Atlas Shrugged: Industrial Accidents

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIII

With the John Galt Line almost ready for its maiden voyage, Dagny invites reporters to her office for a big press conference:

“Now I must tell you about the opening of the John Galt Line,” said Dagny. “The first train will depart from the station of Taggart Transcontinental in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at four P.M. on July twenty-second. It will be a freight special, consisting of eighty cars… It will run non-stop to Wyatt Junction, Colorado, traveling at an average speed of one hundred miles per hour. I beg your pardon?” she asked, hearing the long, low sound of a whistle.

“What did you say, Miss Taggart?”

“I said, one hundred miles per hour – grades, curves and all.”

“But shouldn’t you cut the speed below normal rather than… Miss Taggart, don’t you have any consideration whatever for public opinion?”

“But I do. If it weren’t for public opinion, an average speed of sixty-five miles per hour would have been quite sufficient.” [p.221]

And it’s not just over grades and curves, either – a later line confirms that Dagny’s what-could-possibly-go-wrong plan includes driving the train at this tremendous speed through several populated areas, basically for reasons of spite. This was accomplished by bribing and threatening mayors, police and government regulators, which, as we’ve seen, is entirely permissible in Rand’s system of morality:

Eddie Willers… stood on the platform, surrounded by Taggart executives, division heads, civic leaders, and the various local officials who had been outargued, bribed or threatened to obtain permits to run a train through town zones at a hundred miles an hour. [p.222]

This plan raises the very pertinent question of safety, and Rand doesn’t ignore that. The topic is brought up at Dagny’s press conference by one of the reporters, who’s helpfully described as ugly so we know to disregard his concern.

A man with a mouth shaped as a permanent sneer asked, “Well, what I want to know, as Bertram Scudder stated, is what protection do we have against your Line being no good?”

“Don’t ride on it.” [p.220]

This basically sums up Rand’s attitude toward safety, which is “Caveat emptor”. If you don’t trust a business not to blow you up, poison you, or give you cancer, then don’t buy their product, end of story.

Except that that’s not the end of the story, because when something goes wrong badly enough, it can be a danger to innocent bystanders, too. Remember, Dagny has just said she’s going to run a freight train at a hundred miles per hour through the middle of several towns! If there’s an accident, it’s not just the people riding on it who could be hurt.

Now we know that nothing will go wrong, because Rand’s fictional heroes have plot armor which ensures their every decision, no matter how ill-advised, will turn out for the best. But let’s talk about what can happen in reality to businessmen who make risky, dangerous decisions.

In July 2013, a freight train operated by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, carrying 72 carloads of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Formation, set out from Montreal to a refinery in Brownville Junction, Maine. The entire train had only one crew member, an engineer. Around 11 PM, after his day’s shift had ended, he stopped several miles outside a Quebec town called Lac-Mégantic. He parked the train on the main line and caught a taxi into town to get a hotel room for the night.

Sometime during the night, the brakes failed and the unattended train began to roll. The railroad where it was parked was on a downward grade, so it steadily gathered speed. By the time the runaway train entered the downtown of Lac-Mégantic, it was moving at around 65 MPH.

By the time the train approached the main switch in downtown, witnesses said, it was going so fast that the crossing signals did not even have time to come on…. The infernal noise and the sparks shooting from its wheels were all the warning people in the street needed to run for their lives. (source)

Where the rail crossed Frontenac Street, the town’s main road, it had a curve that limits the top speed of a train to 10 MPH. When the train hit that curve, it derailed and the oil tanker cars ruptured and exploded.

Witnesses described a wall of fire a hundred feet high, an earthquake-like explosion that could be felt more than a mile away. More than thirty buildings, about half the downtown area of Lac-Mégantic, were destroyed. At least 42 people were killed, and thousands more had to be evacuated. The Lac-Mégantic catastrophe ranks as one of the worst railroad disasters in Canadian history.

Legal liability is still being fought out, but one cause being cited is that the train used DOT-111A tanker cars, which had previously been criticized for a tendency to rupture in accidents, and a proposal to require upgrades or replacements was predictably fought by industry representatives who said it would be too expensive. But remember, if you’re worried about a railroad’s safety record, just don’t ride on it!

We could also bring up the 1984 Bhopal disaster, at a Union Carbide pesticide plant that leaked a cloud of toxic gas, killing over 2,000 people and possibly more than 15,000. As with the Lac-Mégantic disaster, corporate negligence and inadequate or broken safety systems were blamed for contributing to the catastrophe. (You may remember that Mother Teresa commented on the disaster; her sole advice was that we should “forgive” the plant owners.)

Just as there’s no crime in Randworld, except for government bureaucrats who want to deprive honest businessmen of the products of their labor, there’s also no danger from corporate negligence. The only disasters that happen (like the train accident later in the book) are caused by political pressure, never by businesses making bad decisions or cutting corners in the name of profit.

If you want a less one-sided and more realistic view, Jason Wexler has written a short satirical fiction, Dagny Is Wrong After All, that shows how Rand’s heroes’ risky decisions might play out in real life. Be warned, it’s quite dark!

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.

  • Pondoro

    Wexler’s short story is good but she needs to die of a hospital-acquired infection that we can’t treat because of the overuse of antibiotics (by profit-driven psychopaths who are not Dagny).

  • busterggi

    Rand’s protagonists (damned if I’ll call them heroes) are protected by the goddess Ayn who never lets bad things happen to them. Unfortunately the real world doesn’t have such a deity.

  • Tova Rischi

    I almost expected or eventually expect you to say something about the Maxima Roof Collapse in Riga, Latvia – as an example of what happens when people in charge of regulations repeal them or don’t enforce them. Latvia’s former PM resigned over the scandal, partially because abolishing state building
    inspection was done as a result of budget cuts during the global
    economic crisis – under Dombrovskis’ government – as it was thought that municipal building authorities
    perform the same tasks.

    Thanks for another good iteration in a good series.

  • ORAXX

    Rand lived in a fantasy world that never existed anywhere, and advocated ideas that have never been demonstrated to work. Her only, dubious achievement lies in helping really awful people feel better about themselves.

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    Wow. Just like communism!

  • Nancy McClernan

    At least one Communist achievement I can think of off the top of my head:

    When the Communists took power in 1949, they were able to enforce a strict prohibition on foot-binding, including in isolated areas deep in the countryside where the Nationalist prohibition had been ignored. The ban remains in effect today.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding#Demise

  • Nancy McClernan

    And from the Objectivist point of view, the Communists provided a great service to humanity when they facilitated the education of Ayn Rand. From the Heller biography:

    …she benefitted from the Bolshevik regime, since Lenin had adopted Kerensky’s policy of offering educational opportunities to Jews and women, while doing away with tuition fees and reducing the full term of study to three years. These changes were meant to help factory workers, but they made it possible for her to get the kind of education, and degree, that her parents could have only dreamed of.

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    So…it IS just like communism?

  • Nancy McClernan

    No, Communism is better than Objectivism, but then, there are few things that aren’t.

    But don’t feel bad, Objectivism was created by a delusional group of right-wingers who wanted certainty in the 1950s. Communism is a system of beliefs accepted by millions of people over almost two centuries.

    The lopsided difference in scale makes for a pretty useless comparison – but then it’s your comparison.

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    I don’t know if millions of people have “accepted” it. I would guess it’s been more like “had shoved down their throats”. But my comparison was purely in regards to the “great in theory, terrible in practice” which Objectivism and Communism seem to share.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yes millions have accepted it. But billions have lived under it. I used “millions” in acknowledgment of the disconnect between a government system and acceptance of that system.

    And I’m not sure what you think is so great in theory about Objectivism.

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    I don’t think anything in particular is great about Objectivism. I was merely playing off of ORAXX’s statement “Rand lived in a fantasy world that never existed anywhere, and advocated ideas that have never been demonstrated to work.” It reminded me of Communism, which is a fantasy that had never existed anywhere and advocates ideas which have never been demonstrated to work. It was a joke. Piffle. Nothing more.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yes, originally that’s what you said and I got that. But you followed it up with: ‘But my comparison was purely in regards to the “great in theory, terrible in practice” which Objectivism and Communism seem to share.’

    I’m not sure how I could be expected to read that other than as an indication you think Objectivism is “great in theory.”

    I can only go by what you type – I’m not a mind-reader.

    And Communism is still one-up on Objectivism because of the foot-binding issue. Although maybe there’s an Objectivist accomplishment I haven’t heard of yet…

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    Oh, so NOW you tell me you’re not a mind reader! :)

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well the jokes can’t all be as brilliant as the Dagny reverse-cowgirl comment. You set a high bar that day.

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    You’re too kind. I do lose more than I win. :(

  • Nancy McClernan

    Maybe, but when you win you win big and that’s what counts.

  • Jason Wexler

    I just wanted to say thank you to Adam, for posting a link to my story, and that doing so encouraged me to go ahead and finish writing it. I think I may have made it even darker and more satirical as a result though. However it is complete and I know that nearly 200 people followed the link so thank you, there is more to the story than when you read it earlier.

  • GubbaBumpkin
  • fuguewriter

    We’ll conveniently leave out the fact that Rearden Metal – and the high construction standards Dagny enforced – meant that the nonsensical terrors being ginned up by a corrupt government wouldn’t come to pass.

    This article is yet more forcible decontextualzation: Dagny is doing an “if this be treason, make the most of it” in opposition to a corrupt(ed) society. Ayn Rand certainly did not approve of damage caused by negligence or malfeasance; however, you can’t base an economy or a morality on scary negatives.

    This seems to be a slightly tired mass-produced attempt. Ah well: Rand is good for the click-throughs. Glad to contribute.

  • smrnda

    The problem with ‘caveat emptor’ is that it’s hard to really get the facts you need to make an informed decision, and any business is going to do what it can in terms of spin and PR to make its product or service seem less dangerous than it actually is. Rand can pretend that no *rational* person or entity would do this, but regrettably, we need to base policies on what actually happens in the real world, not based on what one particular person’s idiosyncratic definition of ‘rational’ happened to be.

    Rand’s protagonists are arrogant blowhards with no regards for the safety of others. For Objectivists and libertarians who gripe about the ‘government gun,’ it’s people like Rand’s protagonists that make the government gun necessary; people who feel that they are entitled to do anything, who feel that they get to more or less *determine* what government everybody else lives under, and who refuse to answer to anybody about the possible consequences of their actions. By all means, the government gun *should* be pointing at someone about to run a train at unsafe speeds through a populated area, particularly when doing so is really just an ego-driven pissing contest.

  • smrnda

    Communism inflated fewer egos when deployed, and the egos it inflated were individuals who would have found a way to turn any ideology into a cult of personality. So there might be a difference.

    Rand reminds me a lot of Chairman Mao. Mao, much like Rand, believed that as long as one had a “red heart” (right beliefs) that the power of the human will would accomplish anything. In reality, that doesn’t work, and reading about futile ‘great leap forward’ projects that couldn’t possibly succeed under Mao is a lot like reading the circumstances of Rand’s protagonists, but since it’s fiction, they end up winning. Rand’s followers, rather than looking at the real world (Rand detested ‘empirical bias’ and instead, focused on having the ‘right assumptions’) refer to the book.

  • Nancy McClernan

    So you think that people should just take Dagny at her word, without any empirical verification.

    In Rand world it isn’t necessary because her superheroes are almost always right. Which is nice for people who enjoy superhero comic books, but it doesn’t quite work as literature for many of us.

