MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Atlas Shrugged’

bionic mosquito: Where is John Galt?

Posted by M. C. on May 22, 2020

https://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2020/05/where-is-john-galt.html

Where is John Galt?

Who is John Galt?

No, the title is not a typo.

You all know the story: private businesses suffer under increasingly burdensome laws and regulations; one man decides he will stop the engine of the world, wanting to be free from the business-stifling attitude of both government and society; he convinces other businessmen to join him in his strike; the economy comes to a halt.

Who are these titans of industry?

John Galt: before going on strike, he was an engineer at Twentieth Century Motors. He developed a motor that was powered by ambient static electricity. He quit the company when the founder’s children decided “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The working model remained in stasis until well after the company went bankrupt.

Francisco d’Anconia: owner of the largest copper mining company in the world – until he purposely destroyed it, destroying the investments of hangers-on while also ensuring the company could not be exploited by these same leaches.

Ragnar Danneskjöld: the pirate, stealing from government ships that which was taken in taxes from the producers of the world. What he stole, he converted to gold and then delivered to those producers who joined the strike, returning what was previously stolen from the producers in taxes.

Henry “Hank” Rearden: the producer of an incredible metal – lighter and stronger and less expensive than any steel before it.

Dagny Taggert: the brains behind operating Taggert Transcontinental.

There were several other titans of industry that joined the strike: Calvin Atwood, Ken Danagger, Lawrence Hammond, Midas Mulligan, Ted Nielsen, Dwight Sanders, Andrew Stockton, and Ellis Wyatt. Beyond these industrial giants are philosophers, composers, middle managers, jurists, and doctors. All the best of the best, all joining the strike. All men and women of integrity. They brought the economy to a halt.

It really is a wonderful book, and despite her protestations, Ayn Rand probably led more people to something approaching libertarianism than any other person in the last century. There is a great speech by Francisco d’Anconia on money; the story of what happened to Twentieth Century Motors when it implemented its maximum-socialist scheme is worth its weight in gold.

And then there is John Galt’s speech…fifty pages, as I recall. You get the idea after a page or two, and I guarantee you that even if you revisit the book every five or ten years, you will never read the entire speech a second time. But still, a good speech – it just could have been delivered in about 1,000 words.

How does the story end? These striking titans of industry win, a new constitution is drafted, money is based on gold. All is right for liberty and industry.

I offered the following in my recent post regarding the necessary role that Christianity must play if we are to have some kind of return to liberty:

“Can’t we just convince the people with our ideas? The non-aggression principle and private property; these should be sufficient, and so easy to understand.”

There is no doubt that such education is necessary and beneficial. But is it sufficient for liberty? The simple answer is…no. I will write something more on this topic in the coming days.

“Yeah, but it worked in Atlas Shrugged.” Many libertarians and free-market economists believe that this is sufficient for liberty – leave it to the market, rational self-interest will govern, the virtue of selfishness, no one wants to be burdened by undue regulation from the government. How is that working out?

Where is John Galt? Our titans of industry stand at the trough, slopping up the government largesse; they are the ones who write the regulations, ensuring that small businesses have no chance to meet the regulations; they cheer on the funny-money of central banking, knowing that it fuels their wealth while the ill-effects remain reasonably hidden from the masses.

Where is John Galt? Where are these men and women of integrity, willing to work at a diner or as a track-worker instead of running the best industrial companies in the world? Today’s titans care nothing for such things, claiming their trillions while the rest receive their pennies.

Where is John Galt? Are they going on strike at all, let alone in sufficient numbers to stop the machine? Or do they threaten the rest of us with another end-of-the-world scenario every time their net worth takes a hit?

Where is John Galt? If ideas are sufficient to set things straight, then isn’t Galt’s speech sufficient to convince (well, maybe shorter, but it’s what I’ve got to work with)?

Where is John Galt? If he strikes, don’t you think there will be twenty others ready, not to join him, but to take his place?

