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intellectualammo

Fitzgerald's "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz"

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Hi, everyone. I read this story about a year ago, and of what short stories that I have so far read by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this one "The Diamond as Big as a Ritz" is my favorite among them.

Anyone read it?

Basically it is about a family who has a diamond the size of a mountain, and go to immoral lengths just to protect it from being discovered, in which the market value for diamonds, the bottom would fall out upon discovery, at least that's one possibility, or the government taking it and so forth. They, or rather more the huband in the family, is militant about keeping it a secret, and there is intrigue and love in this story too. As a laissez-faire capitalist, this story interests me and gets me thinking about the gold standard, paper money, and protecting investments the right and moral way, and often I try to think about what exactly should a person do when they find such a thing, in order to protect or have it for themselves.

I have a question about it, want to know what one should do, if one does discover a diamond as large a a mountain, and how to go about protecting it in a moral way, unlike the way that is done by the family, or rather specifically the father, in this story.

I'd try to argue that in a laissez-faire society, that if a person were to discover such a mountainous diamond, that you could purchase the land on it, thereby owning the mountain itself, right? Then the diamond would be yours, and the government would serve to protect your property rights, you of course could also then before revealing or in fact never revealing it, have a private protection firm in place too, but all would be protected under government regardless, so the means that the father took, resulting in murdering and capturing, would be avoided, the moral thing to do. Or is my thinking faulty? Perhaps it could be the standard to back money then, instead of gold. Again, I really do not have a good grasp of the implications, or what exactly to do upon such a discovery depending of course what your goal is with it, protecting it like in the story, so I thought creating this thread would aid me in that, and also get this short fiction out there. I nominated it for a short story club I've been participating in, and if it wins, I'd like to be able to have a better understanding of it in this respect.

HERE is a Wiki on it, but there are spoilers there.

You can read the story itself HERE among other places to find it in.

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I'd try to argue that in a laissez-faire society, that if a person were to discover such a mountainous diamond, that you could purchase the land on it, thereby owning the mountain itself, right?

I think that if the land wasn't already owned, then one can simply claim it, right?

Here is the way that Fitzgerald puts it in the story about the reasoning behind keeping the diamond a secret:

By the end of a fortnight he had estimated that the diamond in the mountain was approximately equal in quantity to all the rest of the diamonds known to exist in the world. There was no valuing it by any regular computation, however, for it was one solid diamond--and if it were offered for sale not only would the bottom fall out of the market, but also, if the value should vary with its size in the usual arithmetical progression, there would not be enough gold in the world to buy a tenth part of it. And what could any one do with a diamond that size?

It was an amazing predicament. He was, in one sense, the richest man that ever lived--and yet was he worth anything at all? If his secret should transpire there was no telling to what measures the Government might resort in order to prevent a panic, in gold as well as in jewels. They might take over the claim immediately and institute a monopoly. There was no alternative--he must market his mountain in secret.

He does, but all the immoral and evil actions he takes, I think, would not be necessary at all in laissez-faire society. He'd simply claim or obtain ownership of the land, thereby the diamond as well, and the government would have to protect that. I couldn't imagine what would happen if this happened in our society now, the concerns above, would be jusitified I think, but I do not think what he did in protecting the secrecy was moral. It's not like someone was stealing diamonds, he just wanted to keep it a secret at all costs, including human lives. Makes me think of other scenerios too, that only compound my lack of understanding in this. I lost my O'ism CD-ROM through putting it in a DVD on Emily Dickinson, and haven't been able to get it back again, so I can't search for what is said about the gold standard in it, which I think addresses some of what I'm trying to understand in this, but I'll have to thumb though the books I have sometime soon, unless anyone would care to comment on any of this.

Edited by intellectualammo

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Perhaps it could be the standard to back money then, instead of gold. Again, I really do not have a good grasp of the implications, or what exactly to do upon such a discovery depending of course what your goal is with it, protecting it like in the story, so I thought creating this thread would aid me in that, and also get this short fiction out there. I nominated it for a short story club I've been participating in, and if it wins, I'd like to be able to have a better understanding of it in this respect.

You're correct that in a society which actually respects property rights, extreme measures would not be necessary to protect the find of such a diamond. However, this second part about diamonds replacing gold is highly unlikely, because the *quantity* of an item does not determine its suitability for currency (although it should be a luxury good simply because you don't have to carry around a lot of it). Instead, one of the things that makes gold (or other precious metals) suitable for currency is the fact that it is homogeneous (or easily made so) and divisible. You can't melt down or cut up diamonds and have them retain their value, and not all diamonds are created equal--they must be valued on an individual basis.

Your best bet, financially, on finding a diamond that big would be to start trying to increase the international *demand* for diamonds via a number of means, particularly in the industrial sector, then sell it off bit by bit. Diamonds might go down in price because there was a greater supply relative to demand, but perfect gem-quality diamonds would probably retain their value. Industrial diamonds (such as those used in drill heads) would become cheaper, and this would be good for everyone because production that *requires* diamonds would become more economical.

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You're correct that in a society which actually respects property rights, extreme measures would not be necessary to protect the find of such a diamond.

Thank you, for replying Jenni. Now, that part being correct, I'd have to then show how protecting such a thing in the story was immorally done. For one thing, it wasn't officially claimed, and I don't think the land was either on the mountain. I'll have to look again for the specifics, but even still, there is no justification for the killings and capturing that the father does. Now, selling it off in small amounts, you can make a large fortune, but the larger the supply of it, the less valuable it would be. Better off selling and investing in other things, like gold for example, where it's more stable, especially knowing about the diamond to begin with.

