Atlas Shrugged: Corporate Philanthropy

Atlas Shrugged, p.46-47

I’ve got one more point to make about Hank Rearden, and then we’ll move on to the next scene. Hank’s brother, Philip, asks him to donate money to a charity he’s working for, an group called “Friends of Global Progress”:

Rearden had never been able to keep track of the many organizations to which Philip belonged, nor to get a clear idea of their activities. He had heard Philip talking vaguely about this one for the last six months. It seemed to be devoted to some sort of free lectures on psychology, folk music and co-operative farming. Rearden felt contempt for groups of that kind and saw no reason for a closer inquiry into their nature. [p.46]

Yeah! Take that, you dirty hippies!

Rand is playing a double game here: she describes Philip’s charity to make it seem as worthless and ineffective as possible, so that Hank’s disgust with it seems to be justified. But in reality, it wouldn’t matter what that charity did, because she still wouldn’t advocate supporting it. When she refers to “groups of that kind” that her heroes hold in contempt, she’s not just referring to bad charities; she’s referring to all charities.

The black-or-white Objectivist ideology requires this. In Rand’s eyes, there are only two kinds of people: the heroic self-reliant capitalists, who don’t need charity, and the lazy worthless moochers, who don’t deserve it. Therefore, there’s no reason to help anyone. All you should care about is yourself, and everyone else should get along as best they can on their own. If they starve or become homeless or die of illness they can’t afford to treat, too bad for them. (As I’ve written before, Rand’s entire explanation of what would happen to the poor and the needy in an Objectivist society is: “If you want to help them, you will not be stopped.”)

To further showcase her view of charity, Rand writes a scene where Hank decides, just this once, to make his brother happy and agrees to give him ten thousand dollars:

Philip stared at him blankly; it was neither shock nor pleasure; it was just the empty stare of eyes that looked glassy.
“Oh,” said Philip, then added, “We’ll appreciate it very much.” There was no emotion in his voice, not even the simple one of greed. [p.47]

This bizarre wording seems to be implying that, if only Philip had been acting out of personal greed, his motivations would be understandable and acceptable. But the idea of collecting money with the goal of helping others, even if you don’t get any direct benefit from doing so, strikes Rand as an incomprehensible horror. And she goes on to confirm that this is exactly what she meant:

“You don’t really care about helping the underprivileged, do you?” Philip asked – and Rearden heard, unable to believe it, that the tone of his voice was reproachful.
“No, Phil, I don’t care about it at all. I only wanted you to be happy.”
“But that money is not for me. I am not collecting it for any personal motive. I have no selfish interest in the matter whatever.”
…Rearden turned away. He felt a sudden loathing: not because the words were hypocrisy, but because they were true; Philip meant them. [p.47]

Note: loathing. Rearden feels only indifference for his wife and family, but he actively detests the idea of selflessly helping others.

Again, this is an outgrowth of Rand’s black-and-white, almost Manichaean worldview. Not only do her heroes not need charity, they recoil from the idea and would never accept it under any circumstances. Therefore, it follows that the only people who would accept charity are the bad guys, the evil moochers who are glad to sponge off the hard work of others.

In fact, it’s the major theme of this novel that the only real flaw of Rand’s superhuman protagonists is that they’re willing to continue to work and to produce under an unjust system, expending their energy to support the worthless leeches whose continued existence that system makes possible. (They learn to stop doing this over the course of the novel.) This is just another way of saying that the only flaw of her ruthless millionaire business executives is that they’re too nice.

All this would make at least some sense if the world was a perfect meritocracy, where everyone’s level of success in life – how much wealth they own and how high they rise – was directly and completely traceable to their individual effort and talent. This is an assumption so gigantic that Rand never even seems to realize she’s making it. It’s also an assumption that, just as obviously, is completely false.

The world isn’t a perfect meritocracy, far from it: when and where people are born, and under what circumstances, matters a lot. If I’m born in an impoverished slum in a developing country, my chances of success are far less than if I’m born to wealthy parents in the U.S., no matter what kind of talent or potential I possess. Even in the wealthy capitalist U.S., race and class make a tremendous difference in one’s level of social mobility.

It’s facts like this that motivate the Giving Pledge, where multibillionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have promised to donate the majority of their fortunes to charitable causes. Doubtless, this idea would have induced head-exploding levels of cognitive dissonance in Dagny Taggart or Hank Rearden – but that just shows that there’s more to the world than is contained in Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

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.

  • MNb

    To me Rand has exactly the opposite effect she is aiming for: I pity her heroes with their empty and hollow lives, with their unability to feel empathy. Such boring lives they lead.

  • nkrishna

    Wow… those quotes show off some clunky writing right there. Also props to the extremely strawman vision of charity. No subtly drawing the reader into the world here, no sir.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.glasser Russell Wain Glasser

    “If I’m born in an impoverished slum in a developing country, my chances of success are far less than if I’m born to wealthy parents in the U.S., no matter what kind of talent or potential I possess.”

    In discussions with objectivists, I generally find that they think it’s a great idea for education to be offered on a free market basis. If I ask “What about the kids of parents who just pay the minimum amount of money, either because they can’t afford it or they just don’t care?” the answer is generally that the free market will appropriately punish the PARENTS, thus the free market works.

    Which is great and all, but it’s not the fault of the kids, and it’s hard to see how they fit into the moral calculus. But then, as somebody has already pointed out in comments on earlier posts, Rand didn’t write about children, didn’t have children, and didn’t care about them that much.

  • http://twitter.com/scronce scronce

    Not to give Rand too much credit, but English was not her first language. Some of her clunky writing may simply be attributed to some kind of bizarre anxiety about accurately transmitting her ideas.

  • http://twitter.com/scronce scronce

    She thought about kids when they were a convenient excuse to be outraged; the “logical” basis for her homophobia is that as gay people don’t contribute to the population pool they are essentially dead-end moochers.

  • Major Nav

    I have always thought the Rand or her publishers mislabeled “The Virtue of Selfishness”. Everyone just focuses on the word seflishness and never reads the book. My interpretation of her viewpoint is that selflessness does not truly exist. No one acts out of selflessness or self sacrifice, it is merely what they have chosen to do with their life. If motivation to work with or give to the poor makes you feel good or or boosts your vanity that others will think better of you, then it is not a selfless act. You just have different motivations.

    Rearden is not indifferent to his family, he says he wants them to be happy.
    Hank does not loathe the charity work, just Phillip’s claim to be selfless. He wants Phillip to be happy about doing something he is passionate about and not think of it as a sacrifice to wear on his sleeve for all to see. Nor does Phllip’s his “act of selflesness” create a requirement for Hank to contribute to the cause or be happy about doing so.

    There is a difference between expecting a person to contribute to charity and demanding they do so at the point of a gun (aka harrassing or taxing). People receiving charity should not set the levels of contributions demanded. That is the main theme of the book.

    BTW, Manichaean? The Gnostics? Not sure this was the word you meant to use.

  • Chris

    Even if the world were a perfect meritocracy, there would still be no reason to claim it “moral” for some citizens to be the “haves” and some to be the “have nots”. Having natural talent is no more a virtue than having red hair. A tendency to hard work is more a function of factors outside our control than any specific internal will power. So why not acknowledge that we refuse, as a wealthy society, to let people die in the streets or live a life of misery–even if they are “lazy”. I know I am speaking to the chorus here.

  • Pulse

    Many charities have noble goals (aiding the sick, feeding the hungry, housing the poor, etc), and they pursue such goals efficiently. I fully encourage and endorse such charities.

    Philip’s charity is “devoted to some sort of free lectures on psychology, folk music and co-operative farming.” While these goals may be nice, they hardly rate anywhere near the top of my priorities when deciding which charities to donate to.

    Furthermore, Philip doesn’t have to be greedy, but if he had shown greed that would have indicated that he at least felt something toward his cause. But he doesn’t. He says, “I have no selfish interest in the matter whatever,” not even the selfish interest in deriving joy from helping others. He can’t even muster heartfelt appreciation for a donation. If I met a charity organizer as passionless as Philip, I would be hesitant to donate as well.

    Rand sets up a straw man by implying that Philip’s charity is typical of all charities. She errs in holding comtempt for charities categorically. But perhaps worse than Rearden, I would not have given Philip even a pity donation in this particular scenario. Rearden tried (awkwardly) to do something nice for his brother, and it was spit back in his face.

  • Pulse

    BTW, Manichaean? The Gnostics? Not sure this was the word you meant to use.

    It appears that the term “Manichaean” is now synonymous with any philosophy involving radical dualism with a stark contrast between good and evil and no gray area in between. The prophet Manes considered mind intrinsically good and matter intrinsically evil, which we see paralleled in Rand’s dichotomy of rational life versus irrational death. The usage of the term is appropriate.

  • alfaretta

    We are talking about Rand’s clunky wording here, but I don’t think
    totally understandable shock is “spitting it back in his face.” Philip
    thanked his brother first, then had a completely accurate and disturbing
    realization about him. Maybe he should have bit his tongue because of
    the check, but given his knowledge of his brother’s character and
    beliefs up to this point, I don’t think we can blame him for blurting it
    out.

  • Pulse

    Lack of empathy =/= empty and hollow life. Rand’s heroes do seem to demonstrate a lack of empathy, but they would vehemently deny that their lives are empty and hollow. They would also deny that their lives are boring.
    This argument is akin to saying that without God life is empty and hollow.

  • Nathaniel Winer

    Not really. When researching and interviewing with actual sociopaths, one common complaint they have is a hard to finger feeling of “hollowness.” Such people tend to think everyone is like them, and that people who find meaning in things other than physical pleasure or social domination are lying.

  • http://profiles.google.com/david.mike.simon David Simon

    No one acts out of selflessness or self sacrifice, it is merely what they have chosen to do with their life. If motivation to work with or give to the poor makes you feel good or or boosts your vanity that others will think better of you, then it is not a selfless act.

    So any action which is reinforced by happy feelings is therefore primarily motivated by those feelings? That’s fallacious.

    Suppose Alexandra is about to anonymously donate $100 to charity, but I stop her and say: “I have a pill which affects all the same areas of your mind that the satisfaction of making the donation would, identically. I’ll sell it to you for $95.”

    If Alexandra were entirely motivated by the happy feeling she gets from making donations, she would take my deal, since (happy feeling + $5) is obviously better than (happy feeling). But I very much doubt she would.

    I assert that the vast majority of people who donate to charity are interested at least somewhat in the actual outcome.

  • Major Nav

    I don’t think the focus of this section is on charities, but on human motivation or drive or passion. Hank can’t stand the fact that Phillip can’t focus on a single cause but is more concerned with being part of a charity or the next charity.
    Is Hank Reardon any less selfless for pouring his life into alloy production? Do his efforts not contribute to a better, safer, and more productive society?
    None of Rand’s heroes are driven by the collection of money or wealth. But they certainly don’t think anyone has the right to take it away from them.

  • Major Nav

    It depends upon what is motivating Alexandra. Pursuit of happiness or helping the cause, that is her choice. Monetary value is irrelevant. Millions of drug users (legal or not) face the same dilemma every day. Feed my kids or get my next fix. Most choose poorly.
    It’s not just about happiness or feeling good.
    If you choose to join the military or peace corps and endure hardships or put yourself in harms way, that is not selflessness because your “self” is the kind of person that wants to do that sort of thing.

  • Martin Penwald

    Thank you Mr Lee.
    I think you unveil the most important point about Ayn Rand´s work : hard workers are rewarded and bad worker not. As easy than that. However, I´m not completely sure, as you write, that she didn´t realize it. Her follower completely miss the point, but I´m not certain that she didn´t address this issue.

