Atlas Shrugged: Pump and Dump

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter II

After Francisco’s big speech comes to an end, a suitably impressed Hank Rearden comes over to talk to him:

“Before I met you, I used to wonder how you could waste a fortune such as yours. Now it’s worse, because I can’t despise you as I did, as I’d like to, yet the question is much more terrible: How can you waste a mind such as yours?”

Francisco parries that he doesn’t think he is wasting it. Rearden asks Francisco why he doesn’t practice what he preaches, considering that he’s getting rich by means of unjust laws that have choked off his competition:

“Did you think that it was I who wheedled those directives out of the robber-planners?”

“If not, then who did it?”

“My hitchhikers.”

…”I’d hate to admit how much I want to believe you – but there’s no way for you to prove it now.”

“No? I’ll prove it to you within the next fifteen minutes.”

Francisco goes on to explain that most of the looters have invested their ill-gotten gains in d’Anconia Copper, “an old, invulnerable company”, which they presumed to be a safe investment. But, he says gleefully, it’s not as safe as they think:

Francisco laughed suddenly. “…But accidents do happen in the world – you know what they say, man is only a helpless plaything at the mercy of nature’s disasters. For instance, there was a fire at the d’Anconia ore docks in Valparaiso tomorrow morning, a fire that razed them to the ground along with half of the port structures. What time is it, Mr. Rearden? Oh, did I mix my tenses?”

Francisco says that, when the disaster hits, his stockholders will find many other things wrong with the company: exhausted mines that were still being worked for no good reason, books that had been altered to hide losses. And as the crowning blow, he says, there will be a rock slide that will bury the richest deposits of copper “under tons of mountain where a Sebastian d’Anconia would not be able to reclaim them in less than three years, and a People’s State will never reclaim them at all.” In the resulting stock crash, he chortles, most of the looters’ wealth will be wiped out, and no one will ever prove there was anything more than ordinary incompetence at work.

Rearden is undeniably amused at the thought of the looters losing all their money, but he’s horrified at the thought of Francisco deliberately destroying his own company to do it. But before he can lodge more than a token protest, Francisco sets his plan in motion, deliberately speaking so as to be overheard by one of Jim’s guests:

Then, raising his voice, Francisco said suddenly, in the gay, loose, piercing tone of a man of complete irresponsibility, “You won’t grant me that loan, Mr. Rearden? It puts me on a terrible spot. I must get the money – I must raise it tonight – I must raise it before the Stock Exchange opens in the morning, because otherwise—”

He did not have to continue, because the little man with the mustache was clutching at his arm.

…”Is there something wrong, Señor d’Anconia? I mean, on… on the Stock Exchange?”

Francisco jerked his finger to his lips, with a frightened glance.

“Keep quiet,” he whispered. “For God’s sake, keep quiet!”

The man was shaking. “Something’s… wrong?”

“You don’t happen to own any d’Anconia Copper stock, do you?”

The man nodded, unable to speak. “Oh my, that’s too bad! Well, listen, I’ll tell you, if you give me your word of honor that you won’t repeat it to anyone. You don’t want to start a panic.”

“Word of honor…” gasped the man.

“What you’d better do is run to your stockbroker and sell as fast as you can – because things haven’t been going too well for d’Anconia Copper, I’m trying to raise some money, but if I don’t succeed, you’ll be lucky if you’ll have ten cents on your dollar tomorrow morning – oh my! I forgot that you can’t reach your stockbroker before tomorrow morning – well, it’s too bad, but—”

The man was running across the room, pushing people out of his way, like a torpedo shot into the crowd.

As Francisco intended, the bad news gets out almost immediately, and Jim Taggart’s wedding party dissolves into a panic. People go running for the exits, pushing and shoving and climbing over each other in an attempt to be the first one to sell their stock.

Taggart ran toward the main exit… Cherryl, her wedding veil coiling like a crystal cloud upon the air, as she ran after him, caught Taggart at the door. “Jim, what’s the matter?” He pushed her aside and she fell against the stomach of Paul Larkin, as Taggart rushed out.

After a falling-out like that, you’d think the honeymoon would be over, but this inexplicably seems to have no effect on their relationship. As we find out in later chapters, Cherryl is still devoted to Jim and thinks he’s a brave hero. Perhaps this stems from Rand’s belief that good capitalist men are permitted to hit, shove and otherwise abuse women. If Cherryl holds to this view, as all of Rand’s other female characters do, then presumably Jim treating her this way would be a sign of his virtue.

