Atlas Shrugged: Things That Don’t Exist in Randworld

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIII

At the start of this chapter, Dagny is back in New York, working until well after midnight (of course) in the rotting tenement that’s the official corporate headquarters of the John Galt Line:

Her new headquarters were two rooms on the ground floor of a half-collapsed structure. The structure still stood, but its upper stories were boarded off as unsafe for occupancy. Such tenants as it sheltered were half-bankrupt, existing, as it did, on the inertia of the momentum of the past.

She liked her new place: it saved money. [p.205]

She returned from Colorado to search for Dwight Sanders, a brilliant young engineer who was in charge of the company that was going to make diesel locomotives for the John Galt Line, but who inexplicably retired and disappeared just days after inking the contract. Of course, by the time Dagny arrives there’s no trace of him. She’s planning to return to the airport for her flight back, when her attention is caught by a mysterious midnight visitor:

On the pavement of the alley, outside her window, she saw the shadow of a man who stood at the door of her office.

…He was so close to the door, like a man about to enter, that she waited to hear him knock. Instead, she saw the shadow jerk abruptly, as if he were jolted backward, then he turned and walked away. [p.207]

Suddenly consumed by a desire to know who this stranger was and what he wanted, she runs to the door and looks out, but: “The alley was empty. The pavement went tapering off into the distance, like a band of wet mirror under a few spaced lights. There was no one in sight.”

This scene brings up an important question: Has Dagny read the dust jacket of the book she’s in?

We know that the great industrialists are disappearing because John Galt is recruiting them, convincing them to stop supporting the parasitic socialists and to go away with him to his secret capitalist utopia in the mountains. But Dagny shouldn’t know that. From her point of view, the men who are devoted to capitalism are mysteriously vanishing, leaving no note or word of explanation. Isn’t it a reasonable assumption that it’s not by choice, that someone has kidnapped them or worse, and that she might be next? You’d think she’d be more paranoid about her personal safety. How did she know the dark stranger at the door wasn’t deciding whether to rob or kill her?

There’s only one reason for her to be so unconcerned, which is that in Randworld, crime doesn’t exist. Or, rather, the only kind of crime that exists is government thugs seizing property from helpless businessmen. Even in the midst of full-blown economic collapse, no one ever seems to commit robbery or random violence out of despair or desperation. Obviously, if Rand acknowledged that as a possibility, it might undermine her position that there should be no social safety net. Educating people tends to be cheaper than incarcerating them.

In the next scene, Hank Rearden is being forced to sell off his mines by the Equalization of Opportunity law:

Paul Larkin reached for the papers hesitantly; he looked ingratiatingly helpless. “It’s only a legal technicality, Hank,” he said. “You know that I’ll always consider these ore mines as yours.”

Rearden shook his head slowly; it was just a movement of his neck muscles; his face looked immovable, as if he were speaking to a stranger. “No,” he said. “Either I own a property or I don’t.” [p.208]

He’s found a good person to take over his coal mines, a Pennsylvania coal titan named Ken Danagger, but somehow there’s no one to run his ore business besides his family’s looter friend Paul Larkin. It’s not clear why Hank doesn’t just hire a team of high-powered lawyers to argue that mining and refining are all “one business” and can’t be separated from each other. You’d think he could delay the regulations for years at the very least, just as large corporations routinely do in reality. Possibly the whole byzantine framework of corporate law is something else that doesn’t exist in the world of this book?

Rearden knew what the boy he had been would have felt: a desire to step on the obscene thing which was Larkin and grind every wet bit of it out of existence.

He had never experienced an emotion of this kind. It took him a few moments to realize that this was what men called hatred. [p.210]

Oh, come on. Hank is an ascetic businessman, not an android. It’s not even slightly believable that this has never happened before – that in his decades of scaling the corporate ladder, he’s never felt hatred for anyone: not a coworker, a
boss, or a rival. Certainly later in this chapter when he has sex with Dagny, he doesn’t launch into a What Is This Thing You Humans Call Love monologue.

Meanwhile, in spite of all these impediments, the John Galt Line is growing, racing the clock toward completion, while the looters stand by and cluck their tongues:

“Hank Rearden is a greedy monster,” people said. “Look at the fortune he’s made. Has he ever given anything in return? Has he ever known any sign of social conscience? Money, that’s all he’s after. He’ll do anything for money. What does he care if people lose their lives when the bridge collapses?” [p.214]

How disgusting! How cowardly! What a despicable accusation for the looters to make against our noble, incorruptible heroes! It, um, also happens to be completely true in the case of Francisco d’Anconia, who built a shoddy housing complex knowing that it might come crashing down in ruin while there were people living there, but that doesn’t count, I guess?

We’re also told that Orren Boyle gives an interview in which he says, “One should not, it seems to me, use human beings as guinea pigs in the launching of a new product,” and Bertram Scudder writes an article which says of Hank and Dagny, “These two, apparently, are willing to stake the lives of their fellow men on their own conceited notions about their powers of judgment, against the overwhelming majority opinion of recognized experts.”

It’s not completely clear whether Rand expects us to take these statements as true, but she certainly never contradicts them. We debated earlier whether Rearden Metal had gone through any kind of safety tests or pilot projects before Hank and Dagny started using it on an industrial scale, and this seems to be the closest thing to an answer we’re going to get. Evidence-based decision-making, too, is another thing that seems not to exist in Rand’s world: there’s only the assertions of businessmen, whom we should trust based not on their scientific knowledge or training, but on the depth of their devotion to a free market.

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.

  • arensb

    In the description of Dagny’s new office building, the one in the first quotation at the top of this post, Rand writes,

    The furniture had come from junk shops. The people were the choice best she could find.

    I took this to mean that she hired the best people she could find who were willing to work in a crumbling, barely-furnished office building on the seedy side of town. Now, I’ve never made any claim to be in the top 10% in my profession, and yet even I have turned down jobs over smaller things than this.
    But presumably in Randworld, Dagny can find fellow ubercapitalist junior engineers who are willing to put up with poor working conditions for the sake of working on a monumental project like the John Galt line. Still, I’d suggest investing a bit in working conditions if she wants to continue attracting the best.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    The problem here is that all the sensible objections to what the protagonists do (like Orren Boyle’s above) are made by characters we know can’t possibly be objecting in good faith.

    I can see young readers extrapolating that anyone in the real world advocating for, say, environmental protection or workers’ saftey, are just as sleazy and disingenuous as the villions in this book.

  • busterggi

    Dagny is stinking rich and has raised a fortune for the John Galt Line – if she’s in a rotting tenement its by choice, not economic neccessity.
    BTW our ‘heroes’ seem to be getting pretty rich off the profits from their corporations that pay slave wages and literaaly get away with murder – other than their clean-cut profiles they seem no different from the ‘looters’ to me.

  • Voidhawk

    What serious businesses would deliberately house their headquarters in such squalid conditions? In the real world corporations spend millionson their offices and presentation to build a positive image of themselves as financially secure, confident, optimistic in attracting the best.
    Perhaps this is why the world is crumbling, not because the looters are taking everything, but because the wealthy are simply hoarding the wealth, not using it to make the essential maintenance the world needs?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Oh, come on. Hank is an ascetic businessman, not an android. It’s not even slightly believable that this has never happened before – that in his decades of scaling the corporate ladder, he’s never felt hatred for anyone: not a coworker, a boss, or a rival.

    He had those feelings – but Hank’s emotions take a loooong time to reach his consciousness. This happens throughout the book. No explanation is ever given for it.

  • Kate

    I took that as sort of the point and was hoping Adam might talk more about it. Dagny is so delighted to be working in terrible conditions, she sees it as a virtue and doesn’t complain about the fact that the ceiling just may fall down. Those tenants in Francisco d’Anconia’s shoddy buildings should be emulating her. If Dagny recognized the need to attract good workers by having decent working conditions, it would undermine a lot of the other points made about factory workers needing similarly reasonable conditions.

