Saturday, March 10, 2012

386: The Utopia of the Free Market - Atlas Shrugged

In her Introduction to her book "Capitalism, the unknown Ideal (1666) Ayn Rand writes :"This book is addressed to the young—in years or in spirit— who are not afraid to know and are not ready to give up.

What they have to discover, what all the efforts of capitalism's enemies are frantically aimed at hiding, is the fact that capitalism is not merely the "practical," but the only moral system in history. (See Atlas Shrugged.) (…) This present book may help them. It is a nonfiction footnote to Atlas Shrugged."

This illustrates exactly how Ayn Rand influenced American economic thinking: primarily through her novels and especially "Atlas Shrugged".

The opening line of Atlas Shrugged is: "Who is John Galt?" It appears to be a kind of slang expression, which you use when you don't know what to say, somewhat like "Whatever!" But in Part III of Atlas Shrugged the question is answered….

Although the story is centered around Taggert Transcontinental Railways, the core of the story is this:

In the history to date the burden of the survival of humanity is always worn by 'Atlases', i.e. free, brilliant and creative producers. They made sure there was food for everyone, they taught their fellowmen to study nature rationally and to develop techniques to subject nature.

They made life getting better. Through the influence of mystics, priests and philosophers, these creative loners however, also were convinced that it is their responsibility and obligation to largely self efface for their fellow human beings whose needs should be central. (Rand's anti-altruism)

In the indeterminate age which Ayn Rand describes in her novel and which seems to lie not far into the future , one has largely accepted the idea of collective altruism. Outside America, in old Europe, one no longer believed already in production for the free market.

There are everywhere people's republics created in which the means of production are nationalized.This leads to disaster and misery. As the only remaining capitalist state in the world America must support and nurture Europeans.

But even this last bastion of the free market will perish for two reasons. In the first place the government in Washington with its socialist aspirations puts increasingly a heavy burden on the economy.

This all is regulated with strong support of the trade unions. There are increasing taxes and cartels (of which Rand was an ardent supporter) are prohibited. There are increasingly interventions in the free economy, because of which production decreases rapidly.

Secondly the demise of the free market takes place as more and more top industrials mysteriously disappear. With their disappearance disappears often their property too, the means of production destroyed. Oil wells are on fire, factories are sabotaged .

And if that was not bad enough, every time a large capitalist disappears without leaving too much direct damage, no one appears able to take over and continue operations. Any successor who takes over the holding, including the state-appointed managers, fails hopelessly.

The result is that the collapsing economy and society falls back to barbaric times of hunger and poverty.
There is no more heating, the trains break down, the food shipments from the west don't reach New York and other major cities in the East anymore.

Ayn Rand describes the downfall of America as a classic dystopia, which means the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian, as characterized in books like Brave New World or 1984.

At the same time secretly in a valley in the rugged mountains of Colorado, a new society is prepared, which will be the utopia of greed.

Here live the disappeared super-industrialists, bankers and the judge who absolutely wanted to maintain private property rights.

This valley, as they say themselves, is their Atlantis. In the world outside, these Atlases went out on strike and they reached something striking workers never achieved:

the civil clockwork has come to a stand still just by the hand the capitalists. When they go on strike the whole economy collapses.

In their own Atlantis now the residents indulge themselves fully in free market capitalism. Everyone produces,acts and competes with each other. Nothing is given out of engagement or friendship, everything must be earned by working or be paid for.

The super capitalists in Atlantis even love telling each other how much they compete with eachother and fleece the other. This is only good for production and wealth, which will grow rapidly in this way.

When the social collapse of the outside world finally is inescapable and the New Yorkers are in a desperate exodus of their city and attempt state to leave, the time has come for the people of Atlantis to save the world.

John Galt, their leader, who has worked hard to destroy the old world, says at the end of the novel and I quote:

"The road is cleared," said Galt. "We are going back to the world."
He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.

