A few years ago I invented something called the Atlas Shrugged Scale. It’s a way of estimating how close reality comes to the satire in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
Some may recall the time when the novel’s portrayal of bureaucrats, social activists, government enforcers, and crony capitalists was denounced as impossibly far-fetched, as just downright pigheadedly mean. We don’t hear much talk like that anymore.
The reason is that every day brings us real-life stories that seem to be written by Ayn Rand, still satirizing from the Next World.
The moral that friends of the college take home with them is that the college was a victim of the capitalist system.
Here’s one. A college is started by a dissident professor who thinks it’s a good thing for faculty to be scared by their students. He puts his college in an economically depressed town where lots of people have time and government benefits on their hands. It apparently admits everyone who wants to enroll, and to have no required courses. There are no grades. Yet in 40 years it manages to enroll at most 200 people at a time. When the college wants to establish a “cultural exchange” with another institution, it chooses the University of Havana. Vaunted college accreditors vouch for the place.
The annual budget of this college is around $20,000 per student, a hefty sum for a place that barely exists. But its president, who seems to owe her appointment to the fact that she is married to a congressman who is a former mayor of the town (and a future US senator), borrows millions of dollars to expand the campus, assuring lenders that there is plenty of money coming in. The money doesn’t come in, although the president has no problem collecting her large salary. Finally she is prevailed upon to resign. Her successor is persuaded to resign by a student mob. Two years after that, the college collapses and ceases to exist. The moral that friends of the college take home with them is that the college was a victim of . . . the capitalist system.
The story is well summarized here. The institution is Burlington College. Its former president is Jane Sanders, wife of Bernie Sanders. The story’s score on the Atlas Shrugged Scale is 9.
Don’t ask me what events would justify a 10. I’m not sure we can take that much satire.