  • Jason Wexler

    Does that mean the hatred Hank is feeling for Larkin, may in fact be hatred he’s feeling for that guy he worked with at 18, or perhaps more realistically that shoddy waiter he had last Tuesday? If it takes him a long time to register his emotions how can anyone ever be sure that the emotions correspond to the target we are told they do!

  • skyblue

    “The structure still stood, but its upper stories were boarded off as unsafe for occupancy”

    Yikes, well, now I wonder: Who determined the upper floors were unsafe and boarded them off? How do they know the lower floors are still safe? Is the building more or less safe than one of d’Anconia’s death traps? Perhaps Dagny figures the building owner (who doesn’t seem to be mentioned, but I could be wrong) is just a super-capitalist like herself and therefore Special Rand-physics will keep everyone safe, just as long as the government doesn’t get involved.

    But I know Atlas Shrugged doesn’t come to a quick end in the next chapter as Dagny is killed in a building collapse.

    You make a good point about crime: we’d expect the streets to be full of desperate, hungry people, and yet the unethical behavior mentioned is all by the protagonists.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    How does “owning” a mine work in the Objectivist worldview, anyway? You didn’t create the land. You can argue that you’re entitled to whatever you can dig up, because you’re doing the work of retrieving it, but by the same reasoning, anyone else could come and mine there too, as long as they stayed out of the tunnels you dug, and (I’m guessing?) Rearden might manage to muster up a little hatred just for me if I started digging on his property.

    This is actually a larger question I have about how private land ownership is justified at all in a purely Objectivist or libertarian system. Does anyone know how this works?

  • Azkyroth

    The same way anything else is justified in an Objectivist or Libertarian system – mommy can’t tell you what to do and if mommy makes you share or clean up your mess it’s because she’s MEAN!

  • Jason K.

    See, I took it to mean that Hank has experienced “lesser” emotions in the past… Irritation, annoyance, even anger. But hatred? That unquenchable desire to see a thing destroyed and blotted “out of existence?” Only one sin can move the hearts of Capitalists to such an extreme: theft. Worse than slavery, adultery, or even murder, theft is ultimate unpardonable crime.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    The scene later on where Ragnar and Hank meet is pretty telling to me. Ragnar upholds property rights by attacking Robin Hood as the most evilist story ever. So, I can only presume that Prince John’s awesomeness totally justified serfdom and feudalism.

  • Itarion

    Shh… You’re pointing out the obvious flaws in an unworkable system. You’re just supposed to accept the system works, because it backs up your preconceived notions of what your place in the world is supposed to be, setting aside what your actual place in the world actually is.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I don’t know – maybe if the editors had been permitted to do their jobs they might have brought this strange component of Rearden’s character to Rand’s attention and she might have provided a clear explanation. But they were told to stand down. We see the results.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The two Jason comments have made me rethink Rearden’s response to John Galt usurping him in Dagney’s affections. Originally I thought it was because he’s just so chill as a rational Objectivist and all-around Übermensch. But now I’m working on a theory that he’s actually possessed by rage and jealousy but the emotions take so long to surface in his consciousness that the book ends before they finally arrive from Alpha Centuri.

  • Ricker

    Reading these posts of yours has actually gotten me reading Atlast Shrugged, and i’m finally a bit ahead of you.

    I want to point out that comparing d’Anconia’s housing complex to Rearden’s bridge isn’t really an equal comparison. Rearden made the bridge to make money; the bridge used less metal than his previous design, it was stronger than his previous, it was essentially a superior design. This is, of course, based off the premise that his math, etc. is correct.
    But in the scene prior to Rearden’s anniversary party, when Dagny visits with d’Anconia to ask him why he did al that, he essentially says that he bought a bad mine, built bad housing, and lost millions of his own money in a purely spiteful business vention. He knew the copper mine would be nationalized by the Mexican government, so he purposefully took his actions so that they would nationalize a gold plated turd. The motives he had for his actions were completely different, and counter, to Reardens.

    So comparing the two men’s actions as equivelent, I don’t think works.

    I also will strongly agree with you that Randworld does not very accurately reflect the real world. I’ve found myself drawn into the story, but it’s a great work of FICTION. Rand is an incredible writer as far as describing scenes and painting a picture in the mind, but the environment in which Atlas Shrugged takes place is a very well constructed fantasy environment.

  • Ricker

    If you’ve never read the book (or don’t recall the relevant sections of it. Don’t want to offend in case you have read it), it would certainly appear as such. But the whole reason Dagny is working from a craphole is because it’s a temporarily expedient arrangement. Taggart Transcontinental was taking too much flak, adding too many delays for her liking, so she “left” the company and formed her own company to complete the John Galt line. The full intent was that when the JG Line was completed and public saw how awesome it was, the public would accept the line, she would sell the line back to Taggart Trans and resume her old job there.

  • Ricker

    Yes, yes, and yes. Still reading through the novel, I can admit to not liking the antagonists like Jim Taggart or Bertram Scudder (I think; it was the literary guy who wanted to limit how many books could be sold). But being a logical person, I also see that these people (as do the protagonists) represent extremes. When you base your argument on extremes, it’s easy to stir up emotion and support for the “good” extreme that you illustrate. As you say, young readers are unable to make that differentiation and realize that Randworld is really not a reflection of the real world. It’s at best a very awful caricature.

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

    but that doesn’t count, I guess?

    -Nope. Francisco wasn’t after money in that case.

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

    Violent crime in the U.S. hasn’t risen in the past five years, excepting the year 2012, and property crime in the U.S. hasn’t risen in the past decade.
    http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-2012-crime-statistics

  • ChaosEngineer

    I think it’s a combination of squatter’s rights and perfectly efficient markets.

    Suppose I find a section of wilderness. I can make capital improvements to it by installing a fence and some “no trespassing” signs, and then I have the moral right to the land that supports those capital improvements.

    If somebody else can use the land more efficiently than I can, then he’ll want to buy it from me. Since we’re both rational, we’ll agree on a price that’s greater than my expected future benefit from the land but less than his expected future benefit.

    Slant-mining across property lines is a bit of a puzzle…I think I’ll go with: “If I put up a fence, I obviously control all the space below the fence to the Earth’s core, and all the space above the fence to the edge of the atmosphere. That’s just common sense so I don’t need to justify it further.”

  • smrnda

    A rule I use with employers or even just people I might happen to do business with – if you can’t put up a decent physical building, I’m going to assume the worst, that either the company has no $ or else it’s some sort of fly-by-night scam that will disappear without a trace once payday rolls around or once someone comes to collect the bills.

  • smrnda

    I also see no difference. You can put up a shoddy building that falls apart and kills people, and it’s okay because you consider the people looters. Of course, *damn near everybody* thinks this way, your in-groups is made up of decent, productive people and the worst is assumed of the out-group at times, but most people recognize this as a hypocritical bias, while Rand seems to find it to be the right way to think.

  • Shawn

    I really don’t know if it’s ever been adequately addressed to everyone’s satisfaction. John Locke in one of his treatises on government gave an example of apple trees; he said that once you picked the apples from the tree they became mixed with your labor and therefore your rightful property. He said something similar about farming, that if you were cultivating the land that you had property rights in it. But he also said that you didn’t necessarily have any rights to the trees themselves, and if you took more apples than you could use and they rotted then you had committed theft against the commons, and he also stated that you couldn’t control more agricultural land than you could personally work, that also being a theft against the commons. His theories on this kind of break down when you move from a situation of abundance to situations of economic scarcity.
    Although I’m a big believer in capitalism and private property, I see this issue as a major blow to some conceptions of libertarianism. Although private property is a great thing, to an extent it’s also an agreement among everyone about how to divide the earth, which is the common heritage of all humans. In any system where it is proposed that some people will not have enough to satisfy their immediate needs where others will have far more than they can ever use, I don’t see where the former group have to agree with that system.

  • smrnda

    When businesses do this in real life though, it’s normally because they are out to do something shady and irresponsible and want to shield the main company from liability or protect its reputation. I understand this isn’t the case in RandWorld, but if you’re going to editorialize about life in the real world, one is bound to accept reality as what it is.

  • smrnda

    I have heard several theories on the decrease in crime. One is that it started with the switch to unleaded fuel and it might be explained by other toxins we might no longer be exposed to.

  • smrnda

    A great writer? Are you SERIOUS? She’s writing cardboard cutouts as ridiculous as the Capitalist with the monocle from the old Soviet propaganda cartoons. Her ability to describe seems to be severely limited as well, and her characters behave in ways that are psychologically absurd.

    The problem with calling her world a ‘well constructed fantasy environment’ is that given that she’s trying to make a statement about the real world, the distortions aren’t the work of imagination, but a deliberate attempt to distort reality to suit an ideological agenda. Nothing makes sense because it’s still so close to the world that rather than new and exciting it just seems like an unfaithful rendition.

    The story is crap, built on an absurd premise and following characters I’d wish would get hit by a bus for being so full of themselves. They’re all Mary Sues whose only fault is not being as ruthless towards the ‘looters’ as they could. It’s clearly an adolescent wish fulfillment fantasy.

  • smrnda

    Apparently, seizure of property through violence is okay, as long as you are white.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I have to agree, and by all the literary standards that I hold dear, Rand is a crap writer.

    But there does seem to be people who enjoy her work – even some who don’t agree with her philosophy. There is no accounting for taste – and little point in arguing with it. Although of course I have anyway.

  • Loren Petrich

    America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead | Mother Jones — there’s a lot of evidence that supports that theory.

    It is also a success of government regulation, something that causes great difficulty for Randism.

  • arensb

    Well, it’s virtuous in the sense that she’s tough, able to work under uncomfortable circumstances, and is entirely focused on building her railroad, rather than secondary matters like executive perks.
    This doesn’t negate the rest of the criticism that’s been brought up here. For instance, I don’t know anything about the railroad business, but if her budget to build the John Galt line is $100 million, then she certainly should be able to afford, say, $10,000 to buy new furniture and attract better employees.
    Of course, she can get away with it because Rand knows that the building won’t collapse. And ubercapitalists recognize each other and stick together, so the people she wants to hire don’t mind terrible working conditions any more than she does.

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

    Yes! It’s the same kind of well-poisoning that John Milton used in Paradise Lost, for example – giving Satan some perfectly reasonable arguments against Christian theology, knowing that readers would take him for the epitome of evil whose words must be rejected no matter what.

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

    Suppose I find a section of wilderness. I can make capital improvements to it by installing a fence and some “no trespassing” signs, and then I have the moral right to the land that supports those capital improvements.

    The most serious problem with this legal regime (I don’t think you’re personally advocating it, but just to point it out) is that it makes certain kinds of land use impossible. If I want to reserve a plot of land for recreation or just for preservation, without “improving” it, there’s no way I can stake a claim.

    Even if the land performs a valuable natural service, like water filtration or storm surge absorption in a wetland, or if it’s the only remaining habitat of an endangered species, those purposes are deemed to have zero value under a tunnel-vision libertarian scheme, because no one specifically profits from them, even though many people benefit.

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

    He knew the copper mine would be nationalized by the Mexican government, so he purposefully took his actions so that they would nationalize a gold plated turd. The motives he had for his actions were completely different, and counter, to Reardens.

    Yes, that’s right. Rearden wanted to build a working bridge that people could use, while d’Anconia wanted to build, essentially, a booby-trapped property that would kill anyone who tried to use it. So? I think that makes d’Anconia more culpable if anything, because he acted out of malice.

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

    Draw what conclusions you will about my literary taste from this, but I don’t think Rand is a bad writer. That is, I think she was perfectly capable of writing good books. (If you skip past all the tedious monologues, I’ve always thought the last section of the book, in which the heroes stage a rescue mission to save John Galt from the looters, is a decent potboiler adventure story.)

    The charge I’d make against her is that she always subordinated plot and characterization to the demands of her philosophy, which resulted in cardboard characters, black-and-white ethical conflicts, and completely implausible plot developments. If she’d let her characters breathe a bit and have more depth and moral complexity, she could have written a better book, even a book with the same basic message.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yeah you’d think the least Rand could have done was written a scene where, just as the tenants of d’Anconia Estates are about to get clobbered, their sins against Objectivism are described. So we understand exactly why they deserve their fates.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    I would agree. I would also argue that her first book is her best book (We the Living), and that her books become progressively worse as her philosophical themes become more prominent.

    I think her background in the film industry shows, as well as early exposure to Socialst Realism. She’s just not interested in complexity or subtlety.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Conservatism’s anti-Ayn Rand is worth a read

    Whittaker Chambers and Ayn Rand are two of the most important American conservative icons…

    Here’s what history has largely forgotten: Chambers utterly despised
    Rand’s novel. Their differences were fundamental, and they involved both
    substance and sensibility…

  • smrnda

    It causes problems for libertarianism in general. The whole concept of externalities demonstrates why libertarianism doesn’t work – it’s difficult to know what sort of negative consequences an action will create and for whom, and there’s no incentive for a business or individual to research and publicize negative effects their products or activities have on others.

    I find Randians tend to be big on disbelieving in human driven climate change and are just *incredulous* over things like the lead issue – if they admit it’s true, their ideology falls like a house of cards.

  • smrnda

    I guess my problem is that there’s no real objective measure of a ‘better use.’ At various points in history, big business used hired guns to force ordinary people off land they wanted, and there’s the whole problem of what happens if 2 people both want to occupy the same plot of land- who exactly decides whose claim is legitimate if it comes into dispute?

    I also think there’s a major difference between a farmer who occupies land and farms that land, and some person who passively owns numerous farms where tenement farmers do all the work.

  • smrnda

    The problem is, if she let her characters breathe and have moral complexity, the book would fall apart because it would no longer be able to be about anything. She’s kind of restricted her ability to write, particularly to write characters, by ascribing to a rigid philosophy which requires that if she describes a character’s eyebrows, the eyebrows and their description will tell us if the character is good or bad. The heroes are always right, in all their actions, and the bad guys are always wrong with bad intentions, all the time. She’s writing using basic pulp conventions.

    Really, what makes a good writer IS the ability to write nuanced characters and being didactic pretty much never helps since it always ends up forcing the writer to write propaganda. I mean, I don’t agree with her worldview, but Flannery O’Connor was a great writer. She tends to write unappealing characters, but there’s not the usual hero/villain stuff going on. Many great books deal with situations where the heroes and villains aren’t that different – Rand decides to insert her own opinions to justify the heroes and condemn the villains, and it comes across as heavy-handed moralizing. She also can’t seem to write anyone who isn’t a *giant of industry* – DH Lawrence isn’t the best writer, but he could at least write a plausible coal-miner and plausible noble-man without seeming to take the side of one or the other.

    On fantasy worlds, I find the best of them don’t so much break rules of the real world but invent new rules, and the ‘new rules’ aren’t always convenient for the protagonists.

  • Jason Wexler

    Isn’t “We the Living” Robert Heinlein’s first (albeit unpublished in his lifetime) book?

  • David Andrew Kearney

    I’m interested in what you think of what Orwell had to say on this subject (I don’t have the citation handy — I’ll look for it):

    “I often have the feeling that even at the best of times literary criticism is fraudulent, since in the abscence of any acceptable standards — any external reference which can give meaning to the statement that such and such book is “good” or “bad” — every literary judgment consists in trumping up a set of rules to justify an instinctive preference. One’s real reaction to a book, when one has a reaction at all, is usually “I like this book” or “I don’t like it,” and what follows is a rationalization.”

    I’m very suspicious of any claim that great writing *is* one thing or another. I’m much more inclined to say it *works* or it doesn’t, because like Orwell I don’t think good writing is an objective thing out there that can be pointed to.

  • Freak

    Close: RAH’s unpublished first book was _For Us, The Living_.

