Atlas Shrugged: Masters of the Universe

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter X

Still in Oregon, listening to Lee Hunsacker rant about the failure of his factory, Dagny hears him mention a name she recognizes:

“I worked like a dog, trying to get somebody to lend us the money. But that bastard Midas Mulligan put me through the wringer.”

She sat up straight. “Midas Mulligan?”

“Yea – the banker who looked like a truck driver and acted it, too!”

“Did you know Midas Mulligan?”

“Did I know him? I’m the only man who ever beat him – not that it did me any good!” [p.294]

Midas Mulligan is another of Rand’s disappearing capitalists. Seven years ago, he mysteriously vanished after closing his bank, selling off all its assets and repaying every depositor exactly what they were owed, “down to the last fraction of interest due”. No one can explain why he chose to wipe his business out rather than selling it, and no one’s ever found a trace of him or of his personal fortune. Dagny dwells on how inexplicable this is (“as if a New York skyscraper had vanished one night, leaving nothing behind but a vacant lot on a street corner”), although somehow it never occurs to her to wonder if there’s any connection between him and all the other disappearances.

Midas Mulligan had once been the richest and, consequently, the most denounced man in the country. He had never taken a loss on any investment he made; everything he touched turned into gold. “It’s because I know what to touch,” he said… It was he who had invested in Rearden Steel at its start, thus helping Rearden to complete the purchase of the abandoned steel mills in Pennsylvania. When an economist referred to him once as an audacious gambler, Mulligan said, “The reason why you’ll never get rich is because you think that what I do is gambling.”

…In the eyes of his contemporaries, he was a man who had committed the one unforgivable sin: he was proud of his wealth. [p.295]

Now, if Midas Mulligan were merely right more often than not, that would be one thing. But Rand has to depict him as always right, which seems less like business savvy and more like the gift of prophecy. As with Francisco d’Anconia, who has the same magical infallibility, there’s no other explanation for how it’s possible that he never makes a mistake or a bad investment. He never even invests in a business that fails because of a pure stroke of bad luck that no one could have predicted, such as the sudden and unexpected death of its founder. (Granted, this point is less about Mulligan’s implausible foresight and more about how, in Rand’s world, there’s no such thing as random chance.)

To be clear, I’m not criticizing this just because it’s bad writing. If Atlas were just a work of pulp fiction, an Art Deco mystery about square-jawed heroes and tough-as-nails heroines fighting to survive in a world gone mad, then its parade of Mary Sues wouldn’t occasion comment. But Rand intended, and her devotees believe, that this book is a mirror of the real world, and that its characters both good and bad are type specimens of real people. In short, Rand’s followers think they live inside Atlas Shrugged, that they’re the heroes of the story, and that people like you and me are the villains.

We can see this attitude in this 2012 account of a meeting between President Obama and a group of Wall Street financiers:

They felt unfairly demonized for being wealthy. They felt scapegoated for the recession. It was a few weeks into the Occupy Wall Street movement, with mass protests against the 1 percent springing up all around the country, and they blamed the president and his party for the public’s nasty mood. The administration, some suggested, had created a hostile environment for job creators.

…One of the guests raised his hand; he knew how to solve the problem. The president had won plaudits for his speech on race during the last campaign, the guest noted. It was a soaring address that acknowledged white resentment and urged national unity. What if Obama gave a similarly healing speech about class and inequality? What if he urged an end to attacks on the rich?

Remember, this was in the wake of the 2009 subprime mortgage crisis, an economic catastrophe caused by megabanks making risky (“subprime”) loans that failed en masse and plunged the country into recession. Rather than acknowledging their culpability in this, these Wall Street bankers all imagined themselves as Midas Mulligan – hated simply because they were rich and successful. In reality, public anger stemmed from the accurate perception that the people who were instrumental in causing this crisis escaped largely unscathed, and in many cases were even rewarded with multimillion-dollar bonuses, while towns all across the country were devastated and millions of people lost their jobs.

And as the crowning arrogance, apologists for the ultra-rich have asserted that we should be more grateful to them for deigning to grace us with their efforts – as in this Rand-worshipping column which argues that millionaires should be exempt from income taxes, as a way of proving how much we love them. The author even suggests, in all apparent seriousness, that “in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

It’s safe to say that America will never stop idolizing the wealthy and successful. But that admiration is bound to curdle into resentment if people begin to believe that the game is rigged and that the rich are exempt from any penalty no matter what harm they cause. Rather than encouraging the self-proclaimed “masters of the universe” to engage in some honest introspection and try to understand why people might be angry at them, Rand’s philosophy promotes a narcissistic, self-pitying caricature of the rich as downtrodden victims being unjustly persecuted by “losers” who have no motivation other than jealousy and hatred of success.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Nancy McClernan

    What if Obama gave a similarly healing speech about class and inequality? What if he urged an end to attacks on the rich?

    Yes I think it likely this was a Rand fan speaking – Rand really believed in the power of speeches to change the world.

    Krugman has made many of the same points about the wealthy and Atlas Shrugged:

    Thus someone like Paul Ryan starts by claiming to be a deficit hawk. Push him really hard, however, on why in that case he advocates big tax cuts, and he’ll shift to arguing that big government (as opposed to not-paid-for government) is the real problem. (That’s also what happened in my UK debate on Newsnight.) But if you push hard on that, it turns out that there’s yet another layer: the claim that things like taxing the rich to help pay for social insurance are immoral, because people have a right to keep the wealth they created — which is why suggesting that no plutocrat is an island is heresy.

    This onion structure is why you should never believe reasonable-sounding conservatives who say that you’re attacking a straw man, that “nobody believes” that wealth creators owe nothing to society. Oh yes they do — it’s usually hidden inside a couple of more socially acceptable excuses, but at their core Ryan and people like him believe that they’re characters in Atlas Shrugged.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/21/the-conservative-onion/

  • VMX

    “It’s safe to say that America will never stop idolizing the wealthy and successful. But that admiration is bound to curdle into resentment if people begin to believe that the game is rigged and that the rich are exempt from any penalty no matter what harm they cause.”

