Atlas Shrugged: Sleep Deprivation

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VI

The next chapter brings us back to Hank Rearden, who’s putting on his tuxedo to attend the party thrown by his wife that he’s been dreading:

This was his wedding anniversary and he had known for three months that the party would take place tonight, as Lillian wished… Then, during three months of eighteen-hour workdays, he had forgotten it happily – until half an hour ago, when, long past dinner time, his secretary had entered his office and said firmly, “Your party, Mr. Rearden.” [p.122]

Three months of eighteen-hour days? How can he still be functional, let alone in shape to attend a party? Apart from all else, he shouldn’t even be capable of making good business decisions at that point. A 2000 study in the British Medical Journal reported that a person awake for just one 18-hour interval has cognitive impairment comparable to a blood-alcohol level of 0.05%, the legal limit for drunk driving in some countries. Now imagine how good your judgment would be after three months’ worth of accumulating sleep debt in that state.

As this passage shows, Rand’s heroes aren’t really human beings. They’re more like robots, or golems – creatures made of iron that don’t have a normal human need for rest and can labor indefinitely at grueling, stressful jobs, driven only by willpower. In the real world, people aren’t quite so invulnerable, as in this unfortunately relevant story about a Bank of America intern who collapsed and died after working 72 hours straight. And constant, mind-numbing labor extracts a psychological toll as well as a physical one, as we saw when there was a rash of worker suicides at China’s Foxconn plant due to long hours and grueling working conditions.

Now, when Rand was alive, whenever someone pointed out that people like her heroes don’t exist in real life, she would offer herself as a counterexample. But in fact, even Rand herself couldn’t live up to her own standards. To complete her mammoth books within the deadlines set by her publisher, she became a heavy and habitual user of amphetamines (which were then legal with a doctor’s prescription). According to Anne C. Heller’s biography Ayn Rand and the World She Made, drugs like Benzedrine allowed her to complete marathon, multi-day work sessions, including at least one that ran for 30 hours straight. Not coincidentally, those drugs also have side effects like mood swings, uncontrollable outbursts of anger and paranoia, all of which Rand was susceptible to throughout her life.

He had accepted the tenet that it was his duty to give his wife some form of existence unrelated to business. But he had never found the capacity to do it or even to experience a sense of guilt…

He had given Lillian none of his time for months – no, he thought, for years; for the eight years of their marriage. He had no interest to spare for her interests, not even enough to learn just what they were. She had a large circle of friends, and he had heard it said that their names represented the heart of the country’s culture, but he had never had time to meet them or even to acknowledge their fame by knowing what achievements had earned it. [p.123]

You may find it hard after a passage like that, but remember – again – that Rearden is one of the heroes. We’re supposed to sympathize with him and cheer for him when he neglects his family, and boo and hiss when his wife pressures him to attend a dinner party to celebrate his own wedding anniversary. In fact, the only moral lesson he’ll learn over the course of the book is that he’s been paying too much attention to his wife and family and caring too much about what they thought.

Since the text never does elucidate what Lillian’s interests are, we’re free to speculate. Rand tells us that Lillian, like all the looters, ultimately desires death over life and wants to drag all the productive people down with her, but that feels like a paradigm case of an unreliable narrator. No one thinks that way.

Personally, I find it easy to imagine a scenario where Lillian spends her time running some kind of charitable foundation – say, building schools in developing countries or bringing clean water to villages that lack wells – which in real life would be an unremarkable occupation for the wife of a millionaire industrialist. But Hank, who scorns charity like all Randian heroes, is probably thwarting her efforts without even realizing he’s doing it – poisoning her new wells by dumping the heavy metal waste from his mines, keeping her schools empty by fighting efforts in those countries to pass child-labor laws – and it’s her frustration over this that finally boils over into resentment against him. See, now that would be an interesting novel!