    There is an inherent flaw here. Hank Rearden occupies a high level job, with a high level salary, because he was a exceptionnally good worker. But what if everybody was exceptionnel ?

    The corporate world of Ayn Rand is inhabited by fairies and unicorns. A good employee should be rewarded, but how ? Assuming that there is an objective mean to evaluate the job´s quality of a worker, you cannot reward everybody with a higher rank, because each corporation need good employee even at the low level jobs (specially at the low level jobs) and because of the pyramidale structure of almost all kind of organisation. So, the obvious way to reward people is to give them a good salary (basically, there are other way, but I´ll keep it simple).

    In a perfect randian world, a good employee, whatever he does, should earn the exactly same amount of money. The difference in salaries would be made on the effectiveness of each employee, janitor or CEO.
    Curiously, I doubt that the followers of Ayn Rand would agree.

  • schmidtleb

    Can you explain how your acquaintances believe that the parents will be punished by the market? I don’t really get even that.

    “Rand didn’t write about children, didn’t have children, and didn’t care about them that much.”

    Of course that is how it has to be. Objectivist ideology (and right-wing-libertarian ideology in general) implodes once children are taken into account because they are completely dependent on their parents. There can be no complete meritocracy because children are not masters of their destiny.

    If anything, one would have to completely prohibit any kind of inheritance and patronage, and give all children the exact same education and the exact same starting capital when they turn adults. From that point on one could withdraw, let all of them compete on the market place, and then claim that the ones who starve to death are only the ones who did not have it in them. In other words, communism until adulthood, then Manchester liberalism. That would be inhumane but at least consistent. The weird mixture of protecting inherited privileges and then claiming that the ones who were born with a silver spoon deserved their later success that is generally promoted by libertarians is inhumane and illogical.

  • Indigo

    I often wonder why Randians would even have children. Unless you think of child-rearing as an expensive hobby done for pleasure, from their perspective there is literally no reason to do it. Yet if no one does it, we’re all properly screwed (no future generation = no future, period). Hey, look at that! Another giant gaping hole in the foundation of the philosophy.

  • Azkyroth

    In addition to creatively sanitizing and reinterpreting Rand in a fashion normally reserved for Liberal Christians and the Old Testament, you’re equivocating between a Shit-Stupid-Literal interpretation of “selfless” and what is actually meant by the term when earth-humans use it.

    Don’t do that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.a.kearney.3 David Andrew Kearney

    While I’m no fan of Hank Reardon, Philip Reardon strikes me as equally distasteful. He’s an entitled brat with a chip on his shoulder. Pulse is right when s/he says “Rand sets up a straw man by implying that Philip’s charity is typical of all charities.”

    As an aside, does anyone watch SNL? Philip reminds me of
    Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party:

    What did you wish for for Christmas?
    I wished for the new IPad.
    I wished for an end to genocide.

  • smrnda

    Rand is a terrible writer. She’s a terrible propagandist because she can’t help but clearly load every single descriptive word with some value judgment. Perhaps the worst is the way she uses descriptions of eyes to convey value judgments – try to actually form a concrete picture of what they look like is impossible.

    The gripe against Philip is that he seems incapable of being happy while large quantities of other people are miserable. Hank wants him to be happy, but just like Rand, she isn’t fine with you being happy unless you define ‘happiness’ the exact same way she does. For Randiods, you’re only concerned with your own happiness, and it’s pretty clear that if the suffering of others can cause you unhappiness you’re some unworthy disgusting person, since a REAL MAN eats a steak when he hears about millions of starving kids in India.

    It’s a very sad testament to the reading public of the US that such a shoddy writer and thinker is taken so seriously. Just wondering, any news on her works in other languages or places?

  • http://profiles.google.com/david.mike.simon David Simon

    I dislike Azkyroth’s nasty way of putting it, but I think they are correct. You’re defining “selfless” in a peculiar way that does not line up with the way the word is typically used.

    If you don’t think that anybody actually acts selflessly, then go ahead and present that case. But, redefining selflessness out of existence is no such argument.

  • smrnda

    English wasn’t Joseph Conrad’s first language either, nor was it Jerzy Kosiński’s (author of the Painted Bird.)

  • Major Nav

    20 year contributing member to the Ayn Rand Institute here.
    Her words:
    “To love is to value. Only a rationally selfish man, a man of
    self-esteem, is capable of love—because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed values. The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.”
    The Objectivist Ethics
    This is exactly what Rand is addressing in the description of the characters at the dinner party. Contrast between Hank, the rationally selfish, and Phillip, the selfproclaimed, “selfsacrificing” altruist.
    Atlas Shrugged is not a novel. It is a philosophy book arranged in an entertaining manor, replete with examples. Don’t get distracted by the window-dressing or scenery and miss the observations of the human condition.
    She is not discussing the value of all charities, but the human ideology that leads to the development of the “Friends of Global Progress” type organizations.

  • ORAXX

    The world Rand described does not and never did exist outside of her imagination. Rand’s heroes were sociopaths she endowed with a nobility that simply doesn’t exist in the real world. Her only, dubious, achievement lies in helping truly awful people feel better about themselves.

  • Azkyroth

    Do you actually think any of this A) is news or B) is going to change anyone’s evaluation of the dreadful piece of tripe?

    It is a philosophy book arranged in an entertaining manor

    Pity the surroundings don’t transfer into the book.

  • GCT

    One need not be selfish in order to value oneself. Logic fail.

  • GCT

    There is a difference between expecting a person to contribute to charity and demanding they do so at the point of a gun (aka harrassing or taxing).

    The taxation = gun violence argument is so worn out that I’m having trouble taking you seriously.

    People receiving charity should not set the levels of contributions demanded. That is the main theme of the book.

    Really? I thought the main theme of the book was Rand laying out her philosophy of objectivism. I didn’t realize it was actually a treatise on people asking for charity not demanding how much they receive.

  • GCT

    Not to mention that diseases and accidents are (often) not due to merit at all. Cancer doesn’t care about your merit, for example.

  • GCT

    Is Hank Reardon any less selfless for pouring his life into alloy production? Do his efforts not contribute to a better, safer, and more productive society?

    He’s not doing it to contribute to a safer society, he’s doing it to make money for himself and himself alone (not his family, the ungrateful bastards that are leeching off of him and want to spend time with him!)

    None of Rand’s heroes are driven by the collection of money or wealth.

    Absolute and utter bullshit.

    But they certainly don’t think anyone has the right to take it away from them.

    This is certainly true, and it’s all part of your taxation = theft argument, which is hard to take seriously.

  • http://profiles.google.com/david.mike.simon David Simon

    “Only a rationally selfish man, a man of self-esteem, is capable of love—because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed values.”

    Rand’s unusual version of “selfish” seems to include pretty much every socially functioning human being, which makes it almost useless as a descriptor, especially when compared to the colloquial “selfish”.

    I don’t think you’re responding to my argument above; you are again just using a weird definition to assert your conclusion.

  • Azkyroth

    Anything which isn’t profitable directly and in the short term. Student loans, for example. Wide-eyed saps drunk on the “Free Market” Kool-Aid hand these things over to private businesses which are supposed to make them more efficient, but they just wind up costing more (usually subsidized by the government) because not only do you have the actual cost of the program, you have the cost of all the baby seal leather outfits the executives demand.

    So what’ll it be, No True Scotsman or asserting that people who can’t afford college on their own should be left to rot?

  • Azkyroth

    The theme of the book changes markedly depending on who you’re talking to and how much they think they can get away with in the conversation. It’s almost like the Randroids know, deep down, that their doctrine is something to be ashamed of.

  • Major Nav

    I am enjoying this discussion.
    Don’t confuse government roles that are turned over to a government contractor or a “privatized” entity (like Amtrak and USPS) or even a government subsidized company with a private company. Apples and oranges. Those are all still government run because the government can threaten turn off the money spigot unless it is run their way.
    Government is the most expensive way to run anything, but some roles have to be in their hands, such as police and firefighting.
    Next subject.
    Corporate Executives are paid egregious amounts of money to do their job because they are experienced and very good at it otherwise no on would hire them or pay that salary. The stockholders are willing to take a risk that the money spent will grant a return. For example, star quarterbacks get the most money because they put points on the board and more importantly, fans in the seats. If they don’t perform, they still get paid that year, but they won’t get renewed. Just ask Tim Tebow. Are you suggesting all football players get the same salary? Just even it out and give everyone $200,000. How long would that last?
    To answer your last question, research Dept of Labor’s Job Corps.
    Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a good job. For eligible young people at least 16 years of age that qualify as low income, Job Corps provides the all-around skills needed to succeed in a career and in life.
    Thousands of charities and private endowments already provide this capability and do it cheaply, averaging $10000 per trainee. However, according to the GAO, Job Corps costs $170000 per individual trained.
    No one is left to rot, you just have to go find the resources and don’t always look to the government.

  • GCT

    Wow…really?

    Deregulation led to the banking collapse where executives fleeced their own companies for billions of dollars. When the companies close down, who loses? The execs walk away with billions of dollars, the normal workers are out a job with nothing. They basically stole from their own companies and then got the government to bail them out so that normal workers wouldn’t be laid off in droves and destabilize the market. And, it was due to deregulation, as Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan later admitted. So, how did that work out for you? Don’t act like the bailouts were somehow a point in your favor. It was unregulated greed and theft by people who favor your brand of free-market capitalism that fucked people over royally and those people had to be saved by the government.

  • Major Nav

    I said the deregulation caused the fiasco. Not sure if you are agreeing with me or not.
    No people were saved by the government. Every business that took those handouts went under (bought up by competitiors) or were sold off to foreign investors. And that wasn’t free money to the rescue, it was your money they stole to pay off the fat cats contracts. What did anyone get from that. Highest unemployment since the depression.
    So what you are telling me is that no one in the government ever took the money and ran? Politicians don’t spend millions to get a politcal seat and only make $250000 a year.
    People can be dicks whether they work for the government or run their own company or sit as a elected CEO.
    Yes, as I said, deregulation was part of it. According to the social engineer, Barney Frank, the other part was the price bank lobbyists “paid”. To get that deregulation, banks were forced make large home loans to individuals of high risk based upon minority status, mostly in California.

  • Major Nav

    Well argued.

  • Major Nav

    Same thing.
    “Objectivism’s central tenets are that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness (or rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans’ metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerrad.wohlleber Jerrad Wohlleber

    Cite an example? You’re asking us to cite an example of government running a corporation better than a private entity right after mentioning the GM bailout?

    (Not that I’d describe the GM bailout as “government running the corporation,” but I’ve yet to meet a Randroid who didn’t see it that way, so there’s your example.)

    There are also the dozens and dozens of government run health care systems which work far far FAR more efficiently than our private system here in the US. There’s nothing special about private ownership that automatically leads to efficiency. That’s magical thinking of the most mystical sort.

  • http://profiles.google.com/david.mike.simon David Simon

    Major Nav, you failed to respond to Azkyroth’s example: student loans.

  • smrnda

    I would like to cite the health outcomes of government run health care in Scandinavia versus the market in the US, or even the British NHS. US health outcomes are inferior to those of nations with government subsidized health care.

    Are mercenaries better than government soldiers? They sure cost more, and disciplining them for misbehavior is a problem.

    I’ve also worked for both the government and the private sector. When I was a government employed research programmer, we weren’t allowed to use ‘department money’ for booze, parties, fine dining or posh furniture. However, my private sector employers blew company money on these things all the time.

