Friday flame bait:

Has ever a more pedantic, tedious tome been penned by any theorist before or since Atlas Shrugged? The odious combination of ideological rigidity and academic purity makes for a compelling manifesto for the naive and weak-minded.

The work has become the Das Kapital of the 20th century . . . Both were wrong, too long, and poorly written — and each has proven to be wildly destructive to the political economy.

Ironically, only one has been shown to be damaging to capitalism itself — and that wasn’t Marx’s s work, it was Rand’s.

Which makes this McSweeney parody all the more hysterical:

“How he hated his debased need for her, he who loathed self-sacrifice but would give up everything he valued to get in her pants … Did she know?

“I heard the thugs in Washington were trying to take your Rearden metal at the point of a gun,” she said. “Don’t let them, Hank. With your advanced alloy and my high-tech railroad, we’ll revitalize our country’s failing infrastructure and make big, virtuous profits.”

“Oh, no, I got out of that suckers’ game. I now run my own hedge-fund firm, Rearden Capital Management.”


He stood and adjusted his suit jacket so that his body didn’t betray his shameful weakness. He walked toward her and sat informally on the edge of her desk. “Why make a product when you can make dollars? Right this second, I’m earning millions in interest off money I don’t even have.”

He gestured to his floor-to-ceiling windows, a symbol of his productive ability and goodness.

“There’s a whole world out there of byzantine financial products just waiting to be invented, Dagny. Let the leeches run my factories into the ground! I hope they do! I’ve taken out more insurance on a single Rearden Steel bond than the entire company is even worth! When my old company finally tanks, I’ll make a cool $877 million.”

Their eyes locked with an intensity she was only beginning to understand. Yes, Hank … claim me … If we’re to win the battle against the leeches, we must get it on … right now … Don’t let them torture us for our happiness … or our billions.”

Attention college students and young Alan Greenspan/Phil Gramm-wannabees: The book is shite. Get over it.


Hat tip: Matt


McSweeney’s, November 20, 2008

Category: Bailouts, Humor, UnScience

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

54 Responses to “Updating ATLAS SHRUGGED for the Financial Crisis”

  1. Machiavelli999 says:

    Well, I guess I’ll be the one who starts the fight…

    At the very least Barry, you must admit it is a very inspiring book. Especially, to a young person reading it. I know it has had that effect on me. As I grew older, I realized the difference between the imaginary world of absolutes that Rand paints in her book and the real world of ambiguities that we live in today.

    But this book definitely has value because explain to me how it achieved the level of prominence that it did in a much more socialistic environment than today (another right-wing conspiracy perhaps??). Is it too idealistic, too long and kind of poorly written?? Of course, but that to me makes it even more incredible that it achieved the status that it did. Above all else, it is a very inspiring book and it makes people not be embarrassed to be who they want to be and have what they want to have.

    Also, if you are a believe in the Ron Paul school of thought (and it seems like you might, since you posted video of his speeches several times in the past) then what we have had the last 8 years is far from true free market capitalism.


    BR: You identified the key issue: The enormous difference between the imaginary world of absolutes that Rand paints.

    How often have we had policies, legislation, wars, etc. based upon some thesis that turned out to be widely believed but utterly false?

    When the foundation is untrue, the building can grow stand very high atop it . . .

  2. Mannwich says:

    You spoiling for a fight today, Barry? Not with me but others will engage, I’m sure…….

  3. Mannwich says:

    That IS hilarious though……….

  4. Scott Frew says:

    Has ever a more pedantic, tedious tome been penned by any theorist before or since Atlas Shrugged?

    Are we forgetting The Fountainhead so quickly?

  5. spencer says:

    The author that every 15 year old should read and no adult should take seriously.

  6. call me ahab says:

    so . . . Barry, I did not know you were such a luminary in the world of literature. Perhaps you could enlighten us as to the what you consider to be an acceptable tome. [BR: War & Peace] Because something is written with a particular world view does not correlate to whether it is good or bad literature. The story Sea Wolf by Jack London is written as an allegory of Socialism vs. Capitalism- regardless of one’s politics it is a good read even though it takes the side of socialism. Someone may not agree with that world view but they can still like the story. For instance you may like to read Dick and Jane in the comfort of your own home and may not like the “conformist” political overtones- but it doesn’t mean that YOU Barry did not find it to be a good read.