“You don’t care for anything but business.” He had heard it all his life, pronounced as a verdict of damnation. He had always known that business was regarded as some sort of secret, shameful cult, which one did not impose on innocent laymen, that people thought of it as an ugly necessity, to be performed but never mentioned… [p.123]

Rand seems to think that business is something people treat as a dirty and shameful secret, and the reason Rearden avoids these parties is because he doesn’t like being treated that way – which is an obvious straw man. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, wealthy, successful people command an enormous amount of respect and deference, in our society or any other. (How many people would turn down the offer to attend a fancy black-tie ball at a millionaire’s mansion and rub elbows with the rich and famous?)

No, what we object to isn’t capitalism per se, but Rand’s cramped, distorted view of it, where business success is the only thing that matters, eclipsing even the human beings whose benefit it’s supposedly for. We object to corporations that overlook slavery, exploitation and environmental destruction because they don’t show up on the balance sheet, and that treat the costs in human lives and suffering as irrelevant just so long as the CEO can report a quarterly profit to shareholders. When you cut yourself off from human contact as drastically as we’re told Rearden has, it becomes all too easy to adopt this viewpoint – to forget about our shared humanity, and to treat other people as if they were commodities or replaceable parts.

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  • crashfr0g

    There wasn’t a “rash of suicides” at any Foxconn plant; there were actually fewer suicides per capita at Foxconn plants than per capita of the portion of the Chinese population in the appropriate age group to work at a Foxconn plant. The number one complaint at most of these Shenzen electronics facilities is that the hours are too few, not too many.

    Zero suicides, of course, would be the ideal for any group of people, but I think we can all agree than in practice that’s probably unreachable. But a reduction of the underlying base rate of suicide is a strange thing to describe as a “rash.”

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    “there were actually fewer suicides per capita at Foxconn plants than per capita of the portion of the Chinese population in the appropriate age group to work at a Foxconn plant”

    I’m wondering what is the primary source for this claim. It’s mentioned on Wikipedia, and seems to be sourced back to a claim Steve Jobs made to the press, which was then repeated by Business Insider, and then everywhere else from there.

    As far as I can tell, this claim appears to cherry pick numbers of suicides of FoxConn workers *in the workplace* and compare them to number of suicides that occur in the general population *at any time*. Do we have reliable statistics for FoxConn workers who commit suicide at home? If not, this is comparing apples and unicycles.

  • badgerchild

    Coming to read this post immediately after reading this series http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/08/ctbhhm-sheer-terror-is-a-good-motivator.html is setting up interesting correspondences in my mind about the ways in which both sorts of fundamentalism (yes, I called Objectivism a sort of “fundamentalism”) view marriage and the relationship between partners. Rand was married. The strongest common thread between her depiction of marriage and Debi Pearl’s, to me, is that they both attempt to rationalize the deficiencies in their own relationships as virtues to be emulated.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    The suicide rates may have been overstated but when the companies in question start installing suicide nets on the side of their buildings it’s probably not a stretch to think there’s a pretty serious problem.

  • Nancy

    “there were actually fewer suicides per capita at Foxconn plants than per capita of the portion of the Chinese population in the appropriate age group to work at a Foxconn plant”

    Do you have a link or other evidence for this claim?

  • Nancy

    Foxconn apparently thought it had a suicide problem. Also PC Mag describes the suicides as “a string” – is that better or worse than “a rash” in your opinion?

    And where are you getting your information about the Foxconn situation? Maybe you have better information sources than PC Magazine or the Daily Mail – if so please share.

    ****

    Foxconn, a Chinese company that assembles Apple products, has forced employees to sign a pledge promising that they won’t commit suicide, according to the Daily Mail.

    The company has been criticized for providing an unsavory working environment, with a string of worker suicides putting the spotlight on bad conditions and low pay at the plant, where some 420,000 employees work. In the last 16 months, at least 14 Foxconn workers in plants in the Chinese cities of Shenzen and Chengdu have killed themselves. It’s believed that many more have survived suicide attempts or been stopped before they acted. Foxconn has even taken such steps as installing nets outside factory dormitories to deter potential jumpers.

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2384763,00.asp

  • Eric Riley

    “You don’t care for anything but business.”