Conclusion

“Can’t we just convince people with our ideas?” Just who are we going to convince? The characters of our “Atlas Shrugged” are more like James Taggart than Dagny, Lillian Rearden than Hank, and Dr. Robert Stadler than Hugh Akston.

Wesley Mouch is today’s rainmaker; Bertram Scudder writes for our own New York Times; Claude Slagenhop sponsors Greta on her world tour. And Horace Bussby Mowen epitomizes today’s industrialist.

There are no men and women of integrity, ready to go on strike instead of putting up with the largesse of the state; our titans live off of that largesse. Who holds such people accountable? We know it isn’t the state and we know it isn’t markets – such as they are.

Unless and until Christianity plays its proper role – and I grant, that may be a bigger ask than waiting for John Galt, given what we know of many Christian leaders today (even before shutting down for Holy Week) – I find little reason to expect that the state will at all shrink in its role.

It stinks, I know. But there it is.

Posted by bionic mosquito

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Lessons From Atlas Shrugged: The Evil Money-Making Scientist – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on December 31, 2019

Furthermore, the government itself can’t seem to grasp the differentiation it seeks to create. Any proclamation by the government in favor of the “common good” implies some sort of applied research as well, for example medicines. Of course, we will never know how many potentially beneficial drugs have been stalled by regulations set by the FDA,

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/12/atilla-mert-sulker/lessons-from-atlas-shrugged-the-evil-money-making-scientist/

By

I published an article earlier in December in which I set out to release a new series of articles recounting various lessons embedded in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The book is full of nuances that can be further explored to extract critical truths. As promised, I will continue this series here. In this article, we will discuss the “evil money-making scientist.”

In this day in age, almost anything produced for the sake of private profit is lambasted. “If it isn’t for the public good, it’s no good!”, people will proclaim. Such orthodoxies extend to dictate public opinion in regards to STEM – energizing society against private endeavors of such kind – while simultaneously stigmatizing scientists who betray them. Indeed many scientists would react in dismay if you, as a fellow scientist, were to let it be known that you were seeking to profit off of your discoveries. According to their cartel rules, any new discovery must be for the sake of the “common good.”

I meet weekly with a professor, a chemistry PhD and entrepreneur of many years, who owns multiple firms. He would regularly work in a high profile research laboratory many years back, and recounts the many instances in which other scientists were shocked by his desire to conjoin scientific discovery and entrepreneurship. But these shocks were not predicated on deep thought, he explains. Rather they were knee-jerk reactions, instantaneous in their nature, as if repeatable chemical reactions. As if instilled into the minds of these scientists over decades.

Atlas Shrugged consists of two major characters – Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart – that are scientist entrepreneurs, pushing back against the collective body of scientists backed by the state. Before we examine the book, let’s further clarify the issue at hand.

The issue of the “profiteering scientist” can be divided into two areas: political and philosophical, both of which I will examine. In regards to politics, the money-making scientist is viewed as an impediment to “basic research” (research formulated with the aim of improving theories and the understanding of natural phenomena). “Basic research is for the common good and should be dispersed amongst us all!”, proponents proclaim. Applied research, that is to say, research aimed at innovating to satisfy the demands of consumers, is frowned upon.

The question to ask in rebuttal is “who are you to draw a solid line between basic and applied research?” In fact, the two areas are interconnected. Without a good understanding of the theories which guide natural phenomena, why would entrepreneurs, who have money and capital at stake, aimlessly spend? The smart entrepreneur would likely put the most critical work (i.e., getting a good grasp on understanding the theories) on the front end, then begin branching out his research endeavors. If he were to take on the higher costs and forgo growth in the short term, he’d be far better off in the long term. The notion that basic and applied research are diametrically opposed in terms of who they serve (the public or the profiteers) is false.

Furthermore, the government itself can’t seem to grasp the differentiation it seeks to create. Any proclamation by the government in favor of the “common good” implies some sort of applied research as well, for example medicines. Of course, we will never know how many potentially beneficial drugs have been stalled by regulations set by the FDA, but this is for another discussion.