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    Rand’s premise is always that the only evil which can be done is by government, not corporations. As long as they avoid the evil influence of legislation, everything they do is noble by definition.

  • smrnda

    I kind of agree, with some reservations that I think that it’s hard to really say what good writing is, but it’s far easier to identify bad writing. At the same time, I’ll admit that I do have certain standards, such as a dislike of books clearly dividing people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or writing that is too didactic. My main gripe with that is, once someone decides to write that way, their hands are tied and they’re stuck writing by conventions where even the *surprises!* are going to be contrived.

    One thing I recall was an essay Orwell wrote about Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. His take on Swift was that he was a kind of conservative pessimist, and Orwell completely disagreed with Swift in terms of opinions, but he felt that his works were great anyway. The quote (as close as I can recall) was that Orwell said that he could imagine a good or great book written by someone who disagreed with him, but that the viewpoint that informs a good book must at least be compatible with sanity. In that sense, I’d find Ayn Rand or the “Left Behind” series impossible to redeem, since they’re operating on a bankrupt ideology and exist mostly just as propaganda, where the entire book might as well be the same mantra repeated over and over again.

    For myself, I do tell people about books and movies that I like, though I often add a number of warnings given that I know my taste isn’t for everybody.

    I do get bothered by the idea that great writing has to be *about some serious theme* or adequately politically relevant and such. The book “VURT” by Jeff Noon is a great book, and as far as I could tell had no political agenda.

  • badgerchild

    That is, in fact, exactly what happens. I was introduced to Rand in a high school classroom and I saw how it affected the thinking of many of my classmates. Later, I was a libertarian and an Objectivist, and that sort of extrapolation is automatic and unquestioned.

  • smrnda

    I think this is where myself and Objectivists really differ. I kind of think of theft as a mostly minor affair, particularly dependent upon circumstances as to whether or not it’s even wrong at all. I guess part of this is that, though I’m not going all out Marxist, to some extent all property begins with someone slapping a sign that says “MINE ALL MINE” on something that, before, wasn’t owned by anyone. Property and the acquisition thereof is a social convention, and conventions can change.

  • smrnda

    Socialist realism probably explains why descriptions of industrial facilities seem to be her strong point.

  • Ricker

    I guess I’m not sure what you mean by cardboard cutout characters. I would agree that I don’t really think the characters are REAL such that a person would exist today that thought/acted/believed like any of the characters in the book. But from a standpoint of creating a world and drawing me in, she does a good job. Most of the passages are littered with descriptors , and it seems she is trying to paint the background for every different scene. Not everything translates to how things work in the real world though, which I think may be what you’re getting at.

  • J_JamesM

    Metal structures are tricky. You need to know absolutely everything about a metal before building anything with it- how it loses strength as it ages, how quickly it erodes, its tensile strength, breaking point, flexibility, weight, tolerance of metal fatigue… the list goes on. To build an entire structure on what is essentially an unknown metal would be completely inexcusable negligence.

  • Science Avenger

    Ragnar is careful to point out that he is not attacking the actual Robin Hood character, who resisted tyranny, but rather the socialist Robin Hood extract, who is merely a redistributor of wealth.

  • Science Avenger

    “His theories on this kind of break down when you move from a situation of abundance to situations of economic scarcity.”

    Indeed, that’s where all Libertarian/Objectivist theories break down. The “If you don’t like it, leave” principle is only workable if there is somewhere else to go. It’s telling that for Rand to make her story work, she had to give her heroes a pristine wilderness to occupy for free, complete with all the power they wanted. She dodged the primary issues that have historically created conflict among people.

  • Science Avenger

    No different? Seriously? Given the caveats that the presentation is not at all realistic, and coming from someone who thinks workplace protections and minimum wages should be higher than they are: On the one hand you’ve got people who work night and day producing products that many people value, and on the other hand you’ve got people who do little to nothing except (at best) what they are told, and expect someone else to provide for them. How large could the difference be?

  • Science Avenger

    Rand is big on this theme – working through horrible aesthetic conditions towards a single-minded “objective” goal. She has Howard Roark in similar conditions for much longer in the Fountainhead.

  • Jeff

    It’s also telling that resource scarcity is never even considered. Oil wells are set on fire out of spite. Ships full of copper ore are sunk out of spite. Leaving aside the environmental issues here, at no point does anyone think “is it possible to run out of this stuff?” We all know that the obvious answer is yes, and that conservation efforts will be necessary to avoid utter catastrophe when, say, the oil is gone… but nope, not in Randworld. Not only is conservation unnecessary, but resources are so plentiful that you can dig up tons of ore, send it all to the bottom of the ocean for no reason, and then go somewhere new and dig up more.

  • TBP100

    Unless you’re possessed of Randian infallibility and so you just know that it won’t fall down.

  • UWIR

    You’re making the classic mistake of confusing money and wealth. When rich people spend, they add money to the economy, but they don’t add wealth. If Dagney spends money to fix up the buildings, she will be diverting resources from other uses. And if she’s doing it for signaling reasons, then that’s increasing the inefficiency of the economy.

  • UWIR

    If someone paints a painting, then yeah, you can say that they had to get the materials to paint it somewhere, but it’s a giant stretch to characterize a painter claiming ownership of the painting as slapping on a sign that says “MINE ALL MINE”. Just because property involves social conventions, that doesn’t mean anything goes. Slavery was a social convention. How can you criticize it without asserting that there is an objective moral standard separate from social convention?

  • UWIR

    I don’t see how that follows. Regulations are not incompatible with libertarianism. In fact, the central belief of libertarianism is that the government should not interfere with people except to address externalities.

    “it’s difficult to know what sort of negative consequences an action will create and for whom,”

    How does that support you thesis? If anything, it is an argument against regulation.

  • UWIR

    Another theory is that by posting the Ten Commandments on various public building, Christians have reminded criminals that what they’re doing is wrong. Well, for some meanings of “theory”.

  • UWIR

    How is land ownership justified in any other system?

    The only real issue is how you decide who gets initial ownership rights. Putting that issue aside, the legal owner is giving up other opportunities in order to own the land, so they are compensated by getting whatever profit accrues from the land.

  • UWIR

    Well, they accepted stolen property. It’s a bit like the discussion in Clerks about the morality of blowing up the second Death Star, if there were a bunch of civilian construction worker on it.

  • GCT

    So, spending money on having workers come to fix up the building is “increasing the inefficiency of the economy?” OK. I guess the best economy is one where no one ever fixes up a building. We should all work in hovels!

  • GCT

    Yes, regulations ARE incompatible with libertarianism, because regulations are the government stepping into the markets and not letting the invisible hand operate.

  • UWIR

    I specifically said “if she’s doing it for signaling reasons”. As usual, you resort to blatant dishonesty.

  • UWIR

    Regulations are not incompatible with libertarianism. Government stepping into markets is not incompatible with libertarianism. No matter how many different term you use to describe laws against pollution, they will not be incompatible with libertarianism, Libertarianism is not anarchy. The invisible hand exists because of government regulation; if people could just steal anything they wanted, they would have no reason to produce goods. Either you are being dishonest, or you lack basic understanding of political terms.

  • Science Avenger

    By appealing to our shared desire to NOT be kept as property, as well as the myriad social benefits of not keeping a huge proportion of the population shackled.

  • Science Avenger

    It’s practically a matter of faith among Objectivists that human ingenuity will always find a way to get whatever resource we need.

  • UWIR

    We also have a shared desire to not be locked up. Does that make prisons immoral? And with your second part, you appear to be asserting a moral principle based on utilitarianism.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I would like an explanation of the difference between money and wealth.

  • Nancy McClernan

    So the penalty for accepting stolen property is death. Is that your opinion, or your opinion of Rand’s opinion?

    And FYI – Kevin Smith’s movie scripts are not my first source for discussions of morality.

  • smrnda

    Are you suggesting that using money to pay for cosmetic improvements of buildings doesn’t put lots of money into the economy?

