about Nicholas Carr back in 2008, if Google is not making us stupid, it is at least reducing us to a level of such self-indulgent infantilism in ways that I suspect Rand could not have ever dreamed.
I have no problem with those who already know the story of Lord of the Rings and read it anyway; but I always thought that growing up was a matter of getting beyond the “false truths” communicated in books like Atlas Shrugged.