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Dustin86

If Objectivism Is So Desirable to the World's "Atlases", W

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**Warning: Potential Atlas Shrugged Spoilers Ahead**

 

Note: The original title of this thread was If Objectivism Is So Desirable to the World's "Atlases", Why Hasn't it Happened? but it was truncated by the system.

 

The whole premise of Ayn Rand's magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged" is that the producing "Atlases" finally get tired of the taxes and regulations passed by the "looter parasites" and leave the "looter society" in order to create their own society in "Galt's Gulch", a hidden valley protected from the "looters and moochers" by a high-tech "ray screen".

 

This scenario sounds like it makes sense on paper, but when you consider that it has never happened, it calls not only itself, but all of Objectivism, into serious doubt.

 

Firstly, you would not even need any high-tech "ray screen" to create a "Galt's Gulch". There are roughly 190 countries in the world as of now. Surely some Objectivist billionaires who feel they're being oppressed by too many regulations and taxes could pool their money to simply purchase sovereignty over a small area from one of these 190 potential sellers, making the world's 191st country the first Objectivist country. Even if no-one is willing to sell, couldn't these Objectivist billionaires simply build a "Sealand"-style artificial platform in the middle of the ocean, indeed even much bigger than Sealand, to create an Objectivist country? Why hasn't this happened?

 

Secondly, I have never actually heard of a wealthy "Atlas" who has succeeded in the current "Subjectivist" society "going Galt" even on a strictly individual basis. On the contrary, all those who have actually "gone Galt" have been people whom Objectivists would consider highly Subjectivist: Hippies, monks, people who quit the money system, etc. So why are the biggest Subjectivists leaving, if they are the ones benefitting the most and it is the biggest Objectivists who are truly the most oppressed?

Edited by Dustin86

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Do you care to explain how this calls the philosophy of Objectivism into doubt?

You're making the mistake of assuming that today's world is as bad as the world of Atlas Shrugged and that Objectivism demands or even suggests producers go on strike today.

Edited by oso

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Today's world does not prove Objectivism wrong any more than the feudal system and tyrannical empires of 1000 years ago proves "communism" or "democracy" (of today) are "wrong".

 

 

You have simply made the specific observation that no geographical area has yet adopted an Objectivist based ethics, and politics - i.e. society.

 

If you believe this specific observation is evidence for the assertion that an Objectivist society will never occur or that if one were to occur it would fail, you are grossly overestimating the significance of that specific observation.

 

 

 

Another implication of your post is that simply because people are not choosing to do something, it must be proof that the something really is not the best thing to do.  All of history is a perfect example which rebuts any presumption that actual human/societal choices is the standard by which to measure the propriety of a social/political system.  By your logic, Fascism of the Nazi's WAS proper because "it happened".

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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The fact that Ayn Rand herself made no attempt to disappear into a hippie-like commune, and instead did just the opposite, is a hint that she did not advocate going to live in some sea-steading place. [To which the critic must instead retort: "Her hypocrisy proves my point!"]

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In Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal - 15. Is Atlas Shrugging she indicated the question most often asked of her was "Is Atlas Shrugged a prophetic novel—or a historical one?"

To this, she identified a brief rule she had set for herself to help guide her writing, which was "The purpose of this book is to prevent itself from becoming prophetic."

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In the modern world one can "virtually shrug". It will become increasingly possible to zero out the crony capitalists of government and deal with others by the trader principle without mediation of government.

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If I understand the OP, the suggestion was made that Atlas Shrugged is invalid, because 1) Western Civilization is thriving, in spite of its "looter parasite" welfare state; 2) the men of true genius have not organized and taken refuge in a secure and isolated enclave;

and 3) various Subjectivists(?) are the only sort of people who have taken to the proverbial hills in abandoning society.

