Atlas Shrugged: Drill, Baby, Drill

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, The Movie

After that last year of plowing through Ayn Rand’s verbiage, it’s about time for a palate cleanser. And I have just the thing: the colossal cinematic wreck that is Atlas Shrugged: Part 1. Feast your eyes on the capitalist glory of the trailer:

The film was released in 2011, funded mainly by rich white guy John Aglialoro, the CEO of exercise equipment company Cybex. In spite of what would seem to be a built-in audience who’d pay to see it no matter how terrible it was, it promptly sank without a trace, making back less than a quarter of its $20 million budget.

As to why it failed, I have some theories which we’ll get to later on. However, it probably didn’t help that 100,000 DVD copies had to be recalled after some feckless copywriter described it on the title sheet as a “timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice”. (He’s not getting into Galt’s Gulch, I’ll tell you that much.)

But before we get into that, there’s one significant way that the movie departs from the book, and I think it’s an improvement.

In the opening scene, we’re told by a title card that the date is September 2, 2016. Via a montage of news clips and voiceovers, we find that “the Mideast has imploded”, cutting off all oil imports, crippling the economy and sending the price of gas to $37.50 a gallon. In the throes of a massive economic depression (represented by stock footage of Wall Street brokers looking harried), railroads have reemerged as the most affordable means of travel, even as the government tries to contain the damage by instituting price controls and passing laws to make layoffs illegal.

This is one thing, surprisingly, the movie gets right. I appreciate that the filmmakers at least tried to explain why the economy is collapsing, something the book never does. (In real life, the U.S.’ biggest source of imported oil is Canada, but the film ignores that; it would hardly fit their message for us to be rescued by the land of socialized healthcare.)


The real-life Ellis Wyatt?

You’d think that an oil shortage would be an excellent motivation for the U.S. to launch a major effort to switch to renewable energy sources, but that doesn’t happen here. In the world of Ayn Rand, there’s no such thing as solar, wind or hydroelectric power. The words “alternative energy” never so much as cross anyone’s lips in this movie. Instead, we get an opening scene in a diner, where oil baron Ellis Wyatt is on TV insisting that we have plenty of oil and gas right here at home, if only the damn government would get out of the way and let him get at it.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s basically the slogan of the 2008 Republican presidential campaign. In a previous comment thread, Alex SL coined the term “cornucopianism” for this attitude: the belief that conservation is unnecessary because there will always be more natural resources for us to exploit. For Rand, as for the GOP, this isn’t a factual conclusion but an article of dogma, because accepting that scarcity exists would force them to confront hard questions about sustainability and equitable distribution.

Strangely, the renewable sources that are actually closest to limitlessness are the ones they dismiss or ignore. (You may remember the Rand devotee in earlier comment threads who thought a perpetual motion machine was wholly plausible but scoffed at solar power as a fanciful pipe dream. For the record, the world currently has around 100 gigawatts of solar generating capacity.)

I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that renewables can’t easily be wrapped up in a deed and controlled by a handful of rich people the way that oil and gas can. Solar energy, which is inherently decentralized and free for the taking, may well strike an Objectivist as suspiciously democratic, even communist. What good is a power source that can’t be yanked away at the whim of a wealthy landowner who decides he isn’t being appreciated enough?

There are some other assorted oddities as well, like that date in the opening scene. Rand avoided any mention of dates to give her book a sense of timelessness, but the filmmakers went the other direction, giving the movie not just a date of planned obsolescence but one that’s a remarkably short time from now. In fact – and there’s no way this wasn’t deliberate – it sets the opening scene within a few weeks of a presidential election, and that election must happen sometime during the movie. Yet we never hear about it, not even who the candidates were. I can’t help but wonder if that was meant to put the fear of President Hillary Clinton in the audience without coming out and saying so.

Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

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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.

  • Alex SL

    Thanks but it is not as if I was the first to come up with that term!

    Still have not read Atlas or suchlike myself, but I the treatment of energy by Rand really seems odd. On the one hand one gets the feeling that Rand got a kick out of imagining environmental destruction, so she would be for oil anyway; on the other hand, one of her heroes invents a perpetuum mobile. The latter is just as decentralized as wind or solar power, for example, so why can’t Randroids go with something more realistic?

  • arensb

    it is not as if I was the first to come up with that term!

    Ah, so you admit you’re a filthy moocher who merely profits from the blood, sweat, and toil of some great titan of lexicography, feeling it your due to just reuse any neologism that you might overhear, without thought for the profit of the man who invented it [goes on like this for five more pages]

    What’s that? You actually paid for the use of that word? Is that the receipt? Oh. Okay. Never mind, then.

  • BenjCano

    Dear lord, but that trailer was awful. Businessmen! talking about metal! and tax! and bonds! and trains! And the biggest action beat is someone gets a drink thrown in his face!

    I do appreciate that they’re at least trying to catch your interest with an explosion and a fire in the first few seconds of the trailer, but it just goes on too long and it’s so bloody boring.

  • Blessed jim

    to be fair to Rand, she wrote the book in the 1930s. she would not have known about solar energy, or been aware of environmental harm caused by fossil fuels. Modern randians have no such excuse, which makes the movie justifications so unconvincing.

  • eyelessgame

    This was made in 2011 – it’s much more likely to be set in 2016 to put the fear in the audience of four more years of the socialist radical Muslim Marxist Kenyan.

  • Jim Baerg

    BTW anyone wondering what we should use instead of fossil fuels should read the e-book _Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air_.
    http://www.withouthotair.com/

  • eyelessgame

    (Also, I am sad your troll has given up and gone home. He added a lot to the
    discussion.)

  • Donalbain

    It is not fair to all him a troll. He was sincere, and was usually not insulting or disruptive, he was just stupid as all get out.

  • Azkyroth

    “You Can’t Take It With You” came out in the 1930s and has a character who was previously motivated by trying to figure out how to harness solar energy while in college. There must have been some cultural currents related to that…

  • eyelessgame

    I accept the correction. Our erstwhile resident Randroid, then.

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

    As Roger Ebert said in his review, the dialogue in this movie was “ripped throbbing with passion from the pages of Investors’ Business Daily”.

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

    Eh. He was amusing, I suppose, but I think his entertainment value was wearing thin by the end, when he was mostly repeating himself. Besides, I’m sure more will come along. ;)

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

    (represented by stock footage of Wall Street brokers looking harried)

    Is there any other kind of stock footage of Wall Street brokers?

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

    I don’t think fuguewriter himself particularly added much, but I certainly learned a lot about the mythos and groupies surrounding Rand from people’s responses to him, especially Nancy’s citations. I didn’t know much of anything about Atlas Shrugged or its author before this series. It’s been an eye-opener.

  • kenny

    Here is a spectacular condensed version.

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

    “There is so much at stake………………..We have to make it………….”

    And if you want to skip ahead, here is Part II.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynb0DQDCYMk

    Look, who is that at 1:30? It’s the guy who melted from radioactive waste in Robocop!!! (the 1987 version, kids!).

  • kenny

    Ugh, I’m sorry! I didn’t know all that space would be inserted!

  • Elizabeth

    Here’s a great clip of Sam Seder discussing the movie’s box office failure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diw6jHoD7AI

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

    I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that renewables can’t easily be wrapped up in a deed and controlled by a handful of rich people the way that oil and gas can. Solar energy, which is inherently decentralized and free for the taking, may well strike an Objectivist as suspiciously democratic, even communist.

    -Unlikely. I don’t think Objectivists have ever been against profitable renewable energy devices (what is Galt’s engine but a renewable energy device?). Far more likely, it’s because they think environmentalism is a cult of suicide, forcing humanity to sacrifice the opportunity to use cheap and profitable energy for no clear benefit to mankind. Environmentalists’ frequent support of alternative energy subsidies and occasional collectivist rhetoric does nothing to alleviate this concern.

  • Loren Petrich

    Ayn Rand got the idea of the book in 1943, and she published it in 1957.

  • Loren Petrich

    As to dependence on Mideastern oil, it’s indirect for the US, which gets much of its oil from Canada and Mexico and Venezuela and other such places. However, there are several nations that use much more Mideastern oil than the US does. If Middle Eastern oil exports get interrupted, then those buyers of that oil will look elsewhere, putting a lot of demand pressure on non-Mideastern soil exporters. That will then drive up the price of oil, as in that movie.

  • Loren Petrich

    About this film, one does have to ask why it has received so little financial support from the economic elites of the US and other Western nations. That’s because the elites’ members would very likely agree with its message, and because they would presumably be glad to have a movie where they are the good guys.

    But they haven’t supported it, even though enough of them doing so could give the movies a *lot* of money without it being much of a drain on their finances. Ten billionaires each contributing 1% of their assets would contribute a total of $100 million. That’s much more than the makers of the Atlas Shrugged movies have spent so far.

