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Atlas Now?

From the People’s Republic of Ecuador.

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Categories: Atlas Now?

Atlas Now?

April 24, 2011 2 comments

If Ayn Rand wrote dialogue like this, you know her detractors would call it ridiculous and unrealistic.

This was one of nearly a dozen “clawback” orders signed in two months under the state’s new Republican governor, John Kasich. There will be more, says his job-creation director, Mark Kvamme: “We need every single dollar we can get our hands on.”

YUSA’s view: “Give me a break,” says Chris Fairchild, the auto-parts firm’s controller. “For crying out loud, we’re doing our darnedest. While other local businesses have gone bankrupt or gone to Mexico or other states, we’re right here. You’d think there would be a little respect for that.”

The budget vise squeezing states and cities is changing the economic-development game. Governments are attaching more strings to their offers of tax breaks, cheap rents and bond deals designed to lure business, and are getting tougher on past recipients who didn’t come through.

Here’s the full story.

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Atlas Now?

“…Objectivist ethics is the moral base needed by that politico-economic system which, today, is being destroyed all over the world, destroyed precisely for lack of a moral, philosophical defense and validation: the original American system, Capitalism.  If it perishes, it will perish by default, undiscovered and unidentified:  no other subject has ever been hidden by so many distortions, misconceptions and misrepresentations.  Today, few people know what capitalism is, how it works and what was its actual history.”

“When I say ‘capitalism,’ I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism–with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.  A pure system of capitalism has never yet existed, not even in America; various degrees of government control had been undercutting and distorting it from the start.  Capitalism is not a system of the past; it is the system of the future–if mankind is to have a future.”

“…altruism…regards man as a sacrificial animal, which holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.  The differences occur only over the question of who is to be sacrificed to whom.  Altruism holds death as its ultimate goal and standard of value–and it is logical that renunciation, resignation, self-denial, and every other form of suffering, including sefl-destruction, are the virtues it advocates.  And, logically, these are the only things that the practitioners of altruism have achieved and are achieving now.”

“…The social theory of ethics substitutes “society” for God–and although it claims that its chief concern is life on earth, it is not the life of man, not the life of an individual, but the life of a disembodied entity, the collective, which, in relation to every individual, consists of everybody except himself.  As far as the individual is concerned, his ethical duty is to be the selfless, voiceless, rightless slave of any need, claim or demand asserted by others.  the motto “dog eat dog”–which is not applicable to capitalism nor to dogs [that’s my favorite part]–is applicable to the social theory of ethics.  The existential monuments to this theory are Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.”  [recall that the author has some familiarity with the latter]

-Ayn Rand, “The Virtue of Selfishness,” 1961

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Atlas Now?

April 9, 2010 4 comments

Here is part of a dialogue from “Atlas” between a politician and some railroad workers regarding a train that the former thinks should go through a tunnel somehow even though all of the latter know that this can’t be done without killing everyone on board.

“How long?” the conductor said impassively, in answer to his question.  “Till morning, Mr. Chalmers”

Chalmers stared at him, stupefied.  “We’re going to stand here till morning?”

“Yes, Mr. Chalmers.”

Here?”

“Yes.”

“But I have a rally in San Francisco in the evening!”

The conductor did not answer.

“Why? Why do we have to stand? Why in hell? What happened?”

Slowly, patiently, with contemptuous politeness, the conductor gave him an exact account of the situation.  But years ago, in grammar school, in highschool, in college, Kip Chalmers had been taught that man does not and need not live by reason.

Damn your tunnel!” he screamed.  “Do you think I’m going to let you hold me up because of some miserable tunnel?  Do you want to wreck vital national plans on account of a tunnel?  Tell your engineer that I must be in San Francisco by evening and that he’s got to get me there!”

“How?”

“That’s your job, not mine!”

“There is no way to do it.”

“Then find a way, God damn you!”

The conductor did not answer.

“Do you think I’ll let your miserable technological problems interfere with crucial social issues?  Do you know who I am?  Tell that engineer to start moving, if he values his job!”

 “The engineer has his orders.”

 “Orders be damned! I give the orders these days!  Tell him to start at once!

