Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

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Hello and welcome to this new video transcript from the blog Books That Can Change Your Life.

I’m currently in Lille and I’m making this quick video to tell you about an exceptional book that has just been officially published in France under the title La Grève. The original title of this book by Ayn Rand is Atlas Shrugged. It’s a book that I already talked about briefly in my Blogueur Pro blog in my article about Los Angeles. I talked about the book explaining that it was a secret book, unknown in France. Well, it’s not a secret any more. It has finally been published in French!

I wanted to talk to you about this book because I find it truly exceptional. To say that the story of its official translation into French is quite a saga is an understatement! I should mention that the book was first officially published in the United States in 1957. Atlas Shrugged became a genuine phenomenon. It is a best-seller that has sold more than ten million copies. One survey even found that the book is the second most popular book in the United States after the Bible. Estimates say that around 8% of Americans have read it. That represents thirty-two million people, so that’s a huge number. Atlas Shrugged has truly been a defining influence on the United States.

So here’s the extraordinary story of its translation into French: back in 1958, a Swiss publisher commissioned a translation of the book under the French title “La Révolte d’Atlas”. 60% of the book was translated. Ayn Rand could read French perfectly. She had the opportunity to read the translation and she refused to accept it on the grounds that the quality of the translation was not good enough. So we got two-thirds of a poor quality translation. The publisher went out of business.

For fifty years, there was not a single official translation in French. That’s pretty incredible. When you read it, you may even wonder whether there hasn’t been some kind of censorship at work. What you need to know is that the subject matter of Atlas Shrugged goes completely against French political and social policy for the past forty years. This is what begs the question about whether there has not been some form of censorship.

In 2009, a woman was so outraged by the lack of a French version of a book that is so famous in the United States and completely unknown in France that she decided to devote her spare time to working on a pirate translation project. She did not ask permission from the copyright holders of the book. So she worked for one year on her own unauthorised translation of the book.

Her name is Monique di Pierirro. She brought out a PDF version of her pirate translation in 2009. I had the opportunity to read that pirate translation and it’s the one that I talk about in my article on Blogueur Pro. In that article, I said that it was the first time that I had ever been proud to have access to a pirated work – when that pirated translation was the only way to have access to the book.

We don’t have to download the pirated copy any more. We finally have an official translation under the title of La Grève. It is by a different translator, Sophie Bastide-Foltz, and she undoubtedly spent a lot of time working on it. Thanks to Monique and thanks to Sophie, if you are watching this video, for your outstanding work in making this awesome book finally available in French.

Just one downside to the translation: I am not sure the La Grève (The Strike) is a very suitable title for the French market.  I really find that the original title, Atlas Shrugged, is poetic and imaginative. When you read the book, you understand it perfectly. Atlas carries the world on his shoulders and when he shrugs, the whole world trembles. You can understand why is it called La grève in French when you read the book, but I am not sure that someone who has not read the book will be interested by the title and spurred to read it. A potential reader will immediately have a different idea about what the book offers.

But leaving that aside, I am making this video today to tell you that I find this book absolutely exceptional. It is a very dense book, almost 1,200 pages long and it is written in the form of a novel. It is a work of fiction, but it is not just a relaxing novel. The format of the novel is used to set forth ideas, an entire system of political and economic thinking… that I find really and truly fascinating.

Ayn Rand pushes her ideas to extremes that I do not share in any way, but setting aside those extremes I think that every entrepreneur should read this book. If you are an entrepreneur or if you are thinking about starting your own business, if you have a plan to create a company, if you already have your own business, if you consider yourself to be an entrepreneur or if you believe you have an entrepreneurial frame of mind, I strongly recommend that you read Atlas Shrugged. What’s more, it’s a fascinating book. Personally, I found it a little hard to get into the story. I read a hundred pages before I got into it. But after the first hundred pages, I was completely drawn into the story and I couldn’t stop.

I know another famous entrepreneur on French-speaking internet who read this book in a week and a half, I think. That’s quite an achievement. He couldn’t put the book down. It is really something exciting that will undoubtedly change the way you look at entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship for ever, as well as the added value we can bring to the world and many other things beside.

The book had such an effect on me that I think I will do some other videos and maybe some articles on the topic. I will read you some passages from the book that are absolutely extraordinary. What’s more, if you have even a little interest in American or English-speaking culture, it is essential reading because so many Americans have read it. I believe that it is one of the books you have to read to understand the United States, their politics and their culture.

So, you get the picture. It’s the first time I have made a video like this to recommend that you read a book. I really, really recommend reading Atlas Shrugged. It is an exceptional book.