    And you still haven’t addressed the glaring thuggery of Dagny & company threatening and bribing government officials. Doesn’t “threatening” at least bother you? Given that Objectivists make such a big deal about force?

  • Jason Wexler

    As a fan of superhero comic books I take exception to the notion that superheroes do no wrong. At some point or other in their various mythologies every mainstream comic book superhero has found themselves on the wrong side of an argument or history and had to deal with the ramifications of having been genuinely and disastrously wrong. I am primarily a DC reader and can’t recommend much from Marvel except X-Men Dark Phoenix as an example but from my preferred publishing house look at the 1970′s Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, from the 1990′s look at the Tower of Babel storyline in JLA and more recently look at Alex Ross’ Kingdom series or the Identity Crisis mini from a few years ago. If after reading those you think that comic books tell stories as one dimensional and one sided as Atlas Shrugged, I would be interested in hearing about it. And for what it’s worth I recognize that comic book stories do tend to be one dimensional just not as one dimensional as Atlas Shrugged.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Contemporary superhero comic books have much greater psychological nuance than, say, those written around the time of Atlas Shrugged. So I definitely won’t argue that modern superheroes are more fallible than Atlas Shrugged heroes.

    And Nathaniel Branden reports that in Rand’s notes for the John Galt character, she describes him as “perfect.”

  • Jason Wexler

    Hmmmm…..

    I wonder if DC comics should sue Ayn Rands estate for copyright infringement, apparently John Galt was a rip off of Batman.

  • smrnda

    At best, you can defend Rand’s work as being implausible but consistent, but I don’t think that out here, in the real world we can trust a business to test its own products. That’s why there exist independent government agencies that conduct tests. You can say Rand is writing a book with no connection to reality and that’s fine, but then you can’t pretend Rand has anything useful to say about the real world.

  • Nancy McClernan

    That’s why her whole extreme dichotomy of good, smart, attractive honest Ubermensch vs. ugly, stupid, incompetent losers is such a red flag. If somebody divides the world in such a cartoonish, simplistic and silly way, how could anybody possibly think that any other aspect of the novel will reflect reality to any degree? The novel is Ayn Rand’s wet dream – and the way she presents hot men in the D/s ragesex scenarios that she herself preferred, I don’t only mean that figuratively.

  • J-D

    I’m sorry, but what are you saying?

    ‘Rand lived in a fantasy world that never existed anywhere …’
    ‘Just like communism!’

    So are you saying that communism never existed anywhere? If that’s not what you’re saying, how is what you are saying different?

  • J-D

    When the journalist asked Dagny about the safety of the line, did she say anything about how she had enforced high construction standards? If that’s something Dagny left out, how is it fair to blame the article for it?

  • fuguewriter

    Dagny is already nationally known for her high standards. Steve Jobs didn’t go around reassuring everyone that the iPod was made to high standards – they knew, by that time. There also was a nationally-coordinated campaign against Rearden Metal – which all the journalists should have been opposing. A lot of what y’all freak out on Ayn Rand about is her making like Dagny (and, chortle as you like), Jesus: wholly rejecting a dominant code by flamboyant defiance – and words taken to be paradoxical in the prevailing ethos: turning the other cheek in an honor culture, or using “The Virtue of Selfishness” as a book title.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And unless I missed something apparently the US government is incapable of forcing the Taggart and Rearden companies to abide by common industrial safety standards, which is why it’s even up to Dagny’s whim in the first place.

    This is the same government that is capable of creating a bill (“Anti-Dog Eat Dog”) and then immediately enforcing it, but somehow mysteriously lacks the ability to prevent Taggart/Rearden from testing a bridge by driving a train full of people over it, or preventing them from testing the rail line by driving it through residential districts at dangerously high speeds.

    Meanwhile members of local governments are being bribed and threatened into submitting to the Taggart/Rearden demands.

    But we shouldn’t be too surprised that the government is mysterious and makes no sense – Rand understood how democracies work as well as she understood how the stock market worked. And anything she didn’t know, she just made up to suit her personal predilections and black and white extremist worldview.

  • Nancy McClernan

    My two favorite parts of Dagny is Wrong After All are

    1. When Dagny is about to launch into a standard endless Rand-hero monologue the nurse shuts her down cold. If only that nurse could have been present throughout Atlas Shrugged.

    2. The dominant manly government agent sent to interrogate Dagny is gay. Rand thought homosexuality was disgusting.

  • fuguewriter

    There is no need for faith-trust in a pure free market. That’s why you’d have things like:

    - a free press, jockeying to alert the public to things, thus remaining valuable.
    - insurance companies with entities like Underwriters Laboratories and its famed private seal of quality.
    - a body of case law enforcing implied warranty.

    And other things we cannot possibly predict. Example would be not dealing with other businesses that don’t adhere to certain minimum standards. This exists now in all kinds of private certification agencies, like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ServSafe . Business insurance would acquire a new importance.

    The point is, these things cannot be predicted from an armchair. That is one reason coercive State regulation does not and cannot work.

    The trust argument is a red herring.

    So, no need to defend. No offense, here, has been demonstrated. (That’s not to say I agree with Rand about all or even most things. But I find her fascinating, much deeper and better than is appreciated – a veritable angel compared to, say, the loathsome Sartre or Paul de Man – and much-maligned. She’s repaid several decades of study on my part, quite well.)

  • Jason Wexler

    There are actually many people who identify in some way as communist or sympathetic therein, who argue that communism hasn’t existed in practice yet at least on a large scale in modern times. In that view the USSR, China, Vietnam, Cuba and Korea aren’t communist but rather oligarchies or dictatorships often of a fascist nature which made use of communist ideas or memes in their early propaganda, but never actually practiced communism. Accepting that view, however, runs afoul of lexical drag because for too many people who really don’t care, communism means USSR, China, Cuba etc.. and attempts to coin new words for actual communism are viewed as deceitful misdirection.

  • fuguewriter

    Rand was not a Naturalist. Interpreting her that way will lead to inevitable failure. The reflex Naturalism needs to be questioned.

  • Jason Wexler

    Thank you.

    Originally the agent was a woman until I realized that I’d had no men interacting with Dagny, he became gay when I was worried that the interrogation if done by a straight man would have been too rape adjacent.

  • Jason Wexler

    I am hesitant to respond here but, in the fan-fiction community it isn’t considered rude to use someone elses story as a jumping on point for your own as long as you don’t make a habit of it. My first fan-fic was just such a story.

    That said, before you release a drug resistant super-bug into a large major hospital, within the context of the story as written keep in mind most of the employees who you are potentially infecting alongside Dagny have families which have all recently suffered significant tragedies. Yes it would be realistic, but do you really want to make so many orphans, just to punish Dagny in what would be a suitable irony?

  • Nancy McClernan

    The free press won’t report on an industrial tragedy prior to it happening. And even if the free press did investigative reporting on every industry, it doesn’t have the power of enforcement.

    If there is no government enforcement of regulations, why would companies feel the need to buy insurance in the first place?

    Case law won’t help you prior to your being killed in an industrial accident.

    Clearly you are willing to sacrifice human lives on the altar of the Free Market. How nice for you.

    And let’s talk about the veritable angel Ayn Rand:

    During one of our private meetings (between Nathaniel and Rand), Barbara telephoned Ayn – something she would normally never do when I was there. She explained tearfully that her panic was reaching new and unbearable heights and pleaded for permission to come over so she could talk to us. I listened in horror as Ayn began to reproach her in a loud voice, saying things like “How dare you invade my time with Nathan?” and “Are you indifferent to my context?” and “No one ever helped me when I needed it! You’ll always be unhappy until you learn to stand on your own feet!”

    Ayn came back into the room, raving against Barbara and then against me when she saw the stricken expression on my face, and for the next hour I listened to harangues about my “irrationalism.”

    - My Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden

  • Nancy McClernan

    Here is what happened when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone:

    At the time of the announcement, only 100 iPhones existed, with some of those featuring significant quality issues like scuff marks and gaps between the screen and the plastic edge. The software, too, was full of bugs, leading the team to set up multiple iPhones to overcome memory issues and restarts. Because of the phone’s penchant for crashing, it was programmed to display a full five-bar connection at all times.

    Then, with Jobs’s approval, they preprogrammed the phone’s display to always show five bars of signal strength regardless of its true strength. The chances of the radio’s crashing during the few minutes that Jobs would use it to make a call were small, but the chances of its crashing at some point during the 90-minute presentation were high. “If the radio crashed and restarted, as we suspected it might, we didn’t want people in the audience to see that,” Grignon says. “So we just hard-coded it to always show five bars”

    http://www.macrumors.com/2013/10/04/former-apple-engineer-gives-behind-the-scenes-look-at-the-original-iphone-introduction/

    Now the thing about the iPhone radio is that if it did crash during a demonstration, nobody would have died. Unlike if a train or a bridge crashed.

    The “nationally-coordinated campaign against Rearden Metal” was instituted by the State Science Institute for their on rational self interest and selfishness – they didn’t want their own (typically incompetent Rand-moocher) efforts to be shown up by super-genius Randian Ubermensch Rearden. I don’t suppose you would expect them to sacrifice their own self-interest for the altruistic goal of helping society, would you?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yes I know what Rand claims to be, I have “The Romantic Manifesto.”

    I also know that in spite of the fact that Rand’s world is completely divorced from reality, right-wingers like to imagine “Atlas Shrugged” has something to tell them about reality. And not only the reality of the 1950s – all you have to do is Google “Atlas Shrugged Prophecy” to see how many right-wingers share the delusion that “Atlas Shrugged” has something to tell us about the present time.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=ayn+rand%2C+prophet&oq=ayn+rand%2C+prophet&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60l2j69i59l3.2540j0j7&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=119&ie=UTF-8#es_sm=119&espv=210&q=Atlas+Shrugged%2C+prophecy

    There’s even a movie called “Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged.”

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1989454/

  • Alex Harman

    From Korey’s comment above, “It reminded me of Communism, which is a fantasy that had never existed anywhere,” (emphasis mine), he/she might have meant Communism from the time Marx described it up until the Russian revolution. Fortunately, thus far nobody has managed to turn a nation into a lab for testing Ayn Rand’s demented theories of economics and human nature, the way Lenin, Mao, Kim Il-Sung, Castro, etc. used their nations to test (their personal interpretations of) Marx’s demented theories of economics and human nature, but there are certainly a bunch of her followers who’d love to try if they could.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And of course Rand herself fully believed in the reality of Atlas Shrugged. She would compare herself to John Galt, as if he was a real person instead of a perfect being who took down the United States in his spare time:

    “John Galt wouldn’t feel like this,” she often said. “He would know how to handle this. I don’t know.” And “I would hate for him to see me like this.”

    (The Virtue of Selfishness) included fourteen essays and speeches by Rand… she had formed the habit of quoting John Galt as an independent authority who proved her points… In half a dozen other pieces she set out to establish such self consistent but eccentric ideas as that “there are no conflicts of interest among rational men,” a notion that could have meaning only inside the moral world of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

    When Nathaniel Branden refused to resume screwing Rand, she wrote obsessive notes about his psychological problems for weeks:

    Basically, what she found wrong with him was something she had struggled not to believe: that he had an advanced case of social metaphysics, the wound that disfigured the souls of Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey, and that chaser after shopgirls, Dagny’s weak and incompetent brother James…

    - Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller

  • Jason Wexler

    Haiti, Somalia and Namibia…. There are places where Randian ideas are being practiced and it’s very bad.