    Government R and D is also pretty essential, and computer technology is a huge example.

    How about a garment factory in Bangladesh as an example of how poorly private control of industry can go? A little government regulation *might* have saved some lives, since the guy running the factory could care less if people die.

    We’ve also got better quality of life in countries with more government intervention in businesses. Germany isn’t exactly doing badly given how things are in Europe.

    You use the word ‘efficient’ like it has some sort of objective meaning, which is false. ‘Efficient’ means you get what you want with the lowest cost, but what you want is simply subjective preference. Companies wanted ‘efficient’ clothing production and ended up killing people. HMOs want money; your health is expendable.

    The problem with communism is the same problem you get with capitalism – resources are controlled in an anti-democratic fashion, and the people who control them benefit, while everybody else, shut out from decision making, is screwed.

  • smrnda

    When people already control so many resources, how are people supposed to get their hands on some when they don’t have any? Obviously this is very easy for some people and very difficult for others. Why should some people get to control resources and other not?

    CEOs get paid massive amounts of money even when companies tank, while workers, who were all just doing what they were told by the higher ups, are left to rot. So the workers, who cannot be blamed or the failure since they were doing as they were told, will get hit the hardest, and the leaders are nicely insulated from any serious harm. Some system of accountability there..

    People are left to rot all the time. If you actually believe everybody who has ended up down and out deserved it, I really hope you lose your job and end up homeless, with a disease you can’t get treatment for. Nobody is left to rot? People rot all the time.

  • smrnda

    What if laissez faire capitalism isn’t in my best interests? Why should I support it? If I’m poor, a welfare state is in my interest.

    Plus, under laissez-faire capitalism, freedom comes from having control of resources, so it’s only freedom for those who control them.

    Or… in other words, when it comes to the market, be selfish all the way. However, it’s wrong to vote for one’s interests.

    All said, I don’t think a pulp fiction author who can’t write decent prose is someone I should take seriously. Ayn Rand never ran a business, did scientific research, or did anything but scribble crap on paper. She never even did research on things like metallurgy or how railroads were run EVEN WHEN these are major features of her work. Tom Clancy is no James Joyce, but at least he did a bit of research.

  • smrnda

    Most high achievers in science and technology focus on lots of things at once. Alan Turing ran marathons. Donald Knuth plays an organ. At least several mathematicians I know like to juggle and ride unicycles.

    Plus, why is focusing on one thing better than spreading your attention among many?

    The one trait I find common in Objectivists is that they hold other people in contempt. Why should I trust an Objectivist, given that their whole worldview is’ well, sucks to be you! I got mine’? If I cannot trust an Objectivist, then I should view them as a predatory individual who should be avoided.

    Also, can you name any Objectivists who accomplished anything? It seems like a philosophy that appeals to narcissists with nothing to show for their accomplishments who are living vicariously through unrealistic, fictitious over-achievers.

  • smrnda

    BEST COMMENT!

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    If you choose to join the military or peace corps and endure hardships or put yourself in harms way, that is not selflessness because your “self” is the kind of person that wants to do that sort of thing.

    By that definition, everything is selfish and there is no such thing as selflessness. If I’m doing what I want to do, then I’m not being selfless, no matter what that thing is. I think most people would find this a vacuous tautology.

    This wasn’t Rand’s view, BTW. Rand explicitly said it was immoral to endanger yourself for the sake of a stranger, which has a bearing on your thought experiment about people who choose to join the military. If you do that, you’re not an Objectivist!

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    No government can ever run a company better or more efficiently than a private individual or entity. If you disagree, cite an example.

    Certainly. Other people have pointed to the effectiveness of socialized health care systems in other countries, but I’ll add an example from right here in the U.S.: Medicare, which is more efficient than private insurance according to both the CBO and the New England Journal of Medicine. It has lower administrative overhead, it’s better at controlling costs, and it has greater bargaining power.

  • GCT

    I said the deregulation caused the fiasco. Not sure if you are agreeing with me or not.

    How can I agree with you or not when you’re contradicting yourself?

    No people were saved by the government. Every business that took those handouts went under (bought up by competitiors) or were sold off to foreign investors.

    This is false. Last I looked, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Citibank, etc. were all still in business. Instead of having those institutions go under and lay off all of their workers (while the higher ups walked away with all the cash) many of those workers’ jobs were saved…as well as the jobs of many others who would have been affected by an even larger crash.

    Oh, and stop it already with the juvenile taxation = theft argument. It’s old and stupid.

    What did anyone get from that. Highest unemployment since the depression.

    Which could have been worse had we not taken measures to alleviate some of the effects. Were the bailouts handled as well as they could be? No. Were they better than doing nothing? Yes.

    So what you are telling me is that no one in the government ever took the money and ran?

    You can stop with the straw men.

    According to the social engineer, Barney Frank, the other part was the price bank lobbyists “paid”. To get that deregulation, banks were forced make large home loans to individuals of high risk based upon minority status, mostly in California.

    This is also false. Banks were not forced to do anything – which is part of deregulation, duh.

  • GCT

    That’s not the same thing. Try again.

  • Azkyroth

    ‘Efficient’ means you get what you want with the lowest cost, but what you want is simply subjective preference.

    Oh, it’s worse than that: companies and their lickspittles are allowed to gerrymander what counts as a “cost” quite blatantly. Other people’s lives? Not a cost! Pollution that other people have to pay to clean up? Not a cost! Pollution that affects other people’s medical expenses? Not a cost! Ruining other people’s property value? Well, the lickspittles will usually acknowledge this one in principle, but, “catch me if you can!”

  • smrnda

    The problem with libertarian philosophies is just as you stated; the ignore the existence of externalities either on purpose, or because they only look at the individual level when doing a cost-benefit analysis. If a company has a policy that results in a high fatality rate among workers, as long as the company is meeting the goals it wants to measure, it counts as a ‘win.’

    Occasionally I ever hear that workers shouldn’t agree to take on dangerous jobs. The problem is believing this is a ‘choice’ in any meaningful way.

  • Azkyroth

    Student loans are profitable because of that and the extent to which they’re subsidized. Otherwise, no one would lend to students; they have no credit history and no collateral. And yet the public good accomplished by increasing education access is something even you haven’t bothered more than halfheartedly assailing.

  • Azkyroth

    To get that deregulation, banks were forced make large home loans to individuals of high risk based upon minority status, mostly in California.

    I was wondering how long it’d take you to blame it on the brown people.

  • Azkyroth

    By that definition, everything is selfish and there is no such thing as selflessness.

    That’s the point. Somewhere in the atrophied husks of the brain parts involved with functioning as a social organism, Randroids realize there’s something deeply sick about their mindset…so they deny that health is anything except a self-serving lie. It’s the same self-deception of all predators: “everyone does it! …or would if they had the GUTS!”

  • Azkyroth

    Are you suggesting the poor, uneducated, and listless members of society should be in charge?

    Well why not? How much worse than the rich, uneducated, and listless members can they be?

  • Azkyroth

    Aside from the fantastical utopia in the mountains and the bizarre description of the pirates roaming the high seas

    …and the energy system that relies on going LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU to the laws of thermodynamics…

    Passionate about their carreers, but not so caring about what others think they should care about.

    In other words, only able to justify their careers and their very existence by selectively ignoring costs, as noted above.

    Can’t say I’m impressed.

  • smrnda

    Fuck you with the ‘listless.’ I’m sure you’re just SO productive. First of all, whether people are educated or not, when you have the wealth disparities we do, is certainly not a choice. Many poor people are just stuck working in jobs that don’t pay them enough and government ‘regulations’ are a joke since there’s no real enforcement mechanisms in place. Plus, workplace polices treat workers like disposable trash. See factories in Bangladesh for more information. The government needs to set floors on wages or else workers here would be living like workers in China.

    My take on Rand is that she did not know how railroads were actually run. Researching the financing of a railroad gives you no idea how a railroad actually operates any more than if I find out how a house if financed I can build a house. In Atlas Shrugged, there is a scene where Dagney notices a train that is *always on time* is delayed because a signal says a train is on the track ahead. This character decides WITHOUT TESTING ANYTHING that the signal is faulty because she KNOWS the trains run on time, and sends the train on its way.

    Seriously? And I’m supposed to think she’s anything but a brain dead idiot after reading that? If you think a mechanical component is defective you test the component. If she doesn’t know that, then she knows nothing about how a railroad runs, and I dismiss her as an ignoramus.

    On things being ‘profitable’ infrastructure investments are typically so prohibitively expensive and will only return their value in such a long time that the private sector won’t touch them. The internet and gps were both Department of Defense projects.

  • smrnda

    Are you suggesting that a person who is passionate about their career and indifferent to everybody else’s feelings is a good person just for that? Like a good Randoid you’re suggesting that to ever question that what a wealthy person does *IS* socially beneficial is just simply verboten.

    Why is it a good thing to be passionate about your career? Is a drug lord passionate about his career in the right for disregarding the safety of others? What a narcissistic, juvenile philosophy. ‘

    If a person wants to pursue their own aims and disregards the effect this has on others, other people have a right to make them stop. Once my goals start to have a negative effect on enough people, they should start putting a limit on whether or not I can pursue my goals.

    Why should I admire an objectivist? I know that objectivists don’t care about anybody but themselves, so why shouldn’t society just push them out on a boat to sea? I mean, I know all the MOVERS are sure we can’t survive without them, but I’d say, after a day or two, nobody would miss them.

    I also should say I’m an entrepreneur and a software engineer, so you can’t just accuse me of wanting money for nothing. No, I want to live in a society where everybody puts in, and everybody gets out what they need, like what I saw in Western Europe.

  • smrnda

    Maybe I should be sorry for being so obscene, but seriously, a poor person working in a slaughterhouse works harder than any CEO. Plus, if the poor person screw up, they’re out the door. If the CEO screws up, they’ll stay richer than the most productive slaughterhouse worker. Some compensation based on performance.

  • Azkyroth

    I often wonder why Randians would even have children.

    Well, I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout…

  • Azkyroth

    What the fuck? You aren’t the one who’s being obscene.

  • Verbose Stoic

    I’ve been wanting to make a longer comment in this for a while, but haven’t had the time. But briefly here:

    What Major Nav is saying is indeed Rand’s view. Rand is an Ethical Egoist, promoting Enlightened Egoism. By that, pretty much everything is selfish — and so altruism is an illusion — and it is indeed immoral to endanger yourself for the sake of a stranger. In the military thought experiment and all other such cases, though, you aren’t doing it for the sake of the stranger, but for your own benefits and reasons; if you happen to save the life of a stranger, that’s just an outcome, but that isn’t WHY you’re doing it. So, an explicitly intentionalist view that can’t be analyzed in terms of the consequences as simply as you seem to do here.

    Note that this isn’t a view I personally support, but I think a big flaw in the analysis of the book so far is in ignoring this. When commenters have, for example, pointed out how there would be benefits to doing things in a more “selfless” way, that fits right into Enlightened Egoism; you do things that benefit you but are smarter about it. In fact, one of the primary notions that follows from Enlightened Egoism is the off-cited idea that you should, for example, co-operate with others because it benefits you more than simply trying to take advantage of them. This goes right back the Hobbesian Social Contract and so it always bemuses me that the people advocating for empathy in morality use a basis that is indistinguishable from the system that assumes that everyone is always selfish and/or ought to be selfish.

  • Verbose Stoic

    The problem is that you don’t get Enlightened Egoism.

