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August 23, 2007

The will of man made visible
Posted by Avram Grumer at 03:49 PM * 216 comments

A few years back, I saw an article online about a guy who’d founded a company he was calling “Reardon Steel” “Rearden Steel”*, a reference to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He said that he was getting lots of email from people wanting to work for him, saying things like “All my life I’ve wanted to work for Reardon Steel!”

Now, I haven’t read a whole lot of Rand. Just some of her essays, which was enough to put me off reading anything longer. Every so often in a bookstore I’ll pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged and read a random paragraph, but the prose style always drives me off. But my general impression of her ethos is that a person who really did live up to the ideals she put forward in her books wouldn’t wait around for someone else to found the company he’d always wanted to work for. In other words, a whole lot of Objectivists like to talk the talk, but can’t manage to walk the walk.

Perhaps Objectivism is no worse than any other moral philosophy in this regard, but now I’ve bulked up this post with enough paragraphs that I don’t feel like I’m just posting a glorified Particle when I point out that the company that was managing the demolition for the Deutsche Bank building — where two firemen died in a fire last week and another two injured today in a scaffold collapse — is called the John Galt Corporation.

David Dunlap at CityRoom has already commented on the irony of this by quoting passages from the famous Galt mega-speech (“Building is not done by abstaining from demolition; centuries of sitting and waiting in such abstinence will not raise one single girder for you to abstain from demolishing”).

Comments on The will of man made visible:
#1 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:37 PM:

The guy who is an Ayn Rand devotee, who has built a company on libertarian principles, is Koch Industries.

http://www.amazon.com/Science-Success-Market-Based-Management-Largest/dp/0470139889/ref=sr_1_1/103-4619088-7075048?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187901405&sr=1-1

One would think true devotees would know this, and would already be working there (it's quite a large private company, one of the largest in America).

#2 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:39 PM:

Sorry URL too long

Charles G. Koch is the author, the book is The Science of Success, Market Based Management

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Being reared on steel sounds uncomfortable.

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Serge #3: Given the nature of the Randroids I've encountered, I'd say they were reared on crap.

#5 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:51 PM:

So, uh...is this where the Bioshock thread is going to be, then?

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Fragano... I've never read Rand, but, if the Gary Cooper movie is any indication, I'm glad I didn't.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 04:56 PM:

Valuethinker @1
One would think true devotees would know this, and would already be working there.

Agreed, or as Avram says, working for themselves.

The guys who email Reardon Metal wanting jobs are just wannabes. They want someone to give them the whole Objectivist dream, without realising that it's about taking*.

Love the irony of the John Galt stuff, though.

-----
* Whether or not you approve of that.

#8 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:02 PM:

This irony reminds me of this classic cartoon, the Bob the Angry Flower sequel to Atlas Shrugged. Worth reading even if you haven't read the original.

#9 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:08 PM:

Reardon Steel was a fake name for Steve Pearlman's company while it was in stealth mode - it was a fake name, to throw peole off the track. I worked about a block away at the time.

I should ask him if he's a libertarian.

Steve is best known as founder of WebTV (which he sold to Microsoft for a hefty chunk), but I knew him at Apple before that. He pissed off a lot of people there by doing something they told him was impossible - which made them have to follow through on their promises to manufacture and sell it if he finished it on schedule

#10 ::: Johan Larson ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:10 PM:

My background in Objectivism is kind of thin, but as far as I can tell, if you believe your interests would be better served by being an employee rather than an entrepreneur, then that's the right thing to do, according to the philosophy.

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:15 PM:

Atlas's Rug? Is that similar to William Shatner's?

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Serge #6: Like Avram I've tried to read Rand, and failed.

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Serge #6: Like Avram I've tried to read Rand, and failed.

#14 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Abi @7: They want someone to give them the whole Objectivist dream, without realising that it's about taking.

I don't think it is, actually. I think it's more about being able to ignore people.

#15 ::: Per Chr. J. ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:28 PM:

I went through a Rand-reading phase in (no surprise here) my mid-teens, and I do seem to recall that there are positively portrayed minor characters that are assistants etc. of the genius. Which means that there is room in the philosophy for several kinds of roles. Of course, I do not find it that unlikely that Rand was a bit more thoughtful than your average fandom Randroid...

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:31 PM:

Fragano... My favorite scene from the movie version of The Fountainhead is at the end, as Galt's girlfriend takes the elevator to his very tall and very phallic building, and her look of adoration as she sees him astride the summit, fists on hips, gave me such a Skyscraper Envy...

#17 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:42 PM:

In spring of 2003, I was an uninterested, ignorant, completely apolitical (and in hindsight dangerously masochistic), but incredibly stubborn teenager.
I spent that summer reading Atlas Shrugged, first out of morbid curiosity of this book that I had never, ever heard anything good about, then as that wore away I continued to the end purely out of spite: I would not let the book beat me.
It gave me mental scars that I will carry with me until I die. And it turned me from that uninterested, ignorant, apolitical teenager into a dedicated life-long (so far) liberal.
Since Atlas Shrugged was by far the worst book I've ever finished*, I don't expect I will ever read anything else she wrote in my life.

Apart from actually having read the book, though, I don't have much experience with objectivists. I've never actually met one. I have friends who have, though, and from what I'm told they sound exactly like what I would expect from having read the book.
This story you show here also sounds exactly like what I would expect from them. Egad.

*: Not the worst book I've ever tried reading, however. That dubious honour belongs to Slavegirl of Gor (morbid curiosity, see above), which I quite simply could not bring myself to finish. By page fifteen I could literally feel myself dying inside.

#18 ::: csmaccath ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:48 PM:

I've read most of Rand's fiction, most of her essays and a number of her letters and found everything I read stimulating, even when I didn't agree with it, which was often (I'm a progressive Democrat with strong socialist tendencies).

One of the things I enjoyed most about her work was her astute use of personality types as character models. I knew who Ellsworth Toohey was the moment he entered the story, and seeing him there helped me to better understand people I had known in life. The same was true with many other characters in her work. Granted, both Howard Roark and John Galt are a bit two-dimensional for my taste and often serve as mouthpieces for her ideology, but much like Milton's “Paradise Lost,” I think Rand's stories have more interesting devils than they do heroes.

I also think there's a great deal to be said for achievement and individuality, even though Rand says it much the way Zarathustra does and so is off-putting (“If you cannot help them to rise, help them to fall faster!”). Still, I appreciated her challenge to the reader to work hard, enjoy the fruits of that work and not allow oneself to be dragged down into mediocrity or groupthink.

I am not comfortable with the “Randroids” I've met or read about (what a great turn of phrase!), since I think they've taken her work as a license to pillage and damn the consequences (and perhaps she did indeed mean it to be taken that way). But I confess that I do have my Reardonesque days, and on those days, I am more wholly an individual, and that can't be a bad thing.

Anyway, there's my two bits, or my apology for Ayn Rand, or whatever. =)

#19 ::: Mark Gritter ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:51 PM:

I worked a couple blocks from a Rearden Steel office in Palo Alto. I didn't get the reference, though, never having read any Rand.

In Omaha there is a John Galt Boulevard, so at least the question "where is John Galt" has an answer.

#20 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 05:51 PM:

#16: Roark, not Galt. [ /nitpick]

#21 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:03 PM:

Heh. Yeah, I noted the name, too, when I heard it on the news after the fire. Of course, I heard today that John Galt has been fired, which also answers the question "Where is John Galt?"

A: Out on his ass.

#22 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:11 PM:

It is not true that all Rand fans would feel compelled to be CEO of whatever business attracts them. The character of Eddie Willers is meant to demonstrate people of good will and average talents. There is a place in the Rand universe for people who have no desire to run the world.

#23 ::: Richard Crawford ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:13 PM:

I'm afraid that I did read Atlas Shrugged, as well as a few of Ayn Rand's philosophical screeds (thinly disguised as serious essays), and fell for it completely. I espoused objectivist philosophy everywhere I went, disdained charity, proclaimed enlightened self interest, etc.

Then I turned 18, and saw what a load it was.

These days I liken the objectivism as akin to communism, in that it's a lovely idea but utterly impractical and absolutely unworkable in a world made up of human beings.

#24 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:16 PM:

I have a friend who joined Rearden Steel when it was a startup. I interviewed there, but having read Atlas Shrugged before the interview, I had to find a polite way to say, "The name of your company fills me with dread for your prospects."

In retrospect, I'm glad the deal didn't work out.

p1. The name of the company was, in fact, Rearden Steel, not Reardon Steel. It changed its name to Moxi Digital when it came out of its so-called "stealth" mode.

p2. Steve Perlman, the guy in question, left the company when it was scrambling for operating funds just before it got bought by Digeo. There's probably a story there that remains untold.

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:18 PM:

KristianB @ 17... Ayn Rand wrote Slavegirls of Gor?

#26 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:18 PM:

Oh, and it would be good to mention the Objectivism Mockery Page at this critical juncture.

#27 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Ack. Those links were all good when I looked last (admittedly a couple years ago). It's sad that quality objectivism mockery has such a short shelf life.

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:22 PM:

Jon Meltzer @ 20... I stand corrected. And Roark's building stands. I am so envious of its rigor.

#29 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:32 PM:

Serge @25: No. Just no. No, no, no Rand/Norman Atlas of Gor crossover mash-ups. Step away form the keyboard.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:43 PM:

NelC @ 29... Bah humbug!

#31 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:44 PM:

I, too, will confess to a teenage infatuation with Ayn Rand; this was mainly due to a teenage infatuation with the band Rush. ("2112" was practically Anthem set to music. Anthem will take you all of 1.5, maybe 2 hours to read, unlike The Fountainhead, which I struggled through thinking it was the book "2112" was based on. Oops.)

(Not to be confused with the song "Anthem," on the album previous, which probably was based on The Fountainhead, in three-verse miniature. With rockin' guitar riffs and way high vocals that are fun to screech along to.)

When the novelty of pissing off my parents with Randisms faded, so did my interest in Randisms. My infatuation with Rush, however, is still going strong. (Eeee! My Snakes and Arrows T came in the mail! Eeee!) Because they rock. Their lyricist also apparently outgrew Randism... sometime around 1977, I think.

#32 ::: Lloyd Burchill ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Recently I watched The Fountainhead. Knowing Rand had been mentored by Cecil B. DeMille, and wouldn't let anyone change a syllable of her screenplay, I just had to find out how her arid prose style and pitiless logic would translate into a film.

The weird result: it's a proper movie -- there's a story, dialogue, scenes that "turn," a good musical score, visual sophistication, moody lighting, and the young Patricia Neal in a chic black dress -- but all the characters are from Mars. They're inhuman. They're psychologically bizarro. Logical and motivated, yes, but if I met a batch of robot sociopaths like that in real life I'd flee screaming.

And how about that seduction scene? [shudder]


#33 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 06:59 PM:

Nicole #31: In tenth grade Anthem was one of my required summer reading books. My mother was furious, as I would have been in her position.

I just thought it was dumb, and I was pissed that, if they were going to make us read something SFnal, it couldn't be something that was any good.

#34 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 07:00 PM:

I'm sorry, I'm letting Rush-fandom down with my inaccuracies. That would be "an album previous," not "the album previous," as the song "Anthem" came two albums before the song and album named 2112.

Thank you. I shall geek out elsewhere now. (Wearing my spiffy new T.)

Oh. And Bob the Angry Flower makes me giggle. "What? NOBODY remembered to bring an inexhaustible labor force of ROBOTS???"

#35 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 07:03 PM:

Lloyd: And how about that seduction scene? [shudder]

You're too kind. But then I didn't see the movie. For all I know, that scene might not have been 100% pure rape in the movie. (No! Don't dash my illusions! Leave me some hope for humanity!)

#36 ::: Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 07:08 PM:

Scorpio @22: But didn't Eddie end up stranded in the middle of the desert? I always thought he didn't survive the book... which pissed me off, as he was my favorite character. (/relurk)

#37 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 07:45 PM:

I became obsesed with Rand during a six-month period or so in college. I eventually choked on her disdain for altruism, and spit it all out.

She served as a useful antidote to Communist sympathy during the mid-20th Century, but these days the West's biggest problems seem to be, on the one hand, religious fanaticism, and, on the other, big business run wild. And Rand can be used as an apologist for the latter.

She's fighting a battle against Communism, but nobody believes in Communism anymore, not even the Communists. So reading her is like reading an anti-Jacobite tract.

#38 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 07:57 PM:

According to the Times story, the John Galt Corporation was a really stupid outsourcer, or a mob front. In either case, the company itself wasn't much more than a PO box.

I suppose an orthodox Randian would rename them the James Taggart Corporation.

#39 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 08:01 PM:

From what I've heard and read, she strikes me as the literary and philosophical equivalent of acid reflux.

Still, I am determined to read Atlas Shrugged one day. I have a copy. Just, you know, so I can say I read her, I understand her and I still don't agree with her. I haven't managed more than four pages yet, but I'm a persistent cuss and I'll do it in the end.

#40 ::: tonyk ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 08:24 PM:

Serge #11: No, but it really held the room together, dude.

#41 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Serge #16: Now that is.........interesting.

#42 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 08:31 PM:

KristianB at #17 writes:

> *: Not the worst book I've ever tried reading, however. That dubious honour belongs to Slavegirl of Gor (morbid curiosity, see above), which I quite simply could not bring myself to finish. By page fifteen I could literally feel myself dying inside.

My old university had a seperate recreational library, run by a cabal of hip young feminists punk haircuts. One day they stopped a couple of us and said they'd just been given a box of SF books, and since they knew we were SF readers, could we sort out the good and bad stuff?

We obligingly sorted, and told them to tear the Gor books in two and throw them in the garbage right now. They gave us the sort of look librarians give people who suggest they mutilate books, but after we urged them to open the books to a random page and read, I think we came to a meeting of minds.

#43 ::: James Killus ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 08:38 PM:

Ah, you are all missing the real point. The question is not "Who is John Galt?" but rather "What is John Galt?" Once you answer that question, grasshopper, you will understand why all those Objectivists are waiting around for someone to found Rearden Steel. It is the same reason why all the titans in the book waited to go on strike until John Galt told them to.