    I’m reminded of that guy, Ethan Crouch, who killed and injured a bunch of people while drunk driving, and is avoiding jail time in large part because his family can afford to send him to a $450,000/year alcohol rehabilitation facility.

    Or Martin Erzinger, who ran over a bicyclist, and was not charged with a felony because the DA said that such a charge would be bad for Erzinger in terms of business.

  • Hawker40

    ” The author even suggests, in all apparent seriousness, that “in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.””

    Then, after the speeches, parades, and statue dedication, the “Top Earner” can be thrown into a volcano to ensure that the Gods will continue to favor us with more high earnings next year.

  • decathelite

    The Greek King Midas myth has Midas touching his daughter and realizing his gift is a curse. While Midas Mulligan also possesses the touch, his character does not care whose lives he ruins as long as it creates wealth for him.

  • Cerebus36

    “Dagny dwells on how inexplicable this is (“as if a New York skyscraper
    had vanished one night, leaving nothing behind but a vacant lot on a
    street corner”), although somehow it never occurs to her to wonder if
    there’s any connection between him and all the other disappearances.”

    The fact is, nobody seems to be questioning the loss of these people. All in virtually the same manner. That nobody is making the connection that the top people in various industries are just quitting and closing up shop, that this isn’t big news or something that anyone is really concerned with, is an element of the book I find annoying, unrealistic and makes me really hate this book. I mean, Ayn Rand’s politics are bad enough, but something like this, something that if it happened in the Real World would be the focus of both news and government investigations, but is ignored by Rand’s characters is very frustrating to me.

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

    I, too, have the Midas touch: Everything I touch turns into a muffler.

  • Lagerbaer

    Now here is one point where Midas/Rand is right: There is an important distinction between investing, speculating and outright gambling.

    In short, the investor cares about the long-term well-being and performance of where they put their money. That’s the way Warren Buffet acts. He said himself that when he buys stock in a company, he is prepared to hold it for many many years.

    The speculator is more short-term oriented and acts on less reliable information, more on the hunch that something will for some reason go up in value.

    The gambler, finally, gets excited about high-risk high-reward proposals for which there is no solid reason to expect that a good outcome is more likely than a bad.

    Midas might be very justified in saying that what he does is not gambling, depending on how he diversifies his investments and how well he researches a company before investing in them.

    Of course, Rand ruins the chance to explore these finer points with the cartoonishness of Midas’ succes.

    The reality of investing (and most other parts of life, really) is that sometimes, bad decisions have good outcomes and good decisions have bad outcomes, and the successful investors are those that acknowledge this and know how to deal with it. Even a Warren Buffet loses out on an investment sometimes, and he might be as close to a Midas as one can get.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Or Tom Perkins of the recent “the rich are the new Jews” fame. He was convicted in France of involuntary manslaughter and made to pay a bank-breaking $10,000 fine for running someone over with his yacht. Though, as he tells it, he was unjustly tried in a foreign country, where they had the gall to use their own language instead of one he understood, by judges and lawyers who seemed to labor under the strange belief that he should have to answer in some way for taking someone’s life.

  • busterggi

    I’m pretty sure Midas Mulligan was brought down by The Shadow &/or Doc Savage somewhere along the line.

  • eyelessgame

    Right. The point of investment is that you are, responsibly and with foresight, taking on a risk. If you never lose, you are, by definition, not incurring any risk.

  • eyelessgame

    “vanished after closing his bank, selling off all its assets and repaying every depositor exactly what they were owed…”

    Wait. Wait a minute. He paid off all his depositors and all the accumulated interest. Where was that interest money coming from? Interest is payment for the temporary use of another’s money. The money was being loaned out, or else Midas was running a pyramid scheme. (Which would be a much better explanation for his disappearance.) So how did he cash out of those investments and collect on all the loans he’d made, all at once, to return all the money to his depositors, plus interest?

    I once ran a roleplaying adventure where my players were acting as primitive hunter barbarians who had never handled money before, and a trader/banker was trying to explain why they should leave their money with him and take a promissory note. They came away with the understanding that their silver coins, if left alone in the banker’s special vault, would breed little copper pieces as offspring.

    The evidence here suggests that Rand’s understanding of banks was at the same level of sophistication.

  • Jackson

    There’s a reason that bank runs are disastrous, and it’s not ’cause the bankers aren’t Objectivist enough. Even assuming that he used his perfect prophetic foresight to know that all his loans would be paid back by that point and stopped making loans that wouldn’t, how did he continue to pay interest on deposits if the amount of money he was lending out continued to drop? Where did the extra cash come from?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Atlas Shrugged world has functioning police forces and functioning, if hugely incompetent armed forces, but no bureau of investigations. And Rand fans like to imagine the book is set in the future.

    http://www.aetherczar.com/?page_id=1254

  • GubbaBumpkin
  • Jeff

    Funny enough, I had a similar situation as a player. Our group had been offered work, with a percentage of the loot found as payment. The party’s barbarian did not understand percentages, so the would-be employer tried explaining the concept by using an analogy of chopping up deer meat into equal pieces and divvying it up.

    For the rest of that game, the barbarian believed that ‘percentage’ was a fancy word for deer shank.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    Arendt talks about the “onion structure” in length. Has Krugman read her?

  • Nancy McClernan

    I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he has.

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    This joke was brought to you by “Superhero League of Hoboken,” 1994 by Legend Entertainment. ;)

  • X. Randroid

    I think Rand’s theory here was that prior to announcing the closing, Mulligan would have sold off the bank’s assets — bonds, promissory notes, other holdings — converting it all to cash to pay off his depositors. And he’s so good at what he does that it balances out exactly.

    Sure, there’s there problem of whether any real banker could value his assets so precisely as to get to “the last fraction of interest due.” But we know by now that this sort of thing is a non-problem for a Rand Hero.

    On top of that, there’s another glaring problem. Mulligan would have to start selling weeks before he disappears … and everyone is going to notice if a major bank headed by someone as notorious as Midas Mulligan suddenly goes into total liquidation mode. What happens in reality if Mulligan tries this is that word gets out, panic sets in, and the run on the bank starts before he’s got the cash on hand to pay his depositors — and then he’ll never get enough cash because buyers of his paper will see he’s in distress and discount their offers accordingly.