The “profiteering scientist” can also be examined in philosophical terms. The scientist confined to discovery in the lab is always heralded a hero, whereas the profiteering scientist is chastised. But why are these treated differently? In my last article, I discussed the importance of the individual having a purpose in life. This purpose is embodied in the immaterial satisfaction derived when one looks upon their accomplishments and puts into perspective how far they’ve gotten. For each individual, this purpose varies. The scientist confined to the lab may derive great satisfaction when he discovers – after years of trial and error – a new chemical. Likewise, the scientist turned entrepreneur may derive this satisfaction in a different way – perhaps through revolutionizing industries, completely shifting the allocation of resources to more efficient paths, watching fundamental industrial processes change, as did Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart.

Let’s put this into perspective by examining Atlas Shrugged. While exploring an old motor factory, Dagny stumbled upon the prototype for a new type of motor, which was powered via extracting and converting static electricity from the atmosphere. Like a kid in a candy shop, Dagny was in joy, willing to do whatever it took to work the idea for the motor. She proclaimed “It’s the greatest revolution in power motors since the internal-combustion engine!” Here, she aligns a clearly defined goal with a clearly defined purpose – a means to self-actualization. In a profound way, Rand also shows how both applied and pure sciences can give off the same sensation of realizing one’s purpose – breaking the narrative that one is noble and the other is not. Dagny shows the motor idea to Dr. Robert Stadler, who works at the State Science Institute

(the main state institution featured in the book which claims that science is meant to be a “common good”). Stadler, a brilliant physicist, could care less about developing technologies which impact industries, as opposed to Dagny. Yet both of them, in that moment in time, sit bewildered thinking about the concept of the motor. Stadler sits there thinking about the massive implications for the field of physics while Dagny thinks about the implications for industry. Two different individuals fulfilling their purposes.

Let us also briefly examine the cronyism present in the book, namely with The State Science Institute. After trying to convince Hank to hold off on debuting his new metal, the Institute issues a warning to the public about the metal. Dagny Taggart, whose own firm depends on Rearden’s metal, goes to speak to Dr. Stadler at the Institute. Dr. Stadler tells Dagny that allowing a private citizen such as Hank to succeed with such a metal would cast a dark shadow on the Institute, which has plundered millions of dollars with no success. Clearly, such denunciations as “you’re not thinking about the public good” are used to prop up inefficient government programs, while giving elitist scientists comfortable salaries for discovering nothing of substance. I like to think of the failed effort with Solyndra.

Fundamentally, Atlas Shrugged underscores what happens when society tries to define one’s purpose. Anything outside of what society decides is noble is a sin. The book sheds light on an elitist, groupthink mentality which seeks to constrain others with a comparative advantage in a given area. I am reminded of something which happened in a recent intro engineering class of mine. We were told to recite the “engineering pledge”, an oath which defines the role of an engineer. Most people took it for granted, but I picked up on all the seemingly subtle details. One of the lines of the pledge read: “I will always be conscious that my skill (as an engineer) carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of the Earth’s precious wealth.” There I was sitting, thinking that us engineers were supposed to be independent mavericks, with complete freedom in developing new ideas (so long as there are no rights violations). Now I am being told that I’m being constrained by the role of “serving humanity?” Get out of here!

Be seeing you

Luke Loaghan | Author of Worlds Apart and other books.

 

 

 

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Lessons From Atlas Shrugged – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on December 16, 2019

On the other hand, the man with a purpose doesn’t view becoming rich as an ultimate end, nor a destination. Rather it is a means to and a reflection of his purpose, and a continuous journey in pursuit of bettering himself. If the collectivists want to admonish the latter traits as abhorrent, then they need to rethink their principles.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/12/atilla-mert-sulker/lessons-from-atlas-shrugged-the-playboy/

Lessons From Atlas Shrugged: The Playboy

By

Ayn Rand’s 1957 dystopian novel Atlas Shrugged remains a controversial piece of literature to this day. It is generally remembered for its advocacy of free market capitalism, something hardly revered in the age of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez socialism. While many chastise the book−some even proclaiming that they will “burn the book!” (yes, I actually knew someone who held this view; a bit reminiscent of Nazi Germany I must say) −perhaps some of us find it rather enlightening to the soul. Beyond its political implications, Atlas Shrugged provides for us a complex life philosophy to guide the rational man. In this series of articles, I will endeavor to take apart some of the “lessons” embedded in this philosophy.