It’s worth noting that what Francisco is doing constitutes outright fraud, yet Rand never treats it as anything other than wholly justified. Basically, he’s running a larger version of a pump-and-dump stock scam, where swindlers buy up a cheap stock, artificially inflate its price through deception, then sell their holdings, take the money and run before their cheat is discovered. The only difference is that Francisco is seeking to wipe out others’ wealth, not to personally profit; but if you rob a house, it doesn’t get you off the hook for burglary if you burn the stolen goods rather than fence them.

This is further evidence of Rand’s highly selective, “everything is allowable if the good guys do it” moral code. We’ve already seen that she viewed Francisco as justified in building shoddy, death-trap homes on the grounds that only bad people would be living there when they came crashing down. Now we’ve learned that, as far she’s concerned, it’s also OK for him to intentionally defraud his own investors, sabotaging his company and lying about it, if he doesn’t want to make money for them.

It’s hard to imagine that even someone as devoted to laissez-faire capitalism as Ayn Rand could be this committed to the principle of caveat emptor. Even in the ultimate Objectivist utopia, shouldn’t fraud still be a crime? Or are we to believe that the businesses you invest in are allowed to secretly try to destroy you if, in their sole judgment, you don’t live up to the moral standard they expect from their customers?

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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.

  • Scopi314

    Good news! Atlas Shrugged 3 will be out in September, and Ron Paul and Glenn Beck will be in it. I don’t think this is a joke.

  • Alex SL

    Perhaps she would have argued fraud should indeed be illegal in perfect capitalism (c), but if you live in a corrupt system you may use any means to bring it down?

  • David Andrew Kearney

    So what is the Objectivist position on Schadenfreude? Since that’s clearly one of the things happening here, I’d assume that Rand approves. Yet exulting at the misfortune of others seems like a very looterish thing to do — in fact, it seems to be their primary motivation, hating others for their excellence and all that.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    Yeah, I think that was one of her justifications for accepting government aid: you’re justified since in a moral system the need wouldn’t arise in the first place.

  • arensb

    Is there a fallacy of “if you can do this thing, you can do this thing a million times”?

    Or is that a special case of sorites?
    Earlier in the book, the experts were telling Dagny not to use Rearden metal because it hadn’t been approved by the government. But she, drawing upon the metallurgy and engineering she learned in college, sees that the metal is, as she puts it, “good”. And if she can do this, who needs regulatory agencies?
    Which is great, up to a point. But is she equally able to form an informed opinion on whether a pork chop has trichinosis (or whether the sausage next to it contains sweepings from the slaughterhouse floor)? Or whether the brakes in her car are in working order? Or whether the pills she just bought at the drug store are likely to kill her? And can she reach these conclusions in a timely manner?
    In practice, we have a lot of concerns in common (like “is that pork chop infected?”), and none of us are experts in all of the relevant areas. And so we set up regulatory agencies like the USDA and FDA.
    It works from a Randian selfish perspective as well: my share of taxes for these regulatory agencies comes to, let’s say $2000 per year. For that money, I get to draw upon the knowledge of people vastly more experienced in various fields than I am. And the time that I don’t spend learning how to recognize trichinosis or snake oil is put to use doing something more productive.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Which, if true, is weird since all the people I know that give any credence to Rand tend to dispute and deny any bona fides Ron Paul or Glenn Beck claim in regards to their adherence to Rand’s philosophy. Maybe the ones I know are oddballs but that’s my experience.

  • busterggi

    “Francisco says that, when the disaster hits, his stockholders will find many other things wrong with the company: exhausted mines that were still being worked for no good reason, books that had been altered to hide losses”

    “As Francisco intended, the bad news gets out almost immediately, and Jim Taggart’s wedding party dissolves into a panic. People go running for the exits, pushing and shoving and climbing over each other in an attempt to be the first one to sell their stock.”

    Sounds like a damned good reason not to buy into Rand’s economic philosophy. Guess she didn’t proofread.

    Also, don’t investors in Randworld do any research on what they’re investing in?

  • Cormacolinde

    “This is further evidence of Rand’s highly selective, “everything is allowable if the good guys do it” moral code.”