 

1) Western Civilization is grinding to halt. The burdens of the welfare state are baring down on free-market entrepreneurs and wage-earners.The debt of nations will be passed down to the next generations until the interest of these debts is so great that our posterity will be working off the cost for ever greater amounts, or

 

 2)The wealth of nations is revived and restored through men and women of exceptional genius,i.e. the Atlas(es) of the world. They have their own best interests at stake as they create new inventions, cures, and discoveries. All that is missing from the lives of some of them is a clearly defined philosophy. Whatever motivates their progress, it is progress of the most value for society, and it continues to postpone the negative effects of the welfare state. I am suggesting that the "Atlas" men and women of the world have not seen the need to organize as of yet in any way other than to produce.

 

3) I know of no system of philosophy, nor for that matter any fraternity of Subjectivists. However there are many who would rather shrug and turn away from our current social order. And who can blame them for whatever reason they may offer. It is their choice to make. But it is the freedom to make choices that may one day be forfeited.

Edited by Repairman

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Dustin86,

The reality is that it's very hard to set up a plausible nation state without much violence and strife, and even then those involved would suffer a major drop in their standard of living initially. It would not be anything like the idealised Galt's Gulch to begin with. Something terrible would have to happen for it to be worth considering.

Why would today's successful atlas men want to go to all that trouble. There would be much more interest from those who are objectivists but not exceptional, who would not have to subject themself to as much hardship to set up a new community, but they do not possess the means nor the opportunity to purchase free lands or to build a community from scratch - despite having the motivation. Plus their strike would have little impact.

I doubt the community would work either. In the objectivist communities I've encountered there is not a spirit of cooperation and goodwill but of arrogance, anger and hostility. People have written about this so my experience isn't in isolation. I don't think a community with members like that would be successful.

Edited by Jon Southall

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People are shrugging the world over to escape from repressive regimes. People cross the southern US border in droves in order to escape systems rigged for the benefit of the few and to find opportunity. These may not be "Objectivists" or have even heard of Objectivism, but they are putting into practice the art of shrugging.

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The whole premise of Ayn Rand's magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged" is that the producing "Atlases" finally get tired of the taxes and regulations passed by the "looter parasites" and leave the "looter society" in order to create their own society in "Galt's Gulch", a hidden valley protected from the "looters and moochers" by a high-tech "ray screen".

 

They are not striking simply because they face a few taxes and regulations.  They are striking because they live under a truly totalitarian, evil government.  Although it's common for fans of Ayn Rand to say that this or that new regulation sounds like it could have been ripped from the pages of Atlas Shrugged, the fictional government in the novel is actually far, far worse than the government that we have today.  Recall that Ayn Rand was born in Russia and lived through the Russian Revolution and Bolshevik rule before escaping to the U.S.  In the 40s and 50s, when she was writing Atlas Shrugged, the Soviet Union was growing more and more powerful and was openly praised by leftist intellectuals in America.  Today, the idea of truly totalitarian government is pretty universally discredited in the Western world in favor of a mixed economy approach, but at the time she was writing this was not the case.

 

Consider the more extreme regulations passed by the fictional government in the novel.  At one point they pass a regulation that prohibits anyone from quitting his or her job, in an effort to stop the striking that is occurring.  Consider that for a moment; making it illegal to quit one's job.  It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to call that a form of slavery; certainly it qualifies as forced labor.  Another provision in that same bill seizes all intellectual property in the country and simply gives it to the government.  It should be noted that this point is when the strike really takes off; this is when people start leaving their jobs and 'striking' in large numbers without ever meeting John Galt or hearing of his strike.  It's such an outright violation of personal freedom that people simply refuse to comply.  Later in the book, we discover that 'Project X' is actually a military weapon that is being developed for possible use on American citizens (to 'preserve peace and squash rebellion').  During the book's climax, Galt is actually tortured in order to try to press him into forced service to the government.  This is a truly evil, unlimited government, bearing more resemblance to the Soviet Union than to America's government today.