    Notice the sleight of hand where that turns into a general indictment against caring about business at all.

    Earlier too, “…or even to acknowledge their fame by knowing what achievements had earned it.” Notice how it is assumed that some kind of achievement led to their fame, but since it isn’t business, he is not obligated to care. Yet – since they are considered villains in this piece, they are obligated to care about his interests (i.e. business).

    In reality, I think most people care about business and making money a little bit, just as they care about being able to go to a show, or on go vacation, or collecting stamps, or any of the myriad things that human beings do other than conduct business. It’s when one of those things becomes the only focus that we perceive a problem.

  • skyblue

    You make a very interesting point!

    I also just read that post on Libby Anne’s blog, and I think you’ve figured something out there. In neither situation does mutual love and respect seem to be a factor in marriage!! In fact, both Rand and the Pearls would probably count them as a negative.
    Fundamentalist marriage seems to be more about “strategic alliance” than romance.

    I agree that Objectivism is a form of fundamentalism. Rand’s ridiculous example of a character working 18 hour days for months reminds me of the way religious fundamentalists constantly try to “one up” themselves with frumpier outfits, more restrictive parenting, etc. Plenty of people work 12 or 14 hour shifts day to day, so Rand will have her guy work 18 hours, because her guy is BETTER. Nevermind that it’s ridiculous.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Far from being impressive, if the owner of a company is routinely working 18 hour days, then I’d guess he’s doing a piss-poor job of managing his business. Hank may even be hampering productivity with his unwillingness to delegate and his related apparent lack of process.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Of course, in the world of Atlas Shrugged, Hank can’t really delegate because he’s surrounded by looters. And “process” sounds suspiciously like “bureaucracy”, doesn’t it? I’d say that Hank’s obsessive work habits make some sense in the cartoon world of this book, but then I remember that even Bruce Wayne manages to spend time with those he cares about without gritting his teeth.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Yeah, that was a pretty transparent trick, not to mention an exercise in deep denial.

    “Hank, you’re a self-absorbed jackass who cares about nothing but running your business.”

    “Ah-ha! All of you looters hate the very businesses that employ you and make the modern society you enjoy possible!”

  • smrnda

    Perhaps Rand’s books are of such low quality and stocked full of bad reasoning because she wrote them without adequate sleep and under the influence of drugs?

    I design software, and it’s a high priority *not* to do critical work when I’m functioning at anything less than 100%. Getting in a position where I need to pull a marathon session that will lead to an 18 hour day is bad planning on my part.

    This comment of yours I felt was gold: “No, what we object to isn’t capitalism per se, but Rand’s cramped, distorted view of it, where business success is the only thing that matters, eclipsing even the human beings whose benefit it’s supposedly
    for.”

    Apparently the world owed ‘the movers’ since without them, civilization would collapse, but the ‘movers’ are building a world where everybody is reduced to nothing but a machine to get work assigned by ‘movers’ done, so why does anyone owe the movers anything? If business success doesn’t lead to a better standard of life, it’s a waste and a failure and not a success.

  • 8DX

    I just want to comment to say I really appreaciate this series. Rand’s “masterpiece” was one of the books on my wishlist for a long time – motivated by a curiosity to see what all the fuss was about. Your in-depth review is fully sating that curiosity. Thanks!

  • crashfr0g

    But again it’s not a “rash” of suicides; it’s actually less than the going rate of suicides, only they happened to be packed into a geographically smaller area where, generally, only one form of suicide is available. (You can’t get a gun in Shenzen, there’s no garage to lock yourself in with a running car, there aren’t drugs, etc.) People don’t really seem to have a full grasp of the population density one of these Foxconn factories represents.

    I agree it’s not a stretch to think that, but it’s also a mistake.

  • crashfr0g

    Well, you tell me. Does 14 suicides among half a million individuals in 16 months sound like a “rash” of suicides? By comparison, the suicide rate for China as a whole is 22 per 100,000 people per year.