    This is a very basic error in logic. She pre-defines a person as good, and therefore his actions are good. But a person is good because they perform good actions. Their actions are not good because they are good persons.

  • kenny

    Playing Devil’s Advocate: Such agencies should be privatized. And in a free market, if you have competing agencies, this will foster efficiency, lower prices, yadda, yadda.

  • kenny

    Yes, and all the actors playing the main roles are different from the second one…which were different from the first one. Interesting approach. What would that be like if they did that for Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, …
    I’m looking forward to the breakdown by

  • Azkyroth

    Oh, hey, look at all the actual results of that approach….

  • David Andrew Kearney

    If I may paraphrase Einstein, if there is an Atlas Shrugged 3, Atlas Shrugged 4 will be about sticks and stones.

  • X. Randroid

    In addition to charging Francisco with criminal fraud, I’d also charge Rand with literary fraud. She will tell us, over and over again, that the strike consists of a passive withdrawal; her “men of the mind,” we are told, “do nothing,” just withdraw their minds and leave everyone else to rot, thereby proving that while everyone else needs them, they don’t need everyone else. But what she shows us here (and elsewhere) is not a striker “doing nothing”; Francisco is actively guaranteeing that no one else will be able to extract any value from d’Anconia Copper when he finally does quit and vanish.

    He rationalizes this later, to Dagny, explaining that just quitting would be good enough for her, but not for him:

    “But copper mining is a simpler job. D’Anconia Copper could have lasted for generations of looters and slaves. Crudely, miserably, ineptly—but it could have lasted and helped them to last. I had to destroy it myself.”

    So, to prove the looters can’t survive without them, the strikers are justified in actively destroying anything that might enable the looters to survive without them.

    Rand does try to rationalize this. She says elsewhere that the strikers are justified in withdrawing not only their minds but the products of their minds. Never mind that we know most of d’Anconia Copper’s assets were the product of Francisco’s ancestors, who chose to build it in a world with taxes and regulations, presumably having concluded that going along with the system was better than walking away. So even if you assume Francisco would have the right to destroy anything he personally created, what gives him the further right to unmake his ancestors’—or anyone else’s—choices?

  • X. Randroid

    “don’t investors in Randworld do any research on what they’re investing in?”

    Not really.

    The looters buy d’Anconia Copper stock because they know it’s the world’s oldest, richest, and therefore safest company. It doesn’t bother them in the least that the company is being run by an “irresponsible playboy,” even after the San Sebastian fiasco. Basically, Rand’s looters are impervious to facts.

    The “good guy” investors, like Francisco and Mulligan, do some sort of research, although it seems to consist entirely of determining whether the corporation is run by fellow good guys.

  • X. Randroid

    Yep. Taxation interferes with the individual’s ability to provide for his own needs, so it’s okay for the taxpayer to take government aid because it should have been his money all along.

  • X. Randroid

    That’s because Orren Boyle (and any other character in AS who takes government handouts) is a hopeless incompetent who never did or could produce enough to pay any taxes.

    Or it may be because Rand didn’t come up with her theory rationalizing the taking of government aid until after AS was published. It appeared in an essay called “The Question of Scholarships” in The Objectivist (June 1966), as a response to questions from her followers about whether to accept government scholarships, grants, or jobs. Basically, it’s okay if (a) you understand that it’s restitution for taxes paid and (b) you continue to oppose it on principle. “If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.”

    Despite this rationalization, the story Rand’s social worker tells is that Rand initially resisted taking Social Security and Medicare benefits, on the grounds that an individual should not need help. The social worker eventually talked her into it.

  • Doug Langley

    I’ve worked in film and television. Haven’t seen the movies, but have been following them. The whole thing is amateur hour. The producer had no experience whatever in film (he owns a place manufacturing exercise equipment), couldn’t find investors or studios. He dumped his own money into it, which is called vanity production. Hired no name actors, an inexperienced director, and a budget that wouldn’t cover Michael Bay’s coffee.

    A well known rule is that it’s extremely risky to replace actors in a series, but he did with the whole cast. Heaven only knows why. Didn’t the contracts bind them to the series?

