Once upon a time, a group of them decided to act on their principles and establish a Libertarian paradise in a foreign country: Galt’s Gulch Chile, they called it. What happened next?
Galt’s Gulch Chile is the name of a proposed residential community to be built near Curacaví Chile, approximately one hour west of Santiago and one hour east of the Pacific Ocean. The original principals were John Cobin, Germán Eyzaguirre, Jeff Berwick (The Dollar Vigilante) and KENNETH DALE JOHNSON. Through a series of broken promises, broken contracts and dishonest maneuvers, johnson circleJohnson was able to cut his partners and investors out of the real estate development project and claim 100% ownership and control.
He proceeded to develop, not a community as advertised, but an affinity scam aimed at Western libertarians. Johnson employed deceptive selling practices, violations of US and Chilean law, money laundering, and multiple jurisdictions to defraud his investors of US $10.45 million ($10.05 million with GGC and $400,000 with tangential scams).
Johnson sounds like the ideal Libertarian man, a true Randian hero, living up to the principles of selfishness to the ultimate degree. What’s the complaint? This is exactly what ought to happen if you design a community around the principles of Ayn Rand — perhaps the problem is that Rand didn’t recognize the value of community, and community is rather antithetical to her magical hyper-competent individualists.
The subtitle at that site is
restoring the vision. I don’t think they get it.
Not a chance. We’re dedicated to turning Fraud’s Gulch Chile into Galt’s Gulch Chile. That’s what this website is all about.
“Galt’s Gulch” was an absurd idea in the book — maybe they ought to realize that Libertarian ideology is incompatible with civilization. Another pro-Libertarian site is similarly oblivious.
Ayn Rand could never have imagined just how a development based on her fictional novel could have become an even more sordid and unbelievable tale than the book itself… so far it has.
True. Ayn Rand couldn’t. The rest of us, though, could see the nightmare with clarity.
Reginald Selkirk says
This is poor writing. Using time to specify location only works if you specify the mode of transit.
Sounds to me like these glibertarians got out glibertarianed and are just jealous. How do they all expect to be John Galt (because let’s face it, every glibertarians thinks THEY will be Galt in this story) if they can’t even maneuver past one scam.
Libertarian news item reminded me of this: If you cannot steal the real estate, steal the people. http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/business/cameron-brings-back-slavery-2012052228067
Reginald, this is Galt’s Gulch we are talking about so the mode of transportation is obviously train.
John Rogers had the Randian libertarians figured out long ago:
” 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.”
@Reginald Selkirk, in tish particular case, mode of transport ist irrelevant – it says essentially that it is halfway between the ocean and Santiago. But it is indeed strange to write it in this way. I guess the autor is very used to google maps
Well, at least it didn’t end as badly as the last time a right-winger tried to establish an “utopian enclave” in Chile
I know, I’m placing the bar so low that New Zealanders will start complaining about me very soon.
It’s quite easy, actually, to explain why this douchebag wouldn’t be a Randian ideal: he produces nothing and reneges on promises he makes, instead relying on deception, fraud and criminal behavior to profit. The Randian ideal is a man or woman who works hard and produces value for which they are rewarded. To label this guy’s actions as a Randian ideal is to be supremely intellectually dishonest. Then again, you’re always at your worst when attacking libertarians, PZ.
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says
Nope, totally in character. Randians are morally bankrupt, selfish, and have no empathy.
Penny L says
There’s a lot to criticize about libertarian ideas, but do we have to lie about them in order to do that?
No Randian hero achieved their status through fraud (quite the opposite in fact), so there is no way Johnson would be the “ideal.” You could predict lots of things to happen as a result of Rand’s principles, but this isn’t one of them. Additionally, of the three sentences in this paragraph, the last sentence belies the first! Fraud is antithetical to “hyper-competent individualists.” Why would they resort to fraud if they were competent? Her characters are, as I remember, honest almost to a fault, made deals with handshakes rather than contracts, and always delivered. Quite the opposite of this Johnson character if the website you linked to is to be believed.
