Atlas Shrugged: Battle Cry of Freedom

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter IX

Leaving Hank and Dagny for a little while, we turn to a scene in Connecticut:

The silhouette of a conveyor belt moved against the strips of fire in the sky, raising coal to the top of a distant tower, as if an inexhaustible number of small black buckets rode out of the earth in a diagonal line across the sunset. The harsh, distant clatter kept going through the rattle of the chains which a young man in blue overalls was fastening over the machinery, securing it to the flatcars lined on the siding of the Quinn Ball Bearing Company of Connecticut. [p.252]

To my mind, it’s a telling fact that Rand describes coal reserves as inexhaustible – even using the “as if” qualifier. And it’s not just this passage: Nowhere in Ayn Rand’s work, as far as I know, does she ever treat any natural resource as anything other than limitless. As you’ll remember from a recent installment, Ellis Wyatt is just about to debut a new technology that will unlock an “unlimited” (her word) supply of oil from previously untapped rocks. Later in the book, this trend reaches its logical conclusion when we meet John Galt and his marvelous motor, which can produce infinite quantities of electricity from thin air, in a blatant snub of the laws of thermodynamics.

Obviously, acknowledging that natural resources are limited would pose a philosophical challenge for Rand, as it would contradict her The Secret-like ideology that individual ingenuity and capitalism can overcome any problem. But on a more prosaic level, it would also present a problem to her preferred model of government, because it could be used to argue for collective-action regulations, on things like conservation or sustainability, that limit individual freedom to produce a greater good for everyone in society. Her solution is to simply refuse to acknowledge that natural resources can ever be used up. (The ancient residents of Easter Island might disagree.)

Getting to the point of this section: One of Rand’s socialist villains, Mr. Mowen of the Amalgamated Switch and Signal Company (you may notice that all the bad, looter companies are called Amalgamated or Conglomerated or Consolidated or something like that, whereas all the good, capitalist businesses are named after their owners – what does Rand have against M&A?) stops to talk to the worker at the Quinn plant, grousing about all the companies, like this one, that are moving out of state:

“It’s the third one from Connecticut in the last two weeks,” said Mr. Mowen. “And when you look at what’s happening in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and all along the Atlantic coast…” The young man was not looking and did not seem to listen. “It’s like a leaking faucet,” said Mr. Mowen, “and all the water’s running out to Colorado. All the money.” [p.253]

“Why are they all running to Colorado?” he asked. “What have they got down there that we haven’t got?”

The young man grinned. “Maybe it’s something you’ve got that they haven’t got.”

“What?” The young man did not answer. “I don’t see it. It’s a backward, primitive, unenlightened place. They don’t even have a modern government. It’s the worst government in any state. The laziest. It does nothing – outside of keeping law courts and a police department. It doesn’t do anything for the people. It doesn’t help anybody. I don’t see why all our best companies want to run there.” [p.254]

The lesson, if you missed Rand’s pounding it into your skull with a jackhammer, is that “good” government does nothing besides prosecute crime (which doesn’t exist in Randworld) and enforce contracts. Anything else whatsoever is an intolerable infringement on individual liberty. Therefore, profit-making businesses will naturally flee to whatever jurisdiction offers them the greatest freedom. Right?

Well, I see a niggling little problem with that view, and it comes in the form of this map. Produced by libertarians with a similar view to Rand’s, it purports to rank the 50 U.S. states in terms of “freedom”. Before you read on, go look at that map and see if you notice the problem with it.

OK, did you see it? The problem with this map, from a libertarian standpoint, ought to be obvious. They rank New York and California as the two least free states in the entire country; yet if you look at a list of U.S. states ranked by GDP, they’re two of the highest!

How is this possible? Why haven’t the repressive, anti-freedom policies of these overbearing nanny states driven away businesses and turned both New York and California into poverty-stricken, dystopian hellholes? Why aren’t people pouring in great migratory waves out of Manhattan and Silicon Valley to seek their fortune in the libertarian utopias of North Dakota and Oklahoma?

The answer, as much as Rand and her acolytes might not want to hear it, is that most businesses actually prefer to settle where the government provides services. Businesses that depend on shipping, to name one example, tend to prefer states that do things like maintain roads. (Texas, which gets high marks for “freedom”, is worrying businesses with its plan to convert some of its paved roads back to gravel because of a lack of money in the budget.) Good public transit boosts tourism and other economic activity, as well as increasing property values. High-tech industries like places with strong schools and colleges, such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle, so they don’t have to train their employees from the ground up.

And nearly all businesses like having reliable public utilities such as water and electricity. India’s economic growth, for example, has been hamstrung for years by an unreliable electric grid that forces businesses to rent expensive, dirty diesel generators. Even more shocking, the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, has no sewage system, requiring a never-ending fleet of trucks to cart away the tons of raw sewage it produces each day.

There’s one more thing which this map neglects: as PZ Myers points out, some of the states that rank highest for “freedom” have passed punitive anti-choice laws. You may notice that access to abortion and contraception doesn’t even figure into the libertarians’ “freedom” calculation, although they do esteem the freedom to own guns, smoke marijuana and gamble on the internet. Is it any wonder, in the face of this kind of sexist obliviousness, that libertarians are so often accused of caring about the “freedom” of wealthy white men only?

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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.

  • Jason Wexler

    Another flaw in the Freedom map is if you go through their data and their individual rankings, most of their data is a combination of wrong and severely out of date. Look at their maps for marriage and marijuana, it lists New York which had marriage equality and finally no-fault divorce when this survey was done as among the worst marriage states but listed Virginia in the top third of states. Meanwhile on Marijuana it lists a state Maine with very draconian Marijuana laws higher than Colorado which has legalized recreational marijuana. I know Homeschooling isn’t something most people here approve of, but it also gets the homeschooling data wrong as well it lists California as a better state than Colorado or Minnesota for homeschooling, and Ohio as among the worst.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Jason Sorens is a creature of the Koch brothers.

    We have a right wing “grassroots” group of our own here in New Hampshire with ties to Koch money. Called the Free State Project, it was the creation of Jason Sorens. (While the group advocates for the elimination of tax-funded public education, Dr. Sorens teaches political science at the taxpayer funded State University of New York at Buffalo.)

    Dr. Sorens is an example of a core strategy of the right wing funding network. Taking a cue from corporate research that teaches if you want to create brand loyalty for life, you must reach your target market at an early age, many of the right wing nonprofits offer internships and associate programs for promising undergraduates and grad students. They look for two things in particular: writing skills and computer/internet savvy. These individuals are called the “talent” and are viewed in the same light as Merck views its “thought leaders” in the launch of a new drug. In many cases, they are funded and nurtured for life. The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation has at least six staff members with the word “Talent” in their title, for example, Manager of Talent, Director of Talent, Coordinator of Talent. It explains on its web site that over 700 individuals have gone through its paid Summer Fellow program and have gone on to work at places like Cato, the Wall Street Journal, Department of Justice, World Bank, and Council of Economic Advisors.

    Dr. Sorens was funded by two Koch funded organizations: the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies. When he was ready to launch his audacious plan to convert New Hampshire into a free markets stronghold, he was assisted on the morning of February 27, 2004 with a big-wig press conference at the Washington D.C. headquarters of the wealthy and well connected American Enterprise Institute, also funded with Koch money as well as the rest of the A-list of conservative foundations. According to its most recent 990 tax filing, available to the public at http://www.guidestar.org, the American Enterprise Institute had assets of $104 million in 2008 and received grants and contributions of $59 million that year.

    http://respriv.org/koch-brothers-right-wing-funding-network/

  • GubbaBumpkin

    (The ancient residents of Easter Island might disagree.)

    Your link is rather dated. Check out the latest theories.
    What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario

    It comes from two anthropologists, Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo, from the
    University of Hawaii. They say, “Rather than a case of abject failure,”
    what happened to the people on Easter Island “is an unlikely story of
    success.”
    Success? How could anyone call what happened on Easter Island a “success?”
    Well, I’ve taken a look at their book, ,
    and oddly enough they’ve got a case, although I’ll say in advance what
    they call “success” strikes me as just as scary — maybe scarier…

  • Nancy McClernan

    Excellent post and yet another example of Rand’s titanic ignorance, making the bad guys companies corporate mergers because she didn’t like the sound of Amalgamated.

  • Guest

    Yes it’s not a coincidence that the Freedom map aligns with the interests of the Koch brothers.

  • Science Avenger

    Ironic that Rand, who rightly IMO chastizes many in modern society for their presumption of the existence of wealth without giving a thought to its production*, would have a view that presumes the fruits of government infrastructure without the infrastructure. Where in Galt’s Gulch is the garbage pickup, sewer system, drinking water production, and electrical grid? It’s fine that Galt has his magic motor, but that magic doesn’t extend to getting it to each and every home, and in the right amounts.

    * A poetry professor of mine relayed the story of his daughter, who, while watching a news story on the farmers’ strike, quipped “I don’t care about the farmers. I get my food from the grocery store.”

  • fuguewriter

    This is one of the most free-form of all your screeds against Rand. A few points:

    > any natural resource as anything other than limitless.

    Incorrect. She doesn’t treat any *single* resource as limitless. What’s limitless n her view is rational human ingenuity.

    > Ellis Wyatt is just about to debut a new technology that will unlock an “unlimited” (her word) supply of oil from previously untapped rocks

    Incorrect. The words are Dagny’s, said in a moment of high emotion and some grief: “The tax on Colorado, she thought, the tax collected from Ellis Wyatt to pay for the …noose—Ellis Wyatt, who had wanted to tap an unlimited source of shale oil.” As an Aristotelian, Rand didn’t believe in actual infinities. And this is a pattern with you and many of your stalwarts here: seizing on something a character says, or something a character says in high emotion, interpreting it as limitedly as possible, and stripping it of all rhetorical/emotional content. Again, something Rand is accused of, the critics do. I’ve said it before: y’all come off as far more anti-emotion and anti-expressive than she does.

    > John Galt and his marvelous motor, which can produce infinite quantities of electricity

    Incorrect. It’s never said to be able to produce actually-infinite quantities.

    > from thin air

    Incorrect, Note that it requires an entirely new concept of energy (which suggests it is tapping into something otherwise unknown), and also that Rand avoids the [crude, anyway] problem of a perpetual motion device by requiring a (small) external energy input: a few cents worth of fuel to run a converter.

    > a blatant snub of the laws of thermodynamics.

    Incorrect. Thermodynamics wouldn’t apply anyway, especially with a new concept of energy.

    > acknowledging that natural resources are limited

    Rand mentions in “Atlas” the sun eventually running going extinct, so she’s not blind to the issue. Consistent with the above, Dagny says that she always thought man would come up with a solution.

    > would pose a philosophical challenge for Rand

    Only if you disregard her actual writing and philosophy and interpret it in the most fault-finding way possible: again, something the critics accuse her of.

    > individual ingenuity and capitalism can overcome any problem.

    Dagny’s whole development is realizing she can’t run TT alone.

    > it could be used to argue for collective-action regulations, on things like conservation or sustainability, that limit individual freedom

    Ah, the payoff appears!

    > to produce a greater good for everyone in society.

    You don’t have the right to impose your notion of the good on others. Nor they upon you. That’s one of the best arguments for libertarianism of some stripe.

    > Her solution is to simply refuse to acknowledge that natural resources can ever be used up.

    And we have yet another invented problem in Rand.

    > you may notice that all the bad, looter companies are called Amalgamated or Conglomerated or Consolidated or something like that, whereas all the good, capitalist businesses are named after their owners

    You’re the only person other than me I’ve seen pointing that out. She’s making a point about anonymous organizations versus responsible owner-operators. She’s not at all non-critical of some corporations, as this shows.

    > “good” government does nothing besides prosecute crime (which doesn’t exist in Randworld)

    Incorrect. She says people will have honest disagreements, and obviously that could lead to suits.

    > enforce contracts.

    Not only, by any means. The standard in her system is the protection of individual rights.

    > Therefore, profit-making businesses will naturally flee to whatever jurisdiction offers them the greatest freedom. Right?

    Did you notice that Mr Mowen isn’t moving? And no, this mechanical picture of what businesses *must* do is incorrect. The world of “Atlas” isn’t the world of today, so all the rest of your empirical comparison falls apart here. Notice that the central lynchpin of your post is the one least-argued for: a standard pattern online.

    > They rank New York and California as the two least free states in the entire country; yet if you look at a list of U.S. states ranked by GDP, they’re two of thehighest!

    This is your idea of a contradiction of Rand? On the simplest level, GDP in an even-partly-statist economy is no measure of virtue in Rand – or in a perfectly free one, for that matter, certainly not in a momentary snapshot. Also, there’s a time-ordering fallacy here. It’s akin (to use some Rand-level vehemence) to saying that since the most fleas are on the least anemic-dog in a yard, fleas don’t suck blood. Or something.

    Invariably, a single “gotcha” snapshot of alleged current conditions, trotted out as the end-all smoking gun, fails. Especially on the Internet.

    > Why haven’t the repressive, anti-freedom policies of these overbearing nanny states driven away businesses

    Have you not looked at the net population outflow from California? And the business climate? The debt per capita? The thing to look at is: what *could* those states have been, under economic freedom (including not being squeezed by the Federal octopus)

    > New York and California into poverty-stricken, dystopian hellholes?

    Try visiting Stockton and other areas of the Central Valley.

    > Why aren’t people pouring in great migratory waves out of … Silicon Valley

    Nice cherry-picking. You think they’re not? You think other Silicon Valleys are not rising?

    > to seek their fortune in the libertarian utopias of North Dakota and Oklahoma?

    This is what such shallow pseudo-analysis gets you. Everything should mechanically obey your shallow picture – instantly. How about the *accumulated* intellectual and financial capital still to be found n those places?

    In other words, it will all last forever.

    In other words, you’re the one guilty of believing in ever-lasting resources that can simply be extracted. As the kids on the Internets say: LOL.

    > most businesses actually prefer to settle where the government provides services.

    As if Rand did not criticize crony capitalism. And you have failed to show any reason for businesses “settling” – and have done a presto-changeo on various levels: businesses aren’t moving *into* Califlornia on a net basis, and you have not shown that government provision/management is what drew them, anyway. This is not serious argumentation: it is like garrulous holding-forth in a bar.

    > Businesses that depend on shipping, to name one example, tend to prefer states that do things like maintain roads.

    Because North Dakota (famed for its seaports) does not maintain roads. And a Randian world would, for some unknown reason, have terrible roads. And roads are certainly all the Californian and New York (pardon me, Silicon Valley and new York City) governments focus on.

    > Texas, which gets high marks for “freedom”, is worrying businesses with its plan to convert some of its paved roads back to gravelbecause of a lack of money in the budget.

    No doubt the major shipping businesses are worried about massive highways being converted to gravel. How about a cite showing relevance and scale?

    > Good public transit

    Which generally doesn’t cash-flow sustainably, and at that only in high-density areas like cities.

    > boosts tourism

    Sure to keep every city going.

    > as well as increasing property values.

    You see no problem with this. Welcome to the world of CRA and Fannie/Freddie.

    > High-tech industries like places with strong schools and colleges

    Which can only possibly be done by government …

    > such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle, so they don’t have to train their employees from the ground up.

    You’re literally all over the map here.

    > And nearly all businesses like having reliable public utilities such as water and electricity.

    Desperate reaching. What made “public utilities” possible? Private invention. And said “utilities” are not necessarily and are by no means always government-managed.

    > India’s economic growth, for example, has been hamstrung for years by an unreliable electric grid that forces businesses to rent expensive, dirty diesel generators.

    India has been a massively bureaucratic neo-socialist state for decades. This is an astonishing reach by you. At this point you’re just going by free-association to turn out yet another entry on Rand.

    > the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, has no sewage system, requiring a never-ending fleet of trucks to cart away the tons of raw sewage it produces each day.

    I’ve not looked up the sewage system – very interesting – but your desperate reaching leads you further afield yet: said building is a government enterprise! Wiki: “The decision to build Burj Khalifa is reportedly based on the government’s decision to diversify from an oil based economy to one that is service and tourism based. According to officials, it is necessary for projects like Burj Khalifa to be built in the city to garner more international recognition, and hence investment. “He (Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum) wanted to put Dubai on the map with something really sensational,” said Jacqui Josephson, a tourism and VIP delegations executive at Nakheel Properties.[13]” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burj_Khalifa

    > some of the states that rank highest for “freedom” have passed punitive anti-choice laws.

    Which contradicts your thesis yet again. Rand would not necessarily agree with the map, or with your premises linking it to her thought. This fantasia has nothing to do with the actual Rand!

    > access to abortion and contraception doesn’t even figure into the libertarians’ “freedom” calculation

    You don’t even stop to question your own use of the map, or from what sector the map emanates. And how is GDP to be indexed to such choice issues? Yet you brought up GDP as the main issue. You’ve, per usual, created an enormous mess.

    > this kind of sexist obliviousness, that libertarians are so often accused of caring about the “freedom” of wealthy white men only?

    You have truly brought shame upon yourself. Only it’s the Internet, and the goal is clicks. So, keep on writing. And I’ll keep on adding to your click karma. : )

  • Nancy McClernan

    Ironic that Rand, who rightly IMO chastizes many in modern society for their presumption of the existence of wealth without giving a thought to its production

    Do you have an example of Rand doing this?

  • Nancy McClernan

    It’s not a coincidence that the Freedom map doesn’t include abortion rights – the Koch brothers are anti-abortion.

    RH Reality Check’s review of tax records filed by the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), taken together with a Politico report on the tax records of Freedom Partners, show these so-called free-market organizations, both linked to the Koch brothers, dispensing tens of millions of dollars to groups whose mission it is to end reproductive rights. CPPR was founded in 2009, and is described by the Los Angeles Times as “a primary conduit for anonymous political money in the 2010 midterm [congressional] election.” Freedom Partners was founded two years later, just in time to help shape the landscape of the 2012 presidential, congressional, and legislative races.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/11/06/koch_brothers_pouring_money_into_anti_abortion_agenda_through_the_center.html

    The Randroids of course love the project and Sorens.

    http://www.atlassociety.org/ele/founder-free-state-project-irss-denial-non-profit-status

  • Nancy McClernan

    Are you really so obtuse?

    access to abortion and contraception doesn’t even figure into the libertarians’ “freedom” calculation
    You don’t even stop to question your own use of the map, or from what sector the map emanates. And how is GDP to be indexed to such choice issues? Yet you brought up GDP as the main issue. You’ve, per usual, created an enormous mess.

    You don’t even stop to consider that the map is funded by the Koch brothers who fund anti-abortion groups.

    Also the map is labeled: “The overall freedom ranking is a combination of personal and economic freedoms.”

    Nothing about GDP. Stop just making shit up on the apparent assumption that nobody here can read. Or maybe the problem is that you can’t read.

    Are you deliberately obtuse or are you funded by the Koch brothers too?

  • Nancy McClernan

    “Ellis Wyatt is just about to debut a new technology that will unlock an “unlimited” (her word) supply of oil from previously untapped rocks”

    Incorrect. The words are Dagny’s, said in a moment of high emotion and some grief:

    It is you who are incorrect. Why don’t you spring for a copy of “Atlas Shrugged” and read it? Or if you can’t afford it, you can borrow a copy from that wonderful socialist invention, the library.
    Here’s what Wyatt says, my bolded emphasis.

    (Ellis Wyatt) pointed west. “The Buena Esperanza Pass. Five miles from here. Everybody’s wondering what I’m doing with it. Oil shale. How many years ago was it that they gave up trying to get oil from shale, because it was too expensive? Well, wait till you see the process I’ve developed. It will be the cheapest oil ever to splash in their faces, and an unlimited supply of it, and untapped supply that will make the biggest oil pool look like a mud puddle. Did I order a pipe line? Hank, you and I will have to build pipe lines in all directions to…

    Now it’s crystal clear that they are not talking about some kind of artificial, rational-human-ingenuity form of oil shale because otherwise you wouldn’t need a whole bunch of pipe lines to get at it. And it’s already an existing “untapped supply” not something Wyatt plans to create artificially.

  • Nancy McClernan

    India has been a massively bureaucratic neo-socialist state for decades. This is an astonishing reach by you. At this point you’re just going by free-association to turn out yet another entry on Rand.

    Defend your statement that India has been a “neo-socialist state for decades.”

    And once again you changed the subject. Your shrieking about “an astonishing reach” is in reference to this statement by Adam:

    India’s economic growth, for example, has been hamstrung for years by an unreliable electric grid that forces businesses to rent expensive, dirty diesel generators

    Are you actually claiming that it is an astonishing reach to say that India has an unrealiable electric grid? Why don’t you go and shriek at the Wall Street Journal for making the same claim?

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390444405804577560413178678898

    Your shamelessness and lack of self-awareness when you scold others on “free-association” and the like is a wonder to behold. Thanks for a most entertaining spectacle.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    fug u writer: Incorrect. Thermodynamics wouldn’t apply anyway, especially with a new concept of energy.

    Be honest with us: you flunked high school science class, didn’t you?

  • Nancy McClernan

    said building is a government enterprise!

    Nope. It’s a combination of government and business enterprise.

    Although really I’m not sure how you think this is a gotcha. You have to remember that just because you believe, like your lord Rand, that all business projects are good and all government projects are bad, your opponents are not your mirror image who believe the opposite. I doubt anybody here argues that governments do no wrong.
    Adam’s point was that good infrastructure is good for business. You simply invented your own meaning.

    Now let’s see you scold others for free associating. Again.

  • Science Avenger

    Seriously? That’s the basic underpinning of the entire book. Have you not been beaten about the head with the point enough? Don’t worry, Galt will deliver, over and over and over again.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I don’t think that “chastizing modern society for the presumption of the existence of wealth without giving a thought to its production” is the underpinning of the book. Do you really think that it is?

  • Science Avenger

    “She doesn’t treat any *single* resource as limitless. ”

    I never thought about this before, but now that Adam mentions it, I don’t recall Rand ever talking about the limits of any resource, or the risks of wasting it. For example, when Wyatt lights the oilfields, does she ever mention the incredible waste? Do provide a counter example if you can find one.

  • Science Avenger

    “[acknowledging that natural resources are limited would pose a philosophical challenge for Rand] Only if you disregard her actual writing and philosophy and interpret it in the most fault-finding way possible.”

    Nonsense. Rand’s view of everything boils down to “if you don’t like what we are doing here with resource X, go somewhere else and do what you want with resource X there”. That only works if there is somewhere else to go, and resource X is everywhere. The moment there is nowhere else to go, and all of resource X has been claimed by someone, then there can indeed be conflicts of interest between reasonable men, Yet Rand explicitly claims there can be no such thing.

  • Science Avenger

    “You don’t have the right to impose your notion of the good on others. ”

    Why not? I’ll go straight for the throat on this one: if the collective decides that what you are doing is a threat to what they consider their well being, I’d argue they most certainly have a right to stop you from doing it. Tell me why I’m wrong, based on man’s nature. And fair warning, Rand didn’t have a fucking clue what man’s nature was – nearly every utterance of hers on the subject violated the science of the time, if not the best modern version.

  • fuguewriter

    Be honest and make an argument. Show how *thermodynamic law* – any one of them, or all – is what infinite *electrical* energy would violate, especially under a new conception of energy, which presumably would get beyond QED (which Rand knew a bit about from interviewing Oppenheimer, knowing about Feynman, etc.).

    This is one reason this isn’t a serious discussion: y’all jump to the attitudes without an argument in between. So much easier that way. The fixed, permanent contempt for the other is maintained.Then, when challenged, if an argument’s provided it’s hash.

    So, pony up. Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of thermodynamic law, particularly under a new conception of energy – which presumably gave access to an unsuspected type of energy. This will be a pretty trick.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Based on reading the book, rather than relying on what has been said about it, this is what it’s about:

    The world is divided into two kinds of people: a tiny minority who do all the productive, creative work, and who also happen to be attractive, smart and super-competent, and everybody else.

    Everybody else is divided into two kinds of people – moochers and their leaders, the looters who run the government. What they have in common is their tendency to be ugly, stupid, lazy and incompetent. Although they talk about feelings and emotions all the time, it’s all fake and used exclusively to manipulate the producers. They are incapable of true romantic love because unlike the producers they aren’t exclusively into M/f kink.

    Society depends on the “producers” to do everything, even though the moochers/looters pretend they don’t know they do everything and offer the producers no gratitude for it – out of pure, unadulterated malice.

    Then one day a company run by moochers/looters decides to force their own employees to socialize their company. They do it because the leader of the company, Ivy Starnes, is a sadist who gets off on abusing workers. One of the producers named John Galt who happened to be working for the moocher/looter company, created a magical motor that could create energy out of virtually nothing. John Galt, offended by the idea of a company forcing their workers to collectivize it, decides to run away and start his own society made up of only producers.

    As soon as all the producers run away, society, which is now exclusively composed of moochers/looters falls apart, resulting in the well-deserved deaths of many of the moochers/looters. As soon as enough of them die off, John Galt and his fellow producers will return in Glory.

    And that’s what “Atlas Shrugged” is all about, Charlie Brown.

  • fuguewriter

    She does, in “Atlas”: the sun running out of fuel. She also endorses the idea, as an Aristotelian, that everything is finite. She also believed man has to constantly innovate and grow. This is the opposite of someone who thought we could rest on our resource laurels. I’m sure she – and her Galt – would welcome someone who could do the Galt Motor one better.

  • Nancy McClernan

    This is one reason this isn’t a serious discussion: y’all jump to the attitudes without an argument in between.

    You really have not a single shred of shame or self-awareness, do you?

    I’m sure GubbaBumpkin can address the main point, but I have to ask – what is the “new conception of energy” you are talking about?

  • fuguewriter

    Another Nancy et. al. error: she’s criticizing those companies as anonymous, generic, bland collective faces behind which non-proud “businessmen” hide. She wasn’t in favor of the man in the grey flannel suit, at all. She’s making a point about pride in one’s work and literally putting one’s name on the line. Thus (however misguided): Nathaniel Branden Institute, Ayn Rand Institute, etc.

  • fuguewriter

    An excellent argument for not aligning said map with libertarians. This is one of the dangers of labeling.

  • R Vogel
  • Jason K.
    acknowledging that natural resources are limited

    Rand mentions in “Atlas” the sun eventually running going extinct, so she’s not blind to the issue.

    I actually lol’d at this. Yes, I think expecting human ingenuity to magically overcome the dearth of cheap energy right up until the death of our sun to be exactly the sort of empty-headed, pie-in-the-sky rhetoric which fails to deal with practical realities.

  • Science Avenger

    Which is exactly what I said, just with way more words.

  • Verbose Stoic

    You do realize that Adam’s comment about the problem with the map was based entirely on the fact that New York and California had the highest GDP, despite being on the bottom of the freedom list, right?

  • Verbose Stoic

    I don’t think she really does. I think Rand presumes that for any infrastructure that really does benefit everyone — which is what most people here are arguing a government really provides — those whom it benefits, if rational, will get together and provide the resources to get it built and maintained. Thus, if you have to get a government involved it implies that it DOESN’T benefit everyone or most people or enough people to actually have it supported by the people who benefit from it, meaning that the role of the government is to take resources from people and spend it on things that may not actually benefit them, and to do so without their consent.

    The biggest flaw in this view is the presumption that humans are — or, at least, can be — rational enough to make this work. But then, ignoring that this is the underlying issue is the main problem with all of Adam’s discussions of the work.

  • Science Avenger

    Oh, and what I’m saying *is* based on reading the book, first page to last, at least five times, as well as repeated readings of the more famous passages, and nearly everything else Rand has written. One has to rise above the literal to draw general conclusions you know. The right of privacy and the concept of separation of church and state, are in the constitution whether those exact phrases appear or not.

  • Science Avenger

    “Invariably, a single [] snapshot of alleged current conditions, trotted out as the end-all smoking gun, fails.”

    But what he’s presenting isn’t a snapshot. It’s true over time, practically as long as you care to look at it. There is simply no correlation, certainly none like Rand implies, between business success or attractiveness of an area, and its freedom as she would define it. You always want to talk about North Korea, but that’s an obvious outlier due to it being led by a lunatic. Talk about Sweden instead, or France, Germany and Canada. By Randian standards, they should be hellholes, yet they aren’t.

    The reality is that collective action can promote economic activity as well as suppress it. The devil is in the details.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    which presumably would get beyond QED (which Rand knew a bit about from interviewing Oppenheimer, knowing about Feynman, etc.)

    Rand interviewed two physicists, therefore she can science? Pththththt.

  • Nancy McClernan

    No, Adam’s comment was not based entirely on GDP. Here is what he said, since you missed it in the actual post:

    There’s one more thing which this map neglects: as PZ Myers points out, some of the states that rank highest for “freedom” have passed punitive anti-choice laws. You may notice that access to abortion and contraception doesn’t even figure into the libertarians’ “freedom” calculation,

    He’s not making a connection with GDP. He’s pointing out they didn’t even bother to consider it a personal freedom, along with gay marriage and “travel freedom.”

    Personal Freedom (32.7%)

    Personal freedom dimension consists of the following categories: Victimless Crime Freedom (9.8%), Gun Control Freedom (6.6%), Tobacco Freedom (4.1%), Alcohol Freedom (2.8%), Marriage Freedom (2.1%), Marijuana and Salvia Freedom (2.1%), Gambling Freedom (2.0%), Education Policy (1.9%), Civil Liberties (0.6%), Travel Freedom (0.5%), Asset Forfeiture Freedom (0.1%), and Campaign Finance Freedom (0.02%).

  • Science Avenger

    “> Why aren’t people pouring in great migratory waves out of Silicon Valley to seek their fortune in the libertarian utopias of North Dakota and Oklahoma?

    This is what such shallow pseudo-analysis gets you. Everything should mechanically obey your shallow picture – instantly. How about the *accumulated* intellectual and financial capital still to be found n those places?”