  • Pattrsn

    A free press jockeying to sell advertising space for corporate PR thus remaining valuable.

    There fixed that for you

  • Nancy McClernan

    The behavior of the press in Atlas Shrugged is yet another example of the hallucinatory, through-the-looking-glass details of Rand’s hellscape:

    No space was given by the newspapers to the progress of the construction of the John Galt Line. No reporter was sent to look at the scene. The general policy of the press had been stated by a famous editor five years ago. “There are no objective facts,” he had said. “Every report on facts is only somebody’s opinion. It is, therefore, useless to write about facts.”

    Please note that although as far as we are told in the novel the newspapers are for-profit companies, competing with each other for readers, and they are not controlled in any way by the government (which spends all its time and energy in ejaculating wacko bills that are the only things it enforces) they have decided as a group that an exciting story is not worth publishing due to what appears to be a case of rampaging post-modernism.

  • smrnda

    We had a time of less regulation and diminished social safety nets and it was terrible. It didn’t go as far as Rand’s, but it demonstrates that there are correlations between the types of solutions she promotes and bad outcomes.

  • smrnda

    Rich people have always been able to put out their own newspapers full of lies and spin. There have been muckrakers, but money talks, and one of the benefits of good journalism is good legislation.

    Listen, deregulated capitalism, or *significantly less regulated capitalism* has been tried before, with shit results. We have empirical evidence (Western Europe and Scandinavia, Japan, South Korea) that moving towards more regulation and expanding social welfare programs generates positive results. Like most Rand-fans, you’re trying to argue I should accept your premise-conclusion type reasoning over hard empirical data. The only person defending something from an armchair happens to be you, because you’re appealing to ‘reason from premise’ style arguments instead of providing concrete data. The data is on the side of greater government regulation. State regulation DOES WORK. State welfare programs DO WORK. Have you ever been to any country outside of the US or the third world? Are you telling me that my trip to Germany, Denmark and Sweden was all a delusion, that I was really in some sort of Statist Dystopia? A total monopoly of total government control over all areas doesn’t seem to work at all or well in the absence of militaristic expansion, but nobody is suggesting that. Please do not frame this issue as a binary choice as we can choose somewhere between to total extremes. A system which has never been tried should never be tried over one that has been tried and worked.

    And please, coercion? In any society, rules have to be established and some people will object to something since you’ll never have 100% consensus. There will exist people who say “boo hoo! I’m being coerced by the State!” Some of these people might be right and have a valid point. Others are just whiners, or the type of people who the State should be restricting. In the nations with greater levels of state economic intervention and regulation, the government is more responsive to ordinary people and less to the wealthy and corporations. Political power is effectively leveraged against economic power.

    So, effectively you’re telling me to ignore what I see working in the real world, and see value in the ramblings of some pulp writer with no qualifications whatsoever to be discussing economic policy?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Speaking of which… Bill Maher has something interesting to say here…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55zDEBNqfk4

  • J-D

    How do you know that Dagny is nationally known for her high standards? Does it say _that_ in the book? Does it say in the book that _everybody_ in the country knew about Dagny’s high standards?

  • smrnda

    I am known in some circles for high levels of performance, but I’d be behaving in a reckless and irresponsible fashion not to ask my work to be subject to the same levels of testing and scrutiny as everyone else.

    That’s the difference between a responsible person and someone who isn’t; willingness to accept some form of outside accountability.

    To add something – even some of the best programmers and computer scientists *on earth* wrote code with bugs that less talented code-monkeys found in testing.

  • fuguewriter

    If we’re solely limited to an author’s direct statements and inference is impermissible, I suggest you contact the webmaster and have every patheos article on Rand removed. : ) As a single instance of Dagny’s fame, see Dr Ferris’ dialogue with Rearden that drives Rearden to sign the Gift Certificate.

  • Nancy McClernan

    That’s an excellent point. As we know, in the world of Atlas Shrugged all the newspapers have colluded to stop reporting facts for at least the past five years. If Dagny is “nationally known” for her standards, how would anybody find out about it?

  • Nancy McClernan

    One of my favorite parts of Rand’s “The Romantic Manifesto” is that she reiterates the original trauma which led, I believe, to Objectivism (my bolded emphasis):

    If parents attempt to inculcate a moral ideal of the kind contained in such admonitions as: “Don’t be selfish – give your best toys away to the children next door!” or if parents go “progressive” and teach a child to be guided by his whims – the damage to the child’s moral character may be irreparable.

    I’ve never heard of a parent telling their child to give their best toys away, but Ayn Rand sure did and it scarred her for life:

    When Rand was five or so, she recalled, her mother came into the children’s playroom and found the floor littered with toys. She announced to Rand and Rand’s two-and-a-half year old sister Natasha, that they would have to choose some of their toys to put away and some to keep and play with now; in a year, she told them, they could trade the toys they had kept for those they had put away. Natasha held onto the toys she liked best, but Rand, imagining the pleasure she would get from having her favorite toys returned to her later, handed over her best-loved playthings, including a painted mechanical wind-up chicken she could describe vividly fifty years later. When the time came to make the swap and Rand asked for her toys back, her mother looked amused, Rand recalled… (and) explained that she had given everything to an orphanage, on the premise that if her daughters had really wanted their toys they wouldn’t have relinquished them in the first place.

    – Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller

    To understand how much of an impact this made on Rand’s psyche, she uses it as one of the few examples given of the little people going Galt, inspired by John Galt’s ginormous speech:

    …the case of a woman with a fractured jaw: she had been slapped in the face by a total stranger, who had heard her ordering her five-year-old son to give his best toy to the children of neighbors.

    Clearly Rand spent the rest of her life trying to get revenge on her mother.

  • fuguewriter

    Good legislation is a subjective item, at best. Have you solved the problem of what good is, once and for all? Please, present your solution to the riddle of Western thought. (There’s good reason to believe, based on neuropsychology alone, that it’s a fata morgana.)

    > deregulated capitalism

    Which means “otherly-regulated capitalism.”

    > *significantly less regulated capitalism*

    Which means, all the essential problems are retained. Such was the case with Enron: the “deregulated” California energy market gave it enormous impetus – the problem being that the market was not at all deregulated. End-user rates remained strictly regulated and as such were pushed below proper market prices, given the rest of the regulated structure.

    You’re unaware that Scandinavian countries were only able to become welfare-statist from decades of freer trade? And that they’re pulling back on welfare statism? And that they nearly went into financial catastrophe in the early 1990s?

    The free market has made possible this very computer, and yours, and the electrical networks powering them – at the incredible low prices we enjoy. Despite all the government interference. Take a look at savings rates, life expectancy, and per-capita GDP before, during, and after the Industrial Revolution(s). *That’s* free trading at work. Given the horrible conditions it started with, capitalism has done more to better the condition of people than any other single force.

    So, as we see, your representation of my reasoning is par for the course: as wrong as it is vehement.

    Pro-central-control “data” generally turns out to be an epistemic construct. Show me a centrally-planned economy that works. Show me one of them.

    > State regulation DOES WORK.

    Ooh, capitals. Were they in the “data”? Your definition of “work” is not mine, and no one has the right to impose their definitions, ideologies, or intuitions by force. Which is what State regulation is.

    > State welfare programs DO WORK.

    Right. Like the $100,000,000,000,000+ in unfunded liabilities that are going to torpedo the United States’ economy with pinpoint efficiency.

    > Have you ever been to any country outside of the US

    Pray, how do you know where I live? And have lived?

    > or the third world?

    I guess we’re leaving behind the “data”!

    > Are you telling me that my trip to Germany, Denmark and Sweden was all a delusion, that I was really in some sort of Statist Dystopia?

    I definitely wrote at great length about your well-known trip.

    > please, coercion?

    Coercion means never having to say please. Or thank you.

    > In any society, rules have to be established

    The advantage of classical liberal minarchy is that the only “rules” established using force are those that defend individuals against other individuals initiating force. You show the dangers of vagueness: “rules” do not have to be established by coercion, particularly State coercion. Humans do quite a lot by subtle social signals.

    > people will object to something

    We’re not talking about people feeling disagreement. Coercion is not a subjective term.

    > since you’ll never have 100% consensus.

    Not relevant. (Since you say it will never exist, ipso facto it’s not germane.)

    > There will exist people who say

    Everything. What people *say* about X does not determine policy.

    > So, effectively you’re telling me to ignore what I see working in the real world

    No. You don’t see it working. You conclude it is working, then present it as mere empirical observation.

    > the ramblings

    If Ayn Rand did anything, it was not ramble.

    > some pulp writer

    Whom you people talk endlessly on.

    > with no qualifications whatsoever to be discussing economic policy?

    A number of economists did not agree. Von Mises. George Reisman. Greenspan. Even Hayek (to whom Rand did not return the compliment).

    You’re too hung up on what other people allegedly say.

  • fuguewriter

    There would be no value at all in accurate investigative journalism. All capitalists would form a completely united front with one and the same interests on every level. They would never compete with one another. (Such total unity is easily attained and has happened many times on earth, after all.)

    All the brain-dead slaveproles would mindlessly buy media helplessly dependent on corporate PR. It would be utterly impossible to start any kind of new media. There would be no blogs, no criticism, no independent thought.

    There. Improved it for you

    And y’all say Rand writes caricatures? If people are such morons, you’d better plump for dictatorship, because democratic voting is laughable.

  • fuguewriter

    Isn’t it joyful that I never contended Rand was easy to be with, non-confrontational, low in intensity, pleasant, or even easy to be with? B.B.’s recall may be accurate – or not. I’ve dealt with her on pleasant terms, but she’s gotten things wrong in the biography – search the webs for the critiques. It would be hard indeed for someone so close to the action to get it all right. I believe everyone involved left that situation knowing it should not have happened.

    Would that they had lived a few decades later and polyamory was a bit better understood. *If* Ayn and Frank’s marriage had had such problems, anyone at all versed in polyamory would have known it was a bad base to begin on. But that depends on the *if* holding. Short of finding a bunch of films with live audio, we’ll never really know.)

    As to the free press, yes, it would be absolutely impossible to report on anything but what has already happened. And no company would have any motive to do things well. Crashing bridges are great for business.

    > power of enforcement.

    Look up “implied warranty.” That and the body of common law around it provide an excellent legal framework. Rand is not an anarchist. It’s not prior-restraint regulation versus nothing.

  • fuguewriter

    “Right-winger” – the ultimate curse!

    http://hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH_C_MORTACRACIES.GIF

  • smrnda

    Quoting your own fictional character as an authority? Even referring to your own work of fiction as some accurate commentary of what life is like should get you laughed to scorn.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Right? Ayn Rand sincerely asking in effect “what would John Galt do?” makes asking “what would Jesus do?” sound supremely rational in comparison.

  • GCT

    “No one ever helped me when I needed it! You’ll always be unhappy until you learn to stand on your own feet!”

