Posts Tagged Atlas Shrugged

Review of The Atlas Shrugged Film | The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG

Another excellent review of the movie of Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged”. If only the movie lived up to the quality of these reviews. It looks like the people who made it were not equal to the task. It sounds like a movie version of Howard Roark’s Cortland Housing Project.

Still, the movie distorts, and really destroys, the motivation behind Rearden and Dagny’s affair. If Rand’s novel has one fundamental idea, it is that the moral choices of a person’s private life and public life lead to the same kinds of consequences. This is the real internal conflict within Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart, who are actually the true enemies of John Galt throughout most of the book. Their lack of understanding and their willingness to live and produce for the “looters” needlessly prolongs the suffering of the world. Crucially, Rand also believed there was a connection between private behavior (especially sex) and one’s deepest held values, which is why her ideal man could never fall for a chorus girl, but only a heroine. The movie ignores this completely and manages to strip away the emotional complexity of characters in an Ayn Rand novel—which is no mean feat.

The problem is that the real world policy prescriptions of those promoting the movie don’t fit with Rand’s vision. The kinds of places that could develop the motor that draws its energy from the atmosphere no longer exist, as Bell Labs and other private research laboratories have fallen from glory and institutions like DARPA don’t exactly fit with the Galt’s Gulch mentality. Insofar as the American economy has a future, it seems to be based on manipulation of debt by the elite, litigation by the middle class, and selling ringtones among the lower class, with the occasional brilliant entrepreneur starting a website so we can more easily discuss Rihanna.

Ooohhh! Kerr-POW!

 The moral code of the corporate elite of this country and the capitalist pinups Rand’s fanboys want us to fight for are promoting the exact kinds of altruism and victim worship that Rand despised. If the kinds of “producers” identified here went “John Galt,” the only things that would change would be the decline in Democratic donations.

Kerrrrr-POWWWW!! A devastating comment on our times.

via Review of The Atlas Shrugged Film | The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG.

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Now THIS is the trailer for the movie it could have been (although my dream  line-up is a young, Al Pacino look-alike for Francisco d’Anconia, and maybe Laura Linney as Dagny Taggart):

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The “John Galt” theme sounds like something for “The Waltons”. Would this be something Richard Halley would have written?

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A White Nationalist Review of “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” | The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG

Let’s change the subject from “nuclear crisis”, “Fukushima” and “tsunami disaster” for a second.

Ever since I heard that (finally) a movie had been made of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, I’ve been dreading having to make up my mind whether I will go and see it or not. After reading this excellent review, however, I’ve been spared the agony: I don’t think I’ll bother (tho I might relent and watch it on DVD). It would have to be a remarkable movie to be worth seeing, frankly. Unfortunately, and sadly, predictably, it is not a remarkable movie, perhaps underscoring Rand’s belief that society has been on a downhill track since the end of the 19th century: we just ain’t man enough to realize our true potential. Or as Elrond put it, “Men ever fail of their promise.”

This is a first-rate review. The author really knows his Rand, his history, and his movies. And, he can write (“During the first run of the John Galt line, Dagny Taggart and Hank Readen’s achievements are dwarfed by the beauty of the landscape. The focus should have been on the train, the rails, the rising throb of the engines, the telephone poles rushing by faster and faster, as a vast streamlined art deco engine shot like a bullet toward the gossamer arc of the great bridge of Rearden metal. The spectacular Rocky Mountain landscape and sky should have been hidden by a drop cloth of clouds, fog, and rain.”)

I don’t share the author’s racial-collectivist philosophy, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading his review of this movie.

