Lol! Rebuttal to the “Going Galt” Argument

6 03 2009

From an essay titled, “The Right Doubling Down on Ayn Randism”:

Well, I’ve heard this “Atlas Shrugged” argument many times before, and in my experience, there have been two constants. The people who make it are first, not very bright. And second, they are not very wealthy. . .

True, if you think about a Warren Buffett or a Bill Gates, for example. Smart and rich but not exactly Randian. They to the contrary seem to grasp quite well, that the economic well-being of their customer base is somewhat related to the taxes willingly paid by Big Business and also to the humanitarian outreach it explores.

And I liked Socialism Isn’t What I’m Worried About from the Motley Fool:

So, I’m not worried about our country careening into socialism, nor am I interested in giving Joe on the street everything he wants. There are some places where the invisible hand should be slapped aside and the government should step in, but at the same time, average Joe is going to need to be told to take his lumps in other places. Pitting socialism and capitalism head-to-head in a Bloodsport-style death match may make for exciting — if not loud — media coverage, but I think we’re short-changing ourselves if we think that one dogmatic view or another needs to emerge victorious.

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15 responses

11 03 2009
JJ

Stephen Colbert just did “The Word” about Going Galt. How all Wall Street rich guys should get even more selfish and call a general strike. 😉

13 03 2009
Educating the MBA Beyond Ethics, to Business Spirituality? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] the MBA Beyond Ethics, to Business Spirituality? 13 03 2009 Ayn Rand is no doubt turning over in her grave! But my dad, the business management and ethics professor for […]

19 03 2009
JJ

Just followed a link to Objectivist Round-Up #88, where this sentence from the host made me think we need to reform how we teach the meaning of the word “parallel” and maybe the word “obvious” too:

“In Atlas Shrugged, Rand tells a tale of the U.S. economy deteriorating at an ever-increasing rate due to government controls, which has obvious parallels to our situation today.”

What government controls? What controls from ANYWHERE? Looks like it was caused by that good ol’ unrestrained, uncontrolled, unregulated human nature to me . . .”greed is good” as a religion.

20 03 2009
JJ

Suze Orman, popular financial advisor on REAL personal responsibility when human nature goes bad:

(To former president Bush 43)
“You blew up every single financial vessel we had and if you think you aren’t personally responsible, well, the blame starts at the top. There is no higher top than you, SIR! If I were you, I would feel so absolutely horrific that I would take every penny I had and distribute it to anybody and everybody to help them in whatever way I could. You owe the American people every penny of your fortune and your family’s fortune.”

21 03 2009
JJ

From Columbia U. economics prof Jeffrey Sachs (ha, in which he too mentions Buffett and Gates, guess great minds do think alike?):

The great scholars of capitalism, from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes, understood full well that a functioning economic system depends not on greed, but on moral sentiments and an acceptable social contract between the rich and the rest of society. The rich can make money, of course, but they must not flaunt it or consume it frivolously.

Instead, they must invest their wealth for social benefit, whether in business or in philanthropy, or in both as in the case of history’s most celebrated capitalist-philanthropists, from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. It is only the dangerously arrogant rich or the servants of the rich who believe that morals don’t matter in the great matters of finance.

. . .Understanding the need for a moral code in the economy will enormously help the economics leadership not only to weather the storm of outrage that has rightly hit Washington and Wall Street over Wall Street’s rampant and continuing abuses, but also to fashion — finally — a successful solution to the tottering banking system.

The stalemate over banking has arisen because the economics team has been unwilling to take on the bank shareholders and management. . . .The public won’t tolerate such games for another round. The public won’t accept more money going into financial bailouts until the banks are clearly being run for public benefit, not for the private gain of undeserving shareholders, management, and traders. America will not right itself until it regains a moral compass in economic affairs.

That will require a new generation of financial leaders who will forswear the abuses of the past generation of Wall Street leaders. The faster that the economics team and Congress heed the public call for simple justice and decency in financial matters, and the more rapidly that translates into a true Wall Street clean up, the faster will come the economic recovery.

21 03 2009
weisshaupt

Freddie and Fannie were both govt entitites told to lower lending standards – that is “control”. They created a subprime market where none exisited , and the basic speculation curve took over. This has created a “crisis” in which the Obama administration is basiaclly following Rand’s book like a legisilative map. That is also “control” If you had actually read and understood Rand (instead of engaging in ad-hominem attack on people who do) you might note she is proposing a different ethical system, which is in direct conflict with your own. Rand’s ethical system based on the simple principle enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as in inalienable right : The Right to Pursue of Happiness, and based in reality – ” Man shalt eat by the sweat of his brow.” When your “charity” is based on the point of a gun, its not charity. Its slavery to a State Church, of which you appoint yourself the moral head. That is depriving men of the right of conscience and violation of thier right of conscience. Claiming moral superiority is not the same as actually having it. But then people like you think that if we call Fish, “Seakittens” that no one will want to eat them

http://ittbbb.blogtownhall.com/2009/03/20/who_john_galt_is.thtml

21 03 2009
JJ

Quoting from your blog?