  • Azkyroth

    Well of course it was ripped; the pages were stuck together.

  • Loren Petrich

    The third movie is now in post-production. Principal photography ended last month with a scene of an airplane taking off from some Western-US semidesert with a low hill nearby and mountains in the distance: That’s a Wrap. It should be out September this year.

  • BenjCano

    I wouldn’t say that Galt’s engine is a renewable energy device. It’s a hand wave that bypasses the very concept of energy being either a non renewable resource in the case of fossil fuels, or presently out of our reach in the case of renewable sources like solar and wind.

  • eyelessgame

    Won’t 2/3 of that movie be Galt’s speech? If I understand the pacing of the novel correctly.

  • eyelessgame

    You just used the words “give” and “contribute”. I think that’s a clue to why they didn’t.

  • eyelessgame

    I found that trailer intriguing. There are some things about it that seem almost to go out of their way to reveal some of the things that are so bad (as in, not competently written) about the book.

    The one line Galt speaks in the trailer jumps out at me. In just a single sentence that no human being would ever actually speak, he’s pompous, awkward, wordy, martyred, and bombastic all at once.

    And Reardon’s exchange with the weasel guy? “All I care about is making
    money.” The guy cares so much about his invention – his innovative, extraordinary metal – that he believes an unattractive bracelet of it ought to be an appreciated gift to his wife. This guy is an extreme metallurgy nerd. But what he *tells* us is that he’s a soulless businessman only out for a buck. A person who cares only about making money belongs on Wall Street, not creating and building a company that makes innovative new technology. What we are told and what we are shown don’t match; the story does not understand people.

    There are probably other beats in the trailer just as revealing that I’ve missed. But irrespective of the odious underlying message, the trailer’s surprisingly accurate in how it portrays the story.

  • eyelessgame

    The incompetent thing about the trailer, though, is asking “Who Is John Galt?” over and over, which sort of loses its punch when people can just bring up imdb.com and figure out “he’s that guy from One Tree Hill.” (Then again, that’s about how easy it is to answer “how deep is the ocean” or “how high is the sky” – both of which have answers that are, at the least, simple and well-known, depending on one’s definitions.)

    It wouldn’t be hard for a trailer to throw in a line or two that tells the audience why they should care about the question but there’s no context in the trailer for anyone to care. You could have had something like “Bla bla bla mystery, bla bla disappearances, bla bla invention, bla bla John Galt.” “Who is John Galt?” “That’s the question, isn’t it.” But they don’t, of course.

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

    Ah, but Galt’s magic motor is an invention. Under Rand’s principles, that means he owns it, and he can take it away from people if he doesn’t think they deserve it (which is precisely what he does).

    On the other hand, I think even Rand would have a hard time coming up with a justification for someone to own the sun or the wind. And if something can’t be commoditized and sold off, it might as well not exist as far as she’s concerned.

  • X. Randroid

    Far more likely, it’s because they think environmentalism is a cult of suicide, forcing humanity to sacrifice the opportunity to use cheap and profitable energy for no clear benefit to mankind.

    Precisely. For instance, check out the mission statement of the Center for Industrial Progress, recently founded by two Objectivists. They’re pretty much in favor of any form of energy that can be produced at a profit and allow us to go on increasing our industrial footprint.

  • X. Randroid

    For Rand, as for the GOP, this isn’t a factual conclusion but an article of dogma, because accepting that scarcity exists would force them to confront hard questions about sustainability and equitable distribution.

    Yep.

    In the case of Objectivists, their thinking on environmental issues tends to be strongly influenced by Rand’s assertion that the proper time span for a man to consider when making choices about his life should be his own lifespan. We have no responsibility whatsoever to “future generations” that won’t be born until after we’re dead. So deliberately scaling back our industrial activity or resource consumption for the sake of “future generations” is self-sacrifice. Future generations will have to deal with whatever situation they find themselves in; we owe them no effort whatsoever to make their world a pleasant one.

    In case you’re wondering, Objectivist parents (and even non-parents) comfort themselves with the delusion that unrestrained industrial activity happens to be the very thing that will “make the world a better place” for their children and grandchildren. The possibility that it might not work out that way … well, that just can’t be because industrial progress is Good. Period. Whatever problems industry may create, more industry will come along to solve (provided evil government doesn’t put any regulations on it), so nothing to worry about.

