_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NPR, Ayn Rand, And The Zombies From Outer Space

Who is John Galt?

That was the bumper sticker on the truck in front of me this morning. 

Coincidence? Perhaps. Given that this week NPR has been running a three part special on influential economists, which I’ve been listening to on the way into Anchorage each morning.

Today’s segment was about John Keynes.

Yesterday it was about Fredrick Hayek.

And Monday, it was about, wait, what? Ayn Rand?

One of these things is not like the other.

Not at all.

John Maynard Keynes was a brilliant British economist and mathematician.  In fact, he was the son of another brilliant British economist and his intellect was backed up by an impeccable education, credentials, and a lifetime of experience.  Keynes spent his entire life working in the field of macroeconomics, teaching macroeconomics, reading about macroeconomics, writing about macroeconomics, and developing what is now one of the major modern theories of macroeconomics.  Along the way he was: an editor and contributor to numerous prestigious economic journals and publications, an officer of the Royal Treasury specializing in international wartime credit, specifically called by the Crown to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British version of the government’s comptroller), financial representative for the British government to the Versailles Peace Conference at the end of WWI, an internationally known and respected financial consultant, the impetus behind Britain’s abandonment of the gold standard, the guy that invented modern (Keynesian!) macroeconomics with the publication of his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, served on the Court of Directors for the Bank of England during WWII, designed a way for England to pay for her WWII war debt without collapsing into depression after the war was over,  created a post war global economic system designed to prevent the exact financial crises we find ourselves in right now (it wasn’t adopted because England was overruled by the United States, but Keynes’ ideas did contribute to the creation of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and, later, the European Union). Keynes’ theories continue to have a direct influence on nearly every government and financial system in the modern world.  Agree with his theories or not, you can’t argue that Keynes didn’t know something about economics (well, you can, if you’re a C-student governor from Texas who nearly flunked economics, but I digress). 

Likewise, Friedrich Hayek was a brilliant economist with massive influence on modern economies.  His education, credentials, and experience were also impeccable. He held two doctorate degrees, one in law and one in political science, and also formally studied philosophy, psychology, and economics. He was a polymath of extraordinary ability. He is considered to be one of the most important economists and political philosophers of the last century.  He was a protégé of the famed Ludwig von Mises and one of the principle designers of the Austrian School (Theory) of Economics – and he won the Nobel Prize in 1974 for it.  During his lifetime he: founded the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research, taught at the London School of Economics, taught at the University of Chicago, taught at the University of Freiburg and then at the University of California, trained some of the most notable economists in recent history – along with a number of notable industrialists and world renown scientists – and wrote extensively about a variety of topics centered on economic theory.  His seminal work, The Road to Serfdom, continues to influence liberals, libertarians, and conservatives alike, from European kings to American presidents and congressmen to Glenn Beck.  Like Keynes, you don’t have to agree with him, but you do have to admit that Friedrich Hayek knew more than a little about economics.

Then there’s Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand? Novelist. Playwright. Screenwriter.

Ayn Rand.

Seriously?

On the same economic plane as John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek? 

You’re kidding, NPR, right?

That’s like comparing Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and L. Ron Hubbard – or maybe Jesus, Mohammed, and L. Ron Hubbard. Or maybe Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard.  Okay, anybody and L. Ron Hubbard.

Seriously, NPR, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Sure I’m being mostly snarky with the L. Ron comparison, but I didn’t come by that comparison accidentally.  Like Hubbard, Rand was basically a mediocre science fiction writer who started to believe in her own press releases and ended up founding an anti-religion composed of garrulous glassy-eyed fanatics.

According to the lead-in by NPR correspondent Andrea Seabrook, Rand was given equal time with actual economists because a number of folks seem to think that Atlas Shrugged is somehow on an equal footing with the General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money and The Road to Serfdom instead of the depressingly painful piece of schlock science fiction that it really is. Sure she sold a lot of books, so? So did L. Ron Hubbard.  What folks take Rand’s crap seriously?  Folks like Congressman Paul Ryan and Texas Governor Rick Perry, Speaker of the House John Boehner, not to mention certain Tea Party types who repeatedly paraphrase Rand’s silly nonsense about taxes being the same as a government mugging citizens at gunpoint – not that most said Tea Party types have actually read John Galt’s endless excruciating sixty page long monologue on the virtue of being a self-centered bastard flavored bastard with bastard filling and little bastard sprinkles on top at the end of Atlas Shrugged (How do I know they haven’t read it? Simple, they haven’t jammed knitting needles through their eyes).

Before we go any further, please understand something: I’m not saying your can’t, or shouldn’t, read and even enjoy Ayn Rand if that’s your thing. Hell some people actually like tofu, Justin Bieber, and the Ewok Christmas Special.  Me? Given a choice I’d rather be forced to sit with a hemorrhoidal badger in my lap through every single George W. Bush and/or Al Gore speech ever recorded than to have to read either Atlas Shrugged, or please God no Anthem, ever again.  If you like reading Rand as entertainment, as science fiction, as something that makes you think, well good on you. However, and this is my point, while you might enjoy reading an Alan Dean Foster knock off Star Wars novel, you probably don’t think we ought to run the country by the Jedi Code.  At least I hope not.

I can, at first blush, understand why right-wing and libertarian extremists love Ayn Rand – she was a bitter self-centered paranoid Bourgeois egotist who was desperately afraid every single day of her unhappy life that the commies and/or the dirty unwashed rabble were going to come in the middle of the night to kick down her door and take all of her stuff.  She might even have had a legitimate reason to feel that way given her escape from the Bolshevik Revolution and Soviet Russia, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to live with that fear gnawing wormlike at our brains. Rand thought service to your fellow man was a sucker’s game, charity was for saps, and that society should be based on every man for himself.  She was terrified of socialism in any form, including things like Unemployment Insurance, and her entire economic philosophy can best be summed up as “I got mine, fuck you” or maybe “Get a job, Hippies!”

Rand’s  Objectivism is little more than angry sullen masturbation.

So, yeah, you can certainly see why, on the surface, she would appeal to the likes of Paul Ryan, John Boehner, and the (various) governors of Texas. 

Now here’s the really ironic part, Rand’s biggest fans in government are, without exception, full frontal whole hog Jesus freaks. 

Of course, that’s not particularly surprising given that Creationists by definition peek out through their blinders to selectively cherry pick little bits and pieces in order to support their fantasy while ignoring anything that inconveniently contradicts their worldview.  Like say the fact that Ayn Rand was an atheist to a degree that makes PZ Myers and the folks over at Pharyngula look like born again snake handling Pentecostals. Somehow, despite the fact that these same people are so obsessed with the supposed godlessness of the immoral Left, not to mention the supposed question of Obama’s Christianity, they don’t have a problem with Rand’s loudly outspoken scorn of all things faith based.  Rand was also loudly outspoken when it came to a woman’s right to an abortion, funny how the Right doesn’t embrace that philosophy, eh?  Rand intensely disliked homosexuality, but said repeatedly that all laws denying gay people full and equal rights should be repealed.   She was also a speed freak, not the kind that goes bang bang fast, the kind that pops amphetamines like Milk Duds and turns into an exhausted emaciated paranoid.  She was against war in any form and one wonders what she would have made of the current conflict and her loyal adherents’ condemnation of Obama ending it (the same observation could be made about Jesus, I mean as long as we’re on the subject and all).  Of course, she did support Israel and had a habit of picking losing Republican candidates for president so maybe that’s why so many conservatives love her.  In the end, after she’d driven away all her rich egotist friends with her obnoxious selfishness and after the Objectivists had abandoned her and as she lay destitute and sick she accepted Medicare and Social Security and other such socialist safety nets in order for the taxpayers to treat her lung cancer – which she brought on herself through decades of chain smoking – instead of accepting the consequences of her own actions by simply dying a painful death as she and her libertarian followers enjoin everybody else to do.   Funny how Paul Ryan never seems to mention that bit of hypocrisy.  Do as I say, not as I do.

Oh yes, you can certainly see why the folks in bed with Wall Street bankers think Ayn Rand is just the most spiffy cupcake ever.

The simple truth of the matter is that Rand’s economic theories are brilliant because Rand wrote the story that way.  Just like Jerry Pournelle’s ultra right wing military strategy is always successful in the Falkenberg series or his laissez-faire libertarianism and ad hoc free market worked perfectly for the Rimrats in Birth of Fire. Just like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Eco-economics worked so elegantly and successfully in Blue Mars. And both Robinson and Pournelle spent a hell of a lot more time and effort designing their respective economies than Rand ever did.  When you control the story, of course your economic system works brilliantly.  However, the real world tends not to be so simple, unlike Pournelle’s John Christian Falkenberg you can’t just shoot all the liberals and then fly away into space – well I suppose you could, but it’s bound to get you talked about (note that Dr. Pournelle has an extensive background in matters military, political, and economic. He has advised more than one president and when he talks you should probably listen even if you don’t agree with him, plus he’s a hell of a writer and not just of military science fiction. Also, I love the Falkenberg’s Legion series).

Here’s the thing: learning macroeconomics from reading Atlas Shrugged is like learning psychology from Battlefield Earth.

But, hey, as long as we’re on the subject of running the country based on a second rate science fiction novel, why not L. Ron Hubbard? No really, at least the Church of Scientology knows how to make boat loads of money.  Sure we’ll all end up wired to the electronic version of a mood ring waiting for Xenu to suck out our engrams or intestines or whatever those goofy bastards believe, but no debt so we’ll have that going for us.  Just saying. Plus, free screenings of Mission Impossible IV: Tom Cruise, Still Crazier Than A Shithouse Rat.   Also, I think John Travolta has to bake you a fruitcake or give you a non-homoerotic baby oil neck rub or something when you sign up.

Of course, you know it doesn’t have to be shitty half-assed pulp fiction. I mean if we’re going to base our economy on a scifi novel why not the good stuff?

I’ve already mentioned Pournelle and Robinson, so how about Frank Herbert? We could run the government like they did in Dune.  Techno neofeuldalism, mystic drug addicts predict the future, giant sandworms. The spice must flow. Sting in a big man-diaper*. What’s not to like?

What, Herbert is too monarchist for you?

Ok how about something more libertarian? Say like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers?  Hey, it doesn’t get any more non-socialist than that. You have to earn the right to vote and hold office through voluntary military service – oops looks like that rules out about 99% of Washington on both sides of the aisle. Yeah, we’d better skip the Heinlein.

Or maybe not.

Hang on here a minute. Just hang on, not so fast.  Heinlein was a vet, a conservative libertarian, a staunch advocate of gun rights, small government, and individualism. And he was an avowed nudist, so there’s something in there for both conservatives and liberals. He wasn’t big on taxes or free medical treatment either. Maybe one of his other works? Unlike Rand’s two and a half novels, Heinlein wrote eighty something books, there’s got to be one we can use.

Let’s see, Farmer in the Sky? No.

Between Worlds? Podkayne of Mars? No.

Citizen of the Galaxy? Oh yeah, the anti-UN types would have a field day with that one.

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress? No, but we’d probably better keep that one away from the Occupy crowd, I’m just saying. Don’t need them dropping rocks on us from lunar orbit. Scratch that, maybe Moon is exactly what OWS needs, I know I’d like to drop an asteroid on the Berkeley PD right about now.

Space Cadet? Probably not, even though it would be almost worth it just to watch the New World Order conspiracy nuts dance around screaming like cannibals infected with the Mad Cow.  Ditto The Puppet Masters.