 

The book is purposefully written such that the audience only slowly discovers the true nature of the government.  Although Galt has seen it right away and begins the strike before the book even starts, people only join the strike when they come to understand how truly evil the government and the altruistic ideology behind it are.  These people aren't striking because the corporate tax rate went up from 35% to 40%.  They're refusing to give aid to an evil government, one that does not acknowledge the right of its citizens to exist independent of their service to the state.  We actually do see this kind of resistance to totalitarianism under every single government of this kind.  We saw it in Nazi Germany, and in the Soviet Union.  This is the reason that North Korea today has such a massive and active surveillance program for its own citizens, with microphones everywhere and huge numbers of informants.  When the government is truly evil, trying to escape or resist is a common choice made by its citizens.  Rand's contribution here is to note that, for a government run explicitly on the principle of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," the men of ability are the most heavily punished, and should be the first to resist.

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Thank you everyone for your posts.

 

Dante, I don't dispute what you've said about how all the truly evil governments (outside of insignificant tinpots like North Korea) no longer exist. However, that begs the question even more. None of the resistence to these governments took the form laid out in Atlas Shrugged. The "Atlases" living in these states never disappeared to hidden Objectivist valleys. At most, they hopped the Iron Curtain border to the West. Also, when Communism finally fell in formerly Communist societies, none of them became Objectivist societies. They along with the rest of the world are instead living in that "middle ground" between Objectivism and "Subjectivism", that "middle ground between extremes" which Rand so despised.

 

So my question becomes: Was the Nazi/Communist Era the missed opportunity for an Objectivist society to come about? Are we now at an "End of History" (at least as far as Objectivism is concerned) which will never see an Objectivist society happen?

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 They along with the rest of the world are instead living in that "middle ground" between Objectivism and "Subjectivism", that "middle ground between extremes" which Rand so despised.

Who is "they"? Who specifically are you referring to? Are you referring to me?

 

Have I compromised my values, by living in a country with a mixed economy? If so, in what way?

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 They along with the rest of the world are instead living in that "middle ground" between Objectivism and "Subjectivism", that "middle ground between extremes" which Rand so despised.

Who is "they"? Who specifically are you referring to?

 

"they" = formerly Communist societies

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"they" = formerly Communist societies

Saying that a society "lives in a certain way" is incorrect. That is why I was mislead into thinking you are talking about people rather than societies. There is a clear distinction between the nature of a society, and the beliefs of people. A distinction that you aren't making. Ayn Rand despised "the middle ground between extremes" in individuals' beliefs. But she obviously preferred a middle ground to negative extremes in a society. She obviously preferred some freedom to none. What she despised was the people who hold that middle ground as their ideal. You can't just take her comments on individual beliefs out of context, and apply them to an entirely different topic. You might as well be using those comments to conclude that she hated people who are six feet tall, because they're a middle-ground between extremely tall and extremely short.

 

And you're right, formerly Communist societies are not Objectivist. But no, the fall of Communism was not a missed opportunity for establishing an Objectivist society. It wasn't an opportunity at all. Objectivism can only be established on the foundation of a rational culture, and Communism hardly left behind a rational culture.

 

If anything, there is more of an opportunity to start building that rational foundation in parts of Eastern Europe today, than there was 25 years ago.

Edited by Nicky

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I understand what you meant Dustin86,

 

You're making the point that former communist societies have adopted mixed economies like elsewhere - not entirely free and not entirely a planned economy; somewhere between the two. When communism ended and with it the planned economy you are wondering why there wasn't an Objectivist revolution - why didn't Objectivistic individuals put in place protection of individual rights; it might have been the perfect opportunity.

 

I would say you would have to look at what happened. The collapse of the USSR was not due to an Objectivist style strike - it inevitably collapsed due to its own lack of viability. In Atlas Shrugged the Objectivists take back America and restore a rational culture, but those Objectivists had discovered morality. No such discovery was mandated by the collapse of communism. I wonder if the transition to a mixed economy by ex-communist governments was a surrender rather than a choice, at least initially.

 

I partly agree with Nicky's final comment:

 

"If anything, there is more of an opportunity to start building that rational foundation in parts of Eastern Europe today, than there was 25 years ago"  The only problem is that former communist countries are joining the EU, and support for this is symptomatic of nations that have not learned their lesson.