    Seriously? You want to talk about the accumulated intellectual capital of Oklahoma? That’s self-parody.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Let me tease out some conditions first to make sure that we get to the one case that really matters:

    1) The collective C thinks that X will not further the collective good. An individual I thinks that X will further their own personal good. C convinces I that X will not further their own personal good, because in this case the collective good actually does align with the individual good, but I simply didn’t see that because they lacked information or reasoned badly. At the end, after we apply reason and proper information, the situation is resolved.

    2) C thinks that X will not further the collective good. I thinks that X will further their own personal good. I convinces C that X either has no impact on the collective good or actually furthers the collective good, through reason, and C simply didn’t see that due to lacking information or reasoning poorly. At the end, after we apply reason and proper information, the situation is resolved.

    This leaves us with the only case left being: X will hurt the collective good, while benefiting the individual. You argue that the benefits to the collective should trump the benefits to the individual, and so we can subordinate the well-being of the individual to that of the collective. Congratulations, you’ve just justified slavery, because it can be argued that having slaves will benefit the majority’s well-being at the cost of the well-being of the minority, and that if it doesn’t then that’s case 1 or 2 above, not this one.

    The question comes down to this: in cases where the well-being of the collective and the well-being of the individual actually and rationally clash and you must choose one over the other, which do you choose? If you choose the individual, then you have an individualistic society, and note that most Western societies are individualistic. If you choose the collective, then you have a communitarian philosophy, and note that Communist societies were explicitly communitarian. Rand is a staunch individualist, and that’s why she advocates what she does.

    Note to nitpickers: the example above, and even the slavery example, are exaggerations of the views. There’s a lot more range in both individualistic and communitarian views than presented here. But the main idea is indeed where the tie goes when the well-beings clash.

  • fuguewriter

    ( She interviewed several physicists, actually. )

    What I said:

    > knew a bit about

    You’re saying not a thing substantial here.

    She also came up with the Galt Motor idea in consultation with an electrical engineer. None of which matters, really. Least of to you.

  • Science Avenger

    “[Good public transit] generally doesn’t cash-flow sustainably, and at that only in high-density areas like cities.”

    No shit Sherlock. This is where libertarians run completely off the rails. The whole point of having public transport, or any government program, is to achieve benefits through creating something that cannot be sustained through the capitalist marketplace! Often the reason for this is that the costs of individual decisions, say of infinite traffic jams, percolates out to nonactors (like my simple alternative power supply example in another post), short-circuiting marketplace forces, which implicitly assume that the consequences of one’s actions are confined to said actor. Put another way, forcing everyone to car pool, thus reducing commute times, could result in a large benefit for everyone, whereas the marginal gain in the “commuting marketplace” of doing so individually could easily not be beneficial at all.

    Whenever a person argues that something which cannot be sustained in the marketplace therefore shouldn’t be sustained by government, they display a monumental fundamental ignorance of what government is for, plain and simple.

  • Heart

    Depends on how exactly the machine works. If it is a perpetual motion machine, then either the first or the second laws are broken (the first if it is a PMM of the first kind, where it continues to work after being put in motion, or the second if is being driven using the surroundings as a resource). I believe that Galt’s motor is closer to a PMM of the second kind.

    The main issue, even before we get to thermodynamics, is that it runs off static electricity in the air. We know what happens when that much static accumulates in one area; it causes lightning.

  • Nancy McClernan

    No you didn’t. In your version Rand is criticizing the attitude of “modern society for their presumption of the existence of wealth without giving a thought to its production”

    First off, “modern society” has nothing to do with the world of “Atlas Shrugged” – not modern society of 1957 nor modern society of now.

    But in any case, the book doesn’t demonstrate that Rand’s problem is that society is not giving a thought to wealth production. In Rand’s book only a tiny segment of society – the producers – are even capable of wealth – or any other kind – of production.

    And the rest of society – or at least the elite – are aware of the awesome productive power of the producers which is why even as they try to thwart them for being too good (as Stadler explicitely states to Dagny) they are secretly investing in their products, which is how d’Anconia is able to precipitate a stock market crash when he’s at James Taggarts wedding party full of looters/moochers.

    The problem isn’t that they aren’t aware of where all the productivity is coming from, it’s that they resent the producers for being such smarty-pants and so they refuse to express any gratitude.

    And we know that gratitude is a huge problem because the reason that Richard Halley goes Galt, even though his music is finally being appreciated is because the audience doesn’t give him the right kind of appreciation – he flounces off to Galt’s Gulch because they didn’t express the proper amount of gratitude.

    It’s quite different from what you are claiming.

    The problem is that you are trying to make some kind of rational sense out of what Rand is saying. Because to believe that a small but vocal chunk of American culture, including some leading politicians considers “Atlas Shrugged” to be full of reasonable, worldly-wisdom or even “philosophy” when it is almost entirely nonsense is a horrible prospect.

  • Science Avenger

    “…how is GDP to be indexed to [access to abortion and contraception]?”

    Easy: where women have control of their reproduction, economic growth follows.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Adam explicitly makes the connection to GDP for most of his post. The paragraph you cite is a side point at the end of the post. Perhaps you’re the one who needs to read more carefully?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Adam pointed out that it’s interesting that many of the states that have the highest GDP have the lowest “freedom” ratings according to this map.

    Somehow you and fuguewriter interpreted that to mean that every single point Adam would go on to make about the map must therefore be about GDP.

    I have no idea why you would do that, other than it’s what you wished had happened.

  • Science Avenger

    It’s not MY version, its what Rand said and believed. It’s not my fault you are too pedantic to understand something unless it is specifically stated in the text.

  • Nancy McClernan

    “Thus, if you have to get a government involved it implies that it DOESN’T benefit everyone or most people or enough people to actually have it supported by the people who benefit from it, meaning that the role of the government is to take resources from people and spend it on things that may not actually benefit them, and to do so without their consent.”

    What incoherent nonsense. No wonder you admire the work of Ayn Rand.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Who says I actually admire it? I’m not a Randian or libertarian. You have this strong tendency to assume things about people who disagree with you that are not in evidence.

    Note that I pointed out the problem with her assumption that you ignored, which is that people just aren’t rational enough to make this work. So I admire her and point out a problem with her view?

  • Science Avenger

    You mean Rand conveniently assumed that there was a sewer system in the valley? Funny though that she never mentions any of the “dirty” jobs a society has in her descriptions. You think that is a coincidence? I think she avoided the subjects because she couldn’t solve them.

    I’d say it is because of the flaw you point out, coupled with the one you express that I explained to Fuguewriter below that is endemic in libertarian thought:

    ” if you have to get a government involved it implies that it DOESN’T benefit everyone or most people…”

    That’s patently false. It ignores that there can be situations where rational individual decisions can lead to a result that is suboptiimal relative to a coerced situation, ie, the tragedy of the commons.

  • Nancy McClernan

    You have this strong tendency to assume things about people who disagree with you that are not in evidence.

    No, I don’t. But thanks for the free psychoanalysis, although it adds nothing to the discussion.

    Now let’s talk about your belief that government exists to take things away from people who don’t benefit.

  • Science Avenger

    Jesus, is pedanticism catching around here? Is no one able to glean a point that isn’t explicitly expressed? Did Adam have to state the general reverse correlation (from Rand’s POV) of the map between freedom and GDP?

  • Verbose Stoic

    Fuguewriter rightly pointed out that GDP was the main issue Adam addressed with the map, and asked how that even fit in. You then simply attacked his talking GDP and wondering how it mapped by insisting that the map itself said nothing about GDP — which fuguewriter was clearly not saying, but was instead talking about what Adam said about the map — and when you replied to me again highlighted that one paragraph and ignored most of the actual post.

    Now, you could have simply said that that last paragraph was an aside, but the way you presented it you made it seem like we missed the main point. We didn’t.

  • Verbose Stoic

    I fail to see how this relates to anything I said. It is reasonable to question what link those specific issues (abortion and contraception) have to Rand’s ideas of personal freedom and her notions of economic freedom. That those states are listed as being the most free while leaving that out says nothing about what Rand would think a proper society would do. I’m not saying anything about the link between GDP and the freedoms map, just calling Nancy out on essentially insisting that somehow that correlation wasn’t the main point of the post. Your comment here seems to be simply saying that it WAS the main point of the post, which we agree on, so where’s the conflict here?

  • Science Avenger

    I’m not sure who the “you” is in your examples, but it certainly isn’t me. I was going for the easy case, since Rand’s resistance to the collective vetoing the individual was pretty absolute. I spoke of a THREAT to the collective. Let’s say Galt’s motor ran on nuclear power. He wants to build one in his garage. This has a nontrivial probability of melting down and killing everyone within miles. I know of nothing in Rand’s writings that would justify the collective stopping Galt from working on his motor. So I want to hear the Objectivist argument for why we can’t. And I’m curious to see how far anyone can get in that argument before they say something about human nature that is contrary to the science.

  • Verbose Stoic

    No, I think she doesn’t raise them because they aren’t that important to her view, especially considering her view of rational egoism, to highlight here.

    That’s patently false. It ignores that there can be situations where
    rational individual decisions can lead to a result that is suboptiimal
    relative to a coerced situation, ie, the tragedy of the commons.

    To a rational egoist, the tragedy of the commons is something that is solved by rationality, by understanding that getting into that state actually hurts you more in the long-term than the short-term gains you’d get by ignoring it. Oddly, I just had a long discussion with an Egoist — not a Randian — who made that PRECISE point, even accusing me of not understanding the tragedy of the commons to do so.

    Thus, again, at the ideal, abstract level, if you can muster an argument that it does benefit enough people to support it, then you don’t need government enforcement or coercion, and if you can’t then at the very least you can’t convince people that it benefits them. If we were all fully rational and informed, the only way the latter case could happen is if it didn’t actually benefit us. Since we aren’t, you can get into tragedy of the commons cases, but the problem is not looking out for self-interest, but that we don’t know what our self-interest actually is.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Well, again, as I noted the degrees thing, I think it’s important to get the abstract views out of the way before delving into examples. Do you think that the collective in GENERAL has the right to stop the individual, or not? In abstract discussions, like where you started from, it always sounds nice right up until the point where you realize what it really means.

    As for your question: Hobbesian Social Contract, which to me fits with Objectivism like hand in glove (they have the same basis). The Social Contract is, for the most part, based on my wanting to avoid death, and noting that I am more likely to avoid that — and more likely to be able to live a better life — in a society than outside of it. But I don’t want my life unnecessarily threatened outside of my choice and without benefit to me, but I know that that will only happen if I don’t threaten other people’s lives unnecessarily and outside of their choice. If, then, Galt wants to do that and the threat is more than merely “non-trivial”, he would be violating the Social Contract, and so either people would take it upon themselves to stop them, or this would become one of those disputes that Rand insists still need to be settled.

    Again, an issue here is that without overwhelming state power, someone powerful enough can ignore that. Hobbesian Social Contract clearly allows for that, while it’s not quite as clear how that would work in an Objectivist view, as it depends on how Hobbesian they stay.

  • Nancy McClernan

    OK this is what fuguewriter said:

    “You don’t even stop to question your own use of the map, or from what sector the map emanates. And how is GDP to be indexed to such choice issues? Yet you brought up GDP as the main issue. You’ve, per usual, created an enormous mess.”

    But fuguewriter had no problem with the GDP issue in spite of all the other personal freedoms issues included in the maps assessments. So much so that instead of just completely dismissing the map because the freedom index included personal issues that arguably can’t be mapped to GDP instead he argued with Adam about GDP in the context of the Freedom map.

    Until the issue of reproductive rights being left out of the personal freedoms list was broached.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And the map itself says nothing about GDP – Adam pointed out the fact that “freedom” seemed to be inversely related to economic success. And he suggested the answer was infrastructure.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    Amalgamated though it may be, it’s still just a switch and signal company.

    It seems that any complicated financial instrument or even corporate structure is automatically in moocherville. Which makes me wonder if people like Paul Ryan realize that Romney or all those CEOs are a lot more like Westly Mouch than Hank Reardon.

  • Verbose Stoic

    He argued with GDP and the ideas of how it related to business earlier in the comment, where he was quoting those parts of it.

  • Nancy McClernan

    So “pedantic” means evidence-based? Why don’t you provide support for your claims by discussing what’s actually in the book, as I am doing?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Or are you saying Rand had beliefs that are contrary to what is in “Atlas Shrugged”? In which case why don’t you provide some evidence?

  • Nancy McClernan

    First off the abortion issue was not broached in the context of GDP.

    But fuguewriter thought it was and said it couldn’t be mapped to GDP and so could not be included.

    However, there were many other personal freedoms issues that were included – in total they made up 32.7% of the score.

    If “travel freedom” is included, why wouldnt “reproductive rights” be included? Other than the fact that the Koch brothers are anti-abortion?

    Now if you want to throw out the entire map on the basis that it can’t be used in comparison to GDP on the grounds that it uses incompatible metrics then throw it out. But if you don’t throw out the map entirely from the beginning then it’s absurd to argue that reproductive rights will screw the indexing and meanwhile a third of the Freedom score is based on the equally unindexable.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Do you have any evidence that Rand did this as a deliberate choice to make a point about pride in one’s work?

    And if so, why is the Twentieth Century Motor Company called that? Before it was taken over by his ne’er-do-well heirs it was created and run by an obvious Ubermensch, Jed Starnes. Why wasn’t it called the Starnes Motor Company?

    And as Adam asked, what does Rand have against mergers and acquisition? It isn’t enough for most of the Evil companies to be called “Company” they must be Amalgamated, Consolidated, etc.

    And the answer is most likely because Rand understood so little about business that those words sounded socialistic to her, instead of what they are – markers of capitalism at its most successful.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The map is clearly labeled “Mercatus Center”

    Washington Post columnist Al Kamen has described Mercatus as a “staunchly anti-regulatory center funded largely by Koch Industries Inc.”[3] Rob Stein, the Democratic strategist, has called it “ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.”[2] The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of.”[2]

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

    Funded by the libertarian Koch brothers.

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

    There’s no “danger” of labeling this map a libertarian production.

    And libertarians never have problems making common political cause with conservatives, hence the Koch funding of anti-abortion organizations.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I’m sure she – and her Galt – would welcome someone who could do the Galt Motor one better.

    I believe his name is Gandalf. And he’s every bit as believable a character as John Galt – except better written.

    And Gandalf probably got laid more.

  • J-D

    The young man suggests to Mowen that businesses are moving from the Atlantic coast to Colorado because of something they’ve got on the Atlantic coast but don’t have in Colorado.

    Does he, or anybody, get any more specific about what that something might be? In the text, I mean.

  • smrnda

    I think an issue is that Rand wasn’t very bright, and was too over-confident in her own reasoning powers and was biased against conclusions derived from ‘empirical bias’ as she called it (what I would call, REALITY.) Ideologically, the idea that natural resources are infinite is an assumption which ties in nicely with the idea that a Great Innovator will NEVER be subject to any constraints because their talent can overcome anything. I think she just doesn’t know much about science, engineering or technology, and hasn’t bothered to learn, and like many people, she imagines that the engineers can pretty much perform magic because *it kind of looks like that.*

    Honestly, this makes Rand seem a lot like Chairman Mao to me, who likewise believed that, with the right beliefs, you can attain anything through sheer willpower. The failures of this are obvious.

  • smrnda

    People can be rational and make it not work. Rich people can decide to invest in their own *private infrastructure* and leave the rest of everybody with dirt roads. It’s like they make the ‘government’ their private club, where the poor are excluded.

    A simple example, but it can be rational to defect and screw over other people and build a parallel society. It’s just that tends to cause massive problems.

  • smrnda

    Yes, we are living on a world with finite resources. In the end, access to resources is necessary for anyone.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yeah that might be one of the most cuckoo-for-Cocopuffs ideas Rand ever floated (my bolded emphasis):

    The Objectivist ethics holds the human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifices of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.” (Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics” in The Virtue of Selfishness 31 paperback)

    And I got this from the Atlas Society web site – the Objectivists are not the least bit embarrassed by this prime specimen of Rand’s wack-a-doodle-doo.

    http://www.atlassociety.org/harmony-of-interests-conflict-objectivism-objectivist-ayn-rand

  • Nancy McClernan

    Luckily, unlike Mao Rand never had direct control over anybody’s economic fate except her own and her husband’s.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    Adam, I can only WISH that I could accept your argument on NY & CA. I don’t want to take the Libertarian side on this, but I somehow doubt that you know much about New York! That is where I live, and there are too many living here who have lost their jobs to companies which have moved to the Carolinas, Colorado, and other ultra-Conservative states (not to mention all the work no longer done in the US for the benefit of the Wall Street 1%ers). Please take a look at the map on this site:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rust_Belt
    Notice how a large swath of New York (Including Albany, Long Island and NYC), as well as the much of the Northeast is at the darkest end of the Rust Belt! New York also has out-of-control crime, worse than most states in the US. Look beyond Manhattan, and there are few other places where you can avoid noticing abject poverty. But I don’t believe this is because NYS has done more to help it’s residents – it’s due to decades of endlessly skyrocketing taxes, going into the pockets of criminals who steal our money, leading to more increases over time, to the point that those who are not very rich or living on the welfare system can no longer afford to live here! Of course I would like to believe that it could have been different, and that someday it will be. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really look like this will happen until we either become 500% better at preventing such crime, or we find and implement a way of changing human nature.

  • fuguewriter

    No one on any side is claimng that resources actually infinite. In the end, freedom is necessary for everyone. That’s what makes a prosperous world. Look at Africa.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    Adam, your bio says you live in New York City, but have you ever stepped off of Manhattan?

    Much as I dislike Rand’s cold, narcissistic philosophy, facts actually matter when you choose your point of argument against it. New York is not a good place to live if you happen to reside on Long Island, the Capital Region, or most areas West of the latter. Crime is mostly out of control in these areas, and it gets worse the closer you move toward Buffalo. I don’t need the map linked below to know this, as I live upstate, but please take a look:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rust_Belt
    Notice the large swaths on the darkest ends of Rust Belt decay, as is so with large areas in much of the Northeast.

    However, I do not believe the issue is due to NYS policies of helping it’s residents – the problem is that the crooked NYS officials have been for decades helping themselves too much to the money which they have been taking from the taxpayers. This has caused an ever-skyrocketing tax cycle of tax increases, to the point that nobody but the very rich and the welfare benefactors can afford to live here now.

    I’m going to let you in on an inconvenient truth – I don’t like it any more than you will, but it needs dealing with, so prepare yourself. There is no part of NY where you can build so much as 1/4 the home which you can in South Carolina. Comparative State taxes in SC are negligible. I know this firsthand, after seeing family relocate there (they live in a beach town)!

    I do sincerly believe that a society has the obligation to provide services which NY & CA have been known for, but the problem is when a government takes more, more, and more money from the hands of people who are struggling not to become themselves those who would be the most dependent on government services. New York has in it’s State Assembly the most despicable talking turds ever to be dignified with their position because a government with so much money flowing through it attracts such criminals. It is on their account that I am afraid nothing will change for the better unless (a) the money to steal stops flowing, (b) we become 500% better at preventing such crime, or (c) we develop and implement a way of changing human nature.

  • fuguewriter

    I appreciate your temperate response. A rarity around here. : )

    It’s an electrical generator. One could talk about why she calls it a Motor, but it’s function is clear. Thermodynamic law is not applicable. I think what the snarks are reaching for was conservation of energy. But Rand successfully avoids those objections by 1) having it be based on a new conception of energy and 2) receiving a [nominal] energy input from the converter Dagny speaks of.

    There’s nothing to indicate that the Motor requires an accumulation of static electricity above background.

  • fuguewriter

    Thank you.

  • fuguewriter

    > no correlation, certainly none like Rand implies, between business success or attractiveness of an area

    Oh, now it’s an implied correlation.

    Leaving aside your very dubious claim – look up the various brain drains, the flights of capital, the migration of businesses to regions that offer tax advantages (are you seriously going to dispute that last?), etc through the years – she made no such claim outside the desperate situation in “Atlas.” This is another reason Adam’s free-association is flawed: we’re not living in the world of “Atlas” yet.

  • fuguewriter

    You’re mistaken. Taggart Transcontinental is not privately held. She’s making a pretty strong point about businessmen who don’t really commit to their businesses and instead either loot them or use government force to gain undeserved dough.

    What’s intriguing is that she’s continually [and wrongly] slammed for worshiping businessmen, and here’s one of her many criticisms of businessmen, and that’s turned into nothing but a flaw, all based on dubious inferences about what she means by it.

  • fuguewriter

    You need to reread the section set in Galt’s Gulch. She directly depicts people – some of them called “aristocrats” by someone there – doing basic/tough jobs.

  • fuguewriter

    As for your endorsement of force, your standard of “optimality” is not applicable to all other persons – either ethically [as something right to do] or psychologically [as something practical]. Rand, even, did not go so far into as she would call it “intrinsicism.” The Austrian economists exploded this nonsense long ago -and it’s not attainable on an economy-wide basis by fiat, for reasons they very ably expose, The calculation problem, for one thing. Command economies do not work.

  • Azkyroth

    Incorrect. Thermodynamics wouldn’t apply anyway, especially with a new concept of energy.

    ….IDIOT.

  • fuguewriter

    So the principal objection would be thermodynamics?

    Feel free to show this: that the applicable objection would be thermodynamics for an electrical generator based on a new conception of energy. Not conservation of energy. Thermodynamics.

    ….INTERNET ARGUER.

  • Azkyroth

    dQ-dW=dU
    dS(sys)+dS(surr)>=0

    We’re done here.

  • Azkyroth

    Nothing about quantum electodynamics suggests conservation of energy doesn’t, broadly speaking, apply.

  • Verbose Stoic

    This, however, contradicts the defense given for why the government should use tax dollars to fund roads: that it benefits everyone, even the rich, if everyone can get access to road. For example, as Adam says in the post people who run businesses want to be able to deliver their product everywhere, and that requires roads everywhere useful. They also want their employees to be able to get to and from work easily since that also benefits them. Also, the more people who spend resources on roads, the less that they, overall, have to pay to get what they want. So, again, the only way you can defend this is by arguing that there are cases where it would be rational to not do that thing because it doesn’t actually benefit those who would be providing the resources to do it. But if it doesn’t actually benefit them, why then should they pay for it through taxes and get a government to do it?

  • fuguewriter

    And again we’ll just conveniently avoid that Galt’s Motor is a) an *electrical* generator and b) based on a new conception of energy and c) [somehow] converts ambient static electricity. Thermodynamics just isn’t an applicable objection, given Rand’s careful construction of the situation. You’ve not shown that it is, so yes – we’re done here – we actually never got started, because you can’t go beyond assertion to actual give-and-take discussion.

  • fuguewriter

    Never said it did. But in the fictive universe Rand carefully constructs, Galt may have found out something new.

    Besides: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

  • Donalbain

    Now, I like science fiction. I like the idea of pondering “what-ifs”, and the notion of a completely new understanding of energy which leads to a post scarcity society is a very interesting one that could lead to some pretty cool stories in which we could explore morality and the effects on politics. But you simply cant use those stories to tell people what we should do in the here and now, with most definitely NOT post scarcity society.

    To put it more briefly, if your best way to describe your political ideas is a story in which all of physics has been thrown out of the window, your political ideas will not work.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I like a good argument about thermodynamics as much as the next person, but you all are giving fuguewriter too much credit – he doesn’t actually care about thermodynamics:

    Incorrect, Note that it requires an entirely new concept of energy (which suggests it is tapping into something otherwise unknown)

    So what fuguewriter is suggesting is that Rand is positing a “new concept” that transcends the physical laws as they work on planet Earth.

    He doesn’t use the word “magic” of course, but that’s basically what he’s saying. There’s no difference between Rand’s “new concept of energy” and J.R.R. Tolkein’s concept that allows Gandalf to shoot lighting out of his sword.

    There are some people who are so literal-minded that they only understand the implausibility of something if the author calls it magic.

    Because Ayn Rand doesn’t actually call the principles behind Galt’s motor “magic” and instead uses technical sounding terms, it causes some people to miss the fact that she is simply arranging the laws of physics to suit her story, every bit as much as Tolkien did.

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

    Yep, and the scary thing is that Rand doesn’t seem to believe there’s anything implausible or inherently fictional about her world at all. From what I can gather, she really does think that capitalism could triumph over the laws of physics, if only the government and its regulations would get out of the way.

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

    I hadn’t realized this map was funded by the Koch brothers, but that makes perfect sense. No wonder it ignores reproductive freedom.

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

    Show how *thermodynamic law* – any one of them, or all – is what infinite *electrical* energy would violate…

    Are you not aware that the laws of thermodynamics apply to all kinds of energy, not just heat flows? Good grief. This is really the Dunning-Kruger effect in action, isn’t it?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Incorrect. It’s never said to be able to produce actually-infinite quantities.

    So easy to refute by simply reading the text. Here is the moment from Dagny and Rearden’s road trip when they find the motor. My bolded emphasis:

    “Hank! Don’t you understand what this means? It’s the greatest revolution in power motors since the internal-combustion engine – greater than that! It wipes everything out – and makes everything possible. To hell with Dwight Sanders and all of them! Who’ll want to look at a Diesel? Who’ll want to worry about oil, coal or refueling stations? Do you see what I see? A brand-new locomotive half the size of a single Diesel unit, and with ten times the power. A self-generator, working on a few drops of fuel, with no limits to its energy. The cleanest, swiftest, cheapest means of motion ever devised.

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

    Adam, your bio says you live in New York City, but have you ever stepped off of Manhattan?

    As it happens, I don’t live in Manhattan. I have family and friends both upstate (the Hudson Valley, the Adirondack region) and also on Long Island. I’m quite familiar with the general situation in the state, thanks.

    There is no part of NY where you can build so much as 1/4 the home which you can in South Carolina.

    I’m aware of that as well. That’s because more people want to live in New York than in South Carolina. It’s supply and demand.

    This has caused an ever-skyrocketing tax cycle of tax increases, to the point that nobody but the very rich and the welfare benefactors can afford to live here now.

    I’m neither of those, so I wonder how you account for me. Seriously, New York State has close to 20 million people. You think all of them are either “very rich” or “welfare benefactors”?

  • Nancy McClernan

    look up the various brain drains, the flights of capital, the migration of businesses to regions that offer tax advantages (are you seriously going to dispute that last?)

    LOL – yes, he wants you to do the work of supporting his claims! He wants you to be Eddie Willers to his Dagny.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Look beyond Manhattan, and there are few other places where you can avoid noticing abject poverty. But I don’t believe this is because NYS has done more to help it’s residents – it’s due to decades of endlessly skyrocketing taxes, going into the pockets of criminals who steal our money, leading to more increases over time, to the point that those who are not very rich or living on the welfare system can no longer afford to live here!

    Explain how welfare benefactors “afford” to live in New York.

    And stow the rambling editorial page dramatics and give evidence for “endlessly skyrocketing taxes, going into the pockets of criminals who steal our money.”

    You sure sound like a Libertarian to me. What do you claim to be, politically?

  • Nathaniel

    Thermodynamics applies to all exchanges of energy. Its up to you that Rand’s magical energy creator somehow wouldn’t have the same rules apply.

    I eagerly await your evidence.

  • Jason Wexler

    Nancy, I have no dog in the fight over whether or not Mercatus Center is a libertarian organization, however fugewriter makes a reasonable point when he says it’s problematic to label them a libertarian organization since there data and conclusions being wrong undermines libertarian values. They could of course be libertarians who are massively incompetent, and I think the flaws in their analysis certainly demonstrate that whatever else they may be, they are incompetent.

  • Nancy McClernan

    She’s making a pretty strong point about businessmen who don’t really commit to their businesses and instead either loot them or use government force to gain undeserved dough.

    By naming them “Amalgamated” she’s “making a pretty strong point about businessmen?” Explain how simply naming companies a certain way makes a strong point. For instance, if here in the real world companies that are conglomerates were known for being looted more than non-conglomerates, it might make a point.

    But that’s not the case – and so the “point” being made is entirely inside the heads of Rand and her most slavish followers.

    So let’s have an actual reason how this makes a point besides “because Ayn Rand says so.”

  • ahermit

    I think Rand presumes that for any infrastructure that really does
    benefit everyone — which is what most people here are arguing a
    government really provides — those whom it benefits, if rational, will
    get together and provide the resources to get it built and maintained.

    Of course any effort to organize such large scale projects is inevitably going to look a lot like some form of government…that’s what government is; a way of organizing and coordinating communities of people.

  • Nancy McClernan

    a new conception of energy

    It can do anything Rand says it can do! It’s a new concept of energy!

    Thermodynamics just isn’t an applicable objection,

    I told you all he didn’t care about thermodynamics.

  • Nancy McClernan

    1) having it be based on a new conception of energy

    Like Gandalf’s staff.

  • Nancy McClernan

    A silly but accurate description of the wonders of Galt’s Gulch:

    Founding of Galt’s Gulch

    It was at this point that he was able to persuade Michael “Midas” Mulligan to buy a huge patch of wilderness in Colorado, and hide it with super futuristic ray screens to camouflage it. Then all the formerly rich folk moved there. And with no prior training or ability, were able to live off the land, becoming farmers, sheep herders, cattle ranchers, fishermen, miners, smelters, blacksmiths and a few dozen other highly specialized trades that take years of training and far more than just common sense and an HGTV video series.

    We are to imagine here that they all funded their little homes and factories and businesses in the middle of nowhere themselves, though perhaps Midas loaned out a lot of gold — gold to people who had no place to spend it but amongst their currently assetless selves.