Why was Atlas Shrugged made on the cheap? Apparently the producers could not come up with a script or a concept good enough to raise the money and attract the talent to do a first rate movie, and since their option was expiring, they decided to do a second rate movie instead and managed to pull off a fourth rate one. This level of cynicism is frankly breath-taking. One has to ask: Is this how Howard Roark would have made a movie?

via A White Nationalist Review of “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” | The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG.

tamara de lempicka autoportrait

tamara de lempicka autoportrait

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Economics books that help you tell the future

Atlas sculpture, New York City, by sculptor Le...
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Historian and Austrian economist Gary North writes that many people are confused by the media’s pronouncements on gold, inflation and deflation:

Self-Inflicted Confusion and Paralysis: Thinking About the Economy Without Understanding Economics

If called upon to outline the arguments of each position, they could not do it. They have no idea of what they have read. They are utterly confused. Why? Because they do not read books on economics. They read only websites.

For years, I was one of “they”: I was trying to educate myself about finance, investing and economics by reading only websites. I wasted a lot of time. I eventually discovered the 3 books that Gary North recommends below.

If you are confused, you can get clear by reading three short items: Rothbard‘s mini-book, What Has Government Done to Our Money? (pdf), my mini-book, Mises on Money, and Rothbard’s The Case Against the Fed (pdf). All of them are free. If you really want to understand, read Rothbard’s textbook on money and banking, The Mystery of Banking (pdf). It is free. Then you will be ready for the booklet published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Modern Money Mechanics.

I sent the above quote to a friend who wrote back that he finds reading economics books incredibly tedious. Not long ago, I would have had the same reaction. What changed? Read the rest of this entry »

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“The students will not tolerate the teacher having power in the classroom”

This is a reply to a comment kindly left by OldAndrew of Scenes from the Battleground blog, which was a reply to this blog entry. I originally just replied to OldAndrew’s comment in a comment, but my reply got too long for a comment.

if students object to the very idea of the teacher being in charge, then there is nothing the teacher can do and still teach. You can make all the points you like about how the teacher is “responsible”, the point is that in that situation the teacher has responsibility without power.
Quite right. The situation is worse than I thought and I have edited my comment here from my original, flippant response. Obviously, little learning or teaching can take place in chaos.

You’re caught between a rock and hard place: you are denied the power (or authority) to act responsibly, and yet blamed for not acting responsibly or authoritatively. It seems a Catch-22 situation. The problem seems to be largely a legal and political one, yet also an ideological one in that a few teachers are not enough to make a difference, and if the school as a whole from the Head downwards is not backing up a serious attempt to impose order in the chaos (e.g. by recognizing, as OldAndrew says, that appeasement does not lead to increased order but the reverse; that some of the dearly held beliefs about children, their nature, and human behaviour may well be not only wrong but contributing to the problem), then most attempts will fail and the efforts of OldAndrew and his ilk will be limited. (I’m thinking of the example of Marie Stubbs, who was headmistress and managed to either bring around most of the staff to her way of thinking or hire her own replacements.)

I have found OldAndrew’s blog to be a fascinating source of information about British secondary school education. I especially recommend his Guide to Scenes from the Battleground

I recall reading about an incident earlier in 2009 in a British school, when a teacher was fired for forcibly removing an obstreperous student from a classroom: he physically grabbed the boy by the collar and the seat of his pants and pushed him out of the classroom. The police were called, and I don’t know what happened to the young man (15 or16, I can’t recall exactly), but the teacher had the book thrown at him: defrocked, disrobed, you name it. The poor guy was approaching retirement age, but I doubt if this is the way he had imagined leaving the profession. (I wish I could find the link).

(I’m reminded of the entrepreneurs and industrialists in Atlas Shrugged, forced to somehow continue inventing and producing despite a plethora of laws and regulations that effectively demotivate and prevent them from making a profit.)

“if the teacher were to slap anyone’s face the teacher would be suspended, fired and probably prosecuted.” I realize that times have changed since I went to school.

“the change in the law prohibiting this and all forms of corporal punishment in state schools was passed by Mrs Thatcher’s government, so I’m not sure where the “dominant socialist” thing came from.”
I interpreted the push for group work and mixed ability classes as coming from an ideology that said elitism is bad, ranking and streaming students is bad, hence (by implication) achievement is bad (or at least should be downplayed), in other words egalitarianism or socialism. I don’t equate socialism only with the left wing, or the Labour party (Hitler’s party was the National Socialists). I had not realized Thatcher’s specific responsibility, but it does not surprise me.

