Atlas Shrugged: Trust-Busting

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VI

As Hank finishes dressing and goes downstairs to the party he’s dreading (which is being thrown, remember, to celebrate his wedding anniversary), his mind is elsewhere. He’s dwelling on a newspaper editorial he read earlier, about a proposed “Equalization of Opportunity” bill:

The editorial said that at a time of dwindling production, shrinking markets and vanishing opportunities to make a living, it was unfair to let one man hoard several business enterprises, while others had none; it was destructive to let a few corner all the resources, leaving others no chance… The editorial predicted the passage of a bill which had been proposed, a bill forbidding any person or corporation to own more than one business concern. [p.125]

He doesn’t believe the bill will pass. He’s “incapable of believing” that something he considers so obviously preposterous could ever happen, and Wesley Mouch has assured him it will be defeated. But when he gets downstairs, he finds that everyone at the party is discussing it. To his shock, his wife’s guest list is a veritable rogues’ gallery of Atlas bad guys, whom Rand refers to as “intellectuals of the looter persuasion” [p.143].

First, there’s Dr. Simon Pritchett, who’s recently become head of the philosophy department at Patrick Henry University. He’s a philosopher who doesn’t believe in logic, reason, or meaning:

“Reason, my dear fellow, is the most naive of all superstitions. That, at least, has been generally conceded in our age.” [p.127]

There’s also a writer named Balph (yes, Balph) Eubank, who proposes that there should be a law limiting the total print run of any book to ten thousand copies. It’s implied that he says this because that’s approximately how popular his own books are:

A very young girl in a white evening gown asked timidly, “What is the real essence of life, Mr. Eubank?”
“Suffering,” said Balph Eubank. “Defeat and suffering.” [p.128]

Just to drive home the point that Ayn Rand’s villains are all clones with identical worldviews and no distinct personalities, she even has them echo each other’s dialogue:

“Plot is a primitive vulgarity in literature,” said Balph Eubank contemptuously.
Dr. Pritchett, on his way across the room to the bar, stopped to say, “Quite so. Just as logic is a primitive vulgarity in philosophy.”
“Just as melody is a primitive vulgarity in music,” said Mort Liddy. [p.129]

But the biggest villain present is a journalist named Bertram Scudder. Like all Atlas villains, you can tell he’s a bad guy from the moment you meet him because he’s ugly:

Bertram Scudder stood slouched against the bar. His long, thin face looked as if it had shrunk inward, with the exception of his mouth and eyeballs, which were left to protrude as three soft globes. He was the editor of a magazine called The Future and he had written an article on Hank Rearden, entitled “The Octopus.” [p.129]

Rearden thinks of that article as “not an expression of ideas, but a bucket of slime emptied in public… a stream of sneers”. When he realizes that his wife invited Scudder, he’s furious with her:

“It’s the first time you’ve invited that…” he used an obscene word with unemotional precision, “to my house. It’s the last.”
“How dare you use such -”
“Don’t argue, Lillian. If you do, I’ll throw him out right now.” [p.134]

OK, time out. Yes, Hank is upset because Lillian invited so many ugly, soft-faced looters to his house. And yes, the text implies that this is due to inexplicable malice on her part. But really, what would you expect? Hank refused to play any part in organizing this party. We were just told that he’s kept her at arm’s length throughout their marriage, that he takes no interest in her life and won’t tell her about his. Is it any wonder that he doesn’t like the party she planned? Or, to put it in terms Rand would understand: If you hire someone and then refuse to tell them anything about their role or what their duties are supposed to be, would you be surprised or blame them if they don’t do a good job?

We’re not told what the thesis of Bertram Scudder’s criticism was, but the title of his article is obviously reminiscent of the famous political cartoon of Standard Oil as an octopus, its tentacles curling around government and industry. (Personally, I always imagine him as Matt Taibbi, who even more vividly compared Goldman Sachs to “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” – and who I like to think would be flattered by the comparison.) And if that’s the case, then the Equalization of Opportunity Bill is probably Rand’s version of the Sherman Act, the antitrust law that was used to break up the Standard Oil monopoly.

Rand’s view, of course, is that any law which prevents people or companies from consolidating too much power can only be the brainchild of evil looters who hate success. In fact, the legal theory of antitrust is based on a pro-capitalism rationale: it’s better for consumers if there’s competition, which keeps prices low and encourages innovation and good quality. Without competition, a monopoly has a much easier time abusing or manipulating the market: for example, by buying up a natural resource or a crucial piece of infrastructure to prevent others from using it, or blackmailing other companies they work with into shutting out competitors.