    Not to mention that the panic would likely spread to other banks as well. The collapse of what must have been seen as the nation’s safest bank would have repercussions.

    But somehow Dagny doesn’t remember any of that.

  • X. Randroid

    Even stranger is that Dagny doesn’t question any of this, even though we know she notices. Immediately after Dagny recalls the Mulligan story, Hunsacker starts in on Judge Narragansett — the judge whose verdict for Mulligan against Hunsacker was overturned on appeal. Hunsacker tells Dagny the judge retired six months later and nobody’s heard from him since. Her reaction:

    He wondered why she looked frightened. Part of the fear she felt, was that she could not name its reason, either.

    So Dagny feels an inexplicable fear over this coincidence of retirements — but somehow she never thinks about it again. Even when the Colorado industrialists start falling like dominoes, she doesn’t even wonder if Mulligan or Narragansett might be connected.

  • X. Randroid

    Seems unlikely for a Rand fan to be at an Obama fundraiser, though. They’re not going to support the party or candidate that wants to raise taxes on the rich.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    You left out an alternative, the inside trader. The inside trader is not really gambling because he illegally obtained information about the outcome of the situation.

  • X. Randroid

    Sure, of course. How else are they going to get themselves exempted from income taxes?

  • Nancy McClernan

    And considering how utterly incompetent the fog government in Atlas Shrugged is, I don’t see how insider trading would not be rampant and unchecked.

  • Nancy McClernan

    But not impossible – there are some Libertarians for Obama:

    http://reason.com/archives/2012/10/26/the-libertarian-case-for-voting-for-obam

  • X. Randroid

    Probably true — except that insider trading isn’t necessary in Rand’s parallel universe. Anyone can just tell by looking at the CEO which companies are good investments!

    Or maybe companies keep their C-suite occupants hidden from public view, so only insiders know who is lean and angular and who is fleshy and round. I’m imagining a radical new form of insider trading that revolves around paparazzi getting pix of the new CFO ….

  • X. Randroid

    But that sort of support is at the level of “hold your nose and vote for the lesser of evils” … if you live in one of the dozen or so states where the outcome isn’t a foregone conclusion. It’s not the kind of support that would lead someone to shell out the five-figure admission price of the dinner where the comment was made.

  • Loren Petrich

    From his reaction, you’d think that he had faced being guillotined or exiled in Devil’s Island for several years. That’s an island off the coast of French Guiana in NE South America that France had long used as a penal colony. But all he faced was a fine that was a small fraction of the value of one of his yachts.

  • avalon

    “Remember, this was in the wake of the 2009 subprime mortgage crisis, an
    economic catastrophe caused by megabanks making risky (“subprime”) loans
    that failed en masse and plunged the country into recession. Rather
    than acknowledging their culpability in this, these Wall Street bankers
    all imagined themselves as Midas Mulligan – hated simply because they
    were rich and successful. In reality, public anger stemmed from the
    accurate perception that the people who were instrumental in causing
    this crisis escaped largely unscathed, and in many cases were even
    rewarded with multimillion-dollar bonuses, while towns all across the
    country were devastated and millions of people lost their jobs.”

    I’m always dismayed when I read a one-sided view of the housing crisis. There’s plenty of blame to go around. In fact, the crisis was a ‘perfect storm’ of bipartisanship.
    Remember, Democrats were promoting the idea that home ownership was a “right”. Somehow, it was immoral that people were being denied home loans just because some banker thought they couldn’t afford to make the monthly payments. Dems supported sub-prime loans based on the fantasy that somehow there’d be a happy ending to letting people buy something they couldn’t afford.
    Republicans were happy to go along so that Wall Street could make money. And they supported overly-optimistic ratings on these risky loans and exotic insurance schemes to make even more money.

    So,yes, megabanks played a part in the crisis. But people who believed they had a right to own a home (even if they couldn’t afford it) caused it too. Ask yourself, If everyone who signed a mortgage actually had the ability to make the payments would there have been a crisis?
    I disagree with government bailouts. If a business makes bad decisions it should suffer the consequences. But I also believe the same is true of individuals. If you sign a loan you can’t pay back you suffer for that mistake. Government shouldn’t be a cure for stupidity for businesses nor individuals.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Oh, yes, his telling of it was a terrible tale of woe. My heart just dropped for the man as I read it.

  • CynicalBrit

    Bit of a conundrum that. How can they both want to have millions of votes( because of the tax they pay) and also pay no tax

  • Nancy McClernan

    LOL – it’s the old “‘Those People’ couldn’t afford their homes” rightwing bullshit.

    Here’s a little Krugman for you:

    there we go with the “Barney Frank did it” story. Deregulation, the explosive growth of virtually unregulated shadow banking, lax lending standards by loan originators who sold their loans off as soon as they were made, had nothing to do with it — it was all the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie, and Freddie.

    Look, this is one of the most thoroughly researched topics out there, and every piece of the government-did-it thesis has been refuted; see Mike Konczal for a summary.
    http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/bloombergs-awful-comment-what-can-we-say-for-certain-regarding-the-gses/

    No, the CRA wasn’t responsible for the epidemic of bad lending; no, Fannie and Freddie didn’t cause the housing bubble; no, the “high-risk” loans of the GSEs weren’t remotely as risky as subprime.

    This really isn’t about the GSEs, it’s about the BSEs — the Blame Someone Else crowd. Faced with overwhelming, catastrophic evidence that their faith in unregulated financial markets was wrong, they have responded by rewriting history to defend their prejudices.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/marco-rubio-has-learned-nothing/

  • J-D

    Another aspect of the bizarre behaviour of us Foreignanians and our incomprehensible Foreignanian legal systems is our perverse insistence on not using the same classification for crimes as the US. The French have not copied into their criminal code the US legal distinction between voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, if you can credit such an extraordinary thing.

  • J-D

    So there’s a character called Midas who is fabulously wealthy, people comment on how everything he touches seems to turn to gold, and nobody makes any comment on his legendary namesake? It’s not a nickname he was given after his success, it’s his birth name, and nobody remarks on its unforeseeable appropriateness? In my experience, that’s not the kind of thing people are silent about.