    I mean, as a person who has worked in start-ups I know about having to be careful what you spend money on. From the perspective of an individual business, it can make sense not to spend money, but money that is spend is subject to the usual multiplier effect. Whether I decide to fix a leaky faucet or hire someone to beautify my lawn, it isn’t really that different in terms of broader economic impact.

  • smrnda

    Social conventions are critiqued all the time, mostly on the basis of whether they cause harm or benefit and to whom, which is, more or less what determines good or bad.

    Let’s take cell phones. It’s become increasingly obvious that the use of cell phones while driving poses a risk. Laws in some places have changed, and people’s attitudes are changing.

  • smrnda

    We also have a shared desire not to be murdered. If a murderer and a non-murderer both don’t want to be locked up, this doesn’t seem like a tough call to me.

  • smrnda

    Virtually all libertarians I know are adamantly opposed to any and all regulation, and take blanket opposition as a litmus test for being libertarian.

    It’s difficult sometimes, but also not totally impossible. We also have a history that’s long enough to furnish us with lots of examples of what works and what doesn’t, and we have a decent amount of knowledge concerning what is harmful and what is not. Most of the bullshit I hear is that the sky will fall if minimum wage increases a cent and that businesses will all go bankrupt if they can’t fire pregnant women – it’s not too hard sometimes to sort out genuine worry about possible consequences for just entitled whining from the Passive Ownership Class.

  • smrnda

    If the government requires a business to do or not do anything for any reason, it has stepped into the market since any regulation will have a financial impact on a business. Yes, it’s different than a direct tax in theory, but in practice it’s not.

    Libertarianism isn’t anarchy. It’s more like feudalism from what I hear.

  • smrnda

    The problem with her descriptors is that she’s following every pulp trope with making each description a moral judgment. The details eventually become excessive, because they’re only being used to make the same point over and over again. I guess I don’t feel like I’m getting detail, I’m just getting hit with various ways of saying which characters are good or bad.

    I may have a higher than usual disdain for this type of work, mostly since I think any decent author doesn’t really *do* straight heroes and villains.

  • smrnda

    It depends on how the property was acquired in the first place. I happen to own a little piece of land in the US. I’m going to admit that this land was stolen a long time before I was here, before my family was here, and the original thieves just killed off everyone who had any claim to it and oppressed everyone like them to the extent that their descendents today don’t feel entitled to tell me to piss off.

  • Azkyroth

    …so?

  • Azkyroth

    Libertarians believe government should address externalities?

    CITATION FUCKING NEEDED

  • Azkyroth

    Ah, I see. You’ve developed an emotional attachment to the term “Libertarianism,” but also a rudimentary conscience, and so, like the “Biblical Literalist” with a rudimentary conscience, you are convinced that Libertarianism does not mean what it says, but that it says what you mean.

    It gets better.

  • UWIR

    I don’t understand your point in posting this. Of course requiring a business to do or not do something is stepping into the market, and of course it has a financial impact. No one is disputing that, and you don’t show any of those claims contradict anything anyone has said.

    It’s quite different from a tax. “You’re not allowed to use that gun to rob banks” is quite different from a tax on guns, and if you can’t tell the difference, you have a serious problem.

  • UWIR

    An you’ve developed an emotional antipathy to the term. “libertarianism” (lower case) means “supporting liberty”. That’s what it means. Theft is a violation of liberty, so libertarians oppose theft. I am the one saying that libertarianism means what it says, and you are the one making up straw men.

  • UWIR

    I certainly am willing to believe that all the libertarians you know are opposed to the regulations that you want to impose, but the idea that any libertarian opposes all regulation beggars belief. It is far more likely that you are simply failing to bother making the effort to actually understand their positions, than that is their actual position. The LP certainly doesn’t oppose all regulation:

    Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves. We support restitution to the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer.

    Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    Actually, that’s right to the point — I don’t think there’s any justification for private ownership of land at all. I don’t think there CAN be ‘initial ownership rights’ to something that’s just there to begin with. I specified libertarianism/Objectivism because I think it’s a particular problem for that philosophy.

  • GCT

    Whether she’s doing it for “signaling reasons” or any other reason, hiring people to fix up a building does put money into the economy. There’s nothing blatantly dishonest about that. You’re really bad at this, aren’t you? And, why am I not surprised that you’re also libertarian to go with the rest of your isms?

  • GCT

    I’m pretty sure UWIR wants businesses to be able to fire pregnant women for being pregnant or just for being female – and non-whites for being not being white.

  • GCT

    The invisible hand exists because of government regulation; if people could just steal anything they wanted, they would have no reason to produce goods.

    LOL. You have no idea what you’re talking about, but please, do go on making yourself look ignorant while acting indignantly about it. The whole idea behind the invisible hand of the market is that the market will inevitably always fix itself if left alone. When government regulate, they are not leaving the market alone to its own devices. It has nothing at all to do with someone stealing from you. What was that you were saying about basic understanding of political terms?

  • GCT

    Nice bait and switch. “Libertarian” in the sense that all of us, including you, were using it until your last comment is the political movement based on laissez faire economics and non-government intervention except in very limited cases (not including regulation).

  • GCT

    Nothing in that quote supports your contention that libertarians support regulations, unless you’re also doing a dictionary “gotcha” argument and another bait and switch and using it to mean any law or action by the government. Everyone here is talking about regulations in the sense of government impositions on businesses, while you seem to be using the definition of any law, including laws against theft. And, I’m sure you were fully aware of what we were talking about, especially since it was pointed out to you. Then, you have the gall to call us dishonest.

  • Science Avenger

    Yes, we balance our shared values, desires, instincts, and a knowledge of the reciprocal nature of our psychology, and come up with moral standards that aid us in creating lives and a world we desire. What’s wrong with that? And what’s the alternative? Pretending there are absolute morals that come from on High? Pretending that the is/ought fallacy has been solved?

  • Science Avenger

    The problem with the LP position is that they turn a blind eye to situations where a free market with rational actors makes things worse rather than better. There are many historical examples, and its a snap to create mind experiments that explore them. From everything I’ve read, the LP simply pretends they don’t exist.

  • Science Avenger

    I don’t mean to get far afield here, but is it really so obvious? And by that I mean obvious that it’s worthy of more attention than say messing with the kids, or the radio, or driving while over 75? From what I’ve seen the analysis isn’t any better than that on drunk driving (nether of which I suggest BTW), which always seems to get it backwards by talking about the proportion of accidents that involve it. If we really want to get at the causal relationship of X causing Y, we need to look at what proportion of X result in Y, not the proportion of Y that involved X. It also glosses over majorly relevant details of where you are driving and how. Talking on your phone in stop-n-go rush hour traffic isn’t remotely the same as texting while driving on a curvy road at night in the rain. The rhetoric acts like it is.

    Sorry, talk of risk gets the actuary’s hackles up. We now return to your regularly scheduled philosophical debate.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I would say that Rand’s characters are like comic book characters, but it’s my impression that contemporary comic books have much more nuanced portrayals of good and evil than Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps her characters are like Golden Age comic book characters. Or more like a medieval morality play in which the characters are basic archetypes.

    The extreme dichotomy ruins everything else. How could you believe anything that happens in the book, knowing that the characters will behave exactly as their archetype (Ubermensch vs. parasite) tells them to behave? Unless you are such a simplistic conservative that you actually believe that all liberals are exactly the same – ugly, stupid and incompetent – how could you not find the entire project incredibly silly?

    And her prose is often laughably bad:

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

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

    Not only is the scenario idiotic – the only businessmen who express an interest in Rearden Metal at all don’t talk to metallurgists, they just poll a random sampling of people – but the first sentence displays Rand’s frequent use of the unnecessary clause:

    A few businessmen thought that one should think about the possibility that there might be commercial value in Rearden Metal.

    Why not just “A few businessmen thought there might be commercial value in Rearden Metal”?

