by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The plot of Ayn Rand’s controversial 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged couldn’t be more relevant to Germany as the European financial crisis unfolds—or so contends a young Munich executive, Kai John, who has published a new translation of the libertarian classic. In the novel, the brightest and most productive citizens (i.e. the Germans!) deeply resent having to support the weaker members of society and rebel, leaving society in tatters, a fate that could befall the Continent if Angela Merkel and the German parliament refuse to bolster the European Union’s straggling economies. A series of bailouts has left John, 36, a vice president at a multinational financial services company, feeling like Rand’s hero, John Galt: “The time is here to make Germans aware that collectivism has its limits.”
Though the book has always sold well in the U.S.—it broke its own annual sales records as recently as 2009—Atlas Shrugged has been hard to come by in Germany, and John decided late last year that that needed to change. He grew up in Hamburg, and after watching Dead Poets Society on television, asked to be sent to boarding school in England. He read Atlas Shrugged for the first time while studying at Oxford. “It opened my eyes,” John says. “It basically put into words all the feelings that I have but couldn’t express.” He reread the book in 2011, as the financial crisis in Europe gathered steam, and went looking for copies to give German friends, only to discover that the two existing translations were out of print; used copies were fetching more than €300, or $364.75. Immediately seeing a business opportunity and political calling, he decided to invest his nights, weekends, and life savings, “a six-figure sum,” to put out Der Streik, an homage to Rand’s working title, The Strike.