Via XKCD

Category: Philosophy, Really, really bad calls

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.

60 Responses to “Discuss . . .”

  1. Molesworth says:

    Image text: I had a hard time with Ayn Rand because I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with the first 90% of every sentence, but getting lost at ‘therefore, be a huge asshole to everyone.’

  2. ConscienceofaConservative says:

    I can’t recall a book that generates more outrage. Karl Marx is less hated.

  3. Through the Looking Glass says:

    “When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion — when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.”
    —Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957)

  4. bergsten says:

    Frankly, I’ve never understood the fuss over this thing either. I read it (OK, I was forewarned about the 70 page rant and skipped over that). So-so novel. So what?

    But recently, I saw the movie (well, “part one” — “part two,” which hasn’t even begun filming yet is scheduled for releases this October — how’s that for optimism?), and finally understood.

    When I read the novel, I interpreted the story as what happens when the people who actually invent or accomplish things all effectively get sick and tired of being taken advantage of and go on strike. Being a person who (likes to think anyway) that he is inventive and accomplishes things, etc., I find this a good, fun idea, which I’d gladly implement were I not a slave to those taking advantage of me.

    But, when I saw the movie, I realized that it wasn’t the people who blah, blah, blah, it was the rich 1%’ers!! All the main characters were filthy rich, from filthy rich families, wearing expensive clothes, being chauffeured around, going to incessant filthy rich parties, or having pointless hissy-fit whiny conversations among themselves (or both at the same time). People with less-than-zero personality if such a thing were possible.

    At least as far as the movie was concerned, the heroes were all CEO’s!

    So, I’ve been converted. Death to Ayn Rand. Sign me up for the committees whose job is to block any and all progress! I’ll show you “accomplishment”!

  5. cognos says:

    At 16, it sounds exciting… but overall Rand is pretty stupid.

    Nothing great was done by the “lone genius”. At least not recently.

    Steve Jobs was a semi-faliure. He bankrupted AAPL (with lousy, unsellable, expensive products). He started Next (ugh!). Found redemption in PIXAR. And only truly became great through luck, timing, and collaboration (iPod, iPhone/iPad). He found greatness as a kinder, gentler elder statesman.

    Plus… the GOVT or the PRESS is not sitting here trying to kill or manipulate or restrain the “great wealthy, talented man”. The system needs help encouraging the potential of everyone. There is lots of talent, lots of opportunity… but the system sometimes stifles it… BUT certainly not AFTER the person is wealthy and successful.

    Thats just stupid.

    So overall its kinda moronic and short-sighted.

  6. cognos says:

    98% of wealthy successful people… stifle themselves AFTER they become successful… because they become RISK AVERSE.

    Then they COMPLAIN that “interest rates are not high enough”.

    Ha!

  7. philipat says:

    Look at all the folks who worship her. I rest my case.

  8. scottinnj says:

    Obligatory:

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

  9. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Why even discuss this person. To do so elevates her already overblown status as an author and the importance of her ideology.

    The cartoon should have the stick man reaching for a John Steinbeck novel, and sitting down to ponder true human nature and how it related to the struggle of and between the haves and the have-nots and how they got that way.

  10. whskyjack says:

    Never read it, from the many devotee’s religious like zeal for it, I probably never will.

    But then again at 14 I was reading Grapes of Wrath, a different view on the situation.

    Jack

  11. Frilton Miedman says:

    Looking glass, how interesting that the Ayn Rand philosophy is the mans to which the corruption you quote has been attained, by getting “big government” out of the way of corporatist/Fascist control, bribing & manipulating Democracy to suit the agenda of the most wealthy bidder.

    I like to hear it from Greenspan himself, as he put it in Congressional testimony, “fatally flawed” F-forwrd to 4:30 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTFtk55q2Mc

  12. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    whskyjack:

    I don’t think you can see my comment (immediately before yours, but “awaiting moderation”). It also references Steinbeck.