    And no doubt a Random House editor might have suggested that edit, if Rand wasn’t so mind-bogglingly arrogant that she forbade the editors to do anything to her work, and Bennett Cerf let her get away with it.

    Bennett Cerf has a lot to answer for IMO.

    Also – does anybody know what the deal is with the stock market and Taggart Transcontinental? Even businessmen willing to consider Rearden Metal don’t want it, so is the rise in the stock market price due to Galt and the other Gulchers buying up the stock? If that explanation was given, I missed it.

  • Science Avenger

    Since Rand considers financial matters a more objective venture than most, I think this is her way of saying that everyone knows her heroes are right, thus they invest in the company, while simultaneously badmouthing it to save face before the ignorant masses,

  • Nancy McClernan

    So when the worldwide markets collapsed thanks to unregulated securities, among other reasons (but that one was imposed by former Rand Collectivist member Alan Greenspan) you feel that this was the acceptable? And that the government should not have done anything about it, but just allow a world-wide depression? Is that how much of a libertarian you are?

    In fact, are you against all stock market regulations entirely, and put your faith in the Invisible Hand, which will make everything work out all right in the end?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well that’s plausible given the response when d’Anconia starts a stock market panic.

    But we know that Rand knew fuck-all about how the stock market actually works, so I think it could just as easily be attributable to Rand’s invincible ignorance. I mean who is “everyone” and what reason do they possibly have for badmouthing products that they believe secretly are good? Why the secrecy?

    And if the US moocher government is so domineering over industry, as portrayed in Atlas Shrugged, how is it that the stock market seems to be operating entirely without intervention from the government? And is the stock market so small that only government parasites and Ubermensch are invested? If businessmen base their investments on popular opinion, which they apparently do, then no businessmen are investing in Rearden Metal or Taggart Transcontinental.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Oh, nevermind. I just found the stated Libertarian Party platform here: http://www.lp.org/platform

    2.5 Money and Financial Markets

    We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies and unconstitutional legal tender laws.

    So if you are a member of the Libertarian Party, you think there should be no stock market regulations.

    Although I’m not sure what “unconstitutional legal tender laws” is code for, but I’m guessing it’s goldbuggery.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And naturally the Libertarians are against healthcare for poor people – they believe the old system worked just fine for everybody:

    2.9 Health Care

    We favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions. People should be free to purchase health insurance across state lines.

    Ah yes, the liberty to get sick and die if you can’t afford the health care industry’s policies. That’s what it means to be a libertarian.

    When exactly will Libertarians all go Galt, and stop annoying the shit out of people? It can’t happen too soon. They really need to create a compound in Somalia, the libertarian paradise.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Oh yes, and then they want to privatize Social Security – go die old people! Do it for LIBERTY!

    2.10 Retirement and Income Security

    Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals. We believe members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.

    This platform item is an excellent reminder of how incredibly delusional Libertarians are. They believe that before government programs we lived in a paradise where poor people were taken care of by the “voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.” And that somehow government intervention ruined that earthly paradise.

    Wow, I had forgotten how much I despise Libertarians. Thanks for the reminder UWIR.

  • Science Avenger

    Yes, they are still convinced (untethered to any actual evidence) that printing money as we do automatically increases inflation. And that inflation bomb is going off any day now…you just wait…here it comes…any day now…

  • Science Avenger

    This is where libertarians go completely off the rails. “Restoring and reviving a free market health care system”?! There has never been any such thing, ever. To have a free market system (as anyone who has taken an Eco 101 class knows) you need, at a minimum, an informed buyer population, and the freedom of that population to walk away from transactions they deem unworthy. The latter can’t happen if walking away means death, and as for the former, check out the homeopathic “medicine” sales to see just how informed the public is.

  • UWIR

    “Everyone here is talking about regulations in the sense of government impositions on businesses, while you seem to be using the definition of any law, including laws against theft.”

    All laws are impositions. Laws against theft put impositions on thieves. Laws against fraud are impositions. Laws requiring product safety and environmental standards are impositions. You have some vague distinction that you refuse to rigorously define, you are claiming to read my mind and know that I know what the hell you’re talking about, and then declaring me dishonest because I am “pretending” to understand this distinction. You clearly have no interest in a good faith discussion. I honestly do not understand what “regulation” means, if it does not include laws regarding theft, fraud, product safety, or environmental standards. You playing the “No True Regulation” game is yet another example of your dishonesty. As far as I can tell, you’re simply defining “regulation” to mean anything that you support and libertarians don’t.

  • UWIR

    You ascribed the position “the best economy is one where no one ever fixes up a building” to me. That was dishonest. Full stop. This is your standard “debating” tactic: lie your ass off, and then defend those lies with more lies.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And speaking of Libertarians, here’s a fun article:

    https://www.nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/lying-to-liberals/296549e9de57c58a58af1e5ead65cd58ac3e5339/

    And bonus points for this article – I didn’t realize there was a connection between Reason Magazine and the Koch brothers – although I guess it should have been pretty obvious:

    http://reason.org/trustees_and_officers/

  • UWIR

    Earlier in this sub-thread, I said to Voidhawk “You’re making the classic mistake of confusing money and wealth.” Are you just going to ignore everything I say?

  • smrnda

    I’m going to agree – Rand has 2 types of business people. These aren’t at all realistic or sensible, but she’s got the playboy inherited money does nothing type, and the inherited money works overtime type.

    I note that the treatment of workers is kind of left vague, probably since Rand could give a shit about workers and couldn’t write about them.

  • 5ulman

    Virtually all libertarians I know are adamantly opposed to any and all regulation, and take blanket opposition as a litmus test for being libertarian.

    Can I safely assume some of them don’t like each other, then?

  • smrnda

    I think the idea is that wealth is an asset that you have that ends up making you money. Having $ in your bank account is just money. Having stocks is wealth since it’s likely to generate money. A business may want avoid spending money because it’s trying to maximize its wealth for something later.

    I usually encounter discussions on this difference that point out that not only do white people out-earn certain minority groups in wages and such, but that they also have vastly more wealth (houses, stocks, investments and such.) The idea is that wealth is a gift that keeps on giving, but that it requires a significant cost up front.

  • smrnda

    First, I do not drive since I’m legally blind, so I’m talking about other people’s behavior here. I also typically ride buses driven by professionals so I’m used to a higher quality driver.

    I’ve seen a few tests done where the performance of drivers were measured either while drunk, sober, or on cell phones which do show that either impairs driving ability. Obviously driving is a varied activity and unlikely to be uniform – doing worse in a test setting might not mean that any and all drunk drivers are worse than all sober drivers, but to me, saying ‘don’t talk on cell phone unless it is safe to do so’ will do nothing to change risky behavior. If it’s not so dangerous to drive while drunk under certain conditions, we don’t want to say ‘you can drive drunk but not under the following conditions’ since people are very bad at policing themselves and I don’t think conditions can be clearly defined. We also have to, regrettably, let lots of people drive whereas only a small % will actually be good at it.

    Certain things I don’t think we can know just since we don’t have anything set up to do data collection and analysis (one of my areas.) I think driving is kind of a special area since it can pose a high level of risk to others where the default should be prohibiting things which show any likelihood of being a risk. If possible, I’d say that people should not eat, drink, put on cosmetics and such while driving either. In fact, I think we should replace drivers with auto-driving cars since I don’t think people are suited for a task like driving.

  • smrnda

    I can tell a difference, but how do regulations end up getting enforced? If a law is passed that you cannot use a type of sweetener owing to bad health consequences, companies using that sweetener have a cost imposed on them and they will have to adjust their whole process and supply chain. If you decide to tax a particular sweetener, it’s a way of using taxes as an incentive structure to guide businesses away from using the sweetener without an outright prohibition. In some ways, the latter might be better for a business since it doesn’t require an immediate change.

    My take is that I think it’s silly to say ‘it’s okay to ban the sweetener, but wrong to tax it.” Either is an attempt to use the law, either through prohibition or taxation, to change a behavior that leads to a negative externality. Which one is suitable would depend a lot on circumstances, which is why I’m not locked into one way of regulating things.

