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Dustin86

An Atlas Quote that May Be at the Very Core of Objectivism

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Guys, please help me with this quote from Atlas Shrugged. It may be at the very core of Objectivism.

"She had thought that industrial production was a value not to be questioned by anyone; she had thought that these men's urge to expropriate the factories of others was their acknowledgment of the factories value. She, born of the industrial revolution, had not held as conceivable, had forgotten along with the tales of astrology and alchemy, what these men knew in their secret, furtive souls, knew not by means of thought, but by means of that nameless muck which they called their instincts and emotions: that so long as men struggle to stay alive, they'll never produce so little but that the man with the club won't be able to seize it and leave them still less, provided millions of them are willing to submit—that the harder their work and the less their gain, the more submissive the fiber of their spirit—that men who live by pulling levers at an electric switchboard, are not easily ruled, but men who live by digging the soil with their naked fingers, are—that the feudal baron did not need electronic factories in order to drink his brains away out of jeweled goblets, and neither did the rajahs of the People's State of India."

This is the opposite of what we often hear. We often hear that civilized men are docile and tame, so they are easily ruled by a tyrant, whereas "wilder", primitive men are harder to control. This is often given as the reason for the rise of the Totalitarian States of the previous century. What Rand is saying in this section of Atlas (if I have interpreted it correctly) is the complete opposite of what we so often hear.

Please help me with this quote.

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She had looked at that distant page every evening of the months behind her. Your days are numbered, it had seemed to say—as if it were marking a progression toward something it knew, but she didn't. Once, it had clucked her race to build the John Galt Line; now it was clocking her race against an unknown destroyer. One by one, the men who had built new towns in Colorado, had departed into some silent unknown, from which no voice or person had yet returned. The towns they had left were dying. Some of the factories they built had remained ownerless and locked; others had been seized by the local authorities; the machines in both stood still.

She thought that the expropriators (and by extension,the feudal barons and the rajahs) where after the value of the factories. She was discovering that no matter how hard or easy the work, no matter how much or little was produced, when the man with the club came around, the initiator of force, he could still seize it and leave them with less.

Edited by dream_weaver

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North Korea: the people don't rise up there even though they're in really bad shape.

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(1)
I don't know if I ever heard it really. The only time I heard it was from Nietzsche. He proposed an idea that civilization tames man and makes him weaker, just as taming a wolf made him a dog, a weaker animal. For what it's worth, I mostly agree. On the other hand, he had reasons to say it's not the whole story.

(2)
Common or not, lets address the claim. You should ask: tamed how? The passage can address it, as well as knowing Rand's beliefs in general.

Altruism can create docility. People would fall into toleration and sacrifice so deeply that they lose sight of heroism. Even worse, altruism is equated with being civilized, that being altruistic is a sign of being enlightened. Selfishness is equated with childishness - hard to control perhaps. So, Rand might agree. Keep in mind she sees altruism as a deeper cause of collectivism and even totalitarian states.  Their success relies on sacrifices from the productive people, and many are only too glad to hand it all over.

Hank Rearden at the start of AS rarely said no. Why? Because he believed in altruism. Altruism made him docile and easily controlled by Lillian.

I think the passage is saying that failing to grasp and understand the importance of reason is ultimately why people start to take rather than create. That involves an interaction with altruism, because an altruist would happily submit to the takers - the looters.

As the passage says: "that so long as men struggle to stay alive, they'll never produce so little but that the man with the club won't be able to seize it and leave them still less, provided millions of them are willing to submit."

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11 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Guys, please help me with this quote from Atlas Shrugged. It may be at the very core of Objectivism.

"She had thought that industrial production was a value not to be questioned by anyone; she had thought that these men's urge to expropriate the factories of others was their acknowledgment of the factories value. She, born of the industrial revolution, had not held as conceivable, had forgotten along with the tales of astrology and alchemy, what these men knew in their secret, furtive souls, knew not by means of thought, but by means of that nameless muck which they called their instincts and emotions: that so long as men struggle to stay alive, they'll never produce so little but that the man with the club won't be able to seize it and leave them still less, provided millions of them are willing to submit—that the harder their work and the less their gain, the more submissive the fiber of their spirit—that men who live by pulling levers at an electric switchboard, are not easily ruled, but men who live by digging the soil with their naked fingers, are—that the feudal baron did not need electronic factories in order to drink his brains away out of jeweled goblets, and neither did the rajahs of the People's State of India."

This is the opposite of what we often hear. We often hear that civilized men are docile and tame, so they are easily ruled by a tyrant, whereas "wilder", primitive men are harder to control. This is often given as the reason for the rise of the Totalitarian States of the previous century. What Rand is saying in this section of Atlas (if I have interpreted it correctly) is the complete opposite of what we so often hear.

Please help me with this quote.

