Atlas Shrugged: A Novel for the 1%

Way back in 2011, I read Ayn Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged – all 1,074 pages of it – with a promise that I’d eventually get around to doing a chapter-by-chapter review, like my review of Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator. I got sidetracked by other projects for a while, but now it’s about time to fulfill that promise.

If you haven’t read Atlas cover-to-cover yourself (and who could blame you?), here’s the plot in a nutshell: In a twenty-minutes-into-the-future United States of America, the world is becoming steadily more communist, and the economy is disintegrating as a result. The small minority of people who still believe in capitalism, mostly captains of industry, declare that they’re no longer willing to support the ungrateful masses with their labor and go on strike, withholding their productive talents from a world that won’t pay them what they deserve.

You’d think the book might end with everyone else realizing how wrong they’d been and pleading with the capitalists to come back and save them, but no. In the end, civilization collapses, millions of people starve to death, and the fortunate few live in comfort in a remote mountain retreat, isolated from the chaos and anarchy all around. In Rand’s eyes, this counts as a happy ending.

Atlas Shrugged is unapologetically a novel of and for the 1%, and like it or not, that makes it a novel of and for our time. It argues that tooth-and-claw capitalism, unfettered by rules or regulations, isn’t just the best but the only way to run a society, and taxes, laws and social programs are all intolerable trespasses on the sacred right of a few individuals to get as rich as they possibly can. Rand’s worldview is Manichaean, utterly black-and-white: you’re either a heroically selfish capitalist (she regarded selfishness as the highest of all virtues), or you’re one of the looters. And she isn’t shy about saying that people who don’t believe in capitalism as she defines it aren’t just lazy, but worthless: moochers, parasites, literally unworthy of life, whose deaths we’re meant to cheer.

Despite this bloodcurdlingly callous moral view, Randian makers-and-takers rhetoric is more popular than ever among self-identified conservatives. During the last two presidential campaigns, Tea Partiers angrily threatened to “go Galt” and deny us all their productive brilliance. Paul Ryan said that he required his congressional staffers to read Rand, and Mitt Romney’s comment about how 47% of the population are lazy freeloaders could have come straight from Atlas, although if he’d been a character in the book, saying that would have made him a hero and not a villain. And last but certainly not least, Glenn Beck has announced grand plans to build his own Randian capitalist utopia, a real-life Galt’s Gulch where freedom will ring, all yours for just $2 billion.

Then again, this is probably to be expected. You can always be feted by telling the wealthy and powerful what they want to hear, and Rand tells them that being richer than everyone else is proof that they’re better than everyone else. Wealth and success are tangible proofs of moral superiority. In fact, she goes even further than that: she argues that the wealthy are exalted superhumans, like the god-kings of old, and that all the lesser specimens of humanity are abjectly dependent on them. In an era of soaring inequality, corporate bailouts and swelling street protests, when the wealthy may be feeling just a little besieged and defensive, it’s perhaps no surprise that they might cling even harder to self-justifying rhetoric like Rand’s to fend off criticism.

Since I want to finish this review eventually, it will have to be a whistle-stop tour. I’m not going to comment on every page of the book – I’ll summarize where possible, and I’ll probably skip the tedious monologues – but there will be plenty of points of interest along the way. If you’ve got your own copy of the book, feel free to follow along at home. And now, if you’re ready, let’s dive in…

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Andrew

    I think the book is poorly written, poorly thought out drivel.

    Here’s the thing, though: the villains aren’t the poor (at least not the major ones), they’re people who are rich but have done little to nothing to earn it (James Taggart) yet expect the government to shield them from their losses. The bank bailout would have driven her crazy (one element where she would have been sympathetic to the Occupy movement [the only one]).

    The rich who are “creators” are the heroes–and because they work hard, she sees money as proof of their success. But if you merely have money, and do nothing to generate more wealth? Now you’re the villain.

    That, in and of itself doesn’t sound too bad. Because it’s pure propaganda, there are no subtleties; she allows nothing to get in the way her point, not even telling an interesting story. And, as you said, her Manichean worldview forces her to take extreme and sadistic positions (kids die in a train–they’re fault, they’re mother voted for the wrong person!).

  • Andrew

    Re-reading what I just wrote (and not sure how to edit), I just want to make sure this comes across: I find the book morally repugnant, just a little more complicated than “You have money? You’re a hero! You don’t have money? Booo! Get thee hence, moocher!”

  • L.Long

    I have not read the book and never will. Through the various blogs and my other extensive reading i have come to the conclusion that PURE anything is wrong. Capitalism must be balanced by socialism; democracy by a constitution and representation, communism (real not that Russian schite) balanced by capitalism; xtians by non xtians, skeptics by magicians, one thing by its opposite for a smoother running society.

  • http://Www.insomniaclibertarian.blogspot.com Bruce Majors

    I love these incompetent smear pieces on Ayn Rand that leftovers write to drive traffic to their sites. Many of them amount to profiteering pay per view gang bangs of her corpse. I only ad the first few sentences of yours and it was already so ignorant I didn’t go further to see if it falls into that really smarmy category.

    Atlas Shrugged is a novel about late stage disaster statism, which we are indeed in now, where the tax predator ruling class bails out crony corporations and lots the population at large, from inventors and entrepreneurs to “average” taxpayers. Your blinders are the source of that it pits business people against the masses. How sad for you that you can’t read.

  • Alejandro

    A conservative like Romney would not be the hero. Libertarians want the goverment to stay away from their lives as much as possible. Specially we dont want goverment telling us what to do in the privacy of our own bedrooms.

    And yeah…his 47% statement. Its an old topic but the core of his statement was right. A big amount of the american population is addicted to free stuff from the goverment, and they will always vote democrat no matter what. Worse thing is americans seem to be getting more lazy are more willing to take money from their fellow taxpayers each time… both on real numbers and in percentage of population, more americans are on govermental support now than in other time in recent history. Look at the 46 million on food stamps or the 75% of seniors in medicare if you dont believe me .

  • http://aaeblog.com Roderick T. Long

    One point you don’t mention in your summary is that most of the wealthy businessmen in Atlas Shrugged are portrayed as being in the looter class, not the productive class. They’re the corporate elite, lobbying for subsidies and monopoly privileges; the Dagny Taggarts and Hank Reardens are clearly portrayed as the exceptions, not the rule. In other words, today’s 1% corresponds most closely to the villains of her book, not the heroes. Remember what Rand said about Republican economic policies:
    http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2012/08/ryan-vs-ayn-r

  • PhiloKGB

    One wonders if Alejandro has ever given economics more than the most cursory sound-bite “libertarian” treatment. If not 47%, then how “big” an “amount”? Could, I dunno, the economy have anything to do with food stamp usage? The majority of food stamp users have jobs after all. And have you ever bothered to check out what private health insurance for a senior costs? That’s if they’re insurable in the first place.

  • Puzzled

    My discomfort with Occupy stemmed exactly from being unclear as to what the 1% meant. I believe firmly that the top 1%, who wield an inordinate amount of power and control, are the beneficiaries of government collusion, not lack of regulation. It is not lack of regulation that caused both parties to agree on the need to give billions of dollars in taxpayer aid to billionaires while ignoring homeowners, it is government involvement in determining outcomes.

    Similarly, the entire crisis was not the result of unbridled capitalism. Few industries are more regulated, or less capitalist, in the sense of free market, than banking. Banks operate within a cartel, legally enforced, giving them special privileges.

    In Atlas Shrugged, granted, a point lost on many Objectivists, Rand takes on precisely this 1%, the James Taggarts/Hank Paulsons/Goldman Sachs. Her major villains are the wealthy who collude with government to keep their position in opposition to market values. Her villains remain our villains.

    To be sure, I disagree with many aspects of her philosophy, but this isn’t one of them.

  • Elizabeth

    Oh dear, you’re really going to do it…and so will I…I’ll crack the book open today!

  • Alejandro

    That they have jobs does not changes the fact that a fraction of their income comes not from their own work, but from the goverment (or their hard working taxpayer americans, to be exact). How could this affect economy? It does indirectly as it makes it so there is no real incentive for hard working. Dont have enough money? Well, you have two options: Option number one is to work more time, or try to find a better job (learning the skills necesary to do it), or start a bussiness on the side, or whatever. Option number two is to ask mommy goverment for more money, since you dont make enough. More people choosing option number one would result in a higher net contribution to economical growth, option number two does not. Right now there is an increasing number of americans choosing number two, which is not long term sustaniable (look at what a great economy we have in our socialist europe).

    This is the big problem with socialism. It does not promote hard work and it actually removes some of the motivation to produce wealth. If I live in a country where the goverment gives me everything for free (and I am thinking about some european welfare states, not amercia), why would I bother to make a lot of money? (thus actually contributing to the economy). Why would I bother to study four years in a university and try to get a good job, if at the end I am going to have essentally the same quality of life as the guy who spent high school smoking weed, or the stupid single mother who got herself pregnant at 19 and does not even know who the father is?

  • J. John

    Oh boy. Maybe I’m going to have to finish that thing. It’s been 12 years since I started.

  • Dorfl

    Alejandro, can you point to any european country where it would be even vaguely correct to say that “goverment gives me everything for free”?

  • triffid-pruner

    Do give a little attention to the fictional qualities of the book. Layered in between the monologues is a richly-described science fictional world, as colorful and engrossing as that of, say, Blade Runner. If you are young you can get wrapped up in that world and accept it as uncritically you accept any other science fiction or fantasy experience, just enjoying the fictional experience. Rand’s rules work inside that world, just like the rules of magic work inside LOTR.

    Another thing that helps sell the experience is that the protagonists are going through a quintessentially adolescent crisis: they have a vision and nobody else understands them. They (Taggert, Reardon) are speaking a different language than everyone around them and they feel so ALONE in their quest. It’s pure adolescent angst, rendered at Mt. Rushmore scale, and seductive as hell for a teenage reader. And what misunderstood adolescent hasn’t dreamt of turning his/her back on the oblivious world and somehow going it alone. That’s what Galt has achieved: the ultimate adolescent snit, and gotten away with it.