And of course Rand recognized the value of community, she just envisioned it in a different manner, as a community that trades value for value. Again, lots to criticize about her vision, but saying she didn’t value community is simply lying.
Mockery works, but it works better if that mockery has at least a tenuous relationship to the truth.
Penny L says
thelastholdout beat me to it, Nerd notwithstanding.
Of course Libertarians learn. It’s just that then they stop being Libertarians.
If anything, I think the Randian ideal is to be intellectually dishonest.
Considering a lot of consumer protections and laws is to prevent various forms of fraud, it’s not that surprising that Libertarians would be fraudsters and vulnerable to fraudulent behavior. The ones that notice the capacity for fraudulent behavior think they have terrific business savvy, and the ones that don’t notice get scammed.
@Charly #7 Actually, the “halfway point” assumption is not guaranteed; travel may be speedier in one direction than the other.
Correct me if I’m wrong here–I’ve never actually read Rand–but isn’t there a famous quote in which the hero brags about how he’s cheated the government and used substandard materials when building a housing project or something? That sounds like not just permission, but a mandate to commit fraud to me.
Yea, there’s a bunch of instances of fraud. They didn’t really “achieve status” that way though. It’s more like the Randian heroes commit fraud simply for malice and hatred of the people they’re defrauding.
Actually, I’m not sure if the fact that they profit from it is brought up that much.
Scamming Randroids sounds like a pretty honorable pursuit. Some people will never learn without a kick in the pants.
Vivec, we need a scam that targets the Saudi royal family next. Also, anyone named “Koch”.
The problem with all utopias is that they need perfect people to inhabit them.
The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs) says
Is it too late to bring up Atlas Shrugged: The Cobra Commander Dialogues? These demonstrate exactly what all the non-Libertarians have been saying: that Rand’s heroes are a bunch of frauds and criminals, when they aren’t worse.
Saganite, a haunter of demons says
Clearly, the people who were defrauded simply weren’t cut out to be successful. Swim or sink, that’s the Libertarian view, isn’t it?
But that’s okay, because those were bad people, see?
Same as when a major character repeatedly cheats on his wife, lies about it and then threatens her with physical violence when she finally catches him. You might say that he’s violating his marriage vows, but those don’t count because… wait for it… his wife expected him to spend time on the family instead of his work! She was clearly an unreasonable person and therefore all bets are off.
Let’s face it, Rand didn’t have any coherent moral philosophy beyond “I’m always right.”
@Reginald Selkirk – These are Rand guys, the mode of transit is obviously trains :-)
Libertarians have complex ideas about fraud. Most recognize it’s undesirable and unworthy, but as a voluntary, non-violent act libertarians are divided over whether it should be permitted or not.
Most people who interpret Rand’s Non-Aggresion Principle agree that it tolerates and would not allow for the prosecution of fraud as a crime.
The NAP is the reason a lot of libertarians break with Rand, for this and other reasons related to the NAP.
Of course these guys went to the trouble of naming their intentional community after an infamous plot device in a Rand novel, so holding them to Rand’s standard, patting them on the head and telling them “buyer beware next time” would be appropriate; though if we were Rand, we’d probably also tell them they deserved to be defrauded, they were stupid and naive, and we’d also kI’ll them in a train wreck at he end of the book.
The victims of fraud deserve what they get, but the perpetrators of fraud are bad people too, just not criminals. That’s the Randroid position.
Bill Buckner says
No it isn’t. Rand’s ideas can be presented as she intended and criticized in their own right. It’s stupid to criticize distortions of her ideas or her protagonists. After all, her heroes are so one-dimensional that there is really no excuse for mischaracterizing a non-Randian as a Randian. They are easy to spot.
Many of the eugenics proponents used distortions of evolution for their justification. It would be the same category error to criticize evolution by holding eugenicists up as accurate representatives.