And, let’s not forget, a single ultra-wealthy monopoly has much greater power to buy and sell politicians who will do its bidding, dictating the passage of laws which are favorable to it and harmful to potential competitors. This could take the form of burdensome regulations which serve as artificial barriers restricting entry into the market, or even using violence to frighten off potential competitors and then bribing governments to look the other way. That’s not a danger Rand would ever imagine, since in her worldview all evil starts and ends with the government, and giant corporations are purely innocent entities that can do no wrong. In the real world, it’s not hard to see why unchecked corporations can pose just as much of a threat to liberty as unchecked governments.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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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.

  • RayRobertson

    The New Yorker has a collection of excerpts from Rand’s 1980 “Parade” columns:

    http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2013/07/29/130729sh_shouts_hodgman?currentPage=all

    An excerpt:

    As I write this, I am drinking speed, and you cannot stop me. You cannot stop me, America, with your altruism and your Alan Alda and your Fresca cans biting at my skin. I shall speed across this country like a great high-speed train and the U.S. shall be forever changed in my wake.

    Interesting that John Hodgman posted these excerpts under humor. They are mostly just pathetic.

  • Agrajag

    There’s a doublequote too much in the link to “vampire squid…” thus the link 404s.

  • Elizabeth

    It’s so deadpan I was also fooled, but John Hodgman made everything in that article up – it’s all satire. No one was sadder than me when I realized that there is no episode of Match Game with Ayn Rand. :”(

  • RayRobertson

    Thanks for the heads up. Rand did appear on Donahue, and I saw one of the shows. It was so bizarre that I was open to the rest of the post, especially since a news blog linked to it. Oh, well.

  • Shawn

    It’s true that all the villains are ideological clones, but wouldn’t it be even more accurate to say that every single character in the novel is actually in accord on every ethical issue? Reardon and Scudder actually agree on every issue of import, it’s just that Scudder has made the deliberate choice to do evil and hate life. Therefore it’s okay for him to be gotten rid of and his arguments ignored.

  • Figs

    So…how can somebody’s mouth be a globe?

  • Science Avenger

    the legal theory of antitrust is based on a pro-capitalism rationale

    This is another subject that Objectivists/libertarians never seem to deal with, that laissez fare marketplaces invariably end with one giant monopoly dictating to everyone else, and short circuiting the attributes that make a marketplace desireable. It’s as if they think a market is good per se, and don’t even bother with the reasons.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    A very young girl in a white evening gown asked timidly, “What is the real essence of life, Mr. Eubank?”

    “Suffering,” said Balph Eubank.

    That sounds vaguely like Buddhism. Hop on the Dharma wheel.

  • Science Avenger

    Nice catch, Rand was rabidly anti-Buddhist. She writes critically of Eastern philosophies frequently in her nonfiction works.

  • Anna

    Why do Hank and his ilk even get married and have children, when they don’t care about their families at all? If Rand’s heroes want to devote themselves single-mindedly to business, why not live alone and appoint a non-biological successor?
    I’ve always thought Rand’s heroes would be better depicted as monklike; they really don’t seem to have any desires apart from business, which is pretty much their religion.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    We’re not told what the thesis of Bertram Scudder’s criticism was, but the title of his article is obviously reminiscent of the famous political cartoon of Standard Oil as an octopus, its tentacles curling around government and industry.

    The Octopus: A Story of California

    The Octopus: A Story of California is a 1901 novel by Frank Norris and was meant to be the first part of an uncompleted trilogy, The Epic of the Wheat. It describes the wheat industry in California, and the conflicts between wheat growers and a railway company. Norris was inspired to write the novel by the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Mussel Slough Tragedy.
    In the novel he depicts the tensions between the railroad, the ranchers
    and the ranchers’ League. The book emphasized the control of
    “forces”—such as growing wheat and the power of railroad monopolies—over
    individuals. …

  • Nancy McClernan

    Atlas Shrugged is so long and so full of astounding facets that it results in truly great work from many different bloggers writing in their own particular idiom.

    Adam Lee makes an excellent point about Rand’s inconsistent views and monopolies, but I wanted to share M. D. Caigoy’s somewhat different perspective on the Rearden Anniversary Party looter guests, which I found hysterically funny:

    The most contrived centipede in Ayn’s philosophical vagina is Dr. Simon Pritchett. I guess he’s a postmodernist. I’ll cop to hating them as much as the next guy (assuming that guy gives a shit). I’ll even grant – based on a presentation I watched tried to watch about PoMo jerkoff, Jean-François Lyotard — Pritchett’s arguments could’ve been taken verbatim from a sincere PoMo dipshit. I can’t explain why it’s worth debating a marginal and little understood philosophy aside from it being an easy target.

    Anyway, the effete Pritchett’s all, Who’s to say what’s real? We’re just meaningless chemicals and what not! Nothing matters… and so forth.

    Rearden insists that things do indeed matter.

