Behavioral Finance

Thanks, Ayn

On the 50th anniversary of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, we should give thanks for our individual liberties.

The holidays are here again. It's a time of congestive travel, hustle, bustle, shopping, preparing, cooking, long lines, cleaning, and visiting in-laws. That's exhausting enough, but heap on top of that the gloomy world news of war, credit crunches, housing foreclosures, spiraling health care costs, global warming—and it's downright overwhelming.

Even the presidential races are running full throttle, with aspiring leaders of the free world chattering on about our planet's ills. It makes one wonder what the heck to be thankful for this year. We might as well be a punched-up, destitute, George Bailey pondering our own demise at the edge of a bridge (if we didn't know better, of course!).

The Thanksgiving tradition dates back to the early 1600s and is most commonly attributed to the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians, who shared in celebration of the autumn harvest.

"Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday ... The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production."
– Ayn Rand
Though the United States has evolved economically from its agrarian roots to the current service-based economy, the principles of Thanksgiving endure. Fraternity and fellowship flourish during the holidays, and our ability to feast and rejoice remains the result and reward of the market economy we participate in.

As a nation, we value the progress championed by individual producers and innovators. Our liberty allows us to achieve, produce, and profit; and since the birth of our nation, has attracted droves of immigrants and seekers of freedom. In 1926, one of those immigrants was Russian-born Ayn Rand, leaving her homeland behind after the Bolshevik revolution.

October 10th, 2007 marked the 50th anniversary of Rand's magnum opus: Atlas Shrugged. In it, Rand takes a then unfamiliar story where titans of industry are demonized by society and punished for their accomplishments, and turns it on its head, transforming industrialists and innovators into heroes.

Tired of the "moochers and looters" who increasingly restrict business practice and usurp their wealth, Rand's heroes decide to stop working. The bureaucrats and pilfering social programs are left nothing to co-opt as the bright minds that were driving the economy disappear—the world slows to a grinding halt.

Rand's message advocating individual liberty, laissez-faire governance, and free market autonomy highlights a moral code she believed the US was right to adopt. The pursuits of profit and trade, so often maligned, are virtues to celebrate. These self interests have developed the world around us. As expressed in the Declaration of Independence, we are a nation of individuals in rightful pursuit of happiness, and this pursuit catalyzes wealth creation for ourselves and our fellow neighbors.

"This country was the only country in history born, not of chance and blind tribal warfare, but as a rational product of man's mind."
– Ayn Rand

Of the developed nations, the United States continues to offer productive individuals the greatest opportunity to achieve through work. At over $13 trillion in GDP, the US is the largest economy in the world, three times the size of Japan (the next largest). The US takes 4th place in the Index of Economic Freedom, which ranks countries on categories like business, trade, government intervention, and property rights.

Despite the spoonfuls of bitter muck media pundits and White House hopefuls offer the public, we should remember and give thanks for the American virtues Rand held dear. Enjoy with your family, friends, and in-laws a feast symbolizing the fruits of your work and pursuit of self-interest. Ayn would thank you for it.

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*The content contained in this article represents only the opinions and viewpoints of the Fisher Investments editorial staff.