  • DR

    @Alejandro:

    1. Seniors have paid into Social Security their entire working lives. So it’s not free.
    2. Nor is Medicare: see 1.
    3. Do you really believe that people who make gazillions of dollars make it all on their own, without any help from the Government? Please go look at the books of any large corporation. You’ll see that a good portion of their revenues can be traced back, directly or indirectly, to some form of Government aid. From direct contracts (the entire Military-Industrial complex comes to mind), to financing of fundamental research (medical and Pharma; also the very internet you are using to spew your nonsense), to basic infrastructure like roads, police and the fire department. There isn’t a single corporation that could exist without mooching to some degree off the Government, which means from your taxes and mine. In fact, there isn’t a society that could.

    If we followed the libertarian dystopian fantasy, the entire world would look like Somalia: warlords and pirates. That’s not the world I want to live in, is it yours?

  • Alejandro

    Just for the record, I am not a hardcore libertarian who believes all taxation is wrong and the best ruling system is anarchy. I agree some basic services need to be provided by a government, I just think right now government is way too big and has way too much influence over everything. My “fantasy” would not be somalia, it would be more like Hong Kong: (relatively) free trade, low taxation, high economic freedoom, low interventionism, etc. (And yes, I know Hong Kong is not perfect…perfect is impossible to achieve in real life. But the quality of life there is still pretty good).

    Dorfl. “Everything free” is a way to speak in most cases. But not in some. I once knew a young guy from finland who was traveling here in Germany, and when I asked him what did he did for a living he said, almost in a proud way, that he did not do anything. He was unemployed and living on welfare and barely did anything other than sit on his ass and smoke weed all day. In that case you could he got everything for free (meaning what he got from the government was enough to pay for everything) and he even had some spare cash to spare on travelling every now and then.

    Now, regarding health care. Health insurance in the US is a very complicated issue. And since I dont live there, I am not very informed about it and I dont want to get into some big debate about it. What I do know is that health care in the US is heavily regulated (and the regulation is very complex on top of that). One of the reasons why health care is so damn epensive is that because of governmental mandates, a healthy 25 year-old man who buys health insurance must have a policy that is expensive enough to pay for autsim, breast ancer, childbirth, mammograms, and a variety of other crap he will never need. If there was a really free market system in healthcare, a 25 year-old man would pay for the type of healthcare he wants or needs, but this is not allowed.

  • flyn

    I agree with triffid-pruner.
    I read the book first when I was about 13-14 years old and thoroughly enjoyed it just because of those reasons. I read it again at 22 and still enjoyed it. While I don’t agree with everything in it, looking back at my impressions from those young ages, it did seem like a “fantasy world”, and that’s what was appealing. For me, it had a 1920′s noir feeling to it, plus, there was a kind of romanticism to the whole thing, (you know, a mysterious club of sorts), not to mention a strong heroine.
    Besides that, it introduced a whole different perspective for me to ponder over, and that’s why my dad probably wanted me to read it so much, though he himself is not republican or part of the 1%.

  • PhiloKGB

    In what sense do the working poor have the “options” that you mention? Can anyone simply choose to work more hours? Can one simply learn skills without paying through the nose to a university? Are these people who, when not working, have nothing better to do than, say, cook meals or take care of children or clean house? I guess I should apologize on behalf of all those strugglers who failed to realize that you get to decide when someone’s working hard enough.

  • PhiloKGB

    That should read, “… nothing better to do like, say, cook meals …”

  • Jrod

    Alejandro, your statements regarding American healthcare are flatly untrue. The mandate is not even in effect yet, so stating that it’s somehow responsible for America’s outrageous medical prices is blatantly and obviously untrue. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are simply ignorant on the subject and not deliberately lying to us, but I suggest that you learn what’s actually going on before you run your mouth.

    The issue of ridiculously high medical bills is covered quite thoroughly by this article in Time which unfortunately requires a subscription. The basic gist is that bill prices are decided by an opaque and arbitrary process which differs for each provider and which allows for unchecked increases. The high prices have definitely NOT been caused by something which won’t even happen until 2014.

  • Nonnie

    I just wanted to second (third?) what others have said that Rand definitely didn’t seem to equate wealth with goodness, but rather equated creation with both goodness and wealth. One of my problems with that is our society’s clear disconnect between quality and success. I mean, Twilight! In the world of Atlas Shrugged, the only way you make money is either by providing high quality goods or services or by cheating. A huge difference from our real world.

    And even though I now disagree with most of the philosophy in the books, and I was unsettled by the implications, I did personally enjoy reading them. I find her writing perfectly fluent, if nothing special, her characters compelling, and her plots more than serviceable. Maybe the heavy-handedness would bother me now.

  • Adam Lee

    Well, this post is getting a lot of interest! This bodes well. :)

    A couple of people in this thread have said that Rand’s real villains aren’t the poor, but the crony capitalists who expect the government to bail them out and enforce their monopoly power. This is only half-true, really.

    Rand’s villains aren’t capitalists at all. In her eyes, they’re evil precisely because they’re not driven by self-interest, because they don’t care about making a profit, but rather value things like fairness, social responsibility, duty to the public – all of which are concepts she views as horrible, incomprehensible blasphemy. (One of them is a banker who’s proud of how much money he lost by making loans to needy people who had no collateral.) Much like the Left Behind authors who think that all non-Christians are spitefully rejecting what they secretly know to be the truth, she can’t imagine anyone claiming to care about these things for any reason except as a malicious plot to destroy the real capitalists whom they hate.

    It’s probably true that Rand would have been against the bank bailouts (and therefore, inescapably, in favor of the immense worldwide panic and economic collapse that would have happened if we hadn’t done it, as distasteful as it was). That’s precisely what I mean when I say she’s in favor of unfettered, tooth-and-claw capitalism. She doesn’t believe there should be any regulation or social safety net of any kind; she believes businesses should be free to do anything they choose – in fact, one of her characters proposes this as a constitutional amendment – and whatever consequences result from that, everyone should just have to live with them, or die from them, whichever the case may be.

  • http://aaeblog.com Roderick T. Long

    because they don’t care about making a profit, but rather value things like fairness, social responsibility, duty to the public

    That’s an odd take on, say, Jim Taggart (who gets his cronies in government to put his competitors out of business); likewise Orren Boyle, Fred Kinnan, Tinky Holloway, Kip Chalmers … it’s pretty clear that most of these guys use altruism as a cover for “selfish” (in the ordinary non-Randian sense) purposes.

    She doesn’t believe there should be any regulation or social safety net of any kind; she believes businesses should be free to do anything they choose

    Of course if her policies were implemented they would destroy corporate power and empower ordinary workers — to a far greater degree than she herself realised. See:

    http://praxeology.net/mnc-page.htm

    http://praxeology.net/industrial-radical.htm

    http://all-left.net

    http://c4ss.org

  • CelticPeace

    I am pleased to see that many on this thread have pointed out that big business and the federal government worked together (colluded) in the book to block innovative products that could have helped the country, and as result lowered the standard of living. I do not claim that this same thing is happening today exactly the same way in our country. Howeverrr… the Dodd Frank regulations do help big banks more than smaller banks. And now we have another Treasury Secretary that comes from Wall Street, one who got a huge bonus from a BIG bank at the time that bank was taking a government bailout … Wall Street and most big business are doing fine, government continues to prosper (I don’t see anyone from Congress willing to give up anything), while Main Street/the Average Joe has suffered and continues to suffer. Not too different than Rand’s world.
    I had a problem with the innovators in the book not doing anything to try to reform the corruption in the government. They lived in their own fantasy bubble, oblivious to the much of the world around them, including those in need. Why didn’t any of them run for office or take an interest in politics ????

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani J. Sharmin

    Adam, I remember you writing that post about reading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and remember commenting that I had wanted to read it. Unfortunately, I haven’t done so yet (as, I admit, it hasn’t been very high on my priority list). I’m going to start it now and will try to read along with your review. I actually just started reading another doorstopper of a book: Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables”.

    Concerning the monologues, the TV Tropes page on the Author Filibuster starts with the following, which I found amusing.

    This is John Galt speaking [...] I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to life for mine.
    — John Galt, Atlas Shrugged. That ellipsis covers 33,319 words

  • http://Www.insomniaclibertarian.blogspot.com Bruce Majors

    Ah such amusing posts. Little leftover dupes of our current failed system nattering on about how libertarians don’t know this or that, when none of them have ever read the many libertarian critiques of the opium their master’s feed them. You are doomed, as Ayn Rand described in Atlas Shrugged.

  • DR

    @Alejandro: You are still a child, imagining fantasies of sugar-plum fairies. Reality is much harsher than what you imagine. There are no “creators” in this world in the Randian sense. No one can create anything of significance to society on their own. Not even the most independent artist can achieve anything without the support of a large number of people who work to make their work known. A truly independent artist is a dead artist, of starvation, exposure and/or disease. So is a truly independent anything.

    There is no such thing as a “captain of industry” in the way Rand imagines them. They are pure fantasy; a juvenile revenge fantasy from the mind of a spoiled little-rich-girl who never really grew up. Most CEOs mooch on the Government, as well as the hard work of everyone in the companies they “direct” from the comfort of their offices where they spend most of the day in idle chit-chat with other CEOs and “directors”. The few that actually contribute to their company’s operations, people like Steve Jobs for example, still couldn’t achieve the slightest things without armies of people who have the skills to take what he has in his head, and make it real. Do you really think Jobs could design and build an iPhone? No. The reality is, for anyone who has actually built something complex, that NO ONE COULD.

    In Rand’s world, ideas are magic. A “creator” comes up with a half-baked idea, and POOF, it magically comes into existence. There is no infrastructure, no hard work from millions of people to build things. You never see the process, you only ever see the result and think it was always there. This is not surprising: it comes from a person who was used to ringing a bell, and being served. So how the food came from the fields to her plate never even crossed her mind. And so she, and all the libertarians who ideolize her, imagine that the world is like that: magic. And that all the throngs of people who actually make ideas happen are nothing but moochers, because they didn’t really do anything, right? The idea was in a brain, not it’s reality. Magic.