  7. yes, of course, by all means, lest we forget:

    Karl Marx was paid by the “League of the Just” (later named the “Communist League”) in 1847 to write the Communist Manifesto, and again to rewrite it in 1848. The Manifesto was intended to incite violent revolution, was a recipe for tyranny itself, and later served as a ‘glorious goal’ to believe in to blind followers to the realities of the brutal dictatorships that oppressed all “workers” and slaughtered millions under Communist rule. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” served a similar gruesome and bloody purpose. Many dictators throughout history attempted to disguise their tyranny with similar labels and phony philosophies to make it seem somehow just–another example is the doctrine of “divine rule of kings.” These 10 steps are a part of the Manifesto, the full text of which can be found on the web.

    Western nations including the United States have gradually implemented virtually all of Marx’s 10 key steps toward creating a dictatorship. What are some examples can you find? Americans would be wise to study the “Ten Planks” and demand that the President and Congress abolish all laws, regulations and agencies which govern these (and all other) unconstitutional seizures of power. Communism was never intended to free man, but to enslave him; indeed the Communist Manifesto promised a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and history proved it always ended up slaughtering millions of the proletariat.

    Karl Marx’s “10 Planks” to seize power and destroy freedom:

    Abolition of Property in Land and Application of all Rents of Land to Public Purpose.

    A Heavy Progressive or Graduated Income Tax.

    Abolition of All Rights of Inheritance.

    Confiscation of the Property of All Emigrants and Rebels.

    Centralization of Credit in the Hands of the State, by Means of a National Bank with State Capital and an Exclusive Monopoly.

    Centralization of the Means of Communication and Transport in the Hands of the State.

    Extension of Factories and Instruments of Production Owned by the State, the Bringing Into Cultivation of Waste Lands, and the Improvement of the Soil Generally in Accordance with a Common Plan.

    Equal Liability of All to Labor. Establishment of Industrial Armies, Especially for Agriculture.

    Combination of Agriculture with Manufacturing Industries; Gradual Abolition of the Distinction Between Town and Country by a More Equable Distribution of the Population over the Country.

    Free Education for All Children in Public Schools. Abolition of Children’s Factory Labor in it’s Present Form. Combination of Education with Industrial Production.
    The One, True, Roadmap that we’ve well-navigated (sorry GRMN, no navi-required/wtg GRMN, soon navi-mandated) for the better part of 100 years..

    Welcome to the North American Union: “You’re papers, Please.”

    Seriously, who are we, the great un-washed, to be so uppity as to think We should be Free, and at Liberty?

  8. CHB says:

    Next you’ll be claiming Clinton didn’t cause subprime.


    BR: I don’t claim anything. I analyze data, look at real facts, and draw conclusions therefrom.

    But since you want to blame Clinton for subprime, how do these videos impact your worldview?

  9. MaxLdaMan says:

    LOL! Glad to see someone else agrees with me. I read it when I was 17 and thought it risible.

  10. TDL says:

    As a hardcore laissez faire guy I would love to take the bait, but I never read any Rand. The articles that I’ve read by her Objectivist cult followers, the less likely I am to read any Rand! I wish I could oblige, but not this time around…


  11. Archiphage says:

    ‘Anthem’ was mercifully short, and probably all I ever needed to read by Rand. I did slog through ‘The Fountainhead’ and doing so has prevented me from ever daring to pick up ‘Atlas Shrugged’. I tend to detest most media that tries too hard to convey a political message of any kind. Most recently I had to suffer through Pixar’s ‘Wall-e’, which I was surprised gave no screen credit to the Unabomber.
    I’m certain that we could come up with ‘a more pedantic, tedious tome’ than Atlas Shrugged, but can we come up with one that would be more universally recognized if not actually read? Probably not. I’d offer certain sections of the Bible and the Koran for consideration, but that would stretch the idea of ‘theorist’ a bit too far for my liking.

  12. Machiavelli999 says:

    It was at the very least inspiring book and the fact that came to the level of prominence it did while being too long and poorly written just proves the strength of her message.