    LOL at that. You may already have posted this Nancy, so apologies if I’m retreading ground, but I saw this recently and it should be shared:

    http://magsreview.com/wilson-quarterly/wilson-quarterly-april-1-2013/1440-fountainhead-of-need.html

    And, what did she do with the money donated to her? In part, she used it to buy underwear:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_Studio_Club#Famous_residents

    ·
    Ayn Rand -
    When Ayn Rand arrived in Hollywood in 1926 to become a screenwriter, she lived at the Studio Club. Though her heavy accent and plain Russian clothes made her an “odd apparition” to the pretty, fresh actresses of the Studio Club, Rand was welcomed into the sorority. She was hired initially as an extra, at a salary of $7.50 a day, leaving the Studio Club before dawn each day to arrive at the studio at 6 a.m. for makeup and dress. While staying at the Studio Club, she met bothCecil B. DeMille and her future husband, Frank.[21] A club resident later recalled the following story about Rand:

    “We all had money problems, but the funniest story I ever heard was about Ayn Rand, the author. She apparently had terrible financial problems and owed money to the club. Almost everybody did at one time or another. Anyhow, a woman was going to donate $50 to the neediest girl in the club, and Miss Williams (Marjorie Williams, the revered director of Studio Club from 1922 to 1945) picked out Ayn. Ayn thanked them for the money, went out and bought a set of black lingerie.”[4]

  • Sven2547

    We’ll conveniently leave out the fact that Rearden Metal – and the high construction standards Dagny enforced – meant that the nonsensical terrors being ginned up by a corrupt government wouldn’t come to pass.

    Actually, the article addressed this already, but not with the spin you want:

    Now we know that nothing will go wrong, because Rand’s fictional heroes have plot armor which ensures their every decision, no matter how ill-advised, will turn out for the best.

  • Azkyroth

    We’ll conveniently leave out the fact that Rearden Metal

    The unrealistic depiction of which, and the decisions surrounding it, has been discussed in previous sections of this post series.

    – and the high construction standards Dagny enforced – meant that the nonsensical terrors being ginned up by a corrupt government wouldn’t come to pass.

    Not in evidence.

    This article is yet more forcible decontextualzation: Dagny is doing an “if this be treason, make the most of it” in opposition to a corrupt(ed) society. Ayn Rand certainly did not approve of damage caused by negligence or malfeasance; however, you can’t base an economy or a morality on scary negatives.

    I know all these words, but I can’t parse this. Is there something you’re trying to say?

    This seems to be a slightly tired mass-produced attempt. Ah well: Rand is good for the click-throughs.

    The words “mass-produced” have a meaning. The motivation for this series has been discussed at length.

    Glad to contribute.

    Also not in evidence.

  • Azkyroth

    What.

  • Azkyroth

    Those statistics make your defense of a narcissistic dogmatist who rejected human welfare as a moral imperative and considered certain people as Other and “unworthy of life” all the more galling, since this is what all those regimes actually have in common.

    Or were you intending to brag?

  • Azkyroth

    There is no need for faith-trust in a pure free market. That’s why you’d have things like:

    And other things we cannot possibly predict.

    Boy, you sure showed those people who accused you of advocating blind faith.

  • Azkyroth

    The problem with this is that methods of media which can reliably reach a large audience have significant barriers to entry, and thus tend to become concentrated. It’s fairly easy for corporations to buy up these concentrations and encourage them, with varying degrees of pressure, to maintain a complacent audience and present the corporation’s interests favorably, as happened while you were busy totally not worshipping Ayn Rand and not paying attention.

  • Azkyroth

    Has anyone thought about compiling a list of refutations of this boilerplate crap so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time a narcisso-capitalist parrot stumbles in here?

  • GCT

    Which means, all the essential problems are retained. Such was the case with Enron: the “deregulated” California energy market gave it enormous impetus – the problem being that the market was not at all deregulated.

    IOW, the problem of deregulation allowing people to act badly and quasi-legally fleece others for money isn’t that the rules allow it, but rather that the rules don’t make it easier for them.

    Given the horrible conditions it started with, capitalism has done more to better the condition of people than any other single force.

    Given the horrible conditions that unchecked capitalism brought about you mean? The Gilded Age was a result of overly free markets where those who had the money and power to do as they wished, could treat the rest of the populace as work-slaves. This is what Rand’s policies would re-create.

    You show the dangers of vagueness: “rules” do not have to be established by coercion, particularly State coercion.

    Your definition of “coercion” does indeed mean that all laws are the result of coercion of the state. You can’t have it both ways.

    Not relevant. (Since you say it will never exist, ipso facto it’s not germane.)

    It’s certainly relevant when your assertions depend on it.

    Whom you people talk endlessly on.

    Only because there are people – like you think Rand and her ideas are the bee’s knees – who are actually in power, and there are plenty others who think she had good things to say. We also talk about religion for the same reason.

    A number of economists did not agree. Von Mises. George Reisman. Greenspan. Even Hayek (to whom Rand did not return the compliment).

    Which is part of the problem and a big reason why we need to discuss just how bad her books/ideas really are.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Rand did plump for a dictatorship.

    The United States, as portrayed in Atlas Shrugged was a democracy – that’s why Kip Chalmers was in such a hurry to get to San Francisco – he was going to a voter rally.

    So John Galt & friends deliberately destroyed that democracy so that they could run the country according to their own rules. Because most people are such irrational morons.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Would that they had lived a few decades later and polyamory was a bit better understood. *If* Ayn and Frank’s marriage had had such problems…

    So you completely missed the point of the quote. It isn’t about the marriage and the affair – it’s that Ayn Rand was so stunningly unempathetic that when her friend Barbara calls her for help, Rand not only refuses to help, but launches into a tirade against both her and Nathaniel over how selfish they are for not considering Ayn Rand’s needs. And since Nathaniel didn’t always put Ayn Rand’s needs first, she called him “irrational.”

    “Agreeing with Ayn Rand” was ever her true definition of rationality.

  • Nancy McClernan

    but she’s gotten things wrong in the biography – search the webs for the critiques

    You don’t like to support your statements by your own efforts. You always want me to do the work for you. Doesn’t that make you a second-hander?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Crashing bridges are great for business.

    No disasters are good for business. But they don’t happen through business owners deliberate efforts to cause disaster, they happen through business owners making decisions based on a variety of factors. The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory locked the factory doors to prevent employee theft and unauthorized breaks. It was to their benefit, and they couldn’t be bothered worrying about the possibility that the locked doors would be a problem in the case of fire.

    Regulations are put into place to discourage business owners from being so narrowly focused on their profits to the detriment of worker safety.

    And you know this but you just don’t care. You’re willing to replace regulations with human mortality. Once people die the businesses that caused the deaths will, theoretically, go out of business.

    You are fine with workers dying, as an alternative to safety regulations. Just admit that.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I didn’t use “right-winger” as a curse – I made the observation that it is right-wingers who prop up the reputation of Ayn Rand, because they believe that Rand’s simplistic wish-fulfillment novel has something to tell us about the real world.

    Why don’t you address the actual issues at hand, instead of the issue you invented as a distraction?

  • Nancy McClernan

    As a single instance of Dagny’s fame, see Dr Ferris’ dialogue with Rearden that drives Rearden to sign the Gift Certificate.

    How about for once you do your own work, instead of trying to delegate it to those of us whom you apparently fancy as your gofers? Quote for us exactly what your are talking about, or stop wasting everybody’s time with your ridiculous laziness.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Greenspan had second thoughts:

    Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Mr. Waxman said.

    “Absolutely, precisely,” Mr. Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/23/greenspans-mea-culpa/

    Although as Krugman notes, he’s still so wrong about so much:

    …But I would like to get in something about Greenspan’s new book.

    It is, you won’t be surprised to learn, a really terrible book on multiple levels. No acceptance of responsibility for anything; he retails the same old Big Lie about how Fannie and Freddie somehow coerced Wall Street into making bad loans; etc., etc..

    But I wanted to take on one point in particular: Greenspan thinks he has discovered a new law: transfers to individuals, even if fully paid for with taxes, reduce national savings one for one. You can bet that this claim will soon be popping up on the right as an established fact.

    What drives Greenspan’s conclusion is mainly the sharp drop in overall saving during the Great Recession, combined with a temporary spike in transfers as a share of GDP, partly because of unemployment and food stamps, partly because GDP fell. But he wants us to see it as a long-term phenomenon, and of course as a reason to weaken the safety net.

    The obvious answer is to look cross-country: European nations have much bigger welfare states than we do; do they have lower savings? No.

    A quick-and-dirty version: I compare social expenditures as a share of GDP (from the OECD Factbook) with national savings rates for 2010 (from the IMF WEO database). It looks like this:

    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2013/10/24/opinion/102413krugman1/102413krugman1-blog480.png

    Strange to say, countries like Germany, Sweden, and France, with their big welfare states, actually save more than we do.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/greenspan-no-saving-grace/

  • GCT

    What boggled my mind the most about that exchange with Greenspan was that after he recognized that lack of regulation was the culprit, he posited even further reductions in regulations as the solution. Greenspan is as much a true believer as our current resident Randroid it seems.

  • Nancy McClernan

    There’s good reason to believe, based on neuropsychology alone, that it’s a fata morgana.

    LOL! Let’s have the citations!

  • Nancy McClernan

    On Enron:

    the California electricity crisis of 2001-2002. As some readers may recall, that crisis was caused by market manipulation — and that’s not a hypothesis, Enron traders were caught on tape telling plants to shut down to create artificial shortages. Yet “news analyses” published after the whole thing was revealed would often tell readers that excessive environmental regulation and Nimbyism caused the crisis, with nary a mention of the deliberate creation of shortages.

    And as you’ll notice, in both cases the imaginary history just happened to be one more comfortable to status quo interests.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/legends-of-the-rentiers/

  • Nancy McClernan

    > some pulp writer

    Whom you people talk endlessly on.

    Because there are enough right-wingers willing to believe that a pulp writer is one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century it’s worth pointing out the mind-boggling disconnect between what she wrote, and what they think she wrote.

  • fuguewriter

    That’s nice. Also, as usual, elliptical and non-responsive. What gave Enron that influence in the first place? The “deregulated” power market. it’s not news there are unethical idiots in business. And government. And religion. And newspaper bloggers, like Paul “We need a housing bubble” Krugman.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Speaking of accidents that can happen as a result of running a train at high speed…

    The Metro-North Railroad train that hurtled off the rails on a sleepy holiday weekend morning was traveling 82 miles per hour as it approached one of the sharpest curves in the region’s rail system, federal investigators said on Monday — nearly three times the speed permitted through the turn.

    The throttle was still engaged — giving the engine power — until six seconds before the locomotive, in the rear of the train, came to a stop around 7:20 a.m. Sunday after the train careered toward the Harlem River, killing four people and injuring more than 70, north of Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, officials said.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/nyregion/metro-north-train-accident-bronx.html?hp

  • fuguewriter

    Perhaps it happened that way – and perhaps not.

    Perhaps Rand was right – and perhaps she was wrong.

    We can’t know.

    And if you endorse NB’s and BB’s memoirs – and BB’s is a memoir-biography – then you can’t cherrypick negatives as you please. You have to accept the positives too. And they’re both full of positives too.

  • fuguewriter

    Desperate scrambling now, Nancy.

    Democracies don’t have policy discussions about executing “economic traitors” – or institute Project X death stations to control the population.

    Run along, now.

  • Science Avenger

    >Your definition of “work[s]” is not mine…

    Perhaps, but there is little actual disagreement over the word’s meaning in practice. The problem comes when some seek to define “works” in terms of the very system they are trying to justify, thus making the (your) argument circular.

    >… the $100,000,000,000,000+ in unfunded liabilities…

    It’s been pointed out to you repeatedly that this is incorrect, yet you keep spewing it. Blanking out are we?

  • smrnda

    Prior restraint regulation is less risky. I see no reason I should prefer to put myself in greater danger just to pander to corporate interests who find regulation ‘odious.’