What is the ultimate objective of Atlas Shrugged? Throughout the work, via the use of various characters, Rand points out the need for one to find purpose in life. For if one has no purpose, they are just aimlessly droning on. But Rand’s definition of purpose transcends the empty words of the cliché “find your purpose in life!” It is rather a yearning for a higher sensation which surpasses material satisfaction. This sensation is embodied in a number of things. Namely−accomplishment, influence, power (not political, but economic power gained through knowing you’ve satisfied the wants of consumers via voluntary exchanges). It is that feeling you get when you sit back, undetected by most, knowing how much you’ve changed society, how many dominos you have made fall, despite remaining under the radar. Hank Rearden’s dilemma, that is to say, trying to reach this higher sensation whilst being plundered by the state and the egalitarian mindset ingrained in society, paints this picture quite well.

If Rand emphasizes the need for a purpose in life that transcends empty words, how could so many criticize Rand and Randians as mere materialists who are simply wasting resources that could be better allocated? If entrepreneurs (including aspiring) desire to reach that higher sensation as described by Rand, why are they admonished by society as “greedy bastards?” Why is it seen as a sin by their contemporaries for scientists to want to profit off of their discoveries, if they view this as a means to reaching that sensation (As is the case with the State Science Institute in Atlas Shrugged)?

The truth of the matter is that those individuals described above have nothing to do with the descriptions and pejoratives assigned to them by much of contemporary society. They are not plundering resources that should be redistributed to those “in need” (whatever this means). They are not engaging in hedonistic self-indulgence, contrary to popular belief. Rather, the material gains they take on are simply a means to that higher sensation. It provides something for the individual to look back and reflect on, allowing him to think “Damn. I actually did that.” Thus, the lesson to be presented here is Rand’s distinction between “the man with a purpose” and the playboy. And she brilliantly weaves this into a scene involving Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart.

In the scene, Hank and Dagny were driving in a countryside and decided to stop at a very luxurious inn. Hank notices the types of people around him, commenting: “I’ve never despised luxury, yet I’ve always despised those who enjoyed it. I looked at what they call their pleasures and it seemed so miserably senseless to me−after what I felt at the mills. I used to watch steel being poured, tons of liquid steel running as I wanted it to, where I wanted it. And then I’d go to a banquet and I’d see people who sat trembling in awe before their own gold dishes and lace tablecloths, as if their dining room were the master and they were just objects serving it, objects created by their diamond shirt studs and necklaces, not the other way around. Then I’d run to the sight of the first slag heap I could find−and they’d say that I didn’t know how to enjoy life, because I cared for nothing but business.”

Hank then further comments: “Dagny, look at those people. They’re supposed to be the playboys of life; the amusement-seekers and luxury-lovers. They sit there, waiting for this place to give them meaning, not the other way around. But they’re always shown to us as the enjoyers of material pleasures—and then we’re taught that enjoyment of material pleasures is evil. Enjoyment? Are they enjoying it? Is there some sort of perversion in what we’re taught, some error that’s vicious and very important?”

In essence, Rand distinguishes the dichotomy of the individual and the object for both the man with a purpose and the playboy. For the playboy, material objects provide some sort of motivation and direction. They make the playboy feel content with himself. Since he lacks a guiding compass, a sense of purpose in life, he looks to these material objects to make himself appear grandiose and purposeful. In reality, he is very insecure in himself, and uses these material objects as a cover.

In contrast, the man with a purpose puts meaning into the objects themselves. That is to say, he reverses the dichotomy to signify that the objects deserve to be in his presence. For he has grinded his way to victory and has proven that he has a purpose in what he does. He has set himself as the standard through devoting countless years to making himself such. He can thus now look back upon it all and vindicate himself from the criticisms of cynics and sceptics.

