Nicholas wrote this paper for my WR 150 course that surveys debates surrounding the free market. The second major paper in the course challenges students to contend with two uncompromising visions of the market’s virtues and evils: Karl Marx’s narrative of exploitation and estranged labor in The Communist Manifesto vs. John Galt’s forceful speech at the end of Atlas Shrugged, through which Ayn Rand asserts that competition alone can engender individual autonomy and national prosperity. As a writer, the young Marx exemplifies many of the lessons that I teach my students. He provides an insightful and consistent framework for analysis—class relations—but does so through an elegant story with clear protagonists, antagonists, and a compelling narrative of historical struggle. Rand consciously inverts aspects of Marx’s narrative, contrasting “men of ability,” personified by Galt himself, with the weaker strata of society who seek shelter from the vicissitudes of struggle.

Nicholas demonstrates in this paper his capacity to grasp the core points of contention between Rand and Marx, but also to elucidate the relevance of their grand visions for contemporary political debates in clear, insightful, and often clever prose. Nicholas frequently settled on a theme and argument from the first draft of his papers, and spent subsequent drafts developing those ideas further. He made good use of scholarly sources to substantiate his argument in this paper, especially when demonstrating that Rand, far from being a marginal twentieth-century thinker, has attained a mythical status for the contemporary American Right that is nearly on a par with the cult of Marxism in the scholarly and political movements of the past century. Nicholas makes this complex subject very approachable by writing in simple prose and consistently staying on point throughout the paper.


WR 150: The Free Market: Liberating or Exploitative?