When I was in junior high school, we were assigned The Communist Manifesto. I can’t remember why we read it, or in what class, but I do remember thinking that the philosophy detailed in the book made some bit of sense. Something about it tickled the back of my head, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was my father who made me see the flaw in the whole theory. I told him I thought it was an interesting way to live, and he simply said, “It will never work. Every man wants to have something that is his, something that he owns and has worked for. Communism doesn’t allow for that.” That stuck with me, and at the heart of Atlas Shrugged is a story that aims to prove that statement out. I don’t want to get too political with just a book review, but with this book it’s kind of difficult. Just saying you like it is a form of political statement.
The story follows Dagny Taggert, operating directory of Taggart Transcontinental, a locomotive empire created by her father. At the beginning of the book, which takes place somewhere in the 1950s, things with the empire are starting to crumble. Small chinks at first, but as the book moves on, we realize that the men of industry, the greatest people that Dagny needs to fix things, are disappearing. Just went she needs them the most, they drop everything they are doing, abandon their factories and their businesses and disappear.
Dagny doesn’t understand what’s going on with the men who are disappearing, and she takes strength from her friendship with Hank Reardon, the creator of Reardon metal, and the other character that the narrative follows. Together, they do their best to combat the crumbling of all things good around them, fighting against incompetence, apathy, and a government that wants to tie their hands and claim everything good they’ve created.