    Plumbing and electricity found its way there, all the machines and materials pretty much just appearing. Or Midas bought it all and had it super secretly shipped in. And again gave it away to assetless people. Hoping that they’d duplicate two centuries of industrial progress quickly enough to pay him back with interest. And without the thousands of manual laborers necessary for the construction of even a small foundry, the ‘men of the mind’ constructed power plants, factories, aircraft mechanic shops and — seriously — a mint. How? Somehow. Don’t start that again!

    http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/John_Galt

  • ahermit

    Just for fun here’s a real life example of what happens when you actually apply Randian principles to running a business…

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-11/at-sears-eddie-lamperts-warring-divisions-model-adds-to-the-troubles

    Sears Holdings’ sales have dropped from $49.1 billion to
    $39.9 billion, and its stock has sunk 64 percent. Its cash recently fell
    to a 10-year low…

    …Many of its troubles can be traced to an organizational model the chairman
    implemented five years ago, an idea he has said will save the company.
    Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of
    autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An
    outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn
    Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the
    market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to
    act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational
    manner, boosting overall performance.

    Instead, the divisions turned against each other—and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered…

  • Donalbain

    A Macguffin is something that basically doesn’t matter. It can be anything, and still drive the story in the same way. You can replace the microfilm in The Rock with a pill that cures cancer, and still the story remains the same. You can similarly replace the Maltese Falcon with any other object that people might want and the story does not change.

    That does NOT apply to the Magical Energy Device of Galt. Unless it has the ability to produce limitless energy, then it is simply not able to sustain the society that acts as the whole point of the story. It is not just a thing that people want, it is the thing that makes the whole world possible, The ONLY thing that can drive this particular story, and make the Galt’s Gulch community possible is a machine the defies the laws of physics as we know them. It MUST be magical for the story to work at all.

  • Donalbain

    Not conservation of energy. Thermodynamics.

    Thank you. This is one of my favourite non-creationist examples of stupid science in a long, long while.

  • Nancy McClernan

    fugewriter makes a reasonable point when he says it’s problematic to label them a libertarian organization since there data and conclusions being wrong undermines libertarian values

    What? Are you saying that if they are incompetent they can’t be libertarians?

    And that incompetence trumps the fact that Mercatus Center IS undeniably a libertarian organization, created and funded by libertarians?

  • Sally Strange

    So, pony up. Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of thermodynamic law, particularly under a new conception of energy – which presumably gave access to an unsuspected type of energy. This will be a pretty trick.

    Yes, it would be a pretty trick to get your interlocutors to provide evidence and explanations for the mechanism of a technology that is only alleged to exist and whose operating principle is not clearly defined. “Whatever that would mean exactly.”

    Hey kids, can you say, “Shifting the burden of proof?” I knew you could!

  • Lagerbaer

    Why do the laws of TD not apply to a generator?

  • Nancy McClernan

    And then there’s the second layer – a segment of right-wingers believe that with the story of Galt’s Gulch, Ayn Rand proved that laissez-faire capitalism is the answer to everything.

    http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2008/10/going-john-galt.html

  • CanuckAmuck

    ” if the collective decides that what you are doing is a threat to what
    they consider their well being, I’d argue they most certainly have a
    right to stop you from doing it. Tell me why I’m wrong, based on man’s nature.”

    I’d say you’re wrong unless the threat can objectively be shown to be credible. Otherwise, it seems like you’re arguing for a rule of mob, a tyranny of the majority. Example: a certain religious element thinks that the well-being of their society is threatened by two dudes getting married, so…has said religious element a right to stop them from doing it?

  • Sally Strange

    She also came up with the Galt Motor idea in consultation with an electrical engineer.

    Does this engineer have a name? You’d think they would want to claim credit, even if it’s just for the theory, for such an amazing idea.

  • heart

    …thermodynamics still applies to electricity. Work done by electrical charges is still work. And again, even leading aside all of that…if you have enough static electricity in the air that you can use it to power a settlement, you’ve got some big problems.

  • Heart

    One: What exactly do you mean by a new concept of energy.

    Two: Thermodynamical laws still apply to a generator. In fact, given that they describe how systems behave with changes in energy and entropy, a generator is one of the most obvious places for them to apply to.

    Three: the issue is that having the generator produce enough power to keep a settlement going implies there is a settlements worth of electrical energy in the air at any given time, and that it is being replenished fast enough to keep the power going.

    Four: You are still describing a PMM of the second kind, which means the second law of thermodynamics still shuts it down.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I have yet to find evidence that Rand consulted with an electrical engineer about the Galt Motor idea. This site by the Ayn Rand Institute includes a page that discusses the research Rand did for “Atlas Shrugged” and doesn’t mention it. Just her research on railroads.

    http://aynrandnovels.org/learning-more/atlas-shrugged/history-of-atlas-shrugged.html

  • Azkyroth

    Which is the way it is 95% because of unchecked plundering, exploitative meddling by colonial powers and later pseudo-colonial corporations?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well we know Rand’s feeling about colonialism – clearly colonial powers deserved to conquer the natives, who had less-advanced technology.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivism's_rejection_of_the_primitive#Native_Americans_and_colonization

  • Nemo

    One of the recurring themes of Atlas Shrugged is Ayn’s strange belief in a few super geniuses who make the world work. I have no problem with this idea. It’s common in a lot of fiction to have everyone helpless without the hero. Even in real life we have guys like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, whom Ayn might love to claim as real life John Galts. My issue is how all of these godmen have the exact same philosophy. Like, literally the same. In real life, many scientists lean to the left politically. Jobs and Gates are known for this. Not all of them do, of course. There are writers, artists, scientists, and businessmen on both the left and right.

    Feel free to mention this in a post, if you want.

  • Eric Riley

    How can you do ‘one better’ than infinite free energy?

    BTW – take a closed system – place the generator within and use it to power a heater. The temperature rises with no external energy input – violation of thermodynamics.

    In response to your challenge: “So, pony up. Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production
    (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of
    thermodynamic law…”

    The laws of thermodynamics are general statements about energy – it does not matter if that energy is electrical or not, the laws still apply.

    Strangely though – you are arguing as if such a thing is possible (and not some artifice in a work of fiction) – so now it is your turn- explain why either the laws of thermodynamics do not apply, or how such a device could exist in theory well enough understood to describe, but not be produced 50 years later?

  • Pattrsn

    “benefactors”

    I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  • Omnicrom

    Now now, Gandalf’s powers were explained in and consistent with the context of Middle Earth. The Magical Rand motor isn’t consistent with the context of the real world which is what Rand postures to set her books in, so that’s an unfair comparison.

    Of course that just reiterates the old saying about Fantasy novels, Tolkein knew he was writing Fantasy and created a world that was far more real and human than Rand ever could.

  • Eric Riley

    Given this information:
    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/nycrime.htm
    Just how is it you claim, “New York also has out-of-control crime, worse than most states in the US.”

    In terms of overall crime, for the years 2005 to 2008, New York (state) has been in the bottom 5. In every category but one New York is in the bottom half.- despite being ranked #3 in population.

  • Pattrsn

    The laws of physics

  • fuguewriter

    I’m inclined toward yes (leaving aside the untestable numerical figure). The power of unaided/unabetted private corporations on that scale is dubitable. “Colonialism” (a concept probably needing breaking-up into more categories) embraces such a wide variety of behaviors and aftereffects – Leopold of Belgium comes to mind – but without government action or inaction, none of it’s possible. Considering the horrific record of government murder – http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills – the only moral form of government is the most libertarian one possible.

    That said, governments and crony-capitalist business-arms of them laid the groundwork, but 20th cenury Marxism (fertilized by the USSR) and homegrown dictators and their henchmen are more on point. Africa could look a lot different today sans Communism (or any alternative replacement statism).

  • fuguewriter

    Evan Wright. See the interview with him (and his wife Mickey) in “100 Voices”: http://books.google.com/books?id=G7VEd_3b0WUC&pg=PT178&lpg=PT178&dq=ayn+rand+100+voices+lightning&source=bl&ots=ctvrEmbYvk&sig=La5A0MlDck7yeYA8LVktO2NuF5c&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ESO_Uov9Bc_82gXQgoD4DQ&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=engineer%20lightning&f=false

    What you said:

    > they would want to claim credit, even if it’s just for the theory, for such an amazing idea.

    What I said:

    > She also came up with the Galt Motor idea in consultation with an electrical engineer.

    Not the same. As always, here. Doubtless you were facetious, but the idea in itself – outside the fictive universe of the book – isn’t amazing. It’s a sketch, a MacGuffin.

  • Heart

    …..conservation of energy IS the first law of thermodynamics…

  • fuguewriter

    Are you not aware of the difference between open and closed systems? Of the non-mechanicalness of open-system transfers? Get some Cliff’s Notes on Max Born. Please.

    Are you not aware that in the novel’s fictive universe, Galt came up with a *new conception of energy*, which may reveal unsuspected physical facts? Given that this thing is – from Stadler’s reaction to the fragmentary pages – something on the order of Newton and Einstein, we’re all shooting in the dark about how it would work. Perhaps C of E [which is what the original poster was vaguely intending] would, with these new phenomena, apply differently. Or – most astonishing, for a fictional novel with some sci-fi elements – not even apply at all?

    The length to which this has gone shows the lack of seriousness of this entire endeavor. You pump out low-quality articles on Rand and the peanut gallery roars hurrah. On and on and on …

  • J-D

    The crime rate in New York has dropped steeply since 1990.

    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/nycrime.htm

    People’s perceptions of crime rates are notoriously inaccurate.

  • fuguewriter

    Hmm. I replied to this but it may have gotten lost or not allowed up.

    Nancy should read the scene in which Dagny shows Stadler the papers from the 20th C. Motor Co.

  • Artor

    That word you used- fictive. It has a meaning, you know.

  • g

    > Congratulations, you’ve just justified slavery, because it can be argued that having slaves will benefit the majority’s well-being at the cost of the well-being of the minority

    Perhaps that *can be argued*, but that doesn’t make it true, and Science Avenger’s argument would only justify slavery if it were in fact true.

    So to make that connection, *you* need to be arguing that slavery is, all things considered, a benefit to the whole community. I wouldn’t want to have to make that argument, but please go ahead if you feel like it.

    (One note: in the scenario we’re talking about, X is *part* of “the collective”. So an argument that slavery benefits *slaveholders* isn’t relevant to the analogy. What would need to be true to make Science Avenger’s argument a justification of slavery would be that slavery benefits *society as a whole*, including the slaves as well as the slaveholders. That’s not the same thing as benefiting everyone, but at the very least the benefit to the slaveholders would have to outweigh the cost to the slaves.)

  • Wretched Fiend

    fuguewriter, you are a poster child for the first rule of holes. (First rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.)

    Electrical energy is not exempt from the laws of thermodynamics. As the name implies, thermodynamics is the study of energy in the form of heat. However, all forms of energy (electrical, chemical, nuclear, etc.) may be transformed into heat energy with 100% efficiency. In turn, heat can be transformed into other forms, but with less than 100% efficiency — some of it will be lost as “waste” heat.

    No alternate form of energy permits an end run around the law of thermodynamics. It’s all equivalent to heat in the end, and so far as anyone can tell, the central points of thermodynamic theory (that there is a fixed amount of energy in the universe, and that transformations between forms reduce the average quality of that energy) are true.

    When we generate electrical power, by the way, we do not yank it out of nothing. Instead we use various transformations to convert other forms of energy to electrical energy (with imperfect conversion efficiency). That is why Rand’s fantasy about Galt inventing a machine to generate electricity from nothing is, well, a fantasy. In the real world we know exactly where all the energy to make each kilowatt-hour of electrical power came from, and the sources we are using are all finite in known ways even if we don’t know exactly how finite. (Even solar power is finite. The sun does not have an infinite amount of hydrogen fuel to fuse.)

    Now you will object along the lines “B-b-b-but Rand must be vindicated, so MAYBE there is a hitherto unsuspected form of energy waiting to be tapped and transformed into electricity, and it TOTALLY COULD BE infinite, neener neener you lose!!!” (You have already hinted at this direction with your “new conception of energy”.) This is a child’s argument, and while we chuckle and grin when children work out elaborate ways of incorporating their childish fantasies into the real world, you are presumably an adult and you should be ashamed of not having grown out of that phase. Rand had no reason to believe in such a fantasy, and neither do you.

    Incidentally, thanks to Einstein we know that mass and energy are equivalent. Please read Wikipedia’s entry on mass-energy equivalence, and pay special attention to the parts which mention it is in principle possible to measure the mass of a system in order to determine whether energy is entering or leaving that system. A Galtian source of infinite energy to make infinite electricity would possess infinite mass. And while I’m not an astrophysicist, I’m pretty sure that if such an infinite mass existed, we wouldn’t — long before stars or planets formed, it should have compressed the entire universe into a black hole.

    P.S. Merely interviewing Oppenheimer and “knowing about” Feynman didn’t make Rand a physics expert, or (as we can see from her patently absurd fiction) even much of a physics layman. Knowledge doesn’t behave like contagion — you don’t become smart just by being in the same room as a smart person for a few minutes, or even by reading their books. You have to actually comprehend. Rand clearly didn’t.

    P.P.S. If nobody has responded to your giant screed in detail, please do not imagine that it is because you have won. In this case, it is more about sane people getting a couple paragraphs in and realizing that it would take hours to refute it all and you’d still refuse to believe them. NB: I am not particularly sane about arguing with idiots on the internet, but even I have my limits.

  • David_Evans

    Really, all you need say is “it’s based on a new conception of energy”. Once that is accepted, no-one can criticise you, because no-one can do the energy accounting needed to see if it obeys conservation laws or not. All the waffle about atmospheric electricity makes the idea less credible, not more.

  • Donalbain

    No.. the first law of thermodynamics is “You do not talk about thermodynamics”

  • GubbaBumpkin

    In my experience, some scientists lean left, but most come across as apolitical. I considered myself centrist and apolitical until the last decade or so, when the GOP took a dive to the extreme right.

    Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are not scientists, they are businessmen.

    And Bill Gates has spent the last decade or so giving away a large portion of his wealth, which i doubt Rand would approve of.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    New York is not a good place to live if you happen to reside on Long
    Island, the Capital Region, or most areas West of the latter.

    I live in western NY state in a city which frequently makes top 10 lists for being a great place to live. You couldn’t pay me enough to move to South Carolina.

    New York has in it’s State Assembly the most despicable talking turds
    ever to be dignified with their position because a government with so
    much money flowing through it attracts such criminals.

    You betcha. We even had a governor who got caught cheating on his wife in a very public and embarrassing way. South Carolina is just superior to NY in every way. But at least Spitzer didn’t build his political career on “family values.” ‘Scuse me now while I go hike the Appalachian Trail.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Well, having an official government is ONE way to do that, but I think that calling people simply getting together and agreeing to do something isn’t necessarily a government, because you could say the same thing about a company, or even a group of friends, but it clearly wouldn’t be a government in the sense that both Rand and those arguing against her here are using.

  • Sven2547

    you flunked high school science class, didn’t you?

    Show how *thermodynamic law* – any one of them, or all – is what infinite *electrical* energy would violate

    We have a late entry for the funniest Disqus response of 2013!

  • Verbose Stoic

    Now let’s talk about your belief that government exists to take things away from people who don’t benefit.

    That’s not what I said at all. I said that under her presumption, people who are rational about their own self-interest will get together and provide resources for things that benefit them. Thus, under that presumption, if you HAVE to get a government involved to do it and can’t do it just by convincing the people it benefits to do it, then it implies that there is no such argument or no such set of people who can both provide the resources for it and who benefit from it, which would mean that the government would indeed exist for no other reason that to take resources from people — since it has no resources of its own, really — and spend it on things that may not benefit them, and in those cases to do so without their consent, because if they would consent then you wouldn’t NEED a government to do it (even if having a government do it would be easier).

    However, since that sort of rationality doesn’t exist, society won’t work that way. As I pointed out in the first comment.

  • Nancy McClernan

    It still isn’t clear to me which beliefs are yours and which beliefs are your description of Rand’s, because you seem to buy into her belief that rationality is what separates those who need government services from those who don’t.

    And is that you saying government has no resources of its own? Or your explanation of Rand’s views?

  • Verbose Stoic

    Look, the issue here is that if you claim that the map doesn’t really properly track personal freedom, then Adam’s linking it to GDP — which, again, is the main point of the post — doesn’t mean a thing — as your claim would be that the map DOESN’T properly track personal freedom — and so can’t be used to criticize Rand, and that those who made the map didn’t include those freedoms again can’t be used to criticize Rand because if SHE had done the map she might have included those as considerations.

    So the reproductive rights point is at best an aside comment about the map, but it doesn’t really work as a commentary on Rand or Objectivism at all … and, if pushed, works against the stronger criticism which is the GDP point.

  • Verbose Stoic

    … because you seem to buy into her belief that rationality is what
    separates those who need government services from those who don’t.

    Not at all. Rationality is not, in fact, any sort of factor in determining who needs government services or not. I’m arguing that from a Rational Egoist perspective, once we all understand and act on what is actually in our self-interest, then all that’s left for a government to provide for the people are the things that aren’t in the self-interest of a sufficient number of people to provide themselves … because, in any other case, we could convince those people rationally to provide it for themselves.

    There are a LOT of problems with this view when you try to play it out in reality, but this is basically the idea.

    And is that you saying government has no resources of its own? Or your explanation of Rand’s views?

    I think, personally, it is a fact that a government doesn’t have its own resources. Almost all of its resources are raised through taxes, meaning that they are given by or taken from the people, who are the ones who earn those resources. Any other case would be a government taking over certain resource-generating property, but again that’s taken from the people, who otherwise would own it. So to me that seems fairly uncontroversial; you can nitpick it, but not in a way that affects my point, which is that the government takes resources from the people and uses them to do the things that a government does … which, if we’d all do them without a government if it really benefited us, causes the Randian issue raised above.

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

    Darn you and your habit of quoting what Rand wrote to support your points!

    Seriously, thanks for that bit. I was about to ask if there was some narrative reason why Rand couldn’t have used a physically plausible energy source like wind or geothermal, but you had already answered my question.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Thanks for noticing. I feel like we can save so much time by just looking at the text when we argue over what’s said in “Atlas Shrugged.”

    :)

  • Nancy McClernan

    Look, the issue here is that if you claim that the map doesn’t really properly track personal freedom, then Adam’s linking it to GDP — which, again, is the main point of the post — doesn’t mean a thing — as your claim would be that the map DOESN’T properly track personal freedom

    I don’t know why this has to be so complex when it isn’t.

    Here’s what Adam said:

    The lesson, if you missed Rand’s pounding it into your skull with a jackhammer, is that “good” government does nothing besides prosecute crime (which doesn’t exist in Randworld) and enforce contracts. Anything else whatsoever is an intolerable infringement on individual liberty. Therefore, profit-making businesses will naturally flee to whatever jurisdiction offers them the greatest freedom. Right?

    Well, I see a niggling little problem with that view, and it comes in the form of this map. Produced by libertarians with a similar view to Rand’s, it purports to rank the 50 U.S. states in terms of “freedom”. Before you read on, go look at that map and see if you notice the problem with it.

    OK, did you see it? The problem with this map, from a libertarian standpoint, ought to be obvious. They rank New York and California as the two least free states in the entire country; yet if you look at a list of U.S. states ranked by GDP, they’re two of the highest!

    OK, so paragraph 1 refers to an excerpt from AS. Adam says Rand is saying that “freedom” from government drives productive business away (in this case to Colorado.)

    Paragraph 2 he notes that the map does not show a clear connection between “freedom” and business productivity because…

    In paragraph 3 he compares the freedom map to the GDP map and notes that there is not a clear connection between freedom and greater business productivity, and in fact California and New York, which are less “free”, have high GDP.

    Now if fuguewriter had a problem with comparing the GDP map to the freedom map, he doesn’t show it until the issue of reproductive rights comes up. Then suddenly he has a problem with it not “indexing.” This is in spite of the fact that other personal freedoms also don’t index to GDP in a direct way, and yet they are used in determining “freedom.”

    I think that Adam is making an excellent point, but that isn’t what we’re talking about here. The point is that fuguewriter wants to have it both ways – he accepts the two-map comparison scenario enough to argue about whether California really has high GDP or whether the GDP ratings are a momentary snapshot. But when Adam raises the issue of reproductive rights, suddenly he has a problem with the indexing of freedoms to GDP.

    Do you see why that is an issue?

    Once we get that out of the way, we can discuss whether it’s valid to compare GDP to the Libertarian Freedom Map.

    I have to admit, I love the “travel freedom,” which is basically the freedom to not wear seatbelts and motorcycle helmets, safety feature with a proven record of lowering fatalities.

    Oh Libertarians, you are so irritating!

  • Nancy McClernan

    I think, personally, it is a fact that a government doesn’t have its own resources. Almost all of its resources are raised through taxes, meaning that they are given by or taken from the people, who are the ones who earn those resources.

    The United States the government is “we the people” so of course the money comes from the people. We have representatives who oversee collecting taxes and spending the income generated. And we agree to use the money for things like health insurance, which is more efficient and lower-cost under a government system than in a for-profit system as has been demonstrated many times.

    And we the people through our representatives in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government expressed our approval of the ACA.

    Do you have a problem with our democratic system? Or are you saying that Ayn Rand did? Or both?

  • Sven2547

    Here’s another emphasis – perhaps it’ll help: please show how *thermodynamic* law is what infinite *electrical* energy [generation] would violate.

    So, do you not actually know what the Laws of Thermodynamics say, or what? I’m guessing you were homeschooled by someone who didn’t know much about science. A creationist maybe? Sorry, I digress.

    An expert can probably explain it better than me (I’m a layman with a basic science education), but here goes:

    The Laws of Thermodynamics apply across-the-board to all forms of energy, including electricity. It’s hard to tell from the gibberish you’re speaking, but it looks like you think Thermodynamics is just the science of heat transfer (and not electromagnetism). There’s a lot more to it than that.

    Forms of energy can be converted to other forms of energy, and energy can even be converted to matter (and vice versa). When you say “electrical energy generation”, what do you think you’re saying? Electricity doesn’t just come from nowhere. Reality isn’t a game of Command & Conquer where you build a “Power Plant” and *bam*, you get “electricity”. Electrical energy is just a different form of energy that has been converted to an electric current. To “generate” infinite electricity, you need an infinite amount of fuel. This is a summary of the First Law of Thermodynamics, which Galt’s fictional toy disregards outright.

    And yes, I have done engineering work. Work that obeys the laws of physics.

  • fuguewriter

    This is an enormous game of beg-the-question. The question begged is that of the fictive background that Rand carefully constructs.

    Quick, dirty, simple, and repeated: the Motor (her pet name for a generator-cum-converter) is, in the fictive world, based upon an *accurate* new conception of energy that evidently’s on a par with Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein’s various discoveries in their various fields. This means that C of E may either be fictively avoided [in some non-defined way] or not. We cannot say, since Rand wisely doesn’t get too specific. It all ends right there. There’s no evidence it’s an actual C of E avoider or that it’s not. The preponderance of evidence *suggests* it’s not, as it makes use of ambient static electricity [an existing energy source] and requires some small (non-net-positive) energy input “to run the converter.” [Quoting from memory.] Rand doesn’t put stuff in for no reason. She carefully built up her MacGuffin with passing details.

    Beyond that we know not. It’s a fictional device and in the fictive world it works. (Imagining C of E violations on some sort of scale is hardly unique to Rand. Plenty of mainstream, non-kook speculative physicists play around with it, and certainly junk science cranks regularly claim to have found zero point or blacklightpower energy etc. etc. etc.)

    Your summary of the relationship of thermo to C of E is shallow: for one thing, you neglect the issue of closed versus open systems. Are you able to follow the concept of mechanical versus non-mechanical transfer? Ever even heard of Max Born? Ridiculous repetition over and over to no end. Endless chasing of a series of imagined errors, one after the other, while evading point after point after point.

    Your speculations about me are silly. When you’ve done electrical engineering work – particularly to do with dynamo design – come back and talk to me.

  • Viola

    So I’m not Ayn Rand or anything, I mean I’ve never interviewed any physicists or electrical engineers*, but I do have a BA in philosophy. And before I was allowed to have one of those, I had to read Leviathan several times (I lost count after the third). And I am reasonably certain, by which I mean completely sure, that Hobbes was in favour of a powerful government with strong powers of enforcement – even a brutal dictatorship, if necessary – to overcome the natural inclinations of humanity. He didn’t actually think humans are inherently rational, but if left to our own devices will lead a life which is, how is it put again? Kind of unpleasant? Oh, right. “Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” He thought that even the worst tyranny was better than the chaos that would result from people trying to come to reasonable agreements amongst themselves without the intervention of authority.
    Hobbes was also, incidentally, a monarchist. He figured vesting all the power in one person would be the least confusing for everyone.

    * Although I’ve been romantically involved/roommates with several physicists and engineers who
    really liked to talk about their jobs, so maybe I *am* qualified to come up
    with “a new concept of energy”?)

  • Azkyroth

    And again we’ll just conveniently avoid that Galt’s Motor is a) an *electrical* generator

    Irrelevant. The laws of thermodynamics apply to all energy transformations or transfers, as, even in the absence of having studied physics at all ever, you should have accidentally picked up from popular consciousness.

    Also, a “motor” and a “generator” are pretty much exact opposites.

    and b) based on a new conception of energy

    This string of words is not actually meaningful in context. (Well, okay, the “and” is fine). Unless you mean there’s some cosmic entities getting busy and popping out a squealing bundle of energy every 9 months or so. Which would join movie “physics” – bottom quartile movie physics – as an improvement over your claims.

    and c) [somehow] converts ambient static electricity.

    Ergo is subject to 1) the laws of thermodynamics and 2) the actual supply of ambient static electricity.

  • Azkyroth

    Make up your mind.

  • Azkyroth

    Conservation of energy, otherwise known as “The first law of thermodynamics”?

    I repeat: dQ-dW = dU. Do you understand? Do you think it’s even marginally worth at least attempting to understand? Do you think understanding would cause you to spontaneously combust and then collapse into a black hole of smarmy Dunning-Kruger?

    Can we try it anyway, just in case? :)

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    A motor and a generator are the same thing, just the inverse of each other. A generator converts kinetic energy into electricity, and a motor does the opposite. You can turn one into the other with ease.

    The laws of thermodynamics apply no matter what. The whole point of the laws of thermodynamics is that they are universal and apply everywhere to everything. If they don’t apply, you are talking about a different universe than our own.

  • Azkyroth

    What is “rational” in this case depends on the scope of the benefits and costs, in both kind and time scale, one includes in one’s calculations and one’s assumptions about other participants’ likelihood of choosing cooperation vs. defection.

    Anyway, what’s “rational” about bogging down every single discussion that even tangentially touches on secular ethics with bad-faith, artificially-stupid, and repetitive objecturbations?

  • Robert Haynes

    Wow, you are an incredible moron. First law of thermodynamics includes the conservation of energy, specifically energy can neither be created nor destroyed. There is absolutely no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, or an infinite energy machine. It’s bad science, and lazy writing.

  • Verbose Stoic

    What is “rational” in this case depends on the scope of the benefits and
    costs, in both kind and time scale, one includes in one’s calculations
    and one’s assumptions about other participants’ likelihood of choosing
    cooperation vs. defection.

    I never said otherwise, so I’m not sure what this is in reference to.

    Anyway, what’s “rational” about bogging down every single discussion that even tangentially touches on secular ethics with bad-faith, artificially-stupid, and repetitive objecturbations?

    If you don’t understand Enlightened Egoism, you can’t understand Objectivism. Therefore, when people make comments that show a lack of understanding of EE, it is on topic to specifically point out how EE doesn’t come to the conclusions that they think it does. What’s “rational” about you wandering into every such discussion that I have and accusing me of bad faith, even when those I’m talking to don’t seem to see it the same way?

  • Verbose Stoic

    All I said here is that the government doesn’t have resources of it own; it gets it all from the people. I didn’t say anything about whether it’s bad or not. As for what Rand would say … that’s the first part of the comment.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Well, what I meant in that final paragraph was that a Hobbesian Social Contract allows for overwhelming state power — that tyrant — while it isn’t clear how far Rand will allow the state to intervene in those cases, where someone is powerful enough to get what they want and doesn’t really need to worry about everyone else.

    Note that I don’t say that the Hobbesian view is necessarily Enlightened Egoist, which is what Rand’s view is. EE is a modification of the Psychological Egoism that Hobbes favours. However, even for Hobbes it is clear that he thinks that we can all come to understand that we are better off in a society and so with a Social Contract than we are outside of the society, in the state of nature. Thus, under Hobbes, we WILLINGLY give the tyrant power; the tyrant doesn’t just come along and IMPOSE the Social Contract on us, because that would violate the reason for everyone to accept the Social Contract in the first place, which is that no matter how powerful a person may be, they can be brought down by enough people joining together.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Actually, he first said this about the map:

    Which contradicts your thesis yet again. Rand would not necessarily
    agree with the map, or with your premises linking it to her thought.
    This fantasia has nothing to do with the actual Rand!

    Which is the main problem with the point, as pointed out: it essentially argues that the map that Adam is using that was NOT prepared by Rand might not actually reflect her views, making his comparison useless.

    The NEXT point was:

    You don’t even stop to question your own use of the map, or from what
    sector the map emanates. And how is GDP to be indexed to such choice
    issues? Yet you brought up GDP as the main issue. You’ve, per usual,
    created an enormous mess.

    Note that this followed an earlier comment about the GDP point and its relation to the map:

    This is your idea of a contradiction of Rand? On the simplest level, GDP
    in an even-partly-statist economy is no measure of virtue in Rand – or
    in a perfectly free one, for that matter, certainly not in a momentary
    snapshot.