  13. gloppie says:

    Why does the bookshelf rotate 360 degrees ?
    Stop it at 180 then the floor drops on a hole full of bamboo spikes a la Lara Croft;
    Now you accomplish something…..

  14. streeteye says:

    If you think equality is the only thing that matters, you’re a communist.

    If you think the efficiency of the state is the only thing that matters, you’re a fascist.

    If you think freedom is the only thing that matters, you’re a libertarian.

    “The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice, and individual liberty.” – a dude who died

  15. gman says:

    The notion of the lone person capable of doing something autonomously is a joke. Most worthwhile bits of “production” are done collaboratively. Even more importantly these “teams of producer” would never go on strike because the rewards are too great, and many “team of producers” are just as good if not better and would gladly pick up the rewards.

    Rand wrote at a time when China, the Soviet Union and all of eastern europe was complete command and control economy. Western Europe had most big industries nationalized and the USA had a 90% top tax bracket. Any validity Rand once had was lost post Reagan/fall of communism/China opening.

    Dickens Hard Times is a more relevant read for today.

  16. nanotot says:

    1-page pamphlet come 900-page parable; probably better in the original Russian…

  17. Through the Looking Glass says:

    Frilton, I see your Greenspan point and acknowledge him to be a big player on that chess board but not the pied piper. You and I both know who he was rubbing elbows with at the country club and Washington dinner parties. Even if he was a smart and honest thinker at one time the pressure of Washington water boarding could cop anyone a Stockholm Syndrome plea . He does look a little like a shaky acres inmate in that video dare I say he was a” tool”?

    By the way I love that Ayn Rand quote being so prophetic you have to give her that. We are really living in a science fiction novel from the past . I don’t know much about Ayn Rand except for the gifted seer angle.
    I wish more focus would be on “The Population Bomb”/ Paul Ehrlich ’71. That’s the trillion pound gorilla in the room no one discusses. The retirement plan of the global poor will be to have 6 kids and hope a few make it to support them. Factor that out another 50 years and see how commodities hold up in that simulation. Thats the big picture that seems so small now like a little global black swan in the distance vectoring directly into the jet engines of all resources.

  18. Jojo says:

    An oldie but goodie…
    ———–
    Stephen Colbert and the “Rand Illusion”
    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/221335/march-11-2009/the-word–rand-illusion

  19. Giovanni says:

    @scottinnj lol.

    @gman +1 I think your second paragraph captures the reality perfectly:

    “Rand wrote at a time when China, the Soviet Union and all of eastern europe was complete command and control economy. Western Europe had most big industries nationalized and the USA had a 90% top tax bracket. Any validity Rand once had was lost post Reagan/fall of communism/China opening.”

    The conservative fixation with cutting taxes (for the 1%) seems to grow out of an outdated reality as well: “There is simply no evidence that cutting taxes at the present time will do anything to raise employment.” From the Bruce Bartlett piece linked in 10 Tuesday Afternoon Reads: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/taxes-and-employment/

  20. Frilton Miedman says:

    Giovanni, I agree, but add that Ayn also had emotional issue’s from her traumatic early life under Bolshevik repression.

    From her perspective, the slightest hint of Social equalization was Communism, she completely failed to see the other equally bad opposite extreme – Fascism, pure Social Darwinism.

  21. Union Agitator says:

    Dickens Tale of Two Cities illustrates perfectly what happens when money and power end up in the hands of too few.

  22. mathman says:

    @ Ayn Rand, i shrugged

    and walked over to the sci-fi section

  23. Julia Chestnut says:

    You know, I tried to read this as a kid – I was on a dystopian kick, and it seemed to fit. But I never could abide crappy writing, and I never made it past the first 20 pages for that reason. I read acres of very arcane stuff – and generally loved the Russians (don’t get me started about how you are received if you show up at summer camp with “Crime and Punishment” tucked under one arm), this sucked.

