The Resonance of Libertarian Oratory
By Bryan Caplan
My co-author Scott Beaulier‘s now blogging and teaching a course about Atlas Shrugged. He always was lucky… except for that time that he accidentally decapitated himself during his first session of Dungeons and Dragons, but that’s another story.
Anyway, Scott’s class just read Hank Rearden’s trial scene in AS, and he’s got a question for them:
Throughout that section, Rand hints at the general public being generally sympathetic to Hank. This
is at least the second time where the public appears to be mildly
pro-capitalism–the first case occurs after Dagny and Hank successfully
complete their first ride on the John Galt Line. While
the general public seems to, at times, be naturally libertarian, their
attitude about capitalism and government is easily swayed by the
[H]ow accurate is Rand in her description of the general public, and
would they easily tip back in our direction if we just had a Hank
Rearden or two in court every day?
Sadly, I think Rand’s just engaged in wishful thinking (though not quite as wishful as the trial in The Fountainhead when Roark gets acquited for blowing up a public housing project). If the American public really swooned to libertarian rhetoric, political competition between power-hungry politicians would ensure an ample supply. It’s true, of course, that a few notables have made libertarian speeches resonate with a mass audience; Ronald Reagan and John Stossel come to mind. But overall, statism is an easier sell.