    Which means that he already questioned the use of GDP as a metric, and certainly here, then, is asking why we would think that reproductive freedom would relate to business prosperity at all. You can argue, reasonably, that it follows from the idea that freer people produce more, but this would get into heavy details of exactly what sort of freedom Rand meant, and that’s far too much for an aside point since unless you have evidence otherwise from her writings Rand likely would at least oppose restrictions on contraception (abortion is difficult because most of the arguments about it make it a crime, so if she considers it murder she’d consider it just right to restrict it and if she doesn’t then it shouldn’t be restricted).

    Again, when Adam himself challenges the idea that the map actually reflects freedoms properly, fuguewriter THEN points out that that kinda kills his own point. Fortunately, that’s merely an aside for Adam, so it doesn’t quite kill his point, unless you take that part very seriously, as you seem to do.

  • lff2

    “…But in the fictive universe Rand carefully constructs…”

    So you agree. It is all fiction. Why do you continue to argue for the truth of a “fairytale”?

    lff

  • MNb

    “especially under a new conception of energy”
    Define and develop that new conception of energy, put it in terms of mathematics, show that it correctly describes all known empirical data with energy involved, show which new predictions this new conception makes and finally put them in practice – show this conception works.
    Then you’re talking iso babbling. You’re the one who has to pony up.

  • Nancy McClernan

    You conveniently left out the having-it-both-ways evidence.

    After fuguewriter complained that the map doesn’t reflect Rand’s views he then went on to argue about the results of the map-comparison exercise:

    Invariably, a single “gotcha” snapshot of alleged current conditions, trotted out as the end-all smoking gun, fails. Especially on the Internet.

    > Why haven’t the repressive, anti-freedom policies of these overbearing nanny states driven away businesses

    Have you not looked at the net population outflow from California? And the business climate? The debt per capita? The thing to look at is: what *could* those states have been, under economic freedom (including not being squeezed by the Federal octopus)

    > New York and California into poverty-stricken, dystopian hellholes?

    Try visiting Stockton and other areas of the Central Valley.

    If the freedom map-GDP map comparison is invalid, why does he continue to make arguments based on the comparison?

    The abortion issue only highlights the contradiction. First he’s content to use the two-map comparison scenario to argue about whether or not “freedom” translates to GDP.

    Suddenly a metric like reproductive rights is an invalid metric. And yet other metrics similar in affect to reproductive rights have already been used in the freedom map. Which fuguewriter has already accepted as a valid issue – valid enough to argue about the points made in the freedom map – GDP map comparison.

    But at this point I don’t think you’re ever going to see the issue, and I don’t care. If you think that fuguewriter expressed himself rationally in the middle of an epic screed, well that’s not my problem.

    If you want to drop the “what fuguewriter said” issue and just discuss whether Adam’s point that the “freedom map” is a valid tool in arguing against Rand’s views that government regulation is by its nature a drain on productivity – and I think he has a valid point – we can talk about that.

  • Verbose Stoic

    If the freedom map-GDP map comparison is invalid, why does he continue to make arguments based on the comparison?

    He doesn’t.

    Adam’s main point wrt the map is that it’s supposed to demonstrate the states that are the most free, and that by what Rand is saying in this part of the book those should be the states that have the most economic success. But if we look at GDP, some of the least free states have the highest GDP, and some of the most free states have the lowest. Fuguewriter’s challenge at that point is, essentially, that using GDP to measure economic success is probably wrong and likely not the sort of economic success that Rand was talking about. The rest of the points you question are fuguewriter trying to demonstrate that beyond GDP those states don’t necessarily seem to have more economic success by what he’d consider more reasonable measures. So he NEVER thinks that you should use GDP to measure economic success. At then end, though, part of his last comment is wondering how Adam manages to link his reproductive freedoms to what ADAM considers to be the measure of economic success, which is GDP. Which is a BAD argument, because by Rand being more free is supposed to be linked to having more economic succes in general, but if we go down that path then we risk invalidating the entire map and argument by moving it away from what Rand actually said and relying on what some people who call themselves libertarians think. Best, then, to just ignore the reproductive rights argument as an aside that Adam might have been better off not mentioning, due to it possibly being able to destroy his own argument and example.

    As for the GDP-freedom link, I’m not going to argue that because I don’t really think that the arguments of either side really work that well.

  • Nancy McClernan

    About the “freedom” metrics issue – in the past year I worked on a project designed to determine the money laundering risk of all countries, and someone on the project before I arrived had decided that in addition to standard country-evaluation indices he would also include the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.
    http://www.heritage.org/index/

    But when I tracked the risk of money laundering rated by the standard indices against the Heritage list it turned out that many of the countries rated high risk for money laundering also had high Heritage freedom ratings.

    But the true believer was willing to skew the country risk-ratings for money laundering on the belief that economic freedom should translate to low risk of money laundering.

    And this blogger noted:

    Two major right-of-center think-tanks have economic freedom indices: the Heritage Foundation and the Fraser Institute. Trying to make sense of these rankings is difficult, as some bizarre results have been achieved.

    Both indices have Hong Kong ranked as the most economically free country on the planet, with Singapore in second place ahead of New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada.

    This would be the same Hong Kong and Singapore that are not democratic, but ranked as hybrid regimes between authoritarian regimes and flawed democracies in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, which ranks nations based on their electoral process or pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. As well, neither of these nations has a free press, with Hong Kong ranked 58th and Singapore ranked 149th on the press freedom index.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2013/09/economic_freedom_without_actual_freedom.html

    I think these right-wing think tank indices provide a useful understanding of what kind of freedom conservatives really value.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I see now that you are right about the GDP issue – I should have read more carefully. I guess I was distracted by all the ranting about what an “enormous mess” Adam had allegedly made by daring to compare GDP to the “freedom” map.

    I do think it’s useful to compare indices of freedom generated by conservative think tanks to other indices – including GDP. I think their true values are revealed through them.

  • ahermit

    I think that calling people simply getting together and agreeing to do
    something isn’t necessarily a government, because you could say the same
    thing about a company, or even a group of friends

    Problem is if you want to organize things on a scale required to build the kind of infrastructure we’re talking about you need to establish rules and procedures and formalize those rules or nothing will get done. That starts to look a lot like government…

  • fuguewriter

    My initial point: the essential objection the poster was groping for is C of E. Are you stuck n 19th century mechanics? Ever heard of a guy named Mach?

    But even C of E would fail because we don’t have sufficient details on how the Motor works in Rand’s fictive universe to even judge if it entails a C of E violation. Not one word of argument has been advanced against this. As ever, you guys got nothin’. Empty wells spouting off.

    The first law in thermo is a specific application of C of E: to thermodynamic systems. (And even C of E applies to *closed systems*.) If you seriously dispute that, you’re going up against the entire mainstream. Go right ahead and publish it somewhere. The Internet makes it easy. But it’s non-mainstream. Again, since we don’t have enough detail [wisely, on Rand's part], we can’t classify the motor in toto as to an open or closed system, because we don’t even know exactly where it’s converting/drawing/transferring power from. If it were some other dimension or something else science-fictiony, that *fictively* would likely open up a new category, and the specifics of how such transfers would work would have to be worked out. But it never will, because the amount of information is enough to give us some idea of a revolutionary device but not enough to figure out what’s going on. Her linking it to terrestrial static electricity is smart because even there we have the dynamo effect. (Unless it has something to do with Stadler’s cosmic ray thesis.)

    This is yet another central damning point, and as ever the damning points are the ones magically ignored.

    It’s safe to say, from performance alone, that the ones crying scientific stupidityidiocyduhlol are the least-adept ones.

    I made the point, too, about the interestingness of Rand calling it a “motor.” Of course, another poster – or was it you? – crowed that a motor and generator, being opposites, are simple inverts of one another. My guess is that there’s only one person on this thread who has hand-wired armatures for dynamo models, and it’s not you or him. Ever done any engineering? How about dynamo design? Quick, without looking it up: what’s the left-hand rule?

    This bilge is what comes of the fixed idea that the opponent is stupid and wrong and the consequent subordination of inquiry and common sense.

    You guys make Rand’s close construction of the Motor look better and better.

  • smrnda

    The problem with that is the well known free rider program. It can be rational to assume that if a problem affects enough people, someone *else* will decide to do something about it, and if you hold out maybe you can benefit from their actions at no cost to yourself. There are rational reasons why a person who would benefit from something to try to find a way not to pay for it, which is why we fix these things by taking taxes from everyone and then doing these jobs through the government.

  • smrnda

    I don’t think it is uncontroversial. In the end, you acquire the most basic form of property (land) by seizing and occupying it and it is the government that decides which claims are legitimate and which are not, so in a sense, governments create systems that define property rights. It’s sort of how laws regulate intellectual property, and in turn, they shape the idea of what people consider legitimate claims to authorship or ownership or being a ‘sole creator.’ You can patent software that uses an algorithm, but the algorithm itself, published in a mathematics journal, may be something you cannot patent.

  • smrnda

    Yes, but the Austrian school takes that to such extremes that they end up praising Somalia as an ideal, while stating that Western European welfare states are somehow horrible. I can’t consider a person who would make such a comparison seriously, and for all their praising of Somalia, none of the people behind the Austrian economic school actually went there, which demonstrates that they’re *really* just privileged Westerners who knew that western nations benefit from weak governments in third world nations.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Or a company/corporation. And we don’t really know how much full organization you need.

    Don’t get me wrong; it might be something best or easiest done by a government. I’m just outlining the stance that Rand is taking here.

  • smrnda

    No, it doesn’t. The tax money would benefit the rich and the poor under the usual tax for services program. The rich want to split off into a separate society so that the rich have their society and the poor have theirs, even while the rich still benefit from the labor of the poor. They expect the poor to work to get them $, but then they want to not pay taxes to the poor people’s government, but to their own ‘private club’ style government.

    Some people should be forced to pay for things that don’t benefit them, since other people are forced to accept conditions that the first group of people imposed on them. Rich people impose their will on the rest of the population since they control resources, so it’s only fair that they get forced to pay taxes they don’t want to.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Which we would solve how we solve ANY free rider problem, because that’s a known issue in human society. So it’s essentially a game theory problem, and the easiest way to solve it is the idea that if you don’t pay at all, you don’t get to benefit. And the risk you run by assigning that to the government is that it would validate an argument against welfare, in that if people can get money from the government without paying taxes, they’ll do that, too. Ultimately, again, people who are rational about their self-interest know that things won’t work under either system if they don’t pay their fair share, and so end up under both systems willingly giving their resources but being always vigilant for people who aren’t doing the same.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Benefit must be mapped to benefit with and without the services provided, and when talking about a government and taxes by the overall value of the services provided versus the amount of money paid. For example, if those who were rich paid taxes to provide services but ended up paying out of pocket to use those services anyway, they’d quite rightly protest that they’d be better off not giving tax money at all and just paying themselves.

    But the real problem here is that you’re dividing the world into two classes — the rich and the poor — and treating each group as a group with interests who all make the same decisions based on that. Under a true Randian world, you don’t have that, as it is staunchly and insistently individualistic. That way you don’t get that private club you mentioned, because there really isn’t any reason to assume that those who have the resources actually get along well enough to trust each other enough to have one, and also that rational people with resources who need people (the poor, as you call them) know that they need to keep those people happy or they won’t have them anymore. Well, in an ideal world, but I think you might want to look at the Pirate game to see how rationally that should work. It ought to give you a different view of people who advocate that we should run the world by game theory [grin].

    Back on topic, your “impositions” paragraph has the same problem, analyzing things in terms of rich vs poor as a criticism of a view where those class terms have no meaning. You can argue that people with resources will always be able to unfairly impose on people that don’t, but that more justifies communism than taxes.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Governments only define that as a way of codifying the agreements between people; anything else runs to communism, an idea that the government really owns all the property and resources and we just use it.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    I’m neither of those myself, but I happen to feel pressure of an INCREASING TREND to leave NY because it is an understood fact by those in my position that life is better and richer elsewhere.

    You really oversimplify the cause of high real estate prices, and I’m beginning to wonder if you are even willing to look at the problem honestly. I noted before that your argument using questionable resources on the NY economy is flawed, and I am sorry that this is so inconvenient for you, (as it is personally for me) but it’s best not to present an argument unless it’s airtight. You are right that the cause of high real estate prices is due to high demand – well of course it is! NYC is still an international juggernaut, and the Carolinas and Colorado have no comparable cities. People commute to their high-paying jobs from the northern reaches of the Hudson Valley region, keeping the real estate prices high in that region, but most of those jobs are executive and administrative. High real estate prices say only that there are enough people with high incomes to keep those prices so high – it says nothing of a growth in job opportunities for the working stiffs! It says nothing for the will (or lack of) for large producers to produce locally, either! Many people with bachelors, even masters degrees are unemployed – please don’t compound their damage by denying this! People still get paid in NY, but more of them are in the business of keeping a company profitable at the expense of its consumers and labor interests. How much of a team is needed to to eliminate hundreds of jobs or more – how many employees does that take to achieve? They do this to squeeze the most profit savings they can out of monopolistic mergers, which cut the available choices to consumers, sending the quality of their products into the toilet.

    As with NYC, New York’s Capitol District (Albany, Troy, Schenectady) has fairly high demand on real estate. The State Capitol (Albany) has the highest-paid State government officials in the world (or close enough) with armies of staff people, keeping housing prices high there. Starting with Schenectady, prices steadily fall off as you continue West toward Buffalo, which is 300 miles out, but even Buffalo is more expensive to live in than in a Carolina beach town. Why don’t you take a poll here and find out how many would like to live in Buffalo these days? It’s just really depressing to see the bones of these towns along the way, which haven’t recovered (and nor has Buffalo) since the Erie Canal fell out of commercial use over half a century ago.

    As I noted before, it’s not all the cost of buying a home, but the cost of keeping one due to very high property taxes, and the cost of working due to State income taxes.

    What makes a region more desirable to the children and grandchildren of the middle class which emerged in the US after WWII has nothing to do with a demand for anything other than labor. This has not been expanding in NY, but it has in the Carolinas and other states which are building their own empires. Add to the growing job opportunities a warmer climate, cleaner communities, plus warm, sandy beaches, (or Colorado skiing and mountain biking facilities) and this makes life outside of NY more desirable to the people who I know and care about here!

  • fuguewriter

    This involves the problem of attributing a specific position to a school composed of dead writers, live writers, and live and dead non-writers. (It’s not impossible, but usually dicey and takes work.) Certainly, three recent foundational guys – Mises, Hayek, Rothbard – are dead and thus n/a. Would you show me where *the Austrian school* [which can equate, for these purposes, to its present leaders, if you establish those people are leaders] praises Somalia as a blanket “ideal” re. government? (Ideal of what re. government? Somalia as the best possible in all ways? Very doubtful. Probably pointing out limited ways in which some things have gone better, like telecommunications; not hard to do given the sub-Saharan baseline. Poor Africa – I hate that it does so badly for so long.)

    I’m well-aware of some individuals – like here, on mises.org in 2006 – http://mises.org/daily/2066 – who claim Somalia was doing *better* without a unitary, centralized government. This is hardly a claim of ideality. (We also have to distinguish the Rothbardian anarchic strain – which mises.org tends to – from the more classical-liberal Mises and Hayek strain; the former do like to jump at anything that weakens the unitary-state paradigm.) The better-than claim may or may not be true of Somalia – that’s a matter for political science experts, ultimately. In the late ’00s I heard some interesting claims re. infrastructure but don’t know what’s going on with the murder rate, either before the fall of centralized government or indexed to other comparable countries in the area.

    I have personal doubts about your claim, because a) I’ve not heard leading living Austrians say it and b) since around 2008 leftist folks have been bringing up Somalia as the surprise smoking gun sure to defeat my minarchism and generally-Austrian economics. If Austrians really did hail Somalia as ideal, I don’t think the monotheme would keep popping up. Which theme is about as applicable as arguing to a welfare statist that since North Korea is doing terribly, all welfare is OBVIOUSLY invalid.

    Your speculations about “the people behind the Austrian school” looks like the usual hash. Undefined people whose thoughts and biases you magically know. As usual.

  • fuguewriter

    Of course, even if leading-Austrians said to a man/woman that Somalia was ideal, that wouldn’t affect a whit the validity of their demonstration of the calculation problem under command economies like socialism.

    Ad hominem, etc. Even the Nazi monsters were right about smoking and lung cancer.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    I’m guessing that you live in Rochester! I read about that city topping that list more than 20 years ago, and it would be interesting but for the fact that Rochester is the one major city in Western NY which is not closely connected to (or has had better things going for it than) the Erie Canal. And Binghamton may still have IBM, which hasn’t done anythng remarkable and has done much less since the 1980′s, and Corning may still have more than just a Glass Works museum. There sure isn’t steel produced in Olean like it used to be!

  • BenjCano

    It’s called Poynting’s theorem, and it goes…

    No. You know what? Just look it up. It’s a statement about the conservation of energy in the electromagnetic field.

  • GCT

    And the risk you run by assigning that to the government is that it would validate an argument against welfare, in that if people can get money from the government without paying taxes, they’ll do that, too.

    Yes, those people who intentionally are poor so that the government will give them enough table scraps to get by. Oh the horror.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    I’m sorry, but you take this much too seriously to say “But Rand successfully avoids those objections by 1) having it be based on a new conception of energy…” – well, if she was successful, then why hasn’t that idea of hers become manifest? My unqualified prediction is that some day, after quantum physics is well-enough understood, we will be able to build amazingly more efficient machines, but total PPM is just a silly pipe dream!

  • BlueGuyRedState

    Apologies to the regulars if this has been covered in the past, but I just discovered this place thanks to PZ over at Pharyngula.

    If the Libertarian Philosophy actually works in practice, why isn’t it commonplace? You certainly can’t claim that it has never been tried.

    We’ve known since hunter/gatherer times that specialization and cooperation is more effective than individual action. In the literally thousands (more probably, millions) of different social structures that have existed and evolved over the ages, surely some people have decided that enlightened self interest is all it takes to ensure effective cooperation.

    Certainly, in some small groups, that could well be true. But why are there no large social-groups , cities, states or countries that function according to a Libertarian world view? Actually, if the philosophy worked as well as most of its adherents seem to think it does, Libertarian social units should be, by far, the most prevalent system around, simply because they should easily be able to out compete any alternatives. Clearly, any outsiders would quickly learn to adopt similar practices or else simply “vote with their feet” and become assimilated.

    Obviously, that hasn’t happened. In fact, I’ve yet to see any good example of a non-miniscule Libertarian social structure. Apparently, the whole “enlightened self interest” paradigm doesn’t seem to work in the real world, at least not with more than a few people at a time.

    There are at least two (I suspect insurmountable) problems with the paradigm. First, people are not particularly good at correctly determining what is actually in their own best interests, especially in the long term. At least partially because of that, there is often difficulty in reaching consensus on any coordinated course of action. As the world gets more complicated and difficult for the average person to understand, it becomes progressively more difficult to determine the actual best choice or agree on the best response (see: the Global Warming debate for an example).

    The second big problem is people “gaming the system”, or more precisely, the need to prevent cheating since it is inevitable that at least some will always try. Ars Technica has an extremely interesting article on this topic (http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/12/when-it-comes-to-taxes-people-vote-differently-with-their-hands-feet/).

    I encourage you the read the whole article, but in a nutshell, to maximize the benefit that an individual receives back from society, some kind of enforcement mechanism (i.e. government, taxes, penalties) seem to be necessary (and the overhead/expense seems to pay for itself). In addition, when they can see the end results, people VOLUNTARILY join groups with a “government” enforcement mechanism. Whether they do it because they receive more total benefits back or because they simply want to “punish” the cheaters is not clear, but the experiment definitely goes against the whole Libertarian ethos.

  • NakedJusticeLeague

    Let’s see. I moved from the high tax of Pennsylvania to South Dakota to work in the banking industry. Banking has become a major industry here because we do not have a state income, tax, a corporate tax, or any usury laws. Citibank, Wells, Fargo, Capital One and First Premier all have their major operations here
    In the south, BMW and Mercedes-Benz build their SUVs in South Carolina and Alabama respectfully. Kia and Hyundai are in southern states as well. Nissan has their entire operations stationed in Tennessee. There is a whole economy in the South that has developed around automobile production They are all in Low or no tax states with right to work laws. Tennessee is even recruiting Chrysler to relocate to that state. Chrysler has said, “maybe”.
    GE also closed out major production operations in Erie and are moving to Texas. It is not because they are Dallas Cowboy fans.
    In Incline Village, Nevada, real estate prices have gone through the roof. It seems a lot of these internet tech people are escaping California to a state with no income tax. Any serious analysis of California can show that high skilled people are leaving and low skilled people are moving in and jumping on the welfare train. You cannot build an economy on lettuce picking and maid service.
    Businesses and people are looking for better lands with lower costs. They are attracting the skilled workers to their states. They do not want to live in a state with a mess of regulation, and abortion is not considered a freedom issue.

  • BlueGuyRedState

    Especially when your political ideas are nothing but an economic theory, but by ignoring physics, you make any real world economic constraint completely irrelevant.

  • Verbose Stoic

    It depends on how good your welfare system is. In Canada, because of other benefits you can get it’s actually better, overall, to be on welfare than it is to work a minimum wage job. As long as welfare provides at least someone’s basic needs there may well be people who’ll prefer living at that level than working, or at least working a full time job where they’d have to pay taxes (ie they’ll work under the table to get extras, but that won’t count as income so they’ll still get welfare and still won’t have to pay taxes). Note that this isn’t actually an argument against welfare or even against having it provide a decent living, but just works against an argument like, well, yours, that seems to insist that no one could possibly try to take advantage of the welfare system, while on the other hand making an argument like the one above that the problem with appealing to benefit runs the risks of free riders.

  • fuguewriter

    > How can you do ‘one better’ than infinite

    Not what Rand said. Not actually-infinite.

    > free energy

    Not what Rand said. She specifically has Dagny saying “a few cents’ worth of fuel to run the converter” (quoting from memory).

    > take a closed system

    Ah, finally, someone who knows a little bit of something.

    > place the generator within and use it to power a heater. The temperature rises with no external energy input – violation of thermodynamics.

    You forgot about the converter – but you could get out of it by saying no net positive energy intput. What torpedoes your example is the fact the Motor converts static electricity. So, “no external energy input” isn’t met.

    > The laws of thermodynamics are general statements about energy – it does not matter if that energy is electrical or not, the laws still apply.

    You, like the rest (though you’re a cut above), drop out the context that we’re talking about *that particular motor* which instances a new, accurate [within the fictive universe of the novel] conception of energy. This may mean that C of E violations are involved – remember, C of E violations are permitted in standard theory, just in the absolutely miniscule span of Planck time.

    > you are arguing as if such a thing is possible

    I’m not. I’m saying what it is within the fictive universe of the book. Rand gets out of all of these objections, every one of them, by her careful construction:

    - energy input with the converter
    - conversion of static electricity
    - new (and accurate) conception of energy

    She was very careful here. and these criticisms aren’t making a dent in that.

    > not some artifice in a work of fiction

    Not so. At all. I’ve said “fictive universe” an annoying number of times. From the very beginning this was about how the Motor could potentially be objected to validly, based on C of E. It’s been fictive from the start.

    > so now it is your turn

    As we see, it’s not. Basically, not one of your conditions hold.

    > why either the laws of thermodynamics do not apply

    Again (and again and again and again): we don’t know enough to say that the Motor involves C of E violations. The balance of evidence suggests not.

    > how such a device could exist in theory well enough understood to describe, but not be produced 50 years later?

    This is garbled. It’s based on the strange idea I think the device is or could be real. We don’t even know enough about it to say.

  • BlueGuyRedState

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the uncyclopedia link. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

    I can’t believe I never noticed how MANY absurdities were in the book. I guess my brain is entirely too uncritical when I’m reading pulp science fiction. Far, far more unbelievable than having a sword fight while you have blaster in your holster.

  • Sven2547

    Note to other readers: I’m replying to a post that’s only visible to me because fuguewriter’s comment is “awaiting moderation”

    I appreciate your making clear that you’ll continue to beg the question.

    What are you talking about? I directly addressed and refuted a central point of your post. That’s not “begging the question”.

    Again: the first law of thermo’s an application of C of E (Sven’s note: Conservation of Energy) (specifically to thermodynamic systems – for that matter, C of E is famously applicable to *isolated* systems)

    Galt’s infinite-power-generator-thingy is a closed system, is it not? It’s not like it’s drawing power from elsewhere. Again: you need infinite fuel to generate infinite energy. There’s no weaseling around this.

    Again: Galt’s Motor is based upon a radical new conception of energy which, in the fictive universe of the novel, works.

    In other words, “maybe the laws of physics are different in RandWorld”. If that’s the case, you concede that it ignores the known laws of physics in OUR world. You call that an argument?

    Again: we cannot say whether it represents a C of E violation or not.

    You said the words “infinite (electrical) energy”. That is a C of E violation, period. If you cannot grasp this, then please go back to school. As I already said: To “generate” infinite electricity, you need an infinite amount of fuel. That’s Conservation of Energy.

    You’ve said nothing to rebut this. You’ve laboriously chewed over childish basics re. energy and basic thermo while avoiding the non-debatable relevant fact: that C of E is of greater fundamentality.

    I’ve said plenty to rebut this. It violates thermodynamics, Conservation of Energy, and pretty much the rest of Physics too. I can explain this to you, but I cannot comprehend it FOR you. You have to do that on your own.

    A gigantic spew of irrelevance

    You asked for a relevant Law of Thermodynamics and I gave it to you. You are embarrassing yourself and all the rest of the anti-science Randroids.

    Last word’s yours.

    I’d be shocked if that’s the case.

  • fuguewriter

    Thank you.

  • silentsanta

    “it could grip it by the husk…”

    That’s about the level of absurdity needed to dispute your case about Mercatus and its clearly libertarian views. Hell, they even enshrined their free market idol-worship right there in the fucking name, mercātus, i.e. *market*. It’s about as subtle as a 2×4 to the face.

  • silentsanta

    The funny thing is, if fuguewriter would simply pretend that the energy produced was just ‘infinite for practical purposes of all human populations for the next two hundred years’, this whole argument would be over. Rand could simply have posited a nuclear process that takes the mass of 2 cubic meters of air, once a year, and converts 100% (or say 99.99%) of that mass to its energy equivalent via Einstein’s e = mc squared fomula. This is different from classical fission or fusion generators which only convert a tiny fraction of the mass of their fuels to energy. The energy output of the completely converted 2 cubic meters of air per year is 6.9 megawatts, almost exactly the same energy output as the most powerful nuclear reactor on the planet today (Kashiwazaki-Kiriwa in Japan).

    With the density of sea-level air as 1.225kg per cubic meter, the calculation can be repeated by entering the following into google:

    “2 x 1.225 kg x c squared per year in megawatts”

    presto, a simple concession that ‘infinite’ could be a figure of speech, and a few of these (still highly implausible) machines and Rand wouldn’t have had to violate the laws of thermodynamics to prop up her already bullshit economic and sociopolitical treatise. But like nearly every ego-worshiping libertarian I have come across, they will insist on an infallible, literal interpretation (sound familiar?) and pride won’t allow them to let go of this millstone.

  • Donalbain

    http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-4-scientists-politics-and-religion/

    The vast majority of American scientists are in the left of the American political spectrum.

  • GCT

    Oh, fuck off. Any time someone makes the argument that people live poor on purpose in order to be free riders, it’s rather sickening. And, if welfare is better than minimum wage, then that’s an indictment of minimum wage and how we treat our poor as a society. They still aren’t choosing to be poor.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Any time someone makes the argument that people live poor on purpose in order to be free riders, it’s rather sickening.

    I’m not arguing that, or at least not arguing that poor people, in general, do that, or that most people on welfare do that. I am arguing that there is a non-zero number of people for whom getting guaranteed shelter, food, basic living expenses, health care, prescription drugs, dental care and having a little bit of money for extras is enough for them, especially if it means that they don’t have to work. To call that “poor” in line with an argument about it being “sickening’ seems to misstate what it means to be poor; if they have enough to eat, if they have shelter, if they have health care and incidentals, the only thing missing would seem to be material extras, not basic needs.

    But this isn’t the majority of people on welfare, which is why we should still have it and it should still cover those things, and nothing else. But don’t pretend that covering those things wouldn’t be enough for some people.

    And, if welfare is better than minimum wage, then that’s an indictment
    of minimum wage and how we treat our poor as a society. They still
    aren’t choosing to be poor.

    Um, you do realize that this point was about people choosing to be on WELFARE rather than working for minimum wage, right? Under your criteria, aren’t both poor?

    As for the minimum wage thing, in most jurisdictions in Canada when this occurs it’s because of the subsidiary benefits, not the wage itself. Meaning that they would get dental coverage because they can’t pay for it themselves, and drug coverage, and things like that which minimum wage jobs don’t actually cover as a benefit. You can argue — as Adam did — that they should, but merely raising the minimum wage isn’t going to fix that problem; you’d have to argue for mandating certain benefits, which might be problematic.

    Again, it’s not about choosing to be poor, but about choosing what standard of living you need. When I retire, my most fervent desire is to do have enough income/savings to have shelter, food, cover my medical expenses, and have a little bit of extras.

  • Sven2547

    the Carolinas, Colorado, and other ultra-Conservative states

    Am I misinterpreting your sentence, or are you calling Colorado an “ultra-conservative state”? Because that’s hilarious.

  • Nemo

    I’m sorry. When I said many, I wasn’t trying to imply most. I was simply saying that unlike the world of Atlas Shrugged, great thinkers in our world are all over the place politically. Also, I mentioned Gates and Jobs because, as powerful innovators and businessmen, they would probably be touted by Rand as being like Galt. I should have made it clear they weren’t scientists, though. Thank you.

  • ahermit

    At that scale a company/corporation looks an awful lot like a form of government itself. Just not one that’s very friendly to the rights of individuals under it’s influence. Something the Randians don’t seem to appreciate.