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

    It’s not his birth name. Rand makes an aside about how his birth name was Michael, but a columnist of the “humanitarian clique” nicknames him Midas as an insult, and he embraces it and has his name legally changed.

  • unbound55

    It wasn’t a fundraiser, just a meeting of wallstreeters with Obama.

    Additionally, in US politics, the Democrats are not nearly the liberals that the mass media make them out to be. In fact, the overwhelming majority of modern Democrats would more likely fit in with the Republicans of the 70s and early 80s. There be plenty of money from industry to the Democratic politicians…it’s just that the industry supporting the Democrats are just a bit less obsessive about money compared to the Republican contributing industry executives.

  • avalon

    Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for the links, but that doesn’t really apply to what I’ve seen with my own eyes.
    A friend of mine, a waitress lived with her boyfriend. They have one kid. The boyfriend is the cook at the chain restaurant where they met. Neither have a stable job history. They decided one day to buy a house. Gave it about as much thought as buying lunch.

    They could afford the initial payments only if they rented out a room to their drug dealer friend. They knew in a few years the monthly payments would exceed what they currently made.
    They bought the house, signed on for 30 years of payments without any idea of how they’d make them.

    And somehow this is all the lenders fault?

  • James Yakura

    Seven years ago, he mysteriously vanished after closing his bank,
    selling off all its assets and repaying every depositor exactly what
    they were owed, “down to the last fraction of interest due”.

    Well, it would seem that we can add basic finance to the list of things Rand doesn’t understand. What’s it at now?

    Human psychology, realistic characterization, railroads, mythology, materials science, medicine, logic, the limits of logic, anything involving the research process, business, basic thermodynamics, anything involving Marx, metaphorical language, sexual ethics, general ethics, being a decent person, …

  • James Yakura

    Again, there isn’t just one person to blame.

    As the capitalists are fond of pointing out, any transaction requires two people. Just as no one forced the waitress and her boyfriend to buy a house, no one forced the lenders to lend to them.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Your one ne’er-do-well waitress friend.

    That’s the entire argument that you, anonymous random individual on the web, have to support your claim that “Dems supported sub-prime loans based on the fantasy that somehow there’d be a happy ending to letting people buy something they couldn’t afford.”

    Well in that case I certainly won’t listen to our country’s most important economist, nor the report by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, when you have such a convincing argument as that.

    http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/kroszner20081203a.htm

  • Nancy McClernan

    avalon is arguing that Democrats were to blame because of promoting the idea that people should be able to afford home loans – which implies the notion, pushed constantly by Republicans and friends, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were equally to blame – or even mainly to blame – for the 2008 financial meltdown.

    One way that Democrats were to blame though is that they supported the anti-regulation sentiments of Randroids like Alan Greenspan. The Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000 happened under Clinton. But that legislation encouraged the banksters to keep doing what they were doing, and that is what caused the crisis. For as Joe Nocera said:

    Central to (Peter) Wallison’s argument is that the government’s effort to encourage homeownership among low- and moderate-income Americans is what led to the crisis. Fannie and Freddie, which were required by law to meet certain “affordable housing mandates,” were the primary instruments of that government policy; their need to meet those mandates, says Wallison, is what caused them to dive so heavily into those “risky” mortgages. And because they were powerful forces in the housing market, their entry into subprime dragged along the rest of the mortgage industry.

    But the S.E.C. complaint makes almost no mention of affordable housing mandates. Instead, it charges that the executives were motivated to begin buying subprime mortgages — belatedly, contrary to the Big Lie — because they were trying to reclaim lost market share, and thus maximize their bonuses.

    As Karen Petrou, a well-regarded bank analyst, puts it: “The S.E.C.’s facts paint a picture in which it wasn’t high-minded government mandates that did [Fannie and Freddie] wrong, but rather the monomaniacal focus of top management on market share.” As I wrote on Tuesday, Fannie and Freddie, rather than leading the housing industry astray, got into riskier mortgages only after the horse was out of the barn. They were becoming irrelevant in the most profitable segment of the market — subprime. And that they couldn’t abide.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/24/opinion/nocera-the-big-lie.html?_r=1&hp

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

    I agree that the subprime crisis was caused, in part, by irresponsible borrowers who took out loans that they must have known they had no realistic prospect of repaying. There were also speculators who bought houses on credit with no intention but to resell them at higher prices, further inflating a bubble in the housing market.

    But here’s the thing: irresponsible borrowers couldn’t have caused a countrywide mortgage crisis by themselves. At most, their mortgages should have failed and their houses would have been repossessed, which happens all the time without destroying the economy.

    The only reason this became a systemic crisis is because banks were hyping and pushing subprime mortgages so heavily. Every piece of reporting on the crisis found that loan origination officers were under tremendous pressure to make and close as many loans as possible, as quickly as possible, without regard to the creditworthiness of the borrowers. It’s this irresponsible behavior on the part of the banks that turned this into an economy-destroying catastrophe.

  • Nancy McClernan

    And of course it wasn’t only that subprime mortgages were pushed so heavily, it was that they were then bundled into CDOs which were then rated AAA by corrupt ratings agencies (who claimed they were only giving opinions protected by the First Amendment) and sold and resold as safe investments.

    When the subprime mortgage loans began to default (due to increasing interest rates) it set off a chain reaction that became impossible to trace because thanks to Greenspan & company refusing to regulate “over-the-counter” derivatives, the big financials did not know who owed what to whom and how much risk exposure they had and everybody started calling in their loans – and so AIG, which insured those loans couldn’t afford to cover all its obligations – which meant nobody knew whether their loans would ever be repaid, and the implications of that uncertainty froze the international financial system.

    I recommend the movie “Inside Job” for more details.

    http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob/

    This Wiki is also pretty good:

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

  • Incogneato

    No, the Democrats were arguing that it’s immoral that people were being denied loans because they lived in the wrong neighborhood, regardless of whether or not they were fit to pay the loan back. That is what the CRA was about.

    Also, the CRA wasn’t even really enforced. No bank was actually forced to give a loan to anyone. Please stop with the zombie lies.