    For someone who really wants a welfare state, it certainly benefits them, but may not benefit the people who have resources — or can produce them — who have to provide that to the government. If it doesn’t benefit them, and they are Enlightened Egoists, eventually they will decide to either stop supporting it and let it collapse or will change it so that it is no longer that sort of state. On the other hand, if you have a state where say, giving to the poor gives benefits to those who give those benefits, and freeloaders who want to take benefits without giving anything back are cut out, then the system benefits everyone and works by Enlightened Egoism. Rand, I think, would argue that laissez-faire capitalism is the only system that does that.

    And we can see that one major problem with Marxism is that if you take from those per their capabilities and give to those as per their needs you have an issue with why those who have more capabilities should feel motivated to work hard when they get no benefit themselves from it.

  • Verbose Stoic

    The problem with Phillip is not that he is unfocused, but that he is unfocused because he simply doesn’t CARE about any of them. To get the donation he was asking for and to be emotionally unaffected by it, and to have that not give him a feeling of satisfaction or happiness, is just going through the motions of living, and not really living at all.

  • GCT

    Do you not realize that you’ve just agreed with Azkyroth’s example, thus defeating your own argument?

    Lastly, I wouldn’t trust you to determine who is “worthy” of a grant or a scholarship.

  • GCT

    Um, no. We get Rand’s views….they’re just wrong.

  • GCT

    The problem is that you don’t get Enlightened Egoism.

    No, we understand it quite well. We understand that it’s a fairy tale based on bullshit that doesn’t actually work.

    On the other hand, if you have a state where say, giving to the poor gives benefits to those who give those benefits, and freeloaders who want to take benefits without giving anything back are cut out, then the system benefits everyone and works by Enlightened Egoism. Rand, I think, would argue that laissez-faire capitalism is the only system that does that.

    Because that worked soooooo well before trade unions and labor laws.

    And we can see that one major problem with Marxism is that if you take from those per their capabilities and give to those as per their needs you have an issue with why those who have more capabilities should feel motivated to work hard when they get no benefit themselves from it.

    Which we should fix by making sure that we have a permanent poor class regardless of capabilities and a permanent rich class, right? Fuck off.

  • Major Nav

    In the US, there are about 300 million people. About 100 million have the skills required to work in a slaughterhouse. While there are only thousands capable of successfully running a multinational corporation. The law of supply and demand dictate that I should have to pay more to get a hold of a CEO than a laborer. In two weeks, the slaughterhouse worker labors for 80 hours and processes a few thousand dollars worth of meat. The 68 year old CEO of Walmart puts in 80-100 hours per week and manages billions of dollars in merchandise and employs 2.1 million employees.
    Severance packages are all part of the negotiated salary for the CEO. If the shareholders don’t pay a salary and severance package comensurate with the skills of the executive, those skills will go work somewhere else. CEOs are rewarded for performance. If the stocks soars and the company thrives, they get millions more than the severance package.
    If you started paying all slaughterhouse workers $60 dollars an hour and gave all of them handsome severance packages, your hamburger would be $30 per pound. The poor would love pay that much for a burger.

  • Major Nav

    I did, Job Corps. Oh, and NASA. I am not saying the quality is always worse, it just costs more because they are not limited to profit or understand the return for dollar spent.
    Let’s talk medicine, my travels have taken me to more than 44 countries and I have had dealings with people from many more. The nature of my work put me in direct contact with many of their government run health care facilities.
    From my personal obervation, no one in this world has a health care system to rival what we have in the US. When people oversees have the opportunity to come to the US for treatment, they do so. Many have had to come to the US to fix what was done to them by their own system.
    The same goes for the US military medical care system.

  • GCT

    Wow, there’s so much bullshit packed into this that it’s hard to know where to start.

    In two weeks, the slaughterhouse worker labors for 80 hours and processes a few thousand dollars worth of meat. The 68 year old CEO of Walmart puts in 80-100 hours per week and manages billions of dollars in merchandise and employs 2.1 million employees.

    OK, let’s just dispense with the bullshit trope that CEOs always put in more hours and work harder. It’s simply not true universally. Additionally, the quality of the hours matters here as well.

    Severance packages are all part of the negotiated salary for the CEO. If the shareholders don’t pay a salary and severance package comensurate with the skills of the executive, those skills will go work somewhere else.

    Let’s not pretend that it’s simply based on skill here. Are CEOs that much more skilled than all the other workers at their businesses that they deserve to be compensated thousands of times more money than the average worker (and growing)? The negotiations are decidedly favorable for CEOs to continually increase their wages, as we have seen, all while running the regular workers into the ground. Stupidly, they don’t realize that the regular worker are necessary for the company to actually run, however.

    If you started paying all slaughterhouse workers $60 dollars an hour and gave all of them handsome severance packages, your hamburger would be $30 per pound. The poor would love pay that much for a burger.

    And, what cost are the consumers shouldering for CEO severance packages and salaries that are astronomically higher than they should be? Bringing the CEO salary in line with a more fair and equitable system would allow one to raise average worker salaries by quite a bit without actually impacting the cost of the product. But, that would require the person making the decisions on such things to actually not unilaterally decide that they deserve more money. IOW, the system is rigged, and people like you are pushing for it to be rigged even further in favor of CEOs and others who basically pay themselves what they feel like and say fuck off to everyone else. Are you one of those who are benefiting from it, or are you a sorry sap that’s been led to believe that maybe one day you will get to be one of those who gets to trample on everyone else? It’s the American dream after all, right?

  • Major Nav

    Did I put forward a value judgment? I just pointed out that they exist.
    Objectivist do not care only for themselves, that would be sociopathic narcissist. Rand never puts forward that viewpoint. Nor have I.
    You have the right to stop someone? So if I FEEL your software is detrimental to society and a waste of resources and your desire to be an entrepeneur is an evil capitalist state of mind, I have the right to stop you? Have you read the whole book?
    Just what you need? No desire to get more than that? That makes you a lousy entrepreneur.

  • GCT

    No, they also care about others that they deem worthy of their care, based solely on their specific criteria of personal wealth and adherence to Randian ideas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerrad.wohlleber Jerrad Wohlleber

    It’s interesting how your personal observations don’t jibe with the facts.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/26/21-graphs-that-show-americas-health-care-prices-are-ludicrous/

    Medical spending in the US represents 17.6% of our GDP, which is roughly twice what other industrialized nations spend. This is easily the highest rate of spending in the world and is a full 6% higher than the second place nation, France. So what sort of outcomes do we get for this outrageous level of spending?

    http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/17/harvard-medical-study-links-lack-of-insurance-to-45000-us-deaths-a-year/

    We get tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths because millions and millions of people have no real access to medical care, at least not without consigning themselves to a life of debt peonage.

    And on top of that, since we can only really get remotely affordable insurance through an employer, we get the added bonus of making our continued access to life-saving care dependent on the good will of our employers. Gee whiz, another layer of serfdom. Funny how the Randian ideal of freedom always results in effective subjugation for so many, isn’t it?

    But hey, we have really nice hospitals for the few who can afford them, and really that’s what’s important. It’s the Ayn Rand way: let the poor undeserving suffer and die so their betters don’t have to share the waiting room with them.

  • smrnda

    Certain projects won’t return a value on their cost for a long time. This is why governments take these projects on. Nobody would start an enterprise which wouldn’t be paid off within an individual’s lifetime, but as a human species, we need more long term thinking than that.

    Your opinions about how great US health care are just your own anecdotal report, and if you’ve found people in other countries who don’t like their government healthcare, these people are clearly in the minority.

    I think you, and most objectivists are just motived out of personal nastiness. You people can’t be happy unless someone is poor and desperate so the objectivist an feel superior.

  • smrnda

    If she can be so easily misinterpreted, then she is a shoddy thinker and lousy writer, and we should dismiss her.

  • smrnda

    You’re are lying when you say paying workers more would necessarily lead to increase in prices. Many highly profitable companies pay their workers low wages because they want ever-increasing profits. There is plenty of money to pay workers more and still keep prices the same.

    The CEO of wal-part puts in a lot of time supporting human rights abuses in China so that they can obtain cheap goods, and this has weakened the US by exporting out manufacturing. This had led to a decline in available jobs that can sustain a family.

    Wal-mart also makes sure to keep wages low. This means more workers with less money but more CEOs and shareholders with more money. This means less consumer demand but greater consolidation of ownership, which leads to economic decline.

    So, the CEO of Wal Mart is doing stuff that’s good for him and a tiny % of the population, but bad for most of us. We would have a stronger economy if wal mart’s workers made more and the CEO and the shareholders made less. All the Investor Class does is buy more assets and then put the squeeze on more workers. They do this rather than actually invest in new businesses since it’s less risky – buy a hotel chain, fire some workers and make the remaining workers work harder – and there you have why $ in the hands of rich people doesn’t really do much but guarantee nobody else will get any.

    CEOs just make sure that the revenues generated through the collective effort of all the workers just goes to them and the shareholders alone.

  • smrnda

    Military consultant + people passionate about careers + not caring what others think to me suggests people who like to make money by designing drones and who aren’t particularly concerned about being complicit in murder.

  • smrnda

    “Just what you need? No desire to get more than that? That makes you a lousy entrepreneur.”

    Earlier you pointed out that Rand’s heroes were not motivated by money but by a passion for what they do, and that this was praiseworthy. When I do it, it’s not. Some consistency there.

    Whether I should be stopped doing what I do would depend on evidence that what I do is or could be harmful. Shutting down a business is the most extreme, but regulating how workers are treated within one is something that ought to be done.

    On how much I should get, I think it is perfectly fair for me to be taxed more since I am where I am right now not because effort, but mostly privilege. People who did not have these privileges are entitled to resent me and I think they are morally right if they do so. I notice that most poor people really don’t resent affluent people as much as I think they’re entitled to, and their demands are so modest I think the right thing to do is to grant them. Given how many millions of workers are poor, and how much money their employers make, there is plenty to go around. When a CEO says they don’t have money for raises, it’s a lie pretty much 100% of the time. The CEO says “after I and the shareholders take most of the profits and put them in offshore tax havens, there won’t be much less, and so you won’t get a raise.” Profits are just theft from workers, which is why I run my businesses as a cooperatively owned enterprise.

    I also addressed the false belief that any increase in wages must lead to increased prices earlier.

    I notice you never addressed my point about how Dagney didn’t bother to check the signal. To me, that indicates that Rand isn’t very smart and would have no clue how anything mechanical actually worked (or how running any sort of enterprise would work) and was either too lazy to do research, or else so stupid that she actually thought she was right. Rand’s scientific illiteracy rivals the most absurd creationaists out there. Ever read her take-down on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? I mean, ignorance is one thing, but stupidity is when not only does a person not know, they can’t even figure out just how silly and ridiculous their pseudo-knowledge happens to be.

  • smrnda

    I think you need to get rid of the delusion that there’s this massive army of freeloaders who just don’t want to work. There might exist some people like that, but the working poor is a far larger group of people. Enough that talk about ‘freeloaders’ is mostly either propaganda or a lie to begin with.

    Our problem is that businesses generate revenues through the collective effort of all workers, but the revenues are managed autocratically, so that most of the people who did their part to make the money have no say in how it’s distributed, so those who decide how to distribute the funds get most of it, and then they claim that revenue distribution is so taxing that they need most of it.

  • smrnda

    Certain projects are so expensive that they will not make a return on their investment during a human lifetime, but will eventually have some utility. These are the things that governments do. Nobody would take a risk of going to the moon without knowing the moon was made of money.

    Your anecdotal reports of great US health care is doesn’t mean much when compared with facts. Then again, I’m sure you are very privileged and probably white and male and that you probably don’t know any poor people, so you see this great health care system that doesn’t exist for most people.

    Nobody is Western Europe dies of a disease for having no insurance. Nobody declares bankruptcy in Canada owing to medical bills. Look at the stats – the US is a third world shit-hole health wise.

  • smrnda

    First, it is a lie that increasing wages leads to increases in prices. Many very profitable companies would still be profitable if wages were increased without any increase in prices. It’s just that for CEOs and shareholders, they expect ever increasing revenues and when we reach the limits of growth, they refuse to acknowledge it and just let worker compensation degrade.

    Even if the CEO of walmart worked those hours, he’s doing more harm than good. He’s shipped jobs overseas so there are fewer jobs available in the US, and he’s supporting a totalitarian regime in China.

    What he’s doing is deciding what to do with the money that is collectively earned by all the workers. Deciding that more of the money goes to CEOs and shareholders means less for workers. When workers’ wages stagnate, you get less consume spending, and you get less economic growth. You also get more and more people with lower and lower standards of living. Ever notice how so many wal mart workers have bad teeth? It’s because the shareholders want another yacht. When the Investor Class gets money, they consolidate ownership which means fewer choices in who you work for or who you buy from.

    So for however hard this guy is working, all he’s doing is mostly negative. If the workers of walmart overthrew him, I think we’d be in far better shape. More people would have more money, and a small minority of extremely wealthy people would still be extremely wealthy, with maybe a little bit less.

  • smrnda

    This seems kind of silly, and also obnoxious. Not everybody is equally emotional, and being passionate or excited isn’t a volitional choice. Ever heard of this thing called ‘psychology?’

    I commend people the most for doing what they know is right even when they don’t have strong feelings about it.

  • GCT

    In a free market, people will only get paid what they are worth to the company, shareholders, and employers.

    As determined by the people who hold the money. Don’t see a problem with that?

    The workers who do not feel they are being compensated for being run in the ground will strike or walk away. You honestly think there is not a CEO in this country that doesn’t understand that?

    I think we both know this is utter bullshit. Most workers can’t afford to walk away from shitty jobs, because it is all they have and a shitty job is slightly better than no job at all. When you are living paycheck to paycheck, or working multiple jobs to try and make ends meet, you don’t have a lot of leeway for risky ventures like walking away. And, if we are talking about places like Wal-mart, we know very well what they think about strikes. They artificially keep their wages low to keep people poor and unable to walk away, and if those people try to speak up, they crush it with their money, because they have the ability to ride out a strike while the workers do not. And, yes, CEOs are very aware of the situation. You seem to be the one who is unaware.

    Who gets to say what is fair and equitable? Has no one read this book?

    It seems that you and Rand think it’s fair that the people doing the deciding are the people who hold all the money.

    Average CEO compensation (according to the AFL-CIO) is $7000 per hour (when you include all forms of compensation) and the average worker is $20 per hour.

    The CEO of Wal-mart actually makes just shy of $10,000/hr. The average worker makes $12.67/hr according to what I found on google (which actually seems exaggerated to me). Also, there are 2 million employees. So, yes, according to your math, if we tried to equally distribute those funds to all 2 million employees, it would not work out so well. That, however, is no reason why the CEO should earn almost 1000 times the average worker.

    This is even more suspect when one learns that Wal-Mart profit is almost $2.1 million/hr. That could definitely be spread around to help the average worker out.

    No top level CEO will work for $100 dollars an hour.

    Please explain to all of us why “top level CEO”s need about 1000x the average worker’s salary.

  • GCT

    Agreed. Smrnda, please don’t change anything and don’t worry about being “obscene.” I’ve seen nothing wrong with your posts and am quite enjoying them.

  • Major Nav

    Not a contradiction or inconsistent, just sarcasm. People seeking just what they need don’t build thriving corporations.
    The book is SCIENCE FICTION! (see discussion below)
    Privilige? You were born into the position of software engineer and given a company to run? Parental money may have payed for your school, but I would like to think you did all the hard work.
    Wife and I were dirt poor Minnesota farm kids. Paid for our own college and masters and made our own way in the world. Yes, I am white, but that doesn’t get you into college. I am very in tune with the viewpoint of the poor.
    Wages? See my discussion on Walmart below.
    Dagney? Rand was illustrating the contrast between the brother, that knows nothing about train operations and Dagney who knows it from the bottom up. That is how she knew.

  • Major Nav

    I’ve been to China, SKorea, Taiwan, and Thailand. I shopped at Walmart in each country (although they are no longer in SKorea). There are 4 of the largest Walmarts I’ve ever seen in Beijing.
    Don’t buy this oppression crap. Walmart has done more to introduce capitalism and increased standards of living around the world than any corporation on the planet. Communism is dead in China and only the leaders are unaware of it.

  • Major Nav

    I didn’t. I blamed it on the people with shitty credit and misguided politicians that forced a bank to make loans to poor with people who had shitty credit. The politicians insisted that additional consideration be given based upon minority status.

  • smrnda

    Could you back that 5% of with some statistics? You also make it sound that 5% automatically makes it right and good. That’s 4% they could drop down, and I’m sure that a 4% margin on the total sales of Wal-Mart would still be an enormous amount of money, just more of it would go to workers. A business, of course, has to make money to survive, but I don’t see any general entitlement to any certain %. If you’re got a 1% margin on a lemonade stand, you won’t stay in business, but a 1% margin on wal-mart should be good enough. They could pay what I think is fair and not be the richest people on the planet, and if they don’t like that, then they are self-centered amoral individuals that I will not give a cent of my money.

    Your problem is you automatically assume that what rich people say is true. Your second one is that you think that making 1000s of times more than your employees can ever be justified. Nobody is worth that much.

    Since I don’t like how Wal-Mart treats it workers, I don’t shop there, and would support their workers going on strike.

    We also do not have a ‘free market’ since wealthy people decide what they are worth, then they decide what the people under them are worth.

    The problem with supply and demand is that it is only responsive to the demands of people with money. The other problem is that consumers don’t necessarily really have any meaningful choices, and businesses do what they can to make sure they don’t have to face much competition.

  • smrnda

    You think I am going to buy that? China is a polluted shit-hole with a declining life expectancy where workers live in good old company compounds and work 16 hour days. It wouldn’t raise the prices much to treat workers there better.

    The conditions under which workers labor in China is a human rights violation. It is true that their economy has grown, but the gains from this growth are being shared by a tiny minority of the population and aren’t likely to trickle-down. Believe me, I’ve looked into these issues.

    Someone else already did the maths on CEO compensation versus worker compensation. They could easily double all worker salaries without noticing a loss in revenue, it’s just they are pathological people who care more about winning some pissing contest that the fate of the rest of the human race.

    As for places I’ve been, Sweden, Finland, the UK, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Israel, China, Japan, S Korea.

  • smrnda

    The argument that Dagney “knew it from the bottom up” does not excuse
    not testing a potentially faulty component. It’s people who are
    convinced that they are geniuses who don’t feel the need to test their
    hypotheses that cause real problems in all industries.

    Science fiction ought to have a little bit of connection to science. If a character follows bad safety and engineering protocol, then the author is too stupid to write ‘science’ fiction. Do you think it’s intelligent to assume a signal is faulty without checking and send a train ahead? Should a person who thinks this is a good idea be taken seriously? She should have done some research. If you’re trying to contrast a person who knows from one who doesn’t, she should get the technology right in the book. Railroad signals are not science fiction. They are a relatively old technology. If Rand was going to write about an existing technology, she should have gone out and done some research. It’s clear than Rand would have been incompetent in almost any job, given the actions of her characters. You don’t do things based on what you *think* is the problem, you find out what the problem really is. Rand’s deal is that she’s 100% sure she has all the answers, and isn’t going to bother to try to learn anything. She’s the person who knows nothing about train operations but who is convinced she can tell the experts how to do the job.

    My opinions on ‘science fiction’ is that if you want to promote ideas that don’t work in the real world, sci-fi is a way to invent a world where your ideas work. Using a novel to promote an economic platform is just the wrong way to go, since any author will distort reality to fit their agenda. You could probably find an equally absurd novel about evil capitalists by someone on the other end of the spectrum.

    Over the course of my life I have exerted very little effort. I knew how to program by the time I was 11, but learning how to program in a family like mine is as unremarkable as what languages I know. I got a paying job at about 13 working as a programmer and attended college at 14, and here I am.

    I got lucky in terms of the skills I’d acquired since the basic costs of a start-up consist in having a computer. College was easy since I didn’t have to worry about financing my education and had already been exposed to much of what would be taught. At no point in my life have I really exerted much effort. Things have really fallen into my lap. I know how hard people work waiting tables, scrubbing toilets, hauling trash and harvesting crops. Not only do those people work harder than me, but their work is less personally fulfilling. Plus, if I weren’t seated on top of a pyramid of exploited workers, my life wouldn’t be so convenient. To take your Wal-mart example, those workers would have a better life if the % dropped from 5 to 4 on whatever they’re doing or selling. The shareholders would still be making massive amounts of money, but then we’d have more workers with a higher standard of living. Once the share that goes to the people on top is too big, you can’t sustain enough consumer spending to drive economic growth. This is the basic problem of capitalism – demand for both high levels of consumer spending and low wages. I’m not saying capitalism can’t deal with the problem, but we have to admit it’s a problem first.

    Congratulations on moving up in the world. However, don’t you think it’s a little unfair that you had to work hard where I barely had to work at all? A kid like I was would have to work extremely hard not to succeed, so kids from my social class almost always get ahead. Dirt poor rural kids usually end up dirt poor rural adults. Some might make it, but overall, the odds are against them. I don’t think that people fail to get ahead for lack of effort, either.

    On perspectives on the poor, there aren’t enough ‘winning’ spots to go around, and all all workers deserve some minimum standard of living. You seem to think this is impossible because you’re convinced that a CEO making 3,000 an hour as opposed to 10,000 an hour is an outrage. Yeah, some people get ahead, but as long as we need people working in slaughterhouses, scrubbing toilets and such, we owe them better than they get. There is no shortage of resources, only problems with how they are allocated.

    In terms of CEOs, the bigger the organization, the less control any one person has over it, so the less you can credit that one person with success (or failure.) I’d say it makes more sense for a smaller business owner to pocket more of the money than the CEO of a larger one, just since the % of total work done will be greater by the leader of the smaller company. The guy running the pizza place is doing more work, proportional to the size of the pizza place. The CEO of the pizza chain is doing a much smaller % of the work.

    I don’t like the idea of skills getting people out of poverty, since that’s only going to work for a very limited number of people, and additionally, even wages for skilled workers can become depressed. And, as I’ve said before, low skill work is actually hard. If anything, it’s work many snotty upper class and middle class people couldn’t handle. Take a CEO and throw them into the slaughterhouse, and they’d fall apart pretty fast. The problem is that, in life, the CEO, like me, gets to jump ahead to a different track than the worker did. I didn’t have to flip burgers or wait tables before I got to be a programmer. The reason those people have it worse is that I have social capital that they do not, and most of it is unearned. I just take it for granted that I’ll be treated like a human being and not disposable garbage. I’m not waiting tables or doing customer service so I don’t get sexually harassed or groped by customers. I’m not exposed to dangers at work, all kinds of things AND I’m likely to cash in on what I do. The worker, who was more necessary than me, gets less.