Farnham’s Freehold?  Closer. It sure doesn’t get much more laissez-faire than the end of Freehold. Can’t say I’m a big fan of shacking up with my dead daughter’s best friend in the middle of a minefield and raising mutant babies in the midst of a post-nuclear war wasteland though.

Ah ha! I’ve got it: Stranger in a Strange Land.  Woohoo! Free love for everybody. Booze! Gambling! We’ll all be eternally saved. Can you grok it, man?

What’s that?

Now I’m just being silly?

Well sure.  But it’s not my fault, NPR started it.

 

 


*Yes, if you must know, I did write this entire thing just so I could use the phrase: Sting in a big diaper. You’re welcome.

188 comments:

  1. Jonquil in CanucklandNovember 16, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    A+
    You just get better with every post. I am going to make my kids read this before they ever get close to an Ayn Rand novel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had to read Ayn Rand in high school. There oughta be a law, I'm telling you. I love to read, LOVE it like some people love chocolate, but Rand gave me a rash. The woman was a certified nutjob.

    Also...spit my tea with the Sting in a diaper thing. That is one of my most vivid memories of that movie. A movie which I have a hard time connecting to the book at all because it was just so weird.

    I listen to NPR. Mostly I listen to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, which I have found to be one of the BEST ways to get info about the lunacy and ineptitude of each and every candidate. Viewed through the squirting flower of that show, the candidates are funny...instead of just pathetic.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's probably because I just quoted the phrase earlier today (in connection with My Little Pony, of all things), but I can't help thinking of the phrase "say what you like about the tenets of Objectivism, but at least it's an ethos" while reading this.

    WV: orcinks - Obviously, orcs are all about the tattoos!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ahhh, thank you, thank you, thank you. Everyone of my reading friends in high school raved about Atlas Shrugged.

    Like NC Narrator, reading and chocolate, I had the same reaction to the book. Even at the ripe old age of 16 I just thought she was selfish and stupid.

    Of course, I thought Holden Caulfield was a whiny, little bastard, so I figured I was probably just missing some special 'understand stupid books gene'.

    Later I read more about Rand's life. More than 'I got mine, fuck you,' she wasn't shy about taking what was yours (like husbands) if she wanted them, either. Learning that just sort of validated my opinion.

    Then a couple of years ago, I thought I should try reading it as an adult --- maybe my younger self missed some fine points of understanding. Nope --- still a piece of shit writing.

    So, thank you sir. The empress is indeed naked.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Happened to run across the percentage of Congress who have served in the military the other day, 22%. Lowest it has been since before WWII.

    I read part of an Ann Rand novel once, the one about the architect. There is a reason I left my first wife.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hmm...well, I have to confess that I have enjoyed reading Ayn Rand. As an architect, The Fountainhead is practically required reading (unofficially of course). It is a fantasy when Roark blows up the building because he doesn't like the changes the client makes. Realistic? Nope, but kind of satisfying I have to say. Atlas Shrugged? Well, I enjoyed her concept of a strong work ethic. You need to make a sandwich? Make the best sandwich ever. You need to build a railroad? Build the best railroad ever. The no income tax and every person for himself stuff, well, not so realistic and not so kind. I am not a fan of that. So I guess that I pick and choose and I recognize that it is fiction, not the basis for our national economy.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love you!! Fantastic blog...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Love, love, love your post.

    I actually took up crocheting as a college freshman because I had to read Atlas Shrugged. The book was so mind numbing that I became hyperactive and had to do something with my hands. I had an easier time reading BEOWULF in Old English.

    I'd escaped it in high school as I had a plethora of hippie teachers who'd either been in the Peace Corps or just returned from some commune.

    Anyway, I would prefer a world economy not based on a novel that my paranoid lit. professor (who would only enter a room sideways) trumpeted.

    ReplyDelete
  9. If I had a dollar for everytime I've said to someone, "You know, Ayn Rand books were *fiction*" Well, I would be in a much better position to be the selfish prick she seems to have wanted everyone to be.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have a job at a 3 letter joint in Northern VA an hour out of DC. It must be the 5th Circle of Hell cause that town pisses me off something serious. Worse than Hell though, cause Hell is not HUMID. Can't wait to leave.

    I only caught the second article on Hayek and the GOP drones masturbating over "The Road to Serfdom". Like a clown on fire; funny, but sad. I compare this NPR piece to one they did on Grover Norquist aired yesterday. What an asshole. Years ago I read that his anti-tax dogma developed in part from his father's habit of taking a bite from all his children's ice cream as a "tax". (Teach your children well.) So Grover, like so many of his allies, is really just the oddball kid who got sidelined in high school, vowing to get even one day.

    NPR's Car Talk, Wait-Wait..., The Animal House, etc are great. But, Morning Edition can make my BP skyrocket...Cokie FUCKING Roberts?! WTF is her purpose?

    Also Semper Fi mate!

    ReplyDelete
  11. You're the first person I've encountered who recognized that Atlas Shrugged is sci-fi. The John Galt Libertopian non-commune where there is no government and no one pays taxes is only possible because of the John Galt Perpetual Motion Engine that sucks energy out of the air.

    Of course there ARE places around the globe now which have no government and no taxes. We call them "Failed States".

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh, come on, now, Rand wrote at least as well as those Twilight books, and look how many people love them with no good reason? And Holden Caulfield? I remember when each of my brothers had to read Catcher in the Rye in school, and they'd sit in the back seat of the family BelAir on our annual drive from Ft. Smith to Kansas City, pass it back and forth and giggle, just to get me to REALLY want to read it. My mother didn't allow it, of course. So this curiosity was still alive when I read it as part of my many Children's Literature courses (also where I had to read the first Twilight book.) To my knowledge, there are no classes at my college where one must read Ayn Rand, and that says a lot about her narrative ability, too. Long ago I read Fountainhead just to see why my older brother dropped out of his architecture studies and joined the Green Berets. That's the book he blamed.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sadly, as I watch Congress in action (or inaction), I end up thinking that Ayn Rand is above their heads, intellectually speaking, and that's a bit scary. If anyone but pubescent teen boys read Rand, I'd like to know who it is.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great post. Just thought I'd chime in to point out one huge irony in your main choice of comparison/contrast: L. Ron Hubbard probably knew more about Freud and Jung than Rand knew about economics.

    I'm not just talking out my ass: Dianetics (and Scientology) incorporates a whole lot of Freudian and Jungian concepts (e.g. the role of past psychic traumas in causing current neuroses) and simply renames them. Auditing, the original core "innovation" of Dianetics, essentially involves a psychoanalytic session (led by a non-state-licensed therapist, note) conducted with the use of a device that registers changes in skin conductivity (I'd describe it as "polygraph-ish", except it only measures one of the things a polygraph records--which would make it a "monograph", I guess, but for the fact that monographs are books or pamphlets, but I digress). Apparently, early editions of Dianetics even included a shout out to Freud in the acknowledgements.

    All of which seems ironic in light of Scientology's rabid anti-psychiatry posture. What happened is that Hubbard and one of his co-sponsors/contributors, Dr. Joseph Winter, went to the American Psychiatric Association for an endorsement and got tossed on their ear. The APA rejection may have been based in large part on problems with Hubbard's "clinical" methodology (one of the main issues that led to Hubbard's falling-out with Winter: Hubbard continued to make clinical claims and insist he had data to support them, Winter asked to see them and (probably realizing in due time that LRH didn't actually have any of the data he claimed) unsuccessfully lobbied Hubbard to let him do the trials and get the data himself; Hubbard not only declined, but meanwhile began to make more grandiose claims about Dianetics' ability to heal physical ailments that went far beyond the plausible). But it also has to be noted that Dianetics--a form of psychotherapy that (at the time, at least) could be performed on the cheap by amateurs in their living rooms did threaten the wallets of APA members.

    Anyway, the point being: there's direct and circumstantial evidence that Hubbard seriously (if informally) studied psychiatry, no matter what he said about it later. I'm not aware of any real evidence that Rand, who studied philosophy until her formal education ended and tended to credit Aristotle as the root she had branched from, ever paid much serious attention to actual economics. Hubbard initially credited Freud, borrowed and stole psychoanalytic concepts wholesale, and left Freudian and Jungian fingerprints all over his legacy even after he went crazier and tried to remove acknowledgements to them in a lifelong fit of pique at not being taken seriously by the establishment. Rand credited Aristotle and claimed every social, political and economic notion she pulled out of her ass was derived from pure reason and logic.

    Seriously, how batshit do you have to be when L. Ron Hubbard looks in comparison like a guy who actually did some work in the library before turning his paper in?

    ReplyDelete
  15. "That’s like comparing Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and L. Ron Hubbard – or maybe Jesus, Mohammed, and L. Ron Hubbard. Or maybe Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard. Okay, anybody and L. Ron Hubbard. " I haven't laughed so hard in WEEKS.

    I somehow managed to avoid Rand entirely (not quite sure how), and I'm not tempted at this point. Hubbard, I've read. Urgh. Don't know whether he actually had a ghostwriter for Dianetics, but it was actually better written than any of the stuff he did as straight science fiction. Not better as far as the base assumptions, just a bit more coherent.

    Most sf writers don't even try to do economics, or solid societal structures, because they tend to get in the way of the story. Heroes who actually have to earn a living don't have much time to spend hero-ing.

    I'm trying to think of any who actually put together a coherent structure that might have a chance of working at all. Coming up totally blank on economic systems that don't depend on magic, previous cataclysm, or major change in what constitutes a human being.

    My problem with Starship Troopers was that military service was the only route to a vote. Heinlein made a pretty good case, but I didn't think it held up overall. I could actually go with, say, five years of service over a broad range of occupations as a prerequisite for voting - if I didn't think it would manage to be totally subverted by whoever had pull. Still, if it could be done, I think the concept of having to earn your vote might be a valid one.

    Unfortunately, the society we've got could be veering uncomfortably close to Heinlein's If This Goes On, though not through the mechanism he described (Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy...).

    ReplyDelete
  16. "Atlas Shrugged". Just another badly written romance novel.

    ReplyDelete
  17. My only real exposure to Rand is the film version of "The Fountainhead" with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, one of the best bad movies I ever saw. Impossible for me to tell whether the filmmakers took the book to heart or were taking the piss.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'll watch pretty much anything with Patricia Neal in it.

    Also, "John Galt Perpetual Motion Machine" is going to be the name of my new speed metal band.

    ReplyDelete
  19. In Starship Troopers military service is not the only way to a vote, Federal Service is the only way to a vote, Juan makes it clear he is not interested in any of the non-military options in paperwork filled out in the first days of service.

    Also, other than Franchise is limited, we know nothing of the government. Capitalism certainly is implied and taxes are explicitly mentioned. Those in the military can't vote.

    Hubbard knew Heinlein and Asimov. I'm fairly certain he comes up in one of the Asimov autobiographies when he tells one of the two or both he could invent a religion that would make him a fortune. It might be in a Heinlein biography, but I think Asimov.

    Also Heinlein prior to WWII was quite liberal.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Heinlein also specifically said that that the government in Starship Troopers wasn't necessarily the best government, it was just the one they had.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Been away from the keyboard lately...

    I only caught part of the Rand segment as I pulled into the dump the other morning. When they played her voice I was immediately reminded of the lunch lady from elementary school - the one with the Pall Mall stained hairnet and an inch of ash hanging over the tub of whatever was being swilled that day. She'd squint one-eyed through the smoke plume at you. "Want some beets?" ::glop::

    The Hayek segment reminded me immediately of Perry's economics lesson in 'For Us, The Living' and makes me want to read more on the subject, not just the Heinlein bits.

    'most spiffy cupcake ever' made me scare the cats off their food this morning.