I will also note that I find the prose of Atlas Shrugged no more off-putting than Tarzan, Skylark of Space, or Conan, the Barbarian. It's really just a matter of making sure you read them before you are 15.

#44 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 08:43 PM:

i read the action philosophers! issue on ayn rand. i consider that sufficient.

#45 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 08:53 PM:

I never tried Objectivism. (I read the Illuminatus trilogy first, which made it hard to take anything of that ilk seriously.)

In college, I once had an Objectivist explain to me that quantum mechanics was wrong. Or possibly an abomination, or possibly just awful -- I forget his conclusion. I recall his *reasoning*, which was that if an electron couldn't have both a position and a velocity, then there was no longer any such thing as truth or fact or reality.

That was a long time ago. Perhaps he changed his mind. I certainly never heard that he abjured the use of lasers.

#46 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 09:11 PM:

Sometime in the mid-eighties fate directed me to a meeting of Israeli objectivists, where I was told that the new objectivist state would be planned.

It was a hot summer evening, and the meeting was held on the breezy roof of a rather university-townish house.

Two major questions were discussed, as I recall: first, if there is a lifeboatload of people going through the ocean and one of them has to go, should it be the little old lady or the able bodied men; second, what is the proper color and design of street signs in a real objectivist state.

The latter got considerably more discussion (with far more nuanced views) than the former.

It cured me of any affection for the books, which I had read a couple years earlier in their (marvelous) Hebrew translations. The English source simply does not live up to the translated glory of the Hebrew.

It is quite possible that the appeal of the books (when I read them, and we're talking *early* eighties here) had to do with living in a sort of Eastern European-style interpretation of a socialist society (low on individual choices; low on freedom; high on bureaucracy and quite unclear about rule-of-law and there being any problem with nepotism). The notion of rewarding only the best-at-greed (and to hell with the other 99.999 percent of humanity) really loses its charm when you meet that kind of person and realize that you can't stand 'em...

#47 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 10:23 PM:

If you had trouble with Rand's prose style, Avram, it was probably (IMNSHO) because it sucked, not because of any personal issue.

For all of her cultish following, she really couldn't write fiction worth a darn, nor plot anything that wasn't guided by an obsession with being proven right.

#48 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 10:41 PM:

I prefer not to squander my recreational reading time on books with despicable characters. That's why I hurled Lord Foul's Bane across the room to smack into the wall. As a journeyman curmudgeon, I also treat unicorn cuddling fantasies the same way, of course.

#49 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 10:44 PM:

#48: despicable characters protagonists

#50 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 11:00 PM:

#31 I, too, will confess to a teenage infatuation with Ayn Rand; this was mainly due to a teenage infatuation with the band Rush.

There's some odd stuff knocking around the interwebs about that. Never realised the connection back in the day, must have been obtuse.

#8 This irony reminds me of this classic cartoon, the Bob the Angry Flower sequel to Atlas Shrugged. Worth reading even if you haven't read the original.

Worth reading *instead of* the original.

#51 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 11:40 PM:

Adrian @ 50 said: Worth reading *instead of* the original.

Yes, but it doesn't last long enough to keep me entertained even for one commute to work (even counting a couple of re-reads and some giggle time in between). For a better autopsy of the life, work and philosophy of Ayn Rand try Matt Ruff's excellent Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy.

#52 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:00 AM:

Sewer, Gas & Electric was brilliant, and I am very sad that the person who recommended that book to me also said nothing else the author had done was nearly as good. The polka-dot submarine, especially, I cannot possibly forget.

It also managed to make Ayn Rand an entertaining and sympathetic person, which I was entirely surprised by.

#53 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:09 AM:

Earl, my walls are freshly-painted, so no throwing books. I put them in a bag to take to the library where the Friends of the Library will sell them and buy something nice for the library (we got new tables, chairs, and carpet in the community room a few years ago).

#54 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:10 AM:

Fade Manley: It wasn't quite as incredibly brilliantly awesome as Sewer, Gas & Electric, but I found Matt Ruff's first novel, Fool on the Hill, pretty damn entertaining. I say try it out.

Bluey Kapirigi, the aborigine woman who's hauled out of Australia once a year to play Rosa Parks in a TV movie version of her life, is the element of Sewer, Gas & Electric that stands out strongest in my memory. I should read that book again. So durn good.

#55 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:30 AM:

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: the whole problem with Objectivism and the concept of enlightened self-interest is that so damn few people are enlightened. And very few of them are bosses of anything.

A long time ago I made a bet with myself. If I could open a book of Rand's essays at three different, randomly-chosen pages and read a paragraph (or two if they were short), and feel as if just one of those chosen paragraphs made sense, I'd read the book. I didn't have to read the book.

The reason I was even interested in trying was that when I was a teenager I kept meeting people who touted Rand to me. I was born and grew up in Philadelphia in mid-century, when Rand was living there, and there were a lot of people who'd met her and a lot more who wanted to gossip about her. It seemed worth at least trying her writing. Oh, well, can't be right about everything.

Incidentally, if even a quarter of the gossip that was current then about Rand was true, she was a heartless bitch with a taste for sexual liaisons with her younger disciples. More than one at a time according to the stories.

#56 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:35 AM:

Sewer, Gas & Electric was brilliant, and I am very sad that the person who recommended that book to me also said nothing else the author had done was nearly as good.

That person telling you such a thing was the literary equivalent of snootily announcing "Oh, I USED to like [obscure band] before they sold out and got popular." Go read Set This House in Order, you'll feel much better.

#57 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:47 AM:

I went through a Rand phase many years ago, though never really quite as a convert. Her life story is absolutely tragic, centering around first trying to build a philosophy of individualism and thinking for oneself, and then attracting a creepy cult-like following of people who happily let her do their thinking for them. Irony is often funny, but an individualists' cult is just a bit much.

For all that, she had some fantastic insights, and IMO wrote some very good books. Most humans don't work the way the protagonists in her novels worked (for example, the smart people I know do not all like the same music, art, drama, architecture, etc.), but there is an aspect of some of her characterization that is very real, and very powerful. The spirit of a Roark or Reardon is part of pretty much everyone, when they're really with themselves doing something they know very well and really love.

Now, I've spent a lot of my time as an adult with genuinely brilliant, accomplished people--creators in the sense that Rand would have loved. And they're all over the map--they're kind and petty, quiet and boisterous, sensitive to beauty or indifferent to it, religious and indifferent to religion and actively hostile to it, left wing and right wing and anarchist and indifferent to politics and moderate and green and libertarian, etc. In short, the picture of how those people would interact in Galt's Gulch is absolutely silly and wrong, and it's quite possible to be a brilliant creator who's nervous all the time, or short and fat and ugly, or uncertain or dead wrong about all kinds of other areas of their lives.

And yet, there's a piece of that brilliance and creativity and driving will that Rand captures really well. I don't know that I can explain or justify that, but it's true.

All IMO.

#58 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 01:03 AM:

Bruce #55:

As far as the sexual liasons go, there are a bunch of stories about one particular affair. I don't know whether there were others. (I don't really know the one widely-reported affair happened, since I wasn't around, but it seems to be widely attested, including by two people who were directly involved.)

Enlightened self-interest is supposed to be at the root of her moral system. That doesn't mean you expect everyone to be enlightened all the time, anymore than putting Christ at the root of your moral system means everyone must be a biblical scholar.

The natural way to think of a moral system based on self interest is that you want rules (or decision algorithms, I guess) that guide you in improving your long-term self-interest, in the broad sense of trying to further your values. I don't think this quite gets you to a useful moral code, though, since you can construct circumstances in which the self-interested thing to do contradicts all moral intuition you might have, and would be judged despicable even (I think) by Rand. (Wesley Mouch was presumably acting in his own self interest, frex.)

#59 ::: Greg M. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:42 AM:

Josh @ 47: Yeah, as someone who read both "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugs," I didn't react violently against Objectivism--okay, you want to be selfish, thass cool. My biggest objection was to the fact that I could have taken a red pencil to the thing, stripped down Rand's turgid sentences and absurdly overly-detailed paragraphs, and created a version of "Atlas Shrugs" that would be, at 200 pages (instead of approximately 1072), a much better book.

Whether or not a shorter, more readable "Atlas Shrugs" would be a good thing for the world is an entirely different question.

Paul, Fade Manley, ethan, mythago@51,52,54, 56: Damn, damn, damn! I was going to be all cultist and cool and be the first person to mention Matt Ruff. I was seven comments too late. Seven comments away from brilliance!
But yes--highly, *highly* recommend both "Sewer Gas Electric" and "Fool on the Hill," which has one of my favorite lines of all time:
As George is onggyvat gur qentba gbjneqf gur raq bs gur obbx, naq nabgure punenpgre fhqqrayl pbzrf gb gur erfphr, the demented story-teller/God Mr. Sunshine yells, "Jung vf guvf?! Jung vf guvf Qrhf Rk Znpuvan penc?!"

On the plus side, I am the first to note that Ruff has a new book out, called "Bad Monkeys." This is news because Ruff only publishes a new book once every seven years.

Matt Ruff's page

#60 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:52 AM:

Greg M. #59: If it makes you feel any better, I had completely forgotten that Ayn Rand was in that book. Somehow. God, I need to reread it.

#61 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:06 AM:

I had completely forgotten about the Gor books. After looking up a few at Amazon, I'm pretty sure I read some of them in high school. I'd like to think I was high-minded enough to find the world they depict abhorrent, but at 15 or 16, probably not.

I think I read The Fountainhead about the same time that I read Norman's books. Apparently it left me with about the same lasting impression as they did.

#62 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:14 AM:

albatross @ 58

My own behavior and that of just about everyone else I know leads me to believe that there's isn't enough enlightment around for enough of the time that it makes sense to base an ethical system on it.

The insuperable problem, I think, is that because we're humans, time-bound and mortal, we just can't know what's really in our best interests. All of our decisions are necessarily made with too little information and too little understanding of the long-term consequences of our actions.

I keep thinking that the major difference between us and some hypothetical race of post-humans is that they get to see farther into the chaotic future and so make better decisions, maybe even find a way to create an ethical system that allows them to judge each other's decisions objectively. But I understand the math of chaotic dynamic systems; the problem of predicting them is exponential in the distance in the future of the predicted events. Reminds me of some physicists from Los Alamos who founded a company about 15 years ago to predict the stock market based on chaos theory. One of the big financial houses was showering them with money. A few years ago I heard they had gotten to average prediction times of 30 seconds to a minute. So with a great deal of work they might get to two minutes in their lifetimes. But the backers were happy; they can make hundreds of millions of dollars a year with a one-minute average prediction time.

#63 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 04:59 AM:

Bob the flower is all very well, but you have to see the genius that is "Aslan Shrugged": Introduction and The Wardrobe - keep following the next post, theres more, but if I link them all I'll get put in moderation. Best literary mashup since Ho! for Hogwarts

#64 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 06:24 AM:

I once bought both Dhalgren and Atlas Shrugged for a quarter each at a Friends of the Library sale. Debbie Notkin remarked, "That's two big books -- one of them good." We decided that many people would agree with the remark, but that there might be a bit of dissension over which it was. (Debbie, as I, went for the former.)

I read Atlas Shrugged mainly in order to understand allusions to it made on rec.arts.sf.written. I can't imagine voluntarily reading it again.

#65 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 07:13 AM:

Dena Shunra

Israeli Objectivists sound like a contradiction in terms. They'd all move to America to evade military service.

One of the things that makes Israel work, I think, a highly individualistic society, but with the collective ethos of universal military experience?

On Rand generally, there is a devastating portrait of her in 'Old School' by Tobias Wolf. With her entourage of young men, hanging on her every word.

#66 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 07:47 AM:

I've never read any Ayn Rand (nor seen The Fountainhead), but she and I share a birthday.

Well, not *share* exactly. She had it first, and now I have it. Ha!

#67 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:18 AM:

I used to read quite a lot of Rand, and reread it, too. And the books she recommended like Cyrano de Bergerac and Facial Justice[1] were worth finding. Micky Spillane and James Bond weren't. I was reading Lewis and Chesterton and Heinlein at the same time. I suspect I liked the authoritative voice as well as particular things about the various points of view. I probably still like authoritative styles (which doesn't mean I agree with everything said), or I wouldn't be hanging around here.

To my mind, Rand was right about a lot, and wrong about a lot. You guys can probably take care of what's wrong, so I'm going to cover something of what was right.

She was on to something with her detestation of sacrifice, and the issue didn't die with Communism. I'm hearing more than a little of it in defense of the Iraq war--if you say it's going badly, there's a reasonable chance you'll get told "Look at how wonderful the soldiers are for sacrificing so much. More has to be lost so their sacrifices won't be in vain."

She was right about the desire to do good work, and I can't think of any other writer who's been as clear about how much people who want to do good work suffer if they're in a situation where they can't do it.

I know a sane objectivist--has her own company, does creative work in it, and doesn't spend time on the spiteful side of the philosophy. I also know at least one person whose life was pretty certainly made worse by taking objectivism seriously.

A small thing: I may be the only one here who kept hearing Tinky Halloway whenever Scooter Libby got mentioned--she was knowledgeable enough about American culture to expect someone with a doofy WASP nickname somewhere in a government scandal.

albatross, I don't think Rand got a cult by accident--she was more than a bit of an intellectual bully.

One thing that might be tragic: I believe she was driven to write by things that made her deeply angry, and once her books were really successful, she was able to insulate herself well enough that she didn't feel the need to write more fiction.

[1]Satirical sf. I remember the bit about a woman who's lower lip was just a little too full. Since plastic surgery was frowned upon, she was expected to always be sucking her lip in a little whenever she was in public. And people were supposed to do ritual dances whenever certain words were mentioned.

#68 ::: Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:44 AM:

I used to be regularly amused when I walked past the Objectivist table in the Student Union, with the big yellow banner on it: "10 million copies sold!"