Seems like a bit of cognitive dissonance going on here.
Area Man says
Yes, the heroes in Atlas Shrugged don’t just deny the world their awesome ability, which would be a stupid enough plot point on its own, they also deliberately sabotage it. Fransisco D’Anconia defrauds his investors by deliberately ruining his copper firm. Another guy is an actual pirate who steals the cargo of supply ships. Another guy sets his oil fields on fire, telling the world that he’s leaving it just as he found it, except he didn’t find it on fire with all the oil sucked out. The book’s heroine bribes and threatens public officials to get her way, and waxes nostalgic about how her ancestor used violence to help build his rail company. Etc.
The Randian hero is really about being superior to other people, not so much a code of morality. Being superior is what makes them moral.
The Randian ideal is a demigod who fuck the laws of physics sideway because he’s Just-That-Good. Gandalf and Dumbledore are as good Randian ideals than anything Rand ever wrote, and at least these old gay wizards are likable.
They already exist: they’re called salafist proselytes.
Sounds like Nietschke’s Ubermensch. Nihilism at its best.
By that criterium, the scammer just moved money from the dumb to the smart. Very Randian.
Area Man says
The problem is, Rand’s ideas were wildly unrealistic and were intended as a justification for elitism and classism. Any attempt to exercise them in the real world is going to end up exactly like this — someone screwing over someone else. Rand never provided any compelling reason as to why a rationally selfish individual who lacked any empathy or sense of duty to others wouldn’t resort to fraud or even violence. In circular fashion, she merely held that rational people wouldn’t do such things, that rational people would only trade value for value, blah blah blah (her heroes, tellingly, fail to live up to her own ideals).
It is perfectly fair to point out that a real world example gone awry, caused by people who claim to follow her philosophy, is demonstrative of the failure of that philosophy. Defending her because these people strayed from the true path is like defending communism on the basis that the USSR or North Korea weren’t really communist. It’s missing the entire point.
@28 There’s a difference between what is moral and what is legal.
Of course I don’t think this distinction matters to the good people at GGC Recovery, as they have called in the FBI…
Bill Buckner says
I might agree with you, but in any case it is just an opinion. You cannot possibly know that she intended them for elitism and classism– she may have sincerely believed that her own philosophy would lead to general wealth. Better to show how her philosophy would fail, even if given a fair try, than to speculate about her intent.
But this was never an attempt to be “True Randian”, it was meant to defraud Randoids, who admittedly are not the most sympathetic of victims.
Actually they don’t–her books would have been more interesting if they had. The most you can say is that some of the weaker Rand-approved characters struggled before finally seeing the Randian divine light. I don’t recall where Galt or Roark ever failed to live up to the Randian superman ideal.
OK, let’s sidestep the possibility that Johnson may have been insincere in a claim that he follows Randian thought and was hell bent on swindling. Let’s grant that it is sufficient that he makes the claim. Then it is just as fair to criticize evolution based on those who who claim to follow it and end up with eugenics, and just and fair to criticize Islam based on extremists who claim to follow its teachings, etc.
The bottom line is it takes no brain cycles to criticize the distortion of something as if it applied to the thing itself. Criticize Rand by criticizing what she actually proposed.
Or to put things into context: Ayn Rand’s family was upper-middle-class under the czar, then the bolsheviks came, they lost all there material comforts, and little Alisa decided that if she was to suffer in the name of a popular uprising, then “people” were shit who deserved to be enslaved by superior beings like herself. Why was she a superior being? Because she said so pardi! And if you didn’t agree, then who were part of the intrinsically inferior rabble.
If support for Trump is a symptom of white rage, objectivism is the product of fallen gentry’s impotent rage.
Area Man says
The idea that we can’t possibly divine other people’s motives is a strange one. Maybe you think Republicans are sincere when they say that tax cuts for the rich will lead to general wealth, and some are undoubtedly dumb enough to believe it. That doesn’t mean their underlying motive is entirely opaque, and that we can’t apply evidence to the question.