  • DR

    @Alejandro: Oh, and by the bye… Hong Kong has Universal Health Care… Doesn’t that make them horrible commies or something?

  • Dorfl

    @Bruce

    Do you really believe there is any important difference between you and the people who fantasise about how they’ll be ‘raptured’ while the rest of the world gets destroyed by the antichrist?

  • Dorfl

    Oh, hey: ‘Rapture’!

    I’d never understood why the objectivist city in BioShock was called that until now.

  • MNb

    “the best but the only way to run a society”
    Stupid, stupid countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and to a lesser extent The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and France never realized that they have gone down since 1945.

    “she regarded selfishness as the highest of all virtues”
    Creating win-win situations is an excellent form of selfishness; the best I’d say. Kropotkin – a compatriot of Rand btw – showed this when studying Siberian tribes and their survival techniques, more than 100 years ago.

  • Alejandro

    @PhiloKGB: So you are saying that is simply impossible for annyone to increase his or her income in america? Wow. So much for the land of opportunities. I did not know that ALL the rich people there are rich because they were born from rich parents… the fact that they were responsible people and made right life choices (or avoided making wrong choices…which leads me to my next point) had nothing to do with it.

    Now, you are probably right regarding “taking care of kids”. Kids are somehow of a burden for making money since they require both money and time. What I am going to say will sound mean and may piss off a lot of people, but I think you should ONLY have kids once you are financially secure and you have done the math and made sure you can afford them. Deciding to have children if you are poor is an incredibly STUPID choice, and it is not fair that other people are forced to carry the consequences of it. (And dont tell me is not a choice when contraception and abortion are so easily avaliable). If a female 18 year old high shool dropout decides to act stupid and a couple of babies before she hits 20, liberals think that the “fair” thing to do is to put a gun on her hardworking neighbour and force him to give her some money. Right, thats totally fair.

    @DR: If being a CEO is as easy as “chit-chatting” all day from a comfortable office, then why dont you start your own business and become a super millionare yourself? Right, you wont, because it is not easy. Starting up a bussiness requires knowledge, skill and a lot of work at the beginning. Not to mention a very important factor: Risk. An entrepreneur incurrs into very real risk of bankrupcy starting its own business (and most business fail within less than two years), so its obvious that the person who risk more gets rewarder more. Off course, 20 years later once the company its huge and sucessful, the CEO may not need to do much work to keep earning money, he is reaping the benefits of previous work.

    And whats up with this rant about CEOs “mooching” off their employees work??? Are you serious?? This is how companies are suppoused to work….off course the CEO has to make a profit out of other people’s work. What would be the fair alternative according to you? Paying the employess the exact same amount of money they end up contributing to the company? Then hiring people would not make any sense… I dont know which planet you live in.

  • Adam Lee

    So you are saying that is simply impossible for annyone to increase his or her income in america? Wow. So much for the land of opportunities. I did not know that ALL the rich people there are rich because they were born from rich parents…

    That is becoming more true all the time, yes. Social mobility in America is lower than it’s been in a long time, and it’s lower than in many of those terrible, socialist European nations.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani J. Sharmin

    @Alejandro:

    (And dont tell me is not a choice when contraception and abortion are so easily avaliable).

    This never ceases to amaze me. The same people who are against social programs to make healthcare more affordable then say that people should have an easy time avoiding unplanned pregnancies due to the availability of contraception and abortion. Add to that the alliance between anti-social-program people and anti-contraception-and-abortion people, and no, these things are actually not “easily available”. And again, any effort to make them more affordable will be seen as (1) horrible immoral baby killing and/or (2) unfair to people in society who don’t want to pay for anything that is helping someone who’s less fortunate.

    If a female 18 year old high shool dropout decides to act stupid and a couple of babies before she hits 20, liberals think that the “fair” thing to do is to put a gun on her hardworking neighbour and force him to give her some money. Right, thats totally fair.

    Paying taxes that go to social programs to help people in a difficult situation isn’t “put[ting] a gun on her hardworking neighbour and forc[ing] himto give her some money”. I’m really tired of this nonsense where paying into social programs that help other people is equated to violence. The neighbor isn’t being treated unfairly by having to pay taxes that help others in society. He benefited from that same society. And by the way, if that neighbor happens to lose his job in the future, or fall into other difficult circumstances, the same social programs will be available for him, too.

    And whats up with this rant about CEOs “mooching” off their employees work??? Are you serious?? This is how companies are suppoused to work….off course the CEO has to make a profit out of other people’s work. What would be the fair alternative according to you? Paying the employess the exact same amount of money they end up contributing to the company? Then hiring people would not make any sense… I dont know which planet you live in.

    Of course, the CEO is going to make more than the average worker … but there’s a problem in society when someone can have a full time job and yet still be poor. What you don’t seem to to understand is that there are people who do work hard, but they are still poor and still can’t pay for things like healthcare, which are really expensive. The fact that they can’t afford something doesn’t mean they’re lazy. And while they can’t make the same amount as the CEO, it isn’t unfair to point out that a company pays their employees really low wages and/or treats them badly. We hear all the time about how we need the “job creators” who run things; well, guess what, they need employees, too, and it isn’t fair to let bosses and CEOs treat people however they want.

    In short, the world isn’t perfect. People end up in bad circumstances that they didn’t expect. People may have made a choice in the past that continues to have a bad effect on their lives for many years, even if they’ve been acting responsibly ever since. People are affected by decisions made by their family members Like DR said above, things don’t get solved by magic. The kind of magic people want to happen when they are opposed to social programs and yet don’t want any problems in society would even be unrealistic in an actual fantasy novel.

  • 2-D Man

    What I am going to say will sound mean and may piss off a lot of people, but I think you should ONLY have kids once you are financially secure and you have done the math and made sure you can afford them.

    I guess the lesson of 2008 was really that nobody should have kids.

  • 2-D Man

    That’s an odd take on, say, Jim Taggart (who gets his cronies in government to put his competitors out of business); likewise Orren Boyle, Fred Kinnan, Tinky Holloway, Kip Chalmers … it’s pretty clear that most of these guys use altruism as a cover for “selfish” (in the ordinary non-Randian sense) purposes.

    I think I read something like this before. Oh yeah! It came from the comment that immediately preceded it:

    …she can’t imagine anyone claiming to care about these things for any reason except as a malicious plot to destroy the real capitalists whom they hate.

    To paraphrase Tracie Harris: restatement is not an objection.

  • Loren Petrich

    Alejandro, you are saying that anyone who receives any money or any service from a government is a looter. A bourgeois exploiter of the masses, er, taxpayers. A parasite on all those poor, hard-working, exploited, oppressed proletarians, er, taxpayers. Marxian terminology deliberately included here.
    So that means that anyone who accepts government military or police protection is a looter. Anyone who drives on a socialist road is a looter. Anyone who visits a national or state park is a looter. Etc.
    Socialist roads are just about all roads except for access roads for private property.

  • Loren Petrich

    Applying the “responsibility” argument more broadly, one can argue that crime victims are not really victims but people who have enabled criminals with their actions. So they must accept responsibility for their becoming victims of crimes, and not demand that governments steal from self-protectors to punish the ones whom they have enabled.

  • PhiloKGB

    Alejandro, since you’ve apparently decided to argue against someone else’s position rather than the one I offered, I’ll just consider what you might have written that would have been appropriate and go from there.

    Obviously there is some small amount of upward social mobility — although not much as Adam noted — the fact of which seems to prompt some to reason thus:
    1 Some poor people find success.
    2 Therefore any poor person can find success.
    3 Therefore all poor people can find success.
    4 Therefore any poor person who doesn’t find success must be doing something wrong.

    Among other flaws, premise 3 can’t be right. There are multiple barriers to success, the least of which is that there simply aren’t enough high-paying jobs regardless of the skill level of the work force. Any individual can succeed, but all individuals cannot. Thus when you claim that a person can work more or gain new skills you’re just talking to an individual; that can’t possibly work for everyone.

  • triffid-pruner

    @DR you say of Ayn Rand she was a “spoiled little-rich-girl who never really grew up…” and “a person who was used to ringing a bell, and being served. So how the food came from the fields to her plate never even crossed her mind…”
    I’m no Rand apologist, but these statements do not accord with the facts. Rand was born into a bourgeois family, daughter of a pharmacist. So her childhood was at most comfortably middle-class. When she was a teenager the family business was confiscated by the Bolshevik government and the family lived in poverty for the rest of her time in Russia. She completed her university studies in Russia with difficulty (purged from the university for being a bourgeois) and moved to the USA where she was again not rich, but supported herself as a junior screenwriter and other jobs.
    In my speculative opinion you can find the shape of her Atlas Shrugged villains in those 1930s-era Bolshevik party apologists who justified destroying her family’s livelihood, purged her from school, and generally jerked people around for ideological reasons. But you won’t find a life of privilege or a disconnect from the world of ordinary workers.

  • Azkyroth

    Ah such amusing posts. Little leftover dupes of our current failed system nattering on about how libertarians don’t know this or that, when none of them have ever read the many libertarian critiques of the opium their master’s feed them. You are doomed, as Ayn Rand described in Atlas Shrugged.

    The influence of narcisso-capitalism is 99% of the reason our current system is failing.

  • Azkyroth

    I suggest that you learn what’s actually going on before you run your mouth.

    [Andy Serkis voice]THAT WOULD KILL US![/Andy Serkis voice]

    Seriously. Has anyone besides me thought about just making a sort of “conceit graveyard” wiki/database/something so that instead of having to facepalm over and over and mutter “not this shit again” and reinvent the cluebat every time we get hit with another round of shallow, thoroughly refuted conceits like these we could just link to it and move on with the grown-up conversation?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2013/01/breaking-the-surface/ J. James

    @L. Long

    I agree, capitalism and socialism must moderate and tame one another, lest the other run wild and wreck things. Here in America, many of our problems(to say nothing of our gridlocked congress) stem from a stubborn minority who have convinced themselves against all evidence that our problems stem from too much socialism and not enough capitalism, when in reality our problems are the result of too much capitalism and not enough socialism.