    I remain a writing snob to this day, and so I’ve never managed to get past the first chapter (I tried again in college). What I do know is that people I know who are devotees of Rand, in addition to being able to stomach some gut-wrenching abuse of the English language, are emotionally stunted. I was behind some jackass in traffic recently with a “Go Galt” sticker on their huge gas-guzzler (along with some choice lines suggesting he felt comfortable dictating others’ life choices) and it occurred to me: merciful Jesu, why don’t they just GO already! I am prepared to face the consequences of all of those who are so desperate to “Go Galt” leaving – for good, no coming back now. I suspect it won’t make an appreciable change in my commute, but it would still be SOOO worth it.

  24. perra says:

    I prefer books that actually changes people’s minds. But it’s good pornography if that is already your sort of thing.

  25. david_12321 says:

    The xkcd “emotion”, one panel before “Discuss..” really hit me. I have a kid with cp who has surgery coming up, wife with type 1 and recent complications, … I just stared at that panel.

    Atlas was a good book to read when you are 22. 40′s, not s0 much. I’ve often wondered what wall street would be like if, instead of you nuts reading Ann, read a few books in the Gor series by John Norman over a weekend. I bet the market would be fun on Monday. The Gor books change how you justify yourself also.

  26. SOP says:

    If not for the Cold War, no one would ever have heard of this poor, demented little woman (other than her psychiatrist”s”).

  27. NotAMathWhiz says:

    Never understood the fanaticism, both for and against. Seems to me to be a pretty simple story, about how government is only interested in staying in power at all cost, and is willing to anything to give everything it can to the masses so that will happen. Only problem is, governments aren’t really very good at running businesses. When it’s no longer profitable for a business to stay in business, they may decide to go elsewhere to do business.

    As for being relevant, take a look at what’s happening in Argentina and Bolivia right now.

    As for the author, pretty sure she was just nuts. But everyone should read the book once, if for no other reason than to know what people are ranting about.

  28. willid3 says:

    suspect that we could say the same about the business elite. they will stay in charge because they control the government.

  29. kenny powers says:

    “The notion of the lone person capable of doing something autonomously is a joke.”

    Right. Nobody ever did anything worthwhile autonomously, then. As dumb a statement as anything said in the book, which contains plenty of nonsense.

    The book is just not that good. Get over it. Go occupy something to pass time if you must. Stop spamming an otherwise good blog with politics all the time. I’m here for perspectives on the market, not BR’s or anyone else’s political agenda.

    -

  30. Kevin_In_Philadelphia says:

    @kenny, you know you don’t actually have to be here, right? And how can you possibly separate the performance of the market and the economy from people’s politcal agendas? You ae just practicing willfull ignorance if you think that is possible.

    re: Rand, it seems to me that those “born on third, think they hit a triple” types that gravitate to her philosophy solved the problem of the so-called government seizure of their assets quite neatly..they’ve seized the government.

  31. DrSandman says:

    So what exactly is wrong with the idea that the only moral imperative is to provide for oneself and one’s family (within the framework of accepted laws of society)? As I understood the Randian ideal, that was the main message, delivered like a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (i.e., a lemon, wrapped around a brick, delivered swiftly to the brain…)

    If you entrust your welfare to someone else or, heaven forbid, The State, then you guarantee yourself a life of usury and shared misery. If you are at least given a choice to become a denizen of The State or to remain a Free Man and you choose enslavement, then I can’t be bothered by your pitiful cries of “waaah, the 1%!”

    Hate the person Rand, fine. Hate the life she lived, fine. Hate that the philosophy is not implemented in practice, fine. But leave me out of your politics of envy and jealousy.

  32. DrSandman says:

    Filton –

    “From her perspective, the slightest hint of Social equalization was Communism, she completely failed to see the other equally bad opposite extreme – Fascism, pure Social Darwinism.”

    Ahhhh, I hate to burst your finely calibrated bubble, but…. Fascism, Communism, Social Darwinism, Collectivism, Socialism, Progressivism…. all different names for the same leftist Utopian fantasy of centralized control. Various forms of this collective mental defect have been inflicted on the US since Woodrow Wilson (at least).