  • avalon

    Hi Adam,
    “I agree that the subprime crisis was caused, in part, by irresponsible
    borrowers who took out loans that they must have known they had no
    realistic prospect of repaying. There were also speculators who bought
    houses on credit with no intention but to resell them at higher prices,
    further inflating a bubble in the housing market.”

    We’re in agreement here.

    “The only reason this became a systemic crisis is because banks were hyping and pushing subprime mortgages so heavily.”

    Are you saying consumers somehow couldn’t resist this heavy hyping? Are we all just lemmings waiting for the next big ad campaign?

    ” Every piece of reporting on the crisis found that loan origination
    officers were under tremendous pressure to make and close as many loans
    as possible, as quickly as possible, without regard to the
    creditworthiness of the borrowers.”

    Is the borrower not also responsible for knowing their own creditworthiness?

    The best comment I’ve read so far is from James:
    “any transaction requires two people”

  • avalon

    “avalon is arguing that Democrats were to blame because of promoting the idea that people should be able to afford home loan”

    No, what avalon said is “Democrats were promoting the idea that home ownership was a “right”.”

    I’m all in favor of people being able to afford a home loan. I’m opposed to people buying things they can’t afford because they think they have a “right” to it.

  • J-D

    Did your acquaintances make the unwise decision to take out a loan that they couldn’t repay because Democrats had encouraged them to think that was a good idea? You say they gave it little thought, but you don’t actually allege that the little thought they gave it included considering what politicians were saying.

    Did the lenders make their unwise decision to enter into the transaction because that’s what Democrats were encouraging them to do? I have never seen any evidence that politicians talking about how they think businesses should behave has any effect on those businesses making commercial (or supposed to be commercial) decisions.

    Looking not at individual transactions but at systemic effects, I see two logical possibilities (or both factors could have played a part, I suppose).

    One is that for some reason there was a sharp increase in eagerness to buy homes (on the part of people who couldn’t really afford them) and that they took up a lot of unwise loans that lenders has always been willing to offer but had not previously had takers for.

    The other is that for some reason there was a sharp increase in eagerness to make loans (even to people unlikely to be able to repay them) and that this tapped into unmet demand from people who’d always hoped to buy homes but hadn’t previously been able to afford them.

    Crudely, either a sudden rush of folly on the part of borrowers activated the latent folly of (potential) lenders, or a sudden rush of folly on the part of lenders activated the latent folly of (potential) borrowers. Personally I find the second more likely than the first, but in either case I don’t see how the words of politicians are to blame. Also in either case, as the lenders (but not the borrowers) were professionals, with greater experience and expertise at their disposal, I think their folly the more culpable.

  • J-D

    If Ryan and people like him believe they’re characters in _Atlas Shrugged_, why are they not following the examples of Galt, d’Anconia, Mulligan, Narragansett, Wyatt, and the rest? Don’t they ever think that might make them more like Robert Stadler?

  • Nancy McClernan

    Let’s have some evidence to support your assertion about the Democrats.

    And also some evidence that Democrats felt that people who couldn’t afford to keep up loan payments had a right to loans anyway – because that’s clearly what you’re implying.

    You might also discuss that famous Democrat George W. Bush’s attitude towards home ownership:

    The overall U.S. homeownership rate increased from 64 percent in 1994 (about where it was since 1980) to a peak in 2004 with an all-time high of 69.2 percent.[93] Bush’s 2004 campaign slogan “the ownership society” indicates the strong preference and societal influence of Americans to own the homes they live in, as opposed to renting.

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

  • Nancy McClernan

    There’s no doubt that some people took bad risks – just like Wall Street. Only Wall Street was bailed out.

  • Chaos-Engineer

    Are you saying consumers somehow couldn’t resist this heavy hyping? Are
    we all just lemmings waiting for the next big ad campaign?

    “Lemmings” is a bit harsh. But advertising does influence people; if it didn’t then nobody would bother advertising.

    Anyway, based on the facts presented, I don’t know that your waitress friend was making a bad decision. Her reasoning was probably, “The price of real estate always goes up, so if I take out the loan, then I’ll get to live in a nice house for at least a few years. The worst-case scenario is that I’ll have to sell the house for a profit and then go back to renting.”

    The only questionable part is the bit about how the price of real estate always goes up. That turns out to be a false assumption, but a lot of experts made the same mistake: If the banker had thought that the value of the house would be less than the outstanding balance at the expected time of foreclosure, then he would never have agreed to make a loan.

    So I’d tend to place more of the blame on the bankers who are specially trained to do these calculations and earn a salary for it. I’d place less blame on the customers who have to rely on their own unpaid guesswork.

  • GoingBig

    “And somehow this is all the lenders fault?”
    Yes, because the money involved was not the lender’s
    They had a responsibility to say no. Because it was not their money.

  • J_Enigma32

    Oh my goodness. People want to have a place to live, and be independent, rather than rely on their parents.

    How horrible of them to think that a roof over their head is as important as food and clothing over their body. These rotten people, thinking they have a “right” to survive in a capitalist society.

    You don’t have a “right” to survive – that’s my take away from this. You don’t have a “right” to shelter that’s not a homeless shelter.

    I seem to recall reading that there are more abandoned homes than there are homeless people in this country. It’d be nice if someone could back me up on that, but banks don’t care for the foreclosed homes. I have four on my block and they’re eyesores, dropping property values. Letting people move in – making housing a right – would help combat the urban decay and blight triggered by banks that don’t give a fuck about the properties they foreclose on.

  • Omnicrom

    At this point it would be more productive to list what Rand gets right as opposed to what she gets wrong.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Midas Mulligan had once been the richest and, consequently, the most
    denounced man in the country. He had never taken a loss on any
    investment he made; everything he touched turned into gold.

    Ayn Rand, master of subtlety. With the name “Midas”, I could have sworn he’d be a garbage collector.

    In the real world, an investment banker who never lost money would be a shitty banker. It would be a sure sign that he or she was too risk averse. The optimal return will always include some investments that go bad. It’s called capitalism.