Thanks for commenting.

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Learning from history

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Does history repeat itself? Can we learn anything from ancient civilizations, especially the ones that declined and fell? Nah!

Thanks to scribd, I’m reading Ayn Rand-contemporary, Isabel Paterson’s “The God of the Machine”, which begins with a brief history of the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans, and asks, for instance, why the Romans beat the Phoenicians in naval supremacy:

with the strongest fleet on the seas, and with a naval experience gained though centuries, the Carthaginian admirals lost six out of seven of the naval battles, despite the fact that the Romans had never possessed a quinquireme before this time (the first Punic war), and very few Romans had ever set foot on shipboard.

Later, the Roman civilization also declined and fell, though for different reasons (Paterson writes) than the earlier ones of Egypt, Carthage and Greece. Here’s how it happened:

The exactions of the bureaucracy increased, and the number of officials multiplied. More and more of the flow was diverted from production into the political mechanism… the bureaucracy took such a large cut, at length scarcely anything went through the complete circuit. Meantime, the producers, receiving less and less in exchange for their products, were impoverished an discouraged. Naturally, they tended to produce less, since they would get no fair return; in fact, effort from which there is no net return must automatically cease.  They consumed their own products instead of putting them up for exchange. With that the taxes began to dry up. Taxes must com from surplus. The bureaucrats inevitably came down on the producers, with the object of sequestrating the energy directly at the source, by a planned economy. Farmers were bound to the soil,; craftsmen to their workbenches; tradesmen were ordered to continue in business although the taxes and regulations did not permit them to make a living [see Atlas Shrugged]. No one could change his residence or occupation without permission. The currency was debased. Prices and wages were fixed until there was nothing to sell and no work to be had.

Those silly, silly Romans. How could they not see that would never work! No wonder the Romans were left on the rubbish heap of history. Now US, we would never go down THAT road, would we?

Oh, wait.

A letter to the Chinese Premier, from a free-market-loving U.S. businessman’s blog:

An increasing number of citizens in this country have had enough of the BS and, having been ignored when EESA/TARP was debated (by over 100:1 we told Congress not to bail out those bastards who ripped both us and you off) are intentionally reducing their output.  This of course reduces the tax base against which our government can extract money to pay you with.  Further, our government has over the space of more than 30 years embarked on programs that allow any US Citizen to effectively live for free, paying nothing.  There’s not a thing you can do about this, and we both can and are de-funding our government’s ability to tax.  Have a look at tax receipts – the government is running a near-$2 trillion deficit for this reason above all others.  Attempts to raise taxes on the remaining productive citizens simply cause more of them to decide to join those who erect their middle finger toward Washington DC, choosing Food Stamps and Medicaid over hard work.  There’s a phrase for this: “Going Galt.”  I recommend you read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” – I’m sure there’s a Chinese translation somewhere.

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Atlas Shrugged revival

(The first part of this post is cross-posted from another blog of mine). As well as re-reading Atlas Shrugged for the next session of my Reading Group, I’ve also assigned The Fountainhead to a returnee student whose English is fluent. I’ve been creating worksheets for him, and will be posting them online, possibly here.

According to this press release on the website of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, sales of Rand’s blockbuster Atlas Shrugged have greatly increased this year and last year:

Reports from trade sources indicate that consumer purchases of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged have tripled in the first four months of 2009 compared to the first four months of 2008…. “Annual sales of Atlas Shrugged have been increasing for decades to a level not seen in Ayn Rand’s lifetime. Sales of the U.S. paperback editions averaged 74,000 copies a year in the 1980s, 95,000 copies a year in the 1990s and 139,000 copies a year in the current decade. After reaching an all-time high during the novel’s 50th anniversary in 2007, another new high was reached in 2008 and an even higher mark is expected for 2009.”