    And it’s not wrong to say that Foxconn had a suicide problem, but in this case, the problem was that in Shenzen there are few ways to commit suicide beyond tossing yourself off of a high building – of which the Foxconn plant was apparently the best candidate.

    The Golden Gate bridge has suicide nets, too; that’s not because there’s something about the bridge that drives people to despair, but because the bridge is a pretty obvious place to go kill yourself, if you’re already so inclined. It’s actually better that it works out that way – anti-suicide interventions are more effective when, conveniently, all the suicides are going to the same place to kill themselves.

  • Jeff

    It’s still worth reading, so that you can get a full grasp of what Ayn Rand advocates. She’s *very* thorough in laying out her philosophy (as the 7-point font in a 1000-page-book will attest), and in this case people mistake thoroughness for accuracy. If you ever expect to need to discuss this sort of thing with someone, you would do well to familiarize yourself with the source.

  • Jason Wexler

    No that’s what the cowl is for, so you can’t see him being frustrated.

  • 8DX

    True, but then most libertarians (locally sometimes called “liberals”) I interact with don’t use Atlas Shrugged as their bible, so I’m more interested in the logic behind their claims than being able to refute this particular book through intimate knowledge of it.

  • HA2

    If the source is the Daily Mail, you really, really should just ignore it. The Daily Mail is a tabloid with no regards for the truth; it’s quite possible that their source is “the journalist made it up because it seemed plausible.”

  • arensb

    I suppose this thread is as good a place as any to say:
    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than there are in heaven.”

  • smrnda

    You don’t think 16 hours days and living in company housing *might be a factor?* Maybe you should sign up for a tour at Foxconn.

  • arensb

    Yes, I found this “business is everything” attitude puzzling. Not too many pages ago (I think) Francisco d’Anconia was seen blowing huge piles of money on lavish parties and generally living it up on a scale not seen until Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, but the heroes in the book, or at least Dagney Taggart and Hank Rearden, think he’s betraying some deep principle by having fun instead of Doing Things.

  • Jon Jermey

    “But Hank, who scorns charity like all Randian heroes, is probably thwarting her efforts without even realizing he’s doing it – poisoning her new wells by dumping the heavy metal waste from his mines, keeping her schools empty by fighting efforts in those countries to pass child-labor laws…”

    Now, THAT feels like a paradigm case of an unreliable narrator to me…

  • Nancy McClernan

    Do I understand correctly – you are saying that Foxconn employees were throwing themselves off high buildings at their place of employment because those buildings were the “best candidate”?

    Have you seen Shenzhen?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shenzhen_CBD.jpg

    And your comparison to the Golden Gate bridge doesn’t work at all – people come from all over the world to throw themselves off the Golden Gate bridge, because it’s a special place to do it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Gate_Bridge#Suicides

    Your argument that Foxconn employees were throwing themselves off their buildings at work presents an exact opposite scenario – because Foxconn plant buildings are convenient – not special.

    But both the GGB and Foxconn have something in common – both have nets. Because both have a suicide problem.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well how do you feel about the Wall Street Journal?

    “Given China’s overall suicide rate—about 14 per 100,000 people—the deaths aren’t statistically exceptional, but the quick succession is unusual.

    Earlier Wednesday, the company gave a group of journalists a tour of Longhua, a walled-off complex with guarded gates and about 400,000 workers, and announced plans to outfit worker dormitories with safety nets to prevent more workers from jumping to their deaths.

    “These last two months, I’ve been afraid to answer the phone late at night or early in the morning, because we’ve been unable to prevent these incidents from happening,” the 59-year-old Mr. Gou told reporters at Longhua, which has dozens of factory buildings and worker dormitories. He expressed “regret” over the incidents, but defended Hon Hai’s response. “We need time. But we have confidence and strong determination” to address the problem, he said.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704026204575267603576594936.html

    The WSJ also refers to the suicides as “a string of” – I’m waiting for someone to tell me the difference between “a string of suicides” and “a rash of suicides” because they seem to be extremely similar to me.

