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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes


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 Make sure you check out the new movie version of Atlas Shrugged, which opens in theaters today... Fred Barnes's thoughts.

The story is at least as relevant today as it was when the novel was published in 1957. It plays up the virtues of free market economics. Its heroes are capitalists and entrepreneurs and innovators who pursue wealth for its own sake and, as a result, produce a society that is better, richer, and more creative. That may be counterintuitive, but it’s the way Adam Smith’s invisible hand works. The pursuit of self-interest boosts everyone.

This is important. The villains in movies and television shows are often businessmen or anyone involved in making money. It’s a giveaway when these folks appear on screen. You know right away who the bad guy is. The role reversal in Atlas Shrugged may shock viewers. Unless they’ve read the book, they won’t be expecting a businessman and a businesswoman whose for-profit endeavors benefit society. In movies and TV, that role is usually played by the altruist, the liberal, the government employee, the inspector, the high-minded professor--the do-gooder, as we used to refer to them.

In Atlas Shrugged, those folks are the villains. They regulate. Rather than generate wealth, they redistribute it. They’re the crony capitalists, corrupt scientists, well-connected lobbyists, and union officials who seek special privileges while demanding “fairness.” How often have you seen such a group of characters cast as this in a movie or television show? Probably never. But we see them in real life. And in that sense, Atlas Shrugged is realistic. It’s closer to the way the world works than almost any movie you might see. 

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