  • fuguewriter

    Broad-range prior restraint regulation (as opposed to a cumulative body of law), particularly when legislated by unelected regulators, is the most risky of all. For one thing, it establishes the principle that government may act not in response to specific actions that violate rights (including by future harm, e.g. if I begin to undertake to build a badly-designed skyscraper next to your house).

    > I should prefer to put myself in greater danger just to pander to corporate interests who find regulation ‘odious.’

    This was not proposed. Caricatures are as unhelpful and they are inescapable from you. If people are so evil that your fear is sufficient to set policy, then you’d better be advocating for a strictly authoritarian system.

  • smrnda

    None of these economists actually achieved anything. Greenspan presided over a bubble which burst and, even when going, benefited few people. I don’t see any nations applying these things.

    The development of the computer was mostly government investment and R and D. The development of the internet was a DARPA product. Same with GPS. The costs of this research was high, and the returns wouldn’t have been soon enough in coming for the private sector to take it on.

    I will agree with you that how one defines words is going to shape the discussion. You define ‘initiate force’ in such a way that if a person with no money can only find employment by offering sexual favors to an employer, they are not being ‘force’ to do so, but if a law is passed with 99% approval that prohibits the use of some product determine to be harmful, the poor little people making ht hazardous product are being unfairly subjected to force? No term has an objective definition outside of words like maybe ‘hydrogen.’ You’ve simply decided that coercion can only come from government, and that the power that comes from controlling resource which in the end, gives one the power of life and death over others, is not real. Control of the resources that other people need to live is itself force, domination and violence and it only emerges from some successful violent conquest. Afterwards, the ‘winners’ declare their property claims legitimate, put up a government that agrees and then says everybody else is simply using ‘force’ to deprive them of their property which, in the end, can only come from force. There is no way that any sort of social power or rule can be established except through force. The capitalists of today are the heirs to violent conquerors of the past.

    All said, the US is closer to Rand than Europe, and we do worse than Western Europe on all social metrics. More crime, worse health outcomes, shorter lifespans, more hours spent working, less vacation time. Even if (as you said) these nations faced financial crisis in the past and have scaled back *some* they are still committed to more regulation and welfare programs.

    And on force, I believe that it is okay to use force once someone else has such a high level of power that they can make life miserable for others. I can’t give you a precise rule or formulation as to when or under what circumstances, because the human condition cannot be worked out as a set of axioms, but I have no problem with powerful and privileged people being forced to do things (or not do things) that go against what they want to do. Some people seize all power, and then argue that the legitimate rebellion of those underneath them is ‘initiating force.’

  • fuguewriter

    Sour assertions don’t impress.

    The tired claim about how high research costs were is retrospective speculation. Before income taxation, research institutes were underwritten by rich folk – they still are even now, The very point you make – about what comes from free research – argues for investment in it. See Xeroxc PARC.

    Note that seminal discoveries 1700-1900 were even less government-underwritten. And Government underwriting is paid for by private business activity (leaving aside our present unsustainable monetary expansion, which will likely lead to default).

  • fuguewriter

    That’s why HuffPo has no readers. It never got started.

    ( What you say is inapplicable in the world of new media, when a single Twitter can bring someone down. It’s a fairly standard monopoly argument – meanwhile, in the real world, MSNBC is losing viewership enormously. )

    In a more economically free world, barriers to entry would be far less, because money would be real and innovation more rapid. Also, attitudes would be more independent. Can’t apply our present decadence to a freer, better world.

  • Nancy McClernan

    You make some excellent points, but really Objectivists are completely phony in their claims against force. They have no problem with Ragnar Danneskjold’s robbing US aid supply vessels.

    Putting aside for a moment the absurdity of some Norwegian philosopher spending his time sailing the seas of the Delaware Bay, robbing government ships not only without being captured but with a 100% success rate, the moral argument in favor of Danneskjold’s activities is specious.

    The US government in Atlas Shrugged is an actual, functioning democracy. We know this because the reason that Kip Chalmers causes the Taggart Death Train incident (although Rand makes sure to let us know that each and every parasite passenger on the train deserved their fate) was because he was in a big rush to get to a voter rally.

    So presumably the voters decided to contribute a portion of tax revenue to foreign aid.

    Danneskjold, Galt and the other superior beings in Randworld have decided to override the will of the people by claiming that taxation is theft.

    You have to wonder if the House Republicans who recently tried to hold the US economy hostage in their efforts to undo the will of the people, which clearly expressed a preference for the ACA – as expressed through the actions of all three branches of our government – were inspired by Atlas Shrugged in their attempt to thwart the democratic process.

  • smrnda

    This is odd behavior, but not surprising. Perhaps a hostility to ‘hand outs’ is a way for people who got them to deny it ever happened?

  • Nancy McClernan

    And then there is the indisputable fact that Rand had no problem at all with threatening small town officials, if her Ubermensch did it for the just cause of running a train through residential zones at a high speed.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Like the Tea Partiers who get money through government programs and yet consider themselves completely self-made. Get your government hands off my Medicaid!

  • smrnda

    I wonder if they teach the Law of the Excluded Middle in school. Just understanding ~(A^~A) would pretty much get most bad ideas out of politics.

  • fuguewriter

    There’s enormous disagreement – behold our national political debates (such as they are).

    You’re right … $100,000,000,000,000+ is likely far too low.

  • fuguewriter

    “Give ‘em hell, Harry!”

    “I just tell the truth, and they think that’s hell.”

  • fuguewriter

    Oh, Rand needs no defending. You guys just say the same things over and over, just dressed up differently. The ingenuity comes in the slippery responses to rebuttal. There I have to had it to you.

    I’m quite critical of her (unlike y’all, I do it respectfully) – but to do it one has to accurately work through her system – her whole system – and that’s not at all easy. I’d grade her above Kant, certainly over Hegel, and maybe about par with Plato in terms of system-building power.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Why so?

    Fun fact – Ayn Rand considered Bertrand Russell to be a “non-objectivist” philosopher. Which of course is very very bad in Rand world.

  • J-D

    I wasn’t aware I had the power to determine what’s permissible and what’s not.

    In fact, I still don’t think I have that power.

    All I did was ask some questions, to which you have now given an answer, although only a partial one.

  • Corrine Conorino

    I just finished Jurassic Park the novel and realized that the very same principle found in Atlas Shrugged is used in Jurassic Park except the moral compass is reversed. John Hammond has every characteristic of a Randian hero with one very obvious exception being the superficial. He makes risky decisions for no other reason than to increase his profits. Ian Malcolm also has the characteristics of a Randian villain by pointing out everything wrong with Hammond’s dinosaur park. Malcolm is shown as being in the right when everything that could go wrong does. Hammond is too stubborn to see that it was his fault, showing little regard for the lives that were lost due to his greed, and gets what’s coming to him. Yes I am well aware that Randian heroes say that they will take full responsibility, but when everything they do always succeeds with no negative consequences, it tends to fall flat.

  • smrnda

    Rand would probably argue that no one has the right to use tax revenue for foreign aid, since she regards that as outside the proper scope of government, which she does not believe is up for debate, ever. According to Rand, governments do not exist by the consent of the governed, but by adhering to her idiosyncratic notions of what it should do, and that anything else is an illegitimate initiation of force.

    It’s really a closed loop.

  • jo1storm

    “And no company would have any motive to do things well. Crashing bridges are great for business.” Are you serious? No, crashing bridges are not great for business. But, companies have shown themselves willing to compromise long-term safety for short-term gains they get from saving in not expending money for safety. Practically, they are playing a game of dice with low risk. You lose all if you get 1′s on both dices, but you’ll keep winning until that happens. That’s hazard behaviour and that’s what they all do, to greater or lesser extent. In above example: What are the odds of wagons exploding if the train crashes? Huge. What are the odds of train crashing? Microscopic. Should I, as business owner, make sure that my trains don’t crash? Yes. It’s a good business practice. Should I buy better wagons? No, because, you see, my trains WON’T crash, I PROMISE, I’m 99,99999% sure of it.

  • Science Avenger

    Well, their handouts are earned and deserved , not like what those other people get.

  • Science Avenger

    Bet on it. It was an Objectivist’s dream, something I would have cheered had it happened 20 years ago.

  • smrnda

    Agree a lot, I wanted to add – there do exist rules that are not the result of legislation, and I think that those ‘rules’ are the really dangerous ones. If there is a law that is unjust, we can at least know what the law is, and the law can be protested or repealed. Imagine if there is a law banning the sale of a book – you can’t get the book, but you know it’s banned *by law.* Now imagine if book sellers just chose not to sell it – private entities have decided to prevent people from getting the book (or publishers censor writers) and you never know what you’re being prevented from reading.

    There are all sorts of ‘rules’ that private individuals and agencies follow that oppress other people and the reason they’re harder to fight is that they aren’t stated openly. Businesses *DO* discriminate against racial minorities in hiring and promotion. Nowhere do they state “as a rule, we prefer not to hire Black candidates” but they *tend not to do so.*

    Now, that’s really terrible. It would mean that Black people have less opportunities than white people, which is true, even when we take into account Black and white people who have relatively similar credentials. This is why laws had to be passed which yes, forced businesses to hire more minorities than they wanted. According to the Randroids that’s evil coercion and (apparently) white people refusing to hire Black people is simply unfortunate but well within their rights, but I’d say that in that case, you have one group which is effectively deciding that another group will have reduced employment and reduced standard of living. So, if the State has to intervene, I’d say go for it – the ‘right’ of a business to operate without State interference is a trivial matter compared to the power of racists to deny whole demographics the ability to earn a living.

  • Jason Wexler

    *tongue planted firmly in cheek*

    Yeah, but wasn’t that a government train?

  • Nancy McClernan

    LOL

    - but actually, not really. Metro-North Railroad is run by MTA a NY State “authority” which is a curious government/corporation hybrid:

    operate like quasi-private corporations, with boards of directors appointed by elected officials. Public authorities share characteristics with government agencies, but they are exempt from many state and local regulations. Of particular importance, they can issue their own debt, allowing them to bypass limits on state debt contained in the New York State Constitution. This allows public authorities to make potentially risky capital and infrastructure investments without directly putting the credit of New York State or its municipalities on the line…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_public_benefit_corporations

    Paul McCartney’s current wife Nancy Shevell was a board member of the MTA.

  • Jason Wexler

    Oh so it’s like a political party… it’s a private institution whenever that status is most convenient, and a public institution whenever that status is most convenient. I don’t think there is much Ayn Rand and I would agree on but that I think is one them, mixed institutions… all of the abuses and none of the good.

  • Science Avenger

    $100T is far too high, by orders of magnitude, based on ignorance of how government programs are funded. But do keep digging.

  • fuguewriter

    Orders of magnitude – that’s a whopper. Behold the current-value low-ball estimate: “In other words, health care programs will require nearly five times more funding than Social Security. Adding this to the national debt and other federal obligations would bring total obligations to nearly $62 trillion.[18]” – https://support.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/kb/profiles#w_backing-up-a-profile

  • GCT

    How does that, in any way, rebut the point made by Azkyroth? Answer: it doesn’t. Condescension is not a substitute for compelling arguments.

  • Nancy McClernan

    This is your wackiest comment yet. The fact that you’d grade a ranting ignoramus with a one-track mind above any bona fide philosopher, even Hegel, demonstrates just how extremist you are.
    And I’ve yet to see you say anything critical of Rand. And comparing real philosophers unfavorably to her certainly doesn’t demonstrate criticism. Although you’re so far gone I imagine not rating her above Plato counts as very harsh criticism indeed in your view.

