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Atlas Shrugged - Corporate Social ResponsibilityAtlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility


Atlas Shrugged (1957)

Written by the Russian-born American female author, Ayn Rand (1905-1982)


Fun facts

  • Attacks government control of business.
  • Atlas (who in Greek mythology held the weight of the heavens on his shoulders) symbolizes business people, exploited by parasites and government living off their wealth. Atlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility 
  • Rand (pictured right) researched the locomotive industry for the book by learning how to drive one!
  • Made into a film in three parts: 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Key characters

Dagny Taggart, railroad executive.

Hank Rearden, her lover and steel boss.

Francisco d’Anconia, her ex-lover and businessman.

Jim Taggart, her brother and boss.

Ellis Wyatt, oil boss.

John Galt, business leader .


The storyAtlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility

Dagny Taggart, an executive in Taggart Transcontinental (an American railroad company) and its boss, her brother Jim, are struggling to keep it alive in the face of increasing government interference and a worsening economy.

Dagny is working on the repair of its railway line to Colorado.

She wants to use the world-beating new Rearden metal (developed by the self-made steel boss, Hank Rearden) whom she meets

But the government criticizes the metal, leading to a crash in Taggart’s share price.

Dagny sets up her own successful company to re-build the Colorado line, having discovered that her ex-lover, Francisco d’Anconia has become a worthless playboy.

Disillusioned with America’s anti-business culture, Francisco is deliberately destroying his once hugely profitable copper business. But he respects Hank for defending his steel business.

Dagny, Hank and the young founder of Wyatt Oil, Ellis Wyatt, all fight against higher taxes and punitive government regulation and control of business.Atlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility

As the American economy worsens, people constantly ask “Who is John Galt?”, a mysterious man who has disappeared.

Leading innovators and business people begin to suddenly disappear. They include Ellis Wyatt and the inventor of a revolutionary static electric motor.

Dagny and Hank think America is doomed, because it hates creativity and business success.

Hank is arrested but released, because the government (led by Wesley Mouch) wants his co-operation for a new law requiring patents (including his own for Rearden metal) to be given away to the government.

Hank reluctantly supports this after being blackmailed over his affair with Dagny by her brother, Jim, who hopes this will help him get government support for his ailing railroad business.

Dagny’s plane crashes in a valley where she finds the business people and inventors who have disappeared.

She discovers that they are on strike (the “strike of the mind”), organized and led by John Galt, the inventor of the static electric motor. She falls in love with him but returns to the railroad to work.Atlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility

Her affair with Hank (Grant Bowler in the 2011 film, pictured right) is used by his vindictive wife, Lillian, to blackmail Dagny to support the government’s anti-business laws including the (just announced) nationalization of the railroad industry.

Instead Dagny publicly announces the affair and the blackmailing, warning America of its dictatorial government.

The government organizes a riot at Hank’s steel business, but it is defeated by the steelworkers, led by Francisco d’Anconia, who has been using his playboy lifestyle as cover for supporting John Galt and his strike of the mind.

Francisco saves Hank’s life in the riot and persuades him to join the strike.

John Galt is taken prisoner and tortured by the government after publicly announcing the pro-business demands of the strike.

But he is rescued by the strikers and Dagny who finally joins the strike herself. Galt makes a radio address explaining his philosophy based on self-interest.

Socialist policies (based on state intervention) ruin the American economy and the strikers prepare to return to put things right.


Lessons for corporate social responsibility

Atlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility


1. People and customers matter

A country like America is made great by its people's:

  • integrity.
  • creativity.
  • independent and rational thinking.

Creative minds must be used to provide practical solutions to customers’ problems (like Rearden steel and the static electric motor).

The question, Who is John Galt?’ refers to his

  • mysterious disappearance.
  • brilliant mind (that created the revolutionary motor).


2. Be wary of governmentAtlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility

The book's heroes like Dagny and Galt put the individual first, not government.

Galt says that:

  • government's only purpose is to protect people from physical violence.
  • any state intervention in people’s lives is wrong (like fascism, socialism and communism).


3. Enlightened self-interest

Social progress isn't achieved by self-sacrifice (voluntary or imposed by government) but by enlightened self-interest.

In other words, people must only do good because it’s in their interests to do so.

So everybody in the strike of the mind swears an oath that ends:

“I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine”.

Ayn Rand later called this philosophy “objectivism”.

 Atlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility

4. Money matters

“Money is the root of all good”, says Francisco, because it is essential to production and personal achievement.

But it can only make you happy he adds, if you have the right values to know what to do with it.


5. Promote not punish successAtlas Shrugged - Corporate Social Responsibility

Dagny (Taylor Schilling in the 2011 film, pictured right) and Hank fight against:

  • “looters” (who forcibly steal people’s earnings and property)
  • moochers” (who use other people’s money to help the needy and starving countries).

Francisco d’Anconia believes money is a fair reward for producing things, although an honest man “can’t consume more than he has produced”.

In his radio address, John Galt attacks:

“unearned rewards and unrewarded duties”.

He says that people must fight for their creativity and happiness (which is based on rational creative thought, not “emotional whims”).


6. People possess principles

People are naturally good.

Evil can only exist, if it is allowed to happen.


Key quotes on ethics

“I saw that evil was impotent ... and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it”, John Galt.

“In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit”, John Galt

“Morality ends where the gun begins”, John Galt


Key quotes on success

We are on strike against self-immolation [self-sacrifice]. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. We are on strike against the dogma that the pursuit of one's happiness is evil, John Galt

Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach... The world you desired can be won, John Galt

I refuse to apologize for my success, Hank Rearden


Key quotes on money and happiness

Happiness...proceeds from the achievement of one’s values, John Galt.

Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil, Francisco d’Anconia.

Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants, Francisco d’Anconia

But money is only a tool, Francisco d’Anconia


Key quote on economics

Money is made possible only by the men who produce, Francisco d’Anconia.


Key quote on business success

Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think, Francisco d’Anconia


Key quote on learning and creativity

Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival, John Galt

I am, therefore I’ll think, John Galt

If devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking, John Galt.



Other key quotes

“Who is John Galt?”


Two literature websites to recommend 

1. sparknotes.com

2. litcharts.com

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