  13. Machiavelli999 says:

    Also Barry, if you are a Ron Paul guy (and I think you might be, since you have posted videos of his speeches several times) then the environment we have been in the last 8 years is far from laissez-faire capitalism. The “corrupt corporate fat cats” are just players in a highly distorted game. Don’t hate the player, Barry, hate the game.

  14. Gene says:

    It’s a work of function. Jeeze…

  15. thestranger73 says:

    Hey Barry, nice post! I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now and appreciate the information and commentary, but this is the first time I’ve been moved to leave a comment. I loved both “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” as well as “Anthem” and most of Ayn Rand’s non-fiction. “We The Living” is my favorite of Rand’s, but they were all page-turners for me. I just wanted to show some support for her and offer a couple of other beautiful pieces: “The Stranger” by Camus and “Quo Vadis” by Henryk Sienkiewicz. I re-read most of these books whenever I can. Good stuff man.


    BR: The Stranger was powerful stuff

  16. ButtoMcFarty says:

    When I think Rand I think Greenspan.

    Then I think very dark Mencken/Whitman thoughts.

    I think the enormity of the crime is starting to sink in finally.
    It doesn’t feel good. Maybe it was the pie for breakfast.

  17. Patrick Neid says:

    Sure Barry whatever you say. At some point you will have to get over yourself.


    BR: Sterling criticism. How could anyone ever come back from that riposte?

  18. garthdbrown says:

    I find the detractors of Atlas Shrugged are much like the detractors of Satanic Verses. They have not taken the time to read the book.
    This is fiction and meant to get you thinking.
    If you know it all already why bother?

  19. TrickStar says:

    Like a few others here, I loved Anthem, We the People, the Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. I never accepted Rand’s perspectives (and there were many) as truth but more as counterbalance to other authors’ perspectives and philosophies. Rand’s works are thought provoking and should be contributors to those building and refining their value system. There are plenty of guys out there (a few mentioned above) whose body of works (or at least significant parts thereof) are impractical (which is essentially the accusation here) or less than timeless. That doesn’t mean they don’t have value and aren’t good reads.

    Greenspan clearly was the type of guy who sought a philosophical base that was neat and uniform. He relied on Rand and Chicago. In portfolio management terms, he bought two stocks to drive returns, when he should have diversified to manage risk. Rather than diversifying with policy tempered by a broad range of thought, he looked to the financial instruments themselves to reduce risk. Oops.

  20. texasradio says:

    If only somebody had bought Ayn Rand a boat, the religion she invented might more closely resemble that of L Ron Hubbard.

  21. Mannwich says:

    I’ve read the book. Agree that like many books it’s supposed to get you thinking but the problem lies when idealist free market zealots take it too literally to promote their radical agendas like some do the Bible.

    I respect real libertarians but I still say there aren’t many “real libertarians” out there. Most only like libertarianism when it works for them. When it doesn’t, they somehow become all for government intervention. That’s the issue. Most are frauds and charlatans and are as bad as those orthodox liberals on the far Left. Human nature is not ideal and never will be. Therefore, pragmatism works best.

  22. Brett Tibbitts says:

    Why all the interest in Ayn Rand? Who even begins to follow her thoughts? The Bush administration was hardly even close to a paradigm of her thoughts. She is the antithesis of the Democrats. So all we have left is Alan Greenspan who was once enamored with her. But clearly he lost his way – by a country mile. Any true Randian would believe in abolition of the Fed plain and simple. Instead, Greenspan, the number one actor behind our current economic demise, tried to control the economy through his lame keeping interest rates WAY TOO LOW in 2002, 2003 & 2004. So we have free money and look what happened? But Greenspan is government intervention at its worst and at its most hypocriful IMHO and hardly an indictment on Ayn Rand.

  23. neward says:

    I started reading it a few years ago as a college sophomore. I really enjoyed it; it really spoke to me and it was on course for being one of my favorite books. After about 400 pages the protagonists slowly lost my sympathy and eventually I hoped they all failed. I stopped reading at about page 1000, I assume that everyone hiding in Galt’s Gultch end up committing mass ritual suicide, am I correct?

  24. paulyarbles says:

    There’s nothing wrong with thinking ideologies such as Randism and Marxism can shed light on aspects of our reality and help us with our decision making. It’s wrong and stupid to believe that such creations of Man can answer every question about how we should live.