The Discussion

[13:27] herman Bergson: Thank you.... ㋡
[13:27] herman Bergson: shrugges ㋡
[13:27] Mistyowl Warrhol: LOL
[13:28] herman Bergson: The floor is yours if you have a question or remark
[13:28] oola Neruda: it is public knowledge that large corporations in the US have a lot of money but are refusing to hire now...
[13:28] Android Neox: The problem with capitalism as a moral system is that morality depends upon an assumption of some equality among people. Capitalism makes no such assumption and no compensation for the condition of one's birth.
[13:28] Android Neox: The survival and advancement of mankind is actually due to the cooperative labors of the masses… not supermen. All accomplishment and wealth is due, in part, to society. From The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson, "Give a man a continent and, without society, he cannot prosper. He may, with effort, survive. But, he cannot prosper."
[13:28] herman Bergson: hold on plz....
[13:29] herman Bergson: keep our rules, which are behind me to the left, in mind
[13:29] herman Bergson: Well Android....
[13:30] oola Neruda: i feel they are manipulating the economy for political reasons
[13:30] herman Bergson: Cut you statement to nice pieces...
[13:30] herman Bergson: Maybe we can discuss them then
[13:30] herman Bergson: Oh yes oola...large companies do...
[13:30] herman Bergson: Take the oil companies...
[13:31] Mick Nerido: Survival of the fittest...
[13:31] oola Neruda: deregulation is a battle cry
[13:31] herman Bergson: they come up with the excuse...trouble in the prizes of gas go up
[13:31] oola Neruda: or the excuse... we want to see what interest rates are doing
[13:32] oola Neruda: that is wall street talk... money is the goal
[13:32] herman Bergson: Well oola..that is what we'll discuss in future lectures...
[13:32] Farv Hallison: They will manipulate the election by causing a financial collapse in October just before the election.
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: everything is money it seems, yourself as person have no value, your value is in how much money you got
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: that seems to be how they think
[13:32] Mistyowl Warrhol: Oil prices are set by speculators, oil companies don't want you to know that.
[13:32] herman Bergson: we live in a money economy at the moment, and that hasn't been the case all through hostory...
[13:33] Android Neox: The Republican party has made it clear that they would rather see America fail than Obama succeed.
[13:33] Mistyowl Warrhol: That is one very true statement, android !!!
[13:33] Mert Dexing: We can demonize the big corporations, but it would be more fair to look at our laws. Companies are legally required to do whatever is legal to raise profits. Otherwise shareholders can sue them.
[13:33] herman Bergson: The that is a pretty desperate party Android...
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes Mert...WE created this system of the money machine ourselves
[13:34] Mistyowl Warrhol: If we the people, allow them to get by with it, then who is really at fault.
[13:34] oola Neruda: it was ... my way or no way... had no thought for what people needed
[13:35] Android Neox: I don't think I can fit even a simple argument into 17 words, so I'll be off.
[13:35] Android Neox: thank you all
[13:35] oola Neruda: the propaganda machine...the spin doctors... make it all sound so nice...
[13:35] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:35] herman Bergson: oh dear...
[13:35] herman Bergson: I wouldn't have mind if he used 20 words
[13:35] herman Bergson: well..ok
[13:36] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): The number of lines depends on how wide your window is
[13:36] herman Bergson: We have to keep one thing in mind....
[13:36] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes Merlin...
[13:36] Mistyowl Warrhol: So, did Ann predict the future or did ppl reading her book create it according to her words?
[13:36] herman Bergson: the last is true Misty....
[13:37] herman Bergson: Greenspan, Friedman, Hayek...the Chicago boys...
[13:37] druth Vlodovic: the capitalists saw an apologist for a moral system they could use to acquire wealth
[13:37] herman Bergson: Rand WAS really influential
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes Druth something like that
[13:37] Farv Hallison: Allan Greenspan believed her and created the world in her image...then it collapsed.
[13:37] herman Bergson: exactly Farv..
[13:38] herman Bergson: But you know....
[13:38] oola Neruda: Greenspan is not either/or...there is a lot of grey area in him
[13:38] herman Bergson: Historically the biggest mistake was..
[13:38] druth Vlodovic: people who work only for their own interests aren't really loyal to a moral code or system
[13:38] herman Bergson: when in the 80s the communist economies collapsed...
[13:38] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I think I am supposed to know who Alan Greenspan is, but I dont
[13:39] oola Neruda: ended up head of the FED
[13:39] Mistyowl Warrhol: Well, it does go back to the Christian Coalition.. which has nothing to do with Christians, but brought a gentleman by the name of Grover Norquist into the picture.
[13:39] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): aah yes. talk1 I think
[13:39] herman Bergson: the capitalists slapped each other on their shoulders saying..didn't I tell you we were right!!!!
[13:39] Farv Hallison: Greenspan was chairman of the FED
[13:39] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): when?
[13:39] Mick Nerido: It has not collapsed, it was adjusted down lol