  • avalon

    Hi J.
    I’m a big supporter of Habitat for Humanity. They address the issue of home ownership from BOTH sides of the equation. Making homes affordable thru volunteer labor, materials, and donations as sellers. And addressing the buyers by requiring the buyer to contribute ‘sweat equity’ by helping with construction, educating buyers about mortgages and compound interest, teaching them to write a budget and stay on it, showing them how a little extra paid each month saves alot in interest, etc…
    The first fundraiser I attended celebrated a Habitat family who paid off their mortgage 5 years early.

    Just “letting people move in” wouldn’t solve anything. There’s that old chinese saying about giving people a fish and teaching people to fish. Habitat teaches.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Ultimately what Atlas Shrugged is about is not capitalism vs. collectivism, in spite of what Libertarians and many Republicans seem to believe, it’s about a small group of superior human beings (and Rand counted herself, her husband, her boyfriend and his wife, and probably Alan Greenspan, as members of that group) and how the rest of us are dragging them down. And being superior human beings with no sense of empathy (i.e., altruism) they take care of that problem by destroying the economy of the USA, resulting in the deaths of millions of the lesser beings, and begin their take-over of the world.

    I still say that since it’s clear there is no serious socio-economic analysis anywhere in the book, what it’s really about is Ayn Rand’s hatred of, for lack of a better word, “neurotypicals.” And of course her mother issues.

  • GCT

    I just got “Inside Job” from Netflix. I’m now looking forward to seeing it even more.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I’m looking forward to your thoughts on it.

  • Nancy McClernan

    But clearly Habitat for Humanity believes that everybody has a right to a place to live.

    A nonprofit, Christian housing ministry that believes that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live.

    http://www.habitat.org/how/FAQ.aspx

    Or are you OK with the right to a place to live, you just hate the idea of home ownership?

    And you have provided zero evidence that “just letting people move in wouldn’t solve anything.” My guess is that you believe that the people who would just move in are ne’er-do-wells like your friend the waitress, who would hang out with drug dealers and not bother with upkeep to the house, etc. Interesting choice of friend, BTW.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Was Rand really so obtuse that she didn’t understand the whole point of the story of Midas? It doesn’t end well for him.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    You know, it’s really not possible for the government to cause a housing bubble. Only market participants can do that. If we understand a bubble to be a rise in prices that is unsustainable, the only way that happens is if buyers and lenders make bad decisions. Government policy might make prices go up or down, but by itself, it can’t make prices become irrational.

    And even if by some strange reason our Wall Street geniuses weren’t responsible for the crisis, why didn’t they see it coming and protect themselves? Their very job is to allocate scarce capital into productive investments, and they destroyed trillions of dollars of that capital.

    I do believe that “No one can blame us!” is a common refrain in Atlas, but not by the heroes.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    And somehow this is all the lenders fault?

    How in holy hell could it not be the lender’s fault?

  • GCT

    And even if by some strange reason our Wall Street geniuses weren’t responsible for the crisis, why didn’t they see it coming and protect themselves?

    They did. They made off with tons of cash, then made sweetheart deals with the government for bailout cash with no strings attached so that they could give themselves bonuses for tanking the economy for their own personal profit. IOW, they knew what they were doing, they knew it was unsustainable, and they knew they could make a quick buck off of it and who cares about what happens to everyone else.

  • GCT

    Wow. Now, I feel pressure to come away with some insightful nugget of something when I watch it. LOL.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Don’t feel pressure – I’m guessing that after you’ve seen it you’ll have plenty of insights to go around.

  • Nancy McClernan

    That’s a good question. She gets the Prometheus myth wrong later in the book, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she got this wrong too. She might have gotten Midas confused with Croesus, especially considering his connection with gold coins.

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

  • James Yakura

    Yeah, but the more tumbleweed jpegs and cricket noises you put on the page, the longer it takes to load.

  • GCT

    I wouldn’t say that’s entirely true. Many of the “risks” that Wall Street took on weren’t risky at all. They knew those “risks” were failures and took them on anyway so that they could bet against them and make money off of them failing. In that sense, it’s even worse, because they intentionally made bad loans in order to gain more profit at the expense of the loaner, their own company, and the rest of the world.

  • GCT

    I did watch it last night, and I don’t think I’m the one who needs to watch it. I think our friend avalon is the one that really needs to watch it. I don’t know if I got any new insight, since it’s really stuff that’s out there already. We know all of this stuff, and we should know all of this stuff. The problem is that no one has done anything about what is (or at least should be considered) a series of criminal actions by the financial markets.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I agree people ought to know this but they often don’t and this movie does a great job of presenting the issue to a general audience.

    Also one of the important points the movie hits is that in fact many of the practices that caused the meltdown are not illegal which is why it’s so hard to prosecute. The ratings agencies for example rated toxic assets as AAA – and they defended themselves via the 1st Amendment, saying their ratings are “just opinions.”

    It’s important for people to understand the effects of deregulation, especially when Libertarian candidates come along hyping their laissez-faire religion.

  • GCT

    No argument here! In fact, I think we’re in agreement. People like avalon need to be the ones watching this movie so that they can get a general explanation of what actually happened and they can stop swallowing the lie that it was the poor people that caused this. (Actually, wouldn’t that be poor people who were being greedy by wanting to have a house…but Rand says greed is good…cognitive dissonance!)

    And, great point about the AAA ratings. When they tried to defend their actions as “just opinions” my response was, “Well then, why in the hell do we need you guys around at all?”

    I wish they had done more to specifically tie deregulation to the collapse as well. The CDOs weren’t deregulated, they were never regulated at all because no one ever thought to do so. It’s still laissez-faire, but different from having a regulation and then de-regulating. They didn’t really point out the regulations that were in place then removed that could have helped the situation.

  • Nancy McClernan

    They did mention Glass-Steagal. They also briefly discussed the efforts of CFTC head Brooksley Born to regulate the new-style derivatives and how Greenspan shut her down. There is an excellent Frontline episode just about that aspect of the crisis – they even implicate Ayn Rand which is how I became interested in her. You can watch here:

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

  • Nancy McClernan

    And speaking of the melt-down, Krugman shared one of his class presentations on that subject online today:

    https://webspace.princeton.edu/users/pkrugman/The%20Panic.pdf

  • eyelessgame

    I’m sure someone has mentioned the strong similarity between this striking incuriosity and that featured in Left Behind…

  • eyelessgame

    Having lived through it, I don’t actually recall a lot of discussion about home ownership as a “right”. I remember it being touted as a good thing. And it was, and is. If it’s affordable, of course.

