Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, edited by Ed Younkins

Koch Research Fellows Ed Younkins, Jomana Krupinski, and Kaitlyn Pytlak have shared with me the results of a survey they conducted of 250 Business and Economics professors and 250 English and Literature professors. They asked these two groups of professors to rank the best novels and plays about business. The top 25 from each group are listed separately in the table below. What makes the results particularly interesting is that 15 titles appear on both lists, indicating a surprising level of agreement between the two groups of professors. But the two groups did not rank the 15 the same and each selected 10 other books the other group did not,  so there was significant disagreement as well.

Survey Method

Colleges and universities were randomly selected and then professors from the relevant departments were also randomly selected to receive an email survey. They were asked to list and rank from 1 to 10 what they considered to be the best novels and plays about business. The researchers did not attempt to define the word “best,” leaving that decision to each respondent. They obtained 69 usable responses from Business and Economics professors and 51 from English and Literature professors. A list of 50 choices was given to each respondent and an opportunity was presented to vote for works not on the list. When tabulating the results, 10 points were given to a novel or play in a respondent’s first position, 9 points were assigned to a work in the second position, and so on, down to the tenth listed work which was allotted 1 point.

Ed Younkins is a fellow Aristotelian libertarian. He’s done a great deal of excellent work on synthesizing Aristotelianism, Objectivism, and Austrian Economics. His books include Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion (edited), Capitalism and Commerce: Conceptual Foundations of Free Enterprise, and Flourishing and Happiness in a Free Society. His next book, Exploring Capitalist Fiction: Business Through Literature and Film, is being published by Lexington Books in late 2013 or early 2014. You can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ed.younkins.

The Best Novels and Plays About Business

Top 25 survey results from two groups of professors. Fifteen works are present in both lists, indicated by bold titles. Point totals are listed in the column to the right of each title.

Business and Economics Professors

English and Literature Professors

1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand4571. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller282
2. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand2972. Bartleby: The Scrivener by Herman Melville259
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald2163. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald231
4. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller1644. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair143
5. Time Will Run Back by Henry Hazlitt1455. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis126
6. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair1366. Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet121
7. The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner957. The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells98
8. Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet898. American Pastoral by Philip Roth85
9. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.579. The Confidence Man by Herman Melville75
10. Other People'’s Money by Jerry Sterner5710. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand75
11. Bartleby: The Scrivener by Herman Melville5511. A Hazard of New Fortunes by William Dean Howells66
12. A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe4812. The Octopus by Frank Norris65
13. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis4713. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand62
14. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson4314. Nice Work by David Lodge62
15. Rabbit is Rich by John Updike4115. The Big Money by John Dos Passos59
16. Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw3916. The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner58
17. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens3317. Rabbit is Rich by John Updike55
18. The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt3318. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow55
19. The Driver by Garet Garrett3219. Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain54
20. Executive Suite by Cameron Hawley3220. The Financier by Theodore Dreiser53
21. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope3221. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens51
22. American Pastoral by Philip Roth2922. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey45
23. The Octopus by Frank Norris2923. The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald44
24. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey2824. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy43
25. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell2725. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.39

Now, these works are not necessarily libertarian. The professors who took the survey are probably for the most part not libertarian. And there is not much in the way of speculative fiction on these lists.

So what would you include or not include in the category of “best novels and plays about business”? Was anything overlooked? or given more recognition than it deserves? Given the overlap, what do you think accounts for the differences in the two lists?

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About the Author

Geoffrey Allan Plauché Executive Editor

Geoffrey is an Aristotelian-Liberal political philosopher, an adjunct instructor for Buena Vista University, the founder and executive editor of Prometheus Unbound, and the webmaster of The Libertarian Standard. His work has appeared in Libertarian Papers, the Journal of Libertarian Studies, the Journal of Value Inquiry, and Transformers and Philosophy. He lives in Edgewood, KY with his wife and two children.

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