Monday, February 14, 2011

The Grim Truth About "Atlas Shrugged"

Nobody would notice or care what happened to John Galt, because the world runs perfectly well without a rich douchebag telling it what to do.

And within about a week, he'd be dead, because rich douchebags like him are so used to people doing things like washing their clothes, cooking their food, and cleaning their houses that they wouldn't know what to do without them.

The book appeals to rich douchebags because it validates their egotism: "Of course I'm harder-working, smarter, and more important than everyone else! Otherwise, how would I have gotten so rich? I should be allowed to do exactly what I want, and answer to nobody but other rich people, because civilization depends on me."

When in fact, they depend on millions of people that they don't even notice. Their whole existence is an exercise in ignoring all the people that enable their lifestyle, and the people best suited to do that are not the brilliant, but the sociopathic. And in fact, when you look at the actual plot of the story, John Galt fits the part perfectly--his primary goal is to destroy human civilization as punishment for not recognizing his achievements, and he's presented as the hero. Ayn Rand has a lot to answer for.


Anonymous said...

Dude, you need a "like" button, so I can show my support for your thoughts without actually having to voice my own.

Arcane Nitehawk said...

My favorite response to Atlas Shrugged:

Anonymous said...

Actually, the book doesn't even appeal to rich douchebags: it appeals to high school juniors who are still being supported by their parents. It's PERFECT for adolescent self-absorption: "You mean I can be a selfish asshole and that's GOOD? And I'll get babes like Dagny? KEWL!"

Most of them outgrow it once they join the real world.

Anonymous said...

You need to move out of your parent's basement. Or read the book, after you learn to read.

Chris said...

I can't believe I'm writing this, because I agree that the book is crap, but John Galt isn't actually rich in the book. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember him as being a working class guy who could have become rich if only he'd sold out his principles to the welfare state blah blah straw men blah.

Still, fuck Atlas Shrugged.

j$ said...

"You need to move out of your parent's basement. Or read the book, after you learn to read."

I assume John's simply too nice a guy to respond to your idiotic nonsense, but thankfully I too can take advantage of internet anonymity to say that if Atlas Shrugged appealed to your sensibilities it's because you're one of the douchebags in its target demographic. Enjoy watching Fox News.

Grazzt said...

Reminds me of the great quote from The Man Who Was Thursday.

"The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all."

John Seavey said...

@Chris: Of course John Galt isn't rich. That's the whole point of the book; it's not worth being rich if you have to share it with others. John Galt refuses to become rich so long as anyone other than himself profits from his brilliance, which is why he's so awesome! (...if you're one of the creepy people who actually buys this shit.)

@j$: No worries. I find that anyone who tells a total stranger to "move out of your parent's basement" is someone who assumes that everyone they meet on the Internet lives in their parent's basement and will be sent scurrying by that devastating, they're someone who still lives in their parent's basement and are filled with self-loathing over it. :) As someone who's thirty-five and haven't lived at home in years, it provokes more amusement than anger.

John said...

John Galt refuses to become rich so long as anyone other than himself profits from his brilliance.

Actually, no. Rand's heroes, including Galt, like that their work benefits other people. (Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon are positively giddy thinking of all the ways Reardon Metal will improve life for everyone.) What drove Galt to create the strike was not that other people benefit, but that he didn't get a greater benefit than anyone else...that he wasn't being fairly compensated for his creation.

In fact, the factory where Galt worked rewarded others more than him. It was run on the idea that rewards are allocated to needs, not performance. The idiot who couldn't do anything right except impregnate his wife got a better salary than the man who invented free energy.

Furthermore, Rand created Galt and his fellows to be supermen. If you drop one of them alone and naked into a wilderness and give him a month, he'll have build a city. These people really are better than the rest of us, and the world really would be more efficient if they ran everything without interference. And unlike real elites, Rand's heroes have no problem being replaced by superior just have to prove that you're better.

Rand's problem comes when translating the moral lessons from her fantasy reality into the real world. I think those lessons result in a pretty harsh class-based society, with nasty injustices due to fallible human judgment and morality. Regardless, _Atlas Shrugged_ wasn't praising oligarchy, but ruthless meritocracy.

John Seavey said...

Sorry, John. I sometimes translate Ayn Rand's subtext without meaning to. :)

John said...

Hey, it's easy to presume that Rand's heroes are ruthless moneygrubbers. That's the way she talked about them, and the kind of dialog she gave them in the book. But that's not the way she *wrote* the book; it misses two points:

First, Rand distinguishes between earned wealth and bogus wealth. No Rand hero would ever tell a white lie for cash, no matter how badly he needed the money or how harmless the lie. Indeed, they condemn characters who amass wealth through non-productive means. This confuses the non-productive characters, who believed the heroes' claims to be all about the money.

Secondly, when Rand's heroes build their utopia, they maintain money strictly as a medium of exchange, not an end in itself. They work to reduce expenses and lower prices, striving for the goal of free time, not riches. Sure, they enjoy the trappings of wealth, but not a single one of them starts a project with the aim of becoming rich, or living in a big house, or driving exotic sportscars. It's the *work* that drives them, not the money.

(Apologies for my ambiguous user ID. I can't figure how to get Blogger to display my full name from my Google account.)

-- John Stepp

Jason said...

you are all idiots, except John; and even he has some things wrong

Atlas Shrugged is about those that know how to get things done, those that can take nothing and make something, those that are PROUD of their work and believe that they should be rewarded for said work vs. those that feed off the industry of those that produce. like a parasitic relationship. those that just want to feed and claim that it is 'for the greater good' or 'i have to help those who won't help themselves' are the ones that want money and power and prestige the most. they are leeches off those that actually do something!

Welfare, for example, only exacerbates the problem of those on welfare. if the gov't is paying for all or most of your shelter, food, clothing, health care, etc. and you get rewarded (read bigger checks from gov't each month) because you have a larger need (b/c you have more kids to get the bigger check) then what incentive is there for those in that situation to raise themselves up and out of the shit they are in? all is paid for BY STEALING IT FROM THOSE THAT ACTUALLY DO/ PRODUCE SOMETHING FOR SOCIETY! so why try?

this is the main issue. Dagney, Hank, John, Ellis et al, are sick and F'ing tired of lecherous freeloaders! the producers make it possible for the leeches to pay the poor to stay poor and are then run through the mud and ridiculed for their success and being in the position not to need anyone's assistance!

'The laborer is worthy of his wage.' and 'if a man does not work, then he does not eat'

also, what is the incentive for someone to spend time, money, resources to try to do something better, cheaper, more efficiently if they get no personal reward for doing so? or for being able to direct others on how to do such a thing? the supervisor gets paid more than the ditch digger because he has more that he is responsible for than just the manual labor of a 2x3x10 foot hole in the ground.

Anonymous said...

If one can't see how government meddling is destroying small business in America, law by law, than Atlas Shrugged will remain an enigma.