#69 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:45 AM:

Nancy @ #67: re suffering caused by being prevented from doing good work: Dorothy Sayers said a lot about that, as "doing good work" was a linchpin of her theology. (e.g. "Why Work?" in Creed or Chaos?, 1949)

#70 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:20 AM:

I have read The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and Anthem (in that order, in fact); I must admit I skipped Galt's 80-page speech in AS, but I think I absorbed enough from the entire rest of the book to have a grasp of its themes.

I got precisely two useful ideas out of those three books. One was that sometimes you fight because you want to lose; you want to prove that your opponent can beat you. This may have something to do with my sexual proclivities, and is likely not widely applicable.

The other is about the funniest, most obscure joke in all of film. Because you know, Dagny Taggart's grandfather was the one who built the railroad her brother was mismanaging. And in Blazing Saddles, set about two generations before AS, the idiot railroad-construction foreman ("Gosh, Mr Lamarr, you use yer tounge prettier'n a $20 whore") is named "Taggart". I almost hyperventilated.

#71 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:33 AM:

Rand can be truly helpful if you're a girl in your teens and are feeling the weight of social pressure to be "good," i.e. self-sacrificing.

How many of you have seen Pan's Labyrinth? A wonderful movie in many ways, but it has a classic Plucky Girl as its heroine. I can't do the Rant Against Plucky Girls nearly as well as Sharyn November. Suffice it to say that Plucky Girls seldom get to be plucky on their own behalf, and their reward almost never involves continuing to have adventures.

The alternative story is the one where you fall in love, get married, and never have any more adventures.

Then Ayn Rand comes along to tell you that continual self-sacrifice will leave you with nothing of your own, and that you can love your work. If you're a girl who's had a certain kind of upbringing, that message can change your life.

The flip side is that at best it's just a corrective, not a philosophy you can live by. It can have weird effects on people who have boundary issues. And if you swallow it whole and then find out that no amount of trying will make the world work the way Rand says it does, it's a system that has no forgiveness in it, and a large vocabulary of abuse for those who falter.

My theory of why Rand reads so strangely: Mary Sue novels usually have only one or two Mary Sues in them. Rand wrote novels in which every positive character has the Mary Sue nature. Causality gets very strange indeed.

Regarding the movie: yes, the characters are inhuman. But you have to love the scene where she's fantasizing about Howard Roark and he appears in a little thought-balloon above her head, wielding his mighty jackhammer. You can't say the image is suggestive -- it's far too blatant for that.

#72 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:33 AM:

I finally read Atlas Shrugged a couple of years ago; what I found interesting about the book was the contradiction between the philosophical message and the emotional message. The philosophical message is that people should be free to do whatever they want with their property; the emotional message is that people like Rand heroes ought to run the world and everyone else should suck it up and deal.

I'm not surprised that the books read better in Hebrew than in English. Rand's emotional message is very similar to the "we are throwing off the chains of the decadent emasculating past and building a new glorious future, yay us" spirit of old-fashioned secular Zionism.

#73 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:39 AM:

Valuethinker @ 65

Israeli Objectivists sound like a contradiction in terms. They'd all move to America to evade military service

That line really needs a rimshot after it. Opens up a whole new area of standup comedy: Catskill Summer Sabra.

"Praise the borscht and pass the ammunition. I'm here until the incoming warning, folks."

#74 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:40 AM:

Seconding the recommendation of Set This House In Order. I loved it but inexplicably had not looked into other things Matt Ruff has written. Thank you for pushing me to correct this oversight.

#75 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 67

The Scooter (Lewis) Libby case got a double dose of name silliness: the reporter on the story for NPR was named Libby Lewis.

#76 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Teresa @ 71... The alternative story is the one where you fall in love, get married, and never have any more adventures.

...unless you're Rachel Weisz in the 2nd Mummy movie where, not only does she get into even more physical action, but she has a kid who's so smart that he does try to build a better mousetrap.

Stupid jokey comment aside... I can see how Rand would have helped a young girl out of social expectations. One alternative is to project yourself into a character who's not of your own gender, but who is just as alienated from everything and trapped in expectations. Mister Spock, anybody?

#77 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Enlightened self-interest, hmm? While I haven't read Ayn Rand, I had my own "epiphany" about enlightened self-interest. Way back in college, I read two well-known books advocating ESI, both first published about the same time, and I read them both in the same week. Upon realizing that they were pretty much pitching the same message, I stopped taking either of their creeds too seriously.

Those two books were: (1) Robert Ringer's Looking Out For #1, and (2) Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible.

Amusingly, LaVey later abandoned his Church of Satan, specifically because nobody actually wanted to explore and practice ESI, all his "congregants" just wanted to dress in black and mill around looking sinister. (IIRC, this was before Goths as such.)

FWIW, I consider that ESI is the natural counterweight to "tribal loyalty". Either by itself will lead you into stupidity. But consider them as two reasonable but conflicting purposes, and each can serve as a check on the other.

#78 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Serge (76): Spock, definitely.

I could almost envy girls these days having Xena and Veronica Mars and all of Joss Whedon's female characters to choose from.

#79 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:15 AM:

78

Teresa

Almost all the Ayn Randians I encounter are entirely self serving men.

She seems like a knock-off of Nietzche, and not a good one at that.

And of course Nietzche anticipated both fascism (some pretty fascist sexual imagery in Atlas Shrugged) and Bolshevism (a handful of disciplined men who could overturn Russia by conspiratorial and ruthless politics, rather than the wet noodle version of Menshevism).

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Teresa @ 78... And they also have most of Eureka's female characters, even Jack's daughter.

#81 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Teresa @ 78

Yeah, you could envy if they didn't also have JLo and Britney and Lindsay, and whoever the latest almost-corpse-thin mid-teen nautch dancer is.

#82 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Teresa@71: I can't do the Rant Against Plucky Girls nearly as well as Sharyn November.

Is there a non-rant way of explaining "plucky girls"?

#83 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:54 AM:

Sorry, forgot: obrant: "Hey, godamn kids, get off the lawn!"

#84 ::: Smurch ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:54 AM:

"But you have to love the scene where she's fantasizing about Howard Roark and he appears in a little thought-balloon above her head, wielding his mighty jackhammer. You can't say the image is suggestive -- it's far too blatant for that."

Exactly right, and it's one of the things I love about King Vidor's directing. The sexuality is so concrete, palpable and unapologetically over-the-top. You start to smile, it feels like it's meant to be camp, then you notice the imagery is too grounded to be campy. You see the same magic in Duel in the Sun (In Color).

I think Vidor does something pretty amazing in The Fountainhead - he finds something sublime in Ayn Rand.

#85 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:03 AM:

I vaguely remember reading Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and We The Living while I was a kid.
I think I remember thinking that I have no idea what the author was ranting about in Atlas Shrugged. We were poor, see, and afaiwc then, it was just about a bunch of rich people squabbling.
The only one I connected to was We The Living, and all I remember about it is that it was a love triangle, they were poor and oppressed, and it ended sadly. And was there something about a red keychain or bauble or something?

#86 ::: lou ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:17 AM:

I read Anthem years ago and it took me about 45 minutes to finish. Since I knew nothing about Ayn Rand, to me, it read like a tract for Hitler Youth, especially with the tall, blue-eyed and blond hero and heroine. I thought it was trash and never was tempted to read Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. My DH reassured me I didn't miss much.

#87 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:21 AM:

I always use The Fountainhead to check on anyone who introduces themselves as a libertarian. I ask them if they take Rand's dating advice, too. If they get the joke and laugh, they're a human being I can deal with.

If they don't get it, I suspect psychopathology.

#88 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:52 AM:

albatross at #57:
(for example, the smart people I know do not all like the same music, art, drama, architecture, etc.)

well, maybe that's less likely to be true in the mid-twentieth century. In the '50s or whenever, there was less media to choose from, so people were more likely to have all seen the same media.
Watching the movie Goodnight and Good Luck, for example, a character says "have you seen the editorial in the paper?" and they've all read the same paper. Today a similar bunch of people would be less likely to have read the same paper. Also there's a scene where they all go to the tavern and the tavern doesn't have printed menus and ads on all the tables the way a similar place would today.

#89 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:12 PM:

I'm just going to stand by my comment on Metafilter a month or so ago:

Imagine the Objectivist version of Burning Man. 30-odd thousand Randroids - people for whom capital goods are fetish items - all out in the desert at once. How many do you think would know the difference between an AC and a DC motor? On what day do you think they'd resort to cannibalism?

#90 ::: yuubi ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:14 PM:

>> 17 KristianB
>> 61 Linkmeister

Is Houseplants of Gor as good as Norman's stuff?

#91 ::: Tristan Palmgren ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:21 PM:

"well, maybe that's less likely to be true in the mid-twentieth century. In the '50s or whenever, there was less media to choose from, so people were more likely to have all seen the same media."

I think this was a shot at one of Rand's more easily mockable persistent rants--that people who liked the wrong composers or the wrong writers (god forbid you like Tolstoy) or didn't smoke cigarettes (seriously!) were in some unexplained manner evil and anti-human. This was because Rand arrived at all of her preferences and pleasures via the unimpeachable philosophy of Objectivism. Therefore anyone who arrived at competing pleasures must be "putting their emotions before their rationality" or following some competing philosophy. Both of which disqualified you from being a human being, of course.

I read through Atlas Shrugged in high school at the behest of a friend. Quite enough for me, thanks. Though judging from bullet point plot summaries like this of The Fountainhead, I don't really need to because they're both the same book.

#92 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:34 PM:

I see that I'm going to have to pick up more Matt Ruff books after all. This is a compelling reason to finally dig up a copy of the lease so that I can get a local library card, and see how this city's book request system works; I already desperately miss the Carnegie library system in Pittsburgh.

If I'm trying to read multiple works by an author, I usually read through everything they've written chronologically. Do any Matt Ruff fans here know if this might be a particularly good or bad idea? (I would not, for example, suggest that a new Pratchett reader start with The Colour of Magic, and I nearly didn't read Christopher Moore because I tried to start with Practical Demonkeeping.)

#93 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:47 PM:

#91
"putting their emotions before their rationality"

well, doesn't everybody?

Rationality is essentially a bolt-on to the pre-existing build that is already human nature. Even Eric Raymond says so, and he's a laissez-faire libertarian.

Rationality is something people learn once they already have some pre-existing personality in the first place. Teaching somebody rationality is like putting skis on a dog. He's still a dog.

#94 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:48 PM:

#90: I love that.
But yeah, Houseplants of Gor is a frighteningly accurate depiction of his style, and probably of far greater literary merit.

#95 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:53 PM:

Teresa @71, your answer works well for Valuethinker @65.

As you pointed out, it's a *wonderful* book for people who are "feeling the weight of social pressure to be "good," i.e. self-sacrificing."

When self-sacrifice is just about certain to be useless and pointless (double whammy in a young woman threatened by conscription into the Israeli military, which worked as a sort of pimping-for-officers service in additions to its primary role as international PR).


As to Valuethinker's "Israeli Objectivists sound like a contradiction in terms. They'd all move to America to evade military service" - that word "evade" has some loudly roaring undertones.

Evade service, eh? Interestingly, most of the self-described Objectivists at that particular meeting had done military service. They were mostly headed for the U.S., though. The prevalent mindset was that Americans make easier marks for their schemes. (It worked pretty well, too; for a decade or so, the prevalent dream among that-sort-of-person was to have an American venture cap fund their start-ups. Not "building a great company" or even "building a functional company" - finding funding via a plausible pitch.)

Anyhow, the entire "evade military service" trope overlooks the fact hat half the boys (and more than that among the girls) doesn't do military or any other service in Israel. It overlooks the cynical use made by politicians of this pretty-much-unpaid workforce (I believe the conscripts are paid about $50 a month nowadays. Their time is valued accordingly.)

#96 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Tristan #91: They're definitely not the same book. What can I say? "If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like." For whatever it's worth, I liked Atlas Shrugged much better than The Fountainhead, and have reread it a few times. (I'm not an objectivist, BTW.)

And yes, having all the good guy characters identical on matters of art and religion and politics and literature and music was silly. Spider Robinson has about 5% of the same disease, just enough to be annoying.

BigHank #88: That's good. Though I have to admit, while I wouldn't try Roark's approach to Dominique (isn't that supposed to end with "and then you go to jail?"), the ride on the blue-green rails at 100 MPH+ would definitely qualify as a nice first date! Damnit, building the John Galt line *ought* to get you laid.

#97 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:59 PM:

95: really? Somehow I wouldn't have thought Israel would have a lot of spare troops just sitting around doing nothing.
My impression is that most of them spend all their spare time working on the business plans for their tech startups, which certainly beats the "when I get home/childhood sweetheart/white picket fence" conversation most war movies involve.

#98 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 01:07 PM:

Big Hank at #87: (Rand's dating advice)
I just noticed that one thing that showed up in the Google ads on this thread page was an Ayn Rand dating service.

I guess the "speak of the devil" principle applies to Google ads.

#99 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Teresa #71:

I agree that it's not a philosophy you could live by (or at least that I could live by). Rand made some wonderful observations, like the whole circular-firing-squad nature of an ideology of self-sacrifice, or the raw primal power of a creative mind going full blast, or the deep desire to hear "good job" from someone you really admire, when you're just flat out of the league of the normal people you deal with all the time.

It had a big effect on me, and immunized me against some of the dumber common ideas, and gave me another way to think about all kinds of things. There are moments when I definitely identify with Dagny or Roark or Rearden.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Bruce #62:

I think we're talking past each other here. Consider any moral system where you guide your behavior based on some rational attempt to accomplish something in the world. That could be maximizing self interest, maximizing global well being, maximizing number of people praying, maximizing God's happiness, etc. For any such system, you will have to try to make predictions about the future consequences of your actions. Recognizing the impossibility of perfect predictions doesn't seem to me to change that.

Is it possible to weigh actions based on their likely impact on your future well being? Pretty clearly it is, even though you can't predict everything. So then it seems reasonable to use that imperfect predictive ability to accomplish your goals, right?