    Rand, you fucking rebel! Underscoring the hypocrisy and degeneracy of Pritchett’s remarks is that he’s eating. Possibly the only one mentioned eating at all – certainly the only one emphasized doing so. It’s a minor point, but odd. When he’s not listlessly condemning humanity like a mid-nineties goth girl, he’s fondling hors d’oeuvres and launching them down his gullet. I can almost hear him chewing, Lahff ith menninglthss. Weh’r thutht thumb ahnhimals.

    In the Randverse, the repugnance of his eating snacks and talking at a party is apparently self-evident. If not for her belaboring some point about the seemingly appropriate behavior, I wouldn’t even know it was a problem for her. It’s like she’s saying, Hey, look at this guy. Eating food set out for guests at a party. What an asshole.

    http://buffalobeast.com/caigoy-shrugs-part-ii/

  • Nancy McClernan

    Love that Hodgman piece. My favorite part:

    I do not approve of the so-called hippies, but I do not approve of any government control over drugs. The government does not have the right to tell any individual what to do with his or her health and life. You probably know that I received a prescription for the stimulant Benzedrine, or “speed.” I can say rationally that it increases my happiness and my productivity. For example, some time ago I went to Studio 54, because I love to dance on speed. I took fifteen speed pills, and I got into a contest with Liza Minnelli over who could roar most like a jaguar. She simply sounded like a stupid lion.

    Then the inside of my head began to sound like a jet engine and so I went to the bathroom. I took maybe ten more speed pills and sat in a stall and wrote a new chapter of “Atlas Shrugged.” Perhaps twenty-five thousand words, all on toilet paper. I cannot include these words in a new edition, alas, because I did not write them so much as encode them on the toilet paper by biting it.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    Based on that physical description, he’s either Homer Simpson or a Gungan.

  • Nancy McClernan

    They are also monk-like in their sexual behavior – except for Rearden, all the leading Ubermensch in AS go for at least a decade without having sex: d’Anconia because he’s holding out for Dagny, Dagny because she can’t find another Ubermensch until Rearden, and John Galt because… I guess because he’s holding out for Dagny too.

    When I first read this part of AS I thought that maybe in this alternative parasite-government universe no divorce was allowed – but Rearden does finally divorce Lillian – after she catches him cheating with Dagny. So he could have divorced her after their first month of marriage, when he realizes he hates her, but for some mysterious reason doesn’t have enough sexual desire to find another woman to have sex with (except for teeth-gritting marital duty sex) until eight years later, when Dagny comes along. So I guess he was also holding out for Dagny. Who, like Rand’s view of herself, is every man’s “highest value.”

  • Jeff

    Your question is actually relevant to Hank’s hero’s journey. His thread in this rich tapestry of fail is the story of a man who achieved perfection by abandoning empathy and all those who would hold him back.

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    Yeah, it’s a lot like Ellsworth Toohey’s villain monologue in Fountainhead. “I like to be altruistic even though I know altruism HURTS PEOPLE. BECAUSE I LIKE HURTING PEOPLE!!! Bwahahahaaaa!”

  • skyblue

    “Plot is a primitive vulgarity in literature”

    Apparently Rand felt the same way about characterization.

  • skyblue

    “It’s as if they think a market is good per se, and don’t even bother with the reasons.”

    I agree. In a way, it reminds me of the sort of reasoning you hear from creationists. They’ve got their conclusion, and well, they won’t be letting reality talk them out of it! And they display the same sort of religious devotion to the Unquestionable Conclusion.

  • Science Avenger

    To Rand, sex was supposed to be the physical expression of one’s highest values, which of course is why her heroes abstain for so long, and why she decided to have an adulterous affair with her much-younger primary apprentice, Nathaniel Brandon. She wasn’t much for walking the walk.

  • Shawn

    I was actually thinking of that; one of my favorite movie reviewers did a piece on “The Fountainhead” where among other things he pointed out it was really weird that an architecture critic could come to prominence by unfairly critiquing great buildings.

    http://www.outlawvern.com/2010/09/11/the-fountainhead/

    I do wish vern had made more of a distinction between atheists and jerks, but I think his heart’s in the right place.

  • Nancy McClernan

    That raises an interesting issue. Clearly Ayn Rand had no problem with polyamory in her own life, but in AS all intimate relationships are strictly monogamous – except when Rearden cheats on his bitter loveless marriage to a parasite.

    Dagny ditches both d’Anconia and Rearden for Galt. But if Dagny was the highest value for Galt, d’Anconia and Rearden, why couldn’t Dagny just have her own little polyandrous harem? Especially since d’Anconia and Rearden just adore each other and they all three adore John Galt.

    This especially makes sense given the lopsided male:female ratio in Galt’s Gulch.