    For the third flick, he actually tried fundraising on Kickstarter. Apparently he blew his wad and couldn’t find any investors. I’m guessing it went like this, “Your last two films were box office train wrecks? Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

  • Doug Langley

    They already made “Atlas Shrugged 4″:

  • Margaret Whitestone

    “This is further evidence of Rand’s highly selective, “everything is allowable if the good guys do it” moral code. ”

    It sounds like religious apoligists’ “everything is allowable if god does it/it is done in god’s name” moral code.

  • X. Randroid

    “Didn’t the contracts bind them to the series?”

    The story I heard was that, for the first film at least, Aglialoro skipped that nicety because he was in a hurry. His option was about to expire, and if he didn’t get into production quickly, the rights would revert to Leonard Peikoff (Rand’s heir), who was not about to give Aglialoro more time, what with Aglialoro being a “Kelleyite” and all. So he urgently needed to hire some actors, and he purportedly wanted to leave himself the option to replace them later. Of course that doesn’t explain why he didn’t bind the Part 2 actors.

    My personal theory is that the actors (or their agents) for both parts were thinking, “Sure, do one Atlas Shrugged movie now just to get a screen credit, but for god’s sake don’t bind yourself to anything that might prevent you from doing a good movie later.”

  • Tova Rischi

    The use of the word virtue is interesting – it comes from Latin virtus, virtutis (which just means manliness) which is itself derived from vir, viris – man. Whence also virile, and ultimately cognate to the were in were-wolf.

    Which sort of leads me to my next point. I know very little about it, but recently learning something about it makes me curious if Randian ethics would be considered a type of virtue ethics? Nietzsche certainly flirted with it, and considering her debts to him…

  • J-D

    I suspect some people would argue that businesses won’t produce unsafe products because businesses that do produce unsafe products will go out of business when customers find out their products are unsafe.

    Maybe they figure an ounce of cure is worth a pound of prevention?

  • Leeloo Dallas Multigrain

    The “just getting your money back” justification that I’ve seen applied to Rand’s acceptance of social security always struck me as profoundly weird, because that’s not how social security works… when you pay into it, it’s going to different people than the people who will eventually be paying for you. If you believe that the money taken for social security is equivalent to theft, then isn’t accepting it in turn sort of like reacting to being mugged by finding a third party and mugging them?

  • arensb

    Yes, but two wrongs can make a fuck you, I’ve got mine.

  • arensb

    This is not unlike today’s Republican party: if they thought Obamacare was a disaster that could never stand up on its own, they could have just stood by and let it collapse. But instead, they tried to sabotage it at every turn, just to make sure that it would collapse.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    The same with the anti-government types who run for office so they can prove to everyone that government doesn’t work from the inside.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I don’t think this is a joke.

    This is what I call a “true joke.”

    Ron Paul to make acting debut in ‘Atlas Shrugged’ finale

  • arensb

    Do you have any concrete examples in mind?
    There are various private organizations that certify food as kosher. There’s the MPAA. I don’t know accurate or efficient any of them are.

    There’s also the TSA, which Bruce Schneier has argued is better than the patchwork of airport security contractors that existed before 9/11, partly because it makes security procedures consistent across the US, and partly because it’s focused on security, rather than making the airlines happy. Yes, you can say a lot of bad things about the TSA, and I do, but these two points are valid, IMHO.

  • arensb

    “See? Government doesn’t work when I’m in it! Therefore, government is the problem.”

  • GubbaBumpkin

    “If not, then who did it?”
    “My hitchhikers.”

    To take the metaphor literally:
    Imagine if you will, a Rand-ite ***hole driving along the highway in their huge SUV mustering enough empathy to stop and pick up a hitchhiker.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Cherryl, her wedding veil coiling like a crystal cloud upon the air…

    How does a crystal cloud coil? What is a crystal cloud?

  • Huckster Sam

    It’s just No True Scotsman. Easiest defense when people start pointing out that some followers of “Group” do or say this, other members of “Group” disparage said followers of not understanding or not being real members of “Group”.

  • Huckster Sam

    I suspect things would go a bit Discworldian. A Harry King-esque figure could make a killing by running a service ring for garbage and sewage. It would be pretty pure in the Objectivist theorist eyes, since it would be an entrepreneur making green off a needed and available service industry.

    However, I imagine a good number of Randians would balk at having to pay price for a person to cart their shit away. In general, I’ve found the Randians and other Objectivists to be particular in the types of money-makers and methods of money-making that they respect.

  • Huckster Sam

    But since it’s the Looters that are doing the suffering, it’s okay to take pleasure in it.