[13:40] druth Vlodovic: communism suffered from the same problem our economy suffers from, rule by the self-interested
[13:40] herman Bergson: at least a wall collapsed Mick ^_^
[13:40] druth Vlodovic: once you can remove consideration fro others from your mind then any system can't survive you running it
[13:40] Velvet (velvet.braham): I think pure capitalism is as doomed to fail as pure socialism or communism.
[13:40] herman Bergson: But in a real different way Druth
[13:41] Velvet (velvet.braham): A balance is what's needed.
[13:41] herman Bergson: Here it was legit...there is wasn't, .but very one idid it
[13:41] Mick Nerido: China has an interesting mix of Capitalism and State control
[13:41] Mistyowl Warrhol: So, what would be the ideal government?
[13:41] oola Neruda: philosopher king?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Let's wayt with that question for later Misty
[13:41] druth Vlodovic: technically it isn't supposed to be legit here either, they just adjust laws and such to continuously advantage themselves
[13:42] oola Neruda: yes druth
[13:42] Mistyowl Warrhol: "pouting" Ok.. LOL
[13:42] Farv Hallison: The problem is not state control, but control by multinational corporations…..they created the laws that they hid behind
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: i guess so
[13:43] oola Neruda: think superpac
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: aa yes, the laws are made so they can use everyone for their own profits only
[13:43] Velvet (velvet.braham): points at Farv. What he said.
[13:43] herman Bergson: when a multinational 'threatens ' a government to raise gas prizes for instance...I think they do that
[13:43] Farv Hallison: they created the idea that the purpose of the state is to protect property
[13:43] Mistyowl Warrhol: The superpac is very much like what Ann predicted and it is life and well.
[13:44] druth Vlodovic: the problem as I see it is that the purpose of the system is no longer the good of the society, however you conceive it, but the advantage of a small few who do not feel dependent on that system
[13:44] Mick Nerido: Does any one here own stock in a corporation?
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: If i say like this, before companies and banks was for the customers
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: now we are for them instead
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: the other way around
[13:44] herman Bergson: That is exactly the problem Druth
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: to fill their wallets
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: their
[13:45] herman Bergson: I am not sure but it was Rand who invented the expression "to make money"
[13:45] druth Vlodovic: the funniest thing is to meet a rich "anarchist" they simply assume that their power and welath is not dependent on the social-economic system that created it
[13:46] herman Bergson: so we live in a world where the highest goal is to make money
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes "born with silver spoon in the mouth"
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: sort of
[13:47] Farv Hallison: If we are just material objects there is no external morality.
[13:47] oola Neruda: strange that a lot of "conservative christians"... whose goals i would expect to be alturistic... are republicans and tea party members...
[13:47] oola Neruda: it seems contradictory
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: they seem to think they are born with some special ability that make them wealthy and worh mych more then others because of that
[13:47] Velvet (velvet.braham): or materialism is the morality
[13:47] Mistyowl Warrhol: The greatest asset a company has it the loyalty of their employees.. when they lose that, they lose all in the end.
[13:47] Mert Dexing: You can blame that on the "prosperity gospel" Bejiita
[13:47] herman Bergson: Interesting observation oola
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: hmm
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:48] druth Vlodovic: I've seen companies deliberately attempt to break employees of their morale and loyalty
[13:48] oola Neruda: materialism:...this world is (not) my home
[13:48] Mert Dexing: It's an evangelical Christian belief that God gives wealth to his ardent followers
[13:48] druth Vlodovic: the more pressure you put on the employees the less they ask for,
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:48] druth Vlodovic: also shit runs downhill ;-/
[13:48] oola Neruda: i disagree mert
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: hmm thats nasty for sure
[13:48] oola Neruda: blessings do not have to mean wealth
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: heard such stories indeed
[13:49] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I have heard that the lower workers suffer the most stress
[13:49] Mick Nerido: So companies fire the 10% lowest performers each year!
[13:49] Mistyowl Warrhol: Oola, makes a good point.. but it is not true Christians. it is greedy ones, who wrap themselves in a cloak of religion..
[13:49] Farv Hallison: water runs down hill, too.
[13:49] Mert Dexing: But, when it comes to super-wealthy Christians, it's how they interpret it
[13:49] oola Neruda: yes Mert...agree
[13:49] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Like 'Champagne Socialists' too
[13:50] herman Bergson: INteresting to bring in christianity combined with social politics....
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: indeed thats how they think
[13:50] herman Bergson: not a popular mix in the US I guess...
