Debunking the Atlas Moment

Interesting results from tracking Google searches for Karl Marx vs. Ayn Rand. In the chart below, Marx is blue, Rand is red. The orange line is a baseline search for recession:

Results suggest that the Atlas moment might not be so momentous. 

The cycles on the Marx hits match up neatly with university schedules—people are googling Marx for class, not so much on Ayn Rand.

Here are the exact search terms:

For Marx, we'll use all of the following terms: "Das Kapital", "Das Capital", "Communist Manifesto", Marxism, Communism, "Karl Marx", "Carl Marx". For Rand, we'll use: "Atlas Shrugged", Objectivism, "Ayn Rand", "Ann Rand", "The Fountainhead", "Virtue of Selfishness", "John Galt". I think that's a reasonably comprehensive list of terms folks would be looking for, but feel free to try your own variations. If you include only Marx, be sure to run the "-Groucho, -Richard, - "Marx Brothers"" and so on.

A previous quickie version of this comparison from the same blog has made the rounds on the Internet and generated some interesting discussion, but today's version offers cleaner results.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • phalkor has lost his focus||

    Eat cake frosting out of the can until you want to vomit Eat cake frosting out of the can until you want to vomit Eat cake frosting out of the can until you want to vomit Eat cake frosting out of the can until you want to vomit Eat cake frosting out of the can until you want to vomit Eat cake frosting out of the can until you want to vomit Eat cake frosting out of the can until you want to vomit Eat cake frosting out of the can until you want to vomit

    I feel even worse.

  • High Every Body||

    Marx is blue, Rand is red.

    Sounds backwards to me.

  • Billy||

    To be fair, several massive societal failures of the 20th century were based (at least in part) on the theories of Marx, so it is worthwhile to study them in this context. Of course, this is most often not what is happening at our Universities...

  • economist||

    Aw, shit. Fucking little college pansies.

  • economist||

    Billy,
    What are you talking about? Everyone knows Marxism only failed because the RightPeople (tm) weren't in charge.

  • High Every Body||

    Everyone knows Marxism only failed because the RightPeople (tm) weren't in charge.

    Yea, "it was never really tried" is one of the funnier ones I have heard.

  • Elemenope||

    To be fair, several massive societal failures of the 20th century were based (at least in part) on the theories of Marx, so it is worthwhile to study them in this context. Of course, this is most often not what is happening at our Universities...

    I don't know what fucked up colleges y'all went to, but that's exactly what I studied when I was studying Marx (in political science).

    When we studied him in philosophy, it was as a critic of Hegel. Also legitimate.

  • Leftitty||

    You libertardians don't know anything! I hat you so much! Everyone knows that Marxism has never been tried. The Last Eight Years are an indictment of free-market capitalism. FU! ARGH!

  • High Every Body||

    lmnop,

    You crack me up sometimes man!

  • Leftitty||

    I once was a man from Nantucket...

  • Leftitty||

    I hat librtardians! I hat thm so much! Thy took th "" from my kyboard!

  • High Every Body||

    I once was a man from Nantucket...

    And walked into a bar . . .

  • ||

    Go ahead and spend your time reading Rand and Mises and Friedman and jerking yourselves off and being irrelevant and the rest of us will deal with the reall problems.

  • Xeones||

    Tony, quit spoofing Leftitty.

  • Robert Enders||

    The website that you linked to notes that the Marx searches peaked when schools and colleges were in session. I would guess that most of the interest in Marx is purely academic, that students researched Marx in order to better understand 20th century history. Google searches are not an accurate barometer of ideological belief.

  • High Every Body||

    Robert Enders | April 10, 2009, 11:58am

    Thanks for the long-winded version of this.


    The cycles on the Marx hits match up neatly with university schedules-people are googling Marx for class, not so much on Ayn Rand.

  • Tony@cum.com||

    The libertarians are despairingly watching their electoral hopes sink forever as most young don't go in for their peculiar idea that freedom means the right to work for chump change, pollute, eat contaminated meat, and read Atlas Shrugged.

  • Tony-spoofer||

    Dammit Dammit Dammit!

  • ||

    What electoral hopes?

  • Alan Vanneman||

    So Marx is a damping sine wave. Who knew?

  • jk||

    Google searches are not an accurate barometer of ideological belief.

