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Craig24

Defending Capitalism against Ayn Rand?

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About 5 years ago, Steven Farron wrote an essay in Liberty titled Defending Capitalism against Ayn Rand.  Contemplate this for a moment.  He thinks Ayn Rand, in some sense, was anti-capitalist even though she explicitly promoted and defended capitalism.  In the essay he writes:

“She thought that the heroes she created were exemplars of pure, uncorrupted capitalism.  In fact, the heroes she created in Atlas Shrugged came from her sense of life, which was not only un-capitalist but anti-capitalist.”

That’s a head scratcher.  He continues:

“In Atlas Shrugged, Rand created heroes who embodied her sense of life and described how such heroes would fulfill their heroic natures if they engaged in economic activities.  She thought that the sum of their economic activities and interactions provides a template of what laissez-faire capitalism would look like.  She was wrong.  When the heroes who embody her sense of life engage in economic activities, they function like Communist administrators, not capitalist businessmen.”

Her heroes function like Communist administrators in what way?  Farron continues:

“To paraphrase Rand, “Grandeur is the one word that names” the sense of life of Communist economies.  They had no concern with anything “penny ante.”  … The heroes of Atlas Shrugged are heroic because, like Communist bureaucrats, they produce or maintain impressive products, not mean little ones.  It would be unimaginable for a Rand hero to be a manufacturer of “penny ante” products, such as disposable baby diapers, menstrual tampons, or dependable contraceptives.  But these distinctively 20th-century inventions improved the quality of life immeasurably by freeing people from preoccupation with brute, animal existence.”

Farron is saying that what makes you anti-capitalist is a grandiose preoccupation with the heroic struggle to create impressive products, not mean little ones.  When Galt invents his motor he is being anti-capitalist because his motor is so much more impressive than a tampon.  Wrap your head around that one. 

Capitalism is the system of individual rights.  The essence of capitalism is the banning of coercion in human relationships.  Under capitalism you deal with others by persuasion and trade, not force and fraud.  Now what part of inventing an impressive motor instead of a tampon consists of promoting or using force?  Galt, Hank Rearden, Francisco D’anconia, Ellis Wyatt and Dagny Taggart do not promote or use force by being grandiose or impressively productive and Farron has to know that.  So what the **** is he really trying to do in this essay?  

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During one of Harry Binswanger's lectures, he relates a story about providing a young lady student with a copy of The Fountainhead. Some time later, he asked her what she thought of it. She responded with something about it being boring. Using a more direct question, he asked her about what she thought of difference between Howard Roark and Peter Keeting. Her response was that Howard Roark was a genius, but Peter Keeting wasn't that bright.

Judging from the package deal Steven creates around capitalism, just reading Ayn Rand is no guarantee of knowing it. Rand even says to her readers in Galt's Speech: "Some of you will never know who is John Galt."

I thought that was an odd way to word a statement. My initial thought was it ought read "Some of you will never know who John Galt is."

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On 4/8/2017 at 2:43 PM, Craig24 said:

Galt, Hank Rearden, Francisco D’anconia, Ellis Wyatt and Dagny Taggart do not promote or use force by being grandiose or impressively productive and Farron has to know that.  So what the **** is he really trying to do in this essay?  

I think he is saying capitalism is truly about glamorizing the common man with the common job who accepts his lot in life. It's pragmatism as far as I can tell. He'd be the kind to say "good capitalism has regulations". Too bad he doesn't seem to grasp striving to be one's very best and -more-, even if it's hard. Rand's point about money is that it can represent greatness anyway. So, to him, Communism is like Objectivism because "good enough" is not actually good enough for them.

 

Edited by Eiuol

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On 4/8/2017 at 2:43 PM, Craig24 said:

It would be unimaginable for a Rand hero to be a manufacturer of “penny ante” products, such as disposable baby diapers, menstrual tampons, or dependable contraceptives.  But these distinctively 20th-century inventions improved the quality of life immeasurably by freeing people from preoccupation with brute, animal existence.”