More than 6,500,000 copies of Atlas Shrugged have been sold to date.

This short blog entry Ayn Rand and the Tea Party Protests gives 3 reasons why so many people are buying and reading Atlas Shrugged:

Stephen Moore identified one reason in his Wall Street Journal column, “Atlas Shrugged: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years.” Atlas Shrugged depicted a future in which America descends into economic chaos due to ever-increasing government regulations. Each new problem spawns new government controls that merely deepen the crisis. The result is a downward spiral that nearly destroys America. Many Americans are finding Rand’s predictions uncomfortably close to real-life events.

Another reason for Rand’s appeal is her emphasis on the moral dimension. One of her themes was that no country can survive when its government constantly punishes good men for their virtues and rewards bad men for their vices. Americans correctly recognize that it is unjust for the government to take money from those who have lived frugally to bail out those who have lived beyond their means. Honest men should not be forced to pay for the irresponsibility of others.

Finally, Atlas Shrugged resonates with many Americans because they recognize that our current crisis is not just about bailouts and budget deficits. It’s also about a more fundamental issue — the proper scope of government.

Yaron Brook, Director of the Ayn Rand Center, writes on the Fox News website about a fundamental point of Atlas Shrugged:

“Atlas Shrugged” argues that ideas shape society. A society that values reason, the individual, and freedom creates the United States of America. A society that denounces the mind, preaches self-sacrifice, and worships the collective creates Nazi Germany. What “Atlas” shows is how our culture’s ideas–particularly its ideas about morality–are

Atlas Shrugged
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moving us step by step away from the Founding Fathers’ ideal.

There are, of course, critical articles, ranging from the dismissive, to the abusive, to the weakly reasoned. The dismissive can be dismissed, as the author himself admits he’s never actually read any Ayn Rand:

According to my friend and former colleague Scott Galupo in the Washington Times, sales of the book had tripled through April as compared to the same time period last year. I can’t say that I’ve ever read Rand, and Scott’s assessment of the book doesn’t increase my interest

Showing great trust in Scott Galupo, a man whom he dismisses as being usually wrong, Robert Schlesinger assures his readers that the Galupo piece is worth reading, tho the excerpts he quotes suggest that the main reason Schlesinger thinks it is worth reading is because it reinforces his own preconceptions (and obviates the need to actually read the book). Galupo’s main reason for dismissing Atlas Shrugged is that he thinks it is escapist fantasy. Galupo states

that American conservatism has shown great adaptability in the face of 200 years of federal governmental expansion, but that it nonetheless still suffers fringe-nuttery, as evidenced by the Rand/Atlas resurgence.

Murray Rothbard, himself no fan of Ayn Rand and her coterie (he was a member for a while, though he seems to have always admired her novels), would have some critical (at the same time as intelligent and informative) things to say about this “great adaptability” of conservatism.

Galupo’s article refers to an (in)famous contemporary review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers.

The Moderate Voice is almost equally scathing:

The message of that turgid 1200-page opus, that money is the root of all good, has inspired those who need justification for extreme selfishness and for looking down at the rest of humanity as “looters” and “moochers.”

The novel has certainly inspired a large number of people, including (famously) Angelina Jolie and Alan Greenspan (and we can add Murray Rothbard whose admiration for Rand’s novels did not prevent him from seeing through the phoniness of  Rand and her admirers); I’m sure all of them were merely looking for justification for extreme selfishness. Nowhere is it explicitly stated that “money is the root of all good”, but at least one character, Francisco D’Anconia, challenges guests at a party with the following question: “You say that money is the root of all evil. Have you considered what is the root of money?” The dollar sign is admittedly used in the novel as a symbol of the vision of capitalism that Rand ascribes to the Founding Fathers (or some of them, at least).

Megan McArdle is a more sympathetic reader:

I look to Atlas Shrugged more for conveniently totable beach reading than an economic blueprint.  What’s interesting to me, though, is how many details Rand did get right–like the markets in “unfreezing” Ukrainian bank deposits, so similar to the frozen railroad bonds of Atlas Shrugged.  Or the cascading and unanticipated failures, with government officials racing to slap another fix on to fix the last failing solution.