  • Nancy McClernan

    “Perhaps Rand’s books are of such low quality and stocked full of bad reasoning because she wrote them without adequate sleep and under the influence of drugs?”

    Also because thanks to Bennett Cerf, Atlas Shrugged wasn’t actually edited by Random House because they (rightly) believed that if they pushed Rand too hard she would throw a fit and give her potentially lucrative book to another publishing house.

  • smrnda

    If having fun is bad, then what is life and work FOR? Does Rand realize that lots of smart people like to party and have hobbies outside of their official line of work?

  • J-D

    When you refer to corporations treating ‘costs in human lives and suffering as irrelevant just so long as the CEO can report a quarterly profit to shareholders’, you may perhaps be giving more credence than is warranted to a bit of self-serving mythology. The people who control corporate decisions–executives and directors and promoters and deal-makers–may perhaps face certain practical obstacles to screwing over the shareholders that don’t obstruct them when they’re screwing over creditors, customers, employees, taxpayers, and the general public, but that doesn’t mean they never do it. I’m referring to those of the executives and directors and so on who are greedy and unscrupulous–I don’t suppose they all are, but I think we’re safe in saying that some of them are–and why would people like that refrain from screwing over their own shareholders if they got the chance? What if we changed your sentence to say: ‘We object to corporations that overlook slavery, exploitation and environmental destruction because they don’t show up on the balance sheet, and that treat the costs in human lives and suffering as irrelevant just so long as there’s full protection for the CEO’s annual bonus payment, and golden hello, handcuffs, handshake, and parachute, and expense account, and executive jet, and company-funded junkets’? All those things exist, but do they really always provide more benefit than cost to the shareholders? Legally company directors are required never to put their own interests ahead of the shareholders, and it’s very convenient to corporate leaders to invoke their duty to shareholders as a defence against criticism of their money-grubbing, but making something against the law doesn’t stop it from happening. No doubt CEOs like being able to announce quarterly profits to their shareholders, but that doesn’t mean it’s always their real first priority.

    Do any of the heroes of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ ever talk about the interests of their shareholders? Are Francisco D’Anconia’s shenanigans benefitting shareholders? Do they even have shareholders?

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    They’re working in a factory and you think their only avenue to suicide is jumping off the building? Someone with the drive to commit suicide will find a way regardless of what is and is not available to them. A person with the determination to kill themsleves can get pretty damn creative to achieve that goal.
    Further, if people don’t grasp the population density of the Foxconn factories, you’re not exactly helping them to do so. All you’ve done is make claims and have yet to provide any evidence to support said claims. We only have your word that the reports are overblown. Why don’t you give us a link or two to where you’re getting this information?

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

    Rand’s ridiculous example of a character working 18 hour days for months reminds me of the way religious fundamentalists constantly try to “one up” themselves with frumpier outfits, more restrictive parenting, etc. Plenty of people work 12 or 14 hour shifts day to day, so Rand will have her guy work 18 hours, because her guy is BETTER.

    Excellent point!

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

    As others have said, these statistics seem to derive from a claim Steve Jobs made at a press conference, so I’m skeptical whether they accurately reflect reality. From what I’ve heard, the exact number of suicides at Foxconn isn’t even 100% clear; it’s possible that there are more that haven’t been reported on, or have been hushed up (China not exactly being a beacon of press freedom), and the basic claim that Foxconn is an often brutal place to work seems to be well substantiated.

    But even if this were true and Foxconn’s suicide rate was comparable to China as a whole, what would that imply? Even if the rate of cholera on Broad Street in London was no higher than the background rate in the rest of the city in the 1850s, it didn’t mean that Dr. John Snow was wrong to diagnose a contaminated public pump as the cause.

  • die Geisthander

    A string of suicides: A number of suicides centered around a business that could make rich people look bad as interpreted by people who tend to view deaths of poor foreign people as a cost of doing business, as a social good or as something which should not attach to rich people in the court of public opinion.

