I’ve never been a big fan of Ayn Rand . The linked article is a good discussion of her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. It talks about how Rand incorrectly portrays true nature of capitalists (even though she is a strong believer in the capitalist way) . I know there are a few on this site of the entrepreneurial ilk….so, what’s your take?

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged
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6 thoughts on “Atlas Shrugged

  • I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged, but briefly, I would say that Mr. North has missed the point of capitalism to an equal degree as Ayn Rand.

    He reminds me of those that say:

    “The U.S. is not all that is good and perfect and holy in the world; indeed the U.S. is obviously the embodiment of all that is evil.”

    It never crosses anyone’s mind that NEITHER of these things is true, nor do either of them need to be.

    My point is:

    Assigning virtue or lack of virtue to policy-making OR capitalism is a flawed approach.

    There are plenty “get-rich-quick” capitalists, and plenty who are honest enough not to have to worry about “stay(ing) out of jail.” There are plenty public officials with noble intentions and there are plenty with competence. Some with both…some with neither.

    In either case nobleness or lack thereof has little to do with capitalism; it’s not how virtuous decisions that are important, but who makes them.

    The socialist system has the same lack of virtue built in: all that matters is WHO is making the economic decisions, not how good they are.

    In the capitalist system, though, the right or wrong of these decisions have more immediate consequences, thus the incompetent doesn’t make decisions for too long…and that’s why it works, and socialism does not.

  • My read is that Mr. North was arguing YOUR POINT, that capitalism shouldn’t be looked at from the perspective of virtue…not that it is absent of it. If you read this as him arguing that capitalism is without virtue, then maybe his argument worked TOO WELL.
    I thought most of his comments were dead-on. The following comment

    “It (capitalism) is about using the prevailing system to make a buck any way you can, and then stay out of jail.”

    to which I’m guessing you took offense is true of every large corporation and its legion of lawyers (tax, patent and otherwise) that make sure that every opportunity the law allows is fully exhausted. However, let’s not confuse this with Mr. North accusing them of non-virtuosity (if that’s a word).

    He’s basically saying that capitalists are those that get the people the stuff they need…and desire money in return. And, that they’re not the place to look to be the saviors of a society in decay (as Rand believes).

  • I wonder, after reading Mr. North’s piece, whether or not he has actually READ AS. As he cannot see how Rand’s book is praised by capitalists, I cannot see how he has drawn the conclusions he has from her book.

    Rand does not depict her captains of industry as high minded idealists. Dagny Taggart (as I recall, I’m doing this from memory) is interested in an adulterous relationship with Hank Reardon and Ragnar Daneskjold (sp?)is a pirate.

    What these men and women are is Producers! They define themselves by their commitment to providing the best service or product at the best price and expect the economic benefits that accrue to such people. They are not beset by the government, per se, but by an ideology that pervades the government AND other private industry in her book. That ideology states that it is not my skill and industry that earns for me. It is my NEED that best defines what I get. Further, it is my ‘need’ alone, divorced from any effort on my part, that determines it. Thus, the rallying cry of all those who oppose the novel’s protagonists is “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need!”

    It is not the government opposing the protagonists. It is the attitude, wherever it’s found, that says “I have a claim on what you have produced simply because I need it!”

    Given our Entitlement mentality today, both in the public and government sectors, AS is as timely and prescient a novel as there ever was.

    The chapter in AS on the inheriting of the Auto Manufacturing Company where John Galt works as an engineer by the three foolish children of the company’s founder was foundational for me in my adult and business life and education. It should be required reading for every American.

    The book ends when the Producers tire of having their own morality used as a weapon against them to extort from them the rightful fruits of their labors. This weariness leads them to retreat from the society that depended upon them for fixing, finance and foresight. Without these skills the world they retreat from disintegrates. We saw the same thing happen in Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gush Kateif (sp?). Within weeks, the Arabs who inherited the industry there – who had benefited from it and been employed by it – were calling the Israeli former owners to come back and make it all work like it did before. They were unable. In the book, when society was unable to make a go of it under their selfish system, they yearned for the Producers to return and make it all nice like before. When the Producers “declined to acquiesce to their demands”, society outside of the enclave the Producers created for themselves collapsed. The same would happen today.

    North chooses to ignore the message of AS. He wants it to be about productivity and compare it to reality. The point of the book was the ideology behind the productivity makes all the difference. It’s a work of fiction that is intended to portray the danger of the attitude held by those making demands of the Producers more than lionizing the attitude of the Producers towards their work.

    As such, it reads like a current headline. The only fault with the novel is its pedantic approach to the message. If there are 25 ways to say or illustrate a point, Rand uses all 25. Reading it all can make for a tedious second time read but the message is important. Too bad Mr. North didn’t get it.

    Blue

    For more from The Muse, go to http://www.bluecollarmuse.com

  • Blue Collar (great name, btw), thanks for the comments.

    Rand does not believe that the sexual exploits of the protagonists are less than ideal; in fact, the morality of such actions is something Rand wants to set forth as an extension of the rational over an “altruistic/traditional” morality imposed by others.

    My basic take on North’s argument is that he’s saying that capitalists will do what’s expedient to further their own market share – even if it means jumping in bed with the government to further their market share. As one who has been in meetings and heard such discussions first hand, I cannot disagree. Therefore, this book proves to be less than a gem for those seeking to fully understand the realities of capitalism.

    However, I won’t disagree that this book has a lot of great quotes on the superiority of capitalism and could be foundational in some ways. And, if it has influenced even one person against the collectivism that continues to plague our society, the world is all the better for its existence.

  • This North character doesn’t seem to be as smart as he thinks he is. Ayn Rand understood how captialism and the free market worked all too well.

    North’s proof that capitalists are not virtuous is summed up in his gotcha line: “She ignored the obvious: the creative elite in capitalism is in it for the money.”

    Apparently he wasn’t aware of Rand’s book, “The Virtue of Selfishness.” Or the principle of ethics in Objectivism, which is “rational self-interest” (which she often referred to as selfishness).

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