    Altogether, I believe that capitalism is the more dangerous force, inasmuch as capitalism can directly influence the government but the government cannot do likewise to capitalism, barring regulations. The problems caused by runaway union demands and other socialist quibbles are far and away overshadowed by the harm that stems from unregulated capitalism’s corruption, monopolies, and exploitation. That said, there must be a balance, and above all, there must be freedom. Freedom to grow, freedom to innovate, and freedom FROM wanton victimization from the vagaries of debilitating healthcare robbery, or an unlivable minimum wage, or an oppressive government’s censorship.

    Rand’s vision of society is almost farcically naïve. She seems to think, judging from her works that I have read, that personal liberties and government cannot coexist, and that the negative aspects of unfettered capitalism either don’t exist or don’t matter.

    There is a reason that no stable society similar to her ideal has ever existed. Such imbalance would cause it to collapse before it could even begin(yes, I’m looking at you, Glenn Beck). Every time a country has even approached her supposed ideal, they have been burned- America’s “Guilded Age” of robber barons, crushing inequality and unregulated monopolies comes to mind, as well as the years prior to the Crash of ’29.

  • smrnda

    Rand seems to be the type of person who thinks too highly of intellectual work, and who forgets that no *idea* is really ever worth anything on its own, but comes with it a need for lots of physical work done by people who will work in horrible conditions, often at gunpoint.

    I’m a programmer, the type of knowledge worker that her works tend to laud. Now, if it wasn’t for the existence of nice little computers put together by virtual slave labor in China, I’d be out of a job. Rand’s protagonists tend to think that once you have an *idea* that the work is done, but that’s obviously false. Knowledge workers are part of the privileged class, and most of us remain willfully ignorant that our lives of convenience aren’t possible without workers who we tend to feel superior too.

    Also, being a CEO can be incredibly easy. Becoming one is not – you have to either be born rich enough, or else you have to basically win the lottery. CEOs delegate the tasks of running things to underlings, and if the company goes under, the CEO gets a huge payout while the workers head to the unemployment lines, or the streets. Authorities tend to insulate themselves against things going badly, even when it’s their fault. Our incentive system rewards privilege, not performance, and libertarianism, though it might remove the possibility of some types of collusion between government and big business, it wouldn’t change that since, in the absence of meaningful government, the rich would be like feudal lords who would make their own rules. Instead of them buying a government which ostensibly is a democracy, they would simply *be* the government.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    “If a female 18 year old high shool dropout decides to act stupid and a couple of babies before she hits 20, liberals think that the “fair” thing to do is to put a gun on her hardworking neighbour and force him to give her some money. Right, thats totally fair.”

    Is it fair to her kids to let them go hungry? Whatever you think of their mother, the situation is hardly their fault.

    Also, I gotta ask. What is this thing with paying taxes being equivalent to having a gun pulled on you? I hear this all the time. The police are using FORCE! Yes, if you don’t pay your taxes, and if you then continue to refuse to pay your taxes until you get arrested for it, and you then resist arrest, you could, eventually, end up in a situation where you get a gun drawn on you. Just like committing any other crime. It should be a last resort, but ultimately, if the police couldn’t use appropriate force to detain people who break the law, then there wouldn’t really be laws. Just suggestions.

    It may be (and probably is, I’m guessing?) that you don’t think that refusing to pay taxes to support a social safety net should be against the law. Which, you know, I’m sympathetic to that viewpoint–not in the case of taxes, obviously, but there’s plenty of other laws against things I don’t think should be illegal, and it’s ugly to see those enforced. But that’s not any sort of argument against the enforcement of laws in general.

    Also also, “leftovers”. Hee. Is that from the book? I seriously can’t wait for this.

  • GCT

    @Bruce Majors,

    Your blinders are the source of that it pits business people against the masses. How sad for you that you can’t read.

    Sigh. What is it about Rand that brings out the stupid? Of course business is pit against the masses, but it’s not because of Adam. It’s because of little things like CEOs getting 300x what the average worker gets paid. It’s because of things like businesses pushing for and receiving deregulations that then allow them to raid their own businesses for personal profits at the expense of their own workers and everyone else. It’s about them receiving bailouts so that millions of people don’t lose their jobs, only to turn around and pat themselves on the backs and give themselves outrageous bonuses for doing such a good job of fleecing everyone and getting rewarded for it. If you support such things, you’re either one of the people getting rich off of fleecing others, or you’re an incompetent idiot that has no room to chide others for having blinders.

    @Alejandro,
    See the above about Rand bringing the stupid out of people…

    And yeah…his 47% statement. Its an old topic but the core of his statement was right.

    No, it’s not. Blue states generate more income and wealth equality than red states, who receive more tax money than they generate. IOW, the 47% are more likely to be Republicans who end up voting against their own self-interests.

    @MNB,

    Stupid, stupid countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and to a lesser extent The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and France never realized that they have gone down since 1945.

    Citation please, because many (most? all?) of those countries have better standards of living than the US.

    @Leeloo Dallas Multipass (like your nym by the way)

    Also, I gotta ask. What is this thing with paying taxes being equivalent to having a gun pulled on you?

    It’s because arguing with Randroids is like arguing with little children. Much like the Republican slogan of the last major election (We built this!) the Randroids are under the delusion that any money one makes was wholly and completely of their own work and had nothing to do with anyone else. So, when the government comes calling with taxes, it is stealing from their hard-won money that no one else has any right to. They conveniently forget their public educations, use of public roads and facilities, the other people they rely on who also use those services, police, fire-fighters, and countless other services that they get either directly or indirectly from the government. The real stealing being done is them wanting to obtain those services for free. It makes them the real moochers, ironically enough.

  • Azkyroth

    Stupid, stupid countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and to a lesser extent The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and France never realized that they have gone down since 1945.

    Would this be the same 1945 in which most of those countries had either been invaded and occupied, had a war fought on their soil, or had to deal with a war next door?

    Do you even receive post cards from reality? Or did you perhaps mean that the countries would have been better off if the war went the other way?

  • ORAXX

    Rand saw her parents stripped of everything by the Bolsheviks which, I’m sure was a very tragic thing in her eyes. The incredible irony, which she was evidently unable to grasp, is the simple fact that she advocated recreating something similar to the repressive socio-economic system that made the Bolshevik’s rise to power possible in the first place. A world where business has no rules and workers have no rights.

  • Alejandro

    @Loren: I am not a hardcore libertarian, as I already mentioned earlier. I do think things like roads, firetrucks, police, military, enforcing contracts, etc are all legitimate functions of the government. I am for smaller government, not against it.

    @Adam. You are right, not bailing out the banks with taxpayers money would have resulted in a big (but temporal) chaos…. ffter which the banks would stop gambling with people’s money in order to avoid bankrupcy. Under the current system, banks that are “too big to fail” can and will keep acting reckless all the want, since they know the government will keep bailing them out at the expense of people.

    Plus, under a true free market libertarian system, banks would not get nearly as big as they are now, due to the lack of assistance from the government and the fierce free market competition between other local and foreign banks.

    I want you all liberals to pay a lot of attention to what is happening in Cyprus right now (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/16/us-eurozone-cyprus-idUSBRE92E02220130316). This is the first time in the eurozone that a levy has been imposed on the capital of the bank accounts itself. The government is openly taking your money even if it means that they have to close the banks so people are not allowed to withdraw any cash…. there are protest breaking out, people saying they will go to strike, etc. They still don’t care. They are going to take your money, wether you want it or not. Don’t like it? Too bad. You pay or you go to prison. Not surprisingly, they justify it with the typical liberal “we should all take responsability” speech. (Its funny how the “we are all in this together” mantra only seems to apply when the situation is bad. Does annyone thinks the government would force the banks to deposit money on people’s account if they ended up making an incredibly high profit or something like that??)

    If you live in Europe, the chances of something like this happening to you in the future are very high. There is still a lot of money in Europe NOW, but look at what a great economy (and economic growth) we have here. Once the Germans run out of money (or get tired of bailing everybody) europe is doomed. Something like that may also happen in the US, even do the odds of it are lower since americans will just debase their own currency by printing trillions of dollars whenever they want (which creates a ton of other problems long term..but I am digressing!)

  • GCT

    You are right, not bailing out the banks with taxpayers money would have resulted in a big (but temporal) chaos…. ffter which the banks would stop gambling with people’s money in order to avoid bankrupcy. Under the current system, banks that are “too big to fail” can and will keep acting reckless all the want, since they know the government will keep bailing them out at the expense of people.

    What must it be like to live in fantasy world? Apparently, that’s where you live.

    The reason the banks were reckless and needed bailouts (which were intended to allow people to keep their jobs) was because of lax governmental regulations – the very same thing that you are contending will fix the problem. Ugh.

  • Alejandro

    Apparently, not as good as living in a world where mommy government gives you some lunch money and then tells you exactly how you are allowed to spend it. Because having a Planned economy worked SO well for Soviet Russia…

    Regarding the whole liberal “a lot of people would have lost their jobs if no bailout had taken place” argmunet, let me remind you that companies do not vanish from the earth when they go bankrupt. All those jobs, facilities and equipment are still there and other business would have probably stepped in to purchase those assets and redeploy them, and many would have been saved.

    And yes, SOME people would have lost their jobs. but then again, nobody said that being an employee is 100% risk free. Many people act like it should, but it doesn’t. You could get fired, or the company you work for could go bankrupt, among other things. If you don’t like it you are free to start your own business.

  • GCT

    Apparently, not as good as living in a world where mommy government gives you some lunch money and then tells you exactly how you are allowed to spend it. Because having a Planned economy worked SO well for Soviet Russia…

    If you can’t argue without erecting straw men, then you’ve lost.

    Regarding the whole liberal “a lot of people would have lost their jobs if no bailout had taken place” argmunet, let me remind you that companies do not vanish from the earth when they go bankrupt. All those jobs, facilities and equipment are still there and other business would have probably stepped in to purchase those assets and redeploy them, and many would have been saved.