The bit above reminded me of what Rand wrote about lipstick. [CTUI, essay "What is Capitalism"]

Quote

... a manufacturer of lipstick may well make a greater fortune than a manufacturer of microscopes—even though it can be rationally demonstrated that microscopes are scientifically more valuable than lipstick. But—valuable to whom?
A microscope is of no value to a little stenographer struggling to make a living; a lipstick is; a lipstick, to her, may mean the difference between self-confidence and self-doubt, between glamour and drudgery.


This does not mean, however, that the values ruling a free market are subjective. If the stenographer spends all her money on cosmetics and has none left to pay for the use of a microscope (for a visit to the doctor) when she needs it, she learns a better method of budgeting her income; the free market serves as her teacher: she has no way to penalize others for her mistakes, If she budgets rationally, the microscope is always available to serve her own specific needs and no more

Inventors make for interesting tales, but there are many businessmen who create <whatever> product or service and do it well and cheaper than others. Even here, there's a lot of innovation, but its not the big headline-capturing news like Galt's motor or Readen metal. Dagny's strength, for instance, is to run her railway well. She'll sure hire inventors and innovators to go from one technology to another, but she isn't an inventor by profession. 

To extend Rand's example, the businessman who take a few cents off the price of a lipstick, and many of his cohort, cutting prices elsewhere, enable Rand's stenographer to save a few extra dollars for the use of a microscope when she needs it. As Walmart said "Save money; Live better".

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Atlas Shrugged isn't just about Capitalism, it's about a lot more. You can't just take everything in the novel and assume it's a political statement. Most of it isn't.

Quote

It would be unimaginable for a Rand hero to be a manufacturer of “penny ante” products, such as disposable baby diapers, menstrual tampons, or dependable contraceptives. But these distinctively 20th-century inventions improved the quality of life immeasurably by freeing people from preoccupation with brute, animal existence.

That's a pretty childish thing to say. What freed millions from tedious housework isn't the invention of "ingenious" household items (frankly, none of that stuff is particularly ingenious, and it's stuff that's been in use in various cultures in the past), it's the improvements in productivity that allowed the mass manufacturing of consumer goods, as well as large scale research in improving them.

And it WAS the great minds of industry and business who created that kind of innovation, not some guy who came up with the design for the disposable diaper.

Edited by Nicky

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On 4/8/2017 at 1:43 PM, Craig24 said:

So what the **** is he really trying to do in this essay?  

He's thinking in terms of a nonessential (in this case "grandiosity") which chops the proper concept of "Capitalism" into 'Big Capitalism' and 'Little Capitalism' and treats those as opposite kinds of things.

It is true that if Big and Little Capitalism were mutually exclusive then he'd be entirely correct about which one Rand would've advocated - only they aren't, in reality, and I am not aware of when in the Hell Rand ever said otherwise. Given her stressed repetitions that degrees don't matter and that one doesn't have to move mountains or travel the stars in order to be a good person (compare the 'smallness' of Eddie Willers to the grandiosity of Robert Stadler) the misrepresentation can only be intentional, provided he actually opened that book.

 

His logic would follow from his false dichotomy (which he produced, in its entirety, from his own rectum) if it weren't for the obscene package-dealing of 'Big Communism' with 'Big Capitalism' in order to insinuate that Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart and John Galt were all secretly Red on the inside.

 

In Ancient Greece there were people who prided themselves on being able to "prove" that black is white, freedom is slavery and truth is falsehood. Today we have people who follow in their footsteps, not even for the sake of their intellectual vanity, but just to piss off whatever suckers might actually be paying attention to their noises.

To infuriate anyone who actually takes Atlas Shrugged seriously and happens to expect to hear human words and ideas from the speaker, for example.

Let's not make that mistake. :thumbsup:

 

You wouldn't get upset with a parrot that happened to insult your mother, would you?

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