#101 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Ajay @97

Your perception of the Israeli does not tally up with what I heard from the actual soldiers in it. One of my favorites is the reservist (conscripts automatically turn into reservists after their first run of service; this one was Ivy League educated to graduate level) who was called up for a month, annually, to guard a gate in an unfenced base. That's typical for the kind of "sitting around, doing nothing" that Israeli troops are used for. The budget was about $50 a month, that's what it cost the powers that be. That's how they valued the soldier. The cost to the reservist, whose business, family, etc. were compromised during that time is not taken into consideration. Hence, self-sacrifice.

Especially taking into account the difference in experiences across genders and ethnicities therein. What I heard ended up pushing me over the edge into the firmly held belief that if Israel/Palestine don't reorganize their resource-sharing really soon, the place will bleed to death. Or spontaneously combust.

As to whether a goal of "figuring out how can I get money for a company that someone else may make profitable, maybe" or "going back to a white picket fence" is more honorable, that is up in the air. The latter is clearly less interesting for outside viewers, but I'm not sure that an interesting life is what people yearn for.

You write as an external observer, which seems to me to rather objectify the people involved. They're human. They have hopes and dreams and ideals and dignity, just like everyone else.

#102 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:01 PM:

George Clinton is a lot more fun:

"She like it hawd.

She like hawder.

Hawd as steel and steel gettin' hawdah, etc.}

"Hard as Steel" George Clinton & P-Funk:

T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. ("The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership" --1996)

Love, C.

#103 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:03 PM:

95

Dena, I wasn't trying to criticise the Israeli military.

I had assumed (for men) that Israeli military service means driving a tank into The Lebanon, and getting AT14s launched at your back by Hizbollah (like Danny Grossman's kid).

Or patrolling the streets of the West Bank at 4am, looking for some Hamas operative and hoping you don't get blown up doing it?

The problem being then, that it never goes away-- you've got another 18 years, 2 weeks a year, of this once you're 22. That's a heck of a 'self sacrifice' for anyone, and I would think an Objectivist would find that objectionable. In a Randian framework, we ought to use mercenaries like Blackwater to do that stuff?

Agree that most of military service is dead boring. I think the low end jobs are stopping and searching Palestinians at checkpoints, etc? I didn't know about the issues of women in the Israeli military. The US Army certainly has a serious problem with coerced sexuality.

I also didn't realise that non-compliance was as high as 50%. My colleagues, almost inevitably, were either in specialised communication units, the air force, or search&rescue/commando units. I guess if you want a business career in Israel, you need that on the CV.

Agree with Israelis wanting just to get funded, not just to build good businesses. There's too much of that out there but not just Israelis.

Israel could be a Western European country, even a member of the EU, if only we could get you inside of the pre 1967 boundaries (not sure about the Golan, it seems to me its strategic value to Israel is far greater than its cost to Syria, but Syria will never sign a Peace Treaty without it).

Don't know if you read Martin Van Creveld's book 'Defending Israel'? A good read. He is over reliant on 'the revolution in military affairs'-- it won't all be missiles and drones. But he points out that by occupying the West Bank, Israel has surrounded its people with their enemies.

#104 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:16 PM:

95

Dena

A bit further. My salient revelation on Israel (wrong or right) was sitting next to a chap named Adzel, from Manchester, who had fought in '49, was on the beach that day Hagganah destroyed the Stern Gang arms ship from Canada.

Adzel was a follower of Merutz (sp?). And he said to me that if Israel continued to have enemies within its frontiers it was doomed. It could survive having hostile nations on its borders, but having the Palestinians inside its boundary was what weakened and destroyed Israel.

I thought, from an allegedly far left party, this was such a brilliant statement of foreign policy realism. A key to strategy is to understand your own weaknesses, as well as the other guy's strengths.

Of course this is taken to mean 'transfer' (aka ethnic cleansing) by those on the Israeli right, and by your Moldavian minister of national security (Avignor Liebman?spelling>). And Sharon of course played games with it (sticking the wall where it could never have international recognition).

But what is killing Israel (I think) is that it has turned itself into a garrison state. Your enemies are not 'out there' they are inside your (extended) frontiers and they have absolutely nothing to lose by opposing you.

Keeping the motivation of soldiers who are basically running a giant prison camp must be a very difficult thing.

What we do about Hamas' rockets on Sderot (?) I don't know. But I believe, nation to nation, even Israel and Hamas could deal-- there might be some very bad days, when rockets are replied to with artillery barrages (that's what countries do, when they fight)-- once it had a state, Hamas would then have the problems that all states have (if we piss off our neighbours, they kill us, wholesale).

Israel is in the perfect place to bargain now-- it has no real external threats (that threaten its existence) and it all the cards. Waiting will mean waiting until the day when it has fewer cards and the other side may have less incentive to seek a deal.

(sorry about all the spellings? if it's any consolation, I can't spell the name of the guy in Iran, either)

Anyway that's my view, from 2000 miles away...

#105 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Bruce Cohen #81: Yeah, you could envy if they didn't also have JLo and Britney and Lindsay, and whoever the latest almost-corpse-thin mid-teen nautch dancer is.

Lindsay now, sure, but they also have the Lindsay of Mean Girls, which is just about the best movie a teenage girl could ever watch. They also have Christina Aguilera, who turned into one of the almost-corpse-thin crazy types, and then pretty quickly said "Fuck this, I have better things to do," and got her wits about her. She's a fantastic role model. They've also got Pink, who I think does a great job reconciling the appeal of the Lindsay-Paris world with simultaneous resistance to it. Kelly Clarkson makes a habit of singing about independence and talking about how she doesn't care to lose weight. On TV, in addition to the ones Teresa named, they have Claire from Heroes. I don't think the world of a teenage girl is by any means ideal, and often the good is less out in the open than the bad, but more and more positive images are coming all the time.

Fade Manley #92: I've only read two of his books, but they were the first two. I think the chronological system would work just fine. Just make sure you do read Sewer, Gas & Electric.

#106 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:26 PM:

yuubi @ #90, as I said, I haven't read them since HS years (1960s), but I can still recognize the similarities in the Houseplants of Gor link you posted.

Now I'm wondering how the scenario written there would work if combined with Little Shop of Horrors.

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:29 PM:

John Norman's Fountainheads of Gor... I dare not think what such fountainheads would be shaped like.

#108 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:36 PM:

ab @36 -- Eddie ended up on a "frozen train", but I always figured that if the train crew had someplace to go, the rest of them probably could manage the same. I don't see it as the death of Eddie. He would not just sit out there and expect to be rescued.

#109 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:42 PM:

ethan @ 105: Sewer, Gas & Electric is the only I've read, on the strong recommendation of a friend. (Who basically said, "Don't bother with any of his other stuff, but you have to read this book.")

I am planning on picking up more of those books now. Even if they don't reach the same madcap height as that one, I can't imagine such a brilliant author wouldn't be at least good in his other works.

#110 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:47 PM:

" In the '50s or whenever, there was less media to choose from, so people were more likely to have all seen the same media."

What? No! There were many more cities with separate, independent, papers that disagreed with each other than there are now! The Internet is not the sole and original fount of difference.

Also, when there was less mass media there was a bigger market for local stuff, which varied whether it meant to or not; rep houses, local music scenes and dance styles, tailors' shops, etc. *Homemade* culture, too.

#111 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Bruce Cohen (#55): "Incidentally, if even a quarter of the gossip that was current then about Rand was true, she was a heartless bitch with a taste for sexual liaisons with her younger disciples. More than one at a time according to the stories."

Not just stories: Documented in an excellent biography of Rand, The Passion of Ayn Rand, by Barbara Branden, which was made into a TV movie on Showtime. I don't have any memory of the TV movie, but I remember thinking it was very good.

I remember a few snapshots from the book: Rand grew up in a privileged, middle-class household in Tsarist Russia at the beginning of the 20th Century. Her teen years were very similar to a middle-class teen's life in America today: Parties, school, hanging around with friends.

Except society was collapsing around them. This was the Russian Revolution. The kids had records, and nice clothes, and friends, and parties, but no food. They were literally starving in the middle of luxury.

She came to America. Like many refugees, then and today, she came from a privileged background and found herself in America with nothing but intelligence and willingness to work. And that was enough. She got a clerical job with a movie studio in Hollywood, and, to her horror, began to see the American Left become sympathetic to the Russian Communists who'd (in her mind) destroyed her home.

And she also had contempt for Americans who saw physical possessions as a means of asserting status. This was at a time and place when private cars were still luxuries, but becoming more common. She had a conversation with a woman who said she'd want to have a car as long as very few people had cars, but if everybody had cars, she didn't care. That didn't make sense to Rand: Either you want to have a car or you don't want to have a car. Who cares if other people have one?

Branden says Rand's adult life was shaped by being a physically unattractive, fiercely intelligent, outspoken woman at a time when such a person was viewed as a freak of nature. Branden says that the tragedy of Rand's life was that she was born too soon -- there was no place in mid-20th-Century America for a homely, fiercely intelligent, outspoken woman -- Rand would have had an easier life, and therefore have been less ruthless, had she been born decades later.

I think Branden is right on that point. Physically unattractive, fiercely intelligent women have an easier time of it today. It's still a hard life, though.

I don't remember Branden mentioning numerous sexual liasons for Rand with young male admirers, but I do remember one: With Branden's husband, Nathaniel. Nathaniel Branden and Ayn Rand didn't even have the decency to sneak around: They announced the affair to the entire objectivist organization that Rand founded, said that their love was true and Objectivist and rational, and that their respective spouses had to suck it.

Despite Barbara Branden having valid reasons to hate Ayn Rand, her biography comes off as fair and objective, and was praised for that when it was published. I can't help thinking, though, that Barbara Branden got her revenge on Ayn Rand: She made Rand look pitiable, and Rand would have hated that.

Dena Shunra (#95): "for a decade or so, the prevalent dream among that-sort-of-[Israeli] was to have an American venture cap fund their start-ups. Not "building a great company" or even "building a functional company" - finding funding via a plausible pitch.)"

It's not just an Israeli thing - that was pretty much the modus operandi for many tech companies during the dotcom boom.

#112 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:02 PM:

Valuethinker @103, I responded by email; no point in derailing the thread with *that* issue. I think the salient point is that Rand's ideal of individual self-attainment was indeed the point for those Israeli Objectivists. (And I am an American, not an Israeli.)

Mitch @111, the "let's seem how much venture cap one can drain out of the marks" is pretty un-Objectivist, isn't it? (Which was my point.)

#113 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:12 PM:

Deanna, I'm no expert on objectivism, but I'd say the point is debatable.

#114 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:22 PM:

Fade Manley #109: Ooops--I somehow conflated what you said with what...er...someone else said about having read something else by him.

And the prize for "vaguest sentence" goes to...

#115 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Mitch @113

I propose that Objectivists are all bent out of shape about attaining excellence.

Let us subdivide Objectivists into "the ones who are committed to excellent achievements" and "the ones who are committed to excellent earnings".

It seems to me that first variant would be more into building railways and paper mills and banks so forth; the second would be more into building hedge funds and pay-day loan offices and so forth.

Excellence at the game of Milk the Marks is a sort of excellence, I guess. But it didn't get much billing in Rand's books.

#116 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 04:58 PM:

Dena #115: I'd like to hear from someone more knowledgeable about Objectivism than I on the subject.

Although it seems to me that Rand might argue that the venture capitalists in this instance were Anti-Life (isn't that what she called the enemies of Objectivism, and her villains like Ellsworth Toohey?) and therefore deserving what they got.

#117 ::: Per Chr. J. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 05:17 PM:

Regarding what others wrote about Rand as a corrective... I found it stimulating to be exposed to her ideas as an adolescent in predominantly social democrat and regulated Scandinavia. I do not know what the American equivalent is, perhaps coming from the Bible Belt and picking up a few books by Richard Dawkins? That was one thing I found interesting when discovering fandom in Norway in the 80ies: The "left wing" quite often consisted of anarchists of the left, while the "right wing" quite often were libertarians, objectivists, etc. Needless to say, in the outside world both movements were rather miniscule. In other words, there was a strong emphasis on liberty. Of course, I never became an objectivist, and is nowadays quite likely a terrible collectivist in a lot of respects as measured against that philosophy, but it was an interesting exposure.

#118 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 06:37 PM:

#89: [Objectivism and Burning Man]

Makes me wonder what SF fandom, described as a gift economy, really makes of libertarians and Objectivists, given that there are a lot of both who are some kind of fan. I take it they don't normally gravitate toward SMOFdom?

#119 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:10 PM:

An Objectivist-run SF convention would probably receive the dubious blessing of being quickly categorized as a "gate show" (one of SMOFdom's MurderDeathKill designations). heh.

#120 ::: James Crowley ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:33 PM:

Serge @ 76: A footnote to your jokey comment: According to Stephen Sommers, Universal kept asking him who Brendan Fraser's love interest was going to be in The Mummy Returns. "His wife!" didn't seem to satisfy them....

albatross @ 96: I am distressed to hear that Atlas Shrugged "definitely isn't" the same book as The Fountainhead. Now I might have to read the damned thing after all, just to finish off the "series". (I once spent the better part of a weekend reading Anthem, We the Living and The Fountainhead back-to-back; it didn't kill me, but it didn't make me stronger.)

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:20 PM:

James Crowley @ 120... Of course, when two people get married, tension between the two people because as we all know, marriage is constant bliss.

"I'll do the dishes."
"No, no... I wouldn't dream of having you do it."
"But I insist."

#122 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:22 PM:

joann, we just had a couple of posts on rasff on how often libertarians are killfiled there.

#123 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:28 PM:

James Crowly... #121 should have said that, when two people get married, tension disappears because, as we all know, marriage is constant bliss. And yet, according to the movie people, this bliss seems to come at the expense of romance. Go figure.

#124 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Then Ayn Rand comes along to tell you that continual self-sacrifice will leave you with nothing of your own, and that you can love your work. If you're a girl who's had a certain kind of upbringing, that message can change your life.

If you're able to get past Rand's rather obvious disdain of females other than herself, anyway.

My own experience with Objectivists is that when I was in college, I was a member of a very small pro-First Amendment group; we were for separation of church and state, open government records, that kind of thing. For some reason the local Objectivists got it into their head that we were some kind of enemy group, and we couldn't put up a poster without it getting covered over three deep with day-glo Objectivist posters announcing some Ayn Rand discussion group or other.

