[FOUNTAIN]Atlas shrugged and so, maybe, will Koreans

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[FOUNTAIN]Atlas shrugged and so, maybe, will Koreans

One day, talented businessmen began to vanish into thin air one by one. Then university professors, doctors, artists and other professionals followed. It was a kind of strike staged by businessmen and professionals. They built Atlantis in a secluded valley, a new world of their own. In Atlantis, individual creativity and spontaneity were guaranteed. What drove them to strike was a society that oppressed reason and demanded certain emotions. Under the banner of social justice that forced people to care for others, communalism dominated society. Those entrepreneurs who dominated the market by developing new products or improving productivity were accused of being exploiters. Regardless of their employees’ performance, they had to raise wages so that the employees could live a comfortable life. The weak were granted the right to demand help from the powerful. There was no place for philosophers and artists who valued reason.
After the competent businessmen and professionals left, society was ruined. All that was left in society were the sham businessmen who wanted to make easy money by siding with the authorities and the pathetic populace. No one felt relatively inferior because there were no outstanding figures around. But no part of society functioned correctly.
This is the plot of “Atlas Shrugged,” an American classic by the philosopher-writer Ayn Rand. The book, published in 1957, was named the “second most influential book for Americans today” after the Bible, according to a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club in 2002.
Ms. Rand advocated “rational individualism” or subjectivism. The purpose of man is the self. When a man seeks knowledge and pursues survival and prosperity according to reason, society can progress. She rejected the idea of the government’s control over the economy and the redistribution of wealth. Ms. Rand’s philosophy is along the same lines as that of Adam Smith, who said, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
Lately, Korean entrepreneurs say doing business in Korea is increasingly hard. Growing anti-business sentiment is another concern. This might be the moment to remember the lessons of “Atlas Shrugged.”


by Lee Se-jung

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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