  • X. Randroid

    Yep. I seem to recall that Part II was released in October 2012, with the hope of preventing the re-election of that socialist radical Muslim Marxist Kenyan.

  • X. Randroid

    Actually, I think Rand (and the writers of the movie) did not believe Rearden was just in it for the money. There’s a scene coming up in Part II of the novel where Francisco asks Rearden why he created the rail for the John Galt Line. Rearden answers “To make money.” But Francisco gets him to admit there’s something deeper going on, that Rearden’s real motive was “to exchange my best effort for the best effort of others.”

    And this, I think, is a big part of what draws Rand’s fans to her: the notion that there’s something moral and right about doing the thing you’re passionate about and making your best effort at doing it the way you think it should be done. It’s not fundamentally about making money (although Rand seems to think that making money is an automatic side effect, at least if everyone is rational and moral). This is actually a decent message as far as it goes. The problem is that Rand tangles it up with extreme individualism and right-wing economic ideology.

  • X. Randroid

    Actually, there was a Kickstarter for Part III. They set a goal of $250,000 and raised $446,000.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    the notion that there’s something moral and right about doing the thing
    you’re passionate about and making your best effort at doing it the way
    you think it should be done… This is actually a decent message as far as it goes.

    It’s been 22 years since I read the book though I do remember picking up on this aspect. While the ideas that I suppose I was meant to take away from it I immediately saw as bunk, I did see this as a positive. The only one I can think of actually, though if I gave it some thought I could possibly think of more. Anyway, I think if she had given this a much more central platform, in both AS and her philosophy, I might have been more inclined to find it engaging.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    “Cornucopianism” was already a term before Alex SL mentioned it.

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

    Environmentalists’ frequent support of alternative energy subsidies and occasional collectivist rhetoric does nothing to alleviate this concern.

    That argument would have more merit if it weren’t the case that fossil fuels have always been the beneficiary of generous subsidies, loan guarantees and other financial support from governments.

    The IMF, for example, estimates that fossil fuel subsidies amount to $1.9 trillion annually. That value includes both direct subsidies as well as the indirect cost of externalities, like pollution, which are borne by society at large rather than by the energy companies.

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

    Yeah, that’s the remarkable thing – this could have been a perfectly competently made movie. It’s not as if the source material is unworkable. There’s plenty of mystery that could be mined from “industrialists are disappearing in a collapsing world!”, and plenty of potential for scenery-chewing villainry and dashing heroism.

    Part of the problem, I suspect, is that that would require a less rigid approach to textual fidelity than the filmmakers were willing to take. But that’s a topic for another post.

  • eyelessgame

    And I wonder how many of them actually confront the blatant contradiction – “my Objectivism means I have no interest in future generations” versus “I am pushing for collapsing the society so it can rebuild along Objectivist lines for the benefit of future generations”. It would seem, at the very least, like older Objectivists would prefer *not* to disrupt society to make it more Objectivist, because the disruption would make them personally suffer and the benefits would largely accrue to other people after they’ve died.

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

    I guess some Objectivists like to deal with rhetoric more than with reality. :-)

  • Austin

    This is precisely the kind of garbage you get when people in business suits fail to realize and respect film for the art form that it is. Like any art form, for a film to have any chance of being good, the initial spark of inspiration has to come from the actual writers/directors. You can at that point finance it if it fits your agenda, but you CANNOT throw some money at a writer/director and expect an inspired piece of work. It’s not a coincidence that “12 years a slave” was written/directed by Black people or Schindler’s list by Jewish people. Profit is a terrible motivator for great art, there has to be something much more personal. Never in the history of mankind has ‘profit’ motivated a world class symphony.

    Which brings me to a different point. Why do Ayn Rand supporters never address this?

    There is absolutely no correlation between the greatest pieces of art work and the money the artists profited from them…in fact, this also holds true for the sciences as well. If you flip through the greatest inventors in the history of mankind, it’s definitively clear that they were not motivated by money, they would have done it for free and in most cases…they did. When you study the true history of innovation, it becomes disturbingly clear that the ‘heroes’ Rand describes and exalts are the true leeches of society exploiting true Genius in much the same fashion that they ‘claim’ the government is exploiting them.

    WHO INVENTED REARDEN METAL?????? Hank obviously wasn’t in some R&D lab inventing new alloys while simultaneously running the most important steel manufacturing company in the US…why does Rand care so little for the true genius behind this metal?