  • Azkyroth

    In fact, the legal theory of antitrust is based on a pro-capitalism rationale: it’s better for consumers if there’s competition, which keeps prices low and encourages innovation and good quality.

    Assuming, of course, one uses “capitalism” as something other than a code word for “welfare-for-the-rich.”

  • Jason Wexler

    First of all sorry, one of those guest votes was me, I didn’t realise I wasn’t logged in. Thank you for this comment it brought real laughter to my day even after I realized it meant something unfortunate about me… since I always go to comic-con as either Homer Simpson or a Gungan.

  • Loren Petrich

    What did she say about Buddhism?

    What Balph Eubank said is one of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. Here they are:

    1. Life is suffering
    2. Suffering is caused by irrational craving
    3. Get rid of irrational craving and you will get rid of suffering
    4. Do so by following the Eightfold Way of things to do

  • Jason Wexler

    Thank you! I spent the whole day wondering the same thing, and waiting to come back and post something about how Rearden getting married was contrary to the ideas that Rand was trying to espouse. Which led me to the minor joke that maybe all of the nihilistic academics in this section claiming that the underpinnings of their fields are BS is representative of her own view as well since her book has no plot worthy of writing about and her philosophy lacks logic.

  • Loren Petrich

    It could be for social reasons, that he is doing what many people expect him to do. Is there any hint of that in AS?

  • James_Jarvis

    One only has to look at the whole too big to fail banking crisis to see the problems that arise when a few corporations control everything. If suffering is the essence of life then reading Atlas Shrugged really is the road to enlightenment.

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

    To be honest, I’m not sure. There might be a passage somewhere hinting at why Hank ever married Lillian in the first place, but if there is, it’s so brief I have no memory of it, and I don’t find any reference to it in my notes.

    Like the first chapter of the book, which shows the looters taking over and society breaking down for no discernible reason, this might be one of those things for which we never get an explanation.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The Frontline episode The Warning lays much of the blame for the banking crisis on Alan Greenspan – and discusses Greenspan’s connection to Rand and her work.

    It’s a great episode:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/

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

    Heh. That reminds me of Mark Twain’s argument for why polyandrous marriage makes more sense than polygynous marriage. (Look it up if you’ve never read it! It’s a classic.)

    And yes, the lopsided sex ratio in Galt’s Gulch, combined with Randian heroes’ non-proclivity for having children, implies some very obvious problems which never seemed to occur to Rand herself.

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

    Hee hee. I was picturing him as something vaguely Cthuloid, but those options are much better.

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

    That piece almost fooled me too. I wasn’t sure it was a parody until the part that said she wrote an entire chapter of Atlas Shrugged in a bathroom stall while high on amphetamines by biting the words into a roll of toilet paper.

    Also, John Hodgman is a comedy genius.

  • Nancy McClernan

    She does explain it, although barely. It’s in part I chapter 6:

    It was the difficulty of the conquest that made him want Lillian. She seemed to be a woman who expected and deserved a pedestal; this made him want to drag her down to his bed. To drag her down, were the words in his mind; they gave him a dark pleasure, the sense of a victory worth winning.

    He could not understand why – he thought it was an obscene conflict, the sign of some secret depravity within – why he felt, at the same time, a profound pride at the thought of granting to a woman the title of his wife. The feeling was solemn and shining; it was almost as if he felt that he wished to honor a woman by the act of possessing her. Lillian seemed to fit the image he had not known he held, had not known he wished to find; he saw the grace, the pride, the purity; the rest was in himself; he did not know he was looking at a reflection.

    He remembered the day when Lillian came from New York to his office, of her own sudden choice, and asked him to take her through his mills. He heard the soft, low, breathless tone – the tone of admiration – growing in her voice, as she questioned him about his work and looked at the place around her. He looked at her graceful figure moving against the burst of furnace flame, and at the light swift steps of her high heels stumbling through the drifts of slag, as she walked resolutely by his side. The look in her eyes, when she watched a heat of steel being poured was like his own feeling for it made it visible to him. When her eyes moved up to his face, he saw the same look, but to an intensified degree that seemed to make her helpless and silent. It was at dinner, that evening, that he asked her to marry him.

    So basically she was a trophy wife who pretended for a hot second that she loved steel smelting as much as he did.

    And as we eventually learn, she wanted him because like all parasites she hated him for his greatness and wanted to destroy him. Because she’s evil.

  • Highlander

    Link to the Mark Twain argument please I searched for 45 minutes and mostly got stuff about how MT made fun of how ugly Mormon women were or right wing anti-marriage equality slippery slope same sex will lead to polygamy claptrap.

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

    Heh. It’s in Letters from the Earth, chapter VIII:

    Now there you have a sample of man’s “reasoning powers,” as he calls them. He observes certain facts. For instance, that in all his life he never sees the day that he can satisfy one woman; also, that no woman ever sees the day that she can’t overwork, and defeat, and put out of commission any ten masculine plants that can be put to bed to her. He puts those strikingly suggestive and luminous facts together, and from them draws this astonishing conclusion: The Creator intended the woman to be restricted to one man.