As I already said, it goes to some extremes that I do not share. I may have the opportunity to touch on this another time. But the message in this book is absolutely incredible. It goes against so many things that we have been brainwashed into considering normal for decades in France. I really, really think that it has the power to change things for the better in our society and also in our state of mind.

Thanks for watching this video. See you soon on the blog, or elsewhere, for some new adventures!

Olivier Roland: Hello and welcome to this new video transcript from the blog Books That Can Change Your Life. I am making this quick video with a stellar guest, because I am here with David Jay.
Hello David!

David Jay: Hello!

Olivier Roland: I wanted to invite David to the blog because he is the person who introduced me to Atlas Shrugged, the book I recently spoke about in a video.

So, before beginning with David, just a little story that I discovered after making the video for you. One of my readers noted in the comments that Atlas Shrugged was one of the books that had most influenced Steve Job. I had no idea if it was true, that perhaps this book is what encouraged and motivated him to become an entrepreneur. In any case, it had a big influence on him afterwards in his demand for quality and we could say, in his good qualities and his defects as an entrepreneur.

The story seemed a bit over the top to me. I wondered whether it was true or not, so I checked and yes, the source behind this is not just anybody – it is Steve Wozniak. The co-founder of Apple said it recently in an interview, shortly before Steve Jobs died. He said: yes, Atlas Shrugged had a big influence on Steve Jobs and he talked to me about it a lot about it around the time the two of us founded Apple. So…Wow!

David Jay: It has influenced a huge number of American entrepreneurs, in any case.

Olivier Roland: Exactly. All you have to do is visit the United States to realise how much this book has left its mark on people’s minds. Simply say the sentence: “Who is John Galt?” And you will understand what this refers to when you read the book. It has become part of everyday language over there…

David Jay: Yes, completely.

Olivier Roland: … it’s really impressive.

David Jay: How would you translate it?

Olivier Roland: In French, “Qui est John Galt”, quite simply.

David Jay: Yes, but if you say “Qui est John Galt?” in French, it doesn’t reflect what the sentence means. How would you translate it in French?

Olivier Roland: Ah yes, in fact in the book, people use this phrase when they don’t have the answer to a question. So they say: there’s no point in digging, it’s: “va savoir” (Who knows?), that’s sort of what it means.

David Jay: Yes, it’s “there’s nothing we can do about it”, “it’s not my fault, I can’t do anything”.

Olivier Roland: There you go. It’s “who knows” and somehow “let’s not worry too much about it”.

David is not a philosopher, so we are not going to engage in an academic discussion about Ayn Rand. David is simply an entrepreneur, you agree with me. You got into entrepreneurship quite a while ago, and you discovered Atlas Shrugged long before I did, so I am interested to find out how it changed the way you viewed things. How did it change your state of mind and the way you run your company on a daily basis?

Atlas Shrugged give permission to make money

David Jay: What Atlas Shrugged changed for me is permission. Ever since reading Atlas Shrugged, I give myself permission. I give myself permission to make money. I give myself permission to succeed. I give myself permission to get out in front, to show it. I still teach – I teach marketing through video – and I always teach my clients one basic thing that I call: “message polarisation”. This means polarising the message to make it magnetic. What is a magnetic message? It is a message that attracts good prospects on one hand and repels bad prospects on the other hand.

After reading Atlas Shrugged, I realised that even when teaching that, I was not completely allowing myself to do it. So I really underscored some of my polarising sentences, at the level of my messages. I polarised the message between: that’s good, that’s not good, must do this, must not do that. I am well aware that I am making enemies by doing this, but I also know that it doesn’t matter, because in the world in which we live…

Olivier Roland: They are the right enemies.

David Jay: That’s it.

Olivier Roland : You need the right enemies.

David Jay: You need to have the right enemies and attract the right prospects to you. It’s fundamental. Atlas Shrugged completely removed my inhibitions about this concept, the concept of being knowingly selfish, the concept of rational selfishness, virtuous selfishness. Ayn Rand develops the concept in this book that is presented as a novel, as well as in her philosophical essays, genuine philosophical essays in which she develops this like a thesis. It is very important to give yourself permission, especially when it comes to money, to making money.

Money is not evil. There is a quote from Atlas Shrugged, which I think goes something like: “Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another— their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.”  That sentence is incredible! But it is a good summary of the philosophy of Ayn Rand vis-à-vis money. It did me a lot of good, because in our French society, we are brought up to have some limited ideas about money. But Ayn Rand explains it very well – money is the only alternative to the use of force. What she says is that as long as human beings walk the earth and need each other, money will be the only alternative to the barrel of a gun.