Rand’s philosophy is littered with contradictions and impossibilities. These can only be reconciled by realizing that, in every case, the interests of the capitalist elite win out. This requires reading and analyzing her actual work though, not just accepting at face value what her fan club says.
Fair enough; maybe this guy isn’t a true believer. Of course, that just raises the question of why he saw these people as marks and why they so readily fell for it.
Have you read Atlas Shrugged? As I pointed out upthread, her heroes consist of a pirate, a corporate frauster, and a vandal. Francisco, who has most certainly seen the light, brags about committing negligent homicide by intentionally using unsafe construction materials. These acts are justified because Randian heroes are superior to other people, so the rules are different for them.
Evolution is not a political theory or moral system, so it’s not analogous. Criticizing Islam because it breeds extremists, however, is quite fair. It may not be fair to tar all Muslims with the same brush, but why care about religion if not for its real-world consequences?
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says
Actually, Rand’s ideas have been refuted by history. Anytime any economic system close to liberturdism was used, it resulted in monopolies and gross exploitation of the working people with massive economic disparities between classes. I’m waiting for a liberturd to show where a first world country has used Rand’s principles for at least 25-30 years in the last century. The resulting lack of evidence is revealing, as the first world countries know better. So the burden of evidence is upon those claiming Rand’s ideas actually work in real life to demonstrate that they do.
Bill Buckner says
Really? I find the idea that you can divine other people’s motives to be the strange one. Don’t you fear that you are even a bit biased in attributing good motives to those you agree with and bad motives to those you don’t? How about when Obama finally supported same-sex marriage? Were his motives that he changed, or were his motives that he jumped on (or perhaps off) a bandwagon? Please tell me.
I absolutely think that some of them believe it. I also believe that some people think that communism will work for the betterment of all workers. Surely you are not so foolish as to believe that ideologies that you evaluate as obviously wrong have no sincere proponents? Do you actually believe that?
And I also recalled that other Rand-sympathetic characters (such as Dagny) questioned Francisco’s methods and denounced his friendship. Rand had some implausible justification– something like he was pirating the real pirates and vandalizing the real vandals–which may be thin, but she most definitely was not championing piracy and vandalism per se. To claim that she was is to not understand what you read. Again, you can criticize what she actually proposed–laissez faire to the extreme–without attributing to her what she never actually supported as part of her philosophy–i.e. fraud, vandalism, piracy, murder.
It is analogous. Analogies do not have to be perfect, and never are. I’ll stand by my claim that criticizing Rand (and, if it is not clear, I despise Rand) for what Johnson did (presupposing his claim of being Randian) is entirely analogous to criticizing evolution based on the Eugenicist’s claim that his ideas are natural consequences of that theory. In both cases it is criticizing the thing by presenting a distortion of the thing. I’d say it is a more than fair analogy–better than the one I made about Islam.
Area Man says
So you think that in a murder trial, the motives of the killer can never be known? How do we prove mens rea then?
Oh, I’m quite sure I’m biased. But being biased when judging motives is different than being incapable of judging motives. I’m probably biased when judging scientific evidence too, but that doesn’t mean that evidence doesn’t clearly weigh in favor of certain conclusions.
Of course I don’t believe that. As I said, the existence of sincere proponents is beside the point. People are good at rationalizing. Many Holocaust deniers are no doubt sincere, but does that mean they aren’t anti-Semitic? Do you think that climate change deniers are honestly weighing scientific evidence, or are there other motives that we can divine by observing their behavior?
She did this back when she was still in the looterverse before she saw the light. And she thought he was wrong because he was destroying his company (earned wealth being the only measure of worth), not because he was hurting other people and defrauding his shareholders.