  • X. Randroid

    It does sound contradictory. But keep in mind that what most Objectivists are pushing for is not “collapsing the society.” Rand herself didn’t believe that anyone should “go Galt,” at least not anyone who lives in a country with free speech. She regarded the strike as a literary device to illustrate why her moral code was needed in the world, not a literal prescription for action. Now she did regard the novel novel is prescriptive, but only in the sense that everyone should live by her moral code, not in the sense that we should all set fire to our businesses and flee to Ouray, Colorado.

    What most real-world Objectivists are after is to persuade the rest of us to agree with them — or enough of us to start electing politicians who will start repealing all those “anti-life” taxes and regulations before they strangle us all. They imagine that there could be a graceful, gradual transition to a Randian utopia within a generation, and no one would suffer along the way.

  • X. Randroid

    Of course, the orthodox Objectivists will tell you that the problem with the movie is insufficient textual fidelity. (And no, I am not making this up. I heard it many times.)

  • X. Randroid

    Your larger point about great discoveries and great art not being correlated with money is well taken.

    But in fairness to Rand, in the story she wrote, Rearden most definitely did invent Rearden metal, all by himself, “while simultaneously running the most important steel manufacturing company in the US” … and iron mines and coal mines to boot. Rearden recalls the process at length in Chapter II of Part I, including:

    … nights spent at scorching ovens in the research laboratory of the mills …

    … nights spent in the workshop of his home, over sheets of paper which he filled with formulas, then tore up in angry failure …

    … days when the young scientists of the small staff he had chosen to assist him waited for instructions like soldiers ready for a battle, having exhausted their ingenuity, still willing, but silent, with the unspoken sentence hanging in the air: “Mr. Rearden, it can’t be done” …

    In reality, of course, this tale is not credible. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Not to mention that we’re also to believe that Rearden started working (apparently full time) at the age of 14. There’s no suggestion that he finished high school or ever attended college, so I have no idea where or how he learned enough about metallurgy to invent an entirely new alloy.

    But we’re talking about Rand’s made-up fantasy world, and in that world, Rearden is the “true genius” behind Rearden Metal.

  • A Real Libertarian

    MacKay is notorious for using sloppy numbers to pimp for nuclear.

  • A Real Libertarian

    “Far more likely, it’s because they think environmentalism is a cult of
    suicide, forcing humanity to sacrifice the opportunity to use cheap and
    profitable energy for no clear benefit to mankind.”

    Funny thing, renewables are the cheapest source:

    http://cleantechnica.com/2014/03/13/solar-sold-less-5%C2%A2kwh-austin-texas/
    http://cleantechnica.com/2014/03/07/iea-underestimates-solar-industry/

    “Environmentalists’ frequent support of alternative energy subsidies and
    occasional collectivist rhetoric does nothing to alleviate this concern.”

    But fossil and nuke subsidies are sacred!:

    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/09/27/early-fossil-fuel-nuclear-energy-subsidies-crush-early-renewable-energy-subsidies/

  • A Real Libertarian

    “Or even whether synthesizing methanol from biomass and burning it using standard internal combustion engines will be more efficient than powering cars with energy-intensive batteries.”

    http://industrialprogress.com/2013/08/22/the-tesla-debate/

    So efficiency is communism now.

    And he has no clue what “energy efficiency” means.

    Oh, and nuclear is a “free market” energy source despite requiring massive government support.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    This is precisely the kind of garbage you get when people in business
    suits fail to realize and respect film for the art form that it is.

    This is what happened during the mid to late 90′s to tabletop RPGs, specifically to Dungeons and Dragons and TSR. Simply put, you are not very likely to get rich going into the gaming
    business, especially with tabletop gaming, so you really need to have a
    love for it to do it. That’s how it was at TSR until people more interested in making money rather than giving gamers quality products took over. A lot of material was released but it was done at such breakneck speed little of it was of any use to players or DMs. Further, what was good would often be spread out over several books, going for $20 to $30 a piece, meaning someone would have drop around $100 before they got anything of real use out of them and even then it was pretty limited.

    Naturally TSR went under. It was bought out by Wizards of the Coast, which was owned by Hasbro. This saved D&D but there was problems there too and it’s only been the last couple of years that the hobby has really recovered.

  • Loren Petrich

    What mooching. :D However, contributors do get various privileges, like behind-the-scenes looks.