    The world is messier than the nice clean models we come up with to describe the world. Morality, economic and social arrangements, art, etc. — these topics are all too broad to be to the explained totally by the scribblings of some Homo sapiens trying to build universal and timeless mind-structures. Genius though they are or may have been.

    When your first impulse to any new information or any new difficulty is to turn to a single all-encompassing ideological system bouncing around in your head instead of the real world, then you got a problem. I fear many Libertarians, Objectivists, and Marxists do this. And their world views are always the poorer for it.

    The same kind of stupidity — using too-simple models to answer questions about the real world — is a big problem in the economics profession by the way. Physics, chemistry, and the like can get away with it because of the narrowness of their subject matter. Economics cannot.

  25. RW says:

    Ayn Rand generally despised libertarians, particularly those identified as the “New Right” (see, not that this necessarily matters now.

    I was impressed with Rand’s objectivism when young and enjoyed libertarianism on general principles — the young hate to be pinned down and love having a reason for doing as they please — but in the end both palled, Rand because her characters lacked human dimension and her philosophy was cold, libertarianism because of its inability to detect the difference between liberty and license or imagine a realistic mechanism protecting the weak from predation by the powerful.

  26. Theodore D. says:

    Great topic – Brett saying AGSpan isn’t a result of Rand is misguided. Its like saying Marx didn’t pave the way for Stalin. While both may have strayed from their philosophers main points they still used this philosophy to do what they did. While “any Randian would advocate abolition of the Fed,” I assume any Marxists would not advocate the central organizer retain power indefinitely and tell the people that change will be here soon.

    To the Libertarian points – In academia (Law/Biz school) it seems as though there are very few conservatives, and all that are a pretty leftish on social points but more rightish on fiscal points so they assume that makes them a Libertarian. I think this method of choosing your political affiliation is misguided because it assumes that the Libertarians are just different pieces of Dems and Reps. As a Catholic conservative I would (and do) argue for limited regulation – but this is far and away different from no regulation. Has anyone else missed that this is not a “Free Market” problem but a “No Market” problem? I have been trying to see how all this could be the result of Free Market philosophy – as some are arguing – but I only see no regulation, as opposed to limited regulation (as conservatives advocate).

    Most of the videos of Ron Paul remind me of Dennis Kucinich – both don’t really have a clue as to what the drivers of this really are, but they know if they spew their normal rhetoric it will help them politically. I am not saying they don’t believe what they are arguing I just think nether really has a clue. When Paul got a chance to grill Paulson at a congressional hearing he didn’t say anything new, he didn’t really address the stimulus package he just said a bunch of his normal talking points while everyone in the room looked at him like a nut ball. While it is entertaining to see politicians you agree with yell at people you despise – is that going to convince anyone that R. Paul might actually have a few valid points?

    Rand like Marx commented on religion while making economic points the central points of their world view. I would argue any time you put first things, second you are going to get a scary result.


  27. Archiphage says:

    ‘realistic mechanism protecting the weak from predation by the powerful’

    Like government? But seriously, the literature is full of ideas that would work for flawed beings… they’re only unrealistic in the sense that it is unrealistic to expect a drunk to quit drinking. It isn’t that sobriety isn’t possible, just that the miserable sot is unlikely to abstain.

  28. Vision Thing says:

    Ideal currency in “Atlas Shrugged” is gold and ideal society is one in which government doesn’t act like nanny. I’m not saying that gold would be ideal money or that any government intervention is bad; I’m just pointing to a flaw in Barry’s argument that this financial crisis was a result of ideals espoused in the book. Root causes of current crisis is easy money policy enabled by fiat money and belief that government/Fed should intervene in economy in order to abolish destruction phase of capitalism’s creative destruction process. If they had allowed LTCM to fail I think that a lot of things would have been different today because Wall Street companies would have different attitude toward risk. Greenspan with his “Greenspan put” only showed that old truth “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” is timeless.

  29. attobuoy says:

    My enlightened self interest has prevented me from reading any of Ayn Rand’s books.

  30. anon123 says:

    This comic paints a picture of a Randian society after Atlas Shrugged:

    … still waiting for that inexhaustible labor force of robots.

  31. Archiphage says:

    Life as a slave is preferable to death, therefore slavery is a-ok!