Olivier Roland : So, after reading Atlas Shrugged, there are two things about which people become genuinely uninhibited: the first is sex. But I’m not sure we need that in France.

David Jay: No. We’re okay.

Olivier Roland: Perhaps a little more in the United States.

And the second and I think that we need it much more in France than in the States, is our relationship with money. Once you read Atlas Shrugged, you really won’t have a complex about making money, even a lot of money, once you bring some value to the world and to yourself. I am in total agreement with you on that point. On the other hand, I don’t remember whether Ayn Rand said it in a concrete way, that money is the only alternative to force. I think that I would add some nuance, because what existed before money appeared? Barter. It was the main means of exchange.

But I clearly think that money is one of the most incredible and extraordinary technological man-made inventions, up there with the wheel and writing. They are things that completely changed the course of human history. They offer enormous added value, and it is because of them that we now have such an advanced civilisation. We can live longer, eat well and be in good health, for most people anyway.

David Jay: It’s more on a par with writing than with the wheel. The wheel is a physical tool to interact physically with the world. Money genuinely allowed an exponential increase in commercial exchanges. Money allowed a universal exchange of values between humans, according to the value they attributed to things.

Olivier Roland: That’s it. So we have to imagine a time before the invention of money. Picture it: we are in a village of sedentary people. There are farmers growing wheat, tomatoes and other things; others have animals, others are manufacturing tools, weapons and art. Imagine that I have a cow to sell and that I am looking for a bow, a vase for my wife and some tomatoes. Well, with my cow, I am going to have to find someone in possession of those three things who wants my cow. That’s not easy. I need to find someone who wants exactly what I have to offer and who possesses exactly what I need. What I really need to do is cut my cow in three and find three people who can offer what I require.

David Jay: Money allows specialisation of skills. In other words, you can become a really great cow farmer and it doesn’t matter if all you know is how to raise cows, because money lets you exchange it for whatever you want.

Olivier Roland: That’s right.

David Jay: Previously, you had to know a little of everything.

Olivier Roland: As long as there is the demand. As long as there is someone who can pay for you. Because when you replace bartering with money, the problem immediately disappears. You can exchange, you can sell your cow, exchange it for something precious – money – recognised by everyone as being exchangeable against anything at all. All of a sudden, multiple exchanges become possible. That undoubtedly untangled a lot of knotty problems. It effectively led to much more specialisation. It is really something incredible that liberated humankind.

David Jay: To my mind, it was a defining moment for humankind. It means that every human being can focus on just one thing. You can have just one skill, but you can develop it to a phenomenal level of excellence.

Olivier Roland: There was already a little bit of specialisation in societies before money.

David Jay: Yes, but everyone had to master a wide range of things. They needed basic mastery over a wide range of things in order to survive and be able to exchange a little of what they knew against everything they needed. Once you introduce money, a human being can use intellect and rationality to go very deeply into a specific specialisation. With that, they can offer value to people around them, value that would have taken another person years and years to master.

Olivier Roland: Indeed.

David Jay: So, it suddenly created a phenomenal lever for progress for humankind.

Olivier Roland: Yes, and on the other hand, to get back to what you were saying, I think that here in France we live in a country that is an example for the world. Well, not France alone, but the European Union. We live in a part of the world in which nations tore each other apart for centuries and centuries. Thanks to the European Union, initially the European Economic Community and then the European Union, we have replaced war with trade. Now that is something extraordinary.

It is an example for the whole world to see nations that were at war with each other become allies and friends thanks to trade. That is really something extraordinary. When you think about the power that financial relationships offer with trade. In this we can really see that it has replaced the cannons, it has replaced the power struggle. And we have entered into a different kind of relationship between the European nations.

David Jay: But in any case, trade, that is to say, voluntary exchanges, has always created progress in the fastest way. There have also been excesses that led to wars, but is has been the driving force behind the human race for centuries.

Olivier Roland: Exactly.

David Jay: Clearly, if we take the spice trade, Rome, the major discoveries, including America, they were all based on commercial trading. At the root of all that is the desire to increase the number of commercial exchanges.

Olivier Roland: And commercial and economic development has always been a major source of scientific development, because all these discoveries and the research need to be funded. That is undoubtedly what stimulates the intellect, education and lots of other things that facilitate and encourage scientific development.

In contrast, Ayn Rand defends a vision of money that is truly one of money well-acquired. It has to be something we earn in exchange for the value that we offer. And that is really something very important. I think she would have been completely against what was behind the 2008 financial crisis at the banks, because it was speculation. In my opinion, the people behind the American financial crisis would have been parasites in Ayn Rand’s eyes.