    Tell that to Detroit.

    If you don’t like it you are free to start your own business.

    Yes, because everyone has capital lying around with which to start a business.

    I’ll note that you didn’t dare to address the fact that your ideal policies started the mess to begin with and that more of the same is insanely stupid. Instead, you ignored that in order to simply throw out sound bytes and erroneous arguments. This is why I feel like arguing with Randroids is like arguing with children.

  • Alejandro

    So the US has had the political power alternate between democrats and republicans during the last 50+ years, but this whole mess was somehow the LIBERTARIANS fault…

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Good april fools joke. :D

    BTW, my “ideal policies” are nowhere near similar to the corporatist, quasi-socialist policies of the U.S. Like I said before, if you want to see a (more of less) good example of the kind of positive non-interventionist, low taxation economy libertarians advocate , look at Hong Kong.

  • Adam Lee

    @Adam. You are right, not bailing out the banks with taxpayers money would have resulted in a big (but temporal) chaos…. ffter which the banks would stop gambling with people’s money in order to avoid bankrupcy.

    For all your confidence about economic doctrines, Alejandro, you are remarkably uninformed about the history of capitalism. In America, for example, before the FDIC and other regulatory safeties were established, bank runs and panics were a regular feature of the economy.

    Under the current system, banks that are “too big to fail” can and will keep acting reckless all the want, since they know the government will keep bailing them out at the expense of people.

    Yes, that’s a valid concern. All the more reason to put in place additional safeguards, like reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act that forcibly separated commercial banking from investment banking. But again, the problem wasn’t the bailout per se, but inadequate regulation that both permitted the crisis requiring the bailout and failed to put in place enough safeguards to prevent a similar crisis in the future.

    The government is openly taking your money even if it means that they have to close the banks so people are not allowed to withdraw any cash…. there are protest breaking out, people saying they will go to strike, etc. They still don’t care. They are going to take your money, wether you want it or not.

    Once again, Alejandro, you really have no understanding of the issues at stake. What happened in Cyprus isn’t “the government taking people’s money”. What happened was that Cyprus’ banks made bad investments, like buying Greek government bonds that defaulted, which meant they didn’t have the money to give back to depositors who wanted it. That’s what a bank panic is: you know, the kind of thing you were just defending as a normal and healthy part of capitalism. The resolution, allowing Cyprus to tap European funds so all its banks didn’t completely collapse, required imposing losses on uninsured deposits above 100,000 euros. But again, that money was already lost no matter what.

  • GCT

    So the US has had the political power alternate between democrats and republicans during the last 50+ years, but this whole mess was somehow the LIBERTARIANS fault…

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Good april fools joke. :D

    Every post you make confirms that I’m arguing with a child.

    Deregulation led to the financial crisis we find ourselves in. Your proposed solution is further deregulation. How stupid are you?

    (And, FYI, Alan Greenspan admitted that deregulation was the culprit, and he is a Randroid just like you. Of course, just like you he also childishly claims that more deregulation will help in some idiotic way. You may want to let the grown ups talk now.)

  • Bdole

    “I love these incompetent smear pieces on Ayn Rand that leftovers write to drive traffic to their sites. Many of them amount to profiteering pay per view gang bangs of her corpse.”

    Have the Hallmark people contacted you, yet?
    Reviewing a solipsistic, witheringly tedious 1,000-page tome is meant to drive traffic TO this site!?!

    OK, sure, why the hell not.

    Forget keeping up with the Kardashians or Dawkins’s latest faux pas, mass appeal means re-reading Ayn Rand’s cold-war era capitalist fantasies since that’s what EVERYONE’s into nowadays. Adam’s always following the trends that way, gotta make that bling-bling.
    If only Paul Ryan (anagram: Ayn R. Paul) would make a cameo on the comment thread, the bucks would just roll in.

  • realeasygoing

    Yet Irony China is a communist country that should be taking care of their slave class right? To me China looks like the opposite of what Mao would have wanted. Becoming a CEO takes drive and determination, something most of us don’t have.

  • ThePrussian

    Look. Seriously. This is pathetic. I mean, really pathetic. If Rand is so obviously wrong, why do you need to distort so brazenly?

    I mean, I could point out that the majority of businessmen in Atlas are villains, engaging in exactly the kind of wretched collusion with government that you have today. But it’s par for the course for people like you to skip that. And, er, the society depicted in it is not becoming communist (please learn what words actually mean). It is following a redistributionist way.

    Now as to your comment on the conclusion – I don’t even know where to begin. You have to say Rand’s right even to criticise her points. The point about Atlas is – what would happen if the world’s capitalists decided to agree with the socialists/redistributionists? What would happen if they decided not to produce or trade? Well, the whole system would collapse. Capitalists can manage fine without socialists, socialists would die of starvation without capitalists.

  • ThePrussian

    Detroit – you mean the Detroit that is the exact, perfect embodiment of the “Starnesville” in AS? You mean the city that followed all the policies that Rand said would lead to poverty and misery, and then exactly that happened?

  • Science Avenger

    Detroit implemented a payment system where workers were voted payment based on their needs rather than on contractual agreements?

  • Science Avenger

    Sorry, that’s not true at all. There is no evidence that the entire population of the world depends on a few hundred people (the rough number implied in Galt’s Gulch), because there is no evidence that there is a class of people that far superior to everyone else. If the top 200 or so richest people in the world retired tomorrow, the next in line would simply step into their chairs, and society would continue as it always has. Worse off perhaps, but that’s not entirely clear either, since that list includes people like Oprah, who’s absence might just better mankind..

  • ThePrussian

    Seriously? Do I need to explain the difference between the requirements of fiction and the whole world? You cannot actually depict an entire planet in any work of fiction, so your argument completely misses the point.

    Also, you did not read the novel or didn’t pay close enough attention. It is set at a time when virtually the entire world has sunk into tyranny, become “people’s states”, i.e., some form of communist tyranny. These states are described as being kept alive only by what is squeezed out of the collapsing US. Is there anything parallel to that in our current world?

    Yes. North Korea. NK is kept going solely by the handouts it receives from the United States. If the food were cut off, it would collapse in weeks.

    Which brings me to my more general point about your misunderstanding of the novel. Nowhere does Rand say that the few hundreds escaping from a collapsing world are the only producers. They are simply the most critical ones at that time. It’s a matter of simple logic: if you have people who consume more than they produce, you have to have people who produce more than they consume. And those that consume more than they produce are invariably portrayed in the novel as incompetent and corrupt businessmen who get the gov’t to pour public funds into their pockets to prevent total collapse. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Goldman Sachs, General Motors anyone?

    “there is no evidence that there is a class of people that far superior to everyone else.”

    “Superior” implies a standard of comparison. So, are their standards of comparison in which some are superior to others?

    Well, yes there are. Some people are superior in mathematics, some in playing golf, some in biology, some – you get the idea. What Rand focuses on is those who are superior in the field of industrial production (though she by no means limits it to that; as you seem to not know, Galt’s Gulch contains artists, musicians, philosophers etc.).

    Now, before I get to that, let me just point out that you seem to be conflating superiority in productive ability with moral superiority, a view that Rand explicitly repudiates. She makes it quite clear than an ordinary worker who works hard, lives by his own effort and deals honestly with his fellow man (funny how the Objectivist emphasis on being honest and just is always left out of these rants) is the absolute moral equal of any productive giant, and the greatly superior to the aforementioned corrupt businessmen.

    The point is that it is only those of supreme productive ability who remain standing when the system has already squeezed all it can out of people who, though morally equivalent, just do not have the capacity to endure such a burden. Does this happen today? Oh, yes. I’ve lost count of the number of people who refuse to go into the pharmaceutical industry because they do not want to have to put up with the shit that every halfwit activist and bureaucrat piles onto them. And so the number of new drugs and treatments steadily decreases.

    I’ve already pointed out to you that Detroit is what happens when there isn’t anyone left to squeeze. You jeered at that – well, the workers continually voted themselves more than they produced and, just as in the novel, all the best people fled the city, until it reached its present sorry state, with a literacy rate that would be shameful to sub saharan Africa.

    This isn’t about the “two hundred richest people”, it is about the need for production – which means, a need for people who can produce. You need people who know how to build roads, run factories, invent new devices, make wise investments etc. If they’re not there…

  • Science Avenger

    Sorry to take the wind out of the favorite Objectivist dodge, but I’ve read the book several times and can repeat large portions of it from memory.

    Can’t depict the world realistically in fiction? Rand couldn’t perhaps, but its fairly common for good writers to do so. But for that you have to have some understanding of how the world actually works, and if you skim through this series, Adam does a pretty good job documenting that Rand didn’t.

    North Korea is a cargo cult ruled by a lunatic, hardly a representative example of socialism.

    Nowhere does Rand say that the few hundreds escaping from a collapsing world are the only producers. They are simply the most critical ones at that time. It’s a matter of simple logic

    That battle was fought intellectually long ago, and logic lost. Compare Aristotle’s “logical” meanderings about science to Galileo’s experimental ones. Your epistemology is hundreds of years out of date,

    As to the book, Rand clearly implies that without all these “critical” individuals society will collapse, and my same criticism holds: there is simply no evidence that is the case. There is no critical class of people, no matter where you decide to draw the line.

    Your description of Detroit’s problem is just a force-fit of your preconceived notions. Detroit was nothing like Starnesville. There was certainly no group vote of wages based on need.

    Yes, we need people who know how to build roads, or there will be no roads. You think this is some novel insight? You could say that about any area of human activity. It doesn’t mean jack, especially given the constant influx of new people looking to build roads, or learn anything else. You think if all the road-builders suddenly vanished from the earth there would never be roads again? Please. The people that are left would take up the slack, learn, and build. That’s the actual history of the world, instead of the fictional version Rand writes about, that implicitly presumes a static world with static black-and-white actors. It’s not remotely realistic.