  32. patrick says:

    Regarding Anon’s cartoon, does anyone really believe either the govt or “Titans of Business” has anyone’s interests but their own at heart?

  33. RW says:

    “the literature is full of ideas that would work for flawed beings… ”

    Really? Name one idea that does not rely upon a priori change in human behavior, upon a world where the drunk is unforced yet becomes a sober person before s/he is sober.

    Utopian models are not necessarily intrinsically unrealistic, they become unrealistic when they must assume the outcome desired as a precondition for the change envisioned.

    All social change including that in economics must work and become successful first at the margins because we are what we are and not what we will be; if an idea does not work at the margins then it can not work period.

    It is not entirely clear Rand understood this which is perhaps why her texts focused on revolutionary change but, then again, that kind of change is the model she grew up with in Russia so perhaps her flight to freedom did not alter who she was in that respect at least.

    Such speculation aside, if anyone could develop a free-market idea that worked at the margins and led to mutually beneficial and morally acceptable outcomes they might have a chance at establishing a better kind of government but …

    I believe it was Goethe who once asserted, “no man is more a slave than he who thinks himself free where he is not,” so perhaps the ability or the will to doubt or criticize the current order may serve for the time being.

  34. mkkby says:

    There is a lot of misinformation here. Rand was writing about her model of a perfect world… where libertarians are free from corruption and excessive greed. A world that will never exist as long as humans are imperfect. Republicans cynically twist this author’s ideas into supporting their views on deregulation. The book certainly does not support that to the extent that capitalists become free to loot everyone else.

    I’m quite sure Rand would view today’s world as dominated by “moocher” and “leech” companies that take advantage through government influence peddling. She was able to look in the rear view mirror and see society’s best contributors essentially “on strike” for having to sacrifice too much for others. But she didn’t see how they would be suppressed by aggressive oligopolies erecting legal impediments. The book is very relevant today to those who care to read it and think about what it means.

    As for those who criticize without having read… are you serious? You’ve made a fool of yourselves :)

  35. Archiphage says:

    Here’s one of the relevant articles:

    Indeed, since the changes in the wrong direction have proceeded on a marginal basis, there is no reason to expect that change in the other direction is impossible without fundamental changes in human nature. Difficult? Sure. Perfect? No. Better than what currently exists? Yes. How much would I bet on it happening anytime soon? Not much.

  36. KJ Foehr says:

    Great post Barry.

    Laissez faire capitalism vs collectivism and central planning

    It seems they will never learn: the best path is the middle way.

  37. RW says:

    Rothbard does a much better job of criticizing what is than proposing viable alternatives; indeed critique may be the essential function of libertarian thought since any attempt to actually live that way would probably end as catastrophically as communism.

    In this case the well tested and suitably biblical idea of retributive or proportional justice proposed as superior to a humanitarian straw man* doubtless contains a certain appeal for neo-Calvinists and other devotees of the principle that people get what they deserve but I am not aware of anyone else who is impressed with the notion much less anyone who would regard the idea as Utopian; we’ve been there, done that, and own the t-shirt (IIRC it’s made of hair).

    *Note: I love C.S. Lewis, his space trilogy in particular, but Rothbard citing his allegorical account of an institute controled by dark forces as if it were a case in point supporting his argument is one of the weaker rhetorical moves in an essay typified by the inability to establish a case consistent with libertarian principles. Rothbard is a very smart man and there is a great deal that is worthy of criticism in modern penal methods whether they be rooted in putative humanitarian principles or not but, really, what’s next: Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” as a case in point for equality of opportunity?

  38. KJ,

    you go with: “It seems they will never learn: the best path is the middle way.”

    forget about the old Song: “Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between”.

    Patrick Henry taught us all the Political Triangulation We need to Know.

    More succinctly, the conceit of a ‘mixed-Economy’ is, akin to ‘Central Banking’, and “Government as counter-balance”, a Grand Fraud that beguiles the unthinking/those who believe they ‘think’ for themselves..

  39. KidDynamite says:

    wow! I’ve never heard of a book that so many people describe as “my favorite book of all time” – which is what i hear about Atlas Shrugged. strangely, although I’m a free market capitalist, I’ve never read the book – although it’s in my on-deck circle on my bedside table… i’m somewhat daunted by its girth… will be tackling it soon.