    Thanks, Jim.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Rand's voice on NPR reminded me of when they interviewed Orly Taitz the crazy birther lady.

    Maybe It's just me.

    ReplyDelete
  23. You are looking for the "Cat Who Walked Through Walls". One of my favorite Heinlein novels. Isaak Asimov blew my mind when I read him at 12, then again in my early 20's. Need to read it again now that I'm getting "over the hill".

    Support of Rand's "philosophy" of fear, greed and selfishness only serves to create that which they rail so hard against. Talk about bringing to a whole new level of "cutting your nose off despite your face"

    And I just LOVE to frustrate the hell out of my Christian friends by bringing up those points of Rands that are so anti-religious to them when they start spouting her platitudes.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I almost named ShopKat "Pixel" specifically for The Cat Who Walked Through Walls. She has very Pixel like qualities. Cat is probably my favorite Heinlein, after The Long Watch.

    ReplyDelete
  25. ok, many moments of laughed out loud here, your a funny MF! And in my attempts to keep up with your wicked brain I Googled quite a few things/people and ended up not only learning a lot but also seeing a request from Wikipedia for a donation. Say what you will about Wiki, it is a real 'for the people, by the people' thing and that is something I can get behind, all 5 bucks of me. But I'm off topic and on a box, sorry, your post, yes.
    My fave line, which is hard to pick amongst so many, is; (Ayn) "had a habit of picking losing Republican candidates for president so maybe that’s why so many conservatives love her" Lets hope that trend continues shall we. Oh, and one other fave line, you guessed it, "Sting in a big diaper".

    ReplyDelete
  26. I was in the navy, you can say "Mother Fucker" here, Moxie.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Good post!

    As Issac Asimov is reputed to have said about Libertarianism, “I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve.”

    Have enjoyed your posts for some time!
    From a retired Navy former CT warrant.

    ReplyDelete
  28. CT Warrant? Do we know each other?

    Drop me an email if you don't want to be public, Warrant. Otherwise, I'm always glad to have another CWO around here - though the world might not survive it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Reading back through the comments I've got to say that so far my favorite is:

    Cokie FUCKING Roberts?! WTF is her purpose?

    Leave it to a Marine to cut right to the chase. What the fuck is her purpose indeed? I've often wondered that.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I was in the navy, you can say "Mother Fucker" here, Moxie.

    All of a sudden I want to channel my inner Coleman A. Young. "Aloha Mother Fuckers!"

    ReplyDelete
  31. I'm actually in favor of earning your franchise after completing [2 <= some number of <= 5] years of contributing to the nation (not solely military, please). I'm not saying it'd be ideal; I do think it would be an improvement in the pool of available voters, and might get us a better gummint.

    While Friday's my favorite Heinlein, I am really fond of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and I make time to reread Starship Troopers (accompanied by The Forever War) every couple of years.

    I am also glad I was not drinking a beverage while reading this post.

    I would like to put John Galt Perpetual Motion Machine on a double bill with Captain Nemo's Motorcar.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Guess what Jim?, I named my cat Pixel. Because she IS a small point of life in my life and because she THINKS she can walk through walls, well, at least she keeps trying! Gotta love perseverance.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Wait, as a liberal I have to be for public nudity? Damn it. Does anybody have the rule book I could borrow? I keep hating to get blind sided by these things. Especially that winter is now here.

    Never read Rand, I just don't like revenge fantasy fiction.

    Also, Cookie Roberts? She's the matronly type that can remind us all that at one time we behaved nicely to each other. And we had lace doilies for coasters, instead of old AOL disks. (Man, did I just date myself or what)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Heh, Steve, I think you might have misread that. I didn't say that public nudity was for liberals (though, you know, if the flip-flop fits). Given the number of conservatives caught in sex scandals lately I actually thought they would go for the nudity part.

    What?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Not to mention Sting in a man diaper.

    What? Too soon?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Normally I wouldn't endorse a political philosophy inspired by bad pulp fiction, but you just gave me a great idea for a utopian civilization based on “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?”

    ReplyDelete
  37. " Given the number of conservatives caught in sex scandals lately I actually thought they would go for the nudity part."

    NO! NO! NO! We do NOT need those kind of images, there is NOT enough eyeball bleach in this Universe!

    Besides, I'd much rather see Sting in a diaper than David Vitter or Newtie. Oh, Good Lord-Herman Cain? Just sayin'.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Science fiction writer and critic Alexei Panshin uses an objective measure of short story quality - selection for inclusion in anthologies - to show that Hubbard's actual influence on sf was smaller than his reputation:

    http://www.enter.net/~torve/higher/hubbard.html


    Panshin, like myself much impressed with Heinlein as a young reader, became VERY disillusioned with him. His theory as to how and when Heinlein lost his way is presented in an essay, "When the Quest Ended":

    http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/questended.html

    My favorite Heinlein novel is Citizen of the Galaxy. Earlier this year, I was talking to my wife about how important science fiction had been to me as a child, and I ended up reading her the whole book one Saturday. We enjoyed it.

    As for me and Ayn Rand, I much enjoyed The Fountainhead when I read it in junior high. I would listen to Tchaikovsky symphonies while I read it - how grand it all was. I was more mature when I tried to read Atlas Shrugged, and abandoned it after 100 pages.

    Mr. Hubbard's cult is regarded with much suspicion by some European governments, and I believe they are right.

    ReplyDelete
  39. 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. -- John Rogers

    Sorry, I think of that everytime someone mentions that silly fantasy novel writer (and I'll call it FANTASY rather than SCI-FI because perpetual motion is as impossible as magic pumpkins that turn into coaches, glitter vampires, and Invisible Hands). But it's so apt, don't you think?

    - Badtux the Snark-appreciatin' Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  40. It's quite apt, Tux. I love that quote, and wish I'd written myself.

    John Rogers and his blog Kung Fu Monkey (not to mention his show Leverage) are some of my very favorite things in the world.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Dude, I so love your rants. Odd you'd mention Pharyngula today, 'cause one of the Why I Am An Atheist posters there came up with a goodie -

    "So, in the best tradition of personality psychology in categorising human beings, I observe a psychological continuum between those who perceive the world in terms of wish-fulfillment (believers) and those who perceive the world in terms of evidence (rationalists). Or, in other words, a continuum based on an individual’s existential honesty."

    [bonus points for anyone translating that into 4-letter-speak, I'm not up to it at the moment]

    Wish-fulfillment. That's itsky. Ayn Rand as Wish Sandwich. Feeling resentful? Here's a Wish Sandwich for ya.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I think I'm going to have to quit reading here. I've spent years cleaning up my language, in 8th grade a friend told me I turned the air blue around me. Yes, my father was Navy in the war and I was an exceptional student. I read Rand in highschool and can't remember much about it, except one book got to the point where I thought, "that's stupid, not real", don't remember which book - who cares? Don't usually like sci-fi, might look up heinlein.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Damn, you're poorly read. Your groupies are too dumb to notice.

    Ayn Rand was known for her devotion to atheism and uncompromising opposition to religion.

    That's not some Jesus freak - that's you numb nuts.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Buwah? I think I actually made the Scooby Doo double take there.

    I typically delete idiots without comment, and I've already wacked half a dozen froathy Randians on this post today. And I see no reason to respond to those who seem to be completely missing the brain lobe necessary for reading comprehension. I'm not a neurologist, it's not my job to fix brain damage.

    But, man that last anonymous bit of trollage is just too fucking funny not to leave up for ridicule.

    Feel free to throw whatever rotton fruit you have at hand. Please.

    ReplyDelete
  45. One of my mothers (I have several, long story there) had me read Rand in an effort to bring me to her side of things, which she views as totally Liberal (which is something else I am completely confused on, still, but whatever). I remember trying and trying to get through it, then handing it back to her and saying, "This is crap." She was quite confused that I didn't like it. Her response to this (me being 13 at the time) was that I would understand it when I got older, and when I tried to read it again later, it was still crap. I skimmed it to write a report and review (which I passed both, including a scathing review of it) and it was still absolute dogshit.

    I concur, there should be a law.

    However, as much as I hate the fact that they listed her as a prominent figure in the realm of economics, she has, unfortunately, had a significant effect on this country's economic policies since before I was born. She managed to infect a group of economists with her brand of bullshit cult mentality of anti-regulatory anti-government think, and these people got put into power. These people helped steer our gigantic ship onto the rocks.

    Ugh. Ayn Rand gives me the creeps on so many levels.

    I would much rather take Stranger in a Strange Land, thank you. I completely grok that. :D

    ReplyDelete
  46. Say what? What you smokin' Anon? Pharyngula is, like, the most famous atheist site on the Internets, and if ya read the original post, basically Jim sez Ayn Rand was so atheist that the Pharyngulites look like Jesus freaks. Yet somehow you read that as claiming Jim is sayin' Ayn was a Jeeeezus freak? Man, you're smart, S-M-R-T. You're so S-M-R-T that I bet you can't even figure out how I'm makin' fun of ya ;).

    - Badtux the Viciously Smart Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  47. Honest to Cthulhu, I can't stop laughing. I may have anonymous' comment bronzed and mounted over my fireplace.

    What was that line from Ruthless People? Oh yes, "We just may be looking at the stupidest person in the world..."

    ReplyDelete
  48. A while ago, I came up with a three-step process for how to reach a conclusion in Objectivism, based on having read Atlas Shrugged: starting with obvious statements, apply bad reasoning, to deduce insane assertions.

    Though in defense of NPR, their story was about philosophers who have influenced current economic theory, not philosophers who necessarily deserve to have done so.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Another splendid rant, Jim. The L. Ron Hubbard analogy is right on. Have you ever read John Scalzi's post on Atlas Shrugged? He says that the ideas are crap, but damn, Rand could plot.
    I do give credit to Rand for jolting me out of my Maoist radicalism in the early 70s. (I was even a member of the White Panther Party) Eventually I got deprogrammed & drifted to left/libertarian views I still have.
    And yes, I like Pournelle, Robinson (both Kim & Spider), Heinlein, etc. You may not agree with the ideas, but they could write the whole package, not just plot.
    Keep it up!

    Gus

    ReplyDelete
  50. On target, Jim.

    See, I wasn't required to read "Atlas Shrugged" when I was in school, so I didn't. There was a buzz about it in some circles, but I just never had the time to deal with it.

    About six months or a year ago, it was making the news again, and I said, "What the hell." I got a copy from the library and dutifully slogged my way through the third-rate prose of a second-rate thinker (or was it the other way around?) Anyway, when I got to the end, I closed the book, set it down, and thought, "That's IT? "That's her solution the economic and political ills of the world? "What a load of crap!"

    I really think that few of those in politics that are championing the book have read it, and even fewer have understood it.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Mad Photog/Gus, I'm not particularly welcome at Scalzi's Whatever and frankly I'm just as happy to keep it that way.

    ReplyDelete
  52. The intutive flash of enlightenment that gave me understanding of Rand's thinking is that all of her heros had blue eyes and the heroines had brown eyes. Ayn had brown eyes.

    ReplyDelete
  53. cokie roberts is a (former) co-worker, family friend and god mother to a niece. Nice person.

    ReplyDelete
  54. With regard to Panshin

    "And all the odder it seems, too, when you stop to think that Heinlein was quoting Henry Stimson, the Secretary of State who, when the U.S. cracked Japan’s most secret code in the days before World War II, had wanted to hear no more about it."

    The quote is from the Panshin essay cited above, and while it was said or is attributed to SecState Stimson, it was said in 1929 or prior, 1929 being when he had the State Dept. withdraw funds from 'The Black Chamber', not exactly the days before WWII.