  • GCT

    I fail to see how Detroit is at all like Starnesville in the book. It’s a situation of being too dependent upon a single industry and having that industry go into hardships. It’s basically what happened in Schenectady, NY when GE pulled out. The problem is that it’s not the fault of the workers, it’s just the workers who end up getting the shaft.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    I was going to ask that, but you beat me to it. :) And I’m sure there’s even less sense in asking an Objectivist how it’s possible that Detroit seems to be making a real (though limited) recovery after receiving and successfully repaying a government bailout.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Not only did they vote for it, they were forced to vote for it by Ivy Starnes – the bum on the train suggests to Dagny that they were tricked into it by Starnes

    So let’s make this clear: in Atlas Shrugged, the factory owners forced the workers to collectivize their own factory!

    But maybe the best reason for the collectivization is nothing so complicated as altruism gone wrong (or I guess as Rand would see it, just altruism.)

    Rand explains that the true motivation behind collectivism is nothing except sadism:|

    (Ivy Starnes) …had pale eyes that looked fishy, cold and dead. And if you ever want to see pure evil you should see the way her eyes glinted when she watched some man who’d talked back to her once and who’d just heard his name on the list of those getting nothing above basic pittance. And when you saw it, you saw the real motive of any person who’s ever preached ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”[13]

    It’s completely bonkers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_each_according_to_his_ability,_to_each_according_to_his_need#References_in_popular_culture

  • ThePrussian

    Have you even looked at the part of the world where that slogan was put into practice? Have you ever considered things like the Holodomor? Or does the entire history of the twentieth century count as irrelevant to you? Never mind, I know the answer.

  • ThePrussian

    Glad to hear that you agree 100% with me! Since you reject logic, there is no point in judging your comments logically so we’ll just accept that you agree with me. Or, alternatively, that your p.o.v. requires the rejection of reason and logic – well, neatly proving my point.

    For any other readers: Notice the total lack of logic in jumping from “you cannot depict an entire planet in fiction” to “you cannot depict the world realistically in fiction”. There’s just no point in discussing with people who reject logic and reality.

  • GCT

    You haven’t answered the objections put forth to you.

  • GCT

    LOL, nice dodge again. There’s no real functional difference between the two, especially since Rand is attempting to put forth a realistic scenario in order to show how her philosophy works in the real world.

    This isn’t a case of anyone rejecting logic, it’s a case of you unable to defend your assertions and your arguments, getting snippy about it, and then looking for loopholes to avoid having to do that which you cannot do.

  • Science Avenger

    The entire history of the 20th century counts as evidence against Rand’s notion that one drop of socialist blood poisons the entire culture. Ask the people of Sweden if they think their country resembles Starnesville in any way.

    You guys treat history the way climate denialists treat scientific data: cherry pick the portions that seem to support your point, ignore the rest. That’s not reasoned analysis, its propaganda.

  • Science Avenger

    No one is rejecting logic and reality. We are rejecting that logic alone can lead to much insight about the world, or that it trumps data. The history of the last 200 years or so (ie reality) is ample evidence that 10 minutes of experimentation is worth 10 days of logical thought. Again, examine the Aristotle vs Galileo conflict, where Galileo repeatedly disproved Aristotle’s logic with experimentation.

    If “world” vs “planet” pedanticism is all you’ve got, you got nothing.

  • pbrower2a

    Even if one believes in capitalism, one must recognize that the replacement of one set of ruthless, rapacious, demanding plutocrats who insist upon competition for all but their ‘noble’ selves with a new group of capitalists who operate on a smaller scale individually and can’t control the markets would surely result in similar productivity but much more equality. Small-scale business does not lend itself to the rise of rapacious bureaucracies characteristic of monopolized organizations (but Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged before the rise of the executive nomenklatura in America), so she ignored one of the more dangerous trends in America.. Even more significantly, the plutocrats would not control politics, and one of the causes of intense economic inequality becoming more severe seemingly by the month, would become less horrible.

    In that Ayn Rand has a gigantic plot hole.

  • pbrower2a

    Maybe you would prefer a nicer car, nicer electronics, more memorable vacations, or some antiques. One has the motivation to excel.

    As for making money, real satisfaction comes from achieving something (which explains why some people who make huge amounts of easy money begin to ask whether there is anything more to life). If you have the talent in some of those ‘socialist’ states you have every incentive to position yourself in a job that you love. In the American plutocracy if you have the talent you typically go heavily into debt for a college education and find that the only way in which to pay off the debt is to become a huckster. You might prefer teaching English in schools but with $70K in student loans to pay off you might find yourself selling used cars with rip-off financing.

    Making huge amounts of money isn’t everything — or we would mostly be criminals like pimps, pushers, and numbers racketeers.

  • pbrower2a

    The Soviet planned economy failed because the planners became all-powerful and were able to take anything that they wanted from the inherent productivity of the system. At that they are no better than feudal aristocrats, slave-owning planters, or monopolistic tycoons.

    Never assume the need for a ruling elite. Just think of New England or Pennsylvania in colonial America — there was no Big Business, but living standards were the highest in the world at the time. (New York wasn’t so well off because of the influence of the semi-feudal patroon system). Likewise the American frontier (at least in the North) as it moved west from central New York through places now known as Cleveland, Chicago, and Omaha.

    That was before the railroads, the first giant business that could prosper because America prospered.

    Big Business succeeds better than Small Business due to economies of scale in advertising, information technology, tax compliance, and (to put it crudely) paying off the politicians. So how was life in the 1950s when much of the retailing, banking, and even manufacturing was small business? Not too bad, really (except for Jim Crow in the South, a relict of a feudal order existing into the jet age).

  • pbrower2a

    It’s a matter of economies of scale. Businesses with adequate profitability for supporting a family and vertically-integrated oil companies face effectively a flat tax. After that, a small business that gets a visit from tax authorities for any purpose faces a larger proportional disruption than a company that has centralized finances. Giant firms face extreme economies of scale in advertising (OK, small business relies upon word-of-mouth) and especially paying off politicians to preclude competition and (when deemed necessary) get bail-outs.

    Does anyone miss the 1950s? Aside from some technological miracles and the end of Jim Crow laws and other such stupidity that could never return, those were the heyday of small business. Highly-graduated taxes on ‘unearned’ income gave an advantage to small-scale entrepreneurs in retail, banking, and even manufacturing. Maybe it helped that the Great Depression and World War II had established some good economic habits for workers, consumers, and business alike — but all in all those weren’t bad times.

  • pbrower2a

    A basic rule of economics so obvious that it is rarely taught is that quality for quality is a good deal. All other deals are bad ones. Junk for junk is worthless. Fleeces leave the one fleeced with nothing worth exchanging and the fleecer with no credibility to make further deals.

  • Deanjay1961

    Rand’s modern followers tend to be worse than she was in many ways. She was a misguided reactionary regarding the excesses of Soviet communism she experienced in her youth. Work on the biological basis for altruism had yet to be done when she wrote. She used words like ‘selfishness’ in idiosyncratic, but well-defined ways (by selfishness she meant ‘enlightened self-interest’, by sacrifice she meant ‘giving up more than you gain’, by altruism she meant ‘doing good for no reward whatsoever, not even satisfaction’). She’s not bad as a naive review of her work makes her out to be, but given that her followers often make the same mistakes regarding her meaning as her critics, only embracing the misconceptions instead of rejecting them, That said, misunderstanding the altruistic impulse, trying to get an ought from an is, and ironically forming a cult of personality make both her work and her, very flawed. That doesn’t make all of her insights worthless.

  • Amaroq

    Holy shit, someone’s been busy. It’s nice to know that Rand is such a threat to some people today that they’ll dedicate a year of their lives to writing 58 articles to try to smear her with.

    If a couple of the articles I read are any indication, it’s all based on context-dropping and misunderstandings too. If the author really has memorized the novel by now, the next thing he could work on is figuring out what context is so that he doesn’t drop it all the time.

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    -Mahatma Gandhi.

    I know the irony of quoting Gandhi in defense of Rand. But that quote is fitting here.

  • J-D

    Well, one way that quote is fitting is that it’s wrong: there is no record of Gandhi ever saying it. Not in any context. Maybe somebody imagined that quote the same way that you have imagined a context in which Rand means something different.

  • Amaroq

    For starters, the author of this summary didn’t even finish writing their title before they committed a ridiculous misunderstanding of Rand’s ideas. To say that Atlas Shrugged is a novel for the 1% is to assume, like every other evasive person who hates her, that she was completely pro-rich and anti-poor.

    There were good people of high and low incomes, and villains with high and low incomes in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand didn’t make her distinction between the rich and the poor. She made the distinction between the producers and the parasites.

    Dagny Taggart, John Galt, and Hank Rearden may have been the heroes of the novel, but people like Eddie Wilers were portrayed with warmth and affection, because they tried their best. A hero is someone who achieves something that most people aren’t able to. But in Rand’s world, everyone who tried their best to produce and live by their own effort was a morally righteous person.

    In contrast, people like Hank’s brother weren’t the only villains in the book. There was also Jim Taggart, Wesley Mouch, and those others getting rich off of favors and political pull at the expense of the producers.

    That’s a lot of context to drop for someone who claims he’s memorized the novel.

    “Atlas Shrugged: A Novel for the 1%.” is a seven word sentence. The author proved his complete lack of understanding by the seventh word he posted about any of this. I highly doubt he has done any better in the thousands of words he bothered to write in the next 58 articles he wrote.

  • J-D

    So you can tell whether there is anything worthwhile in somebody’s writings just by reading the title?

    No. No, you can’t. Try again.

    You write that Eddie Willers is portrayed with warmth and affection, because he tried his best. Is he rewarded for that in the novel, the way that Dagny Taggart, John Galt, and Hank Rearden are rewarded?

  • J-D

    If Eddie Willers tried his best but it wasn’t good enough, how is that different from saying that most people’s best isn’t good enough?

  • J-D

    You chose to cite the narrative’s treatment of Eddie Willers as evidence that the novel is not purely pro-elite.

