Neal Stephenson, Ayn Rand Fan?

Neal Stephenson, Ayn Rand Fan?

I spent a lot of time researching Ayn Rand and her philosophies today.  And at some point, I started seeing Neal Stephenson everywhere.  Mind: blown.  Favorite author: tarnished.

Ayn Rand preaches Objectivism, which can be summed up as "greed is good."  She furthermore divides the world into two groups: a small group of talented elites, and the rest of the unwashed masses.  To quote Rush Limbaugh (an outspoken fan), "It is basically about the achievers of life quitting, because they're tired of being 1% of the population pulling the other 99% in the cart."  

This made me stop and think about In The Beginning Was The Command Line, where Stephenson laid out his view of society as evolving towards the Morlocks and the Eloi. The Morlocks  Eloi are an underclass that can't understand (or doesn't care to understand) technology.  The Eloi Morlocks are the upper class, who do.  Anyone who has PARENTS can see some truth in this analogy.

My mind next skipped to Bobby Shaftoe in Cryptonomicon.  Shaftoe is a quintessentially Rand-ian character.  He is smart, clever, gifted, and above all adaptable.  The mindless meddling government bureaucrats keep sending him out on these crazy missions, which he survives only because he is awesome (i.e. no thanks to anyone else, just as Rand would have liked).

In Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a cryptic character named John Galt (similar to Stephenson's Enoch Root in many ways) convinces all the smarties to go on strike.  They vanish from society; the cart horses have kicked over the traces and run away.  This is ridiculously similar to the situation in Anathem, where all the smart science-y people have locked themselves away in a giant monastery, only interacting with the rest of The World at regularly determined intervals (no more often than one day a year).

Anathem's protagonist is horrified at the disarray he encounters when he leaves the monastery.  The "real world" is chaotic, stupid, thoughtless, and dirty.  He comes to understand the outside world, if not to love it.  But I can't remember if the monastic system is ever either refuted or upheld.  (I wasn't looking for that message when I read it, and I can't recall anything specific either way.)

It seems that I'm not alone in connecting the dots between Anathem and Atlas Shrugged.  The massive three-part review of Anathem at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography also riffs on the Ayn Rand connection:

" And this is another common complaint about Anathem, that it's the ultimate snotty self-righteous intellectual response to all the xenophobic, superstitious, uneducated conservative mouth-breathers who took over the United States in the first decade of the 21st Century[…]it's a real Ayn-Randian Atlas Shrugged kind of snotty self-righteous intellectual response, a look at what exactly would happen if all the truly smart people of the world simply locked themselves away from society in general, laughing and laughing from behind their fortified walls"

(Of course, the easy joke to make is that the greatest similarity between Anathem and Atlas Shrugged is in their doorstop-like size and glacial pace.  But I shall side-step the easy jokes.  WHOOPS.)