Those acts were considered valid as a means to an end. The clear implication of this is that Rand does not consider theft, fraud, and vandalism wrong if they are committed by the right people in the right circumstance. This is from a woman who otherwise regarded herself as a moral absolutist, so she did not believe for example that the hungry were justified in stealing bread. But stealing is okay if it’s to confiscate goods paid for through tax dollars! How would you reasonably interpret this inconsistency? As you say, the excuses are implausible. I conclude that she considered her capitalist heroes to have moral license to do as they will because they’re superior. There is evidence of this throughout the book (e.g., the rapey sex, extracting free labor from peons, blatant lawbreaking, etc.). Hence, elitism.
This is not to say that her slavish followers would understand things this way. No one wants to admit that they’re just a selfish asshole carrying water for the powerful and privileged. But the rest of us don’t have to pretend.
Okay, analogies don’t have to be perfect, but the difference here is that the theory of evolution doesn’t imply genetic “hygiene” or any other policy, whereas Randism does imply that you should fuck other people in the ass, even if it’s not on the label. The entire philosophy is an exercise in how to rationalize being a selfish dick, so its no surprise when someone acts like a selfish dick. I’ll grant you, though, the possibility that the fraudster in question wasn’t influenced by Rand, in which case it’s just a matter of her followers being gullible marks rather than the geniuses they think they are.
Bill Buckner says
Oh give me a break. (In fact, they can’t be known.) If you kill me and take my wallet it can be inferred, absent compelling reasons to believe otherwise, for purposes of the law, that robbery was the motive. Even then one can’t be sure–but generally it is good enough. You objected to my claim that we can’t know that Rand’s motives were “elitism and classism”. Even at the level of a plausible motive the claim is weak compared to my robbery example. You might, reasonably, argue that an implementation of her philosophy would inevitably lead to “elitism and classism,” but you have no evidence that was her motive.
You are not making a distinction between her fiction and her philosophy. Although she was a tiresome writer, she does get poetic license. In her fiction a heroic character defrauded those who in her philosophy she considered–I’ve forgotten the term she used–was it parasites? Whatever she called people who in her view were exploiting the productive class–which generally was other privileged people (like James Taggart) who were not creating any wealth or only acquired wealth by stealing–through government appropriation–the ideas and resources of others. (I don’t know what she would make of the modern investment banker. I guess I don’t care.) In her non-fiction works she, to the best of my knowledge, never advocated anything of the sort, i.e. fraud. For crying out loud I don’t think she even, a la Leona Helmsley, advocated or was accused of not paying income taxes, which would be the logical first step of someone who wants to advocate rightish illegal approaches to the evil US government.
I think I know what you mean by the “rapey” sex, but I don’t see the relevance, and I would not want to get into a discussion as to whether it was describing rape. I believe the scenes were always told from the point of view of the woman, and I don’t recall the woman ever expressing a lack of consent. And we have been discussing the illegal activities of Francisco. But remind me when she advocated extracting free labor from peons.
Exactly, which is why it is dumb to criticize evolution based on what the eugenicists argue. And similarly dumb to criticize Rand based on what Johnson did.
But they would say it doesn’t. I remember her example of the janitor with the transistor radio. She described the genius that went into to creating the device, and ten asked how it was that the janitor, who purchased the wizardry for a few bucks, was being exploited. Now, I do not concede her point, but it was not “if you can create crap and sell it to the janitor, buyer beware, then you are golden in my book.” Her point, I think, was that the work of the productive class will enhance the lives of the working class. Saying that here actual goal was “screw the poor” or something like that– is not really an argument at all.
We can at least agree in our opinion that Randoids are not as smart as they think they are.
So, you are an idiot. Or a Loonytarian. Oh wait, those are the same things.
If you ask most people what their motives are, they can and will tell you. We are conscious thinking beings (most of us anyway). Or you can guess it easily enough by what their actions are and end up with.
Although I’m not sure what Bill Buckner’s motive in babbling on is. Most likely it is to fill up a few empty hours of his empty life and waste people’s time. This is what you do when you are too dumb to actually think and plan.