    It fits neatly in line with “accepting government loans because taxes” and “battery and coercion isn’t bad if you do it to looters” mindset already displayed.

  • Doug Langley

    In Galt’s Gulch, our heroes plow the fields and sew clothes and cook breakfast and do it all BRILLIANTLY.

    There’s no sewage problems, cuz they never go to the toilet.

  • Doug Langley

    Ever notice that not a single character in her stories ever takes out insurance? There’s no insurance business at all. With trains crashing, mills exploding, you’d think someone would insure against a shipment not making it . . . but no.

    Maybe she couldn’t stand the idea of something even remotely based on collectives.

  • Jason K.

    Ron Paul already appeared in the movie Bruno, but I guess technically he wasn’t acting.

  • X. Randroid

    “There are various private organizations that certify food as kosher. There’s the MPAA. I don’t know accurate or efficient any of them are.”

    And that is one general problem for proponents of “privatized regulation.” If anybody at all can set up an “independent” certification board to, say, certify the safety of agricultural products, how would the average person know which boards are (or aren’t) trustworthy? It would be pretty easy for Big Ag to set up a “Produce Safety Agency” that, say, applied looser standards to certain favored companies … and it would take a while (and probably a lot of sick consumers) for the scam to come to light. In any case, the consumer would be faced with a lot of homework to figure out which regulator to trust. Would you have agencies to review the regulators, and then which reviewer do you trust …? I’m just not seeing any fostering of efficiency here.

    None of which is to say that government regulatory agencies are immune to problems. But the governmental framework seems to provide a more efficient way to keep an eye on the regulators.

  • Omnicrom

    And ironically the existence of this movie is very anti-Objectivist. As so many others have pointed out the first two movies were hackwork, they bombed, were universally panned, and they had to go to Kickstarter to get people to give them *GASPSHOCKHORRORSWOON* CHARITY! *DUNDUNDUN* to get it put out. You’d think that people who worship at the altar of the market would have noticed that it loudly boomed it didn’t want more Atlas Shrugged, and yet here we are with part 3 full of bona fide Libertarian Objectivist voices ready and willing to put their stamp on something rejected by the free market. It’s almost as though the worship of the Free Market really is just complete malarky.

  • spejic

    A great example are the bond rating agencies and their behavior in the 2008 crisis.

  • Donalbain

    Sewage is food that is not used by the body. As such it is a sign of inefficiency in the system. The free market eliminates inefficiency, and so sewage can never happen.

  • arensb

    how would the average person know which boards are (or aren’t) trustworthy?

    The obvious counter-argument here would seem to be, why should you trust a single source? If you have five experts telling you things, you can tell if one of them is a wackaloon who’s out of step with the mainstream. But if you only have one expert, can you tell if he or she is a wackjob?
    Schools have solved this by having accreditation boards to say which schools are real centers of learning and which ones are just diploma mills. There are also boards that grant accreditation to accreditation boards, and accreditation mills to go with that.
    I suppose one major difference is that schools pay boards to be accredited; and banks pay Moody’s to rate them; and presumably studios pay to have the MPAA rate them. But OSHA and USDA are paid for by us, the customers, rather than by the people selling the thing being rated. (Though AIUI it’s not as simple as that: drug companies also pay hefty fees to get FDA approval, don’t they?)

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    I’m fairly certain that it’s just the result of wanting to distance themselves from those that discredit the philosophy simply by ascribing to it. If I found out someone like Paul or Beck agreed with me that’d give me pause to reconsider. There could be legitimate reason for saying that they are not actual adherents but, honestly, I’m not knowledgeable enough about Rand’s thoughts or Objectivism to say.

    Then again, from what I do know, with each individual supposedly being firm devotees of reason and rationality, yet rejecting all yardsticks by which one could judge their success, it’s almost impossible to determine what a Scotsman would even be in that case.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Yep, he blamed everyone but himself. Most hilariously, he blamed something called “the academic-media complex”. I guess no one ever told him that the media are owned by giant, for-profit corporations.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Libertarianism/Objectivism tends to schism endlessly. So too does religion. Draw what conclusions you will from that.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Okay, the google has failed me. What the heck is a “Kelleyite”? I’m assuming Aglialoro isn’t a member of a small Christian denomination from west central upper left Arkansas, nor part of a faction of female abolitionists.