  40. Archiphage says:

    All solutions to the problem of beings with apparent free will able to impose incompensable losses on each other will likely be imperfect. We can probably argue for the next millennium as to which is the least imperfect. Still, given the choice I’d rather take my chances in Rothbard-land.

  41. zell says:

    Ayn Rand was a pill: doctrinaire and dictatorial. What has to be remembered is that the world was alot darker when she wrote. She didn’t come from Russia but the U.S.S.R. which was on the march. Eastern Europe hab been recently gobbled up. Western Europe was shaky with strong communist parties. The academy was a hot bed of collectivist thought. Berlin was blockaded, China went Red, Quemoy and Matsu were being shelled, the Korean war was fought, Hungary tried for freedom but was crushed by Soviet tanks in 1956- all that plus trouble in Africa and Latin America. A world war had just been fought 10 years before and nuclear war threatened.
    Rand was a breath of fresh air – an alternative world view however utopian. What she did provide was a rigorous manner of thought that she called Objectivism. With her you had to state your premises and define your terms in argument. She fought off argument from emotion. She provided an anti communist school of thought that was not based on religion much to the annoyance of Bill Buckley, another beacon in the darkness.
    Alan Greenspan strayed far enough to become unrecognizable.

  42. paulyarbles says:

    “What she did provide was a rigorous manner of thought that she called Objectivism. With her you had to state your premises and define your terms in argument. She fought off argument from emotion.”

    If we’re talking about rigor, then why doesn’t everyone accept Objectivism like they accept the infinitude of prime numbers? Perhaps her premises and terms were bullshit. Perhaps all such allegedly rational all-encompassing systems are bullshit.

  43. Brett Tibbitts says:

    Theodore D says: Great topic – Brett saying AGSpan isn’t a result of Rand is misguided. Its like saying Marx didn’t pave the way for Stalin. While both may have strayed from their philosophers main points they still used this philosophy to do what they did. While “any Randian would advocate abolition of the Fed,” I assume any Marxists would not advocate the central organizer retain power indefinitely and tell the people that change will be here soon.

    Theordore D: How far can one stray from a philosphy and still be identified as a follower? Did Judas Iscariot stray far enough or did he use Jesus’ philosophy to kill Jesus? Did George Bush stray far enough or he still identified as a fiscal conservative even though there is NOTHING you can point to in his Presidency that is evidence of his being a fiscal conservative. It is absolutely beyond me for anyone to truly believe that Greenspan is a true liberterian or follower of Rand. I am not a liberaterian, but I have many friends who are, and every single one of them despises Greenspan. You cannot take his body of work as the Fed chief and say this man is a liberterian – he was the epitome of government intervention.

  44. RW says:

    Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan: Libertarians and other conservatives who lauded Greenspan for his successful demonstration of monetarism and general willingness to release markets from their regulatory chains are no more credible than movement conservatives who lauded Bush as commander in chief and icon of conservative values while his approval rating was 70%

    Demoting a declared exemplar of a doctrine because of revealed impurity without, in detail, explaining why this impurity was not apparent while they were popular can only be interpreted as a kind of purge, a pretext for the purpose of preserving the doctrine itself from falsification while making the mantle safe for the next leader’s beatification.

    It appears there is actually something similar going on in economics these days: Only a dozen or so economists with academic standing, almost exclusively ‘liberals’ (not unquestionably devoted to classical theory), predicted the current financial debacle thus leaving the majority ‘conservatives’ who essentially ignored them to either repudiate their colleagues in some manner or directly confront the falsification of their discipline’s central tenant; personally I expect many if not most will chose the former path but the remainder just might prove themselves scientists and figure out where the theory (rather than the people) went wrong.

  45. KJ Foehr says:

    @Mark E Hoffer

    My statement refers to the Middle Path of Buddhism, which I realize does not fit the conventional view of politics, where the predominant attitude is, as John Adams said “In politics the middle way is none at all.”

    But, I find the Middle Path works well in all aspects of life. IMO, rigid ideologies will all eventually fail, just as the walker in the woods whose right foot is dominant will invariably stray off course circling to the right. Only the walker whose steps are evenly balanced will reach his destination straight ahead.