  • Science Avenger

    She was very critical of the notion of eliminating desire, and the generally different way the Eastern religions view consciousness. She described them as “anti-mind”.

  • Science Avenger

    Can you give an example of the latter? I don’t recall ever seeing it used that way.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Noble Truth #2 is interesting, considering Rand’s belief that irrationality is the source of many problems. As she has John Galt tell Dagny:

    …there is no conflict of interests among men, neither in business, nor in trade, nor in their most personal desires – if they omit the irrational from their view of the possible, and destruction from their view of the practical.

  • Azkyroth

    Ew.

  • Azkyroth

    Watch the news sometime.

  • Anna

    “The most contrived centipede in Ayn’s philosophical vagina”
    Ew! Was that bit of sexism and grossness really necessary?

  • Nancy McClernan

    How is it “sexist”?

    And is it really necessary? Ask the author. I guess as necessary as using the phrases “PoMo jerkoff” and “PoMo dipshit.” Or using the word “asshole” or the phrase “gives a shit.” It’s a stylistic choice, uncongenial to delicate sensibilities.

  • Azkyroth

    You don’t see how terms of abuse that gratuitously reference gender or sexuality are sexist? Really?

  • Nancy McClernan

    It’s a metaphor that mentions “vagina.” The mere mention of vagina is sexist? Really?

    Would it have been so much better if the phrase instead was “The most contrived centipede in Ayn’s philosophical craw”?

    Or

    “The most contrived centipede in Ayn’s philosophical ass.”

    None of these are phrases I would have used – a centipede in any bodily orifice being something I don’t really like to think about, even metaphorically.

    But of course that’s not the issue – the issue is whether using “vagina” is sexist in this context.

  • GCT

    Why use “vagina” though, except to underscore the fact that Rand is female?

  • Nancy McClernan

    I don’t know what the writer’s motive was but considering the entire piece is full of vulgarities it’s likely that if Rand was male the author would have said something like “on his philosophical dick. ”

    Let’s not confuse vulgarity with sexism.

  • GCT

    I don’t know that anyone is confusing vulgarity with sexism. No one is claiming that using the words, “shit” or “asshole” is sexist (I don’t actually object to anything else in the quoted passage). I am saying that it’s a bit weird and gratuitous (as previously pointed out) to specifically mention her lady bits (and sounds a bit sexist, even if it was unintended). It also doesn’t make sense. I’ve read the sentence at least half a dozen times and failed to understand what a “philosophical vagina” is.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Since the author doesn’t appear to be sexist elsewhere I was willing to assume the phrase was selected to keep with the general gonzo tone of the rest of the piece rather than to make some kind of commentary on Ayn Rand’s gender. It’s not the most elegant turn of phrase but I posted the excerpt for the comparison of
    Simon Prichett to a 90s goth girl and the bit about launching h’orderves down his gullet, which made me LOL. The philosophical vagina was part of the set-up for that bon mot.

    And I dont think that acknowledging Rand’s gender per se is sexist.

  • GCT

    Agreed, acknowledging Rand’s (or anyone else’s for that matter) is not sexist, per se. It’s when that acknowledgement turns to an “X” mark against the person or a signifier that the person is “different” or “inferior” or “wrong” or something similar that it veers into sexism.

    I don’t have knowledge of the blogger’s other writings, so I can’t comment further on that. I did find the phrase gratuitous and very potentially verging on sexist. It could easily have been his unexamined bias coming to the fore. It could have been just really bad decision-making and a bad attempt at being funny. I would still point out that it seems in bad taste (and I don’t see it as setting up any sort of later joke, as the later jokes stand on their own). Did anyone point this out in the OP (again, I haven’t gone and looked) and, if so, how did he respond?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well since there is no evidence here that the author is using Rand’s gender as a signifier why is it necessary to be so suspicious? If you have time to make an issue out of everything on the Internet that might possibly hint at sexism in some context you have more free time than I, Gunga Din.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And I didn’t say it set up a joke – it introduces the subject
    “The most contrived centipede in Ayn’s philosophical vagina is Dr. Simon Pritchett…”
    but clearly the actual gist of the passage I quoted is long forgotten in this sexism-quote-mining expedition.

  • GCT

    Well since there is no evidence here that the author is using Rand’s gender as a signifier why is it necessary to be so suspicious?

    Because it was in my face. You put it there.