  • Snoof

    It reminds me of Calvinism. If you’re Elect, you’re in, and no matter what you do, you’re still Elect.

  • J-D

    Use the following search terms in Google:

    Rand Peikoff Kelley

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Yeah, shortly after I posted that I dug a little deeper and discovered that it’s named after David Kelley. I find it amusing that this usage of “Kelleyite” is more obscure than the one referring to a tiny Christian sect in rural Arkansas.

    Such a factional split seems like a lot of self-important wanking to me, but that’s why I’m not one of them.

  • X. Randroid

    “Such a factional split seems like a lot of self-important wanking to me, but that’s why I’m not one of them.”

    Oh, but all religions must have their schisms!

  • X. Randroid

    Equally hilarious was when Aglialoro (or one of his cohorts) explained that they weren’t doing a Kickstarter because they needed the money, need being a sign of the devil and all. Nope, they were just doing it for the publicity*. They expected to be loudly and publicly mocked for doing it, which was exactly what they wanted because it would draw attention to the project, thereby helping them bypass the “academic-media complex” and reach the public. Brilliant, eh?

    *He did say they would add whatever they got from the Kickstarter into their advertising budget.

  • X. Randroid

    I’m not a philosopher, but as I understand the term “virtue ethics,” I believe it would be an accurate description. In Objectivist terms, what makes you a “good person” is that you cultivate a certain moral character by consistently practicing an enumerated list of virtues (and all the other virtues these imply). Galt’s endless speech has the rundown on what those virtues are.

  • Science Avenger

    Is that why they are all so full of shit?
    [bows] Thank you thank you, I’ll be here all week.

  • Science Avenger

    “Basically, it’s okay if (a) you understand that it’s restitution for taxes paid and (b) you continue to oppose it on principle. ”
    Wingnuts run with this to this day. I recently got into it with a “get your gummint hands off my medicare” in-law who rationalized that his unemployment insurance wasn’t welfare (like what “those people” get) because part of his compensation was his employer’s UI taxes.

  • Science Avenger

    “…that’s not how social security works… when you pay into it…”:
    Which is precisely why it shouldn’t be phrased that way, because it makes it sound like a pension plan. We don’t “pay into” anything. We pay taxes on SS, just like we pay taxes on every other government program.

  • Science Avenger

    That caught this actuary’s attention early on. I think the probabilistic nature of insurance runs too much against her binary/certain view of the world, where they either know the train will crash, or they know it won’t. The only reference in the entire book that I recall dealing with uncertainly comes near the end when the Gulchers are trying to talk John Galt out of returning to the outside world because of the unpredictabilty.

  • Science Avenger

    A cursory view of the history of auto safety measures (seat belts, airbags, crashibility) dispels this notion.

  • Doug Langley

    Hmm, possible.

    I was thinking of all the outrage at the ACA, people seemed to think it was just taking from them and giving to someone else. It was as if they just couldn’t grasp the concept of an insurance pool.

  • Doug Langley

    You are too kind.

    No, seriously, Rand never mentions any toilets or sewage systems in Galt’s Gulch. Of course, respectable fiction of the day never dealt with anything remotely scatological.

    I do love the Connections episode where James Burke explains how the Brits were frantic to build the London sewage system before the city reached conditions “that could only described as . . . indescribable!!”

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    “Hired no name actors”

    To be fair, the first movie cast Taylor Schilling as Dagny, who then went on to be amazing as Piper in Orange is the New Black. The second movie cast Samantha Mathis, who has been in some pretty good stuff in the past, including The Fifth Element and Pump Up the Volume.

    Other than that… yeah, a whole lot of “who is that again?”s in those movies. Plus Sean Hannity, LOL.

  • Adam Lee

    So, to prove the looters can’t survive without them, the strikers are justified in actively destroying anything that might enable the looters to survive without them.

    Brilliant! Quoted for emphasis.

    And he’s not the only one, of course: Ellis Wyatt blew up his oil fields rather than accept any restriction on how he can ship the oil, and Ragnar Danneskjold seeks out and destroys ships carrying food and supplies for starving countries (because those supplies were obtained through taxation, which makes them, in his eyes, “stolen”).