  • X. Randroid

    What do you want from an “energy expert” whose degrees are in philosophy and computer science, and whose knowledge of energy sources and issues comes from writing about it (for Forbes, WSJ, etc.) and doing public debates? Actual expertise?

  • eyelessgame

    And also in fairness to Rand, the brilliant-but-unschooled genius creating a totally new industrial process, having knowledge and making discoveries no one else can understand and replicate, was still plausible to the general public back in the 1940s when the book was conceived, and even the 1950s when it was released. (Not to say Reardon’s personal story was believable anyway, for the reasons you state.)

    But knowledge and expertise is simply too well-disseminated today. Too many people know too much, and the laws of physics and chemistry work the same way for everybody. Without patent protection (are patents even mentioned in AS?), something as revolutionary and useful as Reardon metal would get reverse-engineered in, at most, months. There are a *lot* of smart metallurgists out there. All the Evil Government would have to do to keep Reardon from being “too successful” is to stop enforcing patent protection. (Or stop protecting against industrial espionage.)

    There’s some rant about the implausibility of a unique Iron Man hidden in this, but that’s for another time.

  • eyelessgame

    I’m not sure we can say profit *never* motivated a world-class piece of art; that’s too categorical, and the correct point you’re making shouldn’t be undermined just by finding one counterexample. But people are motivated by lots of things. There can be astonishing works of genius that arise from work-for-pay… but that’s because the world is actually more complicated than we tend to think, and things don’t fit into neat boxes. Profit is neither a sole motivator for passionate work nor completely divorced from it.

    People are complicated and diverse. Some people really are just motivated by money, and really do think money is the only legitimate way to keep score. Some of them are also smart and passionate about what they do, but they choose what to become passionate about based on what they can actually sell. The world is actually very well set up to accommodate those people.

    But a lot of people – also smart and passionate – aren’t like that. I know smart and passionate scientists, artists, and teachers who manage to do what they do despite being poorly compensated for the value they produce, because the work they do can’t be chopped up easily into individual bits they can sell to specific entities for profit. And that’s because the world is far, far more complicated than laissez-faire capitalists, including Objectivists, think it is.

  • Loren Petrich

    A counterpart to Galt’s motor would be some super windmill or some super solar collector. However, she does not seem to have given much thought to either.

  • Donalbain

    A major problem is that the question “Who is John Galt?” only has meaning for those who are already in the religion. To those of us on the outside, and based on the trailer, the answer is “Who cares who he is, and what the hell does he have to do with this stupid looking story about metal and trains?”

  • Donalbain

    Alex SL said that “”Cornucopianism” was already a term before Alex SL mentioned it.” before you mentioned it! :)

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    How odd.

  • X. Randroid

    For what it’s worth, patents do put in an appearance. We were told in Part I that the formula for Rearden Metal is Rearden’s “personal secret” but in Part II we’ll find out that he has a patent on it. Which means we can add patents to the list of things Rand does not understand, since you can’t have a patent on a chemical formula and keep the formula as your own “personal secret.”

  • Azkyroth

    Wind and solar aren’t out of our reach; we just don’t, on average, want to actually lift our arms.

  • BenjCano

    The truth is that some of the greatest works of music, film and art have happened only because the artist agreed to compromise in the name of financial success. Just as an example, the Beatles, Nirvana, Michelangelo, Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols, and Francis Ford Coppola.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    In real life, the U.S.’ biggest source of imported oil is Canada, but the film ignores that;

    It’s not relevant. If the Mid-East imploded, the price of oil would skyrocket even if we didn’t import a single drop. Oil is a globally traded commodity. For all intents and purposes, all of the world’s produced oil is put into one giant pool, and all of the oil consumed is taken out of that pool. Why else do you think we keep two carrier groups in the Persian Gulf at all times, and have declared that any attempt to close the Straight of Hormuz is an act of war?

    You’d think that an oil shortage would be an excellent motivation for
    the U.S. to launch a major effort to switch to renewable energy sources…

    I’d think that the mere possibility, indeed the inevitability, would be an excellent motivation. Also, those carriers are expensive.