  • 5ulman

    And naturally the Libertarians are against healthcare for poor people – they believe the old system worked just fine for everybody:

    That’s a bit of a reach. The old system never worked well.

    Ah yes, the liberty to get sick and die if you can’t afford the health care industry’s policies. That’s what it means to be a libertarian.

    An even bigger reach; socialised medicine isn’t all great either, at least not in places with large populations. A libertarian would argue that properly competitive healthcare would be affordable for all, and would be at high standards. Problematic? Very. But the poor argument, well, that’s a bit cheap.

    They really need to create a compound in Somalia

    Somalia? That old chestnut? Come on, I’m sure you can do better than suggesting an anarchic/feudal shithole is anything to do with the ideals of Libertarianism. For starters, it’s deeply problematic given the fact that force is the determining factor in power, which isn’t a big libertarian thing, as far as I’m aware.Unfortunate how an otherwise interesting discussion about the shortcomings of a novel (Rand had no truck with Libertarians, by the way. Read The Virtue Of Selfishness if you can stand to) falls into the usual cliched jibes.

  • smrnda

    “The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”

    Citation needed. I see no indication that private charities do anything better here.

    “We believe members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.”

    This has been proven false. Government is cutting SNAP and charities have less food, because it isn’t about generosity, but about economic factors beyond the control of individuals. “Civil society” doesn’t exist when a small % control most of the wealth in a society.

    Libertarians are really just against democracy. They want to put a limit on what tasks people can choose to delegate to the government through a democratic process.

  • smrnda

    Do you believe taxes are theft? If not, then taxes are payments made for the government to provide certain services. How does a government decide what are these proper functions? Who gets to decide? What happens when people disagree?

  • Ricker

    I didn’t get the stock price rising either. I think maybe the reader is supposed to assume/determine that the stock is rising because the people who invest in the stock market (probably Rand imagines only smart people buy stocks) know what a success the JGLine will be, how awesome Rearden Metal is, and how politically motivated to evil the naysayers are. Or, more likely, Rand just makes whatever happen that reinforces her premise without consideration for whether it would actually happen. She does that a lot.

    The impression I get from her writing is that it is supposed to be representative at times. The example you gave, I agree could have been written more succinctly. But by writing in the manner she did, it conveyed to me a lackadaisical approach, as if she was trying to convey with her writing just how little effort these “surveyors” were putting forth. Many parts of the book are like that, especially when dealing with the people that Rand despises. I just read the scene in which Rearden refuses to sell the government metal and the government sends a lackey to try to convince him to reconsider. To me, the writing style was different for each character; the style for Rearden conveyed directness, efficiency, arrogance. The style for the shill conveyed reluctance, avoidance, passivity.

    Most of the ideas she presents don’t really work, but the manner in which she presents them is very good to me.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yeah no kidding the old system worked badly. And yet I don’t see any Libertarian alternatives – other than to oppose Obamacare which as we all know was originally a Heritage Foundation idea. Now it’s too left-wing for libertarians or their conservative twins.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/conservative-origins-of-obamacare/?_r=0

    We know Obamacare worked for Massachusetts and socialized medicine works for European countries. And that’s why libertarians hate it so much – because it does work and refutes the concept that healthcare should be left as a strictly individual issue. Which as we know means that we all pay for ER care for those too poor for maintenance healthcare.

    The only alternative to the pre-ACA system that I can think of that would make Libertarians happier is if the poor could be turned away from ER care. Problematic? Yes. And that’s why following Libertarianism to its logical conclusion leads to the “cheap” argument that the poor are soundly screwed under any Libertarian system.

    And we all know that your lords and masters are the scum of the earth, the Koch brothers, so don’t give me that reaching for your smelling salts over “cheap” arguments and references to Somalia.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And in case anybody here has not seen the Regulation Vacation video here it is. The line about Libertarian magic dust is the most accurate description of the Libertarian approach to making social systems work.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QDv4sYwjO0

  • Nancy McClernan

    Libertarians are really just against democracy.

    Exactly. Which is why, although Ayn Rand might have disowned them thanks to her proprietary approach to her work, they are her ideological soul mates.

    Atlas Shrugged is basically an argument that most people are such degraded morons that they cannot be trusted en mass to make socio-economic decisions, and so their betters must destroy their democracy and force it to be rebuilt on the principles of Objectivism, led by John Galt and 500 of his fellow Übermensch.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Oh and another great reference – if you haven’t read this ground-breaking New Yorker article on the Koch brothers you need to if you want to understand Libertarians – the Koch brothers are two of the most important bankrollers of “grassroots” groups like the Tea Party, and Reason Magazine, and other anti-gubmint projects.

    The Koch brothers are true anti-altruists – they use their Libertarian stooges to help oppose any government regulations that might prevent Koch Industries from squeezing the maximum amount of wealth for themselves out of the planet. They really are True Libertarian leaders of selfishness.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all

  • Nancy McClernan

    I want UWIR to explain what he/she means by “the classic mistake” of confusing money and wealth.

    I’d also like a definition of “signaling reasons” and how that indicates an increase in the inefficiency of the economy.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Speaking of gold buggery, Krugman recently discussed Rand-boy Rand Paul’s basis for economic theory:

    As Konczal says, the whole audit-the-Fed thing is just an excuse to impose hard-money policies, based in turn on fantasies about currency debasement. Remember, the top Republican economic official right now bases his views on monetary policy on a speech in Atlas Shrugged.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/18/question-fed-policy-sure-audit-it-no/

  • 5ulman

    The only alternative to the pre-ACA system that I can think of that would make Libertarians happier is if the poor could be turned away from ER care.

    It clearly is not the “only” alternative – there’s a range of possibilities. If you’re only willing to assume that a bloodthirsty libertarian elite are only interested in letting the population die off (and implicitly, their workforce) then they’d have a pretty pointless and short existence. It would be in everyone’s interest to be healthy, surely?The Libertarian solution would be a complete overhaul of the healthcare system with the goals of efficiency and competition, but this is about as desireable as the legalisation of slavery, for the invisible hand is frequently batshit. There’s a reason nowhere has pulled this off so far – it doesn’t work.Not sure what you’re getting at with the Koch Brothers. If that’s aimed at me, you’ve got the wrong target.

  • 5ulman

    It features in We The Living too, as a recurring theme. A lot of words are given over to the deteriorating living conditions of Rand’s proxy, Kira.The steady bloating of Rand’s writing in lockstep with her ideology is traceable through We The Living, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.it’s kind of a shame. By the time of the third novel, she’s in full-on frothing dogma-mode.

  • J-D

    The sentence ‘Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm’ has something missing from it. Something has to be added to fill in the blank in ‘Criminal laws should be limited to … violation of the rights of others’. It’s obviously not the intention to advocate for criminal laws as violations of rights. For example, the blank might be filled in to say ‘Criminal laws should be limited to providing protection against violation of the rights of others’. However, once that’s been filled in, the next question naturally arises: what kinds of criminal laws actually do provide that kind of protection? I suspect there are laws which some people would advocate as providing that kind of protection but which libertarians would still want to reject as too intrusive. They’d need other justifications for doing so.

  • 5ulman

    Competition is similarly difficult, particularly in the given examples. Railways; virtually impossible for them to become anything other than regional monopolies if they’re successful. At least, that is what has historically happened. It’s never as simple as someone setting up shop in an established market.Even if this were a given, would rationality prevail among competitors? Maybe in some alternate world. Here on earth, wars have started for less.

  • 5ulman

    This is where I think The Fountainhead is a better read, because of Gail Wynand. Wynand is (with some prescience) a Murdoch-style oligarch and represents what most people think of when they think ‘Ayn Rand dudebro’. He’s ideal in almost every way, but his philosophy is flawed (by her standards) and so he fails. In Atlas Shrugged every character is a superman or a moron possessed with animal cunning.

