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Is it immoral to work for one of the "evil" banks? (They own

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cliveandrews
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No, but you'd be an accessory to those who are. You'd be helping them in exchange for money.

To draw on a fictional example...

Dagny Taggart operated Taggart Railroads while her brother was President. Jim Taggart colluded with the Gov't at the highest levels. Taggart Railroads was responsible in part for bringing about policies which restricted liberty to previously unprecedented levels.

Was Dagny immoral for working for one of the Moochers?

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No, but you'd be an accessory to those who are. You'd be helping them in exchange for money.

According to Ayn Rand (or was it Peikoff? I can't remember), it is not immoral to accept federal student loans because they are the only effective way (for most people) to get an education. As long as you actually disapprove of state funding of such things, and otherwise work to establish justice (e.g. by voting against measures to expand state control), then, since there really isn't any other good option and since you need an education to make it in practically any field, you don't have any practical choice. And, presumably, by the same logic, it is no vice to work for an educational institution either, provided you make it clear that you do not approve of the system of state-run schooling.

That principle can be applied, I think, to the banking industry. We all have to bank. If there are other options, you should exercise them. But if the state is going to run the banks, then what choice do you have?

It is remotely possible that a case could be made that a moral man could work in a policy-making position for the Fed, a la Greenspan, but, per Rand (and I agree), the requisite daily compromising would tend to corrupt your sense of reality. And as for Greenspan specifically, as Yaron Brook pointed out in his excellent interview on PJTV recently, the man never once, not one single time, took a public stance for, nor acted (with respect to policy) in the interests of a free market. The man was consistently statist in word and deed over the entirety of his job at the Fed.

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To draw on a fictional example...

Dagny Taggart operated Taggart Railroads while her brother was President. Jim Taggart colluded with the Gov't at the highest levels. Taggart Railroads was responsible in part for bringing about policies which restricted liberty to previously unprecedented levels.

Was Dagny immoral for working for one of the Moochers?

Actually, yes. That was the whole point of the book.

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Others have answered, the main question, but I have a secondary comment. Re: this quote from your post (see bold text)

That is, one of the banks who own the Federal Reserve System, such as JP Morgan Chase?
The banks do not own the Fed in any substantial way. It does not matter that they contribute to the bank's capital. The bottom line is: control. If the government forces banks to give money, it is a tax. If the government then takes that money and gives it to an entity called the Fed, that is controlled by the government, it does not make that entity a bank-controlled entity. Even if the government calls the money "capital" and keeps it there "in the name of" the "contributing" banks, that still does not change its essential nature. Even if the government tells some of the bank CEOs to serve on the board, that does not change its essential nature.

There was a time when the local Fed-banks were a little more independent, listening a lot more to their local banks. Of these Feds, the New York Fed used to sometimes even call the shots over the Fed Board. However, this political tussle was finally won by the Fed Board, which is basically a government institution.

This has come up a bit, and I want to get into the detail because this is a recurring Libertarian fiction that people like Ron Paul also repeat.

If one steps back more broadly, one will often find that this is a typical way government works. They decide to intervene in some area. At first, businessmen fight the government off. Finally, the businessmen realize that they are not going to win the argument. So, instead, they get together and lobby about what the direction of policy ought to be. Sometimes, they even ask for the government to form some type of policy-making board to which they (the businessmen) can nominate members.

Libertarians often portray these as actions of monopolists who were trying to use government power for their business. This is definitely true in some cases. However, that is not the majority of the examples. More typically, the businessmen are not the prime-movers of such governmental action, but are trying to play defense as best they understand how. Call them pragmatic, but they're only reacting.

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To draw on a fictional example...

Dagny Taggart operated Taggart Railroads while her brother was President. Jim Taggart colluded with the Gov't at the highest levels. Taggart Railroads was responsible in part for bringing about policies which restricted liberty to previously unprecedented levels.

Was Dagny immoral for working for one of the Moochers?

She was guilty of the 'sanction of the victim'.

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Actually, yes. That was the whole point of the book.

Er, not quite. She was certainly in error about the right course of action. But, as they hastened to assure her during her month in the valley, they, including Dagny, were all in agreement on the basic principles.

True, Galt did tell her that she was the one he would be fighting, but he also said that his true enemies were the moochers and looters. He did not regard her as immoral. He could never be in love with an immoral woman.

The distinction between error and immorality is sometimes subtle, but always crucial.

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That is, one of the banks who own the Federal Reserve System, such as JP Morgan Chase?

Also, would it be immoral to work for the Fed itself?

How do the banks own the Fed? I'm just curious as to what you meant by this, maybe I can learn something about the control of the Fed by the banks that I don't know.

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Others have answered, the main question, but I have a secondary comment. Re: this quote from your post (see bold text)The banks do not own the Fed in any substantial way. It does not matter that they contribute to the bank's capital. The bottom line is: control. If the government forces banks to give money, it is a tax. If the government then takes that money and gives it to an entity called the Fed, that is controlled by the government, it does not make that entity a bank-controlled entity. Even if the government calls the money "capital" and keeps it there "in the name of" the "contributing" banks, that still does not change its essential nature. Even if the government tells some of the bank CEOs to serve on the board, that does not change its essential nature.

There was a time when the local Fed-banks were a little more independent, listening a lot more to their local banks. Of these Feds, the New York Fed used to sometimes even call the shots over the Fed Board. However, this political tussle was finally won by the Fed Board, which is basically a government institution.

This has come up a bit, and I want to get into the detail because this is a recurring Libertarian fiction that people like Ron Paul also repeat.

If one steps back more broadly, one will often find that this is a typical way government works. They decide to intervene in some area. At first, businessmen fight the government off. Finally, the businessmen realize that they are not going to win the argument. So, instead, they get together and lobby about what the direction of policy ought to be. Sometimes, they even ask for the government to form some type of policy-making board to which they (the businessmen) can nominate members.

Libertarians often portray these as actions of monopolists who were trying to use government power for their business. This is definitely true in some cases. However, that is not the majority of the examples. More typically, the businessmen are not the prime-movers of such governmental action, but are trying to play defense as best they understand how. Call them pragmatic, but they're only reacting.

I completely agree with your assessment. The last paragraph particularly; this happened with AIG. There were parts of AIG that were healthy, and parts that weren't. If AIG had the ability to move its assets freely between different divisions, they could have averted a lot of problems. They were also prevented from selling parts of itself off altogether as well. They ended up "accepting" bail-out money, and arguably, had to as it was the last move available to remain in existence. Call them pragmatic, but government pretty much eliminated a lot of the actions that would be rational for them to take in order to fix some of their problems.

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Actually, yes. That was the whole point of the book.

No, it wasn't. She did not *sanction* what Taggart Continental did, and opposed, often adamantly, the actions Jim took for the company that were exploitative and immoral. Her actions and her interest insofar as TC was concerned were always rational and moral.

She was guilty of the 'sanction of the victim'.

No, that was Hank Reardon. Dagny never sanctioned nor was she EVER victimized. She worked to save TC because of her passion for TC alone.

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No, it wasn't. She did not *sanction* what Taggart Continental did, and opposed, often adamantly, the actions Jim took for the company that were exploitative and immoral. Her actions and her interest insofar as TC was concerned were always rational and moral.

No, that was Hank Reardon. Dagny never sanctioned nor was she EVER victimized. She worked to save TC because of her passion for TC alone.

TC? What happened to Taggart Transcontinental? When you get finished writing your version of Atlas Shrugged I would be interested in reading it. An Atