A Brief Critique of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

by Ken V. Krawchuk


In my humble opinion, Atlas Shrugged is the best book ever written.

As has happened with so many other people, reading the novel has changed my life. Since first picking it up in 1983 at the age of 30, I've read the book more times than I can count. The ideas the Author portrayed helped to transform me from a low-profile, lifelong liberal Democrat into an eight-time Libertarian Party candidate, including two record-breaking campaigns for Pennsylvania Governor and a credible run for the Libertarian Party vice presidential nomination. As the song says: What a long, strange trip it's been.

It has long been my habit after each race to take a break, relax, and recharge my philosophical batteries by re-reading Atlas Shrugged; and when you read something enough times, little things inadvertently and unavoidably start to stand out and grab your attention, much like recognizing new foibles in your spouse after remaining oblivious to them for so many years.

This site is the end-product of my latest re-reading, in the wake of an abortive run for U.S Senate. It's a chronicle of what I believe to be some of the unnoticed foibles lurking within Atlas Shrugged that were secreted there by my metaphorical philosophical spouse. I offer this critique in good spirit; not to drag down the good name of the Author or denigrate her writings, but rather to illustrate certain viewpoints that perhaps others may not have considered. Also, on a personal front, it offered me the pleasure of crawling around inside the bowels of the best book ever written. That alone is reason enough; but I digress.

Despite it's epic length, I've found that Atlas Shrugged is virtually error free. Out of the 1,168 pages and over 600,000 words of the hardback edition, I could identify only twenty questionable passages; that works out to one error every fifty-eight pages, a record most could never hope to challenge. While most of them are indisputably errors, a few of my observations may be open to interpretation. I'll leave the final judgment to the reader; I'm only the messenger.

I've grouped the errors into four broad categories, ordered from what I consider to be the least important to the most. The categories are:

Within each category, the examples are similarly ranked from the least to most egregious. For each error, three items are included:

To assist the reader in locating the full source text, if need be, for all quotes I've included the page number and line number based upon the Random House hardback edition, represented as "page-dot-line". For example, the first line of the book is (3.1), meaning page 3, line 1, while the last line of the book is (1168.40), meaning page 1168, line 40. From this notation, it's possible to mathematically derive the location of the quotes in other editions of the book as well. For those interested in the details of the formula for doing so, see Appendix A.

As an aside, I have been informed by my Objectivist friends that the title and subtitles of this pamphlet may come across as needlessly harsh. Rest assured that my intent was to be clever, not defamatory, and how far I've missed that mark is an indication of the quality and limits of my cleverness. If anyone is offended by the titles, I suggest that you get a life! and simply get over it, lest you continue to surrender your peace of mind to every bozo who comes blathering down the pike. Besides: To quote Vernon Howard, "Inner liberty can be judged by how often a person feels offended, for you can no more insult a mature man than you can paint the air."

In that spirit, I trust you'll enjoy my blather.

     Ken V. Krawchuk

     June 25, 2006

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Last updated:
     2007-10-20 -- New Error of Philosophy added
     2007-11-01 -- New Error of Calculation added
     2008-04-20 -- New Error of Logic added
     2008-07-11 -- Numerous external links added
     2008-08-08 -- New Error of Philosophy added

Atlas Flubbed

> Introduction
Part 1: Errors of Grammar
Part 2: Errors of Calculation
Part 3: Errors of Logic
Part 4: Errors of Philosophy
Appendix: Finding quotes in other editions

Atlas Flubbed in PDF pamphlet format

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