[13:50] herman Bergson: Can they spell the word Samaritan?
[13:50] Mistyowl Warrhol: As the guy said, when they bring Religion into politics, it is never about religion.. it is all politics.
[13:51] oola Neruda: for some people... they make the economy the issue... for other people they talk about hot item controversial social if that is what they really were concerned with
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: yes religion is about mostly to gain yourself and create misery for the others
[13:51] herman Bergson: lol Bejiita!
[13:51] Farv Hallison: They waited in Colorado for the self-destructive people to kill themselves off, They survived
[13:51] herman Bergson (from dutch): Bejiita lol!
[13:51] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): People can bend religious beliefs to support anything
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: if not with war and killing so with greed
[13:51] Mick Nerido: God is on our side say the religious all over the world
[13:51] Velvet (velvet.braham): I think religion is about control.
[13:51] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Yes Mick
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: religion is killing this world
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: everything spins out of control
[13:52] druth Vlodovic: religion is about human desire for spirituality corrupted into a political tool
[13:52] herman Bergson: If you recall my previous project you could put a big question mark by religion....
[13:52] herman Bergson: it is a social phenomenon...yes...
[13:52] Mistyowl Warrhol: I disagree.. it is not religion.. but the use of religion for evil means, that is the problem. :-)
[13:52] druth Vlodovic: the funny thing is that when it goes bad the "politicians" can just blame the spirituality they corrupted
[13:53] herman Bergson: of course it is Misty
[13:53] oola Neruda: Nietzsche did not like religion in general...but he had deep respect for the devout people who truely followed Christ's example and instruction
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: yes religion is one thing but where does the original scripts say we should just think about ourself
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: kill homosexuals
[13:53] oola Neruda: there are honest people out there trying to do the right thing
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: and start bloody wars everywhere
[13:53] herman Bergson: yes oola....
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: i dont think either the bible or koran says that
[13:54] druth Vlodovic: it's there in various spots
[13:54] Mick Nerido: Jesus would be killed again if he reappeared, that is the sad lesson
[13:54] druth Vlodovic: god himself commonly engaged in genocide
[13:54] herman Bergson: well. my friends....
[13:54] herman Bergson: we stared with Atlas Shrugged....
[13:54] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Jesus and the Old Testament are totally different things
[13:54] Mistyowl Warrhol: A true person of faith is too busy doing good.. those ppl are few and far between.
[13:54] oola Neruda: yes Merlin
[13:54] oola Neruda: totally different
[13:55] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your enthousiastic participation.....
[13:55] Mick Nerido: Excellent class
[13:55] herman Bergson: this is only the third lecture in this series... ㋡
[13:55] druth Vlodovic: I wonder, how much nihilism is involved in the current trend to allow everything to go to hell except your own wealth
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: this gets more and more interesting
[13:55] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:56] Mert Dexing: Thank you professor
[13:56] herman Bergson: Thank you all
[13:56] Velvet (velvet.braham): Thank you!
[13:56] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): that's a lot to think about..
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:56] Mistyowl Warrhol: and one that is very involved. Please everyone, keep the USA in your thoughts. today is our Super Tues.. we see who is the Repu.. candiate for Prez. LOL
[13:56] druth Vlodovic: capitalists seeing themselves in ayn rands godlike "atlas'" lol
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: ok cu soon all
[13:57] Mert Dexing: It was nice meeting everyone
[13:57] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): bye bejiita
[13:57] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Yes Bye Bejita
[13:57] Mistyowl Warrhol: TC everyone. til next time :-)
[13:57] druth Vlodovic: cya all, have fun
[13:57] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): have a goodnight everyone
[[13:58] herman Bergson: Well Mert?
[13:58] herman Bergson: What do you think?
[13:58] Mert Dexing: Well, I keep wondering if there isn't some merit to Rand
[13:59] Mert Dexing: Maybe there is a point where selfishness is good
[13:59] Mert Dexing: I'd like to say that is always isn't
[13:59] herman Bergson: you may not believe it...
[13:59] Mistyowl Warrhol: There is a difference is being selfish and taking care of self.. Hard lesson I had to learn.
[14:00] herman Bergson: but Rand is the auctor spiritualis of the present financial crisis...
[14:00] herman Bergson: Not s e personally....
[14:00] herman Bergson: but through her disciples like Greenspan, Friedman and Hayek
[14:00] Mert Dexing: Imagine though if we had a big-wig oil Tycoon here
[14:01] herman Bergson: Greenspan was FED president till 2006!
[14:01] Mert Dexing: Wouldn't he or she be able to offer some kind of compelling argument?

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