  • Azkyroth

    I also note that, at least in his summary, he’s very blithely dismissive of combined-heat-and-power and cogeneration “’cause it uses fossil fuels LOL”, ignoring its potential both as a harm reduction/transitional technology, and the fact that nearly all implementations can be fairly seamlessly switched over to run on biofuels.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Now that I’m reading the book, one thing I found completely incomprehensible was the part where the dude from the State Science Agency (or whatever it was called) tried to buy the patent for Rearden Metal. Not only because Rearden, who in his own words only cares about making money, turned down a blank check for reasons of mere ego, but because if the government is as willing to steal his invention as we’re led to believe, why didn’t they just invalidate the patent? The only thing keeping anyone and everyone from taking the formula is the government’s protection of his intellectual property.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Wow, almost half a million. If they do that only one hundred more times, they’ll have a reasonable budget for a Hollywood film.

  • Azkyroth

    Eh.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Wind generators, and especially solar cells, are certainly inventions. There’s a lot of genius at work in those fields. And the build-out of renewable energy infrastructure is big business. Indeed, I’m pretty sure that’s the only thing that will save us — the sunk capital will become huge enough that it gets an equal say in Washington.

    I’m pretty sure the hate-on for renewable energy, aside from promoting the interests of incumbent fossil fuel producers, is all about cultural resentment of the hippies.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    As to why it failed, I have some theories which we’ll get to later on.

    I don’t think it’s that hard to explain. It’s harder to know which of the many contributing factors was the most important. The problems:

    1. The underlying source material isn’t very conducive to making a movie. Aside from the fact that it’s nuts, there’s not much action, the characters aren’t screen-worthy, and it’s too long (hence, dividing it into multiple parts).

    2. They had a $20 million budget. This is peanuts in Hollywood terms. They lacked the money for good special effects, A-list actors, etc. The sequels were even more underfunded.

    3. The producer is clearly an arrogant ass who knows nothing about film-making. He was in way over his head. Naturally, he’s not smart enough to realize it (it’s all the fault of the “academic-media complex”).

    4. Time constraints (i.e. the exclusive rights about the run out) caused them to rush the thing into production.

    5. The number of shrugalos out there is actually pretty small. Any film that relies too heavily on a niche audience is bound to fail. There needs to be some appeal to the broader mass market, and this film was almost proud in its lack of that.

    6. The “academic-media complex” of looters and moochers totally wrecked the film, failing to give it the five stars it truly deserved and trashing it out of nothing more than jealously and a desire to make successful people fail.

  • J_JamesM

    “The words “alternative energy” never so much as cross anyone’s lips in this movie.”

    Okay, now, I’m no objectivist, but throw them a bone. This book was published back when Solar was gracing the covers of Popular Science magazines alongside heli-cars, and wind was still associated with the quaint little mills that crushed grain back in the Stupid Ages.

    And the movie was set in 2016, not 2036. No matter what, the immense technological and infrastructure hurdles would at least delay full implementation of renewables until it was far too late. The same, of course, still applies to new fossil fuel production, but still.

    However, there simply is no excuse for those disgusting smokestacks featured proudly in the trailer. It’s like pollution-fetishism.

  • Loren Petrich

    That’s only come about in the last few years. Even a decade ago, wind and solar systems still cost significantly more than comparable fossil-fuel systems.

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

    Yep, a real eye-opener.

  • Azkyroth

    And optionally “how did they manage to make a story about metal and trains stupid? :(“

  • unbound55

    Not sure about the other sections, but the nuclear section (I have a background in that subject) is full of holes that you could drive a truck through.

    Most notable is that he didn’t even talk about Chernobyl in the safety section, but did spend time on a minor leak incident in the UK. That points to some rather disingenuous tactics for that one point alone. Fukushima was after the book, but it demonstrates that while safety measures have improved at nuclear plants, they are not as strong as one the author supposes (Fukushima was panned for ignoring its own internal reports in 2008 stating that they needed to improve safety measures in the event of a tsunami).

    In regards to waste, he only seems to speak in terms of volume of waste, which is certainly smaller than waste from fossil-fuel sources, but doesn’t seem to respect that a pile of coal ash is not nearly as big of a potential problem as a pile of spent fuel rods.

    It would have been nice for him to at least bring up the anti-proliferation concerns regarding breeder reactors instead of ignoring it. Breeder reactors are indeed an efficient method of generating electricity, but there are additional safety concerns that come with breeder reactors.

    Overall, considering the things he conveniently forgets to bring up (much less address), I would see his work as suspect at best.

  • A Real Libertarian

    So they refuse to change with the times?

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    What jumped out at me was that the only actor I recognized out of the whole trailer was Armin Shimmerman. Which explains a lot really. The presence of Quark makes the whole think more consistent – it’s just the movie version of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition!