    Expect for a spike last election season the search
    Che Guevara T-Shirt shows a downward trend.

  • Xeones||

    Who knew?

    Do you mean Karl, or Richard?

  • High Every Body||

    What electoral hopes?

    I think he misspelled electrical.

  • ||

    Libertarians are a joke. Seriously. Even Republicans are less pathetic than you.

  • english teacher||

    This is a reconstructed conversation of a high school English facutly during lunch:

    English teachers were ranting on capitalism and glorifying socialism. The "enlightened" countries of Europe, they said. Free education and free health care for all, they proclaimed.

    But it's not really free. Sombody's gotta pay for it.

    Oh, but they make so much more money over there.

    Really? How much more?

    But what we really need is a collective in this country.

    Like the Borg Collective?

    Everyone should be able to get a free college education.

    I don't know if college is for everyone. Besides, who's going to give me my food at the drive through [or when I go out to a fancier restaurant, for that matter]? Somebody's gotta do those jobs.

    You want to keep those people from going to college? Anyway, socialism is so much more enlightened than capitalism.

    If socialism is viable as an economic system, how do you explain the Soviet Union's collapse?

    The Soviet Union wasn't really socialist.

    [Wait. The Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics was not socialist? The state ownership of the means of production is not socialist? Right.]

    It was capitalism for a small group of people.

    Oh. You mean an oligarchy?

    (Silence.)

    I guess when socialism exists in a system where only a select few people have political power, like an oligarchical government, it seems not to work. It also hasn't solved scarcity.

    (Silence. A feeling of resentment permeates the air like a fart in an elevator.)

    Boy I love playing Devil's Advocate! I do that with all my students!

    (Silence.)

    Oh look at that! I left my pop in the staff lounge. I better go get it! [I better get out of here or the Bolsheviks are going to skin me alive!]

  • ||

    If you include only Marx, be sure to run the "-Groucho, -Richard, - "Marx Brothers"" and so on.

    That's a good point to be sure to include -Richard. Otherwise the dozens of people annually that search for the lyrics to "Right Here Waiting" would completely skew the results.

  • Old Bull Lee||

    So tell me, Google: Who is John Galt?

  • ||

    I know that Marx=the devil and all that, and I certainly wouldn't want to live under any of the eastern European versions of socialism having actually experienced the DDR at first hand. But what do you libertarians think of some Marxist analysis of the real economic world? Don't capitalist economies evolve into a monopolistic system where small elites control industry and government to enrich themselves? Don't these elites create power structures using the law to ensure their ongoing control? Don't these concentrations become tighter and tighter? As a concrete example, isn't Goldman-Sachs with its CEO's cycling in and out of high government positions, its competitors bankrupted (Lehman Bros), its friends (AIG) getting huge bailouts? Is this not what a Marxist would have predicted?
    Does it not make sense to study Marx rather than a science fiction novel which is less well written than most of Heinlein?

  • Old Bull Lee||

    All good points, but under a libertarian-style government, the "high government positions" wouldn't have enough power for it to matter. There would be no advantage to having "pull" with government.

    For example, if Treasury didn't have the power to bail anyone out, what difference would it make if you had one of your old CEOs or friends in there?

  • High Every Body||

    Such a lonely day at Reason. Everybody at Church or Temple or something?

    Where is MNG to tell us that Galt's Gulch is the only place in the universe worse than Galt's Gulch?

  • High Every Body||

    Where is MNG to tell us that Galt's Gulch is the only place in the universe worse than Galt's Gulch Gaza?

    CRAP!

    How many rulez did that one touch?

  • ||

    Mr. Lee:

    It would be safe to put a squad of 17 year old cheerleaders into my hands for a month, but everybody is not as righteous as I am. Libertarianism will get nowhere unless it stops being utopian. Marx claimed to be "scientific" rather than utopian, and that was the big attraction over over left-oriented philosophies.
    You can't postulate success for this movement by discounting how real people behave. People in power shape the laws, rules, and regulations in one direction only.
    BTW, based on my personal experiences, life in the northern European socialist countries is pretty good.

  • ed||

    Could it be that Marx appeals to lowlife, parasitic retards (always in great abundance) whereas Rand appeals to self-confident, honest, risk-taking producers (the minority in any culture)?

    Discuss.