  • Bram

    For a critic to say that Rand wasn’t very bright might mean that her ideas have eluded the critic. For example, the qualifier, “as if” is just that. Once again, it is merely serving as a notice that there is a sense of life that holds that physical problems can be overcome. She never claims that they can be overcome without price (death, destruction,cost,pain, etc) just that they can be overcome. For example, Pompeii was eventually overcome. You can live in a world of doom and gloom (woe is me, this terrible world is full of nasty physical challenges and bad people) which, naturally, leads one to feel helpless and be grateful for a benevolent government’s interventions. OR, you can go forward with confidence in yourself and in others and a belief that things can and will be solved. No Pollyanna here, just a calm confidence and a willingness to deal with whatever REALITY throws at you if you can, seeking help when you can’t. Sounds like a better way to live to me.
    As for Rand’s lack of intelligence, talk to a philosopher about her idea of ‘concepts’ or her invention of the concept of psycho-epistemology or her clarification of epistemology itself.

  • GCT

    I’m not arguing that, or at least not arguing that poor people, in general, do that, or that most people on welfare do that.

    Oh fuck off, you are arguing that. You go on to verify that in your next “points.”

    I am arguing that there is a non-zero number of people for whom getting guaranteed shelter, food, basic living expenses, health care, prescription drugs, dental care and having a little bit of money for extras is enough for them, especially if it means that they don’t have to work. To call that “poor” in line with an argument about it being “sickening’ seems to misstate what it means to be poor;

    Again, fuck off. It’s sickening and abusive to claim that people scraping by aren’t really “poor” simply because they have enough not to starve in the streets and that they should be content with it. That’s the classist bullshit that comes from Randian apologetics. That’s the bullshit lie that the rich assholes who are really gaming the system tell poor people to placate them. Those assholes are the real ones taking advantage, using their power and influence to deregulate, to write laws, to defund social safety nets all for the purpose of making them richer at the expense of the working poor.

    Um, you do realize that this point was about people choosing to be on WELFARE rather than working for minimum wage, right? Under your criteria, aren’t both poor?

    Yes, I’m well aware of what you meant, and I pointed out that it’s a problem with our idea of what minimum wage should be. And, yes, both would be poor. So fucking what? I fail to see how it supports you in any way.

    …but merely raising the minimum wage isn’t going to fix that problem; you’d have to argue for mandating certain benefits, which might be problematic.

    Which is why we argue for universal health coverage.

    Again, it’s not about choosing to be poor, but about choosing what standard of living you need.

    Which is why the argument that people remain on welfare because they are free-loaders, etc is such a piss poor argument. Anyone who uses it or defends it or even claims it has merit needs to fuck off rather badly.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I am arguing that there is a non-zero number of people for whom getting guaranteed shelter, food, basic living expenses, health care, prescription drugs, dental care and having a little bit of money for extras is enough for them, especially if it means that they don’t have to work.

    There are a non-zero number of outliers in any system. Why is this unspecified quantity a relevant factor in a discussion of assistance for the poor?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Africa could look a lot different today sans Communism (or any alternative replacement statism).

    Yes we all know about Somalia.

  • BlueGuyRedState

    IF (and I do agree that it is a pretty big if) we accept your belief it might be possible to ignore physics, then you have to also ignore normal economic supply constraints, thus your model has zero applicability to the real world. So, good job, you have just successfully proved that the book is a fantasy.

  • Eric Riley

    Actually *you* said “infinite” and the ‘free’ is implied (else there would obviously be infinite cost, making the generator impossible by definition). Your statement:

    “Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production
    (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of thermodynamic law…”

    In response to your other points (such as they are):

    “What torpedoes your example is the fact the Motor converts static electricity. So, “no external energy input” isn’t met.”

    Static electricity is not energy. Technically speaking it is a potential field from which (a well-defined and finite) amount of energy may be extracted. Further – if this is your primary objection, then you are saying that this machine will fail to work in the absence of an external electrical field – ultimately, on Earth, it sounds like an incredibly inefficient means of converting solar energy (via air motion creating the static fields) into electrical energy. Hardly revolutionary.

    However – let’s go to the “fictional world of the book” –

    You say that:

    …within the fictive universe of the book. Rand gets out of all of these objections, every one of them, by her careful construction:

    - energy input with the converter
    - conversion of static electricity
    - new (and accurate) conception of energy

    Well – that’s no better than saying it works by magic. Whatever this ‘new and accurate conception of energy’ is, what it is *not* is accurate in the non-fictional universe we all inhabit and which is governed by the laws of physics.

    It seems like your argument is that the motor could work – if the laws of physics were different in such a way as to allow the motor to work.

    She’s not ‘being careful’, as you say, she is creating a plot device to make her worldview viable. Iain Banks does something similar in his ‘Culture’ novels, the difference is that he explicitly admits that it is all fiction and that such an energy source does not actually exist.

    “Again (and again and again and again): we don’t know enough to say that
    the Motor involves C of E violations. The balance of evidence suggests
    not.”

    What evidence?

    You switch between arguing real physics and fictional universe physics. You will not even admit to a position on whether or not such a motor is possible in the real world (“I think the device is or could be real. We don’t even know enough about it to say.”)

    Pick a position and argue it.

    The primary objection to the object (in the story) is that Rand is using it as a plot device (along with other items with unreasonable physical properties) to support her philosophical ideas about how humans should live together. If her ideas require the support of fictional devices, then her ideas cannot work in the real world we inhabit – in which case, she is simply wrong and we can look at this as a poor work of fiction.

    However, Ayn Rand was utterly convinced that her line of reasoning was not only correct, but the *only* correct way of engaging politics and economics in the real world. “Atlas Shrugged” is one of her books that attempts to realize her ideal world in a work of fiction – but she places a lot of extra ‘magic’ to make everything work out for her protagonists in the end – one item being the converter.

    So – give me a fixed description of the device and its capabilities, and I will tell you whether or not it violated either conservation of energy or the laws of thermodynamics. As you described it above, it does. If you wish to amend your description – and be prepared to give details – then it may or may not.

    However – even if it is technically *possible*, that does not mean it is either efficient or actually useful. If it relies on static electricity to function, that is extremely limiting as to how much power is available for it to convert.

    For an author who believed she thought like an engineer or architect, Ayn Rand was neither terribly creative, nor very good at getting the details down.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The Wall Street Journal would appear to disagree with you.

    By RICHARD FLORIDA
    For as long as many of us can remember, high-tech industries have flourished in the suburban office parks that are so ubiquitous in Silicon Valley, North Carolina’s Research Triangle and other “nerdistans.” But in recent years, high-tech has been taking a decidedly urban turn.
    Silicon Valley remains the world’s pre-eminent center of high-tech industry, of course. But even in the Valley, denser, more mixed-use and walkable places, like downtown Palo Alto, are becoming the preferred locations for start-ups and smaller firms. And many other start-ups—Pinterest, Zynga, Yelp, Square and Salesforce.com, to name just a notable few—are taking up residence in downtown San Francisco.

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390444914904577619441778073340

  • Nancy McClernan

    I always know when fuguewriter is in the house – I get no responses from him on the points I’ve made, but suddenly most of my comments are down-voted.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I will give you that Rand didn’t put things in for no reason. Everything in the book is meant to support the Great Dichotomy of Objectivism vs. Evil. Only Objectivists can create motors based on “new conceptions of energy.”

    As usual she’s stacking the deck in favor of her own eccentric and idiosyncratic theories of the world. Objectivism can’t work unless Rand endows it with Übermensch adherents who invent technologies indistinguishable from magic.

  • Brett

    “John Galt and his marvelous motor, which can produce infinite quantities of electricity from thin air, in a blatant snub of the laws of thermodynamics.” It is fiction, but I don’t see why it would be in violation of the laws of thermodynamics any more than a wind turbine is. Tapping into an existing stream of energy is not automatically in violation of the 2nd law. Entropy is still increasing. Or, is a crystal radio “a blatant snub of the laws of thermodynamics” as well?

  • Verbose Stoic

    Um, look above. This started from smrnda’s comment about free riders, and about it being rational for people who benefit from something to try to avoid paying for it, and my comment was that this applied to welfare as well, and that the way people had traditionally solved free rider problems wasn’t by not doing the things in the first place — which was the implication of smrnda’s issue with people providing the resources for their own infrastructures if it benefited them — but instead by ensuring that people who used the resources didn’t free ride on them.

    Thus, the discussion was about free riding and how you would stop that in general. It’s only GCT who wants to rant about this somehow being a discussion about how to provide assistance for the poor, despite my saying numerous times that I wasn’t saying anything about ending welfare or that welfare shouldn’t provide enough to allow for free riders.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Oh fuck off, you are arguing that. You go on to verify that in your next “points.”

    How can I verify that with a comment that starts with “there is a non-zero number …”? Are you going to claim that in CANADA, at least, there is not one person who is on welfare because they are technically capable of work but who just doesn’t want to work? Again, I am not saying that most people are in that boat. I believe and dearly hope that most people on welfare absolutely need to be there and want to get off of welfare as soon as they possibly can. But as I just said to Nancy, this discussion was about free riding, and it seems to me utterly unreasonable to suggest that NO ONE is free riding on welfare. Again, as I have said from the start, that’s not an argument against welfare, but if smrnda is going to use free riding as a reason why people can’t build their own infrastructures then he really does need to notice what that does to the welfare debate as well, because again that some will free ride on both systems seems obvious.

    Again, fuck off. It’s sickening and abusive to claim that people scraping by aren’t really “poor” simply because they have enough not to starve in the streets and that they should be content with it.

    So, let me list out what I think people on welfare get in Canada and you tell me what’s missing that we should provide them. They get: food, shelter, utilities, health care, dental care, prescription drugs, and either get or can get a little extra for incidentals. Yes, in terms of income, they’re poor. They won’t be able to save for retirement on that, and so would have to rely on the government pension plan. They probably won’t be able to afford the latest high tech gadgets, but could get entertainment through books and the like through libraries. Thus, they seem to miss luxuries, except for maybe transportation. Or can you point out to me what, in Canada, they miss that makes the idea that they could have a decent life on welfare “sickening”?

    Note, again, that most people don’t want to stay on welfare, for reasons that range from them having a work ethic to the fact that those luxuries are important enough to motivate them to seek a better life that includes them. But some may well find that their desire to avoid work outweighs the things they miss out by not working.

    And, yes, both would be poor. So fucking what? I fail to see how it supports you in any way.

    It demonstrates that while you were turning this into a discussion of people “choosing to be poor”, my point was not about that at all. Why? Because my comparison was about people choosing to be poor and not working over working and being poor. In short, choosing free riding over not free riding. Which fits in with making this a case where, indeed, it would be rational to free ride on welfare rather than to work, relating directly back to smrnda’s point.

    Which is why we argue for universal health coverage.

    Which, you might recall, Canada HAS. You know, that jurisdiction that I claimed had generous enough welfare benefits to make free riding possible for some?

  • Brett

    Also in a more general response to criticisms or “limitless” resources. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_resource_economics#Trend_towards_perpetual_resources As you can see it isn’t some libertopian fantasy. Scarcity is unavoidable, but the laws of supply and demand direct effort towards mitigating scarcity through new technology and innovation. The only real limit is human ingenuity. Sure, there is the eventual heat death of the universe, but I’ll let my “great x 10^90 grandchildren” worry about that. ;)

  • Brett

    C’mon, she is portraying a romantic ideal. These are archetypes. There is no logical dependence of the ideas hinging on limitless everything as an axiom.

  • Science Avenger

    No, “pedantic” means insisting that something must be literally stated to be true, while something that’s obviously broadly true after reading for comprehension doesn’t count. What I’ve said is obvious to anyone familiar with Rand’s writings. If you aren’t, do catch up.

  • Science Avenger

    All of that ignores the benefits of cheating the system. You’re essentially proposing a cartel of sorts, but based/enforced only on understood group interests. This violates basic economics. If there is an interest in cheating, people looking into their own self-interests will do so.

    It’s a version of naive libertarianism, which implicitly begins with “suppose everyone involved in rational and has a long term view…” I reality, many (all?) people are not rational, and certainly don’t have a long term view.

  • Science Avenger

    I don’t mean vague references, I mean specific descriptions of how these things would work. Saying “Midas Mulligan got his hands dirty” doesn’t cut it. You don’t deal with the sewage in a valley populated by hundreds if not thousands of people simply by having a sign up sheet for today’s clean up.

  • Science Avenger

    Why does it have to apply to all persons? In the real world, there is an exception to everything. Are you seriously saying that something that reduces cost to 99% of the population by a large amount is unacceptable if it costs a single person slightly more?

    The difference in optimality one person to the next is greatly exaggerated in these discussions. There’s little argument over what constitutes optimality in traffic coordination, which is why we have street lights.

    And no one here is talking about economy-wide solutions except you, so let’s put that straw man to rest. Rand’s objections came far earlier along the continuum than that.

  • Verbose Stoic

    If you cheat the system, either you’ll get caught and get nothing, or the system will break down. Long-term, not in your best interest.

    But, at any rate, you’re preaching to the choir here:

    It’s a version of naive libertarianism, which implicitly begins with
    “suppose everyone involved in rational and has a long term view…” I
    reality, many (all?) people are not rational, and certainly don’t have a
    long term view.

    From the beginning, I maintained that that presumption was, in fact, the problem with that sort of analysis.

  • Science Avenger

    It seems perfectly consistent with EE to me to conclude that having a system where I might not benefit from every redistribution of wealth is still in my interests because the benefit to me in total is still large and its just not worth the resources to make this calculation every single time society as a whole wants to do something. I had a similar discussion with a college roommate who couldn’t understand that it was worth rounding out the bills to the nearest dollar for expediency, even if one of us got screwed over by a few pennies here and there, rather than wasting hours of our time calculating everything down the exact penny. Your real name isn’t “Greg” by chance, is it? ;)

  • Science Avenger

    The kinds of activities we’re discussing tend to lend themselves to government because of the wider range of influence, ie, they tend to effect everyone one way or another. And again, it solves the problem of being able to do something that is in the interests of the group that would never get done if it required the individual decisions of every person in the group. Think of a draft during wartime, or mass transit/carpooling. When there is a benefit to be had by everyone, but only if everyone does it, government is going to be a lot more effective than any voluntary company arrangement.

  • Science Avenger

    “…And the risk you run by assigning that to the government is that it would validate an argument against welfare…”

    No, actually welfare is a point in support of the government solution, because the free rider problem refers to the paying side of the equation, not the receiving side. Whether its public transportation, or welfare, the concern in a voluntary company program isn’t that someone will get the benefit without paying for it right there: that’s what’s supposed to happen. The concern is that someone will find a way to get around paying their share of it and ride/receive anyway. That’s why the government solution works best: simply charge everyone.

  • Verbose Stoic

    It seems perfectly consistent with EE to me to conclude that having a
    system where I might not benefit from every redistribution of wealth is
    still in my interests because the benefit to me in total is still large
    and its just not worth the resources to make this calculation every
    single time society as a whole wants to do something.

    Not only is it perfectly consistent with it, it’s pretty much the whole POINT of it. But then you can justify the system on the same overall basis; that it is the best way to provide those things, preferably in a way that maxes out everyone’s resources. To take your rounding example, it works if you can say that, overall, you end up with the rounding benefiting you more in the long run, but not if the expected result is either simply breaking even (including the effort of calculation) or losing on the deal.

    The claim I made originally is that because Rand thinks that people will all act rationally in their long-term self-interest naturally, or at least will if freed from the shackles of the current societal mode of thinking, then you don’t need a government to provide those things as people will do it themselves. Given that, it’s easy to see why they want to keep the government out, because under their view the only thing left are those things that you CAN’T convince rational people that it benefits them in the long run to have, and that then sounds a lot like asking people to sacrifice their own benefit for that of someone or something else … and Rand is strongly opposed to that model.

    And no, my name isn’t “Greg” [grin].

  • Verbose Stoic

    Since people on welfare don’t pay taxes, the problem still arises as they may not pay and almost certainly won’t pay to the level of benefits they use (monetarily). Welfare gets its justifications from ancillary benefits, but people taking advantage of that still pushes the system too far. Thus, the solution is to recognize that it has ancillary benefits and so should be in place, but to solve the free rider problem the same way you solve all other free rider problems: catch those who try to use it without contributing and don’t let them use it if they try.

    Under this, you can still justify people paying different levels, by appealing to the ancillary benefits and pointing out that without that the system simply won’t work.

  • Science Avenger

    The problem is that the fiction bears almost no resemblance to reality. There are almost no cases in history where there was one super genius who rose leagues above everyone else, with nary a challenger, and who built everything from the ground up, including many many side projects, and with nary a goof among them. Almost always he who got there first was mere steps ahead of who would have gotten there second (ie Darwin/Wallace), and the genius in one area was a doofus in another (Newton on alchemy).. Einstein might have been the closest, as I’ve seen estimates that he was 50 years ahead of everyone else. Yet he had his share of troubles outside his field of expertise as well.

  • GCT

    No, you oblivious twit, the argument is about you making claims that people do, in fact, try to remain poor in order to get welfare, because…well, because. It’s class warfare bullshit propagated by the rich in order to divert attention from their activities of fucking over everyone else.

  • GCT

    Since people on welfare don’t pay taxes, the problem still arises as they may not pay and almost certainly won’t pay to the level of benefits they use (monetarily).

    Oh, FFS. It’s not like the rich people who rely on those service more than most other people pay for all the services that they rely on.

  • Science Avenger

    Rand “addresses” this in AS by implying there is a grand world conspiracy to snuff out the good capitalists and prevent any libertarian Utopia from emerging. Indeed, push any libertarian hard enough and they’ll make this same claim, as if there is some overriding universal force that keeps nation states from competing via political organization in the same way companies compete in their marketplaces. Rand’s only explanation is malice, which is only slightly better than the nonresponse most give.

  • GCT

    How can I verify that with a comment that starts with “there is a non-zero number …”?

    By continually arguing that people on welfare choose to be there and should be happy with all the great stuff they get.

    Again, as I have said from the start, that’s not an argument against welfare, but if smrnda is going to use free riding as a reason why people can’t build their own infrastructures then he really does need to notice what that does to the welfare debate as well, because again that some will free ride on both systems seems obvious.

    That’s like claiming that any argument about the merits of basketball work equally well for soccer because they both use round balls.

    So, let me list out what I think people on welfare get in Canada and you tell me what’s missing that we should provide them. They get: food, shelter, utilities, health care, dental care, prescription drugs, and either get or can get a little extra for incidentals.

    Let me say this as clearly as I can. They get those things because they are TOO FUCKING POOR TO PAY FOR THEM AND SURVIVE. What the fuck is wrong with you that you can’t grok that?

    Or can you point out to me what, in Canada, they miss that makes the idea that they could have a decent life on welfare “sickening”?

    No, you oblivious twit, what’s sickening is your abusive arguments that they should be happy with all the great stuff they get.

    It demonstrates that while you were turning this into a discussion of people “choosing to be poor”, my point was not about that at all.

    You used the argument (continue to use it too) and I called you out on it, regardless of what you think the original argument was. The rest of the paragraph simply supports my contention that no matter how much you claim you aren’t using that argument, you are.

    Which, you might recall, Canada HAS. You know, that jurisdiction that I claimed had generous enough welfare benefits to make free riding possible for some?

    Which includes mandating the benefits that you claim are not there. Why is it so hard for you to not twist every single argument into knots in order to avoid having to actually be shown to be wrong….oh yeah, it’s because you’re an egotistical asshole.

  • Verbose Stoic

    No, you oblivious twit, what’s sickening is your abusive arguments that they should be happy with all the great stuff they get.

    While I have little faith in your reading comprehension and ability to argue with what someone has ACTUALLY said, let me make the problem here abundantly clear:

    You claim that I argued that people on welfare SHOULD be happy with what they get on welfare. I, in fact, do not argue that at all. I, instead, argue that some people WOULD be happy with what they get on welfare, and explicitly that I believed that most people WOULDN’T be happy with that and that that was my fervent belief.

    “Would” and “should” are two completely different words.

    Evidence:

    Again, I am not saying that most people are in that boat. I believe
    and dearly hope that most people on welfare absolutely need to be there
    and want to get off of welfare as soon as they possibly can.

    Note, again, that most people don’t want to stay on welfare, for reasons
    that range from them having a work ethic to the fact that those
    luxuries are important enough to motivate them to seek a better life
    that includes them. But some may well find that their desire to avoid
    work outweighs the things they miss out by not working.

    Again, I don’t hold out much hope for you actually admitting that you were ranting against a claim never made, but this should demonstrate to everyone else what the argument has really been about.

  • JohnH2

    Sears problems are much older than that; the holding company was already losing money and shuttering stores and there was an expected slow decline to oblivion with minor pieces of the company surviving. So he tried something different. Read the whole article, it covers some of this and points out that Kmart was in bankruptcy and Sears nearly so when he took over.

    Read to the end of the article to get at what Mr. Lampert is really trying to get at with his system: A set of separate brands and companies that can be spun off at high profits when the parent company tanks, and, in the interim, funding for his pet projects (as well as making massive amounts of money off of selling off company assets).

  • BlueGuyRedState

    Ah yes, nothing like a good conspiracy that has been in existence for thousands of years and across widely diverse polities, with no exceptions and no whistleblowers. I guess that makes sense.

    Of course, if I happened to be a skeptical person, I might wonder why Occam’s Razor doesn’t apply. It does seem as if the simplest explanation is that the whole philosophy is ridiculous, ignores human nature and just doesn’t work in the real world.

    Anyway, thanks for the reply. It’s been a while, but this thread has convinced me to reread AS. I’ve always enjoyed pulp science fiction and AS gets funnier each time.

  • Norman Parsons

    After skimming over all the arguments and replies (and uncouth language) about infinite natural resources, the poor, the role of government, etc., may I remind the reader that Ayn Rand was a philosopher and author, not a geologist, mechanical engineer, or physicist. She writes about the moral aspects of capitalism, not how her principles must be applied in any given situation. A banker named John Allison has applied Ayn Rand’s principles to create the tenth largest bank in the U.S. He is now a highly placed executive in the Ayn Rand Institute,

  • GCT

    Quick, dirty, simple, and repeated: the Motor (her pet name for a generator-cum-converter) is, in the fictive world, based upon an *accurate* new conception of energy that evidently’s on a par with Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein’s various discoveries in their various fields.

    Seeing as how it’s based on violating the laws of physics, I don’t see how you can make this claim.

    It’s a fictional device and in the fictive world it works.

    So, it’s “accurate” and “on a par with Newton…” but you have to make sure to note that it’s fictive? But, hey, I can live with it being fictive as it solves a whole bunch of problems. Rand was writing fantasy novels, not philosophy and not something anyone should follow as a real-world guide to life? Sure, I can get behind that. Problem is that neither you nor many others treat it that way. Oh, yeah, it’s fictive when you realize the science isn’t supportive, but you don’t really mean that.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I’m not being pedantic by simply refuting your claim about what Rand said and believed. And I don’t accept your argument which breaks down to: “everybody says so – so STFU.”

    I am disinclined to STFU on the subject here since this thread is part of a project devoted to analyzing “Atlas Shrugged.”

    I say your interpretation is wrong and I’m prepared to back up my argument by referring to the text of the novel and Rand’s own statements.

  • GCT

    Inside also. Einstein was behind the curve on quantum theory.

  • GCT

    While I have little faith in your reading comprehension and ability to argue with what someone has ACTUALLY said…

    I admit, with someone as duplicitous as you it does take some reading between the lines to get your meaning.

    You claim that I argued that people on welfare SHOULD be happy with what they get on welfare.

    Which is why you made pains to point out all the benefits that people in Canada get? Tell your story walking.

    Again, I don’t hold out much hope for you actually admitting that you were ranting against a claim never made, but this should demonstrate to everyone else what the argument has really been about.

    You conveniently left out the passages that I’ve been responding to. Like the previously mentioned part where you talked about all the great benefits people get in Canada, or the fact that this whole discussion is about you trying to argue that people are gaming welfare, therefore we can’t argue in favor of it while also arguing in favor of government intervention to stop people from gaming the benefits system. Anytime anyone makes that argument, they are basically arguing that people are gaming the system to get welfare because they fucking like being poor. Fuck you, you abusive asshole.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Like the previously mentioned part where you talked about all the
    great benefits people get in Canada, or the fact that this whole
    discussion is about you trying to argue that people are gaming welfare,
    therefore we can’t argue in favor of it while also arguing in favor of government intervention to stop people from gaming the benefits system.

    Your lack of reading comprehension is laughable, as this doesn’t relate in any way to what the argument actually was. To reveal your disconnect from reality, let me restate the argument:

    An argument was made about how government is required to build infrastructure, which benefits everyone. I pointed out that under Rand the counter is that if it does benefit everyone the people will be rational enough to resource it themselves, so you don’t need a government. Smrnda said that the problem with that is the free rider problem, where some people will have a rational reason to try to get the benefits without contributing. I pointed out that to raise that as an unsolvable — other than by simply taking resources from people — problem validates the standard conservative argument against welfare, which is by appealing to free riders as well. I pointed out that we solve that the way we solve all free rider problems, not by abandoning the projects, but by ensuring that people can’t free ride. I pointed out Canada as an example because it has a social safety net that is sufficient to allow for free riders on welfare, which might not be the case for other areas, like the U.S. I raised the benefits example to show how it might rationally be better than working a minimum wage job, at least if one only cares about ones own self-interest. So nothing that implies that I’m saying that people SHOULD want to be on welfare, and as I quoted — and you ignored — I many times said that people SHOULDN’T, overall, want to be on welfare.

    Anytime anyone makes that argument, they are basically arguing that
    people are gaming the system to get welfare because they fucking like
    being poor.

    Thank you for admitting that you were arguing with other people that you’ve argued with in the past, and not me.

  • fuguewriter

    Arbitrary objections don’t cut it. It was your job to show that Rand “conveniently assumed” there was a sewer system in the valley. It is your job to show this somehow – you’re vague about how – goes against anything in the factual set-up of the Valley.

    Again, this is likely all irrelevant, because she was not making a literal prototype for some Utopian community. If it’s claimed she was, the claimer has to demonstrate it in an iron-clad way. And that’s the kind of hard work that not one of you does – because it’s not your interest here.

    In a community of some 4,000 people who are all signally hard-working and include some engineering geniuses, you actually maintain a sewage system would be a challenge? Besides, to show your limited thinking here, who says a sewage system would be needed? Ever heard of septic tanks? For a modern touch, how about incinerators and incinerating toilets? They’re often used in off-the-grid housing.

    These objections have no foundation. No pun.

  • fuguewriter

    We’re discussing actual government interventions, which do not reduce cost to 99% of the population by a large amount and cost a single person slightly more. Even if such a thing somehow could, apply the principle to racism, say: if we could make most people in a country happy by sacrificing a few minorities, is that okay?

    Universal individual rights are the way to go.

    The problem with these convenient lines drawn in politics beyond which no one will ever go is that the lines are always crossed. Originally U.S. income tax (20th century version, not overturned Civil War) was sure, certain, and absolutely never to go above about 10% on higher income earners. Look what happened. So every intervention carries with it a propensity to grow. And grow. And grow. Look at Social Security – it was trotted out to be a little helper for the last few years or life. Now it’s going to be one of the economy-swallowers (dwarfed only by Medicare, which will be the real killer).

    And traffic optimalization has unexpected consequences, too: look at what happens to shop-owners along the roads when speeds are increased.

    Unitary government control must be as minimal and narrowly focused as possible. Diverse private enterprise must be as maximal and broadly-based as possible.

  • sentstuff05

    Alan Greenspan begs to differ.

  • GCT

    Your lack of reading comprehension is laughable, as this doesn’t relate in any way to what the argument actually was.

    Yes, it fucking does, because I made it my argument against your bullshit. And, my reading comprehension is just fine…in fact, I’m more than able to wade through your obscurantist bullshit and parse your real meaning. Yes, I know you try and appear erudite so that people will simply assume you know what you are talking about, but that shit doesn’t work on me.

    I pointed out that to raise that as an unsolvable — other than by simply taking resources from people — problem validates the standard conservative argument against welfare, which is by appealing to free riders as well.

    And, I pointed out (had you bothered to actually read what I wrote) that making that comparison is like pretending that basketball and soccer are the same because they both use round balls. That some people can game the system (oh those incredibly brazen poor people gaming the system for hand-outs!) does not invalidate the fact that you need government in order to facilitate the infrastructure that keeps people in power from fucking over everyone else. That this somehow escapes you is not surprising.

    That you would continually make the claim that people are gaming the welfare system (ostensibly remaining poor on purpose) is sickening and what I called you out on. That you keep tap-dancing around that and complaining that it’s not the main point is too fucking bad. It’s abusive and sickening that you would continually push this point to the point of talking about all the benefits that Canadians get and asking what more needs to be done, as if they have it great for being on welfare. Fuck that and fuck you for suggesting it.

    So nothing that implies that I’m saying that people SHOULD want to be on welfare, and as I quoted — and you ignored — I many times said that people SHOULDN’T, overall, want to be on welfare.

    FFS. No, you’re saying that people intentionally want to be poor so they can collect welfare, and then going further to complain about all the benefits they get and complain that they are free riding parasites that should be happy with all the benefits that they get from Canada.

    Thank you for admitting that you were arguing with other people that you’ve argued with in the past, and not me.

    Considering you also are making that argument, you can also fuck off for suggesting that people want to be fucking poor so that they can get welfare.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    Sure, but I was talking about a *complicated* corporate structure. The Taggart “board” doesn’t really do anything in the book but act like a cypher, anyway.

    The point I was trying to make about Amalgamated still being just a signal company is that, apparently, these shady entities remain industry specific — there’s nothing like GE owning NBC, or AOL Time Warner, or holding compainies or subsidiaries or other such corporate arrangements.