    But the narrative does not treat Eddie Willers in the same way as the heroes, even if it does portray him with warmth and affection. The novel’s heroes achieve success through their own heroic efforts. Eddie Willers puts forth his own maximum effort, but it isn’t enough to save him. His ultimate fate is left open, but it’s clear that if he is saved it will not be by his own efforts. The implied message to the non-elite, surely, is that the only hope for the non-elite lies in acceptance of their utter dependence on the elite and self-subordination to the will of the elite.

  • J-D

    If Eddie Willers is intended to typify a category of people that really exist, what message for people like that do _you_ think is contained in the narrative?

  • J-D

    Congratulations! You are absolutely correct! You do not understand!

    And congratulations again! You have correctly diagnosed the reason that you do not understand — namely, that you have not tried to understand! You did not look for any significance in what happened to Eddie Willers. But why not? It’s part of the book, isn’t it?

    It is natural and normal to expect the fates that befall significant characters in a work of literature to be themselves significant, to convey some meaning, and not to be purely random or arbitrary. This is doubly true in a work that is obviously didactically intended, as in the case of _Atlas Shrugged_.

    Yes, Eddie Willers behaves differently from other characters, and yes, there should be reasons why he behaves differently — so let’s take it that there are. But also there should be reasons why things turn out differently for him from the way things turn out for other characters. It’s explicitly the case that things turn out well for some characters in the novel because they make good choices, while things turn out badly for other characters because they make bad choices. When things turn out well for people who have behaved well, it’s natural to feel satisfaction at virtue rewarded, and when then things turn out badly for people who have behaved badly, it’s natural to have a sense that some kind of justice has been done. How do you feel when reading of Eddie Willers’s fate, though?

    In response to your third paragraph, I don’t find in the book a message that lifts me up. In response to your fourth paragraph, I’m not looking for any admissions.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Eddie’s fate is a tragedy of course. But I understand why it logically had to happen.

    Nothing “logically had to happen” to Eddie. Atlas Shrugged is a work of fiction; its plotline is entirely determined by the author. Rand could easily have chosen to script events so that Eddie is rescued at the last minute by the capitalist cavalry coming over the hill – just as she did with John Galt, who’s saved in the nick of time by all the other protagonists staging a mass assault to rescue him from the villains’ clutches. But not only is Eddie abandoned without rescue, none of the other characters ever even wonder what happened to him. Dagny, his lifelong friend, expresses no curiosity or concern for his fate.

    Also, it’s worth emphasizing that this isn’t just about Eddie. All the characters who love capitalism and work hard, but who aren’t omnicompetent Randian supergeniuses, end up dead in the end: Cherryl Taggart and Tony the “wet nurse” are two other examples. The strongly implied message is that there’s no room for merely ordinary people in Galt’s Gulch. If you’re not one of the elite few, you have no role to play in the utopian world Rand imagines.

  • J-D

    That’s the message to the ‘average rational man’ that I’m seeing (and presumably to the ‘average rational woman’ as well): you depend on the geniuses; without them you can achieve nothing. That’s obviously a different message from the one intended for geniuses.

  • Amaroq

    There are not two messages intended for different classes of people. There are just the events that happened and the reason why they happened and one set of ideas that it portrays.

    In a way, it’s true. Where would we be without the geniuses and inventors and entrepreneurs and such? We’d each be breaking our backs 18 hours a day on our own self-sustaining farms and getting nowhere else in life.

    I know you’re looking for a way for this to come around so you can say “Aha! See? Atlas Shrugged really is a ‘novel for the 1%.” Hence you using the phrase “depend on”. There’s a difference between being dependent on someone and benefiting from them.

    The geniuses built a world where it’s easier for us to live. That doesn’t mean we are dependent on them. That doesn’t mean we have to beg for scraps from them in order to live. It means we have a selfish interest in leaving other people alone to pursue their own selfish interests. Especially the geniuses.

  • Amaroq

    J-D is at least being fairly objective and logical in this argument. You’re just straight up twisting it into something that it’s not.

    Of course, Rand determined the causal course of events. She could have scripted things otherwise. But she believed every plot element had to be driven by logic. Every plot element had to proceed from prior events by causality, not by chance.

    I can’t go back in time and read Rand’s mind, so I don’t know what she was thinking when she chose Eddie’s fate. Presumably there’s a good reason why it had to happen.

    I have read a note she wrote about the premise of the book. She asked herself, why did the men of the mind keep working throughout all of the persecution and torment throughout history. Why did they continue to drag mankind forward kicking and screaming while it continuously bit the hand that fed it. (My words, not hers.)

    Her answer, was that there was a fundamental error that all the great “men of the mind” were guilty of: Misplaced optimism. They could take on reality itself and overcome any challenge it threw against them. So it makes sense that they would be unwavering optimists. The error is to place the same optimism in their fellow man that they place in the world around them. They could conquer all the challenges of nature, so it seemed natural to them that they would believe they could conquer all the challenges that mankind threw at them as well.

    Coming back to the novel, John Galt is the one man in Atlas Shrugged who didn’t fall victim to that error. He sought out the other men of the mind who were still struggling and suffering from it, and when they were ready for it, he told them the truth.

    Dagny, Hank, and Eddie all committed that same error. They were all optimists who thought that they could overcome any challenge with enough hard work and dedication. But Dagny and Hank were a step ahead of Eddie philosophically. They learned just in time the nature of the system they were working under, and they were able to let go willingly. Eddie had not learned that important truth, and so he went on struggling, believing that there had to be a way to win out. (Or maybe knowing the importance of the train he tried to save, which symbolized the life-giving advancements that were being destroyed around him.)

    As to your other examples, Cherryl and the Wet Nurse were not destroyed because they are dependent on the geniuses. They were destroyed by the evil world they lived in. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it, and I’ve read it only once. But the Wet Nurse was killed in an assault on Rearden’s mills, and Cherryl committed suicide when she realized how James Taggart had been using her as an object of his pity, and how she only escaped from one cruel world and into another.

    Eddie is a more complex case to understand, so you had me going for a while. But when you attempted to use other characters to back up your argument, I saw how dishonest it was.

    Need I remind you that this is a dystopian setting where the world is collapsing under the weight of a corrupt system, designed to enslave the productive to serve the parasites? The good and semi-good characters who were destroyed were destroyed by the corrupt system. They didn’t die out just because the men of the mind went on strike. They died out because the men of the mind decided to save themselves, and the corrupt system crashed down on the ones who were still left. The parasites, deprived of their more powerful hosts, sucked dry anyone left behind.

  • J-D

    Maybe I have misunderstood, but you give the impression that you see the message of the book (or perhaps part of the message) as being that there is a tiny number of people who have the capabilities to change the world and to make it a better place for themselves and for everybody else, while people outside this category lack those capabilities and cannot by themselves contribute anything significant to the advancement of human welfare.

    If that is the message (or part of it), then it seems reasonable to see the book as intended to have different effects on different people. Is the book reasonably interpreted as encouraging everybody to rise up, shake off their chains, and take charge of their lives and of the world? No, it’s offering that encouragement only to what it presents as a tiny number of people; it’s encouraging everybody else only to accept the special quality of that tiny group and therefore to stop obstructing them.

  • Amaroq

    I never saw the message of the book being that there’s a tiny number of people who have the capabilities to change the world. I always saw it as everyone should rise up, shake off their chains, and take charge of their lives and of the world. But you see it as something just for a tiny minority and I’m trying to argue how that’s not what it is.

    Maybe we just took different perspectives when we read the book. I placed myself in the heroes’ shoes and followed their struggle from a first person perspective. You seem to have just witnessed the events from the sidelines. So we would both interpret the ending differently.

    Since I was being “self-centered” in how I perceived the story, I felt uplifted and freed, though shocked at the ending and disappointed that they couldn’t bring Eddie with. That is, my feelings about Eddie’s ending were as if I were having to leave him behind, but understanding that it had to be done.

    On the other hand, since you were experiencing it “off to the side”, you didn’t see Eddie’s fate as your loss. You saw it as a condemnation of yourself for not being as great as Rand’s heroes.

    This is something I’ve noticed of other people who wind up hating Atlas Shrugged as well. I think rather than put themselves in the heroes’ shoes, they compare themselves to Rand’s heroes and only see her heroes looking down on them. So whenever I introduce someone to the novel, I try to warn them that they should put themselves in the heroes’ shoes, in hopes that they’ll enjoy it and not hate it that way.

    I was actually at risk of hating the novel myself. When I was first introduced to Dagney, I thought she was a bitch. But a roommate of mine had told me that he tells other people what to do because they’re too un-assertive to decide for themselves what they want to do. And because he had said that to me (I didn’t like him at all, but I had to live with him), I was able to empathize with Dagny once she had to take command and get the train going.

    From then on, I was able to put myself in the heroes’ shoes and enjoy the story.

    Said roommate I mentioned was actually very controlling over me as well, and I was too un-assertive to stand up to him. So in a way, the heroes’ struggle was like my own. Rand inspired me and gave me the strength to cast off my own chains, and free myself from that situation.

  • J-D

    If you think that the message of the book is that everybody should rise up and shake off their chains, what is it that you think those chains are?

  • L.J. Lim

    put myself in the heroes’ shoes

    So just how many people do you know went from working in a mine at age 14 to running their own highly successful mining firm, inventing a revolutionary new alloy and bridge truss design seemingly all by themselves in the process? Or perhaps they were good at everything they did, including independently reinventing calculus at the age of 12? How many people have you even heard of who accomplished such feats?

    In Rand’s world, if you can’t at least get within the ballpark of that level of personal awesomeness, you’re never going to heaven Galt’s Gulch and you may as well stay put and wait for the author to get around to killing you off (or if you want to be really pedantic, having the looter-created system do it for her).

  • L.J. Lim

    Since the point clearly isn’t being communicated despite the analogy I used, I’ll spell it out for you:

    In Atlas Shrugged, the ones capable of “figuring it out” and surviving the attacks of the looters are the all-capable, hypercompetent producers, and the ones who can’t are… not. The implication here is clear: having higher drive, intelligence, etc. guarantees you’re an all-but perfect producer, and conversely, not being an all-but-perfect producer means you don’t have those attributes. No potential producer is kept from those ranks by mundane circumstances like “not being born to a family that can actually afford to give you an education” or “suffered a debilitating illness.”