McArdle then attempts to explain Rand’s accurate description of socialism at work:

She was able to describe these things so well, of course, because she’d seen what an economy looked like while it was being wrecked.  All of Rand’s writing is dominated by the fact that she lived through the birth pangs of Soviet Russia, and saw her family’s business destroyed by Lenin’s ideology, and extraordinarily incompetent economic management.

While the biographical background is true, it is dangerous to assume that Rand was merely describing what she had lived through, and that that explains the realism of her descriptions. What evidence is there that Rand’s writing is dominated by the fact that she lived throught the birth pangs of Soviet Russia? Rand herself rarely mentioned it or her family background. What dominates Rand’s writing is its powerful chanpioning of laissez-faire capitalism and individualism and its finely argued excoriation of socialism of any kind. Rather than her childhood experience, I would locate the explanation elsewhere. Rand dug deep into ideas to find the root principle or value at their base. Barbara Branden wrote about Rand’s adopting, at the tender age of 12 or 13

a method that she called thinking in principles… she meant the process of systematically and explicitly identifying the reasons behind each idea she held and the relation of each idea to all the rest… Later, in her novels and nonfiction lectures and essays, the meaning of thinking in principles came to focus on the “why”, by looking for the abstraction that united and explained two or more concretes (Branden, B., The Passion of Ayn Rand, New York: Doubleday, 1986, 22).

This can be confirmed by reading almost anything Rand wrote, either fiction or non-fiction (e.g. Philosophy – who needs it?). It is more likely, therefore, that Rand’s accuracy in “predicting” some of today’s events comes from her understanding of the ideas, the principles, that underpin the decisions, statements and actions taken today in the financial crisis. Rand was not of course the only one to understand the core principles and basic philosophy behind socialism, nor was she the only one to “predict” the present financial crisis, and many of those others who did predict it did not have the benefit of Rand’s childhood experience to guide them.

Ayn Rand
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Why the John Galt strategy won’t work

a fictional character made up by a terrible person
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The Mogambo Guru (TMG, as he phrase it) is a regular contributor to Bonner and Wigginson’s “The Daily Reckoning” and in a recent piece he explains why the John Galt strategy won’t work, and at the same time, why Michelle Malkin‘s strategy won’t work, either:

Dr. Helen Smith, who is a Tennessee forensic psychologist and political blogger … “dubbed the phenomenon ‘Going Galt’ last fall” which is “a reference to the famed Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, in which protagonist John Galt leads the entrepreneurial class to cease productive activities in order to starve the government of revenue.” [Ms Malkin] apparently is not interested in guns, and sums up the situation of “Going Galt” as being that “There’s only one monkey wrench that can stop the redistributionist thieves’ engine. It’s engraved with the word: Enough.”

Ayn Rand came up with this “don’t work and starve the government of revenue” idea for the fictional John Galt in her novel Atlas Shrugged, which was written in 1957 when the dollar was still more-or-less linked to gold and thus the money supply was constant.

Back then, the only place that the government could get money was to borrow it from those who had saved their money, whereas today the poor old dollar is just a piece of fiat currency or computer-embedded digital crap that the Federal Reserve can create more of anytime it wants, whether or not anybody ever saves any! Hahaha!

So, if you think that the federal government needs your stupid tax money or that you can hurt them by working less, then I laugh – Hahahaha! – at the very concept! The Fed can, literally, create unlimited amounts of credit in the banks, which becomes unlimited amounts of money, with which to buy unlimited amounts of Treasury debt so that the government can spend unlimited more amounts of money than it collects in taxes!

And the only thing you can do about it, because the amount of corruption is always at its maximum at the end of long monetary booms, is to save yourself and get rich by buying gold, which is a bet against government and their stupidity, and which is the only sure-fire, can’t miss bet you will ever have in this cold, cruel world.

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