The Atlas Society has quickly become one of the fastest growing pro-liberty organizations in the country through collaborations with libertarian student grousps such as Students for Liberty and, at times, the occasionally un-libertarian Turning Point USA.
Without fail, students approach the brightly decorated table featuring stickers, pens, and pamphlets from The Atlas Society with their stories of how Ayn Rand inspired someone they know. For some, reading Ayn Rand was the gateway drug to libertarianism. Some rejected certain aspects of Rand’s philosophy but embraced the general themes of individualism and achievement.
My grandparents, who read Rand in the late 1950’s and 60’s, were two of those people. They encountered Rand as graduate students at Columbia University in New York after facing routine discrimination in higher education in the South. Rand’s libertarianism didn’t quite stick with them, but her words on individualism, which inspired her thoughts on racism as “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism” certainly influenced them to break racial barriers in careers in science, law, and academia.
The world has changed immensely since 1957, the year Atlas Shrugged was published, but Rand’s work remains just as important. YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and the creative capital from Hollywood remain fruits of capitalism’s bountiful harvest, but expressing Rand’s ideas beyond lengthy novels, white papers, and lectures is still a creative challenge.
Anthem: The Graphic Novel (2018) by Jennifer Grossman, Atlas Society CEO, and illustrator Dan Parsons is a spectacular start.
Blending provocative, stunning illustrations with words from Rand’s original 1938 novella, Parsons and Grossman share the story of a dystopian society that celebrates the equality of groups rather than the success and achievements of the individual. This society, which is devoid of love and free enterprise, fails miserably.
In this powerful graphic novel Dan Parson’s illustrations paint a clear and tragic image of what a collectivist society looks like for a generation reared with high-definition television and gaming systems.
Anthem: The Graphic Novel was also released at the best possible time.
In our politics today, terms like “capitalist” and “individualist” are making a comeback in discussions of political identity – a hopeful turn away from partisan strife towards truly engaging underlying philosophical principles.
People in Generation Z, like myself, who were born after 1995, should have a special connection to these ideas. After all, we are contributing fresh skills and talents to the workforce, we’re contributing fresh tax dollars into the Treasury, and we’re on the line in the unfortunate event of a new military conflict. Here’s the best news. Generation Z, according to research, will be individualistic, fiscally responsible, and among the most entrepreneurial of any previous generation.
Will Ayn Rand be the gateway drug for yet another generation to embrace libertarian ideals? I’d argue so.
Leonard Robinson is the editor-in-chief of the UB Post.