“I am. I think. I will.”
Thus spoke Equality 7-2521in Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem. Upon finding the word ‘I’ in a book, he realises the world he lives in is a lie. Throughout this first-person narrative, Equality 7-2521 describes himself as ‘we’, as commanded all men are commanded to by the World Council’s dictation
“We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE”.
But upon finding this alien word ‘I’, he realises that this is false. This revelation has a great effective on him,“And when I understood this word, the book fell from my hands, and I wept, I, who had never known tears.” And so Equality 7-2521 begins to live his life as a free man for he understands that he is an individual, not part of a collective. He is not a we, but an I.
Many libertarians, from the small government minarchist to the fully fledge anarcho-capitalist, have shared the same experience when they were first exposed to freedom as an ideology. When one understands that they are an individual, and that their life is not dependent on others, the feeling is startling. You feel overwhelmed. You feel free.
From a personal experience, I knew I was a libertarian before I read Anthem. But I felt the same as Equality 7-2521 after finishing the book. I wept. I wept because the book reaffirmed for me the importance of individuality and freedom book. I understood I am individual and that I live for no other man. I understood that living for the benefit of the collective was servitude. Anthem, quite simply, is an important piece of libertarian literature.
An yet Anthem is rarely mentioned in libertarian spheres. Of course, Atlas Shrugged is widely seen as scripture, and right so. But Atlas Shrugged is a difficult book to read. At over a thousand pages of incredibly difficult text, complex monologues, and small writing it would be daunting task for anyone to read as an introduction to liberty. Many have tried, but many have failed.
Now, it is known that Ayn Rand did not want Atlas Shrugged to be an easy read. In order to understand its message, you must work for it. But the book is far too long to introduce someone to libertarianism. When someone is intrigued by libertarianism and they ask what they should read, many would say Atlas Shrugged. But how many more would understand individual freedom if they read Anthem?
So let me make this recommendation. The next time sometime shows an interest in liberty, individuality, or freedom, point them towards Anthem. It is a quick yet absorbing read. I would also recommend Anthem to the most seasoned of libertarians. It will refresh their belief in liberty and freedom. Go ahead, find a copy, read, and rediscover that you are an individual.