    I try to keep the balance this way: In the 1970s I felt we had strayed too far to the ideological left, so I voted for Reagan in 1980. In 2008, I believe we had veered too far to the right, causing the current financial crisis and serious recession; therefore, I voted for Obama. Thus, through this zigging and zagging over the long term we move down the middle path.

    Obviously this is a very inefficient way to do it, but in a dualistic world, where people divide everything into “this way” and “that way” or “this side” and “that side”, and then feel they must choose one side over the other, it is unavoidable.

  46. Mike in Nola says:

    Sorry I won’t be able to share in the humor, but never read any of her stuff. Always wondered what it was about and now glad I never bothered. Too much good stuff out there.

  47. AGG says:

    Atlas Shrugged espouses a rather simple theory. It can be assumed that if you take a wash bucket and, after adding water, several frogs and a snapping turtle, wait a while, shortly thereafter all the frogs will be dead. It doesn’t matter if the snapping turtle is hungry or not. The snapping turtle, like us, is a killer. The washbucket represents a captive market. Every red blooded capitalist who is always screaming about free markets really is always scheming to get a washbucket market (monopoly) so he can make a killing. The problem is that the logical conclusion of this “ferocity” (it sure as hell ain’t a philosophy) is that the turtle starves to death after killing all the frogs. The very idea that cooperation’s sole purpose is to manipulate the competition until you can destroy them is the epitome of stupidity. Perhaps, since the most agressive among us like this sort of thing, society and most humans will be destroyed. The “lucky” survivors will be surrounded by robots that perfectly mimic all the fantasies of the head bad ass human. If I were an alien and in my travels through the galaxy came upon such an interesting species, I think some behavior modification would be the order of the day.

  48. dingojoe says:

    I agree with those who say there’s nothing wrong with Atlas Shrugged as a thought provoking work, but clearly Greenspan should have been given a few other books to round out his education. Maybe Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” would have been helpful.

    Al would have been a good Fed Chairman if only there was somebody there to shoot him everyday of his life.

    No Country for Old Men would have been a good choice too.

  49. KJ,

    see: Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in our Time
    The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can “throw the rascals out” at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.

    while I appreciate the approach you are speaking of, there’s a whole other paradigm, then the one you’re referencing, at play..

  50. Not a lot of people have read Das Kapital and the Fountainhead.

    The Fountainhead has always been for me an artistic manifesto, specifically architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was the model for Howard Roark. And the model for Howard Roark and Frank Lloyd Wright was Henry Hobson Richardson, who built the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall in North Easton, Massachusetts in 1885 to literally “grow out of the ledges” upon which it was seated.

  51. whitespiral says:

    Sure sure….despite enjoying reading the book, I too can’t help but gasp at some of the hyperbole and straw-men created by the author.

    But Barry, to be honest, I appreciate intellectual consistency a tad more than your “whichever way the wind blows” position.

    Please, either turn 180 and stop criticizing bail-outs or calling the Fed “Wall-Street’s Bitch” (your finest moment indeed), or stop blaming the free-market, laissez-faire, or whatever you want to call it for this current mess.

    Funny how the ultimate centrist, statist and corporatist got to be painted as the spokesperson for Classical Liberalism. (Ol’ Easy Al)

    I said I worried about the kinds of lessons people would take away from this meltdown about a year ago. But when guys like you start falling victim to the now popular “it was free-market ideology”, I really worry.

    Judge these guys by their actions, not their rhetoric.

  52. KJ Foehr says:


    Got cha. Mum’s the word on that.

  53. Drews says:

    What about Greenspan’s piece “Gold and Economic Freedom?” Is Barry saying this too is shite?

    To me it seems more like Greenspan had a change of heart. The expansion of credit and money supply under his term are not the ideals of Rand or Gold and Economic Freedom. Sure there was deregulation under Greenspan but was the motive capitalism or was it required to further his expansion of credit policy? Who else would hold the new debt if leverage wasn’t increased?

    Can someone please expand for us younger folks on the link between today’s mess and Greenspan’s early ideals with Rand?

  54. gfeirman says:

    That was hilarious. Great parody.

    In all fairness, though, Rand was a strong believer in the gold standard and would not have endorsed the loose money policies that caused this whole mess. She believed in production, not financial manipulation.