    A rash of suicides: A number of suicides centered around a business that could make rich people look bad as interpreted by people who tend to view deaths of poor foreign people as a generally undesirable outcome and think that, like a rash, the undesirability of that outcome should spread to those who do not, in the court of public opinion, do enough to stop it.

  • die Geisthander

    To have shareholders would mean that there are rich people who are happy to let other people do the work, which is to say rich people who are looters.

    I don’t think Ayn Rand was a big fan of this idea.

  • James_Jarvis

    The claim that successful business people sleep only a few hour is frequently given as one of the reasons as to why they are more successful than the rest of us mere morals. Sleep is unproductive and it is like stealing from yourself. Now thanks to Rob Reinhart , you can be even more productive by not wasting time by eating with Soylent. http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/drink-soylent-and-youll-never-have-to-eat-again

  • Azkyroth

    (How many people would turn down the offer to attend a fancy black-tie ball at a millionaire’s mansion and rub elbows with the rich and famous?)

    Presumably, about as many as couldn’t afford to dress for it.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Is d’Anconia Copper a public company? It was my impression that it was a family-owned business – although I can’t remember an explicit statement about the status of the business. So if anybody knows…

    I found it interesting that in Atlas Shrugged the US has an unfettered and thriving stock market in spite of two contrary conditions:

    1. The government is run entirely by the parasites who frequently create anti-market legislation with the stroke of a pen.

    2. The vast majority of businessmen are parasites (i.e. idiots):

    “A few businessmen thought that one should think about the possibility that there might be commercial value in Rearden Metal. They undertook a survey of the question. They did not hire metallurgists to examine the samples, nor engineers to visit the site of the construction. They took a public poll. Ten thousand people, guaranteed to represent every existing kind of brain, were asked the question: “Would you ride on the John Galt Line?” The answer was, overwhelmingly, “No, sir-ree!”

    No voices were heard in public defense of Rearden Metal. And nobody attached significance to the fact that the stock of Taggart Transcontinental was rising on the market; very slowly, almost furtively.”

    So we know that the market is a valid one in Rand’s mind because the stock of Taggart Transcontinental is rising, albeit “almost furtively.” And later on Dagny and Rearden brag about making a killing on the market through their investments in their own products/services.

    But somehow Rand never reconciles the freely-functioning stock market that rewards excellence in a country where the businessmen are idiots and the government is always passing anti-market laws.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Oh right – of course it’s a public company because d’Anconia starts a panic among guests at James Taggart’s wedding who hold d’Anconia stock (which is apparently almost all of them) by mentioning that d’Anconia Copper is in trouble.

  • Nancy McClernan

    LOL – and Reinhart claims it’s people-free.

  • smrnda

    You make a good point – shareholders are the real driving force behind corporate policy, though they end up being anonymous rather than the CEO, who is likely to be known. Some overlap can occur when CEOs end up getting stock as a part of their compensation, though.

    One good thing about the shareholder model is that you can’t get a CEO who just wants to unilaterally make decisions – all decisions get vetted by a larger group of people which is meant to prevent people who think they’re geniuses for making bad decisions owing to overconfidence, but this seems to go against Rand’s view that it’s all about ONE GREAT GENIUS making the judgment calls. No, intelligent business policy requires that you don’t put to much power in one person’s hands, since no one person is reliable enough.

    But you’re right that “Atlas Shrugged” seems to completely ignore the shareholders, but the book makes me thing Rand doesn’t have much of an idea how businesses really work.

  • Paul S

    Plenty of people believe this line of reasoning, as evidenced by these kind of letters that got thrown around at election time: http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/valuedemployees.asp

  • J-D

    I hope I did make a good point, but if you think my point was that shareholders are the real driving force behind corporate policy, then I must not have communicated my meaning clearly, because the point I was making was the exact opposite one, that shareholders are not the real driving forced behind corporate policy.