Hank’s proclamation questioning if the playboys are really enjoying the material pleasures holds significant truth. For the playboy has no sense of accomplishment and is merely plundering his resources to quench his inferiority complex. We see this with rappers constantly bragging about the shoes and cars they have. On the other hand, the man with a purpose doesn’t view becoming rich as an ultimate end, nor a destination. Rather it is a means to and a reflection of his purpose, and a continuous journey in pursuit of bettering himself. If the collectivists want to admonish the latter traits as abhorrent, then they need to rethink their principles. For being rich and aimlessly droning on in life is no virtue. But how could reaching towards a purpose be a vice? Namely, what moral basis is there for society to strip one of their purpose?

We may now all ask ourselves: What sense does it make to say that all rich men are plunderers of resources and playboys (as society paints it)?

Be seeing you

Ayn Rand — Atlas Shrugged — Videos | Pronk Palisades

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t forget the “Galt’s Gulch Tactic.” Shrug-off the government. | The Daily Bell

Posted by M. C. on June 6, 2019

https://www.thedailybell.com/all-articles/news-analysis/dont-forget-the-galts-gulch-tactic-shrug-off-the-government/

By Joe Jarvis

It’s not your duty to prop up a corrupt and immoral system.

In fact, it might be your duty to deny it your support.

That was the main message of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (although it took her about 23,000 times as many words to say it).

In Atlas Shrugged, the very capable and productive Dagny Taggart couldn’t leave America behind. She slaved away to support the masses and the politicians even as they ridiculed and hated her for it.

Escaping to “Galt’s Gulch” and leaving all the parasites behind should always be an option on the table. In this secret and shielded valley, everyone works for their own benefit and the benefit of those they trade with.

Today, so many people put so much stake in who is President and what the majority of Americans will vote for every two years. They are hopelessly drawn into the gravitational pull of the system. And they don’t consider escape an option.

Some say it’s cowardly to run away from “our” problems, rather than staying, sacrificing, and fighting for “American values.”

Why not just take your American values, and go somewhere you can actually practice them?

The American dream will always exist. It just might not always exist in America.

What are American values anyway?

I understand the desire to restore something that was once so great to all its prior glory.

But there really isn’t much agreement on what American values really are…

From the very beginning, events like the US government’s response to the Whiskey Rebellion stomped all over the Constitutional rights literally just enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

And just after the Civil War Lysander Spooner observed that “[The Constitution] has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it.”

I don’t really think perpetuating “American values” rests on restoring the Constitution. I do think it was a pretty good founding document and helped create the most prosperous nation ever.

But American values to me are all about fresh starts. That how New England was settled. Roger Williams set the standard for the new world when he first left England in search of religious freedom.

When he didn’t find it in the established settlements in Massachusetts, Williams left (read: fled) and founded Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The settlement lived peacefully with the Native Americans, championed religious tolerance, and became a haven for “outcasts” who wanted personal freedom…

Government is a product. If you’re not happy with the product, you have to stop supporting it.

Easier said than done when it comes to government. We can’t simply opt-out of the taxes and say no thank you to its services…

By the end of the year, I plan to move to Puerto Rico. There self-employed, independent contractors, consultants, and owners of export service businesses can pay just 4% tax to Puerto Rico, and absolutely zero to the IRS.

There are more exit options every day. The market for alternatives is only growing– it has been since 1776.

And it’s about more than refusing to fund the corrupt and parasitical US government. This is about finding a place to live your life how you see fit, surrounded by people who build you up, instead of tear you down.

To me, those are American values. They are worth fighting for. And they will flourish around the globe, with or without the USA…

Be seeing you

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Profits Are for People by Walter E. Williams

Posted by M. C. on October 25, 2011

Just as Francisco d’Anconia provided his justification for profit Walter Williams provides a wonderful analysis illustrating why-

we need companies to profit

and why the Occupy Wallstreeters are siding with the people causing the problems.

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