“Liberals denigrate the keeping of the sweat of one’s brow, produced either in risk or in labor, as the definition of the sin of Greed, but really it is the Liberal sin of accomplishment. Accomplishment leads to discrimination between individuals and judgment of them based on what they can contribute, what they can do, what they can risk.”

What has happened to us all, seems to me, is that WE took all the risk and achieved many wealth-worthy accomplishments as individuals and a society, but it was systemically stolen from us from those who took no risk, contributed nothing and accomplished nothing of value
. . .using this failed ideology to get away with it.

22 03 2009
NanceConfer

Shouldn’t all of these Randians have left town by now? 🙂

Nance

22 03 2009
JJ

I don’t get it either. You’d think after Greenspan admitted his whole Randian worldview had a fatal flaw — that led directly to this disaster btw — there would have been some “rational” and “objectiv-ist” soul-re-searching?

22 03 2009
JJ

In case newer readers think we’re picking on Objectivism, see “The Story of Homeschool Truth — Time We Learned Our Lesson?”

Governance of all by any One Story, be it sacred or secular, theocracy or educracy, subsumes the individual spirit and power to create its own stories. There is no other meaning or power to this story, however it’s told:

“We the diverse and contentious student body of a recently desegregated public high school, couldn’t agree on which band would play what kind of dance music. . . The one thing it turned out our schooling gave us in common then, was learning that lesson the hard way.”

And are you enough of a student of story to understand that the conceit of Libertarianism is no less a “One Story Tells All Truth” -ism, as is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism?

It’s an oxymoron I know, but any One Story, including her Worship of the Individual, is just another cult “revival” that defines and dismisses the real lives of every individual on the planet, except ourselves and a precious few we may personally esteem as important characters. The rest of humanity is cast, by every story defining itself as the Only Story, as some Big Ol’ Lump of Other, as devoid of any compelling stories of their own and therefore of any individual status, meaningful only as amorphous antagonist force in the context of MY ego-exalting story.

11 06 2009
JJ

Thanks to Dale’s Parenting Beyond Belief blog, I just came across the most similar story to my own I know, of what it’s like to be enamored of Ayn Rand in college and then grow up, and it’s simply but rather elegantly well-reasoned in explaining why we should hope more Americans share our educational experience:

So, why did I give up on Rand’s philosophy? For those with no or minimal familiarity with her works, Objectivism can be quite “cultish.” Rand was a firm believer that being an Objecitivst – using reason properly – was, in essence, agreeing with her. There was no room for disagreement with, criticism of, or examination of, her writings. They were correct and that was that. Rand even admonished that followers of Objectivism not read books that do not support Objectivist principles (under the lame argument that to do so is to give support to those ideas financially or morally).

One of the books partially endorsed by the Ayn Rand Bookstore was “Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins (although there was a disclaimer that Dawkins’s book was not 100% error free as it did not agree with Objectivism all the way. Reader beware!) This led me to read more on evolution and the more I read, the more I began to take issue with a fundamental axiom of Rand’s: sense perception provides an accurate portrayal of reality. All [that] evolution guaranteed, I reasoned, was that our senses provide good enough perception to allow survival – not that our senses really and truly tell everything like it is.

. . .I also started questioning whether there were other flaws with Rand’s views. Like a biblical literalist who begins to doubt a line of the bible, that one small error became grounds to reexamine the entire edifice. When defending Rand’s views to others, I had often had a nagging feeling that some of her positions were less than solid, but I’d always told myself that this was probably a flaw in my understanding rather than Rand’s. Now, I was not so sure.

I began reading non-Objectivist-approved books in philosophy, politics, economics, etc., and I found that many of the Objectivist positions I found hard to defend were hard to defend for good reason. There was no necessary connection between the idea of using reason and that of self-interest. Libertarianism could just as easily be defended by utilitarian reasoning than Rand’s quasi-natural-law reasoning.

The belief, though, that has changed the most for me is the belief that the type of moral absolutism and objectivism (every question has one right answer) that Objectivism leads to, is actually a better argument for statism than against it.