    I also went and looked at the rest of the post as well as some other posts this author did, and I can’t say that I’m convinced there’s no evidence. Caigoy spends a lot of time attacking her appearance and how ugly he finds her, talking about how it’s repugnant to think about having sex with her. He compares her to spinsters and talks about her having 16 cats, etc. These are all dealing in stereotypes. It seems like the author of this piece is being sexist, IMO.

    If you have time to make an issue out of everything on the Internet that might possibly hint at sexism in some context you have more free time than I, Gunga Din.

    I didn’t go search it out, you presented it.

  • GCT

    Apologies, I must have misinterpreted what you meant when you said, “The philosophical vagina was part of the set-up for that bon mot.” This, however, does not constitute quote-mining, which is a very specific charge.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The issue isn’t whether it was “in (your) face.” The issue is why you are suspicious of something that presents no evidence of deliberate sexism, but rather merely mentions “vagina.”

    And I’m not aware of all Caigoy’s other posts. I’m only talking about the one I linked to. I don’t have time to do all that research.

    And whatever else Caigoy has said is beside the point because the statement “The most contrived centipede in Ayn’s philosophical vagina” is still not “sexist” in itself. It appears to me that you are on a hunt to find offensiveness. And considering how much serious, blatant misogyny there is online, it’s bizarre that you are making such a fuss about this particular brief phrase. I suggest you check out some MRA web site, or the Slymepit if you really need to get your outrage on.

    Now I think it’s time for you to enjoy your obsession by yourself. I find it incredibly tiresome.

  • John Alexander Harman

    The clause after the dash in that quotation is weaselly; the man who thinks that way will always find a way to portray the position of anyone with whom he has a conflict of interest as irrational and/or destructive, which excuses him (in his own mind, anyway) from considering the possibility that his own interests and his pursuit of them might not be perfectly rational and virtuous.

  • smrnda

    You mean that there is no conflict between Coke and Pepsi? Between GM and Ford? You don’t have business without conflict because most of ‘business’ are relatively equivalent products fighting for market share.

    Unless her view of ‘rationality’ implies people wanting to be out of work…

  • smrnda

    Totally. It’s just like arguing that the person doing something you don’t like is ‘sinful’ and then finding a way to show that it is.

    A question would be how would want *prove* this – it requires a working definition of rational, which is a totally failed enterprise from the beginning because it requires that we decide what goals are ‘rational’ and which ones aren’t, and I’d say you just have to admit that’s subjective.

    The rationalization you described is pretty much typical of Rand – she just argues that anyone who doesn’t agree with her is ‘anti-reason’ and ‘pro-death’ or whatever, which is about the level of tent-revival preachers who say that anything but Jesus is ‘the path of death’ – as if that’s a persuasive point.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Rand’s understanding of the way business works is entirely fantastical. Here is how her parasite “businessmen” talk:

    It’s been proved that every business depends upon every other business… so everybody ought to share the burdens of everybody else.

    The public can’t remain indifferent to reckless, selfish waste by an anti-social individual. After all, private property is a trusteeship held for the benefit of society as a whole.

    But I guess there aren’t many people in Washington capable of understanding a progressive social policy.

    And here is how her Ubermensch businessmen talk. This is Dagny talking to Dan Conway:

    I intended to give you the battle of your life, down there in Colorado. I intended to cut into your business and squeeze you to the wall and drive you out, if necessary.

    And Conway’s response:

    He chuckled faintly; it was appreciation. “You would have made a pretty good try at it, too,” he said.

    See – there’s no conflict if you only respond “rationally” to the prospect of being driven out of business by chuckling as someone talks about how they’d wish they could have done it.

    Rand herself had no experience with business, except for the business we call show.

  • smrnda

    You know, if a writer who had never been in the military wrote books about wars and had some ‘philosophy of warfare and conflict’ and depicted idealized soldiers and generals fighting against impossible odds, we’d have a laughable cartoon that most people would agree is suited only for kids, and with the caveat that we don’t want kids growing up to think Rambo can really take on a tank with his knife. Yet somehow Rand is taken as an authority on economics and business on the basis that… she read Aristotle and did wardrobe?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Right? The more you analyze Atlas Shrugged the more astounding it is that anybody would take this as anything but an eccentric revenge of the nerds fantasy.

    My best guess at this point is that conservatives had so few intellectuals to turn to in the 1950s that they mistook Ayn Rand for some kind of prophet.

    Even today, you see all these right-wingers claiming that Ayn Rand predicted our current economic situation – and every time they do, I think “did they actually read the book?”

    The most bizarre aspect of this Fox News editorial is that it claims that at the present time (2011), just 3 years after the economic meltdown that the US was: “plagued by soaring spending and crippling regulations.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/10/31/how-did-atlas-shrugged-and-ayn-rand-predict-america-spinning-out-control/

    They do seem to live inside a bubble of unreality, as Bill Maher pointed out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5HxUeoQa8s

  • smrnda

    Ayn Rand couldn’t describe an ‘economic situation’ to save her life. She can hardly describe characters without relying on the worst pulp fiction cliches. You really can’t talk about economics without understanding some statistics, and it’s clear (especially given her illiterate rant against relativity) that Rand’s mathematics isn’t particularly solid.