    I think Midas Mulligan makes it into Galt’s Gulch by virtue of being a banker. I’m just not sure how that’s possible. I can easily see a Randian critique of high finance as just pushing around money while getting in the way of the *real* producers (quite similar to her view of government).

  • JohnH2

    From my own personal experience, working at sub-minimum wage in order to survive with no real hope for improvement massively sucks, real poverty (in the US at least) is more about an utter lack of hope than it is about a lack of basic necessities. It can be hard sometimes to get the basic necessities but the hopelessness is so much worse, and often causes the future lack of basic necessities (as you don’t manage what you do have very well because what is the point?). Everyday feels like an eternity and it is completely different from the broke situation of one that is in school and filled with hope for the future, that is just playing at being poor.

    In that situation the choice seems to be between working really hard in order to try and get ahead only to have it wiped out in an instant when your car breaks down (or anything else) or choosing to not work (more than necessary) and spending down everything you have so as to qualify for the maximum benefits, which provides more monetary equivalent than what one could possibly hope to be able to make working.

    Spending down is real, it happens, and it is a very alluring choice when one is in that situation; and, for many, it is the only choice as skills that the middle class just takes for granted have never been acquired by many poor people. When one has no hope, utterly hates what they do and gets paid next to nothing to do it, and would have to do a lot of that for a very long time to actually improve their situation (if health problems or other unexpected happenings didn’t wipe them back to square one again) then I don’t think it is right to blame the poor people for rationally choosing to maximize their utility by what could be considered gaming the system.

    One could blame the system, which seems rational until one realizes that wages haven’t kept up with inflation. The poor (and middle class) are being asked to work more in order to earn less. That situation should be remedied prior to attempting to reform the welfare systems (or at the same time).

  • BlueGuyRedState

    Um … You do realize that in cases 1 and 2 “after we apply reason and proper information, the situation is resolved” you are describing situations that almost never exist in the real world.

    You should try arguing on the Internet sometime. You would learn that it is not easy to change someone’s mind.

    Which is exactly why, even though it sounds “logical and reasonable”, Libertarianism has NEVER been seen in the real world, and probably never will be.

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

    Hi folks, moderator announcement:

    This thread has gotten huge, as you can see. I don’t object to the ongoing debate, but certain people (okay, just fuguewriter) are flooding the thread with dozens of comments per day, most of which are just flippant one-liners, personal attacks or repetition of the same arguments, adding nothing but noise to the discussion. This is an official notice that any more comments along these lines won’t make it past moderation. Stick to substantive comments and I won’t step in.

  • plusaf

    That was funny…. not differentiating between an “endless line of buckets” and an “endless supply of coal.”
    Well, almost funny…
    As for “free versus GDP,” keep in mind that those two states, CA and NY also enjoy some of the highest numbers of citizens in the country, too… correlations is not the same as causation, unless you’re trying too hard to make your point.
    And is it really true that most of the emigrants from CA have gone to TX? I saw that somewhere…. TX, where some cities seem to survive without zoning laws? Incredible! How can they DO that?!
    Slam Ayn and Atlas all you want; my newest bumper sticker and t-shirt say “Atlas Shrugged… Now, Non-Fiction. See my home page.
    Cheers, and happy new year anyway.

  • plusaf

    And you’ve inferred from what source that the main protagonists in Atlas Shrugged are the ONLY residents of Galt’s Gulch?
    Maybe some are there to handle garbage disposal, build and maintain the sewers, water works, electrical grid… and roads, too…. and for a price that everyone is willing to pay?
    Interesting non-conclusion.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Nancy has read the scene. What in particular about it do you think trumps Dagny’s ecstatic panegyric on reading the Galt Motor technical manual?

    Which BTW is a disgrace to the noble trade of technical writing if nobody can use it to recreate the Motor.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I said direct control. Influencing Alan Greenspan is indirect.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Yes, that’s my overall objection to that presumption of Rand: we not only aren’t always rational, we actually seem psychologically to tend against rationality, sometimes for the better.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Sorry I missed this reply earlier, but under Science Avenger’s idea it only has to benefit the majority of people, in the sense that it leaves them better off. He talks about sacrificing individual interests for those of the majority, and it is easy to make a claim that you can enslave a minority of people and use them to relieve the labour requirements of everyone else, or get them to do necessary but dangerous jobs that benefit everyone else as they don’t have to do it, but the resources still get delivered.

    _I_ won’t argue that that sort of slavery is good, but I won’t argue that you should sacrifice the desires or benefits of the individual or a minority to benefit the majority either. I don’t think that Science Avenger thinks that slavery is good either, but an unnuanced view of majority benefit trumping minority benefit can easily justify it in certain cases.

  • GCT

    Anyone who considers that to be gaming the system is a heartless, cruel, and abusive asshole. The situation you are describing is one where the person in question has no real choice. It’s either abject poverty, or slightly less abject poverty.

  • GCT

    If her philosophies require magic in order to make them work, then we can safely disregard them.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” Objectivism is a bizarre collection of Ayn Rand’s personal predilections. A philosophy that she herself refuted when she said that for her death simply means that the universe will cease to exist – the polar opposite of one of the pillars of Objectivism.

    And please explain exactly which of Rand’s principles were used to “create the tenth largest bank in the US.” Allison being a Rand fanboy does not demonstrate that his banking success was the result of adhering to Objectivism.

    And how does presenting ALL non-Objectivists in “Atlas Shrugged” as stupid, ugly, corrupt and cowardly monsters demonstrate the “moral aspects of capitalism”? Because anybody who doesn’t agree with laissez-faire capitalism is therefore a grotesque monster? Are you really so far gone you believe this is a true reflection of the real world?

    Oh never mind – I just read what you’ve written elsewhere in the past month:

    Obama hates this country, and his health plan is designed to destroy it.

    Unhinged paranoid demonization of political opponents is right up your alley. No wonder you worship Ayn Rand.

  • Nancy McClernan

    If you bother to read “Atlas Shrugged” you’ll see that Rand has Ellis Wyatt claim to have found an untapped supply of oil shale:

    Ellis Wyatt) pointed west. “The Buena Esperanza Pass. Five miles from here. Everybody’s wondering what I’m doing with it. Oil shale. How many years ago was it that they gave up trying to get oil from shale, because it was too expensive? Well, wait till you see the process I’ve developed. It will be the cheapest oil ever to splash in their faces, and an unlimited supply of it, and untapped supply that will make the biggest oil pool look like a mud puddle. Did I order a pipe line? Hank, you and I will have to build pipe lines in all directions to…

    The Wiki source you provided does not include oil shale in its list of perpetual resources.

    So what we have is one of Rand’s Ubermensch producers discovering an unlimited supply of oil, while another of Rand’s Ubermensch has invented a “motor” that provides limitless energy:

    “Hank! Don’t you understand what this means? It’s the greatest revolution in power motors since the internal-combustion engine – greater than that! It wipes everything out – and makes everything possible. To hell with Dwight Sanders and all of them! Who’ll want to look at a Diesel? Who’ll want to worry about oil, coal or refueling stations? Do you see what I see? A brand-new locomotive half the size of a single Diesel unit, and with ten times the power. A self-generator, working on a few drops of fuel, with no limits to its energy. The cleanest, swiftest, cheapest means of motion ever devised.

    Rand didn’t need these magical powers to make her political points. Galt could have created a merely excellent yet plausible generator, and Wyatt could have simply discovered a huge oil field that was not unlimited. Those things combined with the fact that all Rand’s heroes are omni-competent, ultra-hard-working, good-looking genii and their opponents are all stupid, incompetent grotesques should have been sufficient to support the going Galt scenario.

    So the real question is, why did Rand feel the need to add unlimited oil and a limitless energy source to the gifts she gave her Ubermensch?

    The only answer I can think of is that Rand is suggesting that if you truly believe in Objectivism you will receive magical gifts. And why not? It’s a tactic that’s served religions well for millenia.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And the truly bizarre thing is that Rand’s heroes actually do believe in the conspiracy you describe. This is a conversation between Rearden and Dagny in section two of Atlas Shrugged:

    …I don’t know what it is that they think they accomplish – but they want us to pretend we see the world as they pretend they see it. They need some sort of sanction from us. I don’t know the nature of that sanction, but, Dagny – I know that if we value our lives, we must not give it to them. If they put you on a torture rack, don’t give it to them. Let them destroy your railroad and my mills, but don’t give it to them. Because I know this much: that’s our only chance…

    …Yes,” she said. “yes, I know what you’ve seen in them… I’ve felt it too – but it’s only like something brushing past that’s gone before I know I’ve seen it, like a touch of cold air, and what’s left is always the feeling that I should have stopped it… I know that you’re right. I can’t understand their game but this much is right: We must not see the world as they want us to see it. It’s some sort of fraud, very ancient and vast – and the key to break it is: to check every premise they teach us, to question every precept, to – “

    The key phrase there is “some sort of fraud, very ancient and vast.”

    With the insistence that their opponents are pretending, the heroes’ description of their opponents is so far removed from any actual real-world description of socialism that it renders the entirety of “Atlas Shrugged” useless in terms of a political critique. Rand’s heroes really do believe in some secret evil cabal out to stop them.

  • GCT

    Because it’s basically a perpetual motion machine. If you feed some seed energy, it produces limitless amounts of energy back. That’s simply not possible according to physics. This is discussed in a lot more detail earlier in the comments. I suggest you start there.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And don’t forget Arthur Conan Doyle, who, when not writing tales of the greatest rational mind in fiction was trying to catch a glimpse of fairies.

    Amazingly there is film of Conan Doyle discussing both Sherlock Holmes and “how I came to have psychic experiences…”

    http://www.openculture.com/2012/11/arthur_conan_doyle_discusses_sherlock_holmes_and_psychics_in_a_rare_filmed_interview_1927.html

  • Science Avenger

    You’re dodging the question, as libertarians often do. *IF* it were the case that government interference could reduce the cost to 99% of the population by $1 simply by increasing the cost to the other 1% by $1, should libertarians support it? I’m not asking if you think it would actually happen, I’m proposing it as a hypothetical, just like my alternative electric power thought experiment in an earlier thread.

    You (and most libertarians/objectivists) try to pretend that there are no such situations, and that just flies in the face of reality. But the reason they do so is obvious – they don’t want to look unreasonable by saying “even if its a great benefit we’d still oppose it.”

  • Science Avenger

    The problem is the many many situations where the individuals interests run counter to the group interests, a situation that Rand and libertarians pretend doesn’t exist. Any time there is a limited resource you are going to have this problem. Take the many over-fishing tragedies that have occurred. If you’ve got a population of fish which will be eradicated in 50 years without regulation, its still in each individual’s self-interest to catch all he can, which will lead to the extinction of the species,and thus no fish for future generations.

    Only by a government initiation of force limiting each person’s catch to an amount that will allow the continuation of the species are the interests of everyone protected. Limiting a small number of people’s freedom a little pays off a much larger group (every human that follows) to a much greater degree. The notion that people will be self-limiting due to them being rational about it is nonsense, and I’d venture that it completely lacks historical precedant.

  • Science Avenger

    “Since people on welfare don’t pay taxes”

    Where in the world did you get that idea? They pay sales taxes when they buy things, and they paid taxes like the rest of us when they had jobs. Hell, many of them have jobs now. You speak as though there is a large class of people who are permanently on welfare and never work. That’s nonsense.

    “…the problem still arises as they may not pay and almost certainly won’t pay to the level of benefits they use (monetarily).”

    That’s not a bug, that’s a feature. It’s insurance. Everyone pays a premium in the form of taxes when they are working, and that goes to pay the benefits of those who have a qualifying event. Do you think its a problem with homeowners insurance that those who make large claims get back more than they paid?

    “people taking advantage of that still pushes the system too far…”

    Baloney. That’s a GOP trope that has no evidence to back it.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Okay, to try to avoid the constant wrangling, let me ask you this question: do you think that it is possible for there to be any free riders on welfare, in any jurisdiction? I’m not talking about large numbers or anything like that, but a non-zero set of people who either are on welfare when they really don’t need to be, or would be if they could get away with it. That’s all I’m aiming for because that’s all I need to go after smrnda’s point. And if you say “No” because they wouldn’t get it or would get found out and cut off, you’ve just validated my argument against smrnda, which was that that was, in fact, how you stop free riding.

    I’m not interested in arguing for or against welfare. I think that welfare is needed and has to provide basic necessities. So there’s no disagreement there, and so no disagreement with 99% of your comment.

  • Science Avenger

    But Rand said nothing about any such social contract. She made that pretty clear when Dagny ran her train through the residential area at 100 mph. To Rand, so it seems, the collective never gets to restrict the actions of the individual, regardless of the risk posed by the individuals actions.

    I think the reason for this is that Rand doesn’t seem to acknowledge probabilities and uncertainty. She writes as though life is a game of chess, where every move turns out as expected, and all loss or gain is 100% attributable to the actor. The gradiation of risk you are discussing, from the trivial to the near certain, don’t exist in her world.

  • Verbose Stoic

    No, you need some kind of social enforcement, if people realize that it’s a problem. We’ve solved tragedies of the commons long before we had any kind of official or strong government to settle it. Unfortunately, it was usually a lot messier without a government …

    But, again, I think that the problem with Rand’s view is indeed that people tend to think short-term over long-term and won’t be rational in the way she things. I’ve agreed with that over and over, so we don’t actually seem to be disagreeing about much.

  • Science Avenger

    Yes, but no one here is talking about an unnuanced view of majority vs minority except you…and Rand.

  • Verbose Stoic

    I don’t think that any Egoist, particularly one claiming to be Enlightened, could deny that part of Hobbes. But we’d need far more than one scene in what is essentially a long thought experiment to settle that.

  • Science Avenger

    Well of course I’m talking about a situation where their claim is credible. I’m presenting the easy extreme cases because as far as I can tell Rand would object to them anyway. I see nothing in Rand’s writings that would imply her support for the collective halting Galt’s construction of his nuclear power generator in his garage that might kill them al if he makes a mistake. She dodges this issue by just writing characters that never make mistakes.

  • Science Avenger

    What I’m really after is for an Objectivist to explain to me why the individual should be able to do what he wants, and to hell with what the collective thinks about it, based on man’s nature. This was, after all, supposedly the basis for Rand’s philosophy. But her understanding man’s nature was flawed in myriad ways.

  • Verbose Stoic

    This is where you started from:

    … if the collective decides that what you are doing is a threat to what
    they consider their well being, I’d argue they most certainly have a
    right to stop you from doing it.

    You did try to clarify it a bit later, so I apologize for the blunt overstatement in the last comment. But if you argue for collective well-being over individual or minority well-being, you do potentially run into problems like I described, and the more you try to add things like probabilities and the like the more you make it so that we really aren’t talking about collective rights versus individual rights anymore.

  • Science Avenger

    Bullshit. The clear message in Rand’s writings is that businesses would rather be in places with less government ad regulation than areas with more. That’s the whole point of the discussion with Mowen about Colorado attracting business because of what they don’t have. What they don’t have is a lot of government.

    As to your claims of brain drains and such, I’m familiar with those claims, but they always come sans evidence, so I give them their due regard.

  • Verbose Stoic

    I’m not an Objectivist, but I was re-reading an essay in “Spider-man and Philosophy” that used her views as part of it, and the main issue is that Rand strongly rejects the idea that an individual has to sacrifice their interests to the interests of the collective. It’s this sort of sacrifice that she objects to, and is indeed one of the issues commonly raised against Utilitarianism: is it in any way reasonable for society to expect me to calculate my actions based only on the interests of others, and to try my own interests as just one more set of interests among all others? Is it right for a society or collective to take everything away from me or stop me from doing what I want for whatever reason it wants, or because it happens to benefit the collective overall? And we can easily see the risks of “swamping”, where if we are to consider our own interest at the same level of everyone else’s we will indeed end up sacrificing our interests for others if even two people will be benefited by the sacrifice as much as I will from not sacrificing it.

    Add in that we, in our nature, can be seen to at least tend towards being self-interested, and you should be able to see the objection. Of course, this view has its own problems, some of which you’ve pointed out.

  • Science Avenger

    Of course you are, since probabilities are part of the real world when we are trying to balance the rights of the collective vs the individual. But I’m not interested in that discussion right now. What I was trying to provoke by my original statement was a response from Fuguewriter or some other Objectivist to explain, using Rand’s theories, why the collective cannot enforce its notion of the good on others. I’m playing devil’s advocate, because I think her arguments on that score are crap.

  • BlueGuyRedState

    What really gets me is how few people seem to realize that philosophy and logic are supposed to be taught together, at least they were when I was in school. It’s like no one has ever heard of a False Dichotomy.

    I can understand how a childhood exposed to the extremes of communism would have a lasting effect on your world view, but that does not mean that the polar opposite approach is automatically good. The world is almost never black & white, but too many people seem to think that it is. I suppose that is because it makes it seem as if it is easier to understand, but in reality, it usually just means that you are wrong in at least some particulars.

    I definitely have to read AS again and pay more attention. I’ve always loved good quality, hard Science Fiction, but I also enjoy the pulps when I just want some light entertainment. I first read AS in high school and classified it as pulp SF. Even as a hormone driven, naive teen, I knew the male/female interactions were completely unrealistic, and the “science” was just plain Stupid. I look forward to reading it again as a comedy (albeit unintentional).

  • fuguewriter

    Also, *which* businesses? Taggart Transcontinental’s president, Rand’s most repulsive villan ever (so much for her loving all businessmen), James Taggart, absolutely loved more government and more regulation, He was a crony capitalist of the first water. Ditto Orren Boyle, the crony capitalist steel tycoon – another high-ranking business guy, and another disgusting personage. These businessesmen and numerous others just loved regulation. U.S. anti-trust laws were championed by business guys and used to this day to attack competitors, (Rand, in her late 1950s interview with Mike Wallace, calls such capitalists “the original collectivists” – the absolute worst insult in her lexicon. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKd0ToQD00o )

  • GCT

    Ah, no. She’s claiming to represent reality, and her story actually does depend on it being realistic. She’s attempting – and failing – to describe a way for humanity to work, which doesn’t really work if it relies on magic.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Ayn Rand named her philosophy “Objectivism” and described it as a philosophy for living on earth. Objectivism is an integrated system of thought that defines the abstract principles by which a man must think and act if he is to live the life proper to man. Ayn Rand first portrayed her philosophy in the form of the heroes of her best-selling novels,The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). She later expressed her philosophy in nonfiction form.

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

    It couldn’t be clearer that Rand thought that “Atlas Shrugged” was a portrayal of the “philosophy for living on earth.”

    And furthermore, when it was suggested to her that the characters in “Atlas Shrugged” couldn’t exist she retorted “don’t I exist?”

    Rand considered herself and her boyfriend (and sometimes included his wife and her husband) and exemplars of Atlas Shrugged heroes.

    I will agree that there was no logical need for Rand to posit limitless energy in Atlas Shrugged – that was completely gratuitous and I suggested elsewhere here, a quasi-religious tactic of promoting Objectivism.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Here’s what it says:

    The model does have one distinct benefit: If Sears goes down, its parts may live on. Lampert says in an e-mail that SOAR has made it easier for Sears to divest businesses, such as its outlet stores, and create new ones, like its Shop Your Way division. In his latest earnings call, he boasted that the program’s members now account for some 60 percent of Sears’s sales. Although it’s unclear whether the program is effective—two former Sears executives say the rate at which Shop Your Way members redeem their points for purchases is less than 20 percent, far lower than most loyalty programs—Lampert maintains that Shop Your Way is the future of Sears.

    If Lampert’s goal is to destroy Sears and then make money from the pieces, well that’s not exactly a shining example of how to lead Sears itself, which is what his Randian scheme was alleged to be all about.

    Meanwhile, investors are bailing.

    http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/lamperts-firm-cuts-its-stake-in-sears/

  • Donalbain

    Exactly. She is describing a post scarcity economy. One that is so vastly different from the economy of the world we live in that no lessons can be drawn from it.

  • Nancy McClernan

    This is your idea of a “consultation” with an engineer?

    She was looking for some new power source. It would be something new and important that was to appear in Atlas Shrugged. I had become an electrical engineer in 1952, and she asked me about lighting. I knew about lightning, but I also asked various other engineers about tit, and we came to the conclusion that although it was a tremendous amount of power, it was of too short duration. There’d be no way of harnessing it, so she would have to give that up as her fictional power source.

    It was a “consultation” that resulted in an unusable idea.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The best part of the interview with Evan Wright is how it confirmed the intolerant, autocratic nature of Ayn Rand:

    …I was not terribly impressed by Atlas Shrugged. I thought it was nothing like The Fountainhead. When I read the whole book later, I thought it was boring, too preachy. Your archive probably has my eleven-page letter to her, which I wrote after I finally read the entire book, in 1961. She was quite upset that I hadn’t even taken the time to read her book as soon as it came out, but it was a long thousand-page book and I had no time. I was not in favor of the book, and I knew that when I told her, that we be the end of it.

    Why?

    Because with Ayn if you disagreed with her work you were very likely going to stop being her friend. I don’t know of anybody who disagreed with her on basic principles or on something as basic as her monumental book, Atlas Shrugged, and continued to be her friend…

  • Brett

    Yes, she did think that about atlas shrugged, but that isn’t mutually exclusive with it portraying a romantic ideal.

    From the very same link you cherry picked from:

    “Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.” The purpose of art is to concretize the artist’s fundamental view of existence. Ayn Rand described her own approach to art as “Romantic Realism”: “I am a Romantic in the sense that I present men as they ought to be. I am Realistic in the sense that I place them here and now and on this earth.” The goal of Ayn Rand’s novels is not didactic but artistic: the projection of an ideal man: “My purpose, first cause and prime mover is the portrayal of Howard Roark or John Galt or Hank Rearden or Francisco d’Anconia as an end in himself—not as a means to any further end.”

    Q.E.D.

    There was also no reason to describe Helen of Troy as the most beautiful woman in the world. She could have simply been “exceedingly beautiful,” but where’s the art in that? In both cases, it is a literary device to heighten the sense of what is at stake.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The “endless line of buckets” isn’t even the issue – it’s the “as if.”

    I’m surprised that as a fan of Atlas Shrugged you’d argue that a key metric in productivity is the number of people, since Atlas Shrugged makes clear that in Rand’s view a thousand Ubermensch are worth millions of the rest of humanity – the worthless parasites. That’s how John Galt and friends are able to conquer the world.

    Apparently you and Rand disagree about the true value of the producers.

    Your web site is a hoot – you’re a global warming denier and one of your heroes is racist scumbag Pat Condell. I’m so impressed. One of Ayn Rand’s few virtues was that she did not support racism. And you can’t even emulate her on that.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/09/23/feminism-is-not-an-excuse-for-your-racism-pat-condell/

  • Brett

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C. Clark

    See my other comment in response to Nancy in this thread.

    We take for granted today, what once was unimaginable.

    The limitlessness of the discoveries in Atlas Shrugged are symbolic of yet unimagined prosperity which can be achieved through the application of reason to solving the problems of reality.

    What material difference does it make to the story and philosophy if someone discovers limitless energy, or simply a way to extract enough energy to fuel civilization for the next 100k years?

  • Brett

    I imagined it as utilizing some sort of quantum effect to harness energy in a vacuum. Possible? Who knows? Even if such a device would violate the 2nd law, Newtonian laws of motion were uprooted by Einstein. Why not laws of thermodynamics by quantum mechanics?

    Science places assumptions under scrutiny and may one day show them to be wrong. See:
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/06/01/does-quantum-mechanics-flout-the-laws-of-thermodynamics/

  • Brett

    “OR, you can go forward with confidence in yourself and in others and a belief that things can and will be solved. No Pollyanna here, just a calm confidence and a willingness to deal with whatever REALITY throws at you if you can, seeking help when you can’t. Sounds like a better way to live to me.”

    You’re not alone. I think that this isn’t simply just a better way of approaching life, but a profoundly beautiful way of seeing the world and your fellow man.

  • Wretched Fiend

    I’m late to the party but I’ve always loved Bob the Angry Flower’s take on Galt’s Gulch:

    http://www.angryflower.com/atlass.gif

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yes I have a copy of The Romantic Manifesto. My favorite part is where she reveals yet again her obsession with her mother giving her mechanical chicken away to an orphanage. She repeats that story in Atlas Shrugged too. This is from “Art and Moral Treason:

    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.

    But you do acknowledge that Rand considered herself and some others to be the living embodiment of the kind of heroes she created in Atlas Shrugged – right?

  • Nancy McClernan

    And speaking of Greek myths, I’m looking forward to Adam getting to the part of Atlas Shrugged where Rand completely screws up the Prometheus myth in her attempt to stretch it to fit her story line.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I was waiting for someone to quote Clarke. You do realize that there is a difference finally between advanced technology and magic, right? Or are you suggesting that Lord of the Rings is full of advanced technology?

    Lord of the Rings “technology” doesn’t bother with a plausible explanation for its phenomena. And neither does Atlas Shrugged. Throwing around “diesel” and “motor” and then having Dagny declare it’s the greatest thing since sliced atoms is not good enough.

    And the odd part is that Galt’s motor is completely gratuitous. Its magicalness is not needed, given the infinite superiority of the Objectivists over the parasites in every possible way.

    But the problem with “Atlas Shrugged” isn’t that it’s full of implausibilities and an eccentric hack novelist’s sexual and revenge fantasies. The problem is that there are some people who believe that “Atlas Shrugged” is some kind of useful political analysis of the world in which we live. And that’s why we are still talking about Ayn Rand – and why it is so necessary to dissect every nutty layer of “Atlas Shrugged” to demonstrate that in terms of coherent political analysis, there is no there there.

  • Nancy McClernan

    You can live in a world of doom and gloom (woe is me, this terrible world is full of nasty physical challenges and bad people) which, naturally, leads one to feel helpless and be grateful for a benevolent government’s interventions. OR, you can go forward with confidence in yourself and in others and a belief that things can and will be solved.

    What a moronic simplistic dichotomy.

    Oh right – I guess your ideas have just eluded me.

  • Nancy McClernan

    As for Rand’s lack of intelligence, talk to a philosopher about her idea of ‘concepts’ or her invention of the concept of psycho-epistemology or her clarification of epistemology itself.

    Why don’t you provide the name of a philosopher with an opinion on Objectivism? I’d especially be interested in the philosopher’s take on Beethoven’s work expressing a “malevolent sense of life.”

  • Nancy McClernan

    James Taggart, absolutely loved more government and more regulation

    Yes, that’s such a plausible description of a businessman.

    Rand can invent any bizarre creatures she wants – and she did – but they aren’t related to anything on this planet. She also invented a lobbyist who gives up his great paying job to join the government.

    Because everything is the opposite on Bizarro World.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And notice she has an eye tick. It shows up in other videos too. Why has nobody, not even her two most-recent biographers – mentioned this interesting fact?

  • Nancy McClernan

    U.S. anti-trust laws were championed by business guys and used to this day to attack competitors,

    Examples of these business guys please. And no, I won’t look them up for you.

  • Wretched Fiend

    Brett claims — “Even if such a device would violate the 2nd law, Newtonian laws of motion were uprooted by Einstein.”

    No, Newton’s laws were not “uprooted” by Einstein. Einstein thought that they weren’t complete, helped apply some new math to the problem, and came up with some theories which (when tested) turned out to be a better approximation to reality than Newton’s.

    “Better” is the key word. Newton’s laws are still very accurate at describing the motion of objects on the Earth’s surface, when relative velocities are small enough that the difference between Einstein and Newton is miniscule. As a matter of fact, it is possible to derive Newton’s equations from Einstein’s by the process of simplification — just start zeroing out terms which are infinitesimally small at low relative velocities, and so on. Relativity was a correction to Newton’s laws of motion, not a revolution which repudiated them.

    Brett – “Why not laws of thermodynamics by quantum mechanics?”

    First, the two have coexisted quite nicely for 70 or 80 years or thereabouts. I’m not sure why you think there’s salvation for Rand’s nutty ideas in QM, other than maybe the common crank idea that because QM is weird but able to make accurate predictions about reality, somehow its success lends credibility to the crank’s weird ideas which do not make accurate predictions about reality.

    Second, because if QM had altered understanding of thermodynamics (and maybe it has, I’m not enough of an expert to know), it wouldn’t be likely to be a complete revolution. Instead it would be something akin to the relationship between Newtonian mechanics and relativity: a refinement, not a replacement or repudiation. (And a perpetual motion machine — which is what you’re proposing might be true — would be a total repudiation, not a mere refinement.)

    By the way, that link you gave? You’re reading more into it than is really there. He’s not actually claiming that new physics might allow violation of the 2nd law…

  • Brett

    You really love to hate her. This post is just jumping another ad hominem attack on an unrelated point.

    I honestly don’t care if she thought she was the Dali Lama. I think that there are men approaching that ideal, and many more who strive for it. I care more about ideas than personalities. I like many of her ideas. I respect her unapologetic resolution to fighting for justice as she sees it. I think her prose can be a bit awkward, but she has at times really impressed me with her clarity and economy in expressing certain ideas. (“Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal” comes to mind.) I find her interpretations of certain philosophical ideas sophomoric, polemical, and perhaps a bit paranoid. E.g. Philosophy of Science such as Logical Positivism in “Philosophy: Who Needs It?” I think her statements about Israel and Arabs are incongruent with the rest of her philosophy. I don’t generally like her, but the validity of her argument is not dependent on her charisma.

    I think in a lot of ways she is like her hero, Aristotle; an ardent advocate of reason who sometimes falter. E.g. Aristotle’s science. Are we not men?

  • Brett

    Now you’re just trolling. I mean it in the sense that even a great mind such as Da Vinci would have almost no point of reference for how an iPad with 4G service could possibly exist.