    If that be the level of accuracy that Panshin reached with Heinlein, I can see why Mrs. Heinlein turned her back to him.

    on Panshin I'm with Spider Robinson http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/works/articles/rahrahrah.html

    ReplyDelete
  55. NPR has been scared into submission by the teabaggers....stick a fork in em. RIP!

    ReplyDelete
  56. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  57. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  59. http://www.heinleinsociety.org/

    rah/works/articles/rahrahrah.html

    For some reason the full link keeps getting abbreviated.

    ReplyDelete
  60. You hit my sweet spot with this one. Despise Ayn Rand, have since college - thanks for summing up my much longer rants that tend to drive friends outdoors looking for air as well as their car keys.

    And AND I used Pournelle's Legion series in my master's thesis. Asimov, Heinlein (STRANGER changed my life), all the good stuff I should have been reading while finishing Rand for an assignment.

    Now I have to finish getting the tea out of my keyboard.

    ReplyDelete
  61. If we're going to have a sci-fi economy, can we have the guilds of Discworld? No one makes money really, but we could be mightily amused.

    And Jim, you're right, Ayn Rand does sound quite a bit like Gnarly Tits.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Nice
    Polite
    Republicans

    I clicked the I hate you tab but I really don't! Rand is soooo ridiculous, most who reference her have never read one word, and have never listened to her interviews.

    How does Atlas Shrugged deal with common man? How does Dagny (Rand in disguise) treat her loyal assistant, the common man, as the "evil" society crumbles? She leaves him to fucking die on the train tracks! Because that is what Objectivism holds the mass of humanity is nothing and the few brilliant beautiful people are everything

    ReplyDelete
  63. Thank you Jim.

    If you have the time could you take the time to point me to a place that has the code for that.

    I've tried a few, failed, and not bothered going further as I don't link often and Chrome will link without the actual hyperlink.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Our school has been trying to give away The Fountainhead with no success. They are in pristine condition and sitting on the bottom shelf of my cabinet completely unused. I just can't muster the grace to harness my revulsion to even consider doing anything with them other than using them as toilet paper.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Be careful, WakeUpAmerica, that's how you get rectal cancer.

    Warner, I'll post the code when I get near a computer with a keyboard. Typing symbols on glass is no fun. Give me a couple hours. It's not Chrome, by the way, it's Blogger's comment function. Sooner or later I'll have to upgrade.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Back in the day, I lived with my then-BF on a yacht named Atlas Shrugged. (Not surprisingly, that relationship didn't work out. What was your first clue...?) In my defense, I had not yet read the book, and my mother loved it. I figured I ought to read it, if for no other reason that I could then intelligently answer questions about the unusual name of the boat.

    So I picked up a copy (which practially requires a forklift) and DID read it - mostly. I got to some point where it was kind of blah, blah, skip 30 pages, still blah blah, skip another 30 - Srsly? STILL blah blah...? Do we have an knitting needles...?

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, indeed. I could not figure out why my mother (who is in fact very intelligent) and my then-BF (ditto) liked this thing. Expecially I could not figure out why HE like it enough to name a beautiful piece of work like that boat - a 1960 Chris-Craft yacht, teak decks, double-plank mahogany hulls, lines to make you weep - after that book. Use it for an anchor, yes. Use it for a name for such a lovely lady as that boat? Why, why WHY?

    But, since I did not want to be thrown overboard into the Susquehana River - most especially into the waters of the marina where people flush their latrines - I kept my mouth shut. I felt a bit guilty that I somehow had missed the brilliance of that seminal work. I didn't like it, I thought the author was internally inconsistent, and ultimately it was so tiresome I could not really finish it.

    I haven't thought about that for a long time. But after reading this post... I feel better now.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Ayn Rand was real popular with the youngsters when I was attending college (I was 30 at the time), so I read just about all of her stuff out of curiosity.

    About the only worthwhile observation I found in the entirety of Atlas Shrugged was that a fully Marxist ideal of "each according to his need" was way too easy to abuse.

    It took me a while to put my finger on exactly what bugged me about her so-called philosophy, but the flaw was so obvious once I did that I literally smacked my hand to my forehead.

    It can briefly be summed up as "I'm the fittest which means nothing bad is gonna happen to me EVER"

    This probably explains why the book is often popular with adolescents--a great many of them haven't had bad luck beat them down. They haven't been weak due to illness, or experienced a handicap, nor have most of them lost someone dear to them due to a stupid twist of fate that wasn't anybody's fault.

    Ayn Rand lacked empathy, pure and simple. She had absolutely no grasp of the concept "there but for the Grace of God go I", which, in my opinion, is pertinent even to an atheist.

    There is so much shit that happens that isn't anybody's fault. Heart attacks and cancer aren't limited to people who don't eat right or exercise enough.

    None of us are immune to disaster, and even if we make it successfully through our adult years without some major setbacks, one day we're going to be old and frail--it is a rare, rare RARE person that doesn't have some kind of health problem once they hit their 60's and 70's, even if it's only something easily treated like high blood pressure.

    And sure enough, when Any Rand grew old and frail, she needed help. Fortunately for her, she lived in our world and not the one of Atlas Shrugged.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Fortunately for her, she lived in our world and not the one of Atlas Shrugged.

    Goddamnit, I wish I had written that. Exactly that. Well said, Zola

    ReplyDelete
  69. Two minor corrections to an otherwise wonderful article (again).

    It's Myers, not Meyer, and it's cephalopods we handle, not snakes.

    :-)

    JC

    ReplyDelete
  70. JackC,

    I feel like Randy Quaid in Independence Day after he crop dusted the wrong field, "Are you sure?"

    I can't believe I screwed that up. It's fixed. Except for the snake part, that I'm leaving

    ReplyDelete
  71. Jim: "John Galt Perpetual Motion Machine" is the name of my Rush cover band. </paul-and-storm>

    ----

    Steve: Not only do I remember AOL coasters, I remember when AOL mailed out something that was actually useful. (Before CDs, they mailed out floppies that could be reformatted.)

    ----

    Jim again: My first thought on reading Anon's comment was: "What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

    Of course, that goes through my head on a regular basis, considering the idiots I argue with.

    ReplyDelete
  72. I'm sure PZ appreciates the correction, Jim. I am here thanks to one of the denizens there, and you are probably going to get quite a few others (I see one already!) - all of whom will probably give you warm, tentacle-y hugs.

    Lots of us read your stuff and love it.

    JC

    ReplyDelete
  73. Thanks, JackC. I drop by Pharyngula on a fairly regular basis. Commenting upon occasion. The problem is that I'm a comment junkie and I rarely have time to read more than one post over there.

    Please ask PZ not to sic his Squid Posse on me, I beg humble pardon for the misspelling which I blame entirely on Jesus.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Audley Z. DarkheartNovember 19, 2011 at 5:49 AM

    Jim,
    I laughed so hard that I squirted coffee out my nose. So funny and so true.

    I refused to read Rand in high school (I have taste, after all), but I knew several simpering, snotty nosed, "deep thinking" types that carried Atlas Shrugged around like it was a goddamn holy book. Thankfully, they grew out of their idolatry-- it's a sad state of affairs when our policy makers can't see that crap for what it is.

    (Apologies if this posts more than once. My phone is not a fan of this commenting system. :-/)

    ReplyDelete
  75. Dear Anonymous Troll:

    “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”
    ― Alan Greenspan

    ReplyDelete
  76. Oh. And while we're on the subject of wing nuts deciding to adopt science fiction models to inform their worldview, can we get a shout-out for Robert Anton Wilson's "Illuminati" books and the impact they've had on the "international conspiracy" crowd?
    I knew Bob Wilson back in the early '70s (just as his tenure as an editor for Playboy was winding down) and am confident he's chuckling in his grave -- or freezer over the modern day applications of what was, for him, little more than a recreational substance induced goof that evolved into a steady money-maker for the last third of his life.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Well, there's those Left Behind books, speaking of people who live their lives in in some kind of fantasy land.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Audley Z. Darkheart - that would be me you are talking about. Please allow that one can grow in life.

    JC

    ReplyDelete
  79. I grow about an inch a year.

    Around.

    ;)

    ReplyDelete
  80. JackC,
    No, I know most people grow out of the lovin' Ayn Rand stage. We all have embarrassing moments from our youth. :)

    It's the ones that don't grow out of it that scare me.

    ReplyDelete
  81. Blast of fresh air. I'm so sick of NPR. They've been lowering their common denominator for 20 years. Now, if they all had a mouthful, none of them would spit it out. None of them would even know it.

    ReplyDelete
  82. I was JUST gonna say, isn't the point of Ayn Rand that you're supposed to outgrow her?

    It's... infantile, fer gossakes! That kind of egocentric Me-ism is for toddlers! We're supposed to develop past that by, like, age 8 or 9!

    Which tells you a lot about the current state of the mental maturation of the Republican party, actually.

    I'm SO GLAD I missed that NPR segment, giving her equal time with Hayek and Keynes indeed.

    *hmph*

    WV: thydr -- what we're thipping with Thanksgiving dinner.

    ReplyDelete
  83. BTW Jim, best reason to upgrade to a better blog host? Your visitors will actually be able to use HTTPS to comment on it.

    ReplyDelete
  84. I know, but Blogger is like my favorite ratty old sweater. I'm comfortable with it, even if you can see my undershirt through it.

    The amount of work, not to mention risk, involved in converting Stonekettle Station to a different host fills me with a major case of waaawaaaadonwanna.

    ReplyDelete
  85. =heh= Wordpress will import everything you've got, including comments, without a hitch. It managed my 6 year-old LJ and moved all the posts to my self-hosted WP swimmingly.

    The interface is quite different, and I know how you LOVE change... ;)

    WV: pectra -- what astrophysicists are forced to type when their "s" keys don't work.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Also, I highly recommend A Small Orange for your hosting needs, without reservation. Small company, sustainable policies, easy to work with -- their customer service is award-winning, or should be.

    Tell them I sent you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  87. Sting in a big diaper.

    I'm glad I'm not the only person who ever thought that about that crappy version of Dune.

    And Ayn Rand/L.Ron Hubbard?

    Spot on.

    And the Federal Service idea of Heinlein? I love that idea. And politics would count - in the NEGATIVE.

    ReplyDelete
  88. I think you were unfair to Anthem, it was much better than her other books.

    If one is going to compose a book of pure drivel, it should at least be short.

    On this measure, Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead were several times worse.

    ReplyDelete
  89. I enjoyed every bit of this post except the Alan Dean Foster reference. Considering how much of the original Star Wars backstory ADF invented, it seems like George Lucas is the one coming up with the knock-offs.

    ReplyDelete
  90. @Pelle, well, you know, I certainly can't argue your point ;)

    ReplyDelete
  91. I enjoyed your post. A quick scan of your other postings leads me to the conclusion that you are well read, astute and of an independent mind.

    First let me state that I share your disillusionment with NPR. Ayn Rand has no business being compared to Hayek and Keynes. As your blog evinces, the two men were very accomplished economists whose records speak for them. Rand on the other hand should be classified as a political philosopher, with here primary treatise her theory of Objectivism.

    Ayn Rand seems to be coming up in conversation more frequently than normal these days. Most of it comes in the form of a half-hearted critique of Rand, based on the actions of a self-proclaimed disciple, namely Alan Greenspan.

    To read the Fountainhead, and think it anything but a piece of fiction is a mistake of the reader, not the writer. To criticize it for the political undertones in contains is also to criticize Dickens’ Great Expectations for its exposure of the class structure of society at the time, or any other novel for that matter, great or otherwise, that espouses the political views of the author. How many other novels are still quoted from the thirties? Enough said.

