With the world in the grip of an unprecedented economic crisis, a barrage of hype from right-leaning media commentariat, and sales of Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" surging in the early part of this year (though it has subsequently dropped out of the Amazon Top 100), one would have thought this would have been the ideal time for the Ayn Rand Institute to undertake some striking new initiative to capture the commanding heights of the public discourse.
Not content with their Atlas Shrugged Pledge on Facebook (only 1762 takers since May, with even Yaron Brook producing a not very impressive 45 out of 68 pledges himself) the ARI is now attempting to raise $2,000,000 with the amazingly original aim of..yes, you guessed it...promoting "Atlas Shrugged".
Yes, it seems that half a century after its publication, it's telling that the only trump card the ARI feel they have remains Atlas Shrugged. Even when its selling in record numbers, the Big Idea for Promoting Objectivism always comes back to...more Atlas Shrugged. And if that doesn't work, throw more, more Atlas Shrugged at the problem.
Someone at ARI HQ needs to do the math. As we at the ARCHNblog have already pointed out, Atlas has already been read by some 18,000,000 people in the USA over the last 50 years, far more than any other allegedly philosophical work (unless you count the Bible). Yet it's produced only a tiny trickle of Objectivists to date - probably less than 100,000. And even that small amount is famous for its inability to agree on much at all. In fact the ARI's Never Ending Atlas Shrugged Initiative is feeling more and more like one of those Big Government projects that is hopelessly ineffective yet continues on for year after year because of the political commitments of the players involved. If the ARI was a commercial business, with a conversion rate of just 0.5% one suspects the Atlas promotion would probably have been cancelled long ago.
The question is why, if Atlas is such an ineffective conversion tool, the ARI stick to trying to flog it as their primary strategy. One can only suspect that far from being all about ideas, it's because they're all out of them.