#125 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:09 PM:

Mitch @ 111: "The decency to sneak around" does not fit my worldview at all. But neither does that sort of "s/he has to suck it up" attitude toward a spouse.

This isn't about monogamy or otherwise: it sounds as though Rand and Branden were openly contemptuous of their spouses, and that is itself contemptible, if true.

#126 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:37 PM:

How do you pronounce "Ayn" anyway? Is it as in "ain't" or "wine" or something stranger than that?

#127 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:23 AM:

The Random House Webster V.3.0 for Windows pronounces Ayn it to rhyme with wine.

She's too dead to fight you about it, though. The pronunciation of her name can be no wronger than that of Van Gogh's...

#128 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:37 AM:

Mitch #111: I don't think she announced it to the whole movement, but rather just to her husband and Nathaniel Branden's wife. From what I read of the whole thing (both Brandens wrote books and gave interviews), Nathaniel Branden was considered Rand's right hand man until their affair ended, apparently because he fell in love with someone else. Then, she repudiated him and more-or-less excommunicated him from the movement, but without making it public what had happened.

Deeply, deeply slimy, and very much in keeping with human nature. Let someone become convinced that their desires or beliefs are somehow the definition of morality, and it's almost certain that they'll justify whatever they want to do--whether that's sleeping with married men, or having ten wives, or whatever else.

#129 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:59 AM:

Mitch Wagner @ 111

I haven't read Branden's book, but I saw the movie not too long ago, and thought it was a neat bit of character assassination. From what little I know for sure (as I said, most of my information is third or fourth-hand gossip), it may be true, as well.

It's true that the first half of the 20th Century were not easy for women in general, and especially not for women who were both intelligent and not good-looking by the standards of the time, but I don't buy that the times destroyed Rand. My aunt Eve was born in 1912, shortly after her parents emigrated to the US from Ukraine* with very little money. She was extremely intelligent** and fiercely independent.*** She decided to become a professional photographer when she got a job as a darkroom assistant, and did so. She became the first woman, and only one of three ever, to become a partner in Magnum. She had a lifetime professional association and friendship with Henri Cartier-Bresson, in my moderately-educated opinion one of the three finest photographers of the 20th Century. Granted Eve was lucky as well as smart and determined, and wasn't ugly (though she was not pretty) but she started out with less than Rand did, and was very happy with what she attained.

No, I think Rand was in many ways a very self-destructive person, who set herself up for disappointment that made her very unsatisfied not only with what she had done, but also with what she believed she could do. Insisting to yourself that emotion is something to be deplored, and that only perfectly rational thought has any standing as a way of deciding things could tend to do that to you, but I have to ask why she decided that this was a good idea in the first place.

* her obit bio (not yet needed) says Russia, but that may just be because the borders kept moving.

** I should say is; she's still alive, though quite sedentary these days.

*** My aunt had nine sibs; she was the oldest. If she wanted something, she had to get it for herself. Raising that many children didn't allow my grandmother (a single parent shortly after the last child was born) to provide much more than the basics for the older kids.

#130 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 03:09 AM:

Re venture capitalists and Objectivism:

FWIW I started working in the computer industry in Silicon Valley in the mid-70s. Though I moved out of California, I've been involved in the industry since, and worked for and with companies based in the Bay up until the bubble burst in 2001. I've observed a steady increase in the professed level of (capital-L) Libertarianism and Objectivism among the people I worked with during that time, pretty much simultaneous with a steady and rapid decrease in the amount of risk the founders of a startup were willing to underwrite themselves. The "garage-shop" startup is a thing of the past, and people don't mortgage their houses or postpone their vacations to pay for developing the business plan or building the prototype. These days it's all about hustling angels for seed money to write the plan, then going out for first-round financing to pay for nice offices and maybe a company car.

#131 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 03:40 AM:

Serge @121
For a couple of years there (before we got the dishwasher), one of the things I would do to get at my husband in the middle of long-running disagreements was to do the dishes.

You see, in our ad-hoc division of labour in the house, dishes were his job. So doing them myself was criticism*.

I mentioned at work one day that I'd been so angry at him that I'd done the dishes, and one of my colleagues replied, "How can I get you that annoyed at me?"

-----
* sub-species martyrdom

#132 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 04:46 AM:

Bruce #129: Pardon my ignorance, but what does the phrase "partner in Magnum" mean in the context of your aunt's bio?

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:24 AM:

abi @ 131... "How can I get you that annoyed at me?"

That colleague of yours must really dislike doing the dishes if he'd prefer having Nightmare Abi displeased with him.

#134 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:59 AM:

Earl (132):
I'm not Bruce, but start here: Magnum Photos

#135 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 10:10 AM:

Abi #131:

There are some ways to achieve honest wishes
that don't require that you become a martyr;
we all know very well you're a self-starter,
one who through the maze with ease just swishes.
Those who have doubts soon sleep with the fishes
and don't have the repute of Jimmy Carter;
the have no wealth for which they will not barter,
they mostly fear that you've done the dishes.
There are some ways to show that you're enraged
that may involve much redness of the face,
but you're too wise to seek such harsh resorts;
instead you give reminder that you're waged,
that you too have to run in the rat-race
and have good reason to be out of sorts.

#136 ::: Ron Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:51 PM:

csmccath@#18: The reason Rand's characters are instantly recognizable, aside from their poster-print two-dimensionality, is that you can tell the color of their hats by the sounds of their names. Good Guys sound like dropping the silverware; Bad Guys sound like dropping the pudding without the plate.

I read Atlas Shrugged some midcollege summer when a friend mailed it to me anonymously. Then I read a bunch more. Then I said to myself, Lord this is silly.

You'd think it would've given me some quip-ammo for arguing with the atmospheric ideology; I went to a Catholic women's college where someone in some class was actually assigning The Velveteen Rabbit and telling us we had to "stay vulnerable" of all things, as if 19- and 20-year-old Catholic women weren't vulnerable enough. I myself was a quivering mass of nerve endings most of the time.

The problem was that Randy one-liners sounded at least as silly as Folk Mass one-liners and all that earnest blood-and-daisies stuff we were getting just post-Vatican 2. Maybe it would've sounded better in Latin.

Anyway, I've always held it against Rand that someone who went on and on about EX-Cell-Ence could allow such crummy prose to be put out in public. That was the same time I tried to wade through Murray Bookchin and concluded that whole forests could be saved if he'd had a decent and authoritative editor.

Formative years indeed.

#137 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Dena 127: The Random House Webster V.3.0 for Windows pronounces Ayn it to rhyme with wine.

No, no, it rhymes with whine! As Wonkette used to say, so best.

#138 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:09 PM:

#137 Xopher:

Surely the best pronunciation is rhyming it with "mine."

#139 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:20 PM:

albatross 138: Actually it rhymes with all of them. Apt, since she was a smarmy selfish...was she a drunk? I really want her to have been a drunk!

#140 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:36 PM:

It occurs to me that Objectivism is designed to appeal to people whose sense of entitlement is greater than their privilege. Either normally-entitled but relatively unprivileged people, or privileged people with inflated entitlement.

#141 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:05 PM:

Koch Industries is the second-largest private company in the US. Biggest is agri-giant Cargill. But Charles Koch is a lot more motivated by von Mises than Rand.

Rand can be interesting when your brain is on slow-time, and you feel up wading through fifty-page monologues. But Randism as a philosophy of life? LMAO. Anyone else ever noticed that Rand's heroes are so busy with their ultimate self-actualization that they don't have any children? Can't be the center of the universe when you have kids. The future argues against you.

Others have argued that this also makes Randism an evolutionary dead end.

#142 ::: LizardBreath ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:29 PM:

137, 138: Swine?

#143 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Fade@52: To be more specific, Fool on the Hill is a very different book from Sewer, Gas, and Electric -- small-town rather than big-city, ~smooth ~fantasy rather than edgy science fiction -- but I wouldn't call it inferior. What I've heard about Set This House in Order suggests it's radically different from both of them. It's quite possible for one person not to like all of them, but "bad" doesn't apply.

albatross@99: the deep desire to hear "good job" from someone you really admire, when you're just flat out of the league of the normal people you deal with all the time.

How many of the people with that desire really are out of the normal league, and how many are just dreaming it? Did Rand ever consider that someone really superior and independent wouldn't \need/ that comfort?

joann@118: I've been on the fringes of SMOFdom for decades and haven't heard much about libertarians; serious SMOFs \tend/ to ignore political divisions and try to find out what will work (both general principles and in a given case). Part of this may be that serious SMOFs don't necessarily think of a gift economy, although most of the ones I know are familiar with the idea; they think making things work is fun in and of itself. (I do recall Eric Raymond et al running a sort of joint freeware/SF convention; I wasn't enough into software philosophy or edge-cutting to consider going.)

#144 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:48 PM:

CHip @ 143,

Is the freeware/science fiction convention you're referring to Penguicon? I ask because Eric Raymond isn't involved at all in running it, though he does attend every year. I can't even handle a command line interface, but I go for the anime, the writing panels, and the general entertaining geekery of the place; I've never felt like I was missing out by skipping the (admittedly quite thorough) software/open source tracks.

If you're referring to a different convention, never mind; that's simply the only one I know of, aside from the mostly defunct Linucon, that matched your description.

#145 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 03:01 PM:

#141: If that's the company named Koch that I'm thinking of, then Charles Koch's son was in my fourth grade class. So, that's one Objectivist who managed to reproduce.

[snark]
Made the kid reimburse him for school taxes, though, and he had to change his own diapers when he was little.
[/snark]

But, yeah, Objectivism as a life philosophy for a whole life is pretty much laughable. Echoing Avram, it's for ubermensch-in-their-own-heads who feel put-upon by having to live with ordinary humans.

A=A!

#146 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 04:13 PM:

#143: Fool on the Hill is about Cornell University; and, unless one went there, one misses a fair amount of the in-jokes. (And, if one did not live in the dorm that Ruff - and I - lived in, one misses yet another level of in-jokes. I was several years ahead of him but we do have common acquaintances from there.)

I think that, up to the ending where it devolves into a Hollywood-style chase, Set This House in Order is the best of the three. The Tiptree Award gives away a major plot spoiler, though ...

#147 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Anyone else ever noticed that Rand's heroes are so busy with their ultimate self-actualization that they don't have any children?

I've noticed this about Libertarians and Objectivists in general. Not that there are none, of course, but IME, the subset of "people who have primary responsibility for the care of child or a dependent adult" overlapping with Libertarian or Objectivist philosophy is very tiny indeed.

(Though, see earlier Silicon Valley references, I have known a non-trivial number of Me First Philosophy dads. Three guesses as to their share of the childrearing duties.)

#148 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 05:26 PM:

mythago @147:

the subset of "people who have primary responsibility for the care of child or a dependent adult" overlapping with Libertarian or Objectivist philosophy is very tiny indeed.

As a parent, I can understand this. Children both outdo adults in living as though their own happiness is the moral pursuit of their lives, and clearly show the consequences of such a philosophy. It ain't pretty.

#149 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 05:28 PM:

I remember adulatory articles about Alan Greenspan in which he was cited as an admirer of Ayn Rand; this instantly caused me to doubt his intellect* and gave me concerns about the Fed as he ran it.

*Partially assuaged by his jazz saxophone talents.

#150 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Linkmeister (149):
Greenspan certainly seems to have adapted his speaking style from Ayn Rand's characters.

#151 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Earl Cooley @ 132

I'm sorry, I got a little carried away on that post and didn't realize that the Magnum reference wouldn't be clear to most people. Magnum was the first photographic agency organized, run, and owned by a partnership of the photographers themselves. Prior to the late 1940s photojournalists typically did not own or control the destiny of their work, often it was done on contract or as part of employment and they couldn't even decide who to sell it to. Magnum allowed them to own their work and continue to profit from it, while still having the support and clout of something larger than a single photographer. It still does; they've moved into selling their images on the web, and do well at it from what I've heard.

#152 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:01 PM:

mythago @ 147

That's one of the reasons I left Silicon Valley in the late '70s. We'd just had our second child, the first was approaching school age, and my colleagues made it abundantly clear that I must be some sort of space alien to want to have a family life. So I moved someplace else where the consensus on what life was about was a little closer to what I wanted. Some of the people I know who stayed there made similar decisions later on without moving; typically involving an acceptance that all their promotions from then on would be lateral moves at best.

#153 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:10 PM:

Linkmeister, John Houghton,

What always bothered me about Greenstein was that he so clearly worked on a style and manner of reporting to the public that required at least two chickens per speech to figure out what he was saying, resulting in a great mess to clean up. Though I guess from this thread that it wasn't the Objectivists wielding the sponges and mops.

#154 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:23 PM:

@93 Even Eric Raymond says so, and he's a laissez-faire libertarian.

A pro-war libertarian, no less. His blog's lapsed, unfortunately.

@142 I have known a non-trivial number of Me First Philosophy dads. Three guesses as to their share of the childrearing duties.

Got to wonder whether the mothers concerned ignored all the clues available beforehand before settling down to breed with these paragons, mind.

#155 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 09:03 PM:

@152Some of the people I know who stayed there made similar decisions later on without moving; typically involving an acceptance that all their promotions from then on would be lateral moves at best.

Sounds like what a lot of women have to put up with in non-Silicon-Valley jobs.

I always feel guilty when I read Paul Graham's essays for not having had the strength of character to form my own startup, work like three beavers for a few years and then retire to drink pina coladas, write essays and start my own family, but it's a little late now.

#156 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 09:48 PM:

Adrian Smith @ 155

I know a lot of people who did that. I should say I know a lot of people who started that process, and a very few people who came out of it at the other end. Now granted, the ones who did grab the brass ring became really wealthy, but I only know one who actually went off to drink mai-tais afterwards.

I alse know 2 people who were friends of mine and close mutual friends, whose friendship was completely destroyed by more than a year of extremely hard work with nothing whatever to show for it. I know another who finally threw in the towel after 3 or 4 failed startups and became a cop. I'm not at all rich, but we raised two kids who are doing well with their lives, we live comfortably*, and we have enough money to retire in comfort. I'm one of the lucky ones. High-tech startups are a form of gambling, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

* well, usually. The current remodeling job means we've been using a Porta-Potty for the last two weeks, and probably for one more yet, and the showers are out for several more weeks.