    Who cares if it is gratuitous?! Are you the literary police? It was gratuitous to make Beowulf king; he was already the baddest mofo around. Art is gratuitous, yet we love it so. How tedious you are being, is really, really, gratuitous. It doesn’t make you wrong though; that has been established independently of this fact.

  • Brett

    “her story actually does depend on it being realistic.”

    How? Back your assertion. Please, something more concrete than, “because I say so” or “because scarcity!” would suffice. Since, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are fewer raw resources than any point in the past and more people than ever, yet the global standard of living has been steadily increasing by all meaningful metrics, and it ain’t because of any spending bill, syndicalist workers collective, or humanitarian NGO, but all those corporations which I bet you love to hate.

  • fuguewriter

    At last – C of E! Someone at least gets there: the *fundamental* issue.

    And that’s all well and good. In the fictive universe, Galt came up with an epochal and accurate new conception of energy. This new conception of energy might show a way around C of E – or not. We (rightly) cannot tell from the information provided. On balance, one concludes not (especially as Rand was not sympathetic to perpetual motion machines and other wacky things).

    No need to look up Poynting – I’ve used it in some work I did on novel armature design. But thanks!

  • fuguewriter

    She would reject the idea of post-scarcity. If one had to go broad, she was quite big on limits. That was why she upheld economic freedom: it channeled, in her view, human energy the best toward innovation.

  • fuguewriter

    Rand rejected the extreme case method of ethical arguing. She held this was a fallacy, and that one needed to start from the normal, healthy case. Hence her going to meta-ethics first.

  • Brett

    So, I take your money, use it to build you a swimming pool in your back yard. You go swimming. Surely you owe it to me that you have such a lovely swimming pool to swim in. To presume that you could swim in your back yard, without my having built your swimming infrastructure is absurd. Surely you must acknowledge this!

    The government wouldn’t have been able to do jack, except through force, were it not for the labor capital of everyone already out there being productive; finding ways to meet their economic needs by finding better ways to service the needs of others. Which, by the way, is how government got things done prior to the bottom up establishment of industry and banking; slaves and war. It’s perverse that commerce is seen as exploitive and riding on government coat tails. Yet, the only times I’ve ever been confronted with someone demanding my money or threatening my freedom – where I had not been in violation of a willful written agreement with the other party – has been by government or a street criminal. And, I can’t think of a single time where I was like “Wow, that’s really awesome what government did. It makes so much more sense that way and makes everyone’s life so much easier! I wish I would have thought of that!” yet the opposite is true of “greedy,” for profit market actors.

  • Donalbain

    Because wind turbines do not produce an infinite amount of energy.

  • GCT

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C. Clark

    OK, so what advancement are we going to make that will allow us to actually violate the laws of physics? Besides, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that it was hyperbolic romanticism and that it’s also realistic.

    What material difference does it make to the story and philosophy if someone discovers limitless energy, or simply a way to extract enough energy to fuel civilization for the next 100k years?

    The difference is that Rand needed to create some sort of plot device that would make a world that simply doesn’t exist in order to make her philosophy work. Her philosophy simply doesn’t work in reality, so she had to warp reality to fit her preconceptions and then pretended that she was describing reality.

  • GCT

    I imagined it as utilizing some sort of quantum effect to harness energy in a vacuum.

    A) it’s not in a vacuum. B) in order to use quantum changes in energy levels, you have to excite the atoms, which requires input of energy. C) I wondered how long it would take for someone to uncritically just throw out the “quantum” catchphrase without actually knowing anything about what they are speaking.

    Even if such a device would violate the 2nd law, Newtonian laws of motion were uprooted by Einstein. Why not laws of thermodynamics by quantum mechanics?

    Sigh, no. Newtonian mechanics got us to the moon and back. They were not “uprooted” as they work perfectly well so long as you stay within their boundaries. Relativity and quantum mechanics (Einstein did not come up with quantum mechanics) are extensions of Newtonian mechanics at the boundary conditions where Newtonian mechanics breaks down. None of this, however, has anything to do with thermodynamics and the fact that you can’t get energy for free.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Science places assumptions under scrutiny and may one day show them to be wrong.

    And so we are to cease critiquing Rand’s motor on the basis of known principles of physics on the grounds that maybe one day new discoveries may support Rand’s motor?

  • Nancy McClernan

    (especially as Rand was not sympathetic to perpetual motion machines and other wacky things).

    And the source for this assertion is…?

  • Nancy McClernan

    I don’t care what you think of Rand. I was responding to your statement:

    Yes, she did think that about atlas shrugged, but that isn’t mutually exclusive with it portraying a romantic ideal.

    My point is that in fact it is mutually exclusive to claim that Atlas Shrugged was a “romantic ideal” of aspirational characters, while at the same time claim it is an illustration of a “philosophy of living on Earth” – and it is clear that Rand was not speaking metaphorically about living on Earth because she publicly stated that she herself was an exemplar of one of her own “Atlas Shrugged” heroes.

    You do acknowledge that Rand is trying to have it both ways – you just don’t admit that’s what she’s doing.

  • Nancy McClernan

    So literary analysis makes one the “literary police”? If that’s your attitude, why are you even participating in this ongoing discussion of “Atlas Shrugged”? Or maybe that is the point of your participation – it is actually you who are trolling because you are outraged that anybody would analyze Atlas Shrugged from all angles – including an artistic one.

    And the reason it’s gratuitous is because the entirety of Atlas Shrugged is devoted to reiterating the Great Dichotomy – Objectivists vs. Evil. Rand has by this point in the book so thoroughly stacked the deck against Evil’s avatars, presenting them all as ugly, stupid, mendacious, incompetent and corrupt that Rand doesn’t need to pile on further to make the point. She’s padding the book unnecessarily. But then since she wouldn’t allow the editors at Random House to do their job, the book is full of all kinds of garbage that would have been taken out under normal literary publication practices.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Granted the motor is what prompts Dagny to search for its creator, which is how she finds John Galt, but Rand could have easily come up with an alternate storyline, especially since Dagny’s in regular contact with d’Anconia and he shares with her virtually all the rest of the contents of his mind every time he sees her. Although for some strange reason, even though d’Anconia was BFFs with John Galt in college, and Dagny and d’Anconia were lovers when he was in college, d’Anconia never ever mentioned the name of his two best friends (Ragnar Danneskjold being the other) to his true love.

  • GCT

    Wow, a “taxes are theft” argument. LOL. Apparently you don’t think roads are important? How about education? Etc, etc, etc. And, apparently, you think it’s theft to ask people to help support the infrastructure that allows the country to run? Yet, you don’t think it’s theft for you to use the services provided by the government and wish to not pay for them? It’s hard to take your argument seriously.

  • GCT

    If she would reject “the idea of post-scarcity,” why did she put a perpetual motion machine (limitless energy generator) in her story as a central plot point?

  • Nancy McClernan

    It’s perverse that commerce is seen as exploitive and riding on government coat tails.

    Examples of someone seeing commerce this way.

    Yet, the only times I’ve ever been confronted with someone demanding my money or threatening my freedom – where I had not been in violation of a willful written agreement with the other party – has been by government or a street criminal.

    Examples please. (not for the street criminal)

  • GCT

    The story has to be realistic, because if she’s describing how one should live in situations that can’t actually happen, then why should we care about it? Problem is that her philosophies rely on unrealistic situations and have to ignore reality.

    As for scarcity, we can’t continue to consume resources as we have forever. What will we do when we start to exhaust our oil reserves? We have to hope that we’ve come up with sufficient alternative sources by then. So far we’ve generally been pretty good as a species of avoiding these pitfalls. We should hope it continues.

    As for everything good coming from corporations, that’s a very naive view of the world. Government intervention is necessary for things like basic research (corporations don’t like to invest in things that don’t have pay-offs), projects that don’t have a defined owner (like roads, etc), and other projects like that. Governments are also better when it comes to things like health care, because that way we aren’t putting corporations in the position of trying to make profit off of not providing their services.

    Lastly, your idea of what I “love to hate” is rather puerile and made up of quite a bit of straw. Again, it’s hard to take someone seriously who argues in that fashion. Just because Rand saw things in black/white doesn’t mean that everything really is either black or white.

  • Nancy McClernan

    If one had to go broad, she was quite big on limits.

    We have seen two counter-examples – a limitless supply of shale oil and a motor capable of limitless energy. You need to come up with something to support your claim that Rand was “quite big on limits.”

  • Nancy McClernan

    AS is funny and it and Rand herself have both inspired great humor. I’ve made a list to share with my fellow Atlas Shruggednauts.

    The one that hits closest to home is MOZART WAS A RED, the one-act farce written by former Rand inner-circle member Murray Rothbard.
    http://archive.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/mozart.html

    The funniest blogger of Atlas Shrugged I’ve found is Dani Alexis, although she stopped liveblogging the novel right before part 3. With any luck she will find time in the near future to finish the job.
    http://danialexis.net/2013/02/11/liveblogging-atlas-shrugged-interlude-the-study-guide/

    Great Cracked video comparing the cults of Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5YWTFW5WMw

    Also from Cracked – How to Succeed as an Ayn Rand Character – a handy flowchart.
    http://cdn-www.cracked.com/articleimages/wong/aynrand/arflowchart2copy.png

    At McSweeney’s – Our Daughter Isn’t a Selfish Brat, Your Son Just Hasn’t Read Atlas Shrugged.
    http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/our-daughter-isnt-a-selfish-brat-your-son-just-hasnt-read-atlas-shrugged

    John Hodgman’s piece in the New Yorker – Ask Ayn.
    http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2013/07/29/130729sh_shouts_hodgman?currentPage=all

    John Scalzi’s take on Atlas Shrugged – not meant necessarily to be humorous but has some funny lines.
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/01/what-i-think-about-atlas-shrugged/

    Uncyclopedia’s entry on John Galt
    http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/John_Galt

    Ayn Rand’s The Lord of the Rings at Slacktory.
    http://slacktory.com/2012/06/ayn-rands-the-lord-of-the-rings/

    Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt’s Chiropractor? at The Awl.
    http://www.theawl.com/2012/11/atlas-shrugged

    Caigoy Shrugs – a multi-part review of Atlas Shrugged.
    http://buffalobeast.com/caigoy-shrugs/

    Atlas Slugged Again – the sequel to Atlas Shrugged.
    http://www.ellisweiner.com/slugged.html

    Bill Maher on libertarians and Ayn Rand – video clip from Maher’s Real Time.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55zDEBNqfk4

  • Brett

    A) it’s not in a vacuum. B) in order to use quantum changes in energy levels, you have to excite the atoms, which requires input of energy. C) I wondered how long it would take for someone to uncritically just throw out the “quantum” catchphrase without actually knowing anything about what they are speaking.

    A) Cool story bro. B) I get that. The book is fiction; it could have taken the Atlantis theme further and been told of a race of under water dwellers. That wouldn’t invalidate the ideas presented. I keep hearing that the philosophy can be valid if and only if free energy were possible. Why must this be so? I haven’t been given a satisfactory answer. Following the arguments being presented by the anti-Rand camp, the philosophical ideas in Voltaire’s Candide ought to be invalidated purely on the basis that it contains reference to monkey-men. If you read the article I posted, you can see that our understanding of entropy and the 2nd law isn’t as cut and dried as it has seemed in the past. I am not saying that the 2nd law doesn’t apply (though it may not), just that there is some evidence that reality may not work according the the 2nd law in all cases. C) Do you need a hug? (I’m being a smart-ass, but I would totally give you one if you did. I am engaging in this debate because I love people and think that reason and rational discourse/discovery, not force, are the only tools we have to illuminate the darkness. If I can illuminate some darkened corner of my thinking, all the better)

    Sigh, no. Newtonian mechanics got us to the moon and back. They were not “uprooted” as they work perfectly well so long as you stay within their boundaries. Relativity and quantum mechanics (Einstein did not come up with quantum mechanics) are extensions of Newtonian mechanics at the boundary conditions where Newtonian mechanics breaks down. None of this, however, has anything to do with thermodynamics and the fact that you can’t get energy for free.

    *Sigh* Yes. There is the question of what Science really does. I argue that Newtonian mechanics is not “truth,” but a useful approximation, i.e. they are heuristic. Einstein thought so as well. Sometimes things come under scrutiny because experiment doesn’t match the expected results. Other times, experiment is created to test a new or refined model. In physics mathematical proof is of the model not reality. The model is tested through experiment. Newtonian mechanics is one of these models and we discovered that while a useful model, it didn’t match reality (observation). For Newtonian mechanics to be reconciled with special relativity we needed to change the referent semantics for the term “mass.” Furthermore, Newton saw velocities as additive, which was certainly “uprooted.” (The word “uprooted” isn’t scientific vocabulary, so it is pointless to argue about it. However, I’ll try to refrain from further use of such loaded words. Mea culpa.)

    Einstein, however, didn’t simply add to Newton; Newtonian mechanics had to be re defined special relativistic terms. However, this is not simply a matter of boundaries. Prior to special relativity, scientists didn’t think that Newtonian mechanics held true except for light; a shift in boundaries is a shift in how much of something actually holds universally true. This is very relevant to thermodynamics, not specifically but in a wider epistemological sense. We don’t think that we can get free energy, this will very likely hold true. However, it is entirely possible that further understanding of quantum mechanics may show us that there is a way to tap into energy in a way that we would have previously thought of as free and thus impossible, but in actuality is within the bounds of the 2nd law after some amendments to incorporate newly understood corner cases.

    Harnessing the atom is an example, though not in exactly the same way. Still, being able to get several orders of magnitude more energy from a kg of uranium than a kg of coal was a drastic shift in what we thought possible. If Rand had described Galt’s motor in terms of atomic energy just 25 years earlier, people would have been just as incredulous as you are now.

    Modern scientific inquiry has only been around since the 16th century. I don’t think we’re justified in such epistemological hubris, especially in light of so many open problems in quantum mechanics and beyond.

  • Brett

    And so we are to cease critiquing Rand’s motor on the basis of known principles of physics on the grounds that maybe one day new discoveries may support Rand’s motor?

    Of course not.

    I let this discussion get away from me a bit since I think people get smug with statements which boil down to “It’s science. You’re stupid and wrong!” a bit too much. I’m not trying to criticize science, nor treat science as eventually omnipotent or omniscient, I am mainly trying to point out that there isn’t sufficient reason for the associated hubris and smug dismissiveness and that what we see as rigid constraints of reality, may end up being much different as our pursuit of understanding unfolds.

    The real relevant point for this thread is: Why is free energy an antecedent requirement for Rand’s ideas in Atlas Shrugged to be valid? I would genuinely love a good answer.

    I have my own criticisms about what must be valid in order for government control of economic affairs to be at all defensible, but I will freely explain and even provide mathematical proof, where relevant, if requested. One such criticism is as follows:

    Macroeconomic problems are NP-complete or NP-hard. Economic decisions are personal and subjective. Each market actor is bound by this. They make many polynomial time decisions. Additionally, they use an experience based heuristic for meeting their subjective needs. This is a bottom-up solution to the problem, i.e. an economic market, while not optimal, each actor has the ability to factor in their subjective experience and needs into the solution. When government tries to control markets, they still have the same problem of computational complexity on their hands, but are further removed from the subjective need. This will shift things out of the equilibria established through emergent order. The consequence is over/underproduction, distortions in price signals, and bubbles.

    Until it can be mathematically proved that there are polynomial time approximations which can achieve results at least on par with emergent economic order in a free market, I don’t think government has any business playing with fire it can’t control. Not withstanding such a proof, measuring how well subjective need is met, not just an artificial metric like GDP, would require utility functions which are still approximations and not likely to map to the actual needs. This is the fundamental nature of why black markets emerge. E.g. shaving razors in Orwell’s 1984. Consequently, I think that taking the economic decisions out of the hands of the person most vested in the outcome, in order to be made by someone with less knowledge of the key factors influencing any particular decision, is prima facie unjust and ethically reprehensible.

  • Brett

    I don’t care what you think of Rand. I was responding to your statement:
    Yes, she did think that about atlas shrugged, but that isn’t mutually exclusive with it portraying a romantic ideal.

    I was just responding to your statement which had nothing to do with anything (correct me if I simply missed your intention) except to point out what a nasty person she is:

    My favorite part is where she reveals yet again her obsession with her mother giving her mechanical chicken away to an orphanage. She repeats that story in Atlas Shrugged too. This is from “Art and Moral Treason:

    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.

    My point is that in fact it is mutually exclusive to claim that Atlas Shrugged was a “romantic ideal” of aspirational characters, while at the same time claim it is an illustration of a “philosophy of living on Earth” – and it is clear that Rand was not speaking metaphorically about living on Earth because she publicly stated that she herself was an exemplar of one of her own “Atlas Shrugged” heroes.

    You do acknowledge that Rand is trying to have it both ways – you just don’t admit that’s what she’s doing.

    Why are these two things mutually exclusive other than the superficial fact that “ideal” and “reality” have dualistic meanings in relation? Plato’s Republic is both an ideal and applicable to reality. I see no contradiction.

    I think she is having it both ways, and there is nothing wrong with that. Her “philosophy of living on earth” is an ideal which she argues is attainable because she has encountered examples of people who embody the spirit and perhaps after a point the totality of it. Rearden wasn’t without what she considers “evil,” since it took him some time to realize that he was working against his own interest. He certainly wasn’t perfect in the absolute, which I think is what you are trying to imply. Her philosophy is not to magically be a perfect Atlassian human, but a philosophical code, out of which she thinks men reach new plateaus of greatness. That they can come to have congruence with themselves and reality; the former being essential for the latter.

  • Brett

    Completely fair. I retorted with inflammatory hyperbole in response to your hyperbolic condescension about magic:

    You do realize that there is a difference finally between advanced technology and magic, right? Or are you suggesting that Lord of the Rings is full of advanced technology?

    I guess I can see your point. Personally, don’t see it as gratuitous as I like the purity of it. I think there is plenty of literature depicting all the not so nice little things we do as people as well as all of the grotesque shortcomings of humanity, that I don’t mind a good super hero protagonist once in awhile.

    But, yeah, she is no Dostoyevsky. But, being that his philosophical ideal for civilization was for everyone to be Christian, and social ills would vanish. So, the converse holds as well, i.e. Dostoyevsky is no Rand.

  • Brett

    Wow, a “taxes are theft” argument. LOL. Apparently you don’t think roads are important? How about education? Etc, etc, etc. And, apparently, you think it’s theft to ask people to help support the infrastructure that allows the country to run? Yet, you don’t think it’s theft for you to use the services provided by the government and wish to not pay for them? It’s hard to take your argument seriously.

    Ho! Ho! Ho! I sure am an idiot! Your baseless ridicule and your equally baseless self-assessment of intellectual superiority has convinced me of the error in my ways!

    Of course those things are important. I just think government does a terrible job and in ways that are morally reprehensible.

    And, apparently, you think it’s theft to ask people to help support the infrastructure that allows the country to run?

    What utopia of liberty is this? I would love to live in a place where I was ASKED to contribute to upkeep. I would, willingly. But it isn’t asking, it is forcing under threat of violence. Don’t think so? Stop paying taxes and see how that works out. Or, maybe just the proportion that would go to funding wars or bank bailouts or whatever you disagree with. The result is the same.

    Homeowners associations achieve results on a smaller scale all over the place, but they put it in a contract and do it up front. The closest thing to a contract I’ve seen would be the constitution, but I don’t remember signing it. Did you? And before you start yelling “but, social contract!” at me, I would like to point out that the current office holders and government employees didn’t sign it either, and it shows. They swear an oath of office, but lets be real. How many people have been held accountable for violating that oath? We must have angels and saints running the government! Or, maybe it’s just that the oath is little more than pomp and circumstance.

    Last I heard, in the U.S. anyway, the public roads and bridges are increasingly in disrepair due to government mismanagement of funds. The U.S. education system is in constant crisis over why it is failing at it’s objective, but if they only had a more funds! Those pesky funds! There never seems to be enough of them! They get to tax several hundred million people and businesses, have trillions in debt, and yet all I hear is: how we need more money for education. This is underfunded. That is over budget. Etcetera. Ad nauseam.

    If you understood the nature of my argument, you would be making more articulate points about why you think I am wrong. If you honestly care to understand why someone would think something that is seemingly so irrational, I recommend “Capitalism the Unknown Ideal,” Rand and “For a New Liberty” Rothbard. I don’t agree with either in full. But I would “check your assumptions,” think it through for yourself, and then come to your own conclusion.

    The problems of government have been the subject of discourse for two millennia. I just don’t think that it is an evil we must bear any more than we should have to submit to the authority of the Catholic church. Both are power structures to tame men’s malice towards one another and direct humanity. But, humanity can do better. The prosperity brought to the world through science and industry under a quasi-capitalist system shows how much value a nation of voluntary commerce among men has to offer.

  • Brett

    Examples of someone seeing commerce this way.

    It has popped up twice in this very comment stream. You’ve heard them before in terms like “wage slavery,” in the demand that without government we would for some reason go without education, roads, etc.

    Examples please. (not for the street criminal.

    1. Every time I pay taxes to support gross waste, wars, failed social programs, bank bailouts, etc. If I wanted to stop, I could face jail, more fines, seizure of assets, and, if I was a real stalwart to the whole not paying taxes idea, a SWAT team at my front door. Can’t be any clearer than that; “your money or your life.”

    2. When I was younger, was harassed by the police for “loitering,” which in this case, was standing on a supposedly public sidewalk, chatting with friends, outside a nice restaurant where we had just 5 min prior had dinner. I was upset, went to another officer at a different part of the commercial district, and asked him a “hypothetical” question describing the scenario I just encountered and asked if that was loitering or illegal in any way. As I was talking to him the other officer came along, and once the polite, “good” officer realized what had happened he turned 180 degrees like some rabid sociopath and started getting up in my face and bullying me and my friends; threatening to arrest us as he said “you wanna make a point?! I can make a point to! Feel like going to jail tonight? How do you like that point?!”

    Filed a complaint. Nothing came of it. So it goes.

    Oh, and this was in Annapolis, MD. I was dressed for a nice night out, was about 20 years old, and I’m white.

    3. While living in Baltimore city, I was pulled over several times because “it didn’t look like your seatbelt was on” (which I always wear); this is a common practice to stop people for no reason at all and hope to smell alcohol or whatever on them.

    4. Erroneous parking tickets. No due process.

    5. A fine for supposedly having my grass too long at one point. For which, I never received a citation, and only heard about after they had levied an additional $1200 in fees, and were about to take the deed to my landlord’s property. The city apparently mailed the notices of intent to take the property to an address she hadn’t lived at for 3 years and had needed to call the city twice to have them update their records, to no avail it seems. She only found out because the person living at her old address thought it looked serious, and dug up her new address and sent it to her.

    Also, as far as street criminals go, I was held up at gunpoint along with several other people in the area. Multiple people identified him. He was caught. He was already in the system and had a long record. He was convicted on two counts, and sentenced to a 20+ year term in prison. Except that his sentence was suspended and I never found out why. I suspect they wanted him to be an informant but I really don’t know.

    “What is Justice?”

    I find it pretty amazing that I have had so many negative encounters with government and it’s enforcers, when I am an unassuming, law-abiding (in the sense most people mean; he U.S. CFR probably has a law against farting on the wrong day of the week), white, male, who has been working and financially supported myself since I was 18, I pay the taxes the various governments demand, I am evenhanded with everyone I meet, and I mind my own business. I have never been tried, let alone convicted of any crime, save for a speeding ticket, which was dismissed, when I was in my twenties, and I “learned my lesson,” i.e. that they’re after my wallet!

    I’ve never once had an abusive run in with a mall cop or private security of any office building, private shopping center, or otherwise.

  • Brett

    As for scarcity, we can’t continue to consume resources as we have forever. What will we do when we start to exhaust our oil reserves?

    You can read the answer in the news. Presently, oil sands and shale. But, there is plenty of private groups creating new or improving water, wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy alternatives. That is the wonder of price signals and resources. As they become scarce, prices go up, and people compete to capture that need with cheaper technology or alternatives. As oil becomes more scarce, existing alternatives will become economically feasible. In contrast, look at the government solution: Ethanol. Aside from requiring every acre of arable land in the U.S. to produce enough cellulose to replace fossil fuels with ethanol (which would be an ecological nightmare), ethanol is an abysmal failure. Look it up sometime. It has even, along with NAFTA (which isn’t free trade by any rational metric) caused price distortions, raising prices for food grade corn in Mexico. See: http://ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/wp/12-01WiseBiofuels.pdf

    The more general answer is “technology.” There are a lot of material sciences companies doing research into greatly improving solar cells for example. Google has even funded research in that area. No one made them, they just see it as good for the future and hence good for the balance sheets. They are extremely vested in economic stability and progress; they need people with money to buy what they are selling, don’t they? Short-sighted thinking will only ruin them in the long run.

    I don’t think everything good comes from corporations, but I do think that everything we enjoy can be achieved in a voluntary private social order. “For a New Liberty” by Rothbard addresses all of the points you are raising. Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries. Doctors, hospitals, and insurers require significant staff just to deal with all the paperwork and regulatory demands. It wasn’t always this way, and health care was significantly cheaper. You could address the issue of “not providing their services” through minimal legislation mandating minimal benefits for coverage and getting rid of the admittedly unscrupulous practice of back-canceling policies of people who are sick. I am not advocating that, but it would address the issue, without socializing the health insurance industry. Also, the AFA and pretty much all government legislation has unforeseen consequences when it incentivizes certain economic activity over others. E.g. http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/bclbe/DavidGamage_How_the_Affordable_Care_Act_Will_Create_May2012.pdf

    I say that because without fail, when I come across Rand criticisms, they are littered or comprised entirely of ad hominem attacks. She’s a big jerk face. I get it. Can’t we leave that out of the discussion of the content of her ideas? And I agree, that is a fault of hers. I think it clouded her reason at times. However, not everything is up for compromise; some ideas are worth holding your ground for.

  • Donalbain

    If she rejects the idea of post scarcity then she is an even bigger idiot than I thought. If you have an unlimited supply of energy from the Magical Galt Machine, then you have a post scarcity society. You can have anything you want. Say you want a tonne of gold, you can have a tonne of gold by constantly fusing smaller atoms, starting with hydrogen liberated from sea water. In our universe, the reason you can’t do that is because the energy needed to sustain the fusing reaction would be terrifyingly prohibitive. But in Galt’s Gulch, that is not a problem, you just put in the couple of cents worth of fuel and you can fuse all the hydrogen into gold that you want. Similarly, you can have processing power that is unheard of now, because you can run as many computers in parallel as you like, because the actual cost of running them has dropped to zero.
    At pretty much every point in our economy, the reason things cost us something is because of the fact that we need to provide some useful energy to the process which costs us money to produce. The energy we supply can come from the food we consume, or the oil we burn, but either way, it costs us money. But with Galt’s Magical Machine, that has stopped being the case. The economy of the world no longer works the way it does in our universe, and yet somehow we are supposed to take lessons on how to run our economy from this story? No. That does not work.

  • Donalbain

    Saying that the energy is practically limitless might get around the physics problems, but you still run into the problems that she is positing a post scarcity society and using it to lecture people who live in a scarcity society.

  • Loren Petrich

    Bram, so you think that government military and police forces ought to be disbanded and that the inmates of government jails and prisons ought to be released? That’s what you are implying by saying that if you reject Randism, you think that the world is full of Evil Things and that you beg for the government to protect you.

  • Science Avenger

    I’m sure there will be some nonzero set of free riders in just about any system, just like there is inefficiency in any system. But for that to relevant its got to be shown that to be a greater cost than the benefit of the program, and no one bothers to do that.

  • Science Avenger

    Perhaps. I never assumed only the main protagonists occupy the gulch, the text clearly implies there are many more people there. It’s just that public works are one of the main challenges for Objectivist philosophy, so its more than a trivial omission that Rand doesn’t touch on these subjects at all.

  • Science Avenger

    I acknowledge that your swimming pool argument is absurd yes, as well as disconnected to anything I’ve said.

    “I can’t think of a single time where I was like ‘Wow, that’s really awesome what government did. It makes so much more sense that way and makes everyone’s life so much easier! I wish I would have thought of that!’”

    Sounds just like creationists who deny evolution is useful. It reveals only your ignorance of the subject and/or limited imagination. Ever ride on an interstate highway? Enjoyed a public park? Marveled at our moon landing? Our victory in WWII? There, now you have some actual examples to “wow” at.

  • Science Avenger

    As well as virtually unlimited space for her heroes to occupy, and unlimited money per Midas Mulligan.

  • Science Avenger

    She was wrong, because the extreme cases are where the challenges and conflicts are. If everyone behaved in the “normal, healthy” sphere, we wouldn’t need these discussions.

    Rand rejected the extreme cases because she had no answer for them.

  • Science Avenger

    Sure, because they sell their legal weed, rather than giving it away like a bunch of commies. Checkmate liberals!

  • fuguewriter

    She was right, because the normal, healthy case is what makes extreme cases even possible.

    They also necessarily precede them, because you cannot define an extreme except with reference to some origin point, or media, or mean, etc.

    > If everyone behaved in the “normal, healthy” sphere, we wouldn’t need these discussions.

    Exactly. And that is why Rand is close to Zen in some ways. In Zen, we’re all enlightened but don’t know it; in Rand, when we act to further our lives we’re moral – and usually don’t know it. You, as Rand would put it, are mistaking a journalistic (i.e., detail-ridden) average for health. Conflict of levels of fundamentality.

    > Rand rejected the extreme cases because she had no answer for them.

    Once again, mere psychological speculation, And she had plenty of answers for them – the best answer of all is how not to get into them. That’s philosophy as a real-life helper, not an (to quote an O’ist) “academic chess game divorced from reality.”

    Besides, as UCLA’s chair of philosophy [who found her fascinating] reports, she wasn’t averse to playing around with extremes or strange ethical cases.