  • Old Bull Lee||

    Sure, there would be evil people in corporations but without government influence they would not have nearly as much power.

    I don't envision a utopia, and I don't think that many libertarians do (unless you mean utopian relative to what we have now).

    Maybe one "utopian" thing about libertarianism is the less power people have over each other, the less evil they can do to each other.

  • Old Bull Lee||

    ed - It's certainly a factor.

  • ed||

    No rational person believes in utopia. It isn't possible, so long as we're dealing with humans. Objectivists (and honest libertarians) wish to experience a world of human achievement, unfettered. Marxists wish to see everyone cut down, so all may experience misery equally.
    Which is the moral philosophy? It all depends on your sense of life.

  • tgb1000||

    Every class I took in college required a term paper on Richard Marx. We had some latitude, of course. What is his greatest album? Which version of the mullet was his most successful? Was he more influenced by Hall or by Oates? Still, it was a liberal indoctrination. Where was David Horowitz when I needed him?

  • ||

    Marx tried to be scientific, but that doesn't make his philosophy or economic theory correct. His assumptions were largely wrong, and he cherry-picked historical events to fit into his theory. Note how little has transpired the way he said it would.

    Some of his criticisms of capitalism are valid enough, but that was of capitalism as it was in the 19th century, not as it is today. Besides, what difference does it make if capitalism is flawed, if no adequate substitute is available?

    Free markets aren't perfect, nor is any system of government that we're going to have in the near term. But nothing that's been implemented or proposed to date looks anywhere near as good. Socialism and communism both fail to account for reality. Read Smith sometime and realize how much better he understood human beings than any of the major communist or socialist thinkers.

    The overall wealth, technological achievement, and general improvement in the overall human condition is directly attributable to greater human freedom in the West and to our relatively free markets. While we can bear a great deal of friction with government trying to take away the "excess" wealth and to over-regulate any private actor, we can't take an unlimited amount of friction. Without a predominantly capitalist United States, both we and Europe will fail (their socialist lifestyle is heavily dependent on American production and consumption).

  • Old Bull Lee||

    I like that take, ed.

    I've never thought a libertarian world would be perfect. I would just rather have its advantages AND disadvantages as opposed to those of communism or even what we have now.

  • ed||

    Every parasite requires a host. When the host dies, the parasite dies. It isn't a symbiotic relationship, wherein both entities prosper equally. Marxism is parasitism. Eventually the host must die, dooming all the blood-sucking leaches attached to it. This isn't pointy-headed theory. We have the historical record of the 20th Century, and all the failed Marxist regimes, to prove it.

  • ed||

    there would be evil people in corporations, but without government influence they would not have nearly as much power

    Correct, Old Bull Lee. But aren't you happy that Obama, per his campaign promises, has taken steps to correct this odious, pull-peddling culture?*


    *Sarcasm. Sorry.

  • Engels ||

    What about me?

  • Richard Marx||

    No, don't use the -Richard function. You want to google me! Really, you do! I'll be right here waiting for you.

  • robc||

    Engels,

    I think you hurt your head falling down the hill in a dress.

  • ||

    Could it be that Marx appeals to lowlife, parasitic retards (always in great abundance) whereas Rand appeals to self-confident, honest, risk-taking producers (the minority in any culture)?

    Yeah all those welfare queens are big into Marx.

  • ||

    Still hanging onto the childish fantasy that wealth is earned through hard work and ingenuity, and that's the whole story?

  • Geotpf||

    High Every Body | April 10, 2009, 11:48am | #

    Everyone knows Marxism only failed because the RightPeople (tm) weren't in charge.

    Yea, "it was never really tried" is one of the funnier ones I have heard.


    I hear these arguments from libertarians these days regarding our current economic circumstances.

  • ed||

    Yeah all those welfare queens are big into Marx.

    They are indeed. But they haven't the education to make their case on internet chat rooms.
    Sorry--on Hit & Run.

  • ||

    From the World Socialist Movement Website:

    "It is widely assumed that capitalism means a free market economy. But it is possible to have capitalism without a free market. But it is possible to have capitalism without a free market. The systems that existed in the USSR and exist in China and Cuba demonstrate this. The systems that existed in the USSR and exist in China and Cuba demonstrate this. These class-divided societies are widely called 'socialist'."

    Premise 1: All social problems are caused by a concentration of power due to capitalism.

