My wife and I recently saw Atlas Shrugged, Part II. Overall, I thought it was much better than Part I, which I assessed here. The acting was significantly better, and the movie did a better job of conveying the message of Ayn Rand’s book.
There are still some problems in translating a 1950s novel into a modern setting. As I noted in the review of Part I, it is still implausible that railroads play such a big role in the economy. There are some other problems along these lines as well.
Part II also highlights an important tension that is present in the book, but is much more blatant in the movie. On the one hand, as Bryan Caplan explains, Rand emphasizes that misguided populist public opinion supports and is ultimately responsible for the government’s terrible socialistic policies. On the other, Hank Rearden’s (and later John Galt’s) opposition to those policies seems to enjoy broad support, perhaps even from a majority. The movie portrays pro-free market demonstrations that seem to have just as much backing as their left-wing counterparts. When Rearden is put on trial by the government for violating one of their regulatory decrees, they decide to let him off with a slap on the wrist for fear of angering public opinion.
So where does majority sentiment actually lie? If public opinion opposed the government’s interventionist policies, how did those policies become entrenched in the first place? We’re talking interventions far more radical than anything the US government has ever done in real life. And they were apparently adopted through the democratic process rather than a one-party dictatorship established by force (as in most real-life socialist regimes). if the answer is that the public quickly saw the light once they heard Rearden’s brilliant arguments, why didn’t [...]