#157 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 02:22 AM:

How many of the people with that desire really are out of the normal league, and how many are just dreaming it? Did Rand ever consider that someone really superior and independent wouldn't \need/ that comfort?

Well, that's not always the case. Seems to me there's an oft-repeated trope in which the individual is brilliant in a field that simply isn't appreciated by those surrounding him--say, he's got the makings of a superb artist, or a genius writer, but his family has been lawyers going back to the days of Daniel Webster and if it ain't lawyering it ain't worth doing. So all that grow-outta-yer-fantasy-and-get-serious pressure comes to bear. How wonderful, then, for this beleaguered individual to encounter a role model in his field of brilliance, who pushes him to improve his craft, who recognizes that he does have the potential for brilliance.

I think that if we say that needing such comfort disproves being independent and brilliant in the first place, we may be running afoul of the same illogic that says that being poor disproves a claim of being morally upright and hard-working. However virtuous we may be, the struggle can still be damn hard.

I guess that's really one of the few things I did take away from reading Rand, and especially Anthem, which was skeletal enough that I could abstract out the few bits of worth to me: that one should persevere in one's area of talents, regardless that one's community may not value those particular talents; that such a community can stifle those whose talents don't fall in line with their values; that sometimes one has to seek out or build a new community that does value one's talents.

Of course, what I took away from reading Rand is not necessarily exactly what Rand would have had be take away, although I think there's some overlap.

#158 ::: broundy ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 03:17 AM:

#143: Fool on the Hill is about Cornell University; and, unless one went there, one misses a fair amount of the in-jokes.

I probably did miss some of the jokes, but Fool on the Hill was my Very Favorite Book for many years - so much that I went on a pilgrimage to Cornell so I could see all the sites described in it. I even broke into the Risley Dining Hall through an unlocked window so I could see the spot where the Messenger attacks S.T. George.

It's very exciting for me to see this discussion - I read Fool on the Hill in 1989, and this is the first time I've heard anyone else mention the book.

#159 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 06:46 AM:

#141: "Anyone else ever noticed that Rand's heroes are so busy with their ultimate self-actualization that they don't have any children? Can't be the center of the universe when you have kids. The future argues against you.

Others have argued that this also makes Randism an evolutionary dead end."

Guess I'm one of those others then. It seems pretty obvious to me: children are not profitable. Nobody makes back what they invest in raising a child. Children don't pull their own weight, and Rand seemed to despise people that don't pull their own weight more than anything else in the world. Obviously a True Believer would never have children.
And since Objectivism apparently holds that every non-Objectivist is Anti-Life, an enemy of all good things in the universe, obviously the goal is for every living person to be a True Believer, and then mankind would die out in one lifetime.

All in all, I'd say Rand didn't quite think things through to their logical conclusion.

#160 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 09:31 AM:

140 you've nailed it. A good categorisation of Randians. Maybe of all political philosophies to a point, but especially Rand. Thank you.

Bruce Cohen
You have described the world of Silicon Valley, tech startups etc. incredibly well. The 'winners' such as they are, to my mind, seem to be those who jump in *at an early stage* to places like Cisco, Sun, Google, cash in their options as soon as they can, and go when they can. They retire with 1,2,3 millions but they are not burned out shells of human beings at the end. The rise in housing prices in the Valley also has helped pave the way for many a retirement.

But most people who found new tech ventures wind up with nothing. Even if they get VC funding, they often lose their jobs and their equity is diluted to heck and a handbasket.


I'd never thought about the Randian think, and having children.

Heinlein was no Randian, but the contradiction between his novels and his personal life (no children) is striking. His characters seemed to get more and more fecund as time went on.

Of course conservatives in general are famous for having more kids than liberals. One would conclude then that the future will be populated by very few Randian Libertarians, a steadily declining number of liberals (proportionately), and a rising portion of social conservatives. Assuming limited/no conversion from kids of conservatives to adult liberalism.

I have friends in Israel who think that is what is happening to their society. The government effectively subsidises the religious to have kids, and the western-oriented liberal elites, with much lower birthrates, are increasingly tempted to emigrate. Something similar has happened to the Christians in the Middle East, who were once sizeable minorities in many moslem countries.

Maybe the US will increasingly follow that trend?

#161 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 11:16 AM:

#108 Scorpio: I think Rand intended us to see Eddie as maybe dying there, but I think he was stronger than that. And he needed to get away from his hopeless pursuit of Dagny, and find some nice girl that saw *him*. I figure he's the de facto mayor of some post-collapse settlement, having gotten the technology running again.

#162 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 11:23 AM:

Kristian B #151:

I think she would have said that people should only have children if they truly wanted to, not for the goal of populating the next generation.

In fact, we're seeing populations falling in most of the industrialized, wealthy world, largely because of just the observation you made--children are hard work, they take a lot of resources, and unless you really *want* kids, you'll probably just decide not to have them. (I suspect the hassle of having kids is balanced, in terms of evolution, by the pleasure of sex. Now that you can have sex without having kids, you see falling populations. This won't continue forever, though--if there's any part of the decision to have lots of kids that's either genetic or cultural and passed along reliably to kids, we'll eventually see most of the population made up of people who are inclined toward big families.

#163 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 11:31 AM:

Nicole #157:

Yes! At least some extraordinary people really need that external feedback. It's hard to know you're not going entirely off the rails, when there's nobody around who can check your work, can follow your analysis or discussion of something and point out flaws, etc. And praise from someone you admire can reassure you that you're on the right track, that you're accomplishing something important. I don't at all buy the idea that if you were great enough, this wouldn't be necessary--feedback is necessary for everyone, and one of the big problems if you're smarter than most people around you and think very differently is how to filter their feedback, so you can tune out the crap from people who just don't get what you're talking about, while paying attention to that from people who really do see what you're seeing.

#164 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 02:10 PM:

albatross @ 163, Nicole @ 157

Certainly, everyone needs feedback of some kind. The sort of mind that rejects feedback and insists that it can't make mistakes or lack required information for a decision has been (rightly, to my mind) labelled sociopathic.

And there's yet another benefit of cooperative behavior that Rand ignores; it's beautifully illustrated right here in Making Light. Some of the most creative and productive times I've ever had were in small groups of my peers*, working on a common problem. Some collaborations produce work different from and better than the work of the individuals. Cases in point: "Lewis Padget", Kornbluth & Pohl, Watson, Crick, and Franklin. Some of the software professionals out there may have have had that experience doing pairs programming or debugging.


* Where 'peer' is very approximate; having people around who are smarter and better educated than me tends to pull my abilities towards their level, at least for that short time I'm around them.

#165 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 04:05 PM:

163

It's almost impossible to imagine creative thought and output without feedback.

Feedback is essential to just about any human creative process. Look at 'lone geniuses' like Edison and Bell, who worked intensely in teams.

#166 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 04:12 PM:

Valuethinker @ 165

And given Edison's persecution of (or war against, depending on your partiality) Tesla, I think the label sociopath would not peel off easily.

#167 ::: Jax ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 04:55 PM:

*De-lurking*

[Sigh]

Hi. I'm a recovering Randite. And I've been clean now for almost ten years.

I had my first Rand at the tender age of twenty-two. I started on the easy stuff: Fountainhead, Atlas, then progressed to We the Living, Anthem, Night of January 16. Little did I know these works were but the gateway pieces to the really hard stuff: The Romantic Manifesto, The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism--the Unknown Ideal, and the Black Tar bad boy of them all: The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

It wasn't enough for me to do Rand every day in the privacy of my own home. I started copping for Rand on Mozilla (AKA, the Internet), seeking out other Rand-users. Most of them were men, most of them wore 1940's trench coats with their hair slicked back and an unnatural obsession for trains and steel and Rachminoff. Most wanted to be architects or self-made business men or, at their worst, fiction writers. And they all agreed on one thing: Thomas Jefferson was a hero who made it okay to do as he said and not as he did.

The more I used Rand the more distant my non-Rand-using friends grew. They didn't like the Rand parties I threw, the countless nights I made them stay up late as I shamelessly performed John Galt's three hour speech, over and over, until my tongue was raw and my eyes bloodshot. They didn't like that every time they knocked on my door I made them say, "I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine." Soon, they'd had enough. But I didn't care. I smoked Rand. I snorted Rand. At the lowest of my lows, I did Rand in the raw: I injected a photocopy of her handwritten manuscript straight into my book-line. I was tweaked for days. I think I even began to speak a little Russian. I began to sell Rand, again starting with the easy stuff, the gateway works. I worked my way up the philosophy chain until eventually I was selling the serious stuff that capitalists were willing to drop serious Benjamins on: ITOE, OPAR, The Ayn Rand Letters. I used my Rand money to buy gaudy gold chains with diamond-encrusted dollar signs.

Not long after this, my Randiverse began to change. I started noticing the chinks in the armor, but I didn't want to admit that the woman I had tattooed on my stomach was anything less than a goddess (an atheist goddess, of course, or perhaps a Greek Goddess, since Rand only allowed Greek Mythology to pervade her stash). It was worse in the mornings for me when I'd been up all night Randing with my Randites. I'd wake up with the cold chill of sobriety threatening to melt my brain. It started with swearing. I couldn't say God-damned anymore because I didn't believe in God anymore. And Lord of All Trade was already taken by a Libertarian author, and if there's one thing a true Objectivist hates, it's Libertarians. Besides which, my Randites didn't approve of stories that weren't set in a very strict 1940s environment.

I started dating men who had marble fireplaces so I could steal into their house, do some Rand, take a firepoker and crack the marble. One time I whipped a man with a sex toy (because I couldn't find a horse-whip) and told him to have his way with me. At the end of it I fell at his feet and told him if I believed in a God it would be him, but instead, I believed in him as my hero, as my maker, as my everything that gives me validation for being the strong and independent woman he said I could be. The pool guy was very confused.

The friends and family that were still talking to me finally staged an intervention. One by one they went down the list of how my Rand use had effectively killed their interest in anything philosophical. They went through her prose, line by line, circling her convoluted sentences that were peppered with 20's dialogue and a punishing overuse of em-dashes. They made me look at my life, at the Rand-addicts I called my friends (who had, at this point, abandoned me for Bill Gates), and they asked me: is this the kind of person you want to be? You really think it's nice to be Dagny in the Valley while someone like Reardon (the only character with any development in her literature) is frantically searching for you in a plane and you just sit there, unfazed and unwilling to bend the rules while John Galt takes you to piano recitals?

I had hit rock bottom. I'd become a Rand-ho, pimping my soul for that sweet taste of thought control.

I'm in a support group now, taking it one day at a time. I still do Rand from time to time. She's not the kind of thing you ever really get out of your system; some scientists claim that once she's in you, your body chemistry is forever changed. Before I turned into an addict, Rand had actually given me something I never would have found from my religious upbringing of Original Sin and self-sacrifice: she gave me hope that I could be me. And throughout all of it, I finally did find me . . . I just had to go through the philosophical ghetto to get there.

#168 ::: Jax ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Oops. I meant "Rachmaninoff" Not "Rachminoff" Damn Russian names.

#169 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 05:14 PM:

jax, I understand that some people use Greenspan patches to help break the habit.

I think she would have said that people should only have children if they truly wanted to, not for the goal of populating the next generation.

'think she would have said'--did Rand never issue pronouncements on childbearing? Hard to see how she missed that one. Perhaps the inability and unwillingness of children to engage in A=A reciprocity made the subject unthinkable.

#170 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 05:42 PM:

#162: "I think she would have said that people should only have children if they truly wanted to, not for the goal of populating the next generation."

She might've, for all I know. My entire analysis is based only on (what I remember of) Atlas Shrugged, I won't pretend to be an expert. Having said that, it was my impression of Ayn Rand that if you truly want something unprofitable, then according to her you are Anti-Life, an enemy of the universe, and deserve death.

#171 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 07:23 PM:

Jax, I am awestruck of your #167, especially the end of the eighth paragraph.

#172 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 01:06 AM:

Jax, I didn't even notice the typo in the midst of all the awesome.

#173 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 02:59 AM:

Jax @167:

You should de-lurk more often.

#174 ::: Jax ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:24 AM:

Mitch, Ethan, Abi...

Aw shucks. Tah.

I would de-lurk more, but see what happens when I do? Not to mention my two-year-old daughter (or _nutjob_ as I lovingly call her) allows me to type maybe three words when she's not sleeping.

Mythago @ 169: Love the Greenspan patch. I tried it for a while. The cost kept fluctuating so I just went cold turkey.

It is unfortunate that Miss Rand (nee Alice Rosenbaum, later changing her name after her Remington Rand typewriter...see, I know way too much about this) never had children; I'm certain her perspective would have been different. Her own parents were extremely instrumental (like selling their jewelry and ensuring sponsorship for her) in getting her to the U.S. It is too bad, well, actually, tragic, that this type of respect for deserving parents and love of children was pitifully lacking from her work.

In spite of her many flaws--flat characterization, florid prose, alienating almost anyone with a will of their own despite her philosophy of free will, and the awful affair with Nathaniel Branden, who is still alive and still an idiot--I would love to expound upon the genius of Rand's philosophical breakthroughs in the areas of metaphysics, epistomology, and consciousness. But I am only allowed one hour of Rand a week as a condition of my rehab.

#175 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:38 AM:

Serge, #76: Spock, absolutely. He was the role model for just about every geeky, miserable teenage girl of our generation.

Vicki, #125: If I'm interpreting the statement you quoted correctly, "decency" is being used in a highly sarcastic sense -- as in, bad enough that they were doing it at all, but worse that they did it in such a way as to publicly humiliate the other parties.

Fade, #144: Linucon is very definitely defunct. They ran for 3 years, never got attendance of more than about 100, and then the main organizer moved to somewhere in the Northeast.