    Premise 2: The USSR, China, and Cuba are some of the most socially problematic countries in history.

    Conclusion: The USSR, China, and Cuba are some of the most capitalist countries in history.

  • Ward S. Denker||

    "people are googling Marx for class, not so much on Ayn Rand."

    This, of course, leads one to wonder why it is that universities are pushing Marx so hard.

  • ||

    "people are Googling Marx for class, not so much on Ayn Rand.

    "This, of course, leads one to wonder why it is that universities are pushing Marx so hard."

    Well, HECK, AYN disagrees with KARL, and does it with some pretty convincing shit. So the universities have to smear Rand and pretend she isn't worth examining.

    Academics? My ass, they are dunces.

  • ed||

    Karl loses even without any academic opposition. One need only observe the historical record. Of course, this requires a certain objectivity, thus: back to Rand.

  • Metal Messiah||

    I wonder how many of those searches for Ayn Rand are made by people who just found about her from some maladjusted nutcase on the internet?

  • RMT||

    If communism was included in Marx than capitalism should be included in Ayn Rand...

  • Suki||

    I need to read this Rand woman.

  • Suki||

    Herb,

    If you were making fun of them might you want to point out their writing style too?

  • Jeff Montgomery||

    Since almost a million copies of Atlas Shrugged were sold in 2008, maybe Rand fans are better at web searches, or simply buy the books instead ;) Who can say? Pretty soon she'll be on more college reading lists, and the graph will even out.

    If people are seeking out Rand today it would be with good reason: while Marx may still hold sway among some, Rand's ideas actually *explain* current events, rather than provide thinly veiled justification for dictatorship. Those who dismiss her ideas simply do not understand them; she should not be underestimated.

    And if you do happen to read Rand, pay special attention to her definitions. She goes to great pains to define words carefully, because any terms in common currency, such as "selfish", have mixed meanings. Some readers make the mistake of imposing their own preconceptions on her terms.

  • economist||

    Jeff Montogmery,
    What makes you think Ayn Rand will be on more college reading lists? From what I can tell, most academics in literature or social sciences are thoroughgoing lefties who consider Ayn Rand Teh Evul.

  • ||

    The reason that people google Marx more than Rand is that they are NOT comparable, not in the same league, and are NOT comparable.

    Jesus. You'd like a magazine called Reason would know a logical fallacy when they see one.

  • ||

    The reason that Ayn Rand rarely appears on college reading lists is obvious. No, it's not a lefty conspiracy, silly. It's good sense.

    Rand's fiction is unreadable (perhaps the worst writer to ever sell so many books) and her non-fiction makes absolutely no sense. Academics know this. Why don't you?

  • ||

    Hey Jeff, Rand's ideas ARE well understood, which is why they are rejected.

    It's not a prejudice, but a logical conclusion drawn from the facts at hand. Rand's philosophy is inapplicable to real life where there ARE actual poor people, there ARE actual needs, and where you can't let people die in the ditch because you don't feel like paying taxes like everyone else in the civilized world does. In reality, Jeff, we DON"T all go to college and move from the dorm room to the executive suite. Simple reality that Marx understood perfectly and that Rand (and her cult followers) chose to ignore.

    THAT is why Marx remains relevant.

    BTW: you people DO realize that reading Marx doesn't make you a Marxist, right? It's not poison. It's a book.

  • ..||

    Hey Jeff, Rand's ideas ARE well understood, which is why they are rejected.

    By you, JeffHater? Millions of new readers every year would contradict your thesis. And they actually read the books. Googling Marx is hardly the same thing as reading his works from beginning to end. By the way, hatred and violence have their roots in ignorance and frustration. Maybe that's a glimpse into your choice of handles?

  • ||

    Hey ".."

    What's with the personal attacks? Highly irrational.

  • ||

    Read "The lost science of money". Both Marx and Rand (not her real name) were both wrong — Rand being partly to blame for this economic depression.

    What Rand invisioned, it seems, was a corporate Ubermensch. Unfortunately not everyone can climb to the top of the corporate latter. In the system we find ourselves living in people have to fill the slotes at the bottom (which has more room than the top). There has to be the "employee". Rands psuedo philosophy just plays right back into the hands of the bankers who want submissive servents swelled with "pride" and "enthusiasm".

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

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