    Unfortunately and all too often, we mimic the sound-bite nature of today’s news media. Rarely do people actually research the topics they speak of, or about, but instead espouse ideas based in emotion and opinions not grounded in facts. Furthermore we tend to throw out all of the ideas of a person as irrational or inconsequential if we disagree with one point or one idea represented. Rand would call these people second-handers, and defines them as “a parasite of cognition, who accepts the ideas of others on faith.”

    NOTE: As I write this, I am barricading my proverbial house, preparing for the barrage of criticism about to be unleashed upon me. Such is the nature of being on the “wrong” side of a debate.

    I read the Fountainhead in my early twenties. At the time, the goal-oriented, individualistic ideals that were found between the lines of text appealed to me. I turned to Leonard Peikoff’s “Objectivism: the philosophy of Any Rand for a further study of the ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  92. It seems to me that Rand spend much of her time thinking about thinking – or more specifically thinking about how others go through the process of thinking and decision making and how or upon what foundations should they rest their thinking. Her philosophy of Objectivism was in large part defined by Logic, Reason and Virtue and how she defined them.

    Rand did not discover Logic, Aristotle did. But Rand expanded on the study of logic and believed that logic and reason should be the basis of thought and observation. She wrote: “If man knew everything about reality in a single insight, logic would be needless. If man reached conceptual truth as he does perceptual fact, in a succession of unconnected self-evidences, logic would be needless. This, however, is not the nature of a conceptual being. We organize sense data in steps, and in a definite order, building new integrations on earlier ones. It is for this reason that a method of moving from one step to the next is required, and that is what logic provides.”

    Ayn Rand defined “Reason” as “the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by a man’s senses.” Reason is the means by which we organize sensory data into using or following the principles of logic. Reason allows us to categorize incoming data, interpret its meaning, put it into context and allow us to decide what to do with or how to act upon that data.

    What is not to like or to agree with here? Do these seem like the ideas of a “nut-job” as some have proclaimed?

    Contrast these theories with emotion as the basis for decision-making. If our decisions are based in emotion, then they are subject to our minds past conclusions and the “records” we have kept about the past. Not to say that we should not learn from the past, but as every prospectus we read states “past performance is not an indication of future profits”. As Rand would state, emotion is a faculty that is not of perception, but of reaction to one’s perceptions. This is a critical distinction.

    Compare Rand’s philosophy with Steven Covey’s Habit number 1: Be Proactive. Not unlike Rand, Covey believes that as human beings we are responsible for our own lives – going so far as to break down the word responsibility to Response – and Ability, the ability to chose our response. The highly proactive person does not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior.

    I believe Rand would agree with Covey: that we human beings have the ability to chose our response to any given stimuli.

    Rand was obsessed with how we acquire knowledge: by what means, through what process. She defined “knowledge” as “a mental grasp of a fact of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation. She was a fan of empirical knowledge, first-hand observation.

    Much has been written about Rand’s atheism. I don’t know whether or not Any Rand had any spiritual beliefs, or had any sense of an after life, and frankly don’t care. What I do understand from her readings is that she did not believe that religion should be the basis of decision-making. Rand believed that “mysticism is the theory that man has a means of knowledge other than sense perception or reason, such as revelation, faith, and the like”. I can’t disagree with her in this. Would any of us find it rational for someone to say “God told me last night to buy 100 shares in company XYZ, so I did?

    There are some places where Rand’s philosophies have failed – where reality has not lived up to her philosophical ideals. Nowhere is this more evident than in her belief in unfettered capitalism. Rand wrote: “Under capitalism, state and economics are separated just as state and church are separated and for the same reasons.” I see this not so much a failure of philosophy, but of assigning more respect for man’s cognitive reasoning powers and logic that is warranted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To Mike B: I used to teach logic and critical thinking. One of the texts we used was Rand's book on the virtue's of capitalism. The task was to identify at least one logical error or fallacy on any random page of the book! It was incredibly easy. There were always several at least. She clearly couldn't grasp even the simplest axioms of formal logic if they got in the way of her demented and plain crazy beliefs.

      Delete
  93. Recent decades have been a grand experiment in what happens when markets and men are left unregulated. A cursory list of recent failures: the ponzi schemes of Bernie Madoff, and MF Global, the subprime lending and mortgage-gate moral hazards are all testament to the markets inability to self-regulate. These incidents, along with the failings of Long Term Capital Management should have by now put to bed any validity of efficient market theories. A study of the behavioral investing writings of James Montier, or the study of Robert Prechter’s ideas of Socionomics will enlighten the reader to the “truths” that men and markets are not efficient, not rational, but emotional and fall prey to hearding-behaviors, sentiment, momentum and the primal emotions of fear and greed.

    Here we have to be careful to understand the timing and context of Rand’s writings. Rand’s family fled the Bolshevik revolution and fled to the crimea. When she returned to attend the University of Petrograd, she witnessed the takeover of the university by the communists. She wrote the Fountainhead in the midst of the Great Depression.

    It is easy for us today to sit back in our glass house and ridicule her apparent blind faith in capitalism, but understanding the comparative struggles against communism of Russia, or Fascism of Italy or Germany is, I think, critical to putting her views into context.

    It is equally interesting to observe that Rand was apparently blind to the primal emotions being exhibited by market participants in the 20’s and 30’s.

    Ayn Rand found independence and the individual to be paramount. She was not one to support committee-based decisions or groupthink. She believed in the rights of the individual, and was even supportive of government intervention (yes we’re talking about Rand here) to support the rights of the individual. In a well-known quote from the Fountainhead, Mallory says to Roark: Don't help me or serve me, but let me see it once, because I need it. Don't work for my happiness, my brothers—show me yours—show me that it is possible—show me your achievement—and the knowledge will give me the courage for mine.”

    Ayn Rand was not a philanthropist. She believed in the virtue of wealth creation, not wealth redistribution, arguing wealth first had to be created before it could be distributed. She thought it interesting that society praises men for giving away their wealth, yet it almost holds them in contempt or indifference for creating that same wealth in the first place.

    Enough on Rand, well, sort of…

    I find it appropriate that we are having this discussion about Rand near the passing of Steve Jobs.

    Note to self: Bracing for another round of attacks.

    In looking back on the career of Steve Jobs, it seemed to me that he lived many of the ideas of Ayn Rand.

    Very few remark that Steve was not a philanthropist. He rarely if ever gave to charities. He made it a point to note that his charity was Apple, and that he chose to give to Apple.

    Steve was very independent in his thinking. Virtually no one supported his decision to open Apple stores. At the time, he was questioned to the point of ridicule. Where is the ridicule today?

    While I don’t have firsthand knowledge, by reputation, he was a driven producer, committing him and those who worked along side him to perfection. He was a creator of ideas, and of technology. He seemingly loved to disrupt inefficient legacy markets. Is it a stretch to state that his reasons for wanting to change those markets were founded on reason and logic?

    I find it more than a little ironic that we can, in one breath, praise Steve Jobs as an icon of American ingenuity, but in the next breath ridicule the philosophies of Ayn Rand as having no merit or validity.

    ReplyDelete
  94. One thing that always amazes me about Randians is that they confuse volume with quality, and because their arguments lack quality, make up for it with volume instead. Sort of like their mother figure, now that I think of it -- if you want to kill a mugger, throw a volume of Atlas Shrugged at him. I guarantee that if it hits, that mugger will mug no more.

    Regarding Steve Jobs, he was a marketing genius. That's all. He invented nothing. He created nothing. The whole reason he became friends with Steve Wozniak was to con Steve Wozniak into doing the work at Atari that Jobs had been hired to do, but lacked the technical skills to do. So tell me, who should have become a millionaire from the iPhone, iMac, iEverything? Steve Jobs, whose primary function was to convince us that we needed an iDevice? Or the brilliant engineers and designers who actually created the iUniverse? Who was the parasite at Apple -- the workers who actually created the product, or Steve Jobs, who would have had nothing, nada, zero, zilch if not for those brilliant engineers and designers and manufacturing engineers and technicians who actually created and built the products?

    So let's look at, say, American Airlines. Their CEO got paid $5.2M last year. Did he fly a single plane? No. Did he prepare even one jet for flight? No. Did he serve a single meal in-flight? No. Yet without those pilots and mechanics and flight attendants, American Airlines would not exist -- no pilots, no fly. So who is going to get a big paycut as part of AMR's plan to deal with losing money last year? Hint: It isn't Mr. Arpey. Who's the leech and looter here -- Gerard Arpey, or the mechanics and pilots and flight attendants who want their share of the pie that wouldn't exist without them?

    Answer those questions honestly, and you'll realize why Ayn Rand's nonsense is just that -- nonsense. Because the people who get rich are *not* the creators. The creators are people like me, designers and engineers who come up with ideas for new products. We don't get rich. Believe me, I'm doing okay, but rich I ain't. Instead, the people who get rich are the *true* looters and leeches, they are people who get rich off the labor of others, then have the audacity to call themselves "creators". Bah humbug!

    - Badtux the Engineer Penguin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love this. I tried to explain this to an Objectivist once and his take was that the people who made everything actually WORK did not deserve anything above and beyond what they had already agreed to by accepting the job. And if they didn't like what they got, they should just go work elsewhere.

      Of course, he also doesn't think that there should be ANY publicly supported education.

      I don't talk politics with him any more.

      Delete
  95. Thank you Mike B. You alone sound as though you have studied Ayn Rand's work and find it non-threatening because of your intellectual stature. I can't help noticing that many of Rand's critics are quick to say that they found it boring and skimmed through it, rushing to conclusions that reflect personal insecurities rather than rational analysis. Rand's style sets a trap for these people and they hate her for it. This wounded, defensive dialogue is almost palpable in the vehement outpourings against her. Her writing lays bare some of the nastiest human traits and touches many sore spots of guilt in readers. This betrays an outsized emotional reaction of hatred. If we find her characterization of towering and unwavering integrity intimidating perhaps its time for some introspection. John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a reason that Rand ISN'T studied in any philosophy dept outside the USA - she was a lousy thinker (I see an earlier post stating her works were used as examples of logically fallacious reasoning). The 'Squashed Philosophers' website sums up the take on Rand outside the US:

      "As a political polemicist, her words have reached the heights of power. But she often outrages technical philosophers for having achieved those heights largely by simply making stuff up. Although she pretends to be a precise and analytic philosopher in the mould of Aristotle, and uses lots of philosophical words to impress, she is accused of capturing the gullible by the ingenious trick of simply inventing her own definitions of terms like 'conservative', 'altruism', 'liberal', 'social', 'the real world' or 'most people'. Indeed, she calls her system “Objectivism”, yet it is almost entirely subjective - she usually begins with moral judgement and only later finds reasons for it, she rarely objectively relates her ideas to the external world, and when she quotes from authority it is frequently the authority of her own previous works. When you yourself make up what it is you think your opponents might be saying, it is very easy to look cleverer than they are, at least to those of little experience.

      Rand remains little known outside her adopted land, but her legions of fans there include leaders as disparate as Hillary Clinton and Alan Greenspan - it would be wise to understand Rand if one is to make sense of that, rather important, country."

      The fact is, she was never anything more than a perpetually adolescent Nietzchean (i.e. an adoloescent version of an adolescent philosopher!) narcissist. Calling something rational and objective doesn't make it so. Rand was/is a con and most people either grow out of it or stop growing.

      Delete
  96. What did I say in the the post? Glassy eyed fanatics?

    Her writing lays bare some of the nastiest human traits and touches many sore spots of guilt in readers. This betrays an outsized emotional reaction of hatred. If we find her characterization of towering and unwavering integrity intimidating perhaps its time for some introspection.