  • GCT

    Barriers are only lessened when the capital between actors is evened out. If I have no money and someone else has money, then the barriers are much higher for me than for the other person with money, no matter how “economically free” you try to make the world. That’s a big problem that you will have to get over, and one that no one has been able to solve, especially not Rand.

  • GCT

    Actually, democracies do have policy discussions, and then people vote. What Galt and company decided to do was to destroy an actual democracy in order to foist their vision of how the state should run on everyone else, sans vote. IOW, they wanted the ability to dictate to all others how things should be run with all others unable to voice any opinion on the matter. That’s totalitarian and authoritarian.

  • GCT

    What gave Enron that influence in the first place? The “deregulated” power market.

    Yes, deregulation was a huge problem. That’s what we’ve been telling you. Your solution: deregulate some more.

    it’s not news there are unethical idiots in business.

    Which is why we need to put policies in place to counteract them and stop them from fleecing everyone else at our expense.

  • Nancy McClernan

    It’s all he’s got.

    We’ve clearly made a large number of well-supported criticisms of Rand and her work, most of which have been completely ignored by fuguewriter in favor of offering whining complaints about our disrespect for Rand because of our failure to include that third-rate, bile-filled hack novelist in the pantheon of great philosophers.

  • Nancy McClernan

    You’re the one who refuses to accept those aspects of Rand that you don’t like, beginning so long ago with your refusal to acknowledge that Rand was indeed preening in her self-reported incident, shared by her best friend Mary Ann Sures, about the time she deliberately revealed who she was to a fellow bus passenger resulting in the best bus ride ever because she was asked for autographs.

    And you can’t even get out of it by claiming that the sources are unreliable, as you apparently are claiming about the Brandens.

    And Rand herself wrote page after page of analysis of Nathaniel Braden’s “irrationality” when he refused to have sex with her again, and it is indisputable that this is the reason she destroyed the NBI, which was created to glorify her and her work.

    And we know from so many reports from so many people how self-centered she was, and what a high opinion she had of herself, and that she always presented herself as having never received help from anybody (including Rand herself in the afterward to Atlas Shrugged), so her going into a tirade about Barbara Branden having the gall to encroach on Rand’s sexytime with Barbara’s husband is completely believable.

    There is a pattern to Rand’s behavior and only the most uncritical sycophant could fail to recognize how severely screwed up in the head she was.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Are you trying to claim that the US in Atlas Shrugged was not a democracy? So why did Kip Chalmers literally kill himself trying to get to a voter rally?

  • Nancy McClernan

    You’re right … $100,000,000,000,000+ is likely far too low.

    Evidence. We need evidence. We won’t simply accept claims based on your say-so, no matter how lofty your opinion of yourself.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Can’t apply our present decadence to a freer, better world

    What is the evidence we are living in a “decadence?”

  • Nancy McClernan

    leaving aside our present unsustainable monetary expansion, which will likely lead to default).

    Evidence. Must have evidence.

    Note that seminal discoveries 1700-1900 were even less government-underwritten.

    Examples. Must have examples.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Let’s have evidence that Krugman is “unethical”, an “idiot” and argued for a housing bubble.

    I know you hate to do any work for yourself, so here’s a link to his blog archives were you can search for something to support your claims:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

  • Nancy McClernan

    Also, as usual, elliptical and non-responsive.

    You do realize that anybody can look at the evidence here and see that your whining and bitching and moaning about our rhetorical failures is complete bullshit. Constantly mumbling to yourself about what a bunch of poopy-heads we are here doesn’t support your arguments.

  • Science Avenger

    An by what standard is “decadence” indicative of a worse world? Decadence tends to be an indication of prosperity, ie, its pretty hard to be decadent when you are poor.

  • fuguewriter

    The magical “we” again, standing beside and behind you in mighty rows, united in purpose.

    Government admitted to $62,000,000,000,000 in present-value unfunded liabilities in 2011: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/2011-06-06-us-owes-62-trillion-in-debt_n.htm

    This is present-value and will go up enormously as the monetary base is adulterated. Government estimates are also notoriously low-balled.

    This distinguished gentleman – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_Kotlikoff – William Warren FairField Professor at Boston University, a Professor of Economics at Boston University, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Fellow of the Econometric Society – believes the proper estimate is about $200,000,000,000,000.

    So my estimate is in a pretty well-supported range.

    See? Even with your psychologizing nonsense, I’ll every so often pretend you’re a serious inquirer.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I asked the question because really, who knows what a Randroid means by “decadence”? It could mean “taxation.” I think it’s always a good idea to try to figure out what they’re talking about first.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Oh come on. You’re really quoting Harry Truman as a defense? Don’t tell me you had no idea that Rand based “Mr. Thompson” on Truman:

    Mr. Thompson is the “Head of the State” for the United States. He is not particularly intelligent and has a very undistinguished look. He knows politics, however, and is a master of public relations and back-room deals. Rand’s notes indicate that she modeled him on President Harry S. Truman, and that she deliberately decided not to call him “President of the United States” as this title has “honorable connotations” which the character does not deserve.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Atlas_Shrugged_characters#Secondary_characters

  • fuguewriter

    “Deregulation” is not deregulation. As mentioned, the California energy market was hailed as deregulated but was in fact entirely regulated (particularly on the most important component – consumer prices).

    I agree with you. The legal policy to put in place is the prohibition against the initiation of force in all forms, including that of fraud (which would include such forms as violation of implied warranty). That’s literally all that’s needed. Case/common law then would develop the various needed applications.

    This is actually far more stringent than the present mixed economy, where crony capitalism flourishes (and which Rand was denouncing back in the 1950s – see “Atlas Shrugged”).

  • fuguewriter

    Democracies have have policy discussions about executing economic traitors and people vote on it?

    I’ll just let that stand on its own.

    > destroy an actual democracy

    You do realize you’re raving here, don’t you?

  • fuguewriter

    There’s no such thing as the right to have no effort, which is then implemented by force. As always, you narrow the field to the smallest possible dyadic situation – which is a pure artifice. If one guy doesn’t want to invest in your invention, newspaper, band, whatever – find someone else. Or crowdsource it. Or band together with others and build it up slowly. There is no such thing as a monolithic “barrier to entry,” particularly deployed by some fictional One Rich Guy or Corp.

  • fuguewriter

    So democracies have policy discussions about executing “economic traitors” – and institute Project X death stations to control the population.

    Run along, now. Faster.

  • Pattrsn

    Sorry Fuge I have no idea what you’re trying to say, perhaps it’s my inability to see the world with the childlike simplicity of the libertarian fundamentalist but I wish you all the best in your rabid devotion to utopian fantasist ideology.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I’m expecting that Adam will post the next installment in this Atlas Shrugged series soon (hint hint) but before then, has anybody here ever seen any Rand-fan, Objectivist or Libertarian explain why it is acceptable for Dagny and Hank (Hankny?) to bribe and especially “threaten” local officials in order to run their train through residential zones at 100 MPH?

    It looks like a solid case of Rand’s ethical double-standards, but maybe I’m missing something. Can anybody think of any reason why this is not a clear case of acceptable initiation of force?

    I’m guessing the excuse is that the very act of having any zoning regulations will be defined by Rand-fans as initiation of force, and so Hankny had no choice but to retaliate with the threat of force.
    Anybody have any other Objectivist-friendly excuses?

  • Nancy McClernan

    And in case you haven’t noticed, our own democracy decided it was OK to torture.

    And so I repeat the question you are avoiding: why did Kip Chalmers literally kill himself trying to get to a voter rally?

    Does the term “voter rally” have a secret meaning known only to Randroids?

  • GCT

    If one guy doesn’t want to invest in your invention, newspaper, band, whatever – find someone else.

    Thus, illustrating part of the problem. Where did these investors come from, because I guarantee you they didn’t all come from hard work and ingenuity. For your system to work, you have to ignore reality. Some of us choose to live in reality instead.

  • GCT

    Democracies have have policy discussions about executing economic traitors and people vote on it?

    I’ll just let that stand on its own.

    I don’t know why you think you’ve made some point here. Yes, democracies have policy discussions on lots of things. If someone wants to push for the execution of economic traitors, then there would be a discussion about it. Last I checked, the US does have capital punishment as an option for traitors. I’d like to see us do away with capital punishment, so we should have a policy discussion about it.

    You seem to be saying that the Randian overlords should just get to tell us what to do…which would be a typical Objectivist standpoint. I still fail, however, to see why you think it makes a good point.

    You do realize you’re raving here, don’t you?

    How is that a rant? It’s a factual synopsis of the book. Galt and company do decide to bring down the US which was a democracy. And, they do so in a way that takes away the rights of others to have discussions about their views. In fact, they are losing the policy discussions, so they’ve decided to force others to see things their way. It’s very similar to the republicans losing the policy discussions on health care and deciding to shut down the government. That’s not how democracy works. That’s how authoritative totalitarianism works.

  • GCT

    “Deregulation” is not deregulation. As mentioned, the California energy market was hailed as deregulated but was in fact entirely regulated (particularly on the most important component – consumer prices).

    No, it wasn’t total deregulation, but that’s hardly the point. The more we deregulate past a certain point, the more we see fraud and abuse. You see that and say, “The problem is that we need to deregulate further, which will keep people from abusing the system by…magic invisible hand power activate!”

    I agree with you. The legal policy to put in place is the prohibition against the initiation of force in all forms, including that of fraud (which would include such forms as violation of implied warranty). That’s literally all that’s needed.

    As the housing bubble showed us that’s obviously not true.

  • fuguewriter

    Because investors don’t exist. We’re all helpless pawns and no one will ever invest in a good idea in a prosperous economy, nosirree.

  • fuguewriter

    Yet more contra-textuality in this festival of them, Galt clearly says that they’re simply withdrawing their abiity, effort, etc. The strikers are not actively destroying the U.S. government – the government is doing it itself.

    The U.S. as depicted in the book is not a democracy – and “democracy” is hardly a summum bonum. This is another red herring.

  • fuguewriter

    The point is that central economic planning does not work. Not even partially. We see it all around us – particularly in such government-created things as the housing bubble.

  • GCT

    Thank you for being intentionally obtuse. Your sarcastic comment that doesn’t address what I said is just what I was expecting. You’re avoiding the elephant in the room and ignoring reality in the process. If you want to actually deal with what I wrote, go ahead and try, but your ideology requires that you hand-wave it away, and you obviously already know that.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Bullshit. Single-payer healthcare works much better than other kinds, thanks to government having the size and the will to drive a hard bargain with medical services suppliers.

    And the government did not create the housing bubble

    As you can see, there was a period of very high rates in the inflationary 70s and early 80s. Rates fell after the Volcker stabilization, but they stayed relatively high by 50s/60s standards through the late 80s, the 90s, and even for much of the naughties.

    Now, the thing you need to realize is that the whole era since around 1985 has been one of successive bubbles. There was a huge commercial real estate bubble (pdf) in the 80s, closely tied up with the S&L crisis; a bubble in capital flows to Asia in the mid 90s; the dotcom bubble; the housing bubble; and now, it seems, the BRIC bubble. There was nothing comparable in the 50s and 60s.

    So, was monetary policy excessively easy through this whole period? If so, where’s the inflation? Maybe you can argue that loose money, for a while, shows up in asset prices rather than goods prices (although I’ve never seen that argument made well). But for a whole generation?