  • smrnda

    One example would be the bank bailout – instead of say, giving money to the people who defaulted on loans so they could keep their houses, the banks were given $$$ to cover their losses AND they got to take back all the property. It’s not like the government said ‘screw you banks, you took big risks and your customers can’t pay, work out some deals with them to salvage what you can or just take back the devalued property you can’t sell at what you want to.’

    The argument was the banks had to stay flush with $$$ so they could loan out more to get the economy started, but it isn’t like anything required them to do it.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Which rant against relativity? I’m not familiar with that but it sounds awesome.

  • GCT

    The issue isn’t whether it was “in (your) face.” The issue is why you are suspicious of something that presents no evidence of deliberate sexism, but rather merely mentions “vagina.”

    There’s more evidence of sexism in that very post that you linked to. I was “suspicious” because it fits the profile that I’ve seen all too many times. I’m less suspicious and more convinced after having actually read the rest of the post and then checked a few others.

    And whatever else Caigoy has said is beside the point because the statement “The most contrived centipede in Ayn’s philosophical vagina” is still not “sexist” in itself.

    Yes, it is, when it’s used as a mark against her because of her sex. And, I believe that’s what is being done there based on the other statements made by the author. If there were no other statements, then I would have dropped it.

    It appears to me that you are on a hunt to find offensiveness.

    Sigh. Why is it that people have to fall back on these types of arguments? If you feel like you have to attack me personally, there’s not much I can do about that. But, perhaps you should ask yourself why you feel the need to do that here and why you need to fall back on stereotypical attacks.

    And considering how much serious, blatant misogyny there is online, it’s bizarre that you are making such a fuss about this particular brief phrase.

    Why would that be bizarre? First of all, it’s not one particular turn of phrase, but rather one horrible turn of phrase that is coupled to a whole bunch of others. Second, this is nothing more than the Dear Muslima argument.

    I suggest you check out some MRA web site, or the Slymepit if you really need to get your outrage on.

    LOL.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Unless you can provide some reasoning for a why a metaphor about a “philosophical vagina” is sexist then we are done here.

    Repeatedly asserting that yes it is sexist is not reasoning.

    Scouring the author’s ouevre for debatable sexism indicators is not reasoning.

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

    Here’s my reasoning: it’s wrong to denigrate someone’s ideas by a demeaning reference to their genitals. If this author uses other sexist language in their work, that additional corroborating evidence pretty much clinches the case.

  • Nancy McClernan

    How is it a “demeaning” reference to genitals?

    Is a metaphorical “philosophical vagina” someone’s genitals?

  • GCT

    Because it is gratuitous and a reference meant to discredit her via her genitals, as I’ve said before.

    And, I fail to see why I’m not allowed to look at the rest of what this person wrote in order to ascertain whether there was any sexism present or not. If we are not allowed to look at what other things have been written, then it’s virtually impossible to claim that anything is actually sexist. It’s like claiming that you’re not allowed to look at the context of a statement in order to obtain its meaning.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Gratuity is not sexism, and “meant to discredit her via her genitals” has not been explained, no matter how many times you have made the assertion.

    Explain to me how, exactly, the line is meant to discredit Rand via her genitals.

    Since you presumably knew nothing about the author when you read the line, you must have had some reason to declare the line was sexist prior to knowing anything about the author. I want you to tell me what, exactly is sexist about the line in and of itself.

    I’m not interested in debating whether the author is sexist – and it is most certainly NOT proven that he/she is. What I’m interested in is defending myself against the implication that I blithely posted something sexist while making a point about an Ayn Rand character.

    And so the focus will remain on the actual line, not some blogger’s character. Or I am done discussing the subject with you.

  • GCT

    Explain to me how, exactly, the line is meant to discredit Rand via her genitals.

    By specifically mentioning her genitals, un-necessarily, in an attempt to diminish her arguments by way of pointing out that she has female genitalia. It’s just the same as if the author had pointed out that he finds her ugly…oh wait, he did that.

    Since you presumably knew nothing about the author when you read the line, you must have had some reason to declare the line was sexist prior to knowing anything about the author. I want you to tell me what, exactly is sexist about the line in and of itself.

    Not only have I already done this, making me feel like this is an exercise in futility, but you’ve created a straw man version of what I’ve already said. What I said was that it was weird and gratuitous and seemed a bit fishy. After further investigation I decided the author was being sexist due to this line and others.

