Ever since Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, readers have noted its uncanny parallels to real-world political, economic and cultural trends.
In this lecture given just a few years after the novel’s publication, in 1964, Rand takes up the question of “the relationship of the events presented in my novel Atlas Shrugged to theactual events of today's world.”
Rand draws on material from her “Horror File”—a collection of newspaper clippings she had gathered for research purposes during (and after) the writing of Atlas Shrugged—and she identifies close parallels between events in Atlas Shrugged and events of the day.
Among other examples, Rand discusses the so-called “brain drain” from Great Britian—a trend, widely reported at the time, among doctors and research scientists who were moving to America to escape socialized medicine in Britian. She offers real-life examples of legislation similar to the fictional laws featured in Atlas Shrugged—such as the “Equalization of Opportunity Bill,” “Directive 10-289,” the “Railroad Unification Plan,” and the “Steel Unification Plan.”
In pointing out these parallels, Rand notes that her purpose was “not to boast nor to leave you with the impression that I possess some mystical gift of prophecy, but to demonstrate the exact opposite: that that gift is not mystical. . . .history is not an unintelligible chaos ruled by chance and whim—historical trends can be predicted, and changed.”
“There is only one power that determines the course of history, just as it determines the course of every individual life: the power of man's rational faculty—the power of ideas. If you know a man's convictions, you can predict his actions. If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society, you can predict its course.”
“Atlas Shrugged,” Rand observes in closing, “is not a prophecy of our unavoidable destruction, but a manifesto of our power to avoid it, if we choose to change our course.”
This lecture was delivered at Boston’s Ford Hall Forum, America’s oldest (founded in 1908) continuously operating free public lecture series. Over the years, such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Henry Kissinger have appeared on its podium. (1964)
A print version of this talk is available in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.