    So what was different? The answer seems obvious: financial deregulation, including capital account liberalization. Banks were set free — and went wild, again and again.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/22/generation-b-for-bubble/

  • GCT

    Yet more contra-textuality in this festival of them, Galt clearly says that they’re simply withdrawing their abiity, effort, etc. The strikers are not actively destroying the U.S. government – the government is doing it itself.

    Ragnar. Oh, did you forget about him? Oh, and don’t forget the fact that people are physically burning oil fields, etc. They are trying to make the country collapse.

    The U.S. as depicted in the book is not a democracy – and “democracy” is hardly a summum bonum. This is another red herring.

    Then, why did Kip Chalmers have to go to San Francisco? The people were still voting, which is democracy in action (unless you’re going for the democracy vs. republic technicality argument, which is substantively no different). That Rand’s heroes didn’t like the way the country was going doesn’t mean that it was not a democracy. If that were the case, the republicans could claim that this isn’t a democracy simply because they don’t like the ACA.

  • GCT

    Except for all the times that it does work? Rand seemed to love NASA.

    And, the housing bubble had nothing to do with “central economic planning.” It had to do with banks making risky loans that they could write off later and not take the hit when the didn’t come through, pushing the financial hit off on others. They basically bilked their own companies and the tax payers in order to make themselves rich due to a lack of regulations and oversight. The answer isn’t to make the regulation system more lax and give them even more leeway to do the same shady crap over and over again, as you seem to suggest. (And, I’ll note that you keep ignoring this and talking around it.)

  • Nancy McClernan

    And Kip Chalmers thought the voter rally was so important he killed himself trying to get there in time.
    There’s no argument that Rand created a kluge of a world with all kinds of logical inconsistencies, and so none of it works not only as a reflection of real-world conditions, but it doesn’t even work as a coherent fantasy world.
    Nevertheless it’s a fact that there are voters in Atlas Shrugged, and their opinions are so important that politicians risk their lives to meet with them for the obvious purpose of getting their votes. That’s how Rand set it up. It’s silly to argue otherwise by inserting your own logic and real-world analogies long after “Atlas Shrugged” was published.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Thanks to low demand, the investors are currently holding back their money, and sitting on a pile of cash.

    According to a recent Citi Private Bank survey of more than 50 representatives from large family offices, which manage assets on behalf of high net-worth families, nearly two-thirds of wealthy investors think it’s more likely that the stock market will go up at least 10% over the coming year than lose value.
    But these investors have, on average, almost 40% of their portfolio allocated toward cash. Stocks only averaged 25% of their portfolios. The rest are in bonds and alternative investments such as commodities and real estate.
    What gives?
    Steven Wieting, global chief investment strategist, with Citi Private Bank, said that even the world’s richest people are still suffering from “the scars of the 2008-2009 downturn.” As a result, these people are “under-invested bulls.”

    http://money.cnn.com/2013/11/06/investing/wealthy-investors-cash/

  • Nancy McClernan

    The strikers are not actively destroying the U.S. government – the government is doing it itself.

    Because in the strange Rand-fantasy world of “Atlas Shrugged” there are two kinds of people – the mass of humanity, who are all ugly, stupid, corrupt, and incompetent moochers/looters/parasites and Ubermensch.
    This would explain why virtually all the passengers of Taggart trains turn out to be moochers/looters/parasites – the odds of Ubermenschen showing up are long.
    And because only the Ubermenschen are smart and competent, the very act of withdrawing their ability, effort etc. is enough to destroy the United States.
    That’s indisputably how Ayn Rand set up her fantasy world. Try to deny it. Please.

  • Nancy McClernan

    One of the fascinating things about “Atlas Shrugged” is how little effort Rand expended on describing the US government. There are simply random clues scattered about, in between the reiterative speeches.

    The government in Atlas Shrugged is able to issue Bills, apparently designed to thwart the Ubermensch, and the
    Bills are immediately enforced.

    But while the government is able to enforce its Bills, it can’t enforce industrial safety testing standards – at all. Dagny and Rearden don’t even have to bribe or threaten them to get their way – they could have driven a Taggart train over the Rearden Metal bridge with cars full of babies and nobody could have stopped them.

    There is an exception, however – when Dagny rents the shithole for her offices, the upper floors are blocked off after having been declared unsafe – presumably by some governmental zoning agency.
    And of course local zoning laws for train travel are enforced, which is why it was necessary for Dagny/Rearden to outargue, bribe and threaten them to get their way.

    And while the government is capable of buying and collecting aid supplies and providing ships to transport them, it is too incompetent to defend all that effort against a Norweigian philosopher floating around in the Delaware Bay.

    There are plenty of other examples, but I’m laughing too hard right now thinking of these absurdities.

    Now I know how Mark Twain felt when he analyzed the work of James Fenimore Cooper.

    http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/projects/rissetto/offense.html

  • fuguewriter

    Nancy fails to see that this article is not about “the investors.” There is no such thing as “the investors.”

    Nancy also fails to see that if “the investors” are out of the market, it’s not going to be as high as it is. Every stock purchase (by anything other than high-frequency traders) is an investor.

    Note that IPOs are back, sorta. No investors there?

    One good point in this article is that the smart money is staying out of the stock market. The smartest money is shedding debt and getting into more real things, like productive land, mining, commodities, etc.

    The stock market, in this *investor’s* opinion, is an overvalued house of cards in the mid-term.

  • fuguewriter

    Ah, Ragnar, the guy who destroyed ships outside the territory of the United States bearing aid for various People’s States? That guy? The loss of said aid and said ships was no direct destructive attack on the U.S.

    Ditto Wyatt’s oil fields: they were his physical property and, more importantly, intellectual property.

    > They are trying to make the country collapse.

    Don’t rewrite. The claim was that they actively were attacking.

    > why did Kip Chalmers have to go to San Francisco?

    Don’t just ask a question. Name your major premise.

    > The people were still voting, which is democracy in action

    Who knew? I’ll .cc the denizens of the former USSR on this. There could never be show votes to keep people placated, or behind-the-scenes subversion.

    By your own argument, then, “democracy” is meaningless – and if the heroes were actively attempting to destroy the government, that’s no bad on them.

    Of all the tacks taken here, this is one of the highest-vacuum ones.

  • fuguewriter

    No, she liked some of what NASA did. She also thought stamps from government post offices – and even some from bad countries – were beautiful. (Though she refused any from Communist countries.) Also, NASA had minarchical justification for defense purposes. Separate discussion – knowing her, she briefly indicated somewhere where NASA was and was not proper in her view.

    NASA, of course, does not represent central economic planning.

    Fiat currency does, and fiat currency (along with lots of other government things) made the housing bubble possible. You cannot have a bubble without excess credit creation, and gold is an infallible destroyer of excess credit creation. (Which is one reason it is hated on by the Left.)

  • Nancy McClernan

    All the investors are sitting on cash, as you would know if you took two seconds to Google.

    http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/090313-tech-cash-kings-273333.html

    And your hero Ayn Rand didn’t trust the stock market with her money either, so no surprise here.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Ah, Ragnar, the guy who destroyed ships outside the territory of the United States bearing aid for various People’s States? That guy? The loss of said aid and said ships was no direct destructive attack on the U.S.

    Well of course the whole Ragnar scenario is hysterically funny – him floating around attacking US vessels and not only never getting caught but never failing to take everything he wanted.

    The US government is able to collect the aid, transport the aid, but somehow can’t prevent the aid from being stolen by some Norwegian guy and his buddies – over and over again!

    And we know the US has a naval force in wacky-Rand-world because Danneskjold generously refrains from robbing them.

    Ah the wacky mind of Ayn Rand – and the people who accept these scenarios without laughing at the absurdity.

    But thanks for the reminder – this is another way we know that the US is a democracy – because every other country in the world is a “People’s State.”

    And of course the US people in this democracy voted to send aid to other countries, paid for by their taxes. And Danneskjold has decided he doesn’t like what they voted for, and so he’s going to steal it away from them.

    We can be sure that he isn’t “refunding” most people with bars of gold. Only his Ubermensch buddies.

  • Nancy McClernan

    why did Kip Chalmers have to go to San Francisco?

    Don’t just ask a question. Name your major premise.

    So many ways to avoid answering a simple question.

    Who knew? I’ll .cc the denizens of the former USSR on this. There could never be show votes to keep people placated, or behind-the-scenes subversion.

    Speaking of re-writing! Nowhere does Rand say that these are show votes. Instead, this is what it says:

    For reasons of his own particular strategy, Kip Chalmers had decided to enter popular politics and to run for election as Legislator from California, though he knew nothing about the that state except the movie industry and the beach clubs. His campaign manager had done the preliminary work, and Chalmers was now on his way to face his future constituents for the first time at an overpublicized rally in San Francisco tomorrow night.

    So we see that Chalmers has ambition for “popular politics” and is running for Legislator. He has a campaign manager who actually does “work” and his rally is even “overpublicized.”

    If this was a “show vote” why wouldn’t Rand mention it? Why would it be a big secret – especially when she doesn’t reveal this “secret” elsewhere?

    Is this how they did things in the USSR? Overpublicized voter rallies organized by hard-working campaign managers? Please tell us more about your unique insights into the workings of the Soviet Union.

  • Nancy McClernan

    “Fiat currency” – of course you’re a goldbug. LOL!

    Yes, let’s talk about fiat money. I am looking forward to sharing so much of what Krugman has to say on the subject. Let’s start with:

    So what is fiat money? It is, as Paul Samuelson put it in his originaloverlapping-generations model (pdf), a “social contrivance”. It’s a convention, which works as long as the future is like the past. Obviously, such conventions can break down — but then so can things like property rights. In fact, you could argue that almost every asset in a modern economy owes its value to social convention; green pieces of paper could become worthless, but then so could any paper claim, which is, after all, worth something only because laws say it is — and laws can be repealed.

    And once you realize that a social convention is not at all the same thing as a bubble, several related fallacies fall into place.

    Take the common claim on the right that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme because the system has few real assets. It’s true that Social Security is mainly a system in which each generation pays for the previous generation’s retirement, in the expectation that it will receive the same treatment from the next generation. But like monetary circulation, this process can go on forever; there’s nothing unsustainable about it (yes, demography, but that’s about the levels of taxes and benefits, not the fundamental nature of the scheme). So there’s nothing Ponziesque at all.

    A final thought: the notion that there must be a “fundamental” source for money’s value, although it’s a right-wing trope, bears a strong family resemblance to the Marxist labor theory of value. In each case what people are missing is that value is an emergent property, not an essence: money, and actually everything, has a market value based on the role it plays in our economy — full stop.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/things-that-arent-bubbles/

  • Nancy McClernan

    Are you claiming that a government was responsible for the Dutch tulip craze?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

  • Nancy McClernan

    But let’s bring this discussion back to Atlas Shrugged:

    Francisco d’Anconia on Money

    Dave Weigel made a great catch the other day: he notes that Paul Ryan has said that his views on monetary policy are based on Francisco d’Anconia’s speech in Atlas Shrugged.

    Aside from revealing just how much of a Rand fanboy Ryan is —urban legend, my foot — this is interesting because that 23 paragraph speech isn’t just a call for the gold standard; it’s a call for eliminating paper money and going back to gold coins.

    This had me wondering: when was the last time the economy actually ran on specie, rather than notes?