Adrian, #154: There are still a non-trivial number of women who consider that a fair tradeoff for not having to work outside the home. Many of them -- but not all -- discover some years later that the Me First philosophy also applies WRT things like trophy wives.

albatross, #162: Hence a lot of the current anti-immigration furor, which is largely racism dressed up in pretty clothes. Poke a "close the borders" type past the initial rationalizations, and sooner or later something akin to "pretty soon we'll be a minority in our own country!" comes out.

#176 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 07:21 AM:

Lee @ 175... I had gotten a sense of that from my wife's own background, but I only realized the extent of it last year at an LAcon panel about the role models that had been available for women. I think it was Delia Sherman who brought up Spock.

#177 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:19 AM:

Jax, 167

Before I turned into an addict, Rand had actually given me something I never would have found from my religious upbringing of Original Sin and self-sacrifice: she gave me hope that I could be me. And throughout all of it, I finally did find me . . . I just had to go through the philosophical ghetto to get there.

This is excellent. One of the ways Objectivism goes wrong is that Rand promises a life of passionate enthusiasm, but it's easy to get tangled up in the formal philosophy. She originally developed the philosophy in order to write better books--her original love was story-telling--but I think she lost track of the idea that her intent was to live better, and I'm sure it happened to many of her followers.

Another theory of what happened to Rand is amphetamines--possibly taken by prescription for weight loss. For sure, something happened--I've read some of her early letters, and they're courteous, cordial, happy....

While Rand certainly wasn't your standard-issue feminist, _Atlas Shrugged_ is the only fiction I can think of about a woman in charge of a major piece of infrastructure. Any others? If they exist, when were they written?

No cite, but some time ago I read a Wall Street Journal piece about what it's like to be Operating Vice President in a family owned business. It was *very* reminiscent of the problems Dagny had with Taggart Transcontinental.

#178 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 09:36 AM:

162

Take out whatever word is being used about immigrants, it's inevitably 'illegal immigrants' now.

Replace with 'moslem' and reiterate.

Then for curiousity, replace with 'Catholic' or 'Irish' or 'Jew' and go back and see what was written by perfectly respectable WASPs in the 19th century (or even HL Mencken in the 20th).

It's the same damned words. The same objections. The only sophistry is to say 'illegal immigrants' implying welfare scroungers/ murderous gangs etc. As if it was 1/100th as easy to get into the USA now as it was in 1900 or 1850 when their ancestors got in.

Where I grew up, believe it or not, the hate word was 'Catholic'. The muslims I mean the Catholics, were 1. a threat to national security (loyal to an outside religious power) 2. stuck to each other 3. had their own school system 4. were opposed to the rights of women 5. had way way too many babies, overstressing the social welfare system 6. were generally scroungers and unemployed 7. were always drunk, and lazy.

Nowadays in modern Britain, you can say all of those things about muslims in many quarters (although faintly ridiculous accusing them of drinking) but it is entirely unacceptable to say those things about Catholics. I mean really unacceptable. This ranges from the working class Essex version ('I'm not a racist but...') to the posh Sussex version ('I'm not a racist but...').

Plus ca change...

#179 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 09:37 AM:

Matt Ruff has a new novel--Bad Monkeys. So far, it's got an engaging voice, a cool premise (a conspiracy for killing bad people), and a very self-directed main character, but it's moving a little slowly.

#180 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 09:41 AM:

175

Hasn't the world changed? A young SF reader now could have Signy Mallory, captain of Earth Company ship Norway, in Downbelow Station and sequels.

Mallory who sleeps with two of her key lieutenants, (Ty and Graff), who is absolute and ruthless ruler of Norway, who is famous for shooting her own crew during a civil order situation dockside. About all she isn't is bisexual, apparently.

And then there is Katherine Janeways, Jadzia Dax etc. etc.

#181 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 09:49 AM:

178

I forgot, when I grew up, a Catholic force was running an active terrorist programme in the British isles: blowing up coaches on the motorways, and pubs in Birmingham, London and Guildford.

So we had muslim terrorists in our midst, I mean Catholic terrorists....

Of course in 1900, they were Jewish anarchists...

#182 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:38 AM:

Jax:

That was wonderful!

#183 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:55 AM:

Lee @ 175,

I'm pretty clear on the status of Linucon, having married the founder of it. (Yes, it's quite defunct at the moment, and if it's resurrected it'll likely be under another name.) I was just curious about someone's impressions of Penguicon, and if it had somehow acquired the image of "founded by Eric Raymond" rather than "attended by Eric Raymond".

#184 ::: Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Scorpio (#108), albatross (#161): That's a far more positive interpretation of the scene than I came away with. Thanks!

#185 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:44 PM:

I was the one who used the word decency in this paragraph (#111):

I don't remember Branden mentioning numerous sexual liasons for Rand with young male admirers, but I do remember one: With Branden's husband, Nathaniel. Nathaniel Branden and Ayn Rand didn't even have the decency to sneak around: They announced the affair to the entire objectivist organization that Rand founded, said that their love was true and Objectivist and rational, and that their respective spouses had to suck it.

Then Vicki said (#125):

"The decency to sneak around" does not fit my worldview at all. But neither does that sort of "s/he has to suck it up" attitude toward a spouse.

and Lee followed up:

If I'm interpreting the statement you quoted correctly, "decency" is being used in a highly sarcastic sense -- as in, bad enough that they were doing it at all, but worse that they did it in such a way as to publicly humiliate the other parties.

I did mean to say "decency," and I did not mean it sarcastically.

Here's what I meant to say: Cheating on a monogamous relationship is wrong. However, it's human. People stray. Sometimes people fall in love with the people they stray with, and therefore they stray multiple times. Sometimes it happens over years.

But it takes a special kind of cruelty to rub your spouse's nose in it, to announce it publicly and say that it's your spouse's moral duty to suck it up. As though you did nothing wrong and the spouse has no right to object.

#186 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:46 PM:

If you find yourself cheating on a monogamous relationship, the decent thing to do is recognize your spouse's right to feel wronged, and do what you can to mitigate that. What Rand and Nathaniel Branden seem to have done is precisely the opposite.

#187 ::: Shannon ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 09:34 PM:

#143: Fool on the Hill is about Cornell University; and, unless one went there, one misses a fair amount of the in-jokes. (And, if one did not live in the dorm that Ruff - and I - lived in, one misses yet another level of in-jokes.)

Those in-jokes were precisely one of the reasons I loved Fool on the Hill so much. I bought the book from the Cornell Campus Store on a whim after reading the back cover, and then read it a year after graduation. I knew a lot of people at the arts dorm he talks about, so I got some of those jokes, although I think some of them may have since replaced by new in-jokes. Plus, I adored Ithaca as a setting.

157: that one should persevere in one's area of talents, regardless that one's community may not value those particular talents; that such a community can stifle those whose talents don't fall in line with their values; that sometimes one has to seek out or build a new community that does value one's talents.

It's funny, because I think the story that best illustrates the tragedy of a stifling community is Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron. And how that community can not only deny people their talents, but drive them truly crazy. I would say Vonnegut was quite philosophically far away from Rand, but they do share a deep respect for human gifts.

As for The Fountainhead, I had to read it for a philosophy/literature class in high school. One of my friends summarized it as such:
Dominique to Roark: Rape me!
Roark: No.
Dominique: Rape me!
Roark: Okay.

Not exactly a summary of the philosophy, but seems to express Rand's views on women pretty well.

#188 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 09:48 PM:

Fade@144: Penguicon was the name I was missing; Eric was visible enough as a speaker for the first one (some years ago) that I may have mistaken his level of management. However, contra your #183, I spoke of him as one of a group, not as the founder.

#160: The common explanation is that RAH wanted kids but he and Virginia tried unsuccessfully; from what I know of the field of fertility treatment, she would have been past a plausible age well before even primitive versions. That frustration is one of several that spills over his later work.

#189 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 12:04 AM:

CHip@188, Thanks for the clarification. Penguicon's my favorite convention out there, but this isn't an appropriate venue for me to start going on about its wonders; I was just a bit confused and thought it had somehow gotten a reputation as a libertarian/hardcore OS developers convention or something.

#190 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 01:09 AM:

Jax, I'll see you and raise you a bound volume of The Objectivist.

Mitch, I think I know what you mean. Have you ever had someone insist on confessing something to you that left you feeling wretched, while they went whistling on their way, glad to have gotten if off their chest? I've seen varieties of "openness" that had much the same effect.

Somebody asked earlier what Rand would have thought of noncommercial projects. I happen to know, because in my youth I listened to a radio broadcast interview with her, and that question was asked by someone in the studio audience. I think she was doing the interview for free, so he asked whether that wasn't a violation of her principles.

She said, "Young man, if money is the only value you recognize, you're selling yourself very cheaply indeed." I liked that, obviously; I've always remembered it.

The two big things I learned from Ayn Rand: (1.) Don't despair; there may be smarter people elsewhere. (2.) You can decide for yourself what art you like, whether or not you can justify your reactions.

The problem with Ayn Rand is that if there are people out there who are like Ayn Rand's characters, they don't need Ayn Rand's books to tell them so.

And what was the emotional trauma that turned St. Ayn all sour and strange? I don't know. Maybe she discovered that even after she'd written a very successful book that got made into a successful movie, she was still odd-looking and awkward and had a lousy time at parties. I remember reading a contemporary of Charlotte Bronte's who said she honestly believed Charlotte would have traded all her genius and literary success in order to be taller, prettier, wealthier, and more self-assured.

#191 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 01:34 AM:

Teresa @ 190

You could very easily be right about what soured Ayn Rand on the world. One of the great tragedies of being human is that we can't see ourselves, but only see reflections of ourselves in others. The image we have of ourselves is totally dependent on the company we keep, and the ability we have to interpret what they see in us. With that many reflections in oddly-shaped mirrors, it's no wonder very few of us have any good idea of what we're like.

And one of the worst kind of groups to find yourself in, at least in terms of seeing yourself accurately, is a group of people who worship you. If you accept what they think about you, you eventually think you're a god; if you don't, but realize your power over them, you can all too easily become a demon.

#192 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 02:00 AM:

Teresa, I have never been in precisely the situation you describe, but you remind me of a relationship I was in with a woman who was in therapy because (she thought) she wasn't assertive enough. A couple of times after she fought she was quite pleased and said that her therapist would be proud of her for being assertive, which didn't make me feel any better at all. Still later, she dumped me, which was just as well because what with her and her therapist there wasn't enough room for me in that relationship.

#193 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 02:02 AM:

"A couple of times after WE fought." It works better if you proofread BEFORE clicking "POST." It doesn't work so good if you proofread after clicking "POST' but before the message actually gets posted.

#194 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 05:26 AM:

I don't think we can attribute Rand's general screwed uped ness to the failure of fame to make her happy. People's outlook on life is usually shaped far, far earlier, if not even in the womb.

She was ruthless in her romantic relationships. She was delighted to be a goddess with a coterie of followers. She was by all accounts a not particularly pleasant person.

I suspect she was both her parents' darling, to the point they sacrificed everything to get her out of Russia, and never good enough. And this both drove her to succeed, but also guaranteed she'd never be happy.

I have seen this behaviour so often in narcissistic personalities, and these origins, that it's almost typecast. It's also strongly associated with great entrepreneurs, performers, conductors, musicians, artists, etc. But it's also associated with very unsuccessful people: paranoid people who believe 'they' conspired against their success, and failed entrepreneurs, etc.

Narcissistic personality disorder is just abnormally common amongst a certain kind of successful person. And they often develop 'cult like' followings, but also a high degree of burnout amongst those who work for, and with, them. The toadyism exhibited by Rand's crew is typical.

You can see the problem with unleashing such a self-justificatory philosophy on people who already have that ego need. It's dimestore Nietzche. As Arthur Miller pointed out (in Broken Glass), Hitler was the worst whining victim of them all. We'd all like to be Nietzchean (or Randian) supermen.

Someone commented that Objectivists and Libertarians hate each other? Yet most of the Libertarians I have known have claimed to be Objectivists? Not sure I understand the distinction.

#195 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Teresa #190:

I always suspected one source of bitterness was that she never got people of her intellectual caliber as friends, largely because she couldn't get along with them. There's this really sad scene in one of the biographies of her (I think Nathaniels'--not exactly a neutral source!) where she has an evening with Ludwig von Mises, during which they talk past one another--both too old and stubborn and sure of themselves to manage to communicate. Similarly, she pushed Rothbard out of her movement. More generally, once her movement got going, it acted to push away people who were independent-minded enough to have challenged her and given her some useful feedback on her ideas.

This whole theme runs all through Atlas Shrugged. Qntal arire qbrf svaq n erny zna jub svgf jvgu ure, juvpu vf jul fur jvaqf hc jvgu na vzntvanel bar vafgrnq. Va gur erny jbeyq, fur unf n fznyy frg bs crbcyr jub erpbtavmr jung fur vf, naq n ynetr frg jub ner fpnerq bs ure sbe orvat n ybg zber fzneg naq pbzcrgrag guna gurl ner. Fur unf gb tb bss gb urnira (be n zngrevnyvfg irefvba) gb trg erpbtavgvba naq or fheebhaqrq ol crbcyr jubfr erfcrpg fur npghnyyl inyhrf.

Naq lbh pna frr gung fur oevatf fbzr bs gung ba urefrys, orpnhfr fgnlvat jvgu Unax jbhyq erdhver npprcgvat fbzr fpnef va uvf fbhy, naq urycvat uvz urny gurz, naq znlor npprcgvat gung ur'f abg dhvgr nf fgebat vagreanyyl nf fur vf.

The whole bailing out of the world theme was at once amazingly powerful (a friend once pointed out that this was where he had learned that an acceptable form of revenge for someone screwing him over was simply to cease to have anything to do with them), and seriously messed up (because while leaving a bad job, family, relationship, or even country is sensible, travel agents where I live can't sell me a ticket to Galt's Gulch, even if I offer to pay in gold, philosophical purity, and a long record of accomplishments).

Realizing you can "go on strike" or (to steal Vinge's phrase) "let them trade with themselves" is enormously powerful. Recognizing that it's okay to go live your own life without reference to what others tell you to do, that it's okay to rely on your own judgement and pay the consequences yourself, those are wonderful gifts.