The way I see it, the key phrase is "the harder their work and the less their gain, the more submissive the fiber of their spirit". The passage you quoted is comparing and contrasting primitive totalitarianism, the kind that controls peasants, with more modern totalitarianism, the kind that attempts to control factory workers, and observing that the former kind of tyrant had an easier go at it, whereas the latter kind has to resort to expropriating factories in order to keep the people under his thumb. She is saying that although the modern dictators act as though they just want to collect the fruits of industrialization's labor, deep down psychologically they're motivated by fear of those factories' power: the power to enable free-thinking men when unhindered by the state.

A farmer in a primitive society isn't as likely to rebel against tyranny since it's so easy for the primitive tyrant to expropriate more and more from him (or just kill him). If you're the farmer in that situation, it's "rational" to submit, because otherwise you could lose your harvest and/or your life. On the other hand, the factory worker uses his mind more than the primitive farmer, needs to THINK more to do his job (you know, assuming his job involves technical expertise and not just working the assembly line), and, in a free economy, it provides him a higher standard of living than the primitive farmer (he doesn't have to worry about going hungry because of a failed harvest as market speculators will warn him through a gradual hike in food prices, giving him more time to plan for it by cutting other spending/dipping into his savings). He's more individualistic and not as easily pushed around, so long as the economy remains free. The modern tyrant needs to seize factories, impose price controls, etc., so that our factory worker has to work harder for a lower standard of living, all the while knowing that if he speaks out against the state it means the loss of his job (or worse). The modern tyrant has to "work" harder to keep people in line.

That some have claimed that "civilized men are docile and tame" shows how ignorant people are of how much civilization we've actually lost, even in relatively free countries like the U.S. Yes, in many ways we've gained tremendous advancements in civilization in terms of technology and social progress, but we've also gone backwards when it comes to government regulation of the economy. The latter is important as it has resulted in, to some extent, people having to work harder for not as high standards of living. Oh yes, overall, standards of living have gone up for everyone in spite of more regulation (don't let those pounding the drum on income inequality fool you), but who knows how much more wonderful things would be now had the past century gone another way?

If modern "civilized" people (especially Americans) act docile and tame, it's because they observe that they don't have it so bad, and government regulations only affect rich people anyway, they think, so what's there to rebel against? If they appear softer, it's because the insidiousness of a mixed economy has made it relatively easy for the government to conceal its role in making things a little more miserable than they otherwise would be, and so people have been lulled into the false belief that government controls are mostly benign, "for our own good", etc.

If you ask, "But what about our more individualistic forebears? Why couldn't they stop this massive increase in the growth of government controls?" 1) Because it wasn't massive for them for the most part, it was gradual over years and decades. 2) To the extent that they rebelled against radical new controls (the income tax, the New Deal, etc.), they lacked the right ideas to consistently oppose them, so they gave in and compromised needlessly.

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Dustin86,

The passage you've sited is an excellent choice for summarizing Ayn Rand's position on politics. Politics, however, is more of an outcome, a derivative, of the being point of Objectivism: Existence exists. Here's a quote from Galt's speech: "Do you think they are taking you back to dark ages? They are taking you back to darker ages than your history has known...Their purpose is to deprive you of the concept on which man's mind, his life and his culture depend: the concept of an objective reality." (Atlas Shrugged, p. 1040)

Building on the foundation of an acceptance of reality, be it to your liking or not, the true nature of man is better understood. Viewed through the context of history, it was philosophy and/or theology that held human progress in check. The modern Attila's merely arrived at the same outcome of subjecting man to the duty of serving anyone other than one's self. In an age when "Might Makes Right," slave-masters maintained domination over illiterate brutes with greater ease than men of a more enlightened age. Even in Christian Europe, serfs were subjected to mind-control; their lives were at the disposal of the aristocracy, and the only reward for their suffering was the promise of an eternal after-life in God's Kingdom. In the 20th century, the populations of industrialized nations were told that they were a small part of a much bigger goal: The Collective, The State, The Proletariat Utopia. Men were truly convinced that, only through personal sacrifice, they could build a better world. Many willingly accepted the burden. The Nazi Third Reich consisted of highly intelligent, educated, and civilized people; many of the nations that came under Nazi rule did so without much opposition, and passively accepted their roles as collaborators. If you were to study the core of their beliefs, you would find the fatal flaw. It is for this reason that each individual must examine as much of the known facts as available, question those in power, and be as intellectually honest to themselves as is possible.

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1 hour ago, Repairman said:

Men were truly convinced that, only through personal sacrifice, they could build a better world. Many willingly accepted the burden. The Nazi Third Reich consisted of highly intelligent, educated, and civilized people; many of the nations that came under Nazi rule did so without much opposition, and passively accepted their roles as collaborators. If you were to study the core of their beliefs, you would find the fatal flaw.

I was going to add something like this too.  Germany (going back to at least Bismark and Kaiser Wilhelm II) was anything but a primitive or uneducated society.  They were leaders in science, mathematics, industry, engineering, music, the arts, etc.   But they did place the State (as personified by the leader) above everything.

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