Atlas Shrugged: The Invention of Fire

Atlas Shrugged, p.63-64

To finish out this section, there’s a short scene in the Taggart Terminal at night (the same place where the statue of Nat Taggart stands that Dagny uses for ancestor worship). She’s leaving work after an argument with Jim, who’s found out that she’s only running a few old and broken-down trains on the San Sebastian Line, but who, as always, refuses to take the responsibility of changing anything when she invites him to.

In the corner of the concourse, by the main entrance, there was a small newsstand. The owner, a quiet, courteous old man with an air of breeding, had stood behind his counter for twenty years… He had a hobby which was his only pleasure; he gathered cigarettes from all over the world for his private collection; he knew every brand made or that had ever been made. [p.63]

Dagny stops at his stand to buy a pack of cigarettes, and we hear the usual laments about how all the cigarette companies in the world are going out of business. Then:

“I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips… When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind – and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.” [p.64]

This is an even better example than the one I discussed last time of how Rand sought to elevate her own subjective preferences into universal logical laws. Rand herself was a heavy smoker – in fact, she contracted lung cancer later in life – and it’s a good bet that she was addicted to tobacco. But it clearly wasn’t enough for her to smoke just because she liked it. She had to work it into her philosophy, finding a reason to treat smoking as heroic, even rationally obligatory.

And since this is a good opportunity here, let’s take this time to discuss the tobacco business. Here’s something that Rand’s massive magnum opus in praise of capitalism never addresses: when a product turns out to be harmful, who, if anyone, should bear the responsibility?

Atlas was published in 1957, a few years after doctors began publishing statistical evidence of the cancer link. Certainly, you could argue that if smokers were aware of this information and chose to continue smoking, then they freely assumed that risk upon themselves and no one else should be held responsible.

The only problem is that many of them didn’t know about it, because when this evidence started coming out, the tobacco companies went to great lengths to sow uncertainty and confusion. In an infamous 1969 memo, an executive at Brown & Williamson wrote that “doubt is our product”, and that cigarette advertising should aim at “establishing a controversy” in the public mind to fight back against what they called – in language strikingly reminiscent of Rand’s – an “insidious and developing pattern of attack against the American free enterprise system, a sinister formula that is slowly eroding American business with the cigarette obviously selected as one of the trial targets.”

This PR campaign went on despite substantial evidence that the tobacco companies themselves were well aware of the health risks of smoking (see also). According to testimony presented in a class-action lawsuit, some went so far as to deliberately destroy internal research that could have proved damaging in court.

Objectivism exalts reason above all, but reason requires an informed decision. I can’t act in my best interests if someone conceals information from me that would have changed my choice if I’d known about it. And as much as any libertarian may decry “anti-smoking paternalism“, the truth is that the tobacco companies did try for as long as possible to keep the public unaware of information relevant to the health risks of smoking. Shouldn’t they be liable for this, in the same way that anyone who was poisoning me without my knowledge should be liable for that harm?

Even if the tobacco companies hadn’t made any attempt at a cover-up, even if they’d been completely honest from the start, shouldn’t the manufacturers of products that are intrinsically harmful bear some responsibility for that harm? If I hit someone with my car, I ought to be liable for the injuries they suffer, even if I had no intent to injure them. Just the same way, when a product turns out to be harmful, it seems only fair that the people profiting off the use of that product should contribute to repairing that harm. (And how does addiction play into the Objectivist worldview of people as pure reasoning machines?)

As I said, this is a subject that Rand steers clear of, in keeping with her view that capitalists are the exalted ones who can do no wrong, and that government is the only cause of any bad thing that ever happens. But readers ought to be left asking why it is that a book written to sing the praises of capitalism has to avoid even the most obvious critique of its argument.

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.

  • Gideon

    To me, this is reminiscent of the debate over how the financial sector fueled the housing bubble by packaging and reselling subprime mortgages (CDO). It’s one more case of companies that knowingly sold something with substantial risks, but everyone treated it as safe because of lack of information. Well, some tried to insure themselves (CDS), but that just meant the insurer, AIG, also got flattened, since it also failed to know the whole truth of how awfully risky the CDOs turned out to be.

  • sealiagh

    I am enjoying this series very much. Thank you.