But trying to build Galt's Gulch is hopeless, because reality just isn't put together that way. A real version of Galt's Gulch would have Midas Mulligan privately complaining to Hugh Akston that, well, he liked that Halley guy's apples okay, but his music sounded like a bunch of cats in a crate, rolling down the stairs. The big-eyed novelist would be petty and vindictive with Dagny, without even being conscious of it. Weird rumors would swirl around the whole Dagny / Galt / Francisco / Rearden love parallelogram, and some funny and annoying misunderstandings would come out of some random socially clueless people blurting something out or looking shocked to see her with Galt.

That's fine if you see it as a fantasy world, and similarly if you see Galt as a fantasy character, rather than as someone to pretend to be or pretend to be married to. And if you recognize that Rearden and Dagny, who are pretty real people, are examples, not models.

#196 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 10:28 AM:

*popping out from lurkdom*

Okay, for the first hundred posts or so in this thread, I laughed with glee and thought the best thing about having read Atlas Shrugged was that I could get y'all's jokes about it. When I was seventeen, I read AS on a flight home from India because the bookstore in Bangalore had it and didn't have Lord of the Rings. Now I find that I am not alone in having skipped the novella-length John Galt radio address and I am comforted.

But now that I've seen albatross, Teresa, Jax, csmaccath, and others remind me powerfully of what I found worthwhile in Atlas Shrugged, disturbingly, I kinda want to read it again. Ack!

I really enjoyed Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain novella (and the ensuing Beggars trilogy of novels), partly because the novella is a response to Rand. What does the stronger owe the weaker? a character asks, and this question haunts the protagonist throughout. One answer, according to Kress, is: on a practical level, we all benefit by creating an ecology of help. Transactions have externalities; be aware. I'd be curious to know what thoughts others might have on Beggars vs. Rand.

On children: I remember a character in Galt's Gulch saying that his wife and children did trade with him, that it was in fact a transaction that benefited him to support and raise children. I can't recall what was traded there, though....love?

Also, he felt free to let his kids run around unsupervised throughout the Gulch, since no one there would hurt them, since every adult was completely rational and held logic in the highest regard. This struck me as one of the most ludicrous statements in Atlas Shrugged, which is saying something.

#197 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 10:54 AM:

I'd be curious to know what thoughts others might have on Beggars vs. Rand.

Kress is better. Probably not what you were looking for, but true.

#198 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 12:11 PM:

Shannon (#187): There's an xkcd version of that exchange (though with "make me a sandwich" instead).

(Whew, got the ob.xkcd in before #200 on this thread!)

#199 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 12:18 PM:

I read both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in my teens.

I remember thinking that anyone who subscribed to Objectivism felt that they were one of the geniuses, not one of the masses holding the geniuses back. If only they weren't held back by socienty/the government/other people, what they could have created!

Thanks everyone for their thought on the books; I'm still much more collective than Rand in my thinking, but it's nice to know that other people got something good and helpful out of them, and something of what that was.

#200 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 12:32 PM:

#196 Sumana:

But it seemed to me that a lot of the theme and outcome of _Beggars in Spain_ was also the realization that jura crbcyr ner fhssvpvragyl hardhny, vg orpbzrf nyzbfg vzcbffvoyr sbe gurz gb pbrkvfg crnprshyyl. Gur fyrrcyrff naq gur fyrrcref ynetryl pna'g fgnaq rnpu bgure, naq gur znva punenpgre pna'g frr n jnl gb erfbyir guvf rira gb gur cbvag bs gurve yvivat crnprnoyl gbtrgure haqre ynj naq fbpvrgl, juvpu jnf ure uvturfg inyhr. Gur zhghny ubfgvyvgl frys-er-rasbeprf hagvy gurl unir gb frcnengr, juvpu frgf gur fgntr sbe n aneebjyl-niregrq jne. Gurer jrer nyy xvaqf bs rpubrf bs gurzrf sebz _Ngynf Fuehttrq_ va gurer (yvxr gur pbnyvgvba bs fhcre-fzneg crbcyr jub nyy guvax naq npg nyvxr, cerggl pyrneyl zbqryrq ba gur Pbyyrpgvir (gur Bowrpgvivfg phyg-yvxr tebhc nebhaq Enaq)), ohg nyfb rpubrf sebz gur sbhaqvat bs Vfenry, gur zbenyvgl bs ZNQ, rgp. Jung gur uryy qb lbh qb vs lbhe fbpvrgl vf fcyvg orgjrra n ivfvoyl qvssrerag zvabevgl tebhc gung qbzvangrf vagryyrpghnyyl naq svanapvnyyl, naq n znwbevgl tebhc gung vf zbfgyl cbbe naq hafhpprffshy naq raivbhf? Jung qb lbh qb jura gurer'f rivqrapr gung gur zber fhpprffshy crbcyr ner whfg obea/znqr gung jnl?


#201 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Nancy #199:

I think Rand's books speak to a certain vision of yourself, in which you are brighter and more driven and value different things than those around you. I suspect Rand's books appeal more to smarter people, if only because reading really long, really dense books isn't much of a hobby for people that aren't reasonably bright. Her books speak to a really lonely part of you, or at least spoke to a really lonely part of me. And much of that loneliness was an echo of when I'd been in grade school and high school, where I had been seriously different from the other kids in my class, even the smart ones--I read her in college, when I could and did find some pretty bright people to spend my time with.

I don't see Objectivism as a big core of bitter people complaining that government has kept them down. I see a lot more of people trying to convince themselves they know answers to some big, fundamentally unanswerable questions. And this usually feels brittle, like religious people who haven't yet lost the Sunday school mindset that perfect understanding of God is possible and doubt can be overcome entirely by faith. And many people come out the other side of that, much stronger and better, in the same way (I think) that you can be a strong, good Christian adult, but part of that seems to be accepting doubts and uncertainty and fundamental ignorance when that's what you've got, not trying to somehow batter yourself into not having them.

I think Rand had a really good effect on me, though I only brushed lightly against the brittle belief structure (perhaps because I'd already done that with Christianity, and then fallen entirely away from those beliefs when they proved brittle), and though I later became Catholic. A lot of Rand's philosophy is nonsense, as far as I can tell, but there are these burning, perfect gems of understanding you can sometimes get from her, and they bring big parts of the world and your life into focus. And you don't have to give those back, give back the insights, when you notice that she really hasn't solved ought-from-is, say.

#202 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Valuethinker 180: Minor nitpick: Lieutenant Goforth wasn't a member of her own crew. First, her crew wasn't part of the "stand them until they're falling-down tired, then liberty them until they're falling-down drunk" policy until after that; and also she wouldn't have gotten in trouble with Mazian for shooting her own crewmember. Goforth belonged to another Captain in the Fleet.

Or so I recall.

#203 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 11:25 PM:

I suspect Rand's books appeal more to smarter people, if only because reading really long, really dense books isn't much of a hobby for people that aren't reasonably bright.

Substitute "L. Ron Hubbard" for "Rand" in your sentence above.

What is the cause of the selective disemvowelling?

#204 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 12:20 AM:

There's some spoiler avoidance with ROT13, if that's what you mean. By the way, running a ROT13 transform on disemvoweled text looks pretty peculiar.

http://leetkey.mozdev.org/

#205 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 03:30 AM:

Xopher 202: Yes, but didn't someone at one point refer to Mallory having fired upon her own crew earlier in the war, in some engagement where a number of them had disobeyed her or something? Mazian brought up that incident when he called her a "bloody-handed tyrant", IIRC.

("Stand them until they're falling-down tired, then liberty them until they're falling-down drunk" has to be one of my favourite descriptive phrases, by the way.)

#206 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 01:53 PM:

#203 Mythago:

I wouldn't be surprised if this was also true of Scientology, but I haven't read any of that beyond about one chapter of Dianetics, when I was about 15, so I don't know.

#208 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 10:40 AM:

I started reading Atlas Shrugged as a result of this thread. A few hundred pages in, I'm glad I didn't read it at 17, but it's an interesting and thought-provoking read - partly because I can see from it how much Rand influenced some of the SF I loved at that age.

#209 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2007, 09:56 AM:

#208 Sam:

Cool! One of the truly weird parts about _AS_ is that the characters often pause to make long philosophical speeches, and they're actually pretty fundamental to the plot. If you skip them, you miss something.

Say hello to Dagny and Hank for me!

#210 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2007, 02:58 PM:

Fade, #183: Sorry -- I was responding to your characterization of Linucon as "mostly defunct".

CHip, #188: I've heard that said about Heinlein before, mostly as an explanation for the way all his strong female protagonists eventually discover that their True Happiness lies in giving up their own lives to become baby-making machines. It's sad, in several senses of the word.

Teresa, #190: Re confessions, that's one of the issues Dear Abby was always fond of addressing. If the confession would make YOU feel better but the person you're confessing to feel worse, then your better course is to accept the burden of the guilt as part of your atonement and not confess, was her advice to many writers.

Valuethinker, #194: Your experience matches with mine -- most (though not all) Libertarians of my acquaintance also espouse Objectivism. I think Nancy has one of the keys to this in #199: both views tend to involve the core belief that the believer is one of the elite, and the only thing holding them back from achieving that status in reality (instead of just in their own heads) is external interference. From the government or from the proles, it doesn't much matter which.

#211 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2007, 04:40 PM:

Mitch @ 185 and 186:

I agree: Rand and Branden insisting that their existing partners should have not only accepted but celebrated the new relationship, when it was making them miserable and monogamy was part of the existing agreement, is not decent. Where we differ, I think, is that I don't think the sort of sneaking around you suggest as preferable is either moral or, in the long term, tenable. (An occasional brief fling while out of town is concealable; an emotionally intense relationship with one of your closest friends, who you and your spouse see regularly in the company of his spouse, is very unlikely to remain a secret.)

I'm not monogamous, never have been, but I see no problem with monogamy as a way of doing relationships if it's what the people involved want. (One problem with "okay, but don't tell me if you sleep with someone else" is that the someone else has no way of telling whether they're actually getting that, or if the person's spouse may come after them with a rolling pin.) Rand and Branden seem to have found a way of having a relationship that was truly fucked-up by either monogamous or polyamorous standards. Even if one's relationship agreements don't allow a veto on new partners, insisting "and you have to tell all our friends that you think it's great" is cruel. An agreement not to talk about it with third parties may work. That might involve telling any inquisitive friends, icily, "Thank you for your concern. How about those Packers?"

Insisting on shoving a new lover in the face of an existing partner who wants no part of it feels oddly connected to the discussion in the thread about that Idaho Republican of people who need the thrill of doing something forbidden (where it's the forbidden-ness, rather than the specific act, that is an important part of the turn-on). The difficulty in both cases is what it does to people who would prefer not to participate.

*wanders off, humming "You can't always get what you want..."*

#212 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 01:35 AM:

Vicki (#211): Where we differ, I think, is that I don't think the sort of sneaking around you suggest as preferable is either moral or, in the long term, tenable.

Oh, I'm not saying it's moral, decent, or tenable -- but it's less immoral and indecent than what Rand and Branden actually did.

Insisting on shoving a new lover in the face of an existing partner who wants no part of it feels oddly connected to the discussion in the thread about that Idaho Republican of people who need the thrill of doing something forbidden (where it's the forbidden-ness, rather than the specific act, that is an important part of the turn-on). The difficulty in both cases is what it does to people who would prefer not to participate.

Also reminds me of Fred Thompson, who took money as a lobbyist from pro-Choice groups, and now insists that he's Pro-Life. I would never in a million years thought it was mathematically possible to alienate both the pro-Choice and pro-Life lobbies, but Thompson seems to have figured out a way.

#213 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2007, 09:47 AM:

Xopher 202

re Downbelow Station

No I was referring to the earlier confrontation between, I think, Signy Mallory and Porey (the Captain of Africa, and later realised to be Conrad Mazian's boyfriend) where he refers to an incident where she fired on her own crew, dockside.

And she replies 'you have to maintain discipline'.

The incident is only referred to, it doesn't take place in the book itself.
(I can't remember, and don't have a copy to hand, whether it was with Porey she had that conversation, or Mazian, or one of the Merchanter's?)

#214 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2007, 10:14 AM:

210 Lee

In the sense that 'we are the elite who are oppressed' is something held by Objectivists, but also by many (young) far leftists of my experience.

Really the Bolsheviks believed much the same thing, and had the same desire to do something about it. The masses would not develop a revolutionary consciousness on their own, so the Bolsheviks would lead them to it.

I tend to find Randians either to be entirely self serving (usually middle level positions in high paying organisations like banks-- ie they are the elite, but they aren't the real top of the pile) or very marginalised (typically techies). Libertarians are a bigger crew (with whom I have more sympathy) but again include a lot of people on the fringes of the mainstream of organisations, fields of academic specialisation, or society generally.

(there are left wing equivalents to both. Marxists who think Stalin corrupted the purity of Soviet marxism, etc.- - I've never met a real crazy, a Marxist who doesn't believe in the Gulag).

My general conclusion is that fringe political movements are the province of us in our adolescent selves: alienated, isolated, believing there has to be a better world than this, and it can be derived from simple principles (and our own, innate, superiority). As we mature, we are drawn towards the centre (hopefully) by the scepticism for universal solutions and the impossibility of 100% positive outcomes-- things you learn as you enter middle age (hopefully).

Aside/OT re Green politics:

That said, I would give full credit to the Green Party for being 20 years ahead of the curve. They were saying things (about nuclear war, about the environment) 20 years ago that I now think are probably absolutely obvious, but 20 years ago I was still counting Russian tank divisions and wondering if our A10 squadrons would be enough to stop them in the Fulda Gap?

On energy use, efficiency, recycling etc. again I suspect the Greens now are 20 years ahead of the pack. They could be completely wrong about nuclear energy though (although the advocates of same do themselves no favours).

further aside re nuclear power:

Ever notice how many libertarians seem to support nuclear power, when the evidence is no private market, without government subsidy and guarantee, will build new nuclear stations? Nuclear, along with aerospace, is probably the most protected and coddled by government intervention of any postwar industry.

#216 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2007, 12:34 PM:

I utterly despise genre denial syndrome.

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