    Oh brother. Swap L. Ron Hubbard for Ayn Rand and you could find this same paragraph on any random Scientology board. And please, Towing integrity? Spare me. I don't think that word means what you think it means. I think we've already established that the depths of old Ayn's integrity stopped on the day the oncologist diagnosed her with stage II lung cancer.

    Tell you what, here's what I'd like to see: John Galt's Magic Energy Machine Disneyland.

    No seriously.

    Take all the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and John Thaines, the captains of industry - all the ones that would actually want to go - the movers and shakers and makers but absolutely no takers of any kind as defined by Rand herself (you know, people like me and old Tux here), and put them on an island somewhere, Adak ins't being used anymore the climate's a little harsh but that shouldn't matter to these Ubermen, or for veracity isolate them away in some lost mountain valley.

    Lock the gate.

    Come back in twenty years and see how things are going in magic Rand-O-topia land. See how their kids turned out, see what they did with the sick or the lame or the slow witted or those with ADHD. See how that magic cold fusion perpetual motion air into rainbows technology John Galt promised them worked out. See how they defended themselves when others from outside came to take their magic technology away from them and nobody wanted to serve in the non-existent AynLand Army. See how they managed to feed themselves when nobody wanted to help anybody else with the crops or the hog butchering or washing the dishes. In other words, I'd be real interested in how many of them survived being eaten by the others.

    The problem with Ayn Rand is the same problem with Scientology or any other bullshit cult-like utopian promise including most of Christianity: i.e. it requires that you either a) discard 90% of the human race or b) fundamentally change human nature. In other words, it doesn't work without a large helping of magic fairy dust.

    I give Rand-O-Topia two weeks until the residents are banging on the gates and begging for more smokes.

    ReplyDelete
  97. Hilarious - and you make me feel like a genius for only getting 10 pages into the architect one before throwing it against a wall and never looking at it again.

    ReplyDelete
  98. I have a coaster at home that I use every day -- it's a CompuServe 2000 CD disk. Black with gold lettering. Far more elegant than any AOL disk.

    Dr. Phil

    ReplyDelete
  99. Hey, I did that missive from Galt Gulch first ;). Just sayin'.

    Go read that, BTW. A more scathing indictment of the sheer stupidity of our lords and masters is hard to write.

    - Badtux the Hands-on Penguin
    (who *does* know how to build a house with his own two hands).

    ReplyDelete
  100. Oh yes, another interesting missive -- just how much would the world miss the 400 richest people on Earth if they all Went Galt?

    Hint: It'd be months before anybody even noticed they were missing.

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  101. I see it didn't take you or your readers long to get to cannibalism either, Tux. Nicely done.

    ReplyDelete
  102. Doc Phil, damned right, CompuServe was orders of magnitude above shitty AOL. I wish it was still around.

    ReplyDelete
  103. Tux, that second link is broken. Just FYI - though, in true Ayn Rand fashion, I should just say fuck it and let you stew in your own filth.

    ReplyDelete
  104. One of the things that annoys me about Blogger is that even as the blog owner I can't edit comments :(. Even if just to remove a pesky stray quote character. GRRRR!!!!

    But being annoyed with Blogger is still not enough to make me move to Wordpress. After all, Blogger is *free*, so I'm getting exactly what I'm paying for :).

    ReplyDelete
  105. Geez, lighten up. Apparently you are not of the majority that is fawning over the loss of Steve Jobs.

    I don't plan on going out and joining any Ayn Rand cults or Scientology for that matter. Because agrees with some of a person's philosophy doesn't mean that they have to worship them or foresake all other opinions and beliefs. That reminds me too much of the followers of Werner Erhardt and the EST organization in the 70 and early 80's.

    Unfortunately I believe you are right that Rand's philosophies of the individual (not taken to the extreme that you seem to want to take them), do not stand a chance. Most of us, including our leaders, tend to make decisions out of ego and emotion and not logic and reason.

    it seems that a growing number of our citizens want someone, namely the government to take care of them. There is in my view a shortage of personal responsibility out there.

    As for those engineers at Apple, living near the headquarters, and knowing many of the employees, I am confident that the have been taken care of. I however disagree that they could or would have achieved as much without Jobs.

    RE living on an island and seeing if they can survive. I don't see the relevance of the point I was trying to make. I would propose that 95% of the people that you put on that island would perish within six months to a year. Unfortunately our society no longer values the hannds on skills that it takes to survive. Are you suggesting that someone who is as Rand called them a second hander is any more able to survive the "island" test?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's nothing logical or reasonable in Rand's writing. You say so yourself - its based on assumptions and values that don't reflect the real world - how objective and rational is that?

      It's just a fantasy. And a small-minded one.

      Rand was so incapable of understanding, let alone assessing any point of view other than her own that in her novel the Fountainhead she can't even conceptualise how her own fictional world could dump on her heroes without creating an anti-hero with equal powers to explain it!

      And as for acting out of ego is there anything more ego driven than Rand's neurotic little world-view?

      The only interesting thing about Rand's work is trying to understand why the US (and nowhere else) has been receptive to it. Self-deluded nutters with world-view theories are a dime a dozen, why and how did Rand strike it lucky? Perhaps she's one of the lizard people that really run the planet (LOL).

      Her work isn't worth examining, but her success (and total failure to engage elsewhere) is genuinely interesting.

      Delete
  106. What makes you think that I was replying to you, Mike?

    ReplyDelete
  107. Because he's self-absorbed?

    Meanwhile, I guess I *will* reply to Mike:

    1) The people who want government help are the 1%. The rest of us just want an honest day's wage for an honest day's work, we want studying hard and working hard to be worth something again, like it was during this nation's glory days when you worked hard and you retired with a pension and you had a good life, as long as you did everything you were supposed to do (study, work hard, etc.). The stats show that's not true today. The grifter class, the top 1%, are taking everything and leaving only crumbs for the 99%. A full 60% of Americans have *NO* assets, *NO* retirement funds beyond what little equity is left in their (mostly underwater) homes. Are you seriously claiming that 60% of Americans are lazy bums? If so, I have to ask: if Americans are so lazy, why does every statistic show that Americans are the most productive people on the planet?! I mean, I work with outsourced overseas engineers regularly. One American engineer is worth ten engineers in India or China productivity-wise. If we're so lazy, how come we can accomplish so much more than our peers in India and China in the same amount of time?

    2) My employer is in Cupertino. I will say no more about my employer. Apple engineers make a six figure salary, generally around $150K for experienced senior engineers up to $200K for those at the top of the salary scale, but I don't know any Apple engineers who are millionaires. Steve actually performed a valuable task for Apple -- he was the tastemeister, whose impeccable taste let him say "Yes" or "No" to products so that by and large only the good products made it to market. That was a valuable task and he should have been paid for it. That is not the issue. The issue is that Steve Jobs would have been *nothing* without the people who created the products he hawked, yet Steve is the one trumpeted as the "creator", while the engineers who actually created the products he hawked are... what? Stuffed duck?

    I.e., the creators are getting neither the credit nor the money. The grifter class, the 1%, is claiming that they're "creators" despite creating nothing -- they're grifters, whose only wealth is the wealth produced by the 99% that they claim for themselves.

    And this is way too long. Somebody ought to throw a copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged at my fine-feathered head, I do enjoy squawking rabidly...

    - Badtux the Squawking Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  108. Jim_Blogger will only let me hit the "You are my God" button once. I cry foul.

    Hmm, Anthony Watts and L. Ron Hubbard? Both of them have cult followings based upon works of pure fiction that make noises pretending to be actual science. Or....

    Ron Paul and L. Ron Hubbard. If you want endless spam from cult figures criticize both of them in the same post.

    I have to say I'm enjoying the comments section as much as the OP. Good work guys. Now can the nearest Culture ship please pick me up; this planet sucks. I'm ugly and growing old; ewww.

    ReplyDelete
  109. As a former Randian, I can tell you that you are SPOT ON! Love your blog and your voice...feel like you represent the 74% (or whatever the number is) who are in the middle and would like to find nominally rational solutions to nominally irrational problems and just move on. You might Google Branden on this topic, specifically look for his article of "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand."

    ReplyDelete
  110. Anonymous,

    Thanks for your posting. I Googled the Nathaniel Branden article you referenced and read through it. It is indeed a nice representation of the benefits and hazards of the philosophy and teaching methods of Ayn Rand.

    I have always hand picked the components of the Rand philosophy that resonated most with me - Reason, thinking for ones self and taking personal responsibility for your life.

    The article better represents the ideas and "good points" of Rand's philosophy that my earlier posts were able to do. Much thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  111. To be truer to _Atlas Shrugged_, the Great Forces of Industry would have to sabotage their own companies before going Galt. But I imagine they'd be fired from their leadership roles long before they succeeded.

    ReplyDelete
  112. Heinlein's prescriptive utopia... the one in which he says what OUGHT to be... was "Beyond this Horizon."

    In it you find a strange mix of libertarianism and socialism. All human basic needs are provided, but all creative endeavors are fiercely competitive.

    Some people don't fit on the hoary-stupid left right axis, so don't try cramming them onto it.

    But tune in at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/in a few days. I give Ayn Rand a thorough analysis.

    David Brin
    www.davidbrin.com
    blog: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/
    twitter: http://twitter.com/DavidBrin1

    ReplyDelete
  113. David Brin,

    Some people don't fit on the hoary-stupid left right axis, so don't try cramming them onto it.

    Yep. And I'm one of them, David. And I'd be the last one to try and put people into peg holes by whether or not they're round or square. I'm a pretty good example why that's a bad idea. Unfortunately, far too many folks do see things as just that simple nowadays, i.e. you're either with us or you're against us.

    Thanks for commenting. FWIW I'm a big admirer of your work, especially the Uplift series.

    ReplyDelete
  114. Thanks Jim! I won't come back here to this old post, but join the discussion underneath my new post about Ayn Rand at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/

    See you around!

    ReplyDelete
  115. David Brin and Jim Wright are conversing? I'm in blog geek heaven.

    ReplyDelete
  116. If you believe Novell laureate Paul Krugman, Hayek was no towering figure of macroeconomics either.

    "These days, you constantly see articles that make it seem as if there was a great debate in the 1930s between Keynes and Hayek, and that this debate has continued through the generations. As Warsh says, nothing like this happened. Hayek essentially made a fool of himself early in the Great Depression, and his ideas vanished from the professional discussion.

    So why is his name invoked so much now? Because The Road to Serfdom struck a political chord with the American right, which adopted Hayek as a sort of mascot ..."

    ReplyDelete
  117. I tend to respect Krugman's opinion when it comes to things economic.

    However, for the purposes of this article, whether or not Hayek or Keynes were towering figures in their own particular rights is more or less irrelevant. Both were certainly notable economists with impeccable credentials. Rand wasn't qualified to hold their coats while they took a piss, let alone be ranked their equal.

    ReplyDelete
  118. Rolling back the discussion a bit, and returning to your analysis of Robert Heinlein, have you ever come across the story about him and Philip K. Dick?

    It was at a time when PKD was earning very little money and was eating cat food because it was cheaper. When Heinlein found out about this, he gave PKD money for a new typewriter, because, as I think he said "I may not agree with your lifestyle or your ideals or like your stories, but you're One Of Us and we SF writers must stick together."

    I think PKD quotes that in the introduction to a collection of his shorts: "The Golden Man", I think. Heinlein the man went up in my estimation after I read that.

    ReplyDelete
  119. Have I mentioned that I love you?

