Editor’s note: Mr. Puglielli is the first-place winner of the second annual TOS essay contest. He won a cash prize of $2,000 and publication of his essay in the journal. The topic for the contest was “Atlas Shrugged and Conflicts of Interest Among Rational Men.” Mr. Puglielli’s essay has been edited only for typos and to conform to TOS’s style guide.

One often hears of “dog eat dog capitalism,” where “greedy special interests” exploit and trample the workers and the consumers. Indeed, the Declaration of Principles of the World Socialist Movement states:

That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e., land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labor alone wealth is produced.

That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.1

From this document, we can easily identify the fundamental assumption behind the socialist ideology: that human relationships are fundamentally antagonistic; that one man’s pursuit of his interests must come at the expense of another; and that, left free, humanity will develop a “ruling class” that tyrannically exploits the rest of mankind. This claim underlies vehement opposition to both selfishness and capitalism. Holding up men such as Bernie Madoff, leftists proclaim that “selfishness” (they characteristically misapply the concept) involves crushing others underfoot and trampling upon their corpses. Similarly, they find the laziest, most incompetent worker they can and declare that “the capitalist class” has violated his “interests” by not giving him a job.

To the contrary, in Atlas Shrugged, John Galt states that “there are no victims and no conflicts of interest among rational men, men who do not desire the unearned and do not view one another with a cannibal’s lust, men who neither make sacrifices nor accept them.”2 This is quite readily obvious; if there were conflicts of interest among men, then one man’s right to pursue his happiness would contradict another’s same right. But because there cannot be any contradictions in reality, there must be a flawed premise in this argument. Indeed, as Ayn Rand demonstrates in Atlas, the interests of rational men are always in harmony. . . .


1 “Object and Declaration of Principles,” International Socialist Movement, http://www.worldsocialism.org/principles.php (accessed July 18, 2011).

2 Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Signet, 1957), p. 935.

3 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 83.

4 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 191.

5 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 20.

6 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 80.

7 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 82.

8 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 220.

9 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, pp. 254–55.

10 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, pp. 310–12.

11 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 662.

12 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 664.

13 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 686.

14 Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 789.

15 Ayn Rand, “The ‘Conflicts’ of Men’s Interests,” Ayn Rand Institute, http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer/News2/feed/PageServer?pagename=ari_ayn_rand_conflicts (accessed July 18, 2011).

16 Rand, “The ‘Conflicts’ of Men’s Interests.”

17 Rand, “The ‘Conflicts’ of Men’s Interests.”

18 Rand, “The ‘Conflicts’ of Men’s Interests.”

19 “Object and Declaration of Principles,” International Socialist Movement.

20 Eric Pryne, “Boeing to Fight NLRB Complaint on 787 South Carolina Plant,” Seattle Times, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2015824566_charleston21.html (accessed August 2, 2011).

21 David Shepardson, “UAW Lost 18% of Members in 2009,” 1853Chairman, http://www.1853chairman.com/2010/03/30/uaw-lost-18-of-members-in-2009/ (accessed August 2, 2011).

22 Michael M. Bates, “History, Henry Ford, and the Minimum Wage,” RenewAmerica, http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/bates/060103 (accessed August 2, 2011).

23 Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), p. 31.

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