    Her legal heir and next-generation keeper of O’ism’s flame, Leonard Peikoff, does a podcast for fun mostly devoted to answering tricky questions of practical ethics (all the way down to the interesting but prosaic, like: if you eat something from a hotel honor bar and replace it with an identical item, is that okay?). Try listening sometime.

    So, yeah. Another forced interpretation of Randian wrongness that’s just … wrong.

  • Science Avenger

    “One of Ayn Rand’s few virtues was that she did not support racism. ”

    How uncharacteristically generous of you (towards Rand). She may not have been overtly racist, but her heroes are all lily white, even Francisco, who could easily have been brown. But she made damned sure to set that record straight. And we’ve already discussed the noble views Rand had towards the residents of pre-Columbian America, and Africa.

    BTW, Rand claimed capitalism destroyed slavery, though I don’t recall if it was in Atlas or another work.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Rand’s support for colonialism wasn’t based on race it was based on technological superiority.

    Rand claimed capitalism was the answer to everything, so naturally she would claim it destroyed slavery. Of course when she extols the glories of the early years of the United States, claiming its wealth was the product of free men freely engaging in free enterprise she never mentions the role that slavery played in wealth-generation.

    I also give her credit for being an atheist. And she was nice to her cats. I think that about covers it.

    I wouldn’t care enough about the personality of Ayn Rand to pay attention to her many faults and few virtues were it not for the fact that her work, especially “Atlas Shrugged” is seen as an important work of socio-political analysis, and even prophetic. I’ve said several times on threads associated with this “Battle Cry of Freedom” post that a segment of rightwingers believes Atlas Shrugged is all those things – I just discovered recently on reading Rand’s collection of essays (including a few by Greenspan and others) Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal that Rand herself believed it too:

    The book was published in 1957. Since then, I have received many letters and heard many comments which amounted, in essence, to the following: “When I first read “Atlas Shrugged” I thought you were exaggerating, but then I realized suddenly – while reading the newspapers – that the things going on in the world today are exactly like the things in your book.”
    And so they are. Only more so…

    The purpose of my discussing this today was, not to boast nor to leave you with the impression that I possess some mystical gift of prophecy, but to demonstrate the exact opposite: that the gift is not mystical.

    I should mention that in that essay, “Is Atlas Shrugging?” her proof that she is a prophet was to quote excerpts from various op-eds merely proposing ideas that Rand found objectionable. That a few random people would discuss ideas that have a passing resemblance to the post-modern inanities of her parasitic fops is all the proof she needs.

    Not only did she think that “Atlas Shrugged” was a prophetic, realistic work, but she considered herself a real-life example of one of her heroes.

    This is why the life and work of Ayn Rand deserve critical scrutiny.

    Also I’m writing a play that has the spectre of Ayn Rand haunting Alan Greenspan and I want to be as accurate as possible when portraying Rand’s personality.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Including smrnda, who was arguing that we needed a government to provide infrastructure because of free riders. Again, I never argued at all against welfare or it providing basic necessities, so any argument on that count is not relevant to my point.

  • Brett

    I acknowledge that your swimming pool argument is absurd yes, as well as disconnected to anything I’ve said.

    It’s not an argument, it is a metaphor. I’m being pedantic, I know. Just Sayin’. The metaphor is connected; it is an illustration of the dynamic of taxation for the purpose of creating things which could have (and would have) been created through commerce alone.

    Sounds just like creationists who deny evolution is useful. It reveals only your ignorance of the subject and/or limited imagination. Ever ride on an interstate highway? Enjoyed a public park? Marveled at our moon landing? Our victory in WWII? There, now you have some actual examples to “wow” at.

    The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, begun in 1792 between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Lancaster, Pennsylvania was the first major American turnpike. According to Gerald Gunderson’s Privatization and the 19th-Century Turnpike, “In the first three decades of the 19th century Americans built more than 10,000 miles [16,000 km] of turnpikes, mostly in New England and the Middle Atlantic states. Relative to the economy at that time, this effort exceeded the post-World War II interstate highway system that present-day Americans assume had to be primarily planned and financed by the federal government”. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_highways_in_the_United_States

    Sure, I’ve been to a public park. Did government invent the outdoors? One of my favorite parks, Robert E. Lee Park in Baltimore, MD was shut down because the soil had unsafe levels of pathogens from dog feces, stemming from the tragedy of the commons and lack of enforcement/upkeep by the city.

    Let’s assume for a minute though, that I hate the outdoors with all the grass (allergies), bugs (gross), wide open spaces (agoraphobic), etc. The reasons don’t matter. Assume that I will never go to a public park! No Grand Canyon, no national forests, not even a little 1/2 acre patch of grass on city land with a little fountain and some benches. Got it? So, why should I pay for them? Why aren’t they funded by usage fees instead? The standard inseparability argument for education, roads, police, etc go out the window. I can opt-out of the benefit. Private parks (e.g. Gramercy Park), hunting reserves, wildlife reserves, wilderness reserves, etc all exist and function because people, for whom that is important, help buy and maintain the resources, all without any coercion.

    The moon landing was an awesome feat of engineering; inspiring for sure. Lots of new technology and materials came out of it. However, it was “not primarily about science, and therefore not primarily about the discovery of fundamental new knowledge” John Logsdon, Director of Space Policy Institute, George Washington University A man on the moon was the outcome of, arguably, civilizations most epic pissing contest. True, lots of awesome stuff came out of it. But the same is true of the war. Both are examples of the broken window fallacy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window Personally, I would have been more inclined to spend a similar amount of money on things like liquid thorium reactors (which are extremely safe, but weren’t pursued because you can’t use them to make nuclear bombs), or any number of other perfectly sane scientific and/or engineering pursuits with more immediate benefits to civilization.

    Government was the cause of World War II “Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower

    My examples include: E-Commerce (Internet users went from 0.5% of the global population in 1995 to now nearly 40%), atomic force microscopy, integrated circuits, personal computers, graphical user interfaces, the airplane, and pizza delivery. Top that! ;D

    I am going to end the debate here. It’s been a pleasure.

  • Nancy McClernan

    What was your point with the pre-federal highway system Wiki excerpt? How does its existence answer the question “Ever ride on an interstate highway?

    And thanks for pointing out the issues with the space program. You helped underline Ayn Rand’s hypocrisy – she loved the space program. Because it had big rockets that looked impressive – that’s what it took to get Rand praising the space program – she got to watch a rocket launch.

    This was a few years after she wrote “The Fascist New Frontier.”

  • GCT

    And basketball and soccer both use round balls, so any argument you make about must must apply to the other. You keep ignoring the part where the two “free riders” are not symmetric to the problem.

  • GCT

    Of course those things are important. I just think government does a terrible job and in ways that are morally reprehensible.

    Who else is going to do them? And, what is “morally reprehensible” about performing a service in exchange for cash? Isn’t that what you Randroids think is the highest thing possible?

    What utopia of liberty is this? I would love to live in a place where I was ASKED to contribute to upkeep.

    You are. It’s called voting.

    But it isn’t asking, it is forcing under threat of violence. Don’t think so? Stop paying taxes and see how that works out.

    I thought Randroids felt that stealing was the worst crime one could commit. If you take goods and services without paying for them, you are stealing, and thus can be locked up. This is why it’s hard to take this argument seriously.

    If you understood the nature of my argument, you would be making more articulate points about why you think I am wrong.

    Oh, trust me, I understand quite well – it is an argument on par with a third grader. What you don’t seem to understand in the slightest is how the government works, how taxes are assessed, and why. You just want to have roads, schools, etc. all magically appear and magically work while you get to keep “your” money.

    You don’t think homeowners associations have issues? You think the effect of meddling by other Randroids in the government has had no deleterious effect on governance. The people like you that get elected to office are part of the problem. They govern in an effort to destroy, and then when they succeed in any small fashion, the say, “See! See! We told you government couldn’t work.” It’s like a damned protection racket – ‘Nice government you got there. You wouldn’t want something to happen to that government of yours, would you?’

    But I would “check your assumptions,” think it through for yourself, and then come to your own conclusion.

    And, I would counsel you to stop assuming that I know nothing of this argument. I’ve heard it many times, and it doesn’t get any more sophisticated through repetition.

    The problems of government have been the subject of discourse for two millennia.

    As have the problems of no government, or else you think that child labor, 18 hour work days (7 days a week), workers working themselves to death and still living squallor, etc. are simply A-OK?

    The prosperity brought to the world through science and industry under a quasi-capitalist system shows how much value a nation of voluntary commerce among men has to offer.

    Where will our military come from? Who will maintain roads and schools? What you think people will voluntarily contribute? To whom will they contribute to mete out the cash and make sure it is appropriately used? I’m sure that rich communities may make it through OK, while the poor communities will fall even further behind. Great, you’re ensuring that the rich will get richer off the backs of the poor. Sounds like Rand’s ideal to me. For those of us who actually believe in equality, however, it’s sickening.

  • Verbose Stoic

    I will quote you the solution I posed to both problems:

    Ultimately, again, people who are rational about their self-interest know that things won’t work under either system if they don’t pay their fair share, and so end up under both systems willingly giving their resources but being always vigilant for people who aren’t doing the
    same.

    Please demonstrate that this does not apply to both cases (private infrastructure and welfare) or kindly stop simply repeating irrelevant arguments.

  • GCT

    Presently, oil sands and shale. But, there is plenty of private groups creating new or improving water, wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy alternatives.

    And, where do you think they get their funding from?

    In contrast, look at the government solution: Ethanol.

    That is only one solution, not all the solutions.

    There are a lot of material sciences companies doing research into greatly improving solar cells for example. Google has even funded research in that area. No one made them, they just see it as good for the future and hence good for the balance sheets.

    A Randroid praising Google? Sorry, but they run counter to your arguments. They are funding research into alternative fuels because it is the right thing to do, not for selfish economic gain.

    I don’t think everything good comes from corporations, but I do think that everything we enjoy can be achieved in a voluntary private social order.

    That’s never been true in the past, so what makes you think it’s true now?

    Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries.

    Out of necessity. When you tie profits to not providing health care, one needs to counteract that force somehow.

    Doctors, hospitals, and insurers require significant staff just to deal with all the paperwork and regulatory demands. It wasn’t always this way, and health care was significantly cheaper.

    At it gets cheaper still if doctors aren’t saddled with debt to become doctors, if we have single-payer systems, etc. The regulations are there to solve the issues that your lasseiz-faire system helped create.

    I say that because without fail, when I come across Rand criticisms, they are littered or comprised entirely of ad hominem attacks. She’s a big jerk face.

    For you to characterize the criticisms that have been going on in just this thread as strictly ad hominem is either amazing oblviousness or blatant dishonesty.

  • GCT

    A) Cool story bro.

    You wrote some non-sensical gibberish. I pointed it out. You then respond with this childish crap? Again, hard to take you seriously.

    B) I get that.

    Obviously not.

    I keep hearing that the philosophy can be valid if and only if free energy were possible. Why must this be so? I haven’t been given a satisfactory answer.

    Because you’re not paying attention. Rand’s philosophy runs into significant problems, including the problem of scarcity of resources. She simply side-steps it by inventing a post-scarcity society. She has no answer for what happens when rational minds collide over scarce resources. She has no answer for how resources can be owned and what happens if the owner decides not to play fair. Those are just 2 objections that she can’t answer off the top of my head.

    If you read the article I posted, you can see that our understanding of entropy and the 2nd law isn’t as cut and dried as it has seemed in the past.

    Considering that you seem to have almost zero understanding of the science…You did see the part where he talks about how the 2nd law is not violated? Additionally, that blog post has zero to do with Rand’s perpetual motion motor.

    C) Do you need a hug?</blockquote.

    No, I need people to actually understand something about what they speak before they start talking about "quantum" this and that. You obviously have no idea what you're talking about, which is why you are getting a well-deserved spanking on it.

    I argue that Newtonian mechanics is not “truth,” but a useful approximation, i.e. they are heuristic. Einstein thought so as well.

    No one has claimed that Newtonian mechanics is truth. And, Einstein was well aware of the boundary conditions as were many others. Newtonian mechanics breaks down at certain points, but works well enough for most cases, including getting us to the moon and back. Again, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    For Newtonian mechanics to be reconciled with special relativity we needed to change the referent semantics for the term “mass.”

    Again, no. Relativity was not reconciled with Newtonian mechanics. Relativity was the expansion of Newtonian mechanics to the boundary conditions where it was already well known Newtonian mechanics were failing.

    Einstein, however, didn’t simply add to Newton; Newtonian mechanics had to be re defined special relativistic terms.

    So, when you’re calculating how much force it will take to accelerate your car, you take relativity into account? No, of course not. This is why you don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

    Harnessing the atom is an example, though not in exactly the same way.

    Not. Even. Close.

    If Rand had described Galt’s motor in terms of atomic energy just 25 years earlier, people would have been just as incredulous as you are now.

    We are incredulous because she described a perpetual motion machine (motor).

    Modern scientific inquiry has only been around since the 16th century. I don’t think we’re justified in such epistemological hubris, especially in light of so many open problems in quantum mechanics and beyond.

    I think we are well justified in thinking that we aren’t going to simply “uproot” evolution. We are well justified in thinking we aren’t going to “uproot” Newtonian mechanics in the conditions where it holds. We are well justified in thinking we aren’t going to “uproot” germ theory, or gravity, or many other theories that we understand pretty well. But, Rand said, so we should think that we’ll “uproot” many of those, because what now? Oh yeah, because Rand said and her ignorant sycophants insist.

  • GCT

    Of course not.

    You just argued the opposite with me. Make up your mind.

  • GCT

    A) This doesn’t actually answer the objection to you making a category error. You’re claiming that A has a characteristic B that is similar to Y, a characteristic in X: therefore A and X can be directly compared.

    B) Given that we know people don’t simply pay their fair share out of the goodness of their hearts, we need a system that gets people to pay their share (i.e. government). Your solution to Smrnda’s idea is to say, “Well, magically, people will simply behave” where we instituted government because people don’t behave. Duh.

  • Science Avenger

    Again with the parallel to creationist arguments. You ask for an example of something awesome the government did, I give you the interstate highway system (which reduced cross-country travel from 3 weeks to 3 days, ask Eisenhower), and you respond with a quaint tale about highway construction in the 18th century. Is it so hard to stay on topic?

  • Science Avenger

    “One of my favorite parks, Robert E. Lee Park in Baltimore, MD was shut down because the soil had unsafe levels of pathogens from dog feces, stemming from the tragedy of the commons and lack of enforcement/upkeep by the city.”

    Yeah, and Kobie Bryant misses shots on a regular basis. That mean he’s not a good basketball player? Evidence please, not anecdotes.

    “.. why should I pay for [national parks]? Why aren’t they funded by usage fees instead?”

    Because there are some things valued by people and society that cannot be sustained that way. That’s what government is FOR, and the crucial element of which libertarians keep themselves willfully ignorant. I know it goes against your ideology, but empirical reality trumps that. It is simply not the case, historically, logically, or empirically, that letting everything be driven by individual spending decisions will always produce optimal results.

  • Science Avenger

    “The moon landing was an awesome feat of engineering; inspiring for sure. Lots of new technology and materials came out of it. However, it was ‘not primarily about science, and therefore not primarily about the discovery of fundamental new knowledge’”.

    Again with the irrelevancies. You asked for something awesome the government did. I gave you perhaps the most awesome thing any group of human beings, private or public, has ever done. And you imply that because it wasn’t primarily driven by scientific concerns, that reduces it’s awesomeness? Since when do libertarians judge value that way? I guess when it suits your argument at the moment.

  • Science Avenger

    “[Hitler's] Government [using preventative war] was the cause of World War II”

    Mmmmmmkay, and what exactly are we to draw from that? I was referring (as you damned well know) to our victory over Hitler being an awesome government accomplishment. Your retort amounts to saying that Hitler couldn’t have accomplished (militarily) what he did without a government. Seriously? You’re arguing the impotence of government with THAT? I don’t have to say another word, you’ve refuted yourself.

  • Science Avenger

    “My examples include: …”

    Examples of what? Awesome things the free market has created? No need, I’m a big fan of the free market, accomplishes more than government overall, probably always will. But its not perfect, and at times we get the opposite of what we want. It’s worth repeating because libertarians are so determined to ignore this reality: the accumulation of individual rational decisions does not 100% of the time amount to a desired result. That’s what government is for, to democratically, and limited by constitutionally guaranteed rights, decide that we should limit individual decision-making in those situations, and mandate behavior that produces better results.

  • Science Avenger

    “She was right, because the normal, healthy case is what makes extreme cases even possible.They also necessarily precede them, because you cannot define an extreme except with reference to some origin point, or media, or mean, etc.”

    Word salad. Nuclear power exists. The ability to make a nuclear power generator exists. The risk to those around said generator construction is real and nonzero. Whether it qualifies as “extreme” is irrelevant.A society either allows it or not. What does Rand say? “It’s an extreme, so I don’t have to deal with it” seems to be your answer. Rand herself had a phrase for this sort of argumentation – “blank out”

  • Science Avenger

    “You, as Rand would put it, are mistaking a journalistic (i.e., detail-ridden) average for health. Conflict of levels of fundamentality.”

    Once again, in English please.

  • Science Avenger

    “Once again, [the notion that Rand rejected the extreme cases because she had no answer for them is] mere psychological speculation,”

    It’s not speculation, its a conclusion drawn from reading practically everything Rand ever wrote. By all means if I missed where she resolved this problem, quote it to me chapter and verse.

    “And she had plenty of answers for them – the best answer of all is how not to get into them.”

    That’s a dodge. Preventing a dangerous situation is a separate subject from dealing with it after it exists. Again, the response you give for her is a blank out.

  • Science Avenger

    “is it in any way reasonable for society to expect me to calculate my actions based ONLY [emphasis mine] on the interests of others, and to try my own interests as just one more set of interests among all others.”

    Not “only” as emphasized above. “In addition to”. Our choice is not binary. Our decisions should take into account our own interests AND the interests of others. The why, which is what I’ve been trying to get to, is that we are NOT rugged individuals as Rand portrays us. Her view of man’s nature is completely contrary to the science on the issue. We are social animals, dependent both physically and psychologically on others. Alone, we die. Alone, we go insane. Our survival depends on the collective, so yes, it can rightly ask us to fall short of total self-interest on occasion.

    To think of it another way, if an ant asked the same questions you asked, is there any doubt what the answer is? Well, in many important ways, we are more ant than tiger, as Rand would have us, more Borg than Klingon if you will.

  • Brett

    Who else is going to do them? And, what is “morally reprehensible” about performing a service in exchange for cash? Isn’t that what you Randroids think is the highest thing possible?

    How on earth would everyone in the U.S. have clothing to wear, if it weren’t for government? Oh, wait, the private sector does that. There’s no difference. What is so magical about the services you mention that only government can do them. Lysander Spooner already demonstrated that he could provide the same services at a lower cost than the USPS, so they outlawed the competition. The private turnpike system in the U.S. was doing a fabulous job at providing interstate freeways. The Great Northern Railway was built with no public money nor land grants. It has been demonstrated that where there is a market you will soon find groups working to service it. Q.E.D.

    What is morally reprehensible is that it is not voluntary. Or are you so unprincipled that those kinds of things don’t matter to you? (tit for tat on the ad hominem; your “Randoids” comment)

    You are. It’s called voting.

    I’m not you. Just because you and everyone else vote to steal my property, doesn’t mean I have voluntarily consented. The U.S. is supposed to be a Constitutional Republic which protects the rights of the minority, not subjugate the minority to democratic impulses. You can take your collective yoke and shove it. I ask nothing of any man which he is not willing to give of his own free choice. That is all I am looking for. It is that simple.

    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” –Benjamin Franklin

  • Brett

    So, when you’re calculating how much force it will take to accelerate your car, you take relativity into account? No, of course not. This is why you don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

    No, you don’t go to the trouble because the Newtonian laws are a fair enough approximation, but you don’t get the correct answer. It is akin to saying pi is 3.14. It’s useful, but wrong. Newtonian’s additive law of velocity is wrong, even for slow moving objects.

    (u + v) != (u + v) * c^2 / (c^2 + u * v)

    Q.E.D.

    Cheers! I’m done.

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

    The Great Northern Railway was built with no public money nor land grants. It has been demonstrated that where there is a market you will soon find groups working to service it.

    This is false, as we discussed in an earlier Atlas post. The Great Northern Railway was built by buying out and merging other railroads that were built with state funding and land grants.

  • Brett

    A Randroid praising Google? Sorry, but they run counter to your arguments. They are funding research into alternative fuels because it is the right thing to do, not for selfish economic gain.

    I am not an Objectivist. If you weren’t so blinded by your irrational Rand hate, perhaps you could address what I am saying instead of devolving into incredulity, condescension, and ad hominem.

    That’s never been true in the past, so what makes you think it’s true now?

    If a mouse could speak fluent French, would it die when you ran it over with a steamroller? How could you know?! Such a thing has never been observed; the experiment never performed! I think I have given enough demonstration of why. This is growing tiresome. I’ll leave you with a didactic joke to think about.

    Question: What do you call someone who graduates at the bottom of their class in medical school?
    Answer: A doctor!

  • Brett

    This is false, as we discussed in an earlier Atlas post. The Great Northern Railway was built by buying out and merging other railroads that were built with state funding and land grants.

    This is a pretty weak objection.

    Do you always go about things in the hardest way possible? So what if he used purchased several failed or failing short haul lines to accomplish his goal of creating a unified regional railroad? He also opened up new lines and connected previously unconnected routes. Does he have to mine the ore himself to constitute building the railroad?

    A farm left unplowed and overgrown is just a field. A railroad track with no competent men to run it is as useful as the rocks which lie beside it.

    This little debate has consumed enough time for now. Take care. You’ve been a wonderful host. ;D

  • GCT

    How on earth would everyone in the U.S. have clothing to wear, if it weren’t for government? Oh, wait, the private sector does that.

    This is simply asinine, and what I expect from someone who thinks claiming taxation is theft makes for a good argument. Why should you pay taxes? Because you benefit from the services that government provides by living in a society where those services are provided. Where do you think the educated workforce you rely on comes from? When you go to buy a smartphone or computer, how do you think those things reach the store? How do you think the science was done to figure out telecommunications? Where do you think the engineers came from to design the product and get it out the door? How about the roads used to get it to the store? When you use the internet, where do you think that came from?

    So, yeah, everything we have is part of society, and that society exists in large part because the government provides the services it does, including the services that allow you go out and shop for your clothes at the local mall or wherever you go.

    You want to get rid of taxes? Perhaps people can fund their own schools? Sure, we’ll just have creationist schools and homeopathic medical schools – you can kiss your medicines that keep you healthy and good doctors goodbye. For a large portion of the population, they won’t be able to get a good education, so there goes your educated workforce, leaving an even larger chunk of the population in desperation and squalor, which leads to higher crime rates. And, how will you protect yourself from crime? Private contractors? Yeah, that’s brilliant. Let’s put armed militias in the streets to enforce mob rule for the highest bidder.

    What is so magical about the services you mention that only government can do them.

    Maybe the fact that history has shown that no one but the government will do them.

    It has been demonstrated that where there is a market you will soon find groups working to service it. Q.E.D.

    No, it has not been demonstrated. Look at Africa. Where are the people clamoring to provide all the stuff they need? Oh wait, they don’t have money, so who cares about them? There’s also a market for disseminating false political information, and that’s being filled, so way to go there. What about the market for creationist schools and such? Oh yeah, that’s working out well too. Where was the market that developed the internet? Where is the market that’s developing basic scientific research?

    What is morally reprehensible is that it is not voluntary.

    It certainly is. You want to be a free rider. You are the moocher. You want to live in society, enjoy all its benefits, but not pay for any of them. You have the ability to vote or run for office. You also have the ability to move to somewhere where they won’t impose rules on you. I hear Somalia is pretty good for that. Why don’t you move there?

    I’m not you. Just because you and everyone else vote to steal my property, doesn’t mean I have voluntarily consented.

    No, you’re consenting to live in this society and abide by its rules. You’re free to try and change those rules as well, as I am to try and stop you. I happen to like a functioning society though, and would rather not have whining cry babies like you tear it down because you can’t pay your fair share. Again, you are the moocher here.

    The U.S. is supposed to be a Constitutional Republic which protects the rights of the minority, not subjugate the minority to democratic impulses.

    A) You don’t have the right to not pay taxes.

    B) You don’t have the right to enjoy the benefits of society and refuse to pay for them.

    C) The Constitution is not a suicide pact. If you and your Randroid friends had their way, you would destroy society. There’s nothing in the Constitution that claims that you must be allowed to do that, although you can try to vote your ideas into policy.

    I ask nothing of any man which he is not willing to give of his own free choice.

    And, what if those of us who aren’t stuck in our rebellious teenage phase decide not to deal with you in any way? What then would happen to you? You’d be clamoring that the Constitution needs to protect your rights. If I bought up all the land around your house and then refused to let you traverse it, you’d be trapped in your house. What would you do then? You’d be crying to the police to come and rescue you. I would then comment that you’re asking me to give you something that I do not wish to give – access to my land. Your overly simplistic ideas of how the world and society work are laughable. If you don’t wish to be part of society, then find another one that is to your suiting or work to change this one. But, crying that being asked to pay for the services you use is theft is actually you attempting to mooch and engage in your own brand of theft.

  • Scienceandponies

    “those whom it benefits, if rational, will get together and provide the resources to get it built and maintained”

    What seems to comically fly over the heads of most Randroids is that this already happened. It was called government.

  • fuguewriter

    In ‘fine weather’, the potential, aka ‘voltage’, increases with altitude at about 30 volts per foot (100 V/m), when climbing against the gradient of the electric field.[3] This electric field gradient continues up into the atmosphere to a point where the voltage reaches its maximum, in the neighborhood of 300,000 volts. This occurs at approximately 30–50 km above the Earth’s surface.[4] From that point in the atmosphere up to its outer limit, nearly 1,000 km, the electric field gradient produced in the lower atmosphere either ceases or has reversed. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_electricity#Electrification_in_the_air

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

    Do you always go about things in the hardest way possible?

    Of course not; the purpose of having a government is precisely to make collective-works problems like these easier to solve. But that’s not supposed to be an option if you’re a fearless individualist, which was the basis for your erroneous claim that major infrastructure can get built without government help.

    This little debate has consumed enough time for now. Take care. You’ve been a wonderful host.

    How disappointingly predictable that you chose to bow out at this point.

  • Brett

    Of course not; the purpose of having a government is precisely to make collective-works problems like these easier to solve. But that’s not supposed to be an option if you’re a fearless individualist, which was the basis for your erroneous claim that major infrastructure can get built without government help.

    Then see the PA and NJ turnpikes which are examples of major infrastructure getting built without government help. If you try and find counters to your assertion, instead of taking it as an article of faith, you will find other examples.

    How disappointingly predictable that you chose to bow out at this point.

    If the arguments I was hearing weren’t so predictable perhaps I would say around longer. But, seriously, I spent several hours writing responses, providing citations, and even a mathematical proof. I think that is a solid investment of energy for a debate in the comment section of a blog post. However, I just kept getting the same broken record responses, until things devolved into ad hominem. I’ve said what I wanted to say and I have seen the extent of the arguments presented. I think the rational reader has enough to make up their mind regarding the points argued.

    Cheers!

  • GCT

    I am not an Objectivist. If you weren’t so blinded by your irrational Rand hate, perhaps you could address what I am saying instead of devolving into incredulity, condescension, and ad hominem.

    Then, you admit that your citation of Google’s works is not a defense of Rand’s ideas and we can agree that your point has been defeated. Good.

    Such a thing has never been observed; the experiment never performed! I think I have given enough demonstration of why.

    Yes, the bad arguments you put forth should be more than enough reason for us to discard the idea of trying this. But, what is even better motivation is simply looking at history. Perhaps you’ve never heard of the Guilded Age, but some of us have. Also, Somalia, the recent banking crash, etc. That you claim we can’t possibly understand the effects of the “free market” and how it goes terribly wrong is simply laughable at best.

  • GCT

    LOL. In that case, QM is wrong too. Everything is wrong, because you can never be 100% accurate. So, Q.E.D. you still have no idea what you are talking about.

  • 8DX

    LOL. Conservation of energy. Your fictional source can’t exist because energy can’t be created or destroyed. Creating a “new conception of energy” wont change the fact that when generating energy you are actually converting existing forms of energy to the one required (chemical to electric, electric to kinetic).

    Discovering new particles or creating new models in physics won’t be of any help if the energy just isn’t there to be had.

  • GCT

    Then see the PA and NJ turnpikes which are examples of major infrastructure getting built without government help.

    According to wikipedia, this is utterly false.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_Turnpike#Planning

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jersey_Turnpike#History

    If you try and find counters to your assertion, instead of taking it as an article of faith, you will find other examples.

    We’re still waiting for you to give us one example it seems. Either way, even if you come up with an example, it still doesn’t counter what Adam said.

    If the arguments I was hearing weren’t so predictable perhaps I would say around longer.

    Damn that predictable reality.

    But, seriously, I spent several hours writing responses, providing citations, and even a mathematical proof.

    LOL. Not. Even. Close.

    However, I just kept getting the same broken record responses, until things devolved into ad hominem.

    It must be nice to be able to hand-wave away all criticism as not important enough to address, but it doesn’t actually count as a rebuttal.

    I think the rational reader has enough to make up their mind regarding the points argued.

    Considering that you need to rely on fabrications that don’t answer the objections raised…yes, I think we know quite well how bad your arguments are.

  • Alex Harman

    The GDP rankings are more meaningful if you look at per capita GDP — see this page on Wikipedia. It’s interesting to note how the top of the list is dominated by “blue states,” while the bottom is mostly the “red states.”


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