    The news stand man’s “Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at [man's] fingertips….” I think reflects Rand’s entire philosophy – that man can through reason and will conquer nature. (This also explains her dismissal of the dangers of cigarettes perhaps – she is a creature of reason and will and what she chooses to do must, of necessity be good and right and, if she wills it, will have no adverse consequences.) Another such moment I recall from the book occurs at a cocktail party and I believe it is Hank Rearden who says something to the effect (in a conversation about the eventual dying of the sun) that he thought that man would have found a substitute for the sun. I had forgotten about that until a few years ago I was visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York where there was an exhibition of set design illustrations by well known artists (e.g. Diego Rivera) and I came across an illustration by El Lissitski for a Russian production of a show called “Victory Over the Sun.” And, bingo!, I remembered the quote from Atlas Shrugged.

    Did a little research and Victory Over the Sun was a Russian futurist “opera” that was first staged in 1913 in St. Petersburg (a link to an article about it is below). Malevich a Russian futurist/suprematist was the designer. And then again in the 1920s another was staged in Russia with set design by El Lissitski a Soviet artist/propagandist (who, I believe latter fell out of favor). This show was very reflective of the triumphalist thinking – man overcoming nature – that was part of the Soviet project. What struck me was how very similar Rand’s thinking – that man can triumph over nature – that man can create his own reality – a new reality – was…. I can’t help but wonder to what extent Rand was exposed to these ideas and how much (however much she would protest the idea) influence they had on her.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1981/01/27/arts/theater-victory-over-the-sun.html

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    Do Objectivists support basic truth in advertising laws? I mean, forget about papering over scientific research saying that your product is harmful. Are you, in Galt’s Gulch, allowed to just flat out lie about what your product is and does? Can you sell your customer a run down lemon of a car while telling them that it’s a state of the art flying car? Can the government prosecute this practice?

    This is kind of a conundrum, I think. When I asked myself this question, my first thought was “Of course they don’t support such a law, it’s big bad government interfering with business practices; the crooked company should just experience natural market consequences.” But on the other hand, Objectivists do seem to believe that “enforcing contracts” is one of the few legitimate functions of government.

    So, does lying about your product constitute a breach of a contract? If you say you’re going to sell a person one thing, but you hand over something quite different, surely you’ve violated a business agreement, right? And if that’s the case, what about the implied claim that they’re not selling you something which, BY THE WAY, will fucking kill you?

    I’m genuinely not sure where objectivists fall on this question.

  • Alejandro

    If the dangers of smoking had been clear from the start, then no, they would not have had any responsability. If I sell you a hammer and you decide to hit yourself in the head with it, am I responsible for the damages you suffered? Do I have to pay your medical bills because you decided to hit yourself despite knowing that hitting your head with a hammer is not a good idea?

    Regarding covering up information about the harmfull effects of a product, I agree. That should not be allowed.

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    “I can’t act in my best interests if someone conceals information from me that would have changed my choice if I’d known about it.”

    That’s a good argument against faith.

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

    That’s a very good question, and I’m also not sure. As far as I know, Rand never addressed this anywhere in any of her books (because all capitalists are good people who would never do wrong, so the question never comes up). If anyone knows of a place where she did discuss it, I’d be interested to hear about it.

    If I had to guess, I’d say that in a Randian utopia, anything explicitly promised in a mutually agreed-upon contract that turns out to be false would be grounds for a lawsuit (although Rand’s view of how the judicial system should operate is also hazy). But anything short of that would probably fall under “let the buyer beware” – so deceptive advertising, destroying internal research, and all the rest of it would be just fine with her.

    EDIT: I thought of this a while after posting this comment: There’s also the important plot point that Francisco d’Anconia is deliberately exploiting his past record of success to trick the looters into throwing their money away in bad investments he proposes. That’s definitely evidence that Rand held a buyer-beware view of false advertising. Or maybe she means us to conclude that moral standards only apply to True Capitalists doing business with each other; everyone else can be conned to your heart’s content.

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

    Well said!

  • smrnda

    Have you ever heard the term ‘author appeal?’ When an author just keeps referencing something because they happen to l like it to the point where it starts becoming ridiculous? Rand’s pretty bad at that, and the whole ‘poetry of tobacco’ deal just strikes me as absurd. Tobacco products are pretty messy and smelly, and when I read about a guy ‘collecting cigarettes from all over the world’ I got the image of a dustbin full of butts picked off the sidewalk. This is about as unglamorous and unappealing a picture as I can come up with.