    Even in the theory of the corporate model, shareholders aren’t supposed to vet management decisions. That’s not the corporate model, that’s the partnership model, where all the people who have an equity stake in the business also have a direct and immediate say in business decisions. In the corporate model what shareholders have in theory is the right to choose the directors, who in theory have the power to vet management decisions, but for a combination of legal and practical reasons these theoretical powers are often largely or almost totally eroded. As a result shareholders can almost as easily as anybody else end up the victims of exploitative management.

  • J-D

    Maybe the intended implication is that most stockmarket investors are fools, who are easily and justly (Rand’s view) taken advantage of by a small number of geniuses like Dagny and Hank; maybe the only reason the stock is rising (but slowly) is because just a few buyers are gradually acquiring all the stock they can lay their hands on.

  • J-D

    So maybe Rand’s intended implication there is that Francisco is consciously shafting the shareholders of d’Anconia Copper on the theory that if they don’t have the sense to see what he’s doing they deserve what they get.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Maybe, but in the case of d’Anconia Copper, several chapters later, virtually all the parasites at Taggart’s wedding party own stock in d’Anconia Copper. So if they can own shares of d’Anconia Copper, why wouldn’t they own shares of Taggart Transcontinental too?

    I considered the idea that the entire stock market was being played only by Ubermensch, but there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough of them to keep a functioning stock market going – especially since we can discount international investors since every other country in Atlas Shrugged is the People’s State of (country) and don’t have markets – except for the black markets where Ragnar Danneskjold sells his booty.

    (Clarification: I mean pirate booty, I’m not suggesting that Danneskjold has been prostituting himself. Although he’s apparently super hot.)

  • Nancy McClernan

    But unless I’m missing something, at that point in the book Dagny and Rearden don’t see what he’s doing either, and he gives them many more clues since he is friendly with them.

  • AstroAstro2

    No maybe about it. Francisco more or less explicitly says this to Dagny when she goes to talk to him about the San Sebastian mines being worthless.

  • AstroAstro2

    The idea is that the looters and moochers really do recognize the value of the things they are trying to destroy, but they try to destroy them anyway for their own profit (or just because they like destruction) and trust that Dagny, Hank et al will be strong enough to put up with them and keep producing anyway.
    This is going to come up more when we see Dagny trying to build a rail line of Rearden metal. We see the people trying to destroy it, then quietly buying stock in it anyway.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yes, and that’s why the parasites in Atlas Shrugged are like the orcs in Lord of the Rings – they just hate anything that’s good and try to destroy it. As Rand explains near the end of the novel, James Taggart hates Galt for his “greatness.”

    Although of course the attitude towards nature vs. industry is the opposite in LOTR – there it’s the bad guys who tear down the forest.

  • David Simon

    But, that Snopes link reveals the letter to be a fake. :-

  • HA2

    “Someone with the drive to commit suicide will find a way regardless of what is and is not available to them. ”

    No, that’s not how typical suicidal people think.

  • jemand2

    Actually I don’t think it’s true that someone who is suicidal will always keep trying something until they succeed in killing themselves. In fact, thwarting attempts often results in recovery and people who are very very glad they did *not* die– and so things which reduce the preferred, or fastest lethal methods, WILL save lives. There also is a psychological component sometimes where a suicide will trigger other, similar suicide attempts if enough people are connected to the first suicide in some way.

    All of that to say– I DO think the nets have likely saved lives, and the lax gun laws in the US have COST many lives to suicide, which would not have necessarily chosen a different method, etc.

  • Inquisitive Raven

    Yeah, but Paul’s point is that people believed those fake letters.

  • Don Sakers

    Rather than looking at Rand’s heroes as paragons of moral virtue, I think it can be instructive to view them as examples of the concept of the “ruling passion.” I think Rand actually does a good job of portraying people in the grip of an overwhelming passion. (Mother Theresa probably wasn’t very nice to her family, either.)

    In fact, the archetypal Rand hero certainly seems to belong somewhere on the autistic spectrum, complete with poor social skills and passionate, all-consuming special interests. There’s even the traditional connection to trains…you can just see young Dagny out there memorizing train schedules and compulsively visiting every station.

    I think a good argument could be made for Rand herself being on the spectrum….


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