    If you would actually study these in a rigorous, academic way free of a priori biases, you would find that Fascism and Communism are not opposite extremes, but rather more like Appalachian cousins.

  33. NoKidding says:

    Bad writing, typical of todays entertainment business:
    The “good guys” are all slim, fit, smart, honest, hard working and good looking.
    The “bad guys” are all fat, unfit, dumb, dishonest, lazy and unattrative.

    I read through to the end, but had to skip over three or four pages of painful, repetitve gushing over how wonderful every aspect of Francesco DAnconia’s genious and Hank Reardon’s dedication were now and then.

    The fatal flaw of the Rand philosophy was that the evilest men were weak, mumbling lazy degenerates. In a list of evil overlords, e.g. Stalin, Hitler, Khan, Mao, Robespierre, Jung-Il,… I do not see many weak, lazy types. In her single-minded hatred for socialism, she misses the idea that there are worse things out there. And most of the politically correct incarnations to reference as evil had virtuous or attractive aspects that are not polite to talk about.

  34. AHodge says:

    i confess i loved her as a 16 year old king of the world
    now its laughable
    rich people going on strike because they are the only ones adding value?
    i wish bankers would go on strike or we could lock them out, or dissappear them
    they contribute almost nothing now
    and her Neitchean approach to life now looks really creepy

  35. Orange14 says:

    I could never get past the first 20 pages of Atlas Shrugged after reading the Fountainhead which was at least better written (very faint praise). William Gaddis’s “JR” teaches us much more about the state of business and the main issues than Ayn Rand ever did.

  36. whskyjack says:

    “So what exactly is wrong with the idea that the only moral imperative is to provide for oneself and one’s family ”

    You mean besides it displays ones total ignorance of human history, psychology, sociology, evolutionary biology, economics …….

    I guess nothing, if you don’t mind the belly laughs behind your back.

    Jack

  37. SnowHill Pond says:

    gman writes: “The notion of the lone person capable of doing something autonomously is a joke. Most worthwhile bits of “production” are done collaboratively.”

    Would Picasso, Michaelangelo, Di Vinci, Bob Dylan, Cormac McCarthy, Jonas Salk, or Frank Lloyd Wright agree?

    Would a “collaborative” production like the film “Good Fellas” be just as good or better if Scorsese had not directed? Or Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”, “Annie Hall”, etc.

    Would a “collaborative” effort like the restaurant “French Laundry” ever existed if not for Thomas Keller?

    Would companies like Ford or GE have ever risen to be titans in the American landscape if not for the brilliance of their founders?

    You’re fooling yourself if you don’t recognize the importance of “The One”, “The Man”, “El Hombre”, etc. in any creative effort.

  38. whskyjack says:

    I think the main problem I have seen in Randian followers is their inability to engage in abstract thought. There for when they run across an abstract concept they deny its existence.
    Which makes one question their humanity, because one thing that separates us from other animals is our ability to abstract

  39. DrSandman says:

    “You mean besides it displays ones total ignorance of human history, psychology, sociology, evolutionary biology, economics …….”

    I don’t see how that’s mutually exclusive, but perhaps it’s because my libertarian/conservative mind has trouble engaging in abstract thought…

  40. Stan Klein says:

    Through the Looking Glass: Your Ayn Rand quote looks like an excellent description of Wall Street. Wall Street no longer deals in goods, they gamble on nonsense, guarantee it with the life savings of real people, collect huge compensation for their gambling, and use part of the proceeds to corruptly influence the political system. They have freedom to defraud, act unethically, and be predatory toward anyone they deal with, and their main preoccupation is preserving that freedom while the money rolls in. That seems to be what so-called “unfettered free markets” are all about.

  41. whskyjack says:

    most likely

  42. gman says:

    “Would Picasso, Michaelangelo, Di Vinci, Bob Dylan, Cormac McCarthy, Jonas Salk, or Frank Lloyd Wright agree?”

    I don’t care if they would agree or not. Many similar people were doing similar things at the time. All of there people are products of a society and a period. All of these people were as Newton put it “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Without them something very close to or exactly what they did would have materialized.