“Perhaps you’d better speak to the station agent, Mr. Chalmers.  I have no authority to answer you as I’d like to,” said the conductor, and walked out.

Chalmers leaped to his feet.  “Say, Kip…” said Lester Tuck uneasily, “maybe it’s true…maybe they can’t do it.”

“They can if they have to!” snapped Chalmers, marching resolutely to the door.

Years ago, in college, he had been taught that the only effective means to impel men to action was fear.

Now here is Mr. Thompson trying to convince the captive John Galt to help him save the economy.

Mr Thompson looked thoughtful, then shook his head.  “I don’t think you’re practical,” he said.  “A practical man doesn’t ignore the facts of reality.  He doesn’t waste his time wishing things to be different or trying to change them.  He takes things as they are.  We’re holding you.  It’s a fact.  Whether you like it or not, it’s a fact.  You should act accordingly.”

“I am.”

“What I mean is, you should co-operate.  You should recognize an existing situation, accept it and adjust to it.”

“If you had blood poisoning, would you adjust to it or act to change it?”

“Oh, that’s different! That’s physical!”

“You mean, physical facts are open to correction, but your whims are not?”

“Huh?”

“You mean, physical nature can be adjusted to men, but your whims are above the laws of nature, and men must adjust to you?“\

“I mean that I hold the upper hand!”

“With a gun in it?”

“Oh, forget about guns! I–”

“I can’t forget a fact of reality, Mr. Thompson.  That would be impractical.”

“All right, then: I hold a gun.  What are you going to do about it?”

“I’ll act accordingly.  I’ll obey you.”

“What?”

“I’ll do whatever you tell me to.”

“Do you mean it?”

“I mean it.  Literally.”  He saw the eagerness of mr. Thompson’s face ebb slowly under a look of bewilderment.  “I will perform any motion you order me to perform.  If you order me to move into the office of an Economic Dictator, I’ll move into it.  If you order me to sit at a desk, I will sit at it.  If you order me to issue a directive, I will issue the directive you order me to issue.”

“Oh, but I don’t know what directives to issue!”

“I don’t, either.”

There was a long pause.

“Well?” said Galt.  “What are your orders?”

“I want you to save the economy of the country!”

“I don’t know how to save it.”

“I want you to find a way!”

“I don’t know how to find it.”

“I want you to think!”

“How will your gun make me do that, Mr. Thompson?”

Now read this story and note the quote by the environmentalist at the end: “We’re a talented country, full of brilliant people who can solve these problems in a way that’s a win for the environment and a win for the economy.”  We’ve given control of the country to people who don’t recognize the tradeoffs implied by the laws of nature.  They only understand how to demand things.  They legislate that coal mining be cleaner and they just assume that someone will figure out how to do it at not cost.  They decree that everyone has a right to healthcare as if decreeing it will, by itself, conjure up the resources necessary to give everyone as much healthcare as they want.  Are we going to let this go on until someone is pointing a gun at a minor and saying “produce some coal and do it without causing any pollution” and at a doctor and saying “produce some healthcare and do it for free?”  No doubt this will be quite the socialist utopia with all the coal and healthcare you could ever want with no pollution and you won’t have to work at all, just hold a gun.  Just make sure you’re the one holding the gun.

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Atlas Now?

March 23, 2010 1 comment

 “You did not care to compete in terms of intelligence–you are now competing in terms of brutality.  You did not care to allow rewards to be won by successful production–you are now running a race in which rewards are won by successful plunder.  You called it selfish and cruel that men should trade value for value–you have now established an unselfish society where they trade extortion for extortion.  Your system is a legal civil war, where men gang up on one another and struggle for possession of the law, which they use as a club over rivals,  til another gang wrests it from their clutch and clubs them with it in their turn, all of them clamoring protestations of service to an unnamed public’s unspecified good.  You had said that you saw no difference between economic and political power, between the power of money and the power of guns–no difference between reward and punishment, no difference between purchase and plunder, no difference between pleasure and fear, no difference between life and death.  You are learning the difference now.”

Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged” (1957)

Categories: Atlas Now?

Atlas Now?

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

“The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence.  A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force.  The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.  But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense.  Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his.”

Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged” (1957)

Categories: Atlas Now?