    The propagation of this Horatio Alger-esque, totally false notion is precisely one of the big problems people have with this book.

  • L.J. Lim

    Isn’t it funny how none of your examples quite resemble Rand’s heroes, even leaving side the question of whether their capabilities are on par with those of the Atlas Shrugged cast?

    Ford was one of the original welfare capitalists.

    Edison was no solo genius of the type Rand likes to depict: he had a large team backing him up at his Menlo Park laboratory. Moreover, in some ways he was more akin to a Randian looter capitalist – refer to the Current Wars or his treatment of Tesla.

    Speaking of Tesla, he died in poverty. No Galt’s Gulch for him!

    Einstein… he wrote an essay titled “Why Socialism?,” ffs.

    But let’s set all that aside and get to the point: There is no way you can portray “you’re either one of the Elect an Einstein-like genius, or you can go to hell” as an uplifting message for anyone (much less people who need uplifting to begin with), and the fact that you are even making the attempt is frankly embarrassing.

    But now you’re rationalizing things to play out your own frustrations as if they were valid logic.

    But if you look at it objectively, there’s way more context to it than what you’ve narrowed it down to.

    You know, this would go much better if you would specify the supposed instances of rationalisations or the context that makes it all better instead of merely making these assertions.

    I note that in your first post in this post’s comments, you made the charge that Adam Lee’s series is based on taking the narrative and plot events out of context. So here’s a good point to get the ball rolling: What context makes it ethically/morally acceptable for Rand’s supposed paragons of virtue to deliberately build shoddy housing for his mine workers with the intent of having it collapse on its inhabitants (d’Anconia) or to push a government official down three flights of stairs for offering him a government loan (Nathaniel Taggart)?

  • J-D

    So, on your reading of the book, is it showing Eddie Willers as being chained by altruism, and if it is, does it also show him as shaking off those chains?

  • Amaroq

    So your problem with the book is that it’s romanticized. (Which would make sense, because Rand referred to her work as Romantic Realism.) You’d rather see some of the average people out-do some of the heroes and you’d rather see some of the heroes fail miserably, and you’d like to see coincidences that completely mess up everyone’s plans, because that would be more “realistic”.

  • Amaroq

    No. I think the reason Eddie ended up as he did is because he didn’t shake off those chains.

  • Science Avenger

    It’s not Romanticized to pretend the world is a giant game of chess when its clearly a game of poker where we all start off with different banks. It’s childish and simplistic.

  • Science Avenger

    “I placed myself in the heroes’ shoes and followed their struggle from a first person perspective.”
    It’s difficult for most people who know something about how the world actually works to put themselves in the shoes of characters who are basically magic. Except unlike Harry Potter, the magic is never explained.

  • L.J. Lim

    Not to mention that most people do not base a complete socio-politico-economic or philosophical system based on a work of romantic fiction (or any other kind of fiction, for that matter), or are at least too embarrassed to admit it if they do. For good reason.

    Atlas Shrugged‘s realism is being dissected precisely because certain groups are attempting to model or engineer real-world societies based on it.

  • J-D

    So, on you reading, the book presents some people as shaking off their chains and others as not doing so: is the distinction between the two categories of people supposed to be random/arbitrary, or is there supposed to be some principle that divides those who shake off their chains from those who don’t?

  • L.J. Lim

    Ugh. Yes, Ford, Edison, Tesla and Einstein can quite safely fall under a widely accepted definition of “genius.” My point was 1) Ford et al. constitute a very small minority of the people on Earth, and 2) they don’t behave like Rand’s protagonists.

    You say that Atlas Shrugged is a positive message for everyone, yet it writes off >99.99% of humanity as being entirely disposable (and glosses over the fact than even within the remaining <0.01%, some will be mistreated and screwed over by others – see Tesla).

    In the case of Francisco d’Anconia, you’ll have to refresh my memory. I don’t remember him purposefully building houses that would collapse on his workers.

    Covered here

    In the case of Nathaniel Taggart, if I remember correctly, the government official was trying to coerce him into being dependent on the government.

    Offering someone a government loan is coercing them into being dependent on the government. Okay.

    (The text in question simply reads: “It was said that Nat Taggart had staked his life on his railroad many times; but once, he staked more than his life. Desperate for funds, with the construction of his line suspended, he threw down three flights of stairs a distinguished gentleman who offered him a loan from the government.”)

  • L.J. Lim

    Since you admit that nobody else uses or lives by the definition of altruism that Rand gives, why even bother using that definition or railing against that concept?

    In my own personal life, I had grown up with the deep-seeded idea that being nice made me a good person. So I could not assert myself or stand up for myself in any way, because that meant I had to be mean to those who wanted to take advantage of me. So I grew up as an altruist, feeling like I had to sacrifice my needs and my feelings to preserve other peoples’ feelings.

    I’m sorry that you were led to believe that being a good person meant complete self-abnegation. However, to say that you either guard your own interests or play doormat is a complete false dichotomy. Even My Little Pony could tell you that. (Season 2, Episode 19).
    It’s known in psychological and self-help circles as being assertive vs. aggressive or submissive/passive.

    But the ideal is still around. As a society, we still praise people for sacrifices they make. IE, we praise them for their losses. If a parent puts their child through college, we praise them for all the pain and suffering they had to go through to do that, rather than for the selfish valuing of their child’s future. If a soldier dies in combat, we praise them for their death in sacrificial service to our country, rather than for their having selfishly fought for things that they value, such as their family, their friends, or this country. We praise them for the loss, the negative, their destruction, rather than for the positive of having had something worth fighting for.

    Certainly, the focus on the loss rather than the gain when most people judge the merits of a good act towards others tends to lead to a poor appraisal of good acts in general.

    That said:

    And since this ugly ideal of altruism is dominant in our society, you get a political system based on it, where everyone is slowly being controlled and stolen from more and more, to serve the “public good”, the “needy”, etc.

    So, Rand’s description of altruism is alive and well today in our society. And because people like you agree with it, you have a problem with her message that people don’t have to sacrifice their interests. That the right thing to do is to pursue your interests and live happily.

    Your (and Rand’s) apparent notion that [ 1) our present society suffers from an excess of altruism (whether of the common definition, or the one Rand made up), and 2) that this is resulting in a worse society that one based on pure self-interest ] has no basis in reality. Or are you going to seriously advance the claim that acting entirely in your self-interest is moral even when it results in direct harm to others, like when someone makes a profit by selling tobacco, or when a business owner lays off hundreds of workers and uses the savings to buy himself a yacht, or when a building collapses and kills over a thousand people because nobody in the supply chain thought to bother with factory safety?

  • Science Avenger

    …Altruism is a morality that idealizes sacrifice. Which means to give up a value in return for lesser or no value.

    No, it means giving up a value of your own in exchange for values (often greater ones) for others. No one would call running into a burning building a sacrifice if it resulted in giving up the value of your life for nothing. It’s a sacrifice if you die saving the lives of others.

    Rand says “altruism” when she means “masochism”. The definitions she uses for words apear in no dictionary and are used by no one. They are complete fictional fabrications.

  • Science Avenger

    …The reason you don’t see people describing altruism today the way Ayn Rand did, is because altruism doesn’t work. If anyone practiced it fully and consistently, it would be immediate suicide. So now we have concepts like Pragmatism and always picking the middle ground, because you can’t be a complete altruist and live.

    Nonsense. The reason people don’t describe altruism the way Rand did (and you do) is because its a complete straw man. Most of the concepts Rand flubs shift from person to person depending on circumstances. All of us, everyone, is an altruist sometimes, the benefactor of others’ altruism other time, just like all of us are producers one moment and moochers the next. Rand acts as if there are people who are producers 100% of the time, and others who are moochers 100% of the time, and that altruism asks some people to sacrifice 100% of the time. It’s sheer nonsense.

    If I were to treat donating blood as Rand treats altruism, I’d say its an immoral system to ask some to give blood for the sake of others, because if you did it consistently you would bleed out and die. The system works, just like the concept of altruism, because sometimes we give, sometimes we get, and overall we are all generally better off as a result.

  • Science Avenger

    …In my own personal life, I had grown up with the deep-seeded idea that being nice made me a good person. So I could not assert myself or stand up for myself in any way, because that meant I had to be mean to those who wanted to take advantage of me.

    What a warped view of the world. Asserting yourself nicely is a contradiction in terms to you? Being nice means letting people take advantage of you? How can you have a view of human nature that excludes the way the overwhelming majority of humantiy behaves the overwhelming majority of the time?

  • Science Avenger

    …everyone is slowly being controlled and stolen from more and more, to serve the “public good”, the “needy”, etc.

    Uh huh…Yogi Berra fan? “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded”. You show the same disconnect as Rand in ignoring that there must be some recipients somewhere, you can’t take from EVERYONE.

    Any objective analysis of our body politic in the last few decades would conclude that most of us are being controlled and stolen from to serve the “public good”, the “job creators” and to “keep America safe from terrorists”. The notion that we are overcome with concern for the needy at a time where the United Nations is being called in to serve people who don’t have enough water to drink in FUCKING DETROIT, merely because they can’t pay what are often trivial bills, is absurd beyond measure.

  • Science Avenger

    Where would we be without the geniuses and inventors and entrepreneurs and such? We’d each be breaking our backs 18 hours a day on our own self-sustaining farms and getting nowhere else in life.

    Nothing in history supports that claim, mainly because you can’t divide humanity into “geniuses and inventors and entrepeneurs” vs “everyone else”. There is no greeat gap between the greatest inventor/genius and #2, nor #2 and #3. Each great invention/discovery tends to be 1) build as an add-on to the work of many that preceded it, and 2) barely ahead of its nearest competitor. Does the phrase “If I’ve seen farther than others, its because I stand on the shoulders of giants” mean nothing to you? And consider that this was spoken by one of the greatest and most arrogant minds humanity has ever produced. If he can give others their due…


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X