    Think of Darwin rushing to publish Origin of Species before his concepts were popularized by somebody
    else.

    “Would companies like Ford or GE have ever risen to be titans in the American landscape”..No but GM and companies like GE would have arisen non the less.

  43. whskyjack says:

    libertarian/conservative mind

    Now there is a mind in conflict

  44. gman says:

    OBTW..Salk developed his vaccine at a time when the top US tax rate was 80-90%.

  45. whskyjack says:

    “Would Picasso, Michaelangelo, Di Vinci, Bob Dylan, Cormac McCarthy, Jonas Salk, or Frank Lloyd Wright agree?”

    Most definitely, they all would understand the vast network of support that enabled to develop their insight.
    The one man argument is a bit like asking what is the most important part of a car. The one man advocate would say the driver but the driver goes nowhere without gas, so the refinery is the most important except a car in poor mechanical shape goes nowhere. So the mechanic is the most important.
    except………

    What the reality is nothing gets done without the large complicated abstract mechanism we call society. As it is abstract libertarians deny its existence and pretend they “are the only ones up here”

  46. gman says:

    Individual excellence, effort and incentives are important..just not as important as the excellent individual or the person that PERCEIVES themselves as excellent think they are.

  47. jetejeter says:

    What Ayn Rand thought or meant is irrelevant now.What is relevant is the self-serving and dangerous hash her semi-learned followers have made of her work and are peddling.There is an antidote though to this kind of cultural and economic poison.Last Monday evening,April 23rd, in Washington D.C., Mr.Wendell Berry of Kentucky delivered the 41st annual Jefferson Lecture to a sold-out house.Go to the National Endowment for the Humanities website and read or listen to his address and see how long you can keep in your mind their fatuous and childish nonsense.

  48. J. Francis says:

    Hahaha love it! Great post Barry!

  49. whskyjack says:

    Petey

    all great minds

    For me of all the Lost geneation authors that I read as a young man, Stienbeck holds up the best.
    I loved Hemingway as a teen/young adult but now when I’m approaching 60 I find him unreadable. I’ve already solved the manhood stuff and all I want to do is say to his characters is “oh grow up”

  50. kcowan says:

    Such a great response to a cartoon post Barry. I guess that says something in itself.

    No one can claim that Ayn does not stimulate strong feelings…

  51. Frilton Miedman says:

    DrSandman Says:
    May 2nd, 2012 at 9:59 am
    ” Filton –
    1“From her perspective, the slightest hint of Social equalization was Communism, she completely failed to see the other equally bad opposite extreme – Fascism, pure Social Darwinism.”
    Ahhhh, I hate to burst your finely calibrated bubble, but…. Fascism, Communism, Social Darwinism, Collectivism, Socialism, Progressivism…. all different names for the same leftist Utopian fantasy of centralized control. Various forms of this collective mental defect have been inflicted on the US since Woodrow Wilson (at least).”

    ~~~

    Sandman, You need a political science course, that was your own bubble, Fascism is extreme right wing – pure Social Darwinism.

    Both Hitler and Mussolini were right wing, pure social Darwinists, both Fascists, both firmly believed that only the most powerful & successful should survive – all others were sub-human and to be treated as such.

    There are varying aspects of what Ayn would define as “socialism” in any form of governance, her problem was her fear of Communism that blinded her to the other right-wing extreme, the one you yourself are completely blind to.

  52. Soto says:

    SnowHill Pond said:
    ‘Would a “collaborative” production like the film “Good Fellas” be just as good or better if Scorsese had not directed? Or Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”, “Annie Hall”, etc.’

    Films are collaborative productions. Despite the five decade old auteur theory concerning directors, films are extremely collaborative productions where the ideas of the writer, the vision and direction of the director, and the skills of the actors, cinematographers, sound engineers, set designers, etc. unit to create a single artistic result. We mainly talk about the writers, actors and directors, but the “below the line” talent is equally important, which is why so many productions fight to get the best cinematographers, sound engineers, etc. on their film.