  • smrnda

    On the quarter back example. Quarter backs are entertainers. They aren’t worth what they are paid, but people have been conditioned to love sports and to believe that pro sports is somehow better than catching a local high school game. It’s supply and demand at work, but it’s just human stupidity that has placed such a high value on some skills with very little utility. It’s an irrational preference that probably does more harm than good

    I can take another one – people keep paying for tobacco product, even after the government taxes them to create a disincentive to using them and even after knowing the dangers. Should we say that tobacco companies are great just because they make money? T

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    So who is dying without healthcare? Those who don’t seek it or can afford it but don’t want to pay for it.

    This is unspeakably vile and callous. No, Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover everyone, not even close. Millions of Americans who want health care can’t get it, and the uninsured are often driven to acts of incredible desperation, like the uninsured woman who shot herself in the shoulder in the hope of getting treatment for a different injury, or the man who robbed a bank so he could go to jail where he’d get medical attention.

    Western Europeans die from lack of facilities and incompetent doctors that are free from tort. Their Healthcare is not free, highest taxes in the world pay for it.

    As other commenters have pointed out, western European countries spend less of their GDP on healthcare than America does, and they have longer life expectancy as well. Why are you committing intellectual evasion by refusing to acknowledge these facts?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerrad.wohlleber Jerrad Wohlleber

    No, they did not. That is a bald-faced lie. What the politicians insisted is that banks not automatically disqualify applicants who reside within red-lined parts of town, invariably the poor and black parts. What they demanded was that minority applicants get any consideration at all.

    It sort of reminds me of the gay marriage debate, in which right-wingers decry that gay people want special (or you might say “additional”) rights when they are plainly after the exact same rights that others already enjoy.

    However, since the red-line laws didn’t actually have any sort of real enforcement mechanism, and since the banks were making money hand-over-fist off of these doomed mortgages, the idea that do-gooder bleeding heart politicians forced these loans onto banks is plainly ridiculous.

  • smrnda

    How often did you get ‘stopped and frisked’ by cops and had either drugs or a weapon planted on you by said police, who then took you to the station, beat you around and made you confess to crimes you never heard of?

    Your opinions on Western Europe contradict known facts about health care. Plus, health care is out of the reach of many Americans, and many health plans have such high deductibles that you’re just paying money to pay for your own health care, which means ‘health insurance’ is a fiction for anybody but the wealthy.

    You are factually wrong about the health care though, and you obviously got your ‘facts’ from Fox News or the Heritage foundation, and not from actually *going anywhere.*

  • smrnda

    The only skill a CEO has is having no conscience about screwing workers.

  • smrnda

    Employers interests are usually morally wrong, or at least socially harmful, and therefore worthy of no consideration.

  • smrnda

    Then I think what she believes is stupid, and stupid ideas expressed in a blatantly obvious fashion only look worse.

  • smrnda

    My take on companies is that ‘the company’ is this abstract entity that really doesn’t have needs. I just think workers should revolt and effectively demand profit sharing, on the grounds that the upper echelons only line their own pockets, all while trying to do the least amount of work possible.

    You are right that this can collapse companies – Al Dunlap collapsed a few if I recall correctly by trying to make them super profitable in the short term.

    The point I’m trying to make is that employee compensation has pretty much become an afterthought, and that workers aren’t getting a sensible share of the revenues *because* it isn’t open to a vote.

    Let’s give you an example. Let’s say I hire someone to mow lawns. I own the lawnmower, and the other person mows lawns. After I get my payment, I then pocket 95% and give the guy 5% of what’s left over. I’d say I’m over-valuing my contribution there. Obviously at some stage, compensation of higher ups and workers can become so skewed that it’s no longer defensible.

  • GCT

    I concur and have said that repeatedly. Some things are strictly the realm of government. But now private companies are going to space for much less than NASA ever did.

    If that is true, it is only true because of all the prior investment that was done by NASA. IOW, it does not support your argument.

  • GCT

    Sigh. I see that once again you have no interest in actually engaging in good faith. Are you really going to argue that Rand thinks it’s always good to reduce workers’ hours? It seems I’m not the one that doesn’t understand the arguments here. I’d say the grownups are talking, but we have other Randroids on this thread too…

  • GCT

    Considering that it is, in fact, an ETHICAL theory, your characterization simply seems utterly misguided.

    “ETHICAL theory” that is based on a fairy tale. Of course, you could have figured that out if you had any intention of arguing in good faith.

    Do trade unions and labour laws not benefit employers, and only benefit employees? If so, then as I pointed out it’s no wonder that employers keep trying to get rid of them. That being said, I think that those things CAN benefit employers as well, if properly structured. And the only kind of stable system is one where all sides gain at least some benefit from it.

    Sigh. The reason those things became necessary was to restore the balance between employers and employees. We had children working in factories (Hank Rearden, for example, in the book works in a factory at 14 – he never would have made it to CEO in real life). There were people putting in outrageous hours (16+ hour shifts and more) just to live in squalor. Hell, just look at China right now to see a glimpse of what life was like. Am I supposed to feel bad that employers can’t force us to work like veritable slaves? Fuck you. Employers still have too much power and it’s getting worse.

    False dichotomy. There is a large middle ground between those extremes … as I’m sure you’re aware, unless you are a Marxist.

    The false dichotomy was the one you set up idiot, where it’s either Marxism or your glorious way.

    And, again, I’m not an Egoist, Objectivist, or Randian, as I pointed out in a comment you replied to above.

    No, you’re just a disingenuous blowhard.

  • GCT

    This reminds me of an argument I heard not too long ago about the fallacy that anyone can make it. If there are 100 people vying to “make it” and there’s really only 1 spot open, then by necessity you will have 99 people who fail.

  • GCT

    Like I said, you have no interest in arguing in good faith.

    Rand never argues for more workers’ rights. She argues that they are moochers fit for death. She has nothing but disdain for them.

  • Major Nav

    You are obviously not an expert in 1950 railroad technology either, so why do you care if the details are shoddy? Again, SciFi is NOT about science. It is about human behavior. In this book, she is contrasting objectivist behavior to the miriad philosophies encountered in the world.
    Don’t ever confuse talent with privilege. Life gives you lemons, make lemonade etc…
    Fairness does not exist in the world, it is a subjective farce. Stop looking for it or trying to force it. Is it fair that you have talent and someone does not. How do you remedy the talent gap? You can’t give someone talent. Do you tie the hands and feet of the talented?
    Founding fathers understood this point when they talk of the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (granted, they didn’t apply that to slaves for another 90 years). They wanted to take privilege by birth out of the equation.The right to pursue. Not the freedom to demand something be given to you nor that everything be fair.
    5% is the goal, not a constant. Risks have to be made when selecting product lines and means of production and expanding into markets that have never been tried before. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. If they set it a 4% and it is a loosing year, workers get laid off. 5% is the margin that has worked best. Profits are not evil, but the purpose of running a company well. They are reinvested into the communities and use to venture into more markets and employ more people.
    Seriously, the water runner on the NFL field should get the same salary as the star quarterback because you feel they work harder and have to put up with a lot of crap and risk?

  • Major Nav

    Yes, I did work on the drone programs in the USAF.
    But I will let you in on a little secret that you will never hear in the media.
    All military drones are flown by pilots.
    That’s right, highly trained, human pilots backed up by multiple, human sensor operators. True, some drones can go autonomous for a time while enroute to a target area or while in a holding pattern, but none of them can fire a single bullet or missile or call in an airstrike on their own. Not one of them.
    So when you see a headline that says “drone”, just replace that word with piloted aircraft. No different than a B-52 or F-16 with pilots on board. In most cases, the drones can actually “see” better and are better at avoiding collateral damage.
    I can’t help the fact that you equivocate military war actions with murder.
    I also flew millions of pounds of relief food and supplies into several war-torn or natural disaster ravaged countries.

  • Major Nav

    No, quartebacks are intelligent, fast-thinking, talented athletes that work their ass off. At any time, a single tackle can end their career or worse if there is brain damage. They have to work for every point they put on the board and there is a defensive player working just as hard to stop them. If they don’t score and fill the seats, they are traded off or let go. “Career” over.
    They don’t sing a song and walk off the stage. There is no fixed outcome like a play or professional wrestling match.
    Irrationallity of it is not your call or mine. Personally, I never played, not a fan, and don’t get the attraction. But it’s an easy universal to use for analogy.
    Not a single fan will disagree that the salaries are exorbitant but none will stop dishing out the money for tickets and paraphenalia.

    Cigarettes. Why just tax them? Make it illegal. Tobacco is a multi-billion dollar sindustry in Virginia and the Carolinas and they won’t let it happen. Nor will the millions of consumers.
    Don’t even get me started on the irationality of casinos and all the detriment that surrounds them.
    If I made you queen for the day, what would you eliminate because you subjectively don’t think its “great”?
    Rhetorical question, BTW. Get it? Who gets to judge?

  • Major Nav

    People that work for a living are not moochers. You will not find Rand ever saying that.
    People who demand to be compensated above their value or don’t want to work at all and recieve benefits are the moochers.

  • Major Nav

    Everyone has the OPPORTUNITY to make a better life. No one is forbidden by law or by class from pursuing an education, job, or starting a business. In fact, the lower down you start or if you are classified a minority, the more opportunites there are.
    No such thing as “making it”. I don’t know what “it” is. Wealth is not an end.

  • smrnda

    Not all military actions == murder, but we as nation are incurring a level of collateral damage that I don’t think is defensible. I’m also aware that drones aren’t that much different than aircraft, but I think we’ve reached a point where we’re writing off a massive amount of civilian casualties. We wouldn’t be so flippant if Americans were the people getting killed by accident while targeting enemies.

  • smrnda

    I’m not saying Rand got some details wrong, I’m saying she got the whole scientific method wrong.

    I know that if I think a signal is faulty, I should make sure that’s true before I act on that assumption. This isn’t railroad specific knowledge, it’s general knowledge of how problems with technology are solved. Anyone with a shred of intelligence knows that you test a hypothesis before acting on it if you can. That is the basis for the scientific method, and an intelligent person should realize that in ALL situations.

    To me, this proves Rand is an idiot. She doesn’t operate from empirical data, but from her assumptions. That’s being stupid.

    If the ‘gork detector’ in a science fiction story is saying that an area is overwhelmed with gorks, and no gorks are visible, a character who says “well, the detector must be wrong then!” is leaving out the possibility of the gorks using a cloaking device. In any story using technology, the author should show technology being used in an intelligent fashion, and testing hypothesis is an integral part of dealing with any technology, whether it already exists or not.

  • GCT

    Perhaps you should read the book then, because everyone except her Capitalist heroes are labeled moochers and left out to dry. Are we supposed to believe that only her heroes were the real workers? What about Eddie Willers? He gets left out to dry too.

    Most people work for a living and put up with less pay than they deserve. I guess that means that there was no reason for the Capitalist heroes to go off and sulk about how bad they have it and we can safely disregard Rand’s novel without a second thought, eh? Fine by me.

  • smrnda

    This is obviously untrue. The greater predictor of future success is the social class and level of education of one’s parents. Wealthy parents confer a huge advantage, and all the aid given to the poor and minorities hardly level the playing field.

    The notion of ‘opportunity’ is as vacuous a belief that we are all entitled to levitate. It’s a thoroughly meaningless abstraction.

  • GCT

    Everyone has the OPPORTUNITY to make a better life.

    That’s fallacious, and we both know it. By definition, not everyone can make a better life, because not everyone can succeed. And, to make matters worse, some people get to start with such a head-start that it makes it virtually impossible for many others.

    No one is forbidden by law or by class from pursuing an education, job, or starting a business.

