Running the Numbers on the Atlas Shrugged Revival


David Boaz at Cato's blog thinks he's found the Fountainhead of the recent and much-noted spike in sales of Ayn Rand's libertarian saga of death by overregulation, Atlas Shrugged, by analyzing Bookscan figures. His conclusion?

One Atlas Shrugged fan suggested to me that the real boost came in January, with a Wall Street Journal article by my former colleague Stephen Moore. So I decided to investigate, using the sales figures in Nielsen's Bookscan. And indeed those figures seem to point in a different direction. The boom in sales of Atlas Shrugged really took off in mid-January, after Steve Moore's essay "'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years" appeared in the Journal on January 9….

[S]ales started to diverge after January 9, suggesting that it was in fact the Wall Street Journal essay that kicked them into high gear. Then they slowly fell, and then there was an even bigger peak in early March. Why? That's not so clear. Perhaps it's a case of self-fulfilling prophecy and the accumulating effects of media buzz. ARI put out its press release about soaring sales on February 23, and the Economist picked up the idea five days later, as did many bloggers. Then on March 2 and 5 the popular blogger Michelle Malkin talked about the idea of "Going Galt" — pulling back on work and investment in response to projected tax increases and regulations — in her blog and syndicated column, and the New York Times picked that up…..On March 14 the Wall Street Journal ran another op-ed on the contemporary relevance of Atlas Shrugged, this one by Yaron Brook. There's a reason that publishers put "bestseller" on their book covers — people like to read what other people are reading. And there's no question that once this media buzz got started, the sales have remained much higher than last year.

Previous Reason blogging on the Atlas resurgence from Katherine Mangu-Ward and Damon Root. A long essay by me on Rand's enduring appeal to American entrepreneurs and doers.