David Jay: Yes, certainly, even worse than parasites, I think that they would be wrongdoers in Randian philosophy. Ayn Rand defended fiduciary money, defended money…

Olivier Roland: Against a standard.

David Jay: Against a standard, typically gold.

Olivier Roland: Against something… So, that is to say, because it is important for people who are newcomers to economics to know this, that for a long time it was mandatory that all coins could be exchanged for their equivalent in gold at any central bank.

David Jay: Yes. The money printing press didn’t run.

Olivier Roland: Yes, that’s it. During the twentieth century, I don’t know exactly when…

David Jay: Oh, it goes back to John Law, quite a long time ago.

Olivier Roland: One by one governments said: ok, from now on, we stop. We don’t need to have the equivalent in gold of the money we issue, so we can just issue money like so.

David Jay: And that’s inflation!

Olivier Roland: There you go. And today, many libertarians who claim to follow in Ayn Rand’s lineage, even though she was against this… We won’t go into the details, but libertarians of today are for a return of a standard, a reserve of something concrete against forms of money…

David Jay: Yes, something that has real intrinsic value.

Olivier Roland: … that would limit this kind of parasitism, speculation that does not effectively offer any intrinsic value.

David Jay: Yes, that is to make money with money. Outside of any relationship to real value in the world. Because a gold ingot has real value, not because it was decided that gold is a precious metal, but because it is genuinely precious. Why? Because it can be used to make jewellery, tools, processors…

Olivier Roland: It is inalterable.

David Jay: It is inalterable.

Olivier Roland: It is stored very easy. It is very easy to handle. It has an intrinsic value.

David Jay: It is genuinely useful. It has use.

Olivier Roland: Like money, so.

David Jay: There you go.

Olivier Roland: Anyway, we are making a short video. The goal is not to enter into philosophical considerations, but remember that, if you haven’t started reading yet.

David Jay: If you have hang-ups when it comes to money.

hang-ups when it comes to money

Olivier Roland: There you go. If you have hang-ups when it comes to money, then this will really and truly help you to get over them. You are going to realise that you can make a lot of money. The problem is not about whether or not you make a lot of money. The problem is not that money in itself is dirty or bad or even evil. No! Money is an extraordinary invention. You simply need to use it well as a tool. What I mean is – a hammer could be a weapon used to kill someone. In fact, it’s like everything. And then it’s not money. It’s as if you said: a hammer is the instrument of evil. It isn’t.

What makes something an instrument of evil or, in contrast, something you can use to build a house or to build something positive, is the human being behind it and his or her values and philosophy. And money is exactly the same. Once you start looking at money from the right point of view, it becomes something extraordinary both for you and for other people.

David Jay: Yes, definitely. There is a passage in the book, at the birthday…

Olivier Roland: D’Anconia.

David Jay: With d’Anconia who goes on a 3-page tirade about money…

Olivier Roland: Brilliant, incredible.

David Jay: Christian Godefroy said to me the other day on Skype, he said: that one, thank you David, I think I’m going to write it down and put it in a frame.

Olivier Roland: Yes. I think I might just post the chapter, or I’ll do some articles about it. In any case, it is really extraordinary.

Thank you David for this short video.

David Jay: My pleasure!

Olivier Roland: I think we’ve had a good discussion, perhaps it has even made you want to read the book. In any case, you get the point. One of the most interesting reasons for reading the book, but not the only one, is to break down your inhibitions in your relationship with money. Demystify money a little, as it is often poorly understood. Too few people know where it comes from, how useful it is.

David Jay: Especially in our country.

Olivier Roland: And we have this emotional relationship in France. In the United States they have an emotional relationship with alcohol and sex, whereas we are less inhibited in France. But in France, it’s kind of the opposite; we have quite a complex about money. Americans can teach us a few things. They can learn things from us, and they can teach us some things, especially when it comes to this point.

David Jay: Which is pretty funny, because we invented fiduciary money. It’s important to know that fiduciary money, in other words money that does not correspond to an equivalent in gold ingots for example, was simply printed by the State. The decision lies with the State and that kind of money was invented in France by John Law …

Olivier Roland: With an English name.

David Jay: …Who was a crook! And he was put on trial and judged, but the king at the time thought his idea was a good one. So he kept it and we keep the money printing presses going. And that’s where inflation comes from, and a lot of the ensuing problems with world finance.

Olivier Roland: Thank you David for being here and see you again soon for new adventures on the blog or somewhere else.

David Jay: Bye.

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