I think we have to distinguish between the failings of Ayn Rand, the woman, and Objectivism, the philosophy. Rand was absolutely and elitist and her novels bear this out. Objectivism as a philosophy though can be read as much less supportive of things like rapey sex, the moral rectitude of smoking, vandalism or fraud. Indeed I don’t think these are consistent conclusions and a clever, snarky person could make a strong case that Ayn Rand wasn’t an Objectivist.
Objectivism’s faults are more generally related to its rationalism, its take-no-prisoners progressivism, and its reliance on the belief that the human condition can be reformed and perfected– Marxism has similar problems. This shouldn’t be surprising, since Marxism and Objectivism are two philosophies targeted at the same audience: post-religious people living in the Age of Modernity whose moral codes are basically utilitarian, and who are seeking a universalist ideology that spiritually justifies the Industrial Revolution, in the way that the Divine Right of Kings or Catholicism justified manorialism. They’re just different aspects of the same underlying historical phenomenon — the Traditionalist would argue that, between the steam engine and Darwinian evolution, western culture “killed God,” and Marxism and Objectivism are just our attempts to replace God with Man-as-God.
There’s a difference between the faults of the man and the faults of his ideas. We might say that Islam has an intrinsic persecution of women, except a lot of Muslim cultures don’t observe stigmas against women, and even where the religion seems to command it through scripture or orthodoxy the observance is relatively uneven. We could similarly say Objectivism is elitist, but this risks just amplifying the fact that most Objectivists are probably prior elitists and Objectivism is just their pretext or justification. You boil the culture and prejudices away from something like a religion or a moral system, and all you’re usually left with is a bunch of metaphysical statements that are really flexible to interpretation. That’s what makes religions successful: the core teachings are so deep they’re vacuous.
Anyways, I’d be suspicious of anyone that told me this or that group of people were undesirable because their philosophical system was essentially haywire, or the metaphysical tenets of the religion were incompatible with gender equality or free enterprise or whatever. People don’t believe in Objectivism or Islam or Christianity, Objectivism and Islam and Christianity are the modes for how people talk about what they actually believe in.
Bill Buckner says
Are you really this clueless? Are you a Poe?
Nice example of critical thinking.
Simpler still: anyone who claims motives are impossible or difficult to divine is simply lying. To themself or to others, but those are the only possibilities. Divining the motives of others (regardless of whether they are being transparent about them) is just one of the things humans do constantly, as a matter of survival, and have thus gotten fairly good at. Biases notwithstanding.
Bill Buckner says
Really? Lying? Fuck you.
I ask again, did Obama change his position on same-sex marriage because his honest position changed/evolved (which I guess is what he’d say or has said if asked) , or was either his former or latter position (or both) one of mere crass political expediency? Divine his motive for me. And of course if it is easy, then everyone on here (who is not a liar) will agree, right? That’s what your fucking ridiculous statement implies.
Fuck you too.
I never said it was easy or foolproof. Just that it’s an obvious lie to say that divining motives is impossible or near impossible, as being that completely unable to predict what other humans were going to do from day to day would leave you more or less unable to survive in any kind of human society.
Bill Buckner says
Probably? So you don’t know?
No, you said whoever claimed it was impossible or difficult is a liar. So now you say you never claimed it was easy. So it it is not difficult and not easy Brilliant. I suppose that leaves you with the position that divining motives is somewhere between easy and difficult.
Oh ffs. You can more or less predict what people will do based on simple assumptions about shared motives such as they want to survive or they don’t want to get into trouble or that they desire to behave in a normative manner and fit in. That is quite different from assuming something like Rand’s motives were “elitism and classism” as opposed to say “she wanted what she got, a cult following”, or even that “she drank her own kool-aid and really believed, sincerely, what she preached.”
John Morales says
Bah. Randian Objectivism’s main fault is that it presumes it is objectively correct.