    I do remember a *lot* of advertising by banks and credit organizations telling all of us how easy and affordable it was going to be to buy a house, and how good and guaranteed an investment it was going to be.

    They were lying. They knew they were lying. The rest of us didn’t.

    The average person buys a house two or three times in his life, at best. The people who sell houses and sell mortgages for a living used to have to live with a ton of regulation to keep that asymmetry roughly balanced.

    The deregulation of the 80s and 90s took the counterweight off the scale, and what happened as a result was inevitable. There *was* a lot of blame to go around; everybody who favored deregulation (and it was bipartisan) shares the blame.

  • eyelessgame

    Meh, his daughter was probably a moocher. Better off made of gold, which after all is the Objectively Rational thing that all people value because it’s shiny and can be stamped into a thin disk with the picture of a king on it.

  • eyelessgame

    I know it’s a terrible thing to say about people on the spectrum, but I honestly believe Rand was autistic (and poorly socialized atop that). The failures of comprehension she reveals in her misunderstanding of how human beings operate and interoperate are right down the line of the things that people on the spectrum have difficulty with (which also goes a ways to explaining the “nerd contingent” of her fandom). Of course, she was also a terrible person with major Issues, as you say, and that has nothing to do with her autism.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I can’t believe you speculated that Ayn Rand might have been autistic without a shit-storm happening. Every time I suggest it I’m told I’m a horrible bigot who hates people on the spectrum. In my experience here you’re only allowed to suggest that Rand was a psychopath without provoking controversy.

    Anyway, I think there is abundant evidence that Rand shared traits commonly thought to be typical of those on the spectrum (can’t make small talk, don’t get many jokes, have collections, have tics, one-sided discussions, could not handle changes in plans, likely to have friends who are not the same age) and “Atlas Shrugged” makes much more sense when viewed as written by someone who is responding with fear to the majority of humanity, who do things and have values she doesn’t understand, rather than a bona fide socio-politico-economic analysis.

    Feeling alienated from most people, whom you don’t understand and who don’t understand you would naturally be a frustrating or scary experience for anyone. Turning that feeling into a novel where Communism is portrayed as purely an expression of sadism; and the horse-trading aspect of business something that “moral” businessmen can’t do; and rolling it all up into a long-winded revenge fantasy about the destruction of “altruists” is uniquely Ayn Rand.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Here is someone with Asperger’s describing “neurotypicals” – anybody who is familiar with the way Ayn Rand portrays her villains in Atlas Shrugged might feel a sense of recognition:

    Herd of Humans (inability to be alone, social hierarchy, tradition, ritual, bullying),

    Talking Without Words (non-verbal communication via body language, facial expression, and voice tone),

    Nevermind what I say, you know what I mean (lying, figurative language, hyperbole, sarcasm),

    Emotional vs Logical Beings (flighty, irrational, emotional, lack of focus)

    http://aidansautismadventures.blogspot.com/2012/02/introduction-thinking-persons-guide-to.html

  • Nancy McClernan

    The “Talking Without Words” really jumps out at me because it is a perfect description of Hank Rearden’s problem as a businessman:

    Rearden had to decide how much he could risk to invest upon the sole evidence of a man’s face, manner and tone of voice…

    Rand turns Rearden’s inability to deal with non-verbal communication into a sign of his moral superiority:

    “I guess I’m not smart enough to make the sort of deals needed nowadays,” (Rearden) said in answer to the unspoken thoughts the hung across his desk.

    The purchasing manager shook his head. “No Mr. Rearden, it’s one or the other. The same kind of brain can’t do both. Either you’re good at running the mills or you’re good at running Washington.”

    “Maybe I ought to learn their methods.”

    “You couldn’t learn it and it wouldn’t do you any good. You wouldn’t win in any of those deals. Don’t you understand? You’re the one who’s got something to be looted.”

  • eyelessgame

    Well, the thread’s five days old and I only posted a few hours ago, so it’s possible no one is still reading it. :) I don’t know if I’ll trigger a shitstorm or not, or whether I would have if people actually were still reading the thread – but it’s very important to tread lightly when discussing that any sort of … “difference” that carries with it a social cost and frequent misunderstanding (whether race, gender preference, non-neurotypicality, whatever), especially when suggesting that a person we’re all considering to have bad behavior/bad ideas might also have been a member of said group – it’s important not to come across as “blaming” their bad behavior on their difference.

    All that said – I have experience raising a son on the spectrum. (Hell, I suspect I’m on the spectrum. Not far on it, though, and not as far as my son is.) It’s only after several years of explaining to that extraordinary young man why being nice to people, figuring out what other people wanted, and learning to predict how other people would react were all important tasks that I came to the tentative conclusion that Rand’s ideas tracked well with the unsocialized, default perception of a person on the spectrum, particularly a person who may have been mocked as a child for her different perceptions and priorities. I honestly know next to nothing about Rand’s personal attributes or whether they tracked the same way.

  • eyelessgame

    And all *that* said – every community is different and has different triggers, and I’m new to this one. If the regulars of daylightatheism consider this speculation in poor taste, I won’t repeat it. (I have a far more entertaining alternate speculation about Rand, anyway – that she was a Communist deep-cover agent, attempting to undermine capitalism with a reductio ad absurdum exploration of its logical conclusions, since Atlas Shrugged is pretty much the Communist Manifesto, written backwards and upside-down.)

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well my guess is that you aren’t the only one here who might be on the spectrum. But I don’t think “unpopularity” is a good enough reason to avoid discussing an idea.

    And I think that looking at Ayn Rand through the prism of autism is the only way that “Atlas Shrugged” makes sense. It certainly doesn’t make sense as a real-world critique, in spite of all the right-wingers who somehow read it as one.

    Couple that with the fact that Rand had many traits in common with people on the spectrum and it really makes sense.