You can't melt down or cut up diamonds and have them retain their value, and not all diamonds are created equal--they must be valued on an individual basis.

All good points, thanks. Gold also varies carat wise/purity wise, come to think of it.

Your best bet, financially, on finding a diamond that big would be to start trying to increase the international *demand* for diamonds via a number of means, particularly in the industrial sector, then sell it off bit by bit. Diamonds might go down in price because there was a greater supply relative to demand, but perfect gem-quality diamonds would probably retain their value. Industrial diamonds (such as those used in drill heads) would become cheaper, and this would be good for everyone because production that *requires* diamonds would become more economical.

Yes. Now, let me put the rest of this in spoilers.

In the end, it was "wired" to be destroyed in case of discovery. He could have regulated the value of diamonds as such with the quantity he puts out into the market, or the quantity he'd destroy, or kept secret, right? He could have gone about it in an entirely different way than he did. I think the diamond mine was sealed up after one of the Washingtons had gotten enough wealth from it for generations to come to live well on, but still needed the protection, secrecy nonetheless. Just claim it as your property then, right? I have to find out if it ever was to begin with. I don't think it was officially. His father was looking to claim land, but I can't find specifics other than that as of yet.

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This is exactly where I think that it went wrong, instead of trying to claim the land, they tried hiding it which then turned immoral quickly. In this, it reminds me of Galt's Gulch the way that it was hidden the third time:

We're in the middle of the Montana Rockies. But you are now on the only five square miles of land in the country that's never been surveyed."

"Why hasn't it? Did they forget it?"

"No," said Percy, grinning, "they tried to do it three times. The first time my grandfather corrupted a whole department of the State survey; the second time he had the official maps of the United States tinkered with--that held them for fifteen years. The last time was harder. My father fixed it so that their compasses were in the strongest magnetic field ever artificially set up. He had a whole set of surveying instruments made with a slight defection that would allow for this territory not to appear, and he substituted them for the ones that were to be used. Then he had a river deflected and he had what looked like a village built up on its banks--so that they'd see it, and think it was a town ten miles farther up the valley. There's only one thing my father's afraid of," he concluded, "only one thing in the world that could be used to find us out."

"What's that?"

Percy sank his voice to a whisper. "Aeroplanes," he breathed. "We've got half a dozen anti-aircraft guns and we've arranged it so far--but there've been a few deaths and a great many prisoners. Not that we mind that, you know, father and I, but it upsets mother and the girls, and there's always the chance that some time we won't be able to arrange it."

And with this description, I'd think it was hidden enough as is, in order to claim the land or buy it or whatever without anyone knowing what's underneath:

But except about fifty feet of sod and gravel on top it's solid diamond. One diamond, one cubic mile without a flaw.

The father of Mr. Washington, Fitz-Norman originally "intended to take out land in their names" and then discovered the mountain. But because of the reasons I listed above in a previous post, he thought it best to keep it a secret. The diamond wasn't flawed, but his judgement was, I think.

Fitz-Norman was smart though for using the wealth that he'd gotten from selling off some of the diamond, and then buying "up rare minerals in bulk, which he deposited in the safety vaults of banks all over the world [...] The minerals were converted into the rarest of all elements--radium--so that the equivalent of a billion dollars in gold could be placed in a receptacle no bigger than a cigar box."

After that the mine was sealed, so what's with all the secrecy then? They'd be safe monetarily/investment wise if the diamond was found out. Perhaps the the story itself is just a tad flawed as well, but only in that respect. There's still some more literary worth a reader can mine out of it.

Like the relationship between John and Kismine.

This is cute:

"Did you say 'Kismine'?" she asked softly, "or----"

She had wanted to be sure. She thought she might have misunderstood. Neither of them had ever kissed before, but in the course of an hour it seemed to make little difference.

But if I presented the flawed part of the diamond story, now here's the ugly side of the diamond - it's effect on the lives of the daughters.

When John found out what happened to others that had been invited there, he cries out:

"So you murdered them! Uh!" cried John.

"It was done very nicely. They were drugged while they were asleep--and their families were always told that they died of scarlet fever in Butte."

"But--I fail to understand why you kept on inviting them!" "I didn't," burst out Kismine. "I never invited one. Jasmine did.

And in the end, I like the way it all comes together.

Too bad she picked the wrong drawer, the one that didn't contain diamonds when they were leaving! But they were rich regardless, because they had each other. Before their love was doomed, now it can bloom.

Another short fiction story that I have read of Fitzgerald's that I personally liked, would be "Head and Shoulders". The beginning particularly and the ending especially. Of his short stories, I've only read maybe a dozen, if that. I'm not really into short fiction as much as novels, plays, poetry.

Edited by intellectualammo

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In order to make sure I understand this right:

From the Wiki on property rights:

"Traditional principles of property rights includes:

control of the use of the property

the right to any benefit from the property (examples: mining rights and rent)

a right to transfer or sell the property

a right to exclude others from the property."

(bold emphasis mine)

Now in a laissez-faire capitalist society, the government doesn't own the minerals, natural resources beneath your land, and you don't have to get permission or mining rights to it from the government itself. I think it would be a package deal all included in laissez-faire society. If someone wants to mine on your land, say, because you don't have the means to getting at the oil yourself, you can give them mining rights, since you own the surface, you have to go through the surface to go below. Am I correct in my understanding here?

But, the way it really works in the current USA society, is way more basically detailed HERE

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