    Pursuing an education takes money and a background of having had a proper education, that many people may not have if they did not grow up in the right areas or with the requisite amount of money. If you don’t have the education, it’s exceedingly hard to get a good paying job. And, if you have no capital, it’s exceedingly hard to start a business. You make it sound as if the only reason that everyone doesn’t own their own multi-million dollar business is because they are stupid and/or lazy, and that’s just not true.

    In fact, the lower down you start or if you are classified a minority, the more opportunites there are.

    Citation please, because this is simply not true.

    No such thing as “making it”. I don’t know what “it” is. Wealth is not an end.

    Now, you’re just lying. You know damn well and good what “making it” means and you know damned well and good that wealth is an end in this context.

  • smrnda

    My take on sports is that it’s kind of like drug addiction, and I think the problem should be addressed by fixing other things that are wrong with society. We’ve got most players ending up broke and many brain damaged, fans shelling out lots of money, stadiums being built and cities getting the tab, and team owners making a killing. I’m not for banning irrationality just pointing it out. I don’t think athletes have no talent, just that , in the end, I don’t think the system works for players either. Think of how many kids want to play professional sports and bank on that, and how few succeed, and how other skills are often neglected.

  • GCT

    Cigarettes. Why just tax them? Make it illegal. Tobacco is a multi-billion dollar sindustry in Virginia and the Carolinas and they won’t let it happen. Nor will the millions of consumers.

    Wow, you’re so close to actually having a breakthrough.

  • smrnda

    Major Nav, the tobacco example was a pretty good one to bring up. I’ll explain something.

    It would definitely benefit society if people were to stop smoking. However, then all the people in the tobacco industry would be out of work. Some of them are probably amoral assholes, but a lot of the people are just ordinary folks who need to make a living. It would be a good idea to reduce smoking, but it would be bad for the underlings of the tobacco industry.

    There is a possibility that if demand for tobacco decreases, workers can just switch into new lines of work based on where people are spending the $ they formerly spent on tobacco. However, there’s no guarantee that the displaced workers will have the right skills.

    The right thing to do would be to do what we can to decrease smoking while providing some sort of sensible job training program whose occupation is now at risk. The goal is to make sure everybody can come out a winner.

    Our current problem is we have situations where the market provides incentives for socially harmful behavior. To fix it, you need to change the incentive structure, but any change can result in negative externalities to someone else, mostly people who have no responsibility for the situation.

    I know an objection will be the ‘who decides?’ or ‘who decides what’s fair?’ but we determine these by consensus all the time. It used to be illegal in my location to raise chickens in residential neighborhoods. At the time, it was probably seen as the best policy. In recent years, this rule has been repealed because people have done a new cost-benefit analysis. My take is that we vote on what laws we should follow, so voting on resource allocation doesn’t seem categorically different.

    I would oppose making people work for the government for free in lousy conditions, and I’d be opposed to the government leaving people with no property whatsoever, but I don’t think all demands for public service or taxation are unreasonable. Property is just a social construct. At some point in time in the US, you could just take whatever you wanted. Then, all of a sudden, property rights become a big deal. No property claim seems to be 100% valid to me, not even those of my own as I’m effectively living on stolen property, just the theft happened a long time ago. The best we can do is agree the system is screwed up, unfair, and that property is allocated as much by luck as by merit, and just make sure nobody gets totally pissed and shat on. I’m not advocating that we confiscate ALL wealth and hand it all out, just that we provide everybody with some minimum standard of living.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Of course Rand doesn’t argue for workers’ rights. As usual, you fail to read what I actually said. Rand believes that the employers should act in a way that best furthers their own self-interest. Thus, people pointing out that her heroes are acting stupidly because we can prove that giving workers some rights improves productivity are not contradicting Rand, and would at best be pointing out that Rand doesn’t know the ins and outs of the modern workforce … which Rand would likely concede. However, again, if you can prove that giving those workers those rights would improve productivity and profits and thus benefit those employers more than not giving them, then Rand would agree that employers should give them and would be stupid not to.

  • smrnda

    You can give someone talent. It’s called education and job training. I was not born knowing what I know; I got exposed to a lucrative body of knowledge earlier in life than everybody else. I should be allowed to use my talents, but it’s fair that since I won the lottery in terms of parents that I should pay higher taxes so that other people who didn’t get the same early experiences through no fault of their own can have a decent standard of living.

    Privilege by birth is still a major factor, it’s just a little less obvious than a title of nobility. Ruling classes figured that if they dropped the titles of nobility they’d stick around longer.

    Profits are often not re-invested in socially beneficial ways. A guy who owns 100 hotels buys 50 more, then gives everybody a pay cut and demands they work harder, expecting more work out of fewer workers. This happens a lot of the time.

    On the ‘life gives you lemons’ Fuck that shit. Nobody should get lemons when someone like me gets born with a massive pile of money.

    I’m sure the basic difference between us is that, as a person born with obvious privilege, I’m not emotionally invested in some idea of my own merit. I can see the system clearly because I’ve benefited from an unfair system that can and should be changed. The upper classes always let a few dirt poor kids get ahead so that the illusion of upward mobility can be maintained.

  • Azkyroth

    Aw, fuck…

  • Major Nav

    One of these days you’re going to actually complete a thought or provide a point. I’m still waiting.
    Maybe come up with something besides “bullshit” or “liar”. Maybe?

  • Major Nav

    Who is being flippant? Sure as hell isn’t the US military. We work damned hard to avoid collateral damage and we are more successful than not. In the modern era, it is so rare that it actually makes the newspaper when it does happen.
    What is sickening is when we watch the bad guys bring in the “civilian casualties” to stage before the cameras. Or purposefully surround themselves with innocents when they know they are being targeted.

  • Major Nav

    Talent does not equal education. You know the kids that saw calculus for the first time and just got it. By the end of the first semester they were showing the teacher how to do it. That’s talent. The rest had the class or education or job training worked far more hours than anyone else to study and used tutors then get a D. That is a lack of math talent that can never be provided.
    I can send you to football camp every summer for life, but I doubt you will ever be a Joe Montana.
    So, if you never had money growing up, you would be a failure? Serving up fries and mopping floors your whole life. I don’t think so. If you feel so bad about your wealth, give all your money away above $35000. No? Why not?

  • Major Nav

    When the cops find a strangled or stabbed girl, 99% of the time it was the dad, boyfriend, or husband. If you are a cop and know this, where will you start your search? I don’t have to “know” where to begin but I do know three people that have to be ruled out first to ensure we are not wasting time.
    Just like when you are debugging code, odds are you have a pretty good educated guess where to look first. You are not going to start from line 1 every time.
    Dagney has multiple trainlines to juggle and can’t “stop everything” in order to get it exactly right. Command decisions are always made with incomplete information. The ones in command have to accept the risk of not knowing. That is why they get the big bucks.

  • Major Nav

    “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Abraham Lincoln.
    Nor does consensus ever equal doing things right. Opposing gay marriage, for example. Elect people to do the right thing, not those that bend to every whim of the constituency.
    Do you really run your company as a co-op? Did you read the chapter about the car company?

  • Major Nav

    You are proving my point. You don’t give large loans to people who can’t afford to pay them. Like the poor.
    But that is not meat of the argument. It all comes down to credit score. Which is based upon whether you pay your bills. You can make $3000 a year and have a credit rating of 850 out of 850.
    Money is color blind. Banks look for two things in a borrower: income and credit rating. Can you pay it back out of your income and do you have a history of paying things back?
    But they also need to look at recovering their money if there is a default. Neighborhoods that have a history of a house that is defaulted on being destroyed or turned into a meth lab before it can be repossessed are redlined. Nothing personal or racial about it, it is just good business to avoid that situation.
    The poor definitely suffer, but I want you to give me the solution. Forcing banks to do business with bad credit, redlined houses sure as hell didn’t work.

  • Major Nav

    I have been to 44 countries and only 3 of them for vacation.

    China has gone from 43 yrs to 73 yrs in the last 5 decades.

    But those numbers are skewed because they, like other Asian countries, stopped counting deaths under the age of two or three.

    People cry about a people making $6 a day, but that will buy three meals a day and have $5 left over. And it is $5.50 a day more than they were earning.
    In Iraq after the war, seasonal workers came to town to pick figs. There was no cash to pay them and a riot was about to break out. The military commander gave everyone $20 (smallest denomination he had) for a weeks work and sent them on their way. Fair enough? Apparently not. It damn near upset the whole economy of Iraq because that was $15 more than they had ever received.

  • smrnda

    If I have an idea of where an error in code is, I should check. Believe me, I’ve seen lots of experienced programmers be wrong. I see no problem with someone saying “The signal might be faulty.” The problem is “The signal might be faulty, let’s send the train ahead and checked the signal later.”

    Also, I rode the subway in NY and the L in Chicago enough to have a pretty good understanding of what sort of things go wrong and how they are dealt with.

    In the scene in the book, Dagney does not investigate the signal before she sends the train ahead. She’s acting on an untested hypothesis.

    On accepting the risks, the problem is that those on top are protected by limited liability and a whole slough of lawyers, and from a legal system that views deaths caused by corporate incompetence to be something other than criminal. If a fertilizer factory blows up, the people running the factory aren’t going to jail for incompetence.

  • smrnda

    I actually do give away most of it. I live pretty modestly. I support paying more taxes.

    The brain is a developing organ. Give it the right stimulation early on, and you’ll see a huge difference throughout a person’s entire life. If I hadn’t had the experiences I had very early, I’d have a different brain.

    I could look at it like this: it was close to 99% certain that, unless I had some major disaster, I’d end up affluent. If I’d had other experiences, the % would have dropped a lot. If my parents had not been educated, I would have never shown any remarkable talent at any stage.

    I don’t even remember when I saw calculus for the first time, but it was long before I saw it in school.

    Our belief in ‘innate ability’ (something Americans tend to believe far more than say, Asians) is why I can’t find American programmers. We have this idea that people either have ‘talent’ or not. If you don’t get it right away, you’re told you have no ‘talent’ and that you should drop out of engineering and go study something else. Our education system is built on trying to find the kids who get it without much help rather than cultivating talent. So all the kids who take a programming course who don’t instantly get it decide they’re not cut out to be programmers, and they quit, and most of them could be at least competent, and for lots of things, competent is enough.

    The belief that mathematics is a talent you either have or not is not something anybody believes in outside the US and probably has a lot to do with why our kids can’t do maths. Maybe ‘talent’ as in Alan Turing level talent is something you can’t teach, but not for something like calculus, which I’m convinced anyone can learn. I know, because I’ve taught mathematics and I got pretty good results with people who I was told had no ‘aptitude.’ You tell people math is an innate skill and not something you can learn, and you’ll find it becomes true. The moment they don’t get it right away, they disengage and decide they’ll never get it. There’s plenty of research in psychology on this fact.

    On athletics, you should look up Bernard Hopkins. His whole story of success isn’t a story of ‘innate talent’ but of a serious training program. Of course, he adheres to the program with phenomenal discipline, but it isn’t like he just walks into the ring and knocks people out after a week on a couch thanks to ‘innate talent.’

  • smrnda

    I didn’t bother to read more of Rand since, if I wanted an intelligent discussion of the merits of the free market, I would read Hayek or someone else with actual credentials who writes papers that are accepted by real economists, not pulp-fiction. If I’m looking for tips on how to run a business, a sci fi author who never ran a business and has no degree in economics and who has no knowledge of science and technology isn’t someone I’m going to listen to.