    There are many arts that are still lone pursuits, but film is not, and never was, one of them.

  53. DeDude says:

    Sort of interesting that the fictional kind of person being hailed in that book, has its biggest fan base among kids and lonely loon losers. Whining about the abuse that you could be subjected to if you actually made it – is so pathetic. At least make it there, before you start whining about how hard it is to be a 1%’er.

  54. CSF says:

    Weak cartoon. It’s simplistic and elitist in attacking the reader’s “tastes” instead of the book’s weak prose and simplistic character development.

    I’m not a Randian, but a little perspective: Rand grew up in Russia during the Revolution and Civil War, then learned about the famines and purges in her homeland during the 1930s. Tens of millions died. I guess she could have written about migrant farm workers in California during the Great Depression, but for understandable reasons she wrote about matters closer to home.

    Frilton, Rand hated Fascists almost as much Communists. A Fascist believes in “coordinated” industries and unions, the power of myth over reason, and the subversion of the individual to the needs of the state, as determined by the “will of the people.” That’s about as un-Randian as you can get.

    ~~~

    BR: Her writings and philosophy, as applied to Soviet Russia, makes lots of sense. Not so much in the USA.

  55. “…From 52:40, Hendry takes on the view of (disagreeing with) a weak USD and the US being supplanted as a global leader

    Hendry confesses to not being able to finish reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged at around 1:02:00 and explains why (apart from its length and lack of pictures)…noting that is too depressingly real in its description of the world we live in today…

    We have reached a profound point in economic history where the truth is unpalatable to the political class – and that truth is that the scale and magnitude of the problem is larger than their ability to respond – and it terrifies them.

    Concluding at 1:10:10 – “we are single-digit years away from the most profound market clearing moment”…”
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/hugh-hendry-europe-you-cant-make-how-bad-it

    or, of course, pay heed to ‘DeDude’s’ “take”, your choice..~

  56. Chad says:

    Only one mention of The Fountainhead? That is a much much better book in writing and in message. Atlas Shrugs is poorly written and boring.

    Rand’s philosophy only works in her fantasy world, which is about as real as the world in the Lord of the Rings (as a previous poster pointed out). Can anyone name any “Galtian” figure in history where there removal would cause a collapse? There really isn’t. Most great people are created by their circumstances, so if they are removed numerous others are waiting in the wings. Those people may be different than the original person, but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be great.

  57. DeDude says:

    BR your comment to CSF is actually a great point. If you interpret the book in the context of Stalinist Russia it makes more sense, than in the context of US. No doubt her personal views were seeded in a different setting. However, her book was set in the US and at best could be described as a gross misinterpretation of similarities that are not there. But for people who subscribe to hierarchical views of humans this book is like crack, very addictive and satisfying for a while.

    ~~~

    BR: That, and her utter lack of comprehension regarding Humans as social/group creatures.

  58. Bob A says:

    is it true she was ann coulter’s illegitimate mother?

  59. Greg0658 says:

    thanks MarkEH for the link .. about 40m.ish straw poll and after? PIIGS BRIC USA-CA MidE are those the prime slosh shores? not sure I like BRIC all wrapped up like that
    45m.ish – manufacture’g vs $push and confiscation worries and fairness to labor-muscles/brain-muscle .. digin O:-)
    54m.ish – only up from here, here, abit forgetfull only took 9min

    but thats what makes the world slosh for these milleniums
    ~~
    some blogger over there > “the true genius like Grigori Perelman, a brilliant mathematician from St. Petersbrug, who became famous worldwide after he had solved the Poincare conjecture”
    (gotta look into that when there’s time)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poincar%C3%A9_conjecture

  60. Greg0658 says:

    Soto I read you yesterday and wondered your connection to the trades .. now I see .. 1 question boy – are there aliens amongst us and how do we tell us/them apart? I guess thats 2 … I’m with ya seriously – if Darwin & animals taught me 1 thing its instinct
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instinct
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/among-vs-amongst/
    O:-)