    ReplyDelete
  120. Right off the bat you are misinformed, or you did not understand what you read, if you did indeed read the entire novel of Atlas Shrugged as you seem to indirectly claim.
    Quote:
    "Yesterday it was about Fredrick Hayek. And Monday, it was about, wait, what? Ayn Rand? One of these things is not like the other. Not at all."
    Ayn Rand held most of the same views on economic and political policy as Fredrick Hayek. She endorsed the Austrian school of economics because her beliefs and theres are nearly identical when it comes to Laissez Faire. She differed with them in terms of philosophy. Specifically metaphysics and ethics. Austrian economics allows for belief in mysticism. It is neutural to mysticism. Objectivism as a philosophy is not.
    Quote: "Then there’s Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand? Novelist. Playwright. Screenwriter. Ayn Rand. Seriously? On the same economic plane as John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek?"
    Ironically you are correct. She is not on the same economic plane as either economist. She is one level deeper.
    In the first place she understood the economics of Friedrich Hayek and that of Keynes. In the second place she wasn't trying to promote a new school of economics. She was providing and promoting the underpinnings of Laissez Faire Economics that the Austrian School endorses. Specifically, the underpinnings that support Laissez Faire from a philosophical perspective, i.e., the metaphysical and the ethical underpinnings. The Austrian school does not provide a philosophical framework, i.e. a moral reason to follow it's policies. This means: the Austrian school of economics explains why certain economc policys work or do not work mostly from a functional perspective using logic and reason.
    Again, Ayn Rand provided the moral underpinnigns in support of Laissez Faire economic policies. To elaborate: Ayn Rand provides the ethical aspect of why certain economic polices are immoral and wrong and why others are moral and correct on the basis of the only standard that makes any rational sense: the happiness of man and the right of a free man to keep the product of his labor. Furthermore, the moral foundations of her arguments explicitly rennounce mysticism and rely on the rational application of economics and law to man's metaphysical reality here and now and on this earth.
    Also, you were dead wrong when you said: "Unlike Rand’s two and a half novels, Heinlein wrote eighty something books...". She wrong several novels, but more importantly she wrote several published philosophy books and additionaly numberous articles on objectivist philosophy in her magazine/newsletter. The fiction novels served merely to show the reader how her philosophy of political economy would play out in a fictionalized real world situtation. The fiction novels are meant to showcase the philosophy, the polictics, the economics, the morality, and the ethics. If you think about it for a moment you will realize just what an undertaking that is. What other philosopher has done that? What economist for that matter? To take abstract principals and weave them into a story for educational purposes takes a brilliant and impressive mind. She was up to the task. You, unfortunately, were not even up to understanding what she wrote, and just how much easier is it to read than to invent? Based on that fact and your factually wrong diatribe; it makes me feel only slightly bad me to say: you really should not attack your intellectual betters recklessly. You wind up looking bad in the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I worked, talked, studied, and wrote academic philosophy for close to 20 years, and outside of some second tier US universities, Rand was never even categorised as a 'philosopher' within academe. In fact outside the US she is very little known at all and never studied or treated seriously. As I posted a while back we used to use one of her books on capitalism as an exercise in identifying standard logical fallacies - not because we had any issue with capitalism (that would've been a different course) but because she simply didn't understand basic Aristotelian logic (and certainly never went beyond it). She also had a quite deranged (and never substantiated) concept of what 'reason' meant. There is almost no sound (and no valid) reasoning in any of her, supposedly, non-fiction texts.

      BTW there are many philosophers that have written fictional narratives to support and explain their ideas - but very few have used them as blatant progaganda in the way Rand did. You could start with Plato and work your way forward from there....

      Delete
  121. You had me at "fictionalized real world situation."

    ReplyDelete
  122. What other philosopher has done that?

    Ayn Rand is to philosophy what a child playing with his own feces is to fine art.

    ReplyDelete
  123. That was my second favorite bit.

    What philosopher has done that?

    Well, since you asked, the other shlock scifi writer mentioned in the text, L. Ron, for starters.

    Like shooting fish in a barrel. Not sporting at all.

    ReplyDelete
  124. Quote:

    "Fortunately for her, she lived in our world and not the one of Atlas Shrugged. Goddamnit, I wish I had written that. Exactly that. Well said, Zola"

    "...as she lay destitute and sick she accepted Medicare and Social Security and other such socialist safety nets in order for the taxpayers to treat her lung cancer – which she brought on herself through decades of chain smoking – instead of accepting the consequences of her own actions by simply dying a painful death as she and her libertarian followers enjoin everybody else to do."

    I do not know the state of her personal finances at her death, but I find it highly unlikely that she was destitute. More likely, she would have been a multi-millionairess since her novel Atlas Shrugged never went out of print and would have been a constant source of royalties yearly.

    But for the sake of argument lets assume you are correct and she was destitute.

    She would not have been morally or ethically wrong to take full advantage of taxpayer funded medicare. Why? Because the government had easily stolen millions from her in taxes, by force, through the illegally ratified income tax laws, over the years and this would be a way to recoup a very small portion of what was taken from her.

    Think!

    If the government had not looted her money she would have had more than whatever she receieved from Medicare. She would have been able to pay for her medical bills in full. There was nothing wrong in her actions if those were indeed her actions and her situation. There is nothing inconsistent in taking back what you can from a thief.

    ReplyDelete
  125. The stupid. It burns.

    Or should I say, The logical fallacy. It burns.

    ReplyDelete
  126. I do not know the state of her personal finances at her death, but...

    ...but I'll argue about it anyway just as if I wasn't actually talking out of my ass.

    You've really got to love a commenter who first admits he doesn't actually know what he's talking about, hasn't done the research even though the facts in question are easy to find, is in love with a fictionalized version of his idol, and then goes on to argue about it anyway.

    She would not have been morally or ethically wrong to take full advantage of taxpayer funded medicare. Why? Because the government had easily stolen millions from her in taxes, by force, through the illegally ratified income tax laws, over the years and this would be a way to recoup a very small portion of what was taken from her.

    "illegally ratified income tax laws"

    Ah, yes, a Rand Paul voter, that explains the fever, glassy eyes, and the hallucinations.

    "She would not have been morally or ethically wrong to take full advantage ..."

    Except, of course, by @DietResearcher's rationalization (we can't exactly call it logic now can we?), if medicare and social security were indeed illegal, then Rand was receiving stolen goods... Last I checked that was both immoral and illegal.

    But, hey, never mind that, next @DietResearcher can explain how all the world's energy problems can be solved with the suitable application of a fictionalized real world perpetual motion machine.

    ReplyDelete
  127. Unfortunately I can't comment on L. Ron Hubbard. I have not read his book Dianetics, nor do I even intend to. I am a scientist by training and a atheist so what I know of him is off putting. He is a quack on multiple levels if what I know of him is true. Some kind of crazy religion mixed with psychology.

    With that said, your comparison of the two authors makes no sense. Are you really saying that his book was about economics and the detailed interplay of how the politics of special interests and the philosophy of altruism and collectivism impact both economics and man's sense of self esteem?

    I doubt it. But, on this point I am open to being wrong, since I have not read Dianetics.

    ReplyDelete
  128. Oh, and Eric since you are obviously mentally challenged per your comment.

    Stay out of the discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  129. @DietResearcher.

    You've crossed the line.

    Under no circumstance do you give orders on my blog. Who comments and who doesn't isn't something you get a vote on. Clear?

    Eric's intellect isn't in question, neither, unfortunately is yours.

    Your amusement value was thin at best. You've overstayed your welcome. Don't comment again.

    ReplyDelete
  130. As arguments go, "Since you disagree with me, you either don't understand or you're simply mistaken" leaves a lot to be desired. It lacks value as both persuasion and explanation. Our local member of Congress leans on that same tactic, and it's always insulting.

    But I do admire a masterful display of the patented Wall-O-Text technology.

    ReplyDelete
  131. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  132. @DietResearcher, which part of "don't comment again" did you miss?

    You're done. Any further comments from you will be sent directly to the spam folder.

    ReplyDelete
  133. Ah, see--I clearly underestimated you, DietResearcher. The conspicuous typos in your previous comments, your unquestioning loyalty to a derivative hack of a writer, your argumentative fallacies, etc. had me pretty unimpressed, but then you noticed I am mentally challenged, a realization that most people who encounter me take days or even weeks to come to. Clearly, sir or madam, you are far more astute than I might ever have guessed from your sycophantic tirade in favor of one of the worst authoresses of the 20th Century; I am humbled, positively humbled that you so quickly called my number. I would take my hat off to you and then eat it if I had one.

    And, of course, I am devastated. Devastated and wounded. Devastated, wounded, and emotionally scarred for life. A complete stranger who is defending the jackass insane theories of a terrible allegorist whose popularity can be attributed to the fact that her books tell a selfish, narcissistic, juvenile mentality exactly what he most wants to hear--that he really is smarter and better than everybody else in the world and owes nothing to nobody and can do what he wants (and this passes for ethics!)--this complete stranger has pegged me as mentally challenged! He (or she, but probably he--boys seem less likely to outgrow Objectivist twaddle for some obscure reason--perhaps it has something to do with Rand's self-evident rape fetish) is absolutely correct, of course, that I'm mentally challenged, and has never (so far as I know) even seen my drool-damp bib, my velcro-fastened shoes or the hideous skidmarks in my special underpants (skidmarks, I might add, possessing more literary merit than anything of Ayn Rand's I've managed to muddle through). And yet, somehow, that astute and brilliant observation of my cerebral incompetence does not make the pain I suffer from the injury any less mortifying or woeful. Woe! Woe! Woe is me, that I've been so insulted!

    Yes, I shall consider your advice to remove myself, DietResearcher. I may be far too busy with inconsolable sobbing at the way you have expertly demolished my claim that Ayn Rand is the philosophical equivalent of a small child smearing excrement over everything in sight by making a brutal and astute attack upon me.

    Unless--

    You don't deny my claim, DietResearcher--should I take that as a stipulation that Ayn Rand is a shit-smearer? Please let me know, and use small (and, if it's not too troubling, correctly-spelled) words. Thank you in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  134. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  135. Aw, maaaan--Jim, you banned the troll while I was having fun composing my reply.

    Now I'm not just mentally defective, I'm sad, too. But it's probably for the best--that exchange was going to go nowhere. Just a cycle of insult and I would have just gotten merciless and it's supposed to be the season of being Really Nice To Others and all that razzmatazz.

    ReplyDelete
  136. Yeah, sorry about that, but the guy was like fingernails on a blackboard.

    OTOH, I'm now picturing you in your velcro-shoes and special underpants. Thanks, thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  137. You're welcome. I also have a plastic bib that can just be wiped off without having to go in the washing machine, if that completes the picture for you.

    ReplyDelete
  138. Pictures, pal, or it didn't happen.

    ReplyDelete
  139. I'll get on that. Maybe I should make that a personalized Christmas card and send it to everybody I know.

    ReplyDelete
  140. Don't bother, I'm already on it. Let's see, Photoshop, a picture of Eric, a couple of beers to dull the horror...

    ReplyDelete
  141. Dang, I go out to do some Christmas shopping, and we have a Randoid zombie outbreak! I say zombie outbreak because anybody with an actual functioning brain would know that Ayn Rand's philosophy of "greed is good" has never worked as a guiding principle for creating a functional society, unless you consider medieval serfdom to be a functional society. And Ayn Rand's economics? Dude. It took a perpetual motion machine (i.e., violating several laws of physics) to make her economics work in her novel. In the real world? Not a g-d chance in h331.

    Oh yeah, what's the best cure for a zombie outbreak? A shotgun? A chain saw? Just wonderin'!