    I recall Rand being dismissive of the news that tobacco smoking was harmful, and then just being quiet about it once she got cancer, since admitting she’d made a bad call (even when she could have chalked it up to a lack of correct information) just wasn’t her style.

    Overall, I’ve found Objectivists and most libertarians extremely inconsistent about their views on truth in advertizing or liability for harm caused by intended use of products. I actually heard one guy say consumer protection laws are ‘stupid’ since hazardous products make people more vigilant, and therefore, smarter. He later complained that he couldn’t return an item to a store, though the return policy was something he could have checked on before he bought the thing.

  • Omnicrom

    And again we see Pretentiousness. I’ve always felt that pretentiousness is best described as a work thinking it’s more important than it is, and Rand is a stellar example. That bit of folderol about how a cigarettes are Prometheus’s gift to mankind is eyerolling. That kind of undeserved lofty speech is the sort of thing that should earn someone some ribbing.

    A better, funnier book would have pointed how silly that speech was. A better scene would to have have Dagny point out that Jim is just a smoker selling smokes to other smokers and then repeat the speech as HER reason for smoking when Jim asks why she smokes. Use the overly pretentious prose as a punchline.

    But no. Rand really does believe her books are purestrain Gold.

  • jackcade

    Science was politicised in the 1960′s so this is a far wider subject than the frauds surrounding the anti-smoking lobby-

    http://smokingoutthetruth.com/the-scientific-scandal-of-antismoking/

    I well remember Oprah Winfrey in the 1980′s pronouncing that by the year 2000 a quarter of the world’s population would have been wiped out by AIDS – and the Global Warming mythology continues apace, costing millions of lives every year through global capital-misallocations.

    I have seen the future and it looks like North Korea! – but it will all be achieved in the name of THE PUBLIC GOOD so who cares?

  • Jerrad Wohlleber

    And how does addiction play into the Objectivist worldview of people as pure reasoning machines?

    It doesn’t, which is probably part of why Rand had to elevate cigarette smoking into a glorious symbol of man’s control over fire which any true ubermench would choose to enjoy. For her to admit that she smoked cigarettes because she was compelled to do so to avoid feeling miserable would contradict her image of herself.

    I wonder how many of her acolytes she got to start smoking? I wonder how many of them died from it.

  • ORAXX

    In essence, Rand argued that by wringing every last trace of humanity out of government we would thus be rendered noble and pure. She succeeded only in helping really awful people feel better about their awfulness.

  • smrnda

    It’s her ‘romantic realism’ again, where all the tastes and inclinations of the heroes are noble and great. In other words, badly written propaganda.

  • Azkyroth

    The first law of thermodynamics is “mythology?”

    Adam, can I call THIS one names?

  • Azkyroth

    I actually heard one guy say consumer protection laws are ‘stupid’ since hazardous products make people more vigilant, and therefore, smarter. He later complained that he couldn’t return an item to a store, though the return policy was something he could have checked on before he bought the thing.

    Rumor has it that a libertarian who actually followed their ideology when it wasn’t convenient to them would burst into flames.

  • GCT

    If the dangers of smoking had been clear from the start, then no, they would not have had any responsability.

    No one is discussing that case, except you.

  • GCT

    So, are you claiming that smoking isn’t harmful to your health?

    And, you take your science from Oprah Winfrey? I think I see why you are so confused and misinformed.

  • jackcade

    No I am not claiming that smoking is not harmful to your health.

    Lots of things are harmful to health – I am simply not possessed of the rather naive belief that all social ills can be cured by a sweep of the legislators pen.

    As for Ms. Winfrey – she took great pains to explain that her forecast was based on the best scientific advice available at that time.

  • jackcade

    I do not know – nor do I care – whether the Sun, or the planet Earth or any other planet in our solar system or beyond, is becoming warmer or colder, quicker or slower, fatter or thinner or changing by any other physical measurement you may care to mention.

  • jackcade

    LOL!

    Yeah, that’s right – people have no control over themselves – they are like CRAZY WILDMEN!!

    Let’s call the cops!

    Let us all also support the very important and absolutely vital government war on cigarettes, drugs, terror, poverty, gold, light bulbs, lemonade, and not forgetting that most terrible health scourge of all – picnics.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKlU9qsnU0Q

    Good luck with that, dude.