    I recall something about how the workers were always trying to get by with less work for more money, but this is just Rand’s classist bias, where she can’t imagine a person with a blue-collar job who isn’t lazy and stupid. Nice of her to believe that most human beings in the planet should just shut up and do what they are told. Her belief is that higher ups NEVER exaggerate their value, but that lower downs ALWAYS DO. This would make sense, since higher ups are the ones who decide what to pay people; it’s in their incentive to inflate their own importance.

    I agree that consensus can be wrong, anybody can be wrong, but elected officials are supposed to deliver results for everybody, not just protect privileges of a small minority of people. Sometimes the majority is wrong when they’re pissing and shitting on a minority, but I think wealthy people, and middle class people as well, are just a bunch of whiners who need to admit they’re over-privileged, have no real problems, and they can quit whining about not getting more tax breaks. My take is that nobody is enslaving the rich or taking all their money, just political power ought to be leveraged against economic power as a means of balancing the two out. Both ‘fairness’ and ‘freedom’ are, to me, kind of meaningless, but I believe in balancing them by giving them some sort of concrete meaning. ‘Right to an education’ is meaningless, actually defining the exact type of education that will be available is meaningful. The US can provide a decent minimum standard of living to all people, it’s just that there’s no sense of social responsibility among too many Americans.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerrad.wohlleber Jerrad Wohlleber

    No, in no way did I “prove your point.” I’m actually wondering if you even read what I wrote.

    You even contradict yourself within these four paragraphs! First loans come down to your income and credit score, which is (supposedly) based solely on whether you pay your bills, then suddenly a few sentences later loans are (justly in your opinion) handed out based on geographical location. So I’m probably wasting my time here, but what the hell.

    The Community Reinvestment Act, which outlawed redlining, was passed in 1977. That’s more than 30 years before the financial collapse. Are you honestly telling me that the bad effects of the law only popped up after 30 years? That’s idiotic.

    You also ignored the fact that the CRA had practically no enforcement mechanism, meaning that in reality banks weren’t required to do a damn thing.

    You also ignored the fact that the CRA, if it was enforced, doesn’t actually require banks to give loans to anyone who isn’t creditworthy. They are only “required” to actually judge the application as they would any other rather than immediately throwing it in the trash after reading the address. The idea that banks were ever forced to provide loans to people with bad credit is a straight up lie.

    You also ignored the fact that banks were making lots and lots of money on bad mortgages, and engaged in practices that would provide them with lots of mortgages while disregarding the risk. They had a clear motivation to give out bad mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and it had nothing to do with a law from 19-fucking-77.

    And while it hasn’t been mentioned yet, it’s also important to consider that the majority of the damage from the subprime crisis was not caused by single homeowners, much less single homeowners from redlined areas. The most damage was done by speculators and subprime loans, neither of which was effected by the CRA. And when single homeowners did default on their loans, it’s often been found that they had been defrauded by their lenders who lied about the terms and conditions.

    Stop lying. Maybe you’re used to people credulously believing your blatant lies, but that won’t fly here.

  • GCT

    No, I read you just fine…you’re just talking out of both sides of your mouth…as usual.

    You’re trying to defend the indefensible by pulling stuff out of your ass and making it way too obvious. You might want to try harder to troll.

  • GCT

    Well, it helps if you actually read what I write.

  • GCT

    Dagney has multiple trainlines to juggle and can’t “stop everything” in order to get it exactly right. Command decisions are always made with incomplete information. The ones in command have to accept the risk of not knowing. That is why they get the big bucks.

    They get the big bucks for sociopathic and callous disregard of the risks they take? Who cares if it hurts the little people? Who cares if the train collides with another train and all the passengers are killed? It was just a command decision that makes Dagny worthy of her high salary. That’s pretty much what you’ve just stated. One is worthy of their salary the more they disregard the real lives of people (most likely poor people and minorities to boot, because they don’t really count, right?)

  • smrnda

    No joke, we’re talking TRAIN COLLISIONS!

    Also, there is no one person juggling all of this. I know, because I know people who work managing mass transit. The cannot rely too much on any one person because, if that one person says, GOES TO SLEEP FOR THE NIGHT the whole system would fall apart. Systems are designed with multiple safeguards and redundancies so that you don’t *need* some super-genius running it. If your technology requires some superhuman polymath to make it work, your technology sucks.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    China’s life expectancy isn’t declining. “I’ve looked into these issues” is not a substitute for sources.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Then why are there so few CEOs?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Also, can you name any Objectivists who accomplished anything?

    -Jimmy Wales?

  • Jonathan

    I think you’re missing a point here. I don’t know if you’re actually reviewing Rand’s book or just bashing it (there are many questionable points, it can be hard to tell). It works as a caricature of liberal problems, but too many people (maybe as Rand herself intended??) take it literally.

    However, within the context of that caricature, I share some of the revulsion for Phillip actions. He does not care about the underprivileged, any more than Hank does. He does what he does because society has told him it’s “Good”. He can’t take pride or comfort in his work, because then it would not be ‘selfless’, and society told him good people are selfless. He can have none of his own wants unless he finds a way to twist his and society’s perception of what is good to match; something that happens to many of the looters later in the book.

    His affected selflessness is disturbing. He’s not going for a goal; not trying to uplift the downtrodden or right wrongs that are meaningful to him. He just does it because he’s terrified of being thought badly of; the same paralysis Rand inflicts upon all the other looters.

    There are real people like that… and it’s from them Rand drew this caricature.

    In reality, though, most people help others because the causes they support and lead are meaningful to them. Rand _can’t_ grant that virtue to Phillip, because it will seriously start to blur the line between the good and bad characters. The Captains of industry are defined by that they have goals, and pursue them – production and profit, in their cases. To quote Andrew Ryan from Bioshock: “A Man chooses; a slave obeys”. If Phillip truly championed the benefits of the poor, he would, in a way, be on the same level as the captains.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    There are real people like that… and it’s from them Rand drew this caricature.

    Please name some of them.

    In reality, though, most people help others because the causes they support and lead are meaningful to them. Rand _can’t_ grant that virtue to Phillip, because it will seriously start to blur the line between the good and bad characters.

    Yes, that is an absolutely valid observation. I’m convinced it’s one that Rand does her utmost to conceal. As you said, for didactic purposes she has to have an absolutely clear line between good and bad characters, which forces her to deny the very existence of people who genuinely care about doing good through means other than running for-profit corporations.

  • wysinwyg

    You mean the guy who is perpetually asking for donations to keep his non-profit business afloat? Some objectivist.

  • James Yakura

    Yet, somehow she didn’t think of herself that way.

  • ffakr

    It just occurred to me that Atlas Shrugged is actually an advocacy treatise for Genocide. It’s not surprising, aside from being a sociopath she was a fauning fan of a serial killer.

    Look at the story ‘from 10,000 feet’. The makers despise the takers. Makers are super-human and takers are sub-human. The takers are the vermin that are pulling down society, actively destroying it.

    Sound familiar?

    What’s the solution? Go Galt.

    Ayn Rand wasn’t satisfied to have her heroes abandon the takers out of disgust and spite. She had to have their actions throw the rest of the world into collapse.

    The makers didn’t systematically go about exterminating takers though I suspect her characters would find that entertaining if they weren’t so obsessed with getting Rich. They merely facilitated the downfall of society by walking away.
    How many people died because they couldn’t make it without the Makers in Rand’s vision?
    Ignoring how ridiculous Rand’s vision is, this is what she dreamed of. I don’t know of any indication from her writings or interviews that would indicate she’d believe the world wouldn’t be better off if the inferiors were wiped off the face of the earth.

    This story was told by someone else as well. It’s been written over and over in fact. Substitute the races with makers and everyone else.

  • ffakr

    I made a similar argument when I foolishly jumped into the comment section of another essay.

    I was pointing out how the Parties and the Pundits co-opt positions and how most Americans likely have a lot of common ground but they don’t see it because they only compare their beliefs to the straw men the other side has crafted to lock in their base.

    I consider the Estate tax to be a tool of a deeply-held conservative value. Nothing says ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ like a trust fund kid.

  • Demonhype

    Bullshit. Absolute pro-militarist propaganda bullshit. But typical of the type, along the lines of “we had to go to Iraq to close down the torture chambers!” The very types who were infuriated when the realities of Abu Ghraib came out–not because of the atrocities but because the facts had finally come out that we are, when you come down to it, no better than they are. And don’t get me started on the people who tried (and still try) to pass it off as frat-boy fun or just some nice heroic young people burning off some steam, or just a few bad apples when it was officially ordered from the highest levels of the military.

    We all know no one in the military is going to own up to what they really do or the real harm they cause. Who would want to face those facts? And especially not when nearly everything that affects we, the people, is hidden behind the highest levels of military security, and anyone who adds a little crucial transparency to the mix is considered a criminal.

  • Demonhype

    Don’t forget that the kid who was born rich will have had other benefits the poor kid didn’t get: better and more nutritious food for a developing body and brain, for example, and better medical care which can be so vital to proper development as well. The richer kid went to better schools and might have had access not only to special tutors but to other lessons, like music or dance, that have excellent effects on brain development and dexterity, so when they become adults they have a good background to continue with–not so the poor kid.

    Not to mention the fact that the richer kids in college, for example, had way more time to work on projects and study than someone like me, who had to spend a hefty portion of my non-school-going time working like a slave for pennies just to be able to afford the gas to get to school in the first place, so it was a hell of a lot easier for them to pull ahead grade-wise than a poor kid like me. I was a lot smarter than a lot of them, but anyone who has gone to college knows how little that really matters when you have very little time to do the work.

  • Demonhype

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I was always told that, as a girl and an artist, I had no aptitude for math and I had no idea that I had simply internalized someone else’s a priori assessment of my skills until I got older, started working in 3dsMax learning to write algebraic equations to make joints in a rig work right, and found out that math was actually damn interesting and I was pretty good at it. A lot of people are given that same BS–you just have “no talent” for math or logic or whatnot, no use teaching you anything, just give up. And when you get that attitude as a child, even if it’s not explicitly stated, you get an adult who doesn’t believe he can learn anything.

    And thank you for pointing out the effects of early experience on a developing brain. So many are trying desperately these days to erase nurture from the equation and consider only nature, pretending that external influence during lifetime development, especially from childhood to adulthood, has no serious impact on a person’s “inherent” abilities or value. Those people are so often the people in the privileged race, sex, or class too, the race, sex or class that is considered inherently superior by “nature”–gee, I wonder what motivates that perspective?

  • Agrajag

    I worry over this. There’s a tendency for US wars to cost more and more money, and less and less American lives. And I ain’t convinced that this is a good thing. If a war costs less lives overall, it’s a good thing. But if the reduction in lives-lost are concentrated on one side, it becomes problematic.

    USA is (nominally anyway) a democracy. It’s also the worlds biggest military spender by far. No country can beat USA on the battlefield. The only way to beat the US-military in practice, is to ensure that a steady stream of body-bags arrive back home in USA — after a while this tends to make Americans demand of their leaders that the war stop.

    In short, I worry that the fact that modern war, especially modern aerial war has extremely low american losses, might end up getting USA involved in more wars. The average American doesn’t even know what the wars cost, a trillion more or less is much easier to ignore than rows upon rows of coffins.

  • schlaflosig

    Dear Indigo, an illusion of immortality through having children is merely an illusion. We’re all properly screwed whether we will have children or not, the future for everyone of us is death.

    I wouldn’t worry about extinction however, there will always be plenty of people who don’t think very much about these philosophical matters. Most people don’t need any rational reason to have children, they just do.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X