    Since nobody here claims that all neurotypicals are lovely agreeable people, I don’t see how anybody could believe that saying one person with possible autism was disagreeable or nasty could indicate bigotry.

    And if some people can claim that Einstein, Jefferson and Mozart were on the spectrum, why is it so unthinkable that Ayn Rand was too?

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

  • eyelessgame

    I think it’s dicey to suggest a direct causal link between being on the spectrum and being the sort of sociopath who might write, or agree with, what’s in Atlas Shrugged. (You’re not making such a direct link, but you should be explicit about that – this is the sort of thing that opens to misinterpretation and can get guns trained on you.)

    I think it’s possible that Rand was on the spectrum, but I think it is far more relevant – and certainly *not* causally related – that she was also, proudly, a sociopath, and used her novel to try to teach sociopathy to others.

    But this is really hard to talk about – because the non-neurotypical deal with so much misunderstanding and prejudice, and this kind of speculation shoves in an extremely unwelcome direction. To associate spectrum perception with Rand-like sociopathy is not only misleading but actively harmful.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I don’t think Rand was a sociopath – and you haven’t presented any evidence that she was.

    And I do think that her Asperger’s colored the way she wrote Atlas Shrugged and I’ve demonstrated exactly how she did it. And there are plenty more examples.

    And if she was indeed on the spectrum, why wouldn’t it color the way she wrote something?

    Rand associating all those things that she couldn’t relate to – like reading body language – with evil was a self-defense mechanism. There is nothing so neuro-atypical about believing that your perspective is the right one. The issue isn’t that Rand’s (possible) autism made her consider her way of thinking better, the issue is that it was things like being able to read people that Rand associated with the wrong way of thinking – that’s how they did it in politics, she has the no-name character explain to Rearden in that passage I quoted.

    It’s one thing to say Asperger’s makes one view the world differently – it’s another to say that Asperger’s makes you think that neurotypicals are evil. And Rand believing that neurotypicals (whom she associated with collectivism and altruism) are evil and need to be exterminated is not an aspect of autism. That’s Rand’s own personality.

    If Rand’s Asperger’s traits are occasionally mistaken for sociopathy, well that certainly wouldn’t be unique to Ayn Rand. Wrongly or not, some Asperger’s traits are often confused with sociopathy.

    Finally, to posit that merely discussing the idea that some of Rand’s views might possibly be informed by Asperger’s is “actively harmful” is absurd. That’s how censors think, and I won’t bow down to that kind of thinking.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Finally – is it OK to speculate that Mozart might have had Asperger’s? If so, then why not Rand? Are we to assume that only popular beloved genii can possibly be on the spectrum? What kind of bullshit magical thinking is that for an alleged atheists discussion group?

  • eyelessgame

    Well. It’s not my place to say what the community is like here; as I say I’m a newcomer. Any given community certainly has the right to consider a given topic unsuitable for discussion within that community.

    Speaking for myself I don’t find the ideas you present inappropriate. Possibly you have a history here I’m unaware of. If I were to broach the point further, I’d want to do so somewhat cautiously, because I tend to try to be aware of the potential for misinterpretation and offense.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I’ve told you my history here, and you can certainly look back through the Atlas Shrugged posts if you’re curious. The first time I suggested the possibility that Ayn Rand had Asperger’s, maybe five-six months ago, I was told to go fuck myself, and that person suggested I be tossed off this board.

    And more recently Adam told me it was naughty to suggest Ayn Rand was on the spectrum and we shouldn’t speculate about such things – and I pointed out to him that people were constantly speculating that Rand was a psychopath and this was considered a completely uncontroversial position to hold.

    And mind you, they never made any arguments in favor of clinical psychopathy because it was already decided that Ayn Rand was a psychopath, because, I guess, just look at what she wrote.

    And in fact, actually presenting any kind of evidence for why you think Ayn Rand might have been on the spectrum is what gets them most angry. I posted a video here of Rand giving an interview and she clearly had an eye tic, and I pointed out that ticcing was a known autism trait. And rather than arguing with me over the evidence I presented, I was told I was a horrible rude person for pointing out such things.

    In any case, I’ve had abuse and disapproval heaped on me for daring to simply speculate about the subject, and I’m still here. This is the only place online I know of in which “Atlas Shrugged” is being analyzed in the painstaking detail it deserves, so it’s worth the occasional abuse.

    And I suppose any group of a sufficient size will have its share of taboo-mongers and hysterical over-reactors. It certainly isn’t only a problem among the religious.

  • Science Avenger

    “Are you saying consumers somehow couldn’t resist this heavy hyping? Are we all just lemmings waiting for the next big ad campaign?”

    In a sense, yes. As has already been mentioned, the negotiating positions in a home sale are not at all equal. The lenders have hundreds of such transactions under their belt, they have more financial acumen than the average person, and the urgency is far more on the buyer. IOW, it’s easier for the seller to live with one less sale than the buyer to live with one less house. Hell, I even got caught up in that mess and I’m in the financial industry myself.

    High cost, low frequency events cannot be treated like any run-of-the-mill free market transaction without a lot of this happening, which is why that is where regulation tends to be heaviest. It’s just not reasonable (as Rand implies) that every person be fully versed in every important aspect of every such transaction.

  • Science Avenger

    “In the real world, an investment banker who never lost money would be a shitty banker. It would be a sure sign that he or she was too risk averse. The optimal return will always include some investments that go bad. It’s called capitalism.”

    I’ve tried unsuccessfully for years to persuade a pawn-broker friend of this. He lives by the First Commandment of Pawn, that he must, must I tell you, make a profit on every transaction. It’s probably the best evidence yet that in some industries, having a superior bargaining position, rather than superior knowledge, is the reason for success.

  • raylampert

    “In the real world, an investment banker who never lost money would be a shitty banker.”
    That didn’t occur to me at the time I read it, but you’re right. Did he only invest in AAA+ rated bonds,, US Treasuries, CDs in blue-chip banks and secured loans at 50% of the collateral value? I guess if he was the only employee, officer and shareholder of his bank, then he could do that. And it appears that, like most of Rand’s tycoons, he was able to run his empire all on his own.


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