Comments: MORE JAMESES THAN DAGNYS

"regulation and corruption went hand in hand"...some related thoughts at my post new-age earmarks.

Posted by david foster at December 31, 2008 09:32 AM

ok, i don't feel picked on. :) but i do have lots to say.

later.

Posted by Sis B at December 31, 2008 09:42 AM

hear hear. The book got waaay preachy from time to time, but all in all I really liked it. The Fountainhead may have more re=read value for me, though.

A thought without a context to go into, "Who isn't John Galt?"

Posted by annie at December 31, 2008 01:25 PM

A tour de force! I can't wait to see your reaction to For the New Intellectual. If Atlas Shrugged is about utopia (literally, a nonplace), then FTNI is about the men turning our world into a dystopia: the Attilas and Witch Doctors.

James Taggart is the forgotten persyn of Atlas. (I originally wrote "man," but he only biologically counts as one.) He is not capitalism gone wrong; he is not a capitalist at all.

To dismiss the book because there are more James Taggarts than Hank Reardons is to completely miss the point

Taggart wanted to be a zero. A million zeros still add up to zero, less than one - the one man who stopped the motor of the world. This exemplifies Rand's belief in the impotence of evil. GM's CEO is no omnipotent fat cat; he's just a beggar in a suit.

The trouble is that "zero" and "one" only describe the moral worth of these people. A million zeros are also a million bodies, a million voters, a mob demanding their "rights" to this and that from the Atlases. I haven't read Atlas in over a decade, but as I recall, Rand barely touched on the barbaric depths that zero-worshippers can descend to. Even Idiocracy doesn't dare to venture into that territory. The Khmer Rouge murdered the Atlases of Cambodia, crippling that land for generations. Would John Galt survive the killing fields?

The Atlases will always be outnumbered. Ron Merrill wrote:

... only a small minority of the human species can be expected to break loose from the system of dominance-submission relationships. There will always be people who live for power, and always the vast majority of people will choose to submit to them. That does not mean that these people *like* being oppressed; but for them, anything is better than being totally free and having to make their own decisions.

You are not like those people. Knowing that men and women like you exist, that the ideal is real, is a first step. But what's the second? What can the Atlases do in the face of the reality of Idiocracy? Ron Merrill outlines a plan in "From the Embers of Objectivism."

Posted by Amritas at December 31, 2008 02:58 PM

annie,

A thought without a context to go into, "Who isn't John Galt?"

Too many people, sadly. People just aren't wired that way:

Why is everybody so irrational? ...

Every human culture considers it normal for people to be very strongly concerned with other people's opinions--what Ayn Rand called "social metaphysics."

In fact, this obsession with peer opinion is the basic means of social organization and control in every human society; in primitive cultures, it is the only means ...

Every human culture is based on dominance-submission hierarchies, and considers it normal for people to seek power. Some cultures, including very primitive tribes as well as the early United States, disapprove of power-seeking and establish mechanisms to suppress it. But all cultures exhibit power-seeking, and all take it for granted that it is part of human nature.

All these behavior patterns are universal. Thousands of distinct human cultures have been studied, and phenomena such as the identification of altruism with morality are found in all of them without exception. Western cultures, Eastern cultures; advanced cultures, primitive cultures; industrial cultures, farming cultures, hunter-gatherer cultures; from the decadent aristocrats of Heian-era Japan to jungle headhunters, these norms are universal. They cannot represent some intellectual mistake or moral error made by a certain group of people. They cannot be the outcome of some freak of history in a certain area. We can account for them only on the assumption that they are part of human nature; that they are wired into the human brain.

A more upbeat question might be, "Who could be John Galt?" Or "Who could be Hank Rearden?" Hank was only a step away from Atlantis. How many Hanks will dare to cross over?

Posted by Amritas at December 31, 2008 03:14 PM