My friend Jeff badgered me until I read this book by Ayn Rand. It is, overall, tremendous.
The premise is that in an alternate ca1960-ish USA, the world is a mess. Europe and South America are all "Peoples' States". The US is sliding that way as those industrialists who invent, produce, and do are plundered more and more by government looters and moochers. People are taught that rational thought is pointless - only needs (especially others' needs) matter. Man has stopped thinking, allowing others to define his values and decide his actions. The looters' premise is that each person is required to work to the fullest of their ability and be rewarded by measure of their need. The skilled machinist may have to work 18 hours a day - to his ability - so he can feed a lazy man's 12 kids. Those kids _need_ that food. As the new governing body, a central planning board, ascends in power, their looting and evil accelerates. In addition, for everyone who buys into the central planning agency's 'thought is useless' philosophy, there's a near-total abdication of personal accountability as there is no incentive to take any risks - people are rewarded by their need, not their accomplishments.
Suddenly, Industrialists - the movers and shakers, the employers, the inventors - begin disappearing without a trace. As they disappear, without suitable replacement from the labor pool of moochers and looters, society starts to fail.
The book focuses on three industrialists - one olde-blood Spanish elite whose family made a fortune in copper mining, who forgets his legacy and falls into debauchery, a self-made iron magnate who creates an incredible alloy, and a woman who runs the oldest and best railroad in the country.
Read the book to find out what happens when these industrialists self-sufficient attitudes collide with the new philosophy of self-sacrifice for ones' neighbors and their needs.
This book is about 1100 pages, sometimes it's very dense reading. The truth of the matter is that it could probably be edited down to 800 pages. Or, I am too unsophisticated to understand that the parts that seem repetitious to me are in fact truly different. A most remarkable aspect of this book is that, while it was written in 1957, it reads like it was written last week.