  • Adam Lee

    On that note, it’s a strange-but-true historical fact that public sewage systems were once attacked as socialism. When public sewers were proposed in London following the Great Stink of 1848, the Economist editorialized thusly:

    Suffering and evil are nature’s admonitions; they cannot be got rid of; and the impatient efforts of benevolence to banish them from the world by legislation, before benevolence has learned their object and their end, have always been more productive of evil than good.


    There were also the “sewer socialists” of 19th-century middle America.

  • Adam Lee

    I didn’t notice this until you pointed it out, but ironically, the good guys and the bad guys have the same method of investing! If the company is run by someone who seems trustworthy (presumably, a white man with a square jaw and blond hair), they both believe investing in it must be a sure bet.

    After all, Dagny needs nothing more substantial than “When I see things, I see them” to wager her career and the future of her company on Rearden Metal. Similarly, D’Anconia Copper does have a long record of success; yet somehow the looters are wrong to trust Francisco’s future judgment on the evidence of his track record.

  • Adam Lee

    Possibly, but that just begs the question of who has the right to determine whether or not society is “corrupt”.

    In Rand’s eyes, perfect capitalism and corrupt statism are the only two states of being that exist, and it’s immediately obvious to everyone which is which, so the question never arises. But try that in the real world, and I doubt you’ll get the kind of instant unanimity that’s so easy to conjure in a work of fiction.

  • Adam Lee

    Yes, Rand is definitely uncomfortable with the idea of random chance. In her world, no true capitalist ever fails because of an unforeseeable accident or a stroke of bad luck. (Nor do any looters get a lucky break once in a while.)

    It’s not hard to see why. Rand was adamant that talent will always reveal itself, which formed the basis for her belief that pure laissez-faire meritocracy was the only legitimate form of government. If she were to admit that people might sometimes fail because of accidents of circumstance beyond their control, then she might have to consider evil socialist concepts like insurance. (It would also interfere with her ironically Marxist belief that the triumph of her chosen social system was historically foreordained.)

  • Alex SL

    Not saying that would convince me, only saying that it might have been her defense. Of course destroying something deliberately and then claiming its collapse as proof that it cannot work is neither convincing as an argument nor a nice thing to do.

  • TBP100

    I’ve discovered many times in talking about the ACA (and the nonexistent “abortion mandate” therein), that, in fact, LOTS of people have no understanding whatsoever of the concept of shared risk.

  • Azkyroth

    At every single mother fucking airport they single me out to hassle “randomly,” since I’m young and male and look vaguely middle-eastern.

  • Azkyroth
  • Science Avenger

    I can relate. It’s amazing how much less I get “randomly” checked since I went from long-haired self-employed dude in a t-shirt and shorts with a duffle bag to corporate man in a suit with a laptop. Who knew how much safer those things made me!

  • Science Avenger

    I think this is a case of Rand’s poor writing combined with her lack of understanding of things getting in the way of her point. She means to depict the Makers(tm) as doing their own research and figuring out for themselves what the good investments are, whereas the Takers(tm) are acting as “second-handers”, relying on the judgement of others. She just has no understanding of the process, and so couldn’t provide the necessary detail. One P/E commment by Francisco could have sufficed.

  • Science Avenger

    I don’t think that’s accurate at all. She spells out pretty clearly what her idea of good is (simplistic and subjective as it is), and she believes in a rigid reciprocity in her morals. If you live by anti-life standards, then you aren’t entitled (in her view) to pro-life (heh) treatment.
    It’s not that the actors are good, but that the actees are bad, that creates the anything-goes situation. After all, the good guys can’t do anything they want to each other.

  • Science Avenger

    Rand would no doubt respond (re Ellis and Francisco) that the point is that the looters can’t survive without the products of the mind, and those things destroyed were products of past minds, so it makes little difference whether current minds destroy them instead of the minds that created them. It’s not about particular people.

    The problem is that she ignores the reality of collective products of the mind. In fact she explicitly states such to be impossible (in Galt’s speech IIRC). One wonders what the definition of “brainstorming” was to her.

    Ragnar is a different case. His character is supposed to represent the flip side of the rational man’s response to the men of force, the fight to Galt’s flight. I found his character as philosophically sound (relative to the others) as it was logistically ridiculous

  • Loren Petrich

    Do they give any reasons for that? What do they consider un-Randian about Ron Paul’s positions or Glenn Beck’s or Sean Hannity’s?