  • UWIR

    The meaning could have been more explicit, but it’s plenty clear as is. It means that criminal laws should be limited to dealing with violation of the rights etc. You seem to be approaching it from the point of view that without any verb, the blank has to be filled with the verb “being”, which simply isn’t valid.

    And the claim that I am disputing is not “there are some regulations that libertarians oppose”, but “libertarians are opposed to every regulation”. As for your last sentence, it’s unclear what that means.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Not sure what you’re getting at with the Koch Brothers. If that’s aimed at me, you’ve got the wrong target.

    Oh, so you aren’t an actual Libertarian who agrees with Reason Magazine and the Libertarian Party platform?

  • Donalbain

    So, regulations are fine, but taxes are nasty? Then how does a government enforce regulations without taxation?

  • GCT

    IOW, you’re not going to address the obvious problems with your comments. Typical.

  • GCT

    The Libertarian solution would be a complete overhaul of the healthcare system with the goals of efficiency and competition…

    Overhauled by whom? Surely, you mean that their overhaul would simply be getting the government out of the business, so that the invisible hand could reign supreme…which isn’t functionally different from what Nancy said.

  • GCT

    FFS. You’re the one using a bait and switch but I’m the dishonest one here? Go take a long walk off a short pier.

    We both know what the rest of us mean when we talk about regulations. We are talking about regulations made on business dealings that impose structure for how business dealings are to be done. For instance, there are regulations that require food manufacturers to put nutrition labels on all food they produce. This is how the rest of us are using the term.

    You are using the term to mean any law. True, libertarians aren’t against laws per se. They agreed that laws against theft are valid and valid uses of the government to enforce. They, however, do not agree that regulations that state how businesses must conduct their business are valid uses of the government. That’s what the rest of us were talking about. You showed up, intentionally misconstrued the discussion (or else were too ignorant to actually understand the discussion and too pig-headed to stay out of a discussion that you clearly didn’t understand) in order to play gotcha games. It’s part of your MO, especially when defending the indefensible, like your other well-known stances regarding minorities.

  • 5ulman

    Citation needed. I see no indication that private charities do anything better here.

    Philanthropy and social reform driven by industrialists has all but disappeared, compared to say, 100 years ago. There aren’t many modern equivalents to Joseph Rowntree, or Andrew Carnegie; the closest equivalent nowadays may be something like the Gates Foundation. The state gradually took over these responsibilities, but the idea is not without precedent.

  • Nancy McClernan

    So you really believe that industrialist-driven philanthropy met the needs of the poor better than state-driven solutions. And so everything was glorious for the poor during the first Gilded Age and it was the dastardly politicians who destroyed that blessed paradise on earth and forced their inferior solutions on a happy populace. For their own nefarious ends – like James Taggart – they hate the industrialists for their greatness – mwah-hah-hah!

    Come on – you are a true Libertarian – your delusions make it obvious.

  • 5ulman

    Yeah, that’s pretty much a straight up ad-hom.No, not libertarian, never have been libertarian. This shouldn’t even matter. sigh.

  • UWIR

    How did you get that from my post?

  • UWIR

    You clearly have no interest in having a civil discussion. You’re a troll.

  • Azkyroth

    Why not? You ignored an invitation to explain that comment.

  • Azkyroth

    But we’re not discussing “libertarianism” in the simplistic, “dictionary” sense of “supporting liberty,” we’re discussing a specific cluster of broader political ideologies whose adherents have appropriated the term and attached specific and durable connotations to it. As you’re quite aware.

  • J-D

    I don’t see how a libertarian case could be constructed against any conceivable criminal law by the standard you’re suggesting, since any conceivable criminal law could be defended as a way of ‘dealing with’ violation of the rights of others. ‘Dealing with’ is too loose a concept to do the work that libertarians want it to do here.

  • GCT

    LOL. IOW, you’re going to go pout because you can’t argue your own points. Got it. As usual, you do everything you can to twist and turn the conversation to make it about anything other than what it was and should be about, while trying to get people riled up and simultaneously complaining about everyone else…which is basically the definition of a troll. Except, I don’t actually think you’re doing this to troll. I think you really are a racist, sexist, and libertarian POS.

  • UWIR

    If you think that two a man having consensual sex with another man violates the rights of others, there’s not much point in having a discussion. And trying to score a point by arguing that one elliptical word does not encapsulate an entire ideology is silly.

  • UWIR

    I see you have joined GCT on the “I’m going to post cryptic comments, declare that you know what I mean, and accuse you of dishonesty when you don’t” bandwagon. I understood you to mean that there was some meaning inherent to the word “libertarianism”, and that in practice it means something else. I responded by looking at the lexical components of “libertarianism”, as that was what struck me as the most obvious candidate for an inherent meaning. And I strongly dispute that we are dealing with connotations attached by libertarians. Rather, this thread has focused on the connotations of “libertarinism” attached by its opponents.

    If you are going to ascribe your failure to clearly communicate your point to my being deliberate dishonest, there is not much point to trying to have a discussion.

  • UWIR

    Not accepting an invitation is not the same as ignoring it. It should be quite clear to anyone making an honest attempt to understand my position that I believe that wealth and money are distinct concepts (even if one does not understand what distinction I believe exists), and therefore to proceed from me saying that something takes wealth from the economy, to the conclusion that I am denying that it adds money to the economy, is a clear exhibition of a lack of interest in constructively engaging with me.

  • UWIR

    These are basic economic concepts that can be researched through a simple Google search. Money is a measure of wealth. On an individual level, more money means more wealth. However, the idea that more wealth can be added to the economy as a whole by adding more money is absurd. Printing money doesn’t make stuff magically appear out of nowhere; rather, it causes inflation.

    Signaling, to simplify, means buying stuff to show that you can afford to buy stuff. If you’re renovating a building for the inherent value of the renovation, that’s not signaling.

    And as long as we’re posting wish lists, I’d really like Adam to explain why, whenever I post, I get told that my message is awaiting moderation, when he doesn’t seem to actually do any moderation. If vicious insults, blatant dishonesty, and asking other posters to commit suicide do not warrant censure, when exactly does?

  • GCT

    LOL. IOW, you’re going to claim that you don’t know what we mean when we talk about Libertarianism, but you feel completely justified in weighing in on the conversation. Then, it’s our fault because you are ignorant.

    Of course, none of us actually believe this “oh, poor widdle ignorant me” shtick. You are being highly dishonest.

  • GCT

    Are there no bounds to your dishonesty?

  • J-D

    I
    emphasise, to begin with, that I do not support criminalisation of sexual
    activity between two men. When you think about it, since I’ve never made any
    comment that confirmed anything about my gender or sexuality, for all you know
    I could be a man who has sex with other men. You can’t tell one way or the
    other, and it shouldn’t make any difference, but it does underline the point
    that you shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what my views are.

    But although I do not support criminalisation of sexual activity between two
    men, there are people who do, and if they wanted to justify their position in
    terms of your standard, they could argue that criminalisation of sexual
    activity between two men is justified as a way of dealing with violations of
    people’s right not to be sexually degraded.

    I don’t agree with that argument in that case. In that case, I agree with
    Libertarian opposition to criminalisation (although I might not base my view on
    the same arguments). But there are other areas where the Libertarian position
    and my position are more likely to differ. For example, I take the view that
    some degree of regulation of access to firearms, backed at least in part by
    criminal law, may be justified as a way of dealing with violations of people’s
    right not to get shot. I mention this not because I want to traverse here all
    the arguments about gun laws, but because it shows how both sides of an
    argument can rely on the concept of criminal law dealing with violation of
    people’s rights, so it isn’t as useful as Libertarians would like it to be in
    the resolution of issues that arise in practice.

  • A Real Libertarian

    “If someone paints a painting, then yeah, you can say that they had to get the materials to paint it somewhere, but it’s a giant stretch to characterize a painter claiming ownership of the painting as slapping on a sign that says ‘MINE ALL MINE’ “.

    And if a bunch of someones build a car?


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