(And it’s more an excuse than a philosophy)
You know, you’re right, Bill Buckner. I did say that anyone who claims that divining others’ motives is “impossible or difficult” is lying, with the clear implication that divining motives is easy.
I was wrong to make that categorical statement.
Divining the motives of others is SOMETIMES easy. Sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes, in some circumstances, it can be truly impossible, as when we’re trying to interpret the artistic intent of a long-dead artist from a truly foreign culture.
Regardless of the degree of difficulty, humans constantly divine each others’ motives and often do so successfully, otherwise we would not have complex human civilization.
I note that you pretty easily narrowed down the motives for Obama’s change in position to two options: sincere change or heart, or crass political cynicism. There are myriad other motives that could have driven his decision, some less plausible than others.
The fact that some motives are more plausible than others, and that you quickly honed in onto the two that were most plausible, shows that you are lying–apparently to yourself.
Don’t worry, you’ll continue to interpret other people’s motives almost entirely unconsciously, while consciously telling yourself it’s impossible, and your life will go on. And some commenters at Pharyngula will think you’re deeply weird. It’s fine. No need to stop lying to yourself if you don’t want to.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
“Galt’s Gulch” sounds like the ruins of a (failed) town in a Fallout game.
Isn’t the creation of a physics-defying free energy device pretty much a prerequisite for Galt’s Gulch? Or did I miss a few Nobel Prizes?
PZ Myers says
It is now time for Mr Buckner to depart from this thread. You may try to infer my motives, if you’d like — I’m pretty damn sure you have a crystal clear perception of them.
Area Man says
“You are not making a distinction between her fiction and her philosophy.”
It’s not worth continuing to go round and round with Bill about this. I think I’ve said my piece.
But according to Rand herself, there was no distinction between her fiction and philosophy. Atlas was meant to be a complete and accurate showcase of her belief system. Her followers only half-jokingly refer to it as the “New Testament” (The Fountainhead being the Old). “It’s just a story” doesn’t work as an excuse.
So when one of the book’s most prominent heroes makes his way by defrauding his investors, we have to conclude that Rand thought this was perfectly peachy as long as, in her mind, the victims deserved it. And if you don’t think that allowing the ubermensch moral license to act in a way that would be considered absolutely evil if anyone did it isn’t elitism, I don’t know what else to tell you.
One other thing:
“But remind me when she advocated extracting free labor from peons.”
Sorry, this was confusing. None of the characters force free labor out of anyone, but they are frequently benefiting from favors done for them by working stiffs. So for example, early in the book when Dagny completes the John Galt line, hundreds of former Taggart employees and their descendants come out to guard the train. For free. They expect no compensation and are offered none. But later in Galt’s Gulch, when Galt wants to borrow Midas Mulligan’s car for a day, Midas charges him fifty cents! This of course makes no sense because Midas is super-rich and the marginal value of fifty cents is nil, so he may as well have lent it out as a favor. But Rand forcefully makes the point that no one ever does favors in Galt’s Gulch — literally everything is transactional. So why the inconsistency? Why do hundreds of people donate an entire day’s labor for free, while a rich asshole charges fifty cents to his friend to borrow a car? I’d say the obvious answer is that in Rand’s a world, social obligations flow up. It is normal and expected for the masses to do favors for the elite, but the elite owe absolutely nothing to their social inferiors (or even equals).
It turns out that inconsistencies of this kind are very good evidence that someone’s motives aren’t what they say they are, but you’d have to be open to the possibility that they can be analyzed and understood.
Area Man says
It’s the The Republic of Dave. But without Dave.
Area Man says
I’d say that Objectivism’s primary fault is that it eschews empiricism in favor of logical deduction from a set of assumed axioms. Those axioms themselves are highly questionable, the deduction is often sloppy, and the conclusions just so happen to be self-flattering to and in the best interests of those who are drawn to Objectivism. In those cases where the conclusions run completely afoul of empirical evidence (as with, say, the dangers of smoking), the evidence is ignored because Objectivist reasoning has already reached a different answer.