  • GCT

    No I am not claiming that smoking is not harmful to your health.

    Then, what’s your problem with the OP or science? Smoking is harmful to your health, so you can’t very well claim that science is wrong on that count. Also, you can’t very well claim that the bogus studies that tobacco companies did were correct.

    Lots of things are harmful to health – I am simply not possessed of the rather naive belief that all social ills can be cured by a sweep of the legislators pen.

    I’ve yet to see anyone actually argue that. You’re making up straw men.

    As for Ms. Winfrey – she took great pains to explain that her forecast was based on the best scientific advice available at that time.

    Ah, well if Oprah says she was right, then she must have been. And, if she wasn’t, then that means that this science stuff is all wrong, global warming is a hoax, etc. Fortunately for the rest of us, we actually have the evidence. Unfortunately for the rest of us, people like you and the elected representatives that think like you are ignoring all that evidence in order to claim it’s all a hoax.

  • GCT

    You just claimed that global warming is a myth, and now you claim that you don’t know whether it is or not? Make up your mind.

    Beyond that, it might not matter to you if people die from global climate change, but that just makes you a psychopath/sociopath.

  • jackcade

    Objectivists treat most of these issues as belonging tort law not criminal law.

    What type of actions belong to which type of law will depend on your view of the nature of government and the nature of man’s rights, see-

    http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_ayn_rand_man_rights

    http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_ayn_rand_the_nature_of_government

    “Are you, in Galt’s Gulch, allowed to just flat out lie about what your product is and does?”

    It would depend on the nature of the lie and the effects caused by the lie.

    “Can you sell your customer a run down lemon of a car while telling them that it’s a state of the art flying car?”

    Possibly, but you would be liable to a tort if it was not a state of the art flying car.

    “Can the government prosecute this practice?”

    If the prosecution service considered that a court of law would decide the action to be fraudulent – yes.

    “So, does lying about your product constitute a breach of a contract? If you say you’re going to sell a person one thing, but you hand over something quite different, surely you’ve violated a business agreement, right?”

    Yes and yes.

    “And if that’s the case, what about the implied claim that they’re not selling you something which, BY THE WAY, will fucking kill you?”

    It would depend on several factors – the seller’s knowledge, the seller’s intent, the degree of risk, the buyer’s knowledge, the nature of the harm and the degree to which some agent can be proved to be either the sole or direct cause or merely a contributory factor.

    Lots of things are harmful to people – obesity, drunkenness, war, motorcycles, drugs, firearms, suicide etc..

    Getting the government to ban these things on the basis of a future harm would not prevent them – but it would give you a mighty big government.

    “Did you really think we want those laws
    observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better
    get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up
    against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule
    innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack
    down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes
    them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes
    impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of
    law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass
    the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or
    objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and
    then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s
    the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal
    with.” Atlas Shrugged.

  • smrnda

    Yeah, because a cardboard caricature in a badly written book is the place to go for advice on how to run things in the real world :-)

  • smrnda

    It’s an inconsistent ideology because it’s based on the idea that ‘government == bad’ (excepting the protection of private property rights.) The problem is you can’t have civilization without government, and if private industry replaced certain government functions, it would be so powerful that it would just be a new aristocracy. The problem is meaningful freedom can’t exist in the absence of government, nor civilization, but libertarians and Objectivists must believe it’s possible.

  • smrnda

    “As for Ms. Winfrey – she took great pains to explain that her forecast
    was based on the best scientific advice available at that time.”

    You do realize there is a difference between making a claim and a claim being true? What sources did Ms. Winfrey cite? I’d say it’s more likely that she’s just a TV personality who isn’t really much better informed than average.

  • smrnda

    I’ll explain something. People have some degree of control over themselves, but certain people (those with more money) end up with lots of power over other people. One reason for obesity is lack of access to healthy food. The market isn’t supplying this in all locations.

    Also, psychology (a field you should look into) has demonstrated that people aren’t really totally in control of their decisions. Look up the effects of priming and stereotype threat as your introductory assignment.

    The government should be fighting some things, others are a waste.

    You seem to be building straw-men. It’s like finding 1 law that’s absurd and then declaring the whole notion of ‘law’ to be a farce.