  • Science Avenger

    Right, because the Mormon dissembler was SO much more of an Objectvist.

  • Science Avenger

    Check out “Orange is the new Black” and see what “Dagny” is doing these days.

  • Science Avenger

    Indeed. “Troll” used to have a very useful definition (per Urban dictionary)::

    “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument”

    Sadly its primary usage currently seems to have morphed into “anyone who posts opinions that differ from the majority of posters”, which leaves no way to distinguish between well-meaning contrarians and “trolls” proper.

  • eyelessgame

    Having read Francisco’s rant about money (one of the bits of AS I’ve actually read), wouldn’t “to make money” and “to exchange my best effort for the best effort of others” be synonyms, to him? Is the latter more than a restatement of the former, to an Objectivist? Or was the point of their conversation for Rearden to recognize the identity of the two statements and thereby achieve enlightenment? I guess I’m skipping ahead…

    (btw, thanks for the very insightful commentary on what draws Rand’s fans to her.)

  • X. Randroid

    I think Rearden’s behavior here is less incomprehensible if you keep in mind that for Rand, her ethical egoism was more important than making money. She championed “laissez-faire capitalism” because she thought it was the only political/economic system consistent with her moral code.
    Therefore, for Rearden, the egoistic pride of “it’s mine” trumps the blank check.
    Also keep in mind that the State Science Institute guy makes a point that the money being offered is “government money.” To Rand, this means “stolen loot,” stolen from productive giants like Rearden, so Rearden would of course have no interest in it.

    As far as why the government doesn’t just invalidate the patent, part of Rand’s theory is that government looters need to pretend to themselves that their theft is always a “voluntary” transaction. I think that’s why it doesn’t occur to her that they could just invalidate the patent. This will come up again in Part II, when another attempt is made to get Rearden to voluntarily relinquish his patent rights. But we’ll get to that eventually.

  • X. Randroid

    It skipping ahead a bit, but I would say that for an Objectivist, “to make money” is a subset of “to exchange my best effort for the effort of others.” Objectivists are traders in all things. In terms of material goods, trade and making money are basically the same. But Objectivists also believe the principle of trade applies in the emotional realm, where you trade feelings like love and admiration in exchange for the virtues you perceive in others. This is played out in the novel in Hank and Dagny’s relationship, where neither wants the other to ever see him/her suffering or in any kind of pain. It also shows up in the flashback of Dagny’s last night with Francisco, when he tries to pretend he’s not struggling and she just lets all his strange behavior go without questioning or even letting him know she’s concerned. And in real life, Rand seems to have believed that, no matter her age or appearance, Nathaniel Branden (25 years younger) should have found her the most desirable woman on earth, because she was such a paragon of every Objectivist virtue. The fact that he didn’t was, to her, proof that there was something wrong with him.

  • Azkyroth

    He also seems to only consider the biofuel permutation of “growing amenable varieties of conventional crops specifically for fuel on general-purpose farmland,” without regards for biomass gassification, anaerobic digestion, cellulosic ethanol, algal biodiesel, etc. (Unless “waste incineration” is supposed to include some of those).

  • A Real Libertarian

    My favorite part is where he overestimates the power required for electric vehicles by a factor of five.

    http://www.withouthotair.com/c3/page_29.shtml

  • Science Avenger

    “I did see this as a positive. The only one I can think of actually, though if I gave it some thought I could possibly think of more.”

    How about the notion that our morality ought to be based on the kind of beings we are, as opposed to the religious and/or arbitrary variety? Her solutions were for shit, because she had no clue about human nature, and couldn’t be bothered to research the work of those who were, but IMO its the right problem.

  • Science Avenger

    “The fact that he didn’t was, to her, proof that there was something wrong with him.”

    Indeed, in The Fountainhead IIRC she has a character make this egoism explicit, saying something like “When others disagree with or dislike me, I don’t think less of myself, I think less of them.”

  • X. Randroid

    In fact, that was one of my strongest first impressions of Rand. At the time I first read Atlas Shrugged, I was a frustrated teenager who was getting sick of hearing “because God said so” as the only explanation anyone offered for why anything was right or wrong. I remember reading and thinking “Holy shit, here’s someone who thinks we can use reason to figure out what’s moral! Maybe there are better answers than ‘because God said so’ after all!” I absolutely credit Rand for helping me get over God. Of course then it took me another 20 years to get over Rand … but hey, progress.


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