I have read Atlas Shrugged many times and have often wondered why Ayn Rand makes opaque and ambiguous references to the US Congress and the President of the United Status. For example, she refers to Congress as "the legislature" and the President as "head of state". She never refers to either of those by their common names or titles. The terms she uses are extremely unorthodox; I have never heard of the US Congress referred to as "the legislature" (that term is often used for state legislatures however) and I have never heard POTUS referred to as "head of state".

I have a few speculations:

  1. She was afraid of directly and unambiguously criticizing elected leaders.
  2. She was more interested in painting a metaphor than in leveling political criticisms.
  3. She wanted her work to be more timeless and global in nature.

I am not confident in my speculations and would like to hear other perspectives.


1 Answer 1


I don't have the exact reference in front of me, but Ayn Rand deliberately referred to Mr. Thompson as the "Head of State" (rather than the President of the United States) because she felt that the title of "President of the United States" was still an honorable title that wouldn't be fitting to someone like Mr. Thompson.

I'm not aware of a quote from her describing a specific reason that she referred to Congress as "the legislature."

It's at least hinted that there had been major structural changes to the government. The first fact that at least hints at that was the references to "the legislature" and "Head of State" that you mentioned. Secondly, the fact that Colorado seemed to enjoy considerably more liberty than the rest of the country (but was still evidently part of the U.S.) may imply that it enjoyed at least some degree of autonomy that's different than the current structure. Third was the fact that so much was done by regulatory actions from Wesley Mouch (although that's seen as borderline illegal and somewhat irregular at several points in the novel; for example, Wesley evidently didn't have the legal authority to directly seize patents when he issued Directive 10-289, and he's at least occasionally seen whining about his supposed need for broader powers).

On the other hand, the fact that Judge Narragansett was seen editing the Constitution may imply that the U.S. was still at least nominally following the Constitution (although it's uncertain what, if any, amendments to it had been passed at that point).

The previous two paragraphs, of course, aren't definitively answered in the book (just hinted at).

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