    Additionally, this insistence that this line must stand or fall on its own as if it lives in a vacuum is nonsense which I categorically reject and have already noted the reasons why. Again, this is like claiming that I’m not allowed to look at the context of a statement in order to ascertain its meaning. It’s a rubbish argument.

    I’m not interested in debating whether the author is sexist – and it is most certainly NOT proven that he/she is. What I’m interested in is defending myself against the implication that I blithely posted something sexist while making a point about an Ayn Rand character.

    Is that what this is about? I’m not attacking you or blaming you for anything. I’m attacking and blaming Caigoy for acting in a sexist manner and making sexist remarks. Please don’t take it personally.

  • Nancy McClernan

    You are blaming me. You are suggesting that I posted something sexist on this blog – “in your face” as you said.

    It is not sexist. And it does have to stand or fall on its own merits. Those are my rules. If you don’t like it, stop talking to me.

    Now about that quote:

    By specifically mentioning her genitals, un-necessarily, in an attempt to diminish her arguments by way of pointing out that she has female genitalia

    First off, let’s get this straight – the author isn’t talking about Ayn Rand’s actual genitals. He is using a metaphor – “philosophical vagina.” You are familiar with metaphors, right? If the author had said “centipede in Rand’s philosophical craw” would you object on the grounds that Rand doesn’t actually have a craw because she’s not a bird?

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/craw

  • GCT

    You are blaming me. You are suggesting that I posted something sexist on this blog – “in your face” as you said.

    That you didn’t find it to be sexist doesn’t mean that it isn’t and doesn’t mean that I’m blaming you for not seeing it and posting something that is, indeed, sexist. We all have biases and blind spots, and sometimes it takes other people to point them out. Again, it’s not personal (at least not on my end).

    It is not sexist. And it does have to stand or fall on its own merits. Those are my rules. If you don’t like it, stop talking to me.

    Then, nothing is sexist. If those are your rules, then you can’t declare anything to be sexist, because you utterly refuse to care about context. This is no better than claiming that quote-mining is acceptable and should be standard practice.

    First off, let’s get this straight – the author isn’t talking about Ayn Rand’s actual genitals. He is using a metaphor – “philosophical vagina.”

    Metaphor for what? You seem to be really reaching here.

    If the author had said “centipede in Rand’s philosophical craw” would you object on the grounds that Rand doesn’t actually have a craw because she’s not a bird?

    No, because using “craw” in that sense is actually part of a standard, well-known figure of speech. It also doesn’t make a point of referencing her lady-bits or discrediting her based on her lady-bits.

    Why are you so desperate to defend this? Why are you so desperate to ignore all the other instances of the author calling her ugly and talking about how revolting it would be to have sex with Rand? Honestly, I don’t understand the rationale.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The context is a metaphor that introduces an Ayn Rand character. That is the context I care about. If you want to conduct an inquiry into the background of some blogger, that’s your business.

    No, because using “craw” in that sense is actually part of a standard, well-known figure of speech. It also doesn’t make a point of referencing her lady-bits or discrediting her based on her lady-bits.

    So the issue is creativity? You object to the writer inventing a new figure of speech and will only accept “well-known” figures of speech as legitimate?

  • GCT

    The context is a metaphor that introduces an Ayn Rand character. That is the context I care about.

    How does talking about Rand’s genitalia constitute a metaphor for anything? There is no connection between her vagina (with or without a centipede in it) and any specific character or anything else that has to do with the book. I asked you what it was a metaphor for, and you’ve not responded. Really, if you are going to talk about me not understanding what a metaphor is, you might first want to be able to defend that it actually is a metaphor. (Metaphors have to actually be about something, not just unconnected words strung together.)

    If you want to conduct an inquiry into the background of some blogger, that’s your business.

    That you don’t want to know whether this person is acting in a sexist fashion by investigating the question of what else they are writing is surely your business as well, but I find it rather troubling. What other issues can we sweep under the rug in this fashion of closing our eyes and refusing to look at the full picture?

    So the issue is creativity? You object to the writer inventing a new figure of speech and will only accept “well-known” figures of speech as legitimate?

    I find nothing creative about referencing her genitals. Quite the contrary, in fact. But, the real issue is that you are being obtuse here, and I believe intentionally so. This has nothing to do with creativity, but whether the author is trying to attack Rand based on her genitalia. I have seen enough to conclude that is the case here. You have refused to look at the patterns pointed out to you. So be it. I still don’t understand why you refuse to look at it and continue to defend something that appears to be sexist. That you are attacking me and resorting to intellectual dishonesty does not look good for you, however. I’ve not made this personal, despite your best attempts to make it so, but alas you have taken it personally. As long as you continue to insist on putting your head in the sand and refusing to consider any context, I suppose this will go nowhere.

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

    Let it go, Nancy, seriously. I think you’ve made your position abundantly clear at this point.


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