Rand, you see, was very convinced that use of right reason would arrive at the one right answer to any moral question . . . it is hard to see why Objectivists would not support a state governed absolutely by Randian despots, who could simply tell everyone the right answer and enforce it.

By contrast, the moral relativism and pluralism that Rand despised was not only a much more plausible account of morality, but provided one of the better rationales of belief in the minimal state.

If there may not always be one right answer to every moral question, then the state has no right to dictate morality as if there were.

. . .My view today is very different. After getting two masters degrees and reading much in the areas of philosophy, politics, and other abstract fields, I see this myopic view of reason as untenable. I am more tempted to agree first with David Hume that emotion often necessarily under-girds reason, and second, that different conclusions to the same question can be reached by equally rational people.

. . .Unfortunately . . . many youths are introduced to atheism and libertarianism via the works of Ayn Rand [so] I can only hope that, for the sake of these ideas, that people do not remain with them for too long.

22 09 2009
JJ

I for One Welcome Our New Objectivist Overlords:

I agree that liberal and left academics (and their students) would be better off if they engaged seriously with conservative intellectuals, so long as the conservatives in question are actually intellectuals (Edmund Burke yes, David Horowitz not so much).

Why, just yesterday I read Jon Chait’s essay on Ayn Rand in order to understand why all the Objectivists I’ve known seem to believe that they are Super Geniuses. In the course of learning more about that, I also learned why it is that many of these Super Geniuses believe that the rich are rich solely because they work hard, and the poor are poor because they do not. (The disabled, meanwhile, fall under the general heading of “the unproductive,” and since it would be immoral to reward unproductive people with access to a common pool socialist confiscation of goods and services even if their lack of productivity, unlike that of the poor, isn’t entirely their fault, it’s off to the private charities for them, and good luck.)

Then I read Glenn Greenwald on why Some People don’t want Other People to have houses and health care and other luxuries, like the new “cellular” phones and “color” televisions. So yeah, I’d have to say that it’s important to study Ayn Rand and her influence on American culture, regardless of whether she’s properly “conservative” or not.

It might even be worth studying Rand’s influence in academe, since, as Chait notes, “[t]oday numerous CEOs swear by Rand. One of them is John Allison, the outspoken head of BB&T, who has made large grants to several universities contingent upon their making Atlas Shrugged mandatory reading for their students.”

And that is not all, oh no, that is not all!

One of those grants, awarded in March 2008, was a $2 million gift to the University of Texas-Austin to establish “to establish the BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism.” The professor named to that chair appeared in the pages of the New York Times last November with a searing letter to the editor placing the blame for the global financial crisis squarely where it belongs—on excessive regulation of the financial markets . . .

22 09 2009
JJ

“Mad Men” is very John Galt in culture. Amoral animal survival of the most ruthless, Greed is Good and more greed is better. Neighbors and colleagues are competitors; the old folks are in the way; never mind the kids, they’ll grow up just like us and until then they aren’t very interesting.

This post is about Sunday’s episode:
*****************

Open your copy of Erving Goffman’s Stigma (1963, ahem), folks, and begin checking off the various stigmatized identities whose marginal or despised social positions have provided Mad Men’s writers with material:

__ people of color
__ Jews
__ divorced women
__ unwed mothers
__ prostitutes
__ children of prostitutes
__ unmarried women over 30
__ bohemians
__ homosexuals

Is anything missing here? Why, yes, curiously—people with disabilities. [until now!]

. . . Guy MacKendrick, a dashing young executive, losing a foot in a bizarre, blood-spraying, office-party, lawn-mowing accident. Nothing runs like a Deere, indeed. And his senior colleagues immediately pronounce his career to be over: though he’s been a prodigy up to this point, and was about to take over the Sterling Cooper office, suddenly he’s finished as an accounts man. Don, as ever, responds wisely*: “that’s not necessarily true,” he says, puzzled, whereupon the Brits have to explain to him that the guy can’t walk, he can’t play golf any more, his professional life is over. . .

It’s not about the disability, people. It’s about the stigma. The executives from Admiral don’t want it known that their product is purchased by Negroes; the executives from PPL don’t want to be represented by a man without a foot. It’s similar, only different.

22 09 2009
COD

Roger Sterling had the best line…”And just when he was getting his foot in the door.”

Sunday’s episode was the best of the year.

22 09 2009
JJ

Agreed, it was awesome. Favorite Daughter was Irish dancing so Monday after her classes I watched it with her (watched her watch it, actually) just so I could enjoy her reactions which were themselves awesome. 🙂

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