  • Jerrad Wohlleber

    So you’re unfamiliar with the way addiction works? Maybe you should read up on something related to the real world, which doesn’t include Rand’s books.

  • Jerrad Wohlleber

    I’ve seen less straw in a freshly baled field.

  • smrnda

    Also, low incarceration rates in nations with more heavily regulated economies than the US make this Dr Ferris an absurdity.

  • Azkyroth

    So you literally don’t care what’s true, you just want to spout what’s consistent with your ideology and prejudices and sneer at and impugn the motives of anyone who disagrees.

    What was that about North Korea again?

  • Omnivore Vegetarian

    This is one of the best thought-out condemnations of Rand’s work and raises some wonderful questions! I do believe that, when presented with ALL the facts, people will make the right decisions for them but the insidious actions of the tobacco companies to hide those facts (and effectively murder people without their knowledge) is, in my mind, despicable. Keeping them from getting more money is enough of a reason not to smoke, in my mind.

  • Demonhype

    Worse, in fact. In our increasingly laissez-faire capitalist
    economy, we have privatized the prisons into for-profit businesses, which requires that we “make criminals” and “declare so many things to be a crime that it becomes
    impossible for men to live without breaking laws”. Hence the difficulty in ending the highly unpopular and
    failed Drug War, which guarantees millions of profitable prisoners to cage up and use as corporate slave labor, thus increasing the profit for the privatized prison.

    It’s interesting how capitalism and privatizing everything actually results in this “make everything illegal” consequence that Rand pretends is only abused by government. Not to mention that there is pretty much a direct line between capitalism and unfair imprisonment that is not so much between government (by itself, not bought by corporations) and unfair imprisonment.

    A good representative government in a free country has less reason to want a lot of people imprisoned, but
    corporations in a laissez-faire capitalist economy have every reason to want lots of people imprisoned. First is the privatized profit, both from locking people up and from using them as slave labor for their own profit. Second is that in their own effort to snag short-term profit they use the slave labor in the jails plus outsource all the jobs to
    foreign countries where they can set up slave labor sweatshops and get work at slave labor prices, and when this happens you have huge numbers of people who are unemployed, scared, hungry, and generally malcontented–and having any government-funded social safety net is totally wrong, of course, so they HAVE to be kicked out of their houses/apartments and be forced to live in an alley to freeze or starve, but at some point you have a lot of people ready to kill you. Best to lock them up before they get all French Revolution on the aristocracy’s asses, ya know? And you make an example of them to those who are not destitute yet but will be–open your mouth and go to the corporate slave labor camps. You can make millions AND silence dissent all in one fell swoop!

    The rich Objectivists and Libertarians don’t really want to rid themselves of government, even big all-encompassing government. They just want the already wealthy and powerful corporate interests to be exempt from that government and its laws. They want a big all-encompassing government under their own control with which they can bludgeon all the rest of us into submission. They want laws that apply only to the poor folks, and laws that explicitly allow them to prey on those poor folks by any means they choose, to the point of owning them like livestock. Better yet, since the only people who actually pay taxes in a “perfect” government will inevitably be the not-rich, it doesn’t cost the Heroic Capitalists a dime–they can effectively control legislation on the poor and make the poor pay for it, much like making them dig their own graves or like those accused of witchcraft were forced to PAY for the torture that was inflicted on them. No joke! They actually got BILLS for the various “services” the torturers did, and if they died their families were charged.

    And better yet, they have the benefit of “plausible (if you’re stupid) deniability”–when their plans inevitably fail and when they, the rich Heroic Galts of the story do not always know best, it will always be the fault of the government–the rich people weren’t exempt ENOUGH from the clutches of that government! Who would they blame if they got rid of the government? Okay, they’d probably blame the poor unwashed masses themselves, but at some point that would stop working, as at some point most of those people are going to get tired of starving due to the blatant greed of the rich and then being told that it’s their fault and their demands for reasonable work hours or safe working conditions, or a living wage are nothing short of “mooching” and “looting” their boss. You’ll work sixteen hour days every day, get a crumb in return, and LIKE IT, dammit!