    - Badtux the Economics Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  142. A machete, eh? You're one of those folks who like to get up close and personal with the zombies you're dispatching, I see. Personally I like the Molotov Cocktail solution to the zombie apocalypse but it has the unfortunate side effect of sending burning zombies shambling all over the place and burning down the town. And any application to Randoid zombies is an exercise left to the imagination. Sigh!

    ReplyDelete
  143. Beers? You think beer will dull the horror of me in full regalia?

    Not strong enough. Not nearly. Eighty-proof, bare minimum.

    ReplyDelete
  144. I'm chasing the beer with double shots of Irish Whiskey

    ReplyDelete
  145. Mad cow bomb. That should take care of the zombies? If not, I'm hiding behind Jim.

    ReplyDelete
  146. BRILLIANT, JIM!

    Btw: for those who asked - Cokie Roberts is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, best-selling author and political analyst on both ABC and NPR.

    What is her purpose? To cut through and comment on the BS spewed by the GOTP.

    ReplyDelete
  147. Why does all the fun happen after I'm asleep?

    ReplyDelete
  148. Cokie Roberts is a former co-worker (I'm retied) and the godmother of a niece.

    Really nice lady, who has been known to do stand up reporting in suit jacket and pajama bottoms. (On her front steps).

    Many reporters wearing suit jackets are not wearing the bottom that goes with it.

    ReplyDelete
  149. FriendsOfDietResearcher say BRING BACK THE WACK!

    How the hell did I miss this? I want more and I DON'T approve of you putting an end to it. Granted, I didn't actually read much (OK, any) of what DietResearcher had to say, but in solidarity with DietResearcher, I'm gonna opine on it anyway! (Take that, MOFO's who disagree with me!) How dare you try to tell me I have to have any information to form an opinion!

    And since I'm an equal opportunity arguer-guy, I've got this to say to DietResearcher...you don't know the half of Eric's mental defect. I had dinner with the guy recently and I swear, his table etiquette was atrocious. At one point, he used his escargot tongs to pinch the waitress as she passed by. And I don't want to add to any of the images that are already floating through the aether, but let's just say...his plastic bib was nowhere in evidence. EWWWWWWWWWW.

    Anyway Jim, I'm starting up FriendsOfDietResearcher in an effort to bring him back! I won't be silenced until his return is secured!

    DON'T TEST ME!

    ReplyDelete
  150. Goddamnit, Nathan. I've got a splitting headache this morning and you're making me laugh. And every time I laugh sparks and pain shaped like those comic sans symbols for swear words shoot out of my ears. For the love of God, please stop, you're killing me.

    ReplyDelete
  151. FUCK YOU AND THE HEADACHE YOU RODE IN ON!

    FRIENDSOFDIETRESEARCHER WAS HERE!

    (It's got more crazyliciousness in all caps, dontcha think?)

    ReplyDelete
  152. Shouting. That helps. Thanks.

    Is there blood coming out of my eye? It feels like there's blood coming out of my eye.

    ReplyDelete
  153. Nathan, in my defense:

    1) I forgot I was holding the escargot tongs when I attempted to pinch that waitress.

    2) I never wear the bib on formal occasions upon which I'm attempting to show off my beautiful, beautiful nipples. And, contra to whatever you might have said, the face I drew on my chest and stomach, using my glorious man-nipples for eyes, looked exactly like Richard Milhous Nixon... if Richard Milhous Nixon had drunkenly drawn a crude face on his own chest and belly with his glorious man-nipples using nothing more than a broken hand-mirror and a half-tube of Constantly Cabernet he'd found dropped in a gutter outside a sleazy dive in the warehouse district. You simply have no appreciation for the finer things in this world.

    I at least thank you for not mentioning what happened to the salad bar (in my defense, there was a line in the back of the restaurant). Also, "Nixon" says, "Hi."

    ReplyDelete
  154. "Now here’s the really ironic part, Rand’s biggest fans in government are, without exception, full frontal whole hog Jesus freaks."

    Who knew that Alan Greenspan (a charter member of Rand's inner circle) had converted to Christianity?

    Think you went a tad overboard on that one.

    ReplyDelete
  155. Greenspan is no longer in government. If he was, I would have phrased the sentence differently.

    ReplyDelete
  156. Well, if you're talking about those who are in government this five minutes, then you overlooked Eric Cantor.

    ReplyDelete
  157. Just stumbled on this via Butterflies and Wheels. Brillant, bettered only by Andrew Corsello's takedown in GQ a while back:

    http://www.gq.com/entertainment/books/200911/ayn-rand-dick-books-fountainhead?currentPage=1

    "goddamn, the experience of being 19 years old and reading Ayn Rand! The crystal-shivering-at-the-breaking-pitch intensity of it! Not just for that 19-year-old, but for everybody unfortunate enough to be caught in his psychic blast radius. Is "experience" even the right word for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged? Ayn Rand's idolization of Mickey Spillane and cigarettes and capitalism—an experience? Her tentacular contempt for Shakespeare and Beethoven and Karl Marx and facial hair and government and "subnormal" children and the poor and the Baby Jesus and the U.N. and homosexuals and "simpering" social workers and French Impressionism and a thousand other things the flesh is heir to: experience?

    Does a 19-year-old "experience" the likes of "She looked at the lone straight shaft of the Taggart Building rising in the distance—and…understood: these people hated Jim because they envied him"? (The lone straight shaft—get it?) Please. Ayn Rand is an imbuing. A transfiguring, even."


    And gets better from there. No, really.

    ReplyDelete
  158. I enjoy reading Atlas Shrugged. I read it again this past year. Because it is an awesome work of fiction that makes me think. That said, I also agree and understand that Ayn Rand was a paranoid hypocrite and her "philosophysical theory" has a lot of holes and it is not a system I would want to live under.
    I found this essay very enjoyable to read, I haven't laughed so hard for days.

    ReplyDelete
  159. I enjoyed this essay so much. I haven't laughed so hard in weeks. Awesome writing.
    That said, I love Atlas Shrugged. It is such an interesting book and makes me think about a lot of things whenever I read it. I read it again just this past year.
    I don't like Rand personally, she was a paranoid hypocrite with major delusions of granduer and her "philosophy" has major holes in it and is certainly not a workable system nor one I would want to live under. But I can separate the book from the author and all of that baggage, and as it stands on it's own, it was and is a very interesting piece of literature.
    Again, great essay, very enjoyable to read.

    ReplyDelete
  160. I enjoyed this essay so much. I haven't laughed so hard in weeks. Awesome writing.
    That said, I love Atlas Shrugged. It is such an interesting book and makes me think about a lot of things whenever I read it. I read it again just this past year.
    I don't like Rand personally, she was a paranoid hypocrite with major delusions of granduer and her "philosophy" has major holes in it and is certainly not a workable system nor one I would want to live under. But I can separate the book from the author and all of that baggage, and as it stands on it's own, it was and is a very interesting piece of literature.
    Again, great essay, very enjoyable to read.

    ReplyDelete
  161. Ok then all (or most of) you lot above, you love the government so much, you carry on doing what they tell you. (I used to be a socialist, till I got a job in a government dept - that cured me.)

    ReplyDelete
  162. Yes, because those are the only two options, Ayn Rand or Socialism!

    Nice Fallacy of the False Dichotomy there, Robby.

    ReplyDelete
  163. To be fair, in Kim Stanley Robinson’s works it didn't actually all go without conflict. Quite the contrary, he describes a system in precarious balance, which is destined to be overtaken by corporatist zealots at the end of the trilogy and pretty hard fought to begin with.

    ReplyDelete
  164. Thank goodness Ayn Rand was able to offer her work to a receptive and appreciative public. I looked in vain for a single comment that used logic as a basis for contradiction. Nothing. Rand gave me a rash? No wonder I own plenty of firearms. This is a wonderful blog if one is looking for collectivist and statist springboards, seasoned with a hefty dose of immaturity.

    ReplyDelete
  165. Another anonymous commenter who uses "statist" as an insult. Wonderful. You know what we need around here? Some anarchy. Yeah.

    No wonder I own plenty of firearms.

    Why? Because you actually think that I would come to take your stuff? Don't flatter yourself.

    And you're not the only one who owns firearms. And after twenty years in the military I damned well know how to use them. Fortunately, it doesn't take firearms to fend off folks like you, anonymous. Now, go away and live in your little fantasy land.

    ReplyDelete
  166. You know what is amusing about this? Not one person - not one - who sneers at Ayn Rand has the guts to actually describe her philosophy accurately.

    The louder you shriek and the worse your insults, the more you confirm that you have no arguments against her. That little worm gnawing at the back of your brain you mentioned? That's the knowledge that she's right.

    ReplyDelete
  167. Oooh, can I answer this anon? I believe i found the accurate description of Ayn Rand's philosophy upthread posted by another anon.

    More than 'I got mine, fuck you,' she wasn't shy about taking what was yours (like husbands) if she wanted them, either.....

    If that isn't Objectivism in a nutshell nothing is.

    v-word: croodwar, AI is sick of this shit

    ReplyDelete
  168. Not one person - not one - who sneers at Ayn Rand has the guts to actually describe her philosophy accurately.

    Says the drive-by anonymous commenter anonymously.

    As Pangolin said, I think I've described her so-called philosophy pretty accurately. And every miserable anonymous zombie who comments here only manages to confirm that I'm right.

    ReplyDelete
  169. As Pangolin said, I think I've described her so-called philosophy pretty accurately. And

    And keep telling yourself that sweety. She's been dead for almost thirty years now and she's still kicking your sorry backsides

    ReplyDelete
  170. Predictable to the bitter end I see.

    ReplyDelete
  171. No mysticism, no force, isn't that what Rand comes down to? I like that.

    ReplyDelete
  172. Of Richard Halley's symphony:

    'Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain , and there never had had to be.'

    I like that too. (My italics.)

    ReplyDelete
  173. Witlas Thugs, page thirty two. Someone makes a train run on time. My eyes went out of focus from laughing. That's as far as I got.

    ReplyDelete
  174. "And keep telling yourself that sweety. She's been dead for almost thirty years now and she's still kicking your sorry backsides..."

    Maybe that's because she appeals to psychopaths and morons and gawd knows there are enough of both on the right side of the aisle.

    ReplyDelete
  175. At 19 I was reading a conservative with a brain. Namely Frank Herbert, a visionary of the kind with which Ayn Rand didn't deserve to share a planet, much less this sentence. A man who understood inter-connectedness, community, and ecology... among other things. A man who grasped the fact that private ownership of certain resources was a recipe for disaster, a clear path to what he called hydraulic despotism. Objectivists see EVERYTHING as a transaction and reduce humanity to a bunch of accountants measuring everything in dollars and cents. It's sick, twisted, and, frankly, psychopathic. Some things SHOULD be owned communally, if only to prevent the things that support life from becoming a commodity to buy and sell for private profit rather than public use.

    And as far as Heinlein goes, it says a lot that his estate chose an known liberal like Spider Robinson to complete one of his unfinished novels. I'd say Heinlein's personal philosophy is probably too complex to easily pinhole, but that's true of everyone with a lick of sense and a smidgen of self-awareness.

    ReplyDelete
  176. I read Rand's novels when I was in my teens. How does a pot-boiler hack writer get the adulation that some folks heap on this one?

    ReplyDelete
  177. Well, golly, it's a zombie revived via Facebook invocation! I thought it seemed familiar when I clicked in from your FB site, Jim. But it was well worth enjoying once again.

    And! I have a cartoon about the Galtian exodus to share:

    http://www.angryflower.com/atlass.gif?w=300&h=300

    ReplyDelete

Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.