That said, Rand and her followers appear to have been very much believers in the tabula rasa, which supports their idea that the exercise of the mind is purely a conscious choice, which means that people are 100% responsible for what happens to themselves for good or ill. It’s weirdly and ironically similar to the view of some Marxists, who also hold that human nature is infinitely malleable and can be directed to whatever purpose, but with vastly different conclusions. They’re both tragically wrong.
Area Man says
PZ– far be it for me to tell you how to run your blog, but Bill was at least providing arguments. Tedious and wrong as they may have been, why not let him have at it? Yeah, there was the fuck-you stuff, but he’s not exactly original in that…
Penny L says
If you’re referring to the copper mines, look again at what actually happened, there was no fraud and he didn’t “make his way” through fraud. Not only did he lose a ton of money on the venture, it actually completely destroyed the company his family had worked decades to build up. And it only happened because of the government’s intention to nationalize the mine.
It’s been years since I’ve read the book, but this is not my recollection. If you’re talking about the people who volunteer to ride the first train over the bridge made of that new metal, they do not work for free and are compensated. I don’t recall “hundreds” of employees doing anything for free, but even if they did I’m not sure it would matter. If they do it of their own free will they have the freedom, from Rand’s perspective, to charge nothing for their time. This conclusion…
…is not only wrong, its a complete misreading of her philosophy. Only in the “looters” world are people expected to do favors for the elite.
Again, there’s lots to criticize in Rand’s work, but it requires first and foremost that we have an accurate understanding of her work.
Which brings me to PZ. Supremely disappointed that the only appearance he makes in this thread is not to admit error but to kick out one of the people who pointed out the error. Not very rational behavior. Perhaps I’m next.
Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says
In other words: those people deserved it and those who committed the fraud were justified. Yeah, sounds terribly moral to me.
You need to tell this to the libertarians who have shown up here through the years and told us that a boss telling a woman who depends on her job during a recession that she is fired unless she gives him blowjobs is totally not rapey.
Really, no true Libertarian, how does it work?
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says
Penny L, we have seen liberturds here almost continuously for just under 8 years. We know all about their perversions, egotism, stupidity, and arrogance, heavy on the arrogance. We have their number, of course, and those that defend them.
So he was an incompetent and malicious idiot who destroyed everything that his family had built rather than see anyone but himself have any benefit at all from it. Okay, that makes it all good then.
Bill Buckner says
Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-
I didn’t claim it was moral. Not once on this thread did I claim that Rand was moral. The dispute was about what Rand actually wrote as opposed to, you know, made up shit. Can you not tell the fucking difference? No? I didn’t think so. Really, it takes a special breed of dumbass who cannot distinguish the difference between challenging bad arguments about X and support for X. You and nerd, two peas in a pod.
Being a pandering dipshit is no way to go through life..
I’ll consider myself banned.
I think part of the issue here is that there’s such a massive disconnect between the ideals Rand claimed and the ideals she actually held. As have already been pointed out repeatedly, Rand’s heroes routinely act in ways that are fundamentally counter to the supposed ideals Rand held, yet she praises them for it.
I don’t think it’s a straw man to criticise Rand for the ideals that her protagonists represent. The fact that Rand paid lip service to some form of morality doesn’t change the fact that:
Absolutely on the nose!
It’s not as if she has them behave poorly and then criticise them for it, showing the conflict between real human beings and a moral ideal. No, they are the ideal. They’re meant to be the kind of people we should all aspire to be. When Rearden cheats on his wife, it’s not a human weakness; it’s an expression of the Radian ideal, marriage contract be damned.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
Whoa. You’re right. And the Republic of Dave is a real shit-hole of a place.
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says
Can we all agree that Ayn Rand thinks terrorism is heroic? Because that’s exactly what Roark does in Fountainhead when he blows up an entire building.