    At some point, people are going to get tired of blaming themselves, so the Heroic Capitalists really do need a villain to distract their victims and convince them that they themselves are heroes, and that the victims of their Capitalism can count themselves heroes too if they just stick to “the rules”, as it were. Just like The Party in 1984 had to have Emmanual Goldstein of the Brotherhood, and just like in that book, the one is a useful fabrication of the other. The government is, at this point, like the Brotherhood in that it is entirely owned and operated by the rich corporate Capitalists, who continue to pretend that it is an independent and independently powerful enemy. As long as the unwashed and uneducated masses have someone besides themselves to blame and to direct their hatred toward, the Capitalist powers can keep their evil going for quite some time–especially when they also have the myth of a great Golden Future for those who embrace and employ the Capitalist theology and always support the obscene privilege of their masters.

  • Science Avenger

    I’m pretty sure somewhere in Rand’s writings she specifically condemns lying, characterizing it as a form of theft, possibly in “For the New Intellectual”. As for Francisco, does he specifically lie to anyone, or does he merely take advantage of the assumptions made about his motives and probability of success?

  • Science Avenger

    Once you assume life is a total meritocracy with no externalities, it’s easy. ***spoiler alert : it’s even easier when you get an infinite power supply, all the land you need, and a wealthy guy who decides to share just because ***

  • Science Avenger

    For the most part, the only people I see “politicizing science” are the ones complaining about science being politicized. Sort of like voter fraud.

  • Science Avenger

    It’s important to understand how typical this is of Objectivist thought. See, since life is a total meritocracy, and there are no externalities, then there is no reason to concern ourselves with the condition of the planet(s). Perfect logic, horrific premises..

  • Science Avenger

    Rand herself admitted she knew nothing about psychology. It shows.

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

    I’m not certain about that – I’ll have to recheck later on, when I get to that part of the book. However, I do recall that when John Galt is captured, Dagny openly lies to the bad guys, telling them that he’s her enemy, so that they don’t think to use her as a way to get to him.

  • Science Avenger

    Right, but as I mentioned elsewhere, that’s akin to lying to the Nazis when they come asking if you’ve got Jews in the basement. Hell, even Vulcans are allowed to lie within the context of their assignment (eg Tuvok, Voyager). We all agree that lying is OK in certain contexts. The question is: does Rand condone lying for no other reason than personal gain at the expense of others, and I don’t think you’ll find any evidence of that. ***Spoiler alert: IIRC Rearden emphasizes his honesty in acquiring his wealth during his trial.***
    I remember her comparison of lying to theft because it seemed an interesting philosophy problem to solve and I gave it quite a bit of thought. Sadly, that was 20+ years ago and I’ve read nearly everything she ever wrote, so finding it again would take more time than life allows right now. Hopefully someone else out there recalls the passage.

  • Annerdr

    As for Ms. Winfrey – she took great pains to explain that her forecast was based on the best scientific advice available at that time.
    Really – Oprah is where you get your scientific information? And you admit that publicly, with no shame?
    I.. I just…
    Oh my.

  • Don Sakers

    > Rand sought to elevate her own subjective preferences into universal
    > logical laws.

    I think you hit it right on the head here. Rand promoted Objectivism as a rational philosophy; in reality, I believe it’s a rationalizing philosophy. If one looks at her personal life, I think the greatest example is her marriage and the affair with Nathaniel Branden. By all accounts, her husband was something of a nice nebbish, yet she maintained that he was a Randian hero in the grandest sense…because that’s the only kind of man Ayn Rand would have married. And look at the contortions she went through to justify the affair with Branden, which involved horrible emotional cruelty to her husband, Branden’s wife, and Branden himself.

    But again, to be fair to Rand…at the time she wrote the book, she almost certainly was not aware of the health risks of tobacco — indeed, in that world smoking was completely accepted in society. (Granted, she continued to smoke long after she did learn of the dangers, in splendid disregard of facts.)

  • Don Sakers

    If you read Rand on her own terms, I think that Orren Boyle comes closest to her example of a dishonest capitalist selling harmful products…his steel was portrayed as inferior to Rearden’s and was itself the cause of various accidents. But if pressed, I believe that Rand would say Boyle himself was impure, so it’s not surprising that his products were impure. I think the same rationalization applies to Jim Taggart.

    In other words, it’s not the fact that characters are capitalists that makes them pure and successful — it’s that they’re the particular kind of selfish capitalist of which Rand approves. It’s not that Dagny and Francisco inherited their ancestors’ business abilities…it’s that they inherited their purity of selfishness.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X