    Bear in mind that paper money has been in widespread use for a long, long time. Originally these were often notes from private banks, like the $10 (“dix”) note from the Citizen’s Bank of Louisiana that may have given rise to the term “Dixie” for the south. There’s an extensive, mostly positive discussion of bank notes in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. But when did the notes become dominant over coin?

    Well, the Millennial Edition of Historical Statistics of the United States (subscription required) has some data. As I read it, as of 1813 there was only $7 million worth of coins in the hands of the U.S. public, versus $52 million in bank notes. So even two centuries ago, we were already a paper-money economy.

    And this means that Ryan wants to turn the clock back two centuries, not one.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/francisco-danconia-on-money/

  • Nancy McClernan

    You do realize you’re raving here, don’t you?

    You can’t stick to the subjects at hand – you must constantly pepper your comments here with little insults and random editorializing.

    If we’re all as raving and stupid and ignorant as you are constantly whining, why do you bother?

  • Nancy McClernan

    The loss of said aid and said ships was no direct destructive attack on the U.S.

    Danneskjold would beg to differ with you:

    I am doing what (Galt) is doing – only in my own way. He is withdrawing man’s spirit from the looters, I’m withdrawing the products of man’s spirit. He is depriving them of reason, I am depriving them of wealth. He is drawing the soul of the world, I am draining its body.

  • Loren Petrich

    Praising Ayn Rand with faint damns.

    Also, the Courtier’s Reply. I’ve yet to find out how she deduces all her other beliefs from “A = A”, despite asking about that several times.

  • Loren Petrich

    “Case law”? That’s judicial activism, pure and simple.

    Also, judges are government employees and not vigilantes, and they depend on government force.

  • fuguewriter

    Minor-point: it’s “A is A.”

    You’ll wait an infinity of years, because she rejected the belief that a science (and she regarded philosophy as a science) could be deduced from axioms. Thus: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/rationalism_vs_empiricism.html

  • fuguewriter

    Three buzzwords in a post have less power than one.

    Case law in the common law sense isn’t “judicial activism.” It would be preposterous to maintain that judges cannot develop applications of legislation. The legislatures cannot prescribe everything. A positive O’ist discussion of common law can be found here: http://books.google.com/books?id=BjlDAQAAIAAJ&q=objectivist+forum+%22the+common+law%22&dq=objectivist+forum+%22the+common+law%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=G6SmUqfaCsX12wXXkoG4BA&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA

    Ayn Rand wasn’t an anarchist. She didn’t believe government should have no employees, and she profoundly disapproved of vigilantism in a civilized society.

    Her definition of government includes force – http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/government.html – so your point is obscure. She was in favor of the *retaliatory use of force, thus: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/retaliatory_force.html

  • Nancy McClernan

    See? Even with your psychologizing nonsense, I’ll every so often pretend you’re a serious inquirer.

    Imagine how flattered I am. You really can’t stick to the subject can you? You must get an insult into virtually every exchange. Why do you think that is? And more importantly, why, though you seem to think that everybody here is an idiot, do you keep coming back? Are you that hard up for ego boosts that you have to engage with idiots?

    Now as far as Kotlikoff, Krugman had some choice words for him:

    Larry Kotlikoff Proves My Point

    About the retrogression of economics. Mark Thoma has the details.

    Actually, this is a twofer. First, being completely unaware that, as Jamie Galbraith says, a large part of the point of Keynes’s work was to debunk the classical view that unemployment necessarily reflects excessive wages. But second, if you’re going to name-check people, telling WSJ readers what those people believe, how could you not take even a minute to see what those people have actually been saying? Jamie has definitely never claimed that a fall in wages would create jobs — nor can I see how anyone familiar with his work could imagine that this was his position. And I have, of course, written repeatedly — both informally and in actual papers with diagrams and Greek letters — that in a deleveraging, liquidity-trap economy, wage reductions would reduce, not increase, employment.

    But you keep getting economists dismissing Keynesian economics based on what they think they heard somebody say Keynesian economics is all about.

    Something very bad has happened to this discipline.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/larry-kotlikoff-proves-my-point/

    Here is the Thoma piece Krugman references:

    “Wages and Recovery”

    Laurence Kotlikoff misrepresents the views of Paul Krugman and Jamie Galbraith:

    Five Prescriptions to Heal Economy’s Ills, by Laurence Kotlikoff, Bloomberg: Desperate times call for creative measures. We’re in desperate times, but we’ve had little creative thinking from the Obama administration on how to fix the economy. … I see five things policy makers can do to get the economy going. …

    4. Get prices and wages unstuck.

    Some prices and wages are set too high, thereby damping demand for output and for the workers needed to produce it. This is the standard sticky wage and price explanation for our economic malaise offered by Keynesian economists such as Paul Krugman and James Galbraith. I think there are fewer markets suffering from this problem than Krugman and Galbraith do, but there are enough such markets to make the case for government intervention. Indeed, the president should put these economists in charge of identifying the markets suffering from this problem and helping their participants set market-clearing prices and wages.

    One example is the market for construction workers. A 1931 law called the Davis-Bacon Act effectively requires contractors using federal money to pay union wages. If the act were suspended or repealed, federal spending on much-needed infrastructure projects could create a lot more jobs.

    In comments, Jamie Galbraith corrects the record:

    …I have never written, argued or believed that unemployment can be cured by cutting wages. Nor does that position have anything to do with Keynes, who wrote The General Theory to debunk this view. Keynes favored stable money wages, writing: “it is fortunate that the workers, though unconsciously, are instinctively more reasonable economists than the classical school, inasmuch as they resist reductions of money wages…”

    It seems likely that Professor Kotlikoff has never read Keynes either.

    http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2011/09/wages-and-recovery.html

  • Nancy McClernan

    Now as far as the USA Today story, it contains a quote that that is worth considering:

    Michael Lind, policy director at the liberal New America Foundation’s economic growth program, says there is no near-term crisis for federal retirement programs and that economic growth will make these programs more affordable.

    “The false claim that Social Security and Medicare are about to bankrupt the United States has been repeated for decades by conservatives and libertarians who pretend that their ideological opposition to these successful and cost-effective programs is based on worries about the deficit,” he says.

    And Krugman addresses the deficit scold phenomenon in today’s blog:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/09/counterattack-of-the-deficit-scold-deadenders/

  • GCT

    Ah, Ragnar, the guy who destroyed ships outside the territory of the United States bearing aid for various People’s States? That guy? The loss of said aid and said ships was no direct destructive attack on the U.S.

    Destroying US ships, stealing money from the US, and presumably killing US citizens is no direct attack on the US so long as it’s done in international waters? Coulda fooled me. He’s a terrorist that is trying to topple the US by attacking the money supply (kind of like how the 9/11 terrorists targeted the WTC).

    Ditto Wyatt’s oil fields: they were his physical property and, more importantly, intellectual property.

    And, where was he to clean up the mess he left behind? Also, how are natural resources counted as “intellectual property?” Regardless, the idea that people can own natural resources and then refuse to let others use them and go so far as to destroy them in a fit that makes them look like third graders is problematic on its own.

    Don’t rewrite. The claim was that they actively were attacking.

    The claim I made was that they were trying to bring down the US. They were. There’s no re-write going on here, just you ducking.

    Don’t just ask a question. Name your major premise.

    Dodge, dodge, dodge. That’s all you do.

    Who knew? I’ll .cc the denizens of the former USSR on this. There could never be show votes to keep people placated, or behind-the-scenes subversion.

    There’s no mention in the text that the US had turned into a police or totalitarian state. The heroes simply didn’t like how the country was going and decided to use extra-judicial means to force others to play by their rules. They, and Rand, felt it was fine to do that because they were everyone’s betters and have the right to dictate to others how things should be. It’s the same reason why Dagny is allowed to initiate force, but others are not.

    By your own argument, then, “democracy” is meaningless – and if the heroes were actively attempting to destroy the government, that’s no bad on them.

    If you can’t actually deal with what I’m arguing, the lazy and cowardly way out is to make statements like the above. Do at least try to make it appear as if you can defend your arguments.

  • GCT

    No, she liked some of what NASA did.

    Proves my point. Thanks.

    NASA, of course, does not represent central economic planning.

    LOL on that. It’s a government agency created and funded by taxes that carries out research that industry won’t do. Again, proves my point. Thanks.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I haven’t read Rand’s “The Fascist New Frontier” yet. Does she exclude the space program from her blanket condemnation? It seems unlikely.

  • Nancy McClernan

    You cannot have a bubble without excess credit creation, and gold is an infallible destroyer of excess credit creation. (Which is one reason it is hated on by the Left.)

    Define “excess credit creation” and provide evidence that the Left loves it.

    And the people you want to blame for inventing credit, paper money etc. are not “the Left” – it’s financiers of hundreds of years ago.

    http://mentalfloss.com/article/19662/origins-credit-cards-checks-coins-and-bills

  • GCT

    I’ve read that Rand was actually rather fond of NASA, despite the fact that it should have fallen under her scorn based on her philosophy. But, Rand being inconsistent isn’t too much of a surprise.

  • Loren Petrich

    These death-by-government numbers all involve death by military forces and police forces and justice systems and prison systems. All of which right-libertarians seem to like, and often seem to want more of.

  • Loren Petrich

    “A free press”? Consider how the right wing endlessly bellyaches about the “liberal media”. It’s as if they want the new media to be much less freer than it is, subject to commissars who check it for ideological correctness.

  • Nancy McClernan

    She loved it once she saw the big impressive rocket take-off. Greenspan arranged for her to be present at the Apollo 11 lift-off.

    There is no doubt that Rand is a huge hypocrite when it comes to the space program, but she was always willing to make exceptions for those she considered manly alpha men – this is from the Heller biography:

    Although she didn’t approve of government funding for scientific projects except in military matters, she restated what she had written about the atomic bomb:

    “It is not coercion, not physical force or threat of a gun that created Apollo 11. The scientists, the technologists, the engineers, the astronauts were free men acting of their own choice.

    The statement is mind-boggling. She appears to believe that only space program personnel, alone of all government employees, weren’t coerced into taking their jobs due to physical force or threat of a gun.

    And to complete the hypocrisy, she hated Woodstock which was a 100% private enterprise project.

    My question about The Fascist New Frontier is about whether she had the foresight to except the space program from her blanket condemnation of the entire New Frontier. And I doubt very much that she did – I fully expect that what made her decide that only the space program wasn’t “fascist” was that she got off on seeing big phallic rockets, created and steered by manly alpha men.

    It always comes back to Rand’s personal predilections. That’s what her “philosophy” is all about.

  • Science Avenger

    But that’s sheer nonsense, because, once again, these are not pre-funded pension plans, but pay-as-you-go programs. IOW, the unfunded liabilities for SS are ZERO. If you don’t understand what those words mean, you don’t belong in this discussion.

  • Science Avenger

    The USA Today article is the typical ignorant pop reporting that doesn’t understand how Social Security works. These are the same people who talk about “paying into” the program. You do no such thing. You pay a tax. No prefunding.

  • $90142399

    However high the construction standards or strong the materials, freight trains travelling that fast through inhabited areas is unacceptably dangerous. (Railway engineer writing–currently involved in designing new grade crossings.)

  • Den Hickey

    Except, of course, that unlike objectivism, communism can actually work in very small communities without ripping them apart in short order. As for large industrialized nations… yeah, no real surprise that neither works very well for that.

  • JuliaWardHowe

    Goddess Ayn bestows them with “plot armor.”


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