  • J-D

    The description ‘sewer socialism’ is new to me, but it’s obviously a form of municipal socialism, which I have also seen referred to as ‘gas-and-water socialism’.

  • J-D

    Do I need to explain that my reversal of the saying about an ounce of prevention and a pound of cure was intended ironically?

  • J-D

    Wait, what?

    This food is stolen, therefore the best possible thing to do with it is destroy it? Not return it to the people it was stolen from, not give it to honest people who didn’t steal it but who need it, not _sell_ it to honest people who didn’t steal it but who need it, but destroy it? In what way does that make things any better?

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Only in vague generalizations for the most part. If they’re pressed for something specific they’ll usually bring up Paul’s and Beck’s ties to racist and theocratic elements. Mainly they’re claimed to be cafeteria Randians* and/ or Objectivists. They don’t mention Hannity much so I’m not really sure what specifically they’d say about him, though it’d probably fall along similar lines. It’d certainly fit.

    * Everytime I type out “Randian” my computer seems to want to auto-correct with “Rodian”. I guess that means I write about Star Wars way too much.

  • X. Randroid

    Now that I think about it, the only cargoes Ragnar sinks are those of the d’Anconia Copper ships. (And he puts all the sailors on lifeboats before sinking the ships, of course.) With the “gift ships,” Ragnar just seizes the cargoes and sells them to underground friends of his in Europe (who make sure the goods never reached the looters), in exchange for gold. It still doesn’t make much sense, but it’s a little saner than just destroying the cargoes.

  • X. Randroid

    My best guess is that Rand would regard brainstorming as nothing but a scam by the incompetent to enable themselves to take equal credit for any ideas their betters would foolishly offer during such a session. In her view, all thinking must be done by one man alone, preferably while smoking a cigarette.

  • Doug Langley

    But remember, by this point in the story, Francisco has created a reputation as a playboy, and thus has given all the vibes that he isn’t a good bet. Dagny and Hank have figured out not to invest in D’Anconia Copper, but the bad guys haven’t got it.

    I don’t have the exact line (I got rid of all my Ayn Rand stuff long ago), but seem to recall something in Francisco’s speech about how people came to believe he was a safe bet BECAUSE he looked like a playboy. His attitude was “If you think that’s a good thing, you deserve what you get”.

  • Doug Langley

    You’d think at this point someone would think of send a destroyer escort with those relief ships.

  • Hawker40

    I’d think someone would send a carrier battlegroup after him. Or rig a Q-ship. Or convoy relief shipments with escorts. Or something. Unless he’s magically jamming radios on the ships he’s attacking, they have time to tranmit what’s happening (he’s allowing them to abandon ship, that’s time to send a “I am being attacked by pirates at this location” message).

  • SmogMonster

    Okay, scatological topics wouldn’t have been touched upon in the 50s. But I mean, these are city people, moving to the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. I keep getting this picture in my head of Dagny the Railroad Princess discovering that bacon for breakfast requires an entire dead pig, which first requires an entire live pig, and just how large and uncooperative a live pig is. Have any of them ever plucked a chicken or milked a cow? Do any of them know how to preserve food, or which kinds of snakes are poisonous and which aren’t, or what to do when there’s a hormonally deranged bull elk in your front yard? Do they know about bear-proofing, or do they imagine that bears have Objectivist morals too?

  • Doug Langley

    Yeah, in real life it would turn into a real clusterfuck. But Rand portrays her heroes as such incredible supermen that they can do simply anything they set their minds to, even without previous training. Check out the scene where Dagny stays at the shack in Woodstock and paints it, shingles it, does the landscaping, everything without breaking a sweat. That’s when you say “Oh, come ON now!!”

  • Science Avenger

    Not to metnion the snowy cold winters, altitude sickness, and giardia (of which I’m personally acquainted).

  • eyelessgame

    Absolutely! Admiring psychopathic scum is, really, what this book is about. The main character does what F d’A just did, on a grander scale – he engineers the destruction of civilization and the death of most of humanity because it was too hard for him to make money.

  • Doug Langley

    I just remembered something Rand wrote called “An Open Letter to Boris Spassky”. Spassky was a chess player and played Bobby Fischer in the legendary match. Rand raised the hypothetical case of the game being played by committee, and claimed that Spassky would spend all his time trying to convince the others that he was right and the others were wrong. So yes, she believe that a group was one smart guy and a lot of dolts.