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In Atlas Shrugged the Objectivists take back America and restore a rational culture, but those Objectivists had discovered morality.

And, the book simply jumps to this, a bit like a miracle. I suppose we have to assume that enough people have "seen the light", and agree with the strikers. otherwise, they would be going back to the same old, same old.

As you say, the precondition is for someone to discover the right political system. The second precondition if for enough -- at least a majority -- to want to give it a fair shot.

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Thank you everyone for your posts.

 

Dante, I don't dispute what you've said about how all the truly evil governments (outside of insignificant tinpots like North Korea) no longer exist. However, that begs the question even more. None of the resistence to these governments took the form laid out in Atlas Shrugged. The "Atlases" living in these states never disappeared to hidden Objectivist valleys. At most, they hopped the Iron Curtain border to the West. Also, when Communism finally fell in formerly Communist societies, none of them became Objectivist societies. They along with the rest of the world are instead living in that "middle ground" between Objectivism and "Subjectivism", that "middle ground between extremes" which Rand so despised.

 

So my question becomes: Was the Nazi/Communist Era the missed opportunity for an Objectivist society to come about? Are we now at an "End of History" (at least as far as Objectivism is concerned) which will never see an Objectivist society happen?

I'd answer no to both of those, but I'm not quite sure why you think they're important questions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but are you trying to ask why hasn't an Objectivist style strike occurred anywhere? To answer that I would say, very simply, there are very few Objectivists in the world. Exactly why that is and what it's implications are is an important discussion but you first need to recognize that this is the case. Yaron Brook estimated that there is somewhere in the tens of thousands of people who take Ayn Rand's ideas seriously.

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**Warning: Potential Atlas Shrugged Spoilers Ahead**

 

Note: The original title of this thread was If Objectivism Is So Desirable to the World's "Atlases", Why Hasn't it Happened? but it was truncated by the system.

 

The whole premise of Ayn Rand's magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged" is that the producing "Atlases" finally get tired of the taxes and regulations passed by the "looter parasites" and leave the "looter society" in order to create their own society in "Galt's Gulch", a hidden valley protected from the "looters and moochers" by a high-tech "ray screen".

 

This scenario sounds like it makes sense on paper, but when you consider that it has never happened, it calls not only itself, but all of Objectivism, into serious doubt.

 

Firstly, you would not even need any high-tech "ray screen" to create a "Galt's Gulch". There are roughly 190 countries in the world as of now. Surely some Objectivist billionaires who feel they're being oppressed by too many regulations and taxes could pool their money to simply purchase sovereignty over a small area from one of these 190 potential sellers, making the world's 191st country the first Objectivist country. Even if no-one is willing to sell, couldn't these Objectivist billionaires simply build a "Sealand"-style artificial platform in the middle of the ocean, indeed even much bigger than Sealand, to create an Objectivist country? Why hasn't this happened?

 

Secondly, I have never actually heard of a wealthy "Atlas" who has succeeded in the current "Subjectivist" society "going Galt" even on a strictly individual basis. On the contrary, all those who have actually "gone Galt" have been people whom Objectivists would consider highly Subjectivist: Hippies, monks, people who quit the money system, etc. So why are the biggest Subjectivists leaving, if they are the ones benefitting the most and it is the biggest Objectivists who are truly the most oppressed?

Your whole question is so absurd that I cannot understand how you could have so completely missed the point.

 

Atlas Shrugged is a fictional novel.

 

Furthermore, real life billionaires are not all Randian style abstract Objectivist heroes. Moreover, Ayn Rand did not advocate anyone "going Galt". The current world is not as bad as the world of Atlas Shrugged, and the point of the plot was: 'what if all the productive achievers went on strike'.

Edited by Peter Morris

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The novel points to an actual "strike" , Judge Narragansett begins editing a copy of the Constitution. That scene always reminds me of Franklin's comment "A republic, if you can keep it" when asked what form of government came out of the convention in Philadelphia.

The Atlases of colonial America created the first real world Gulch. I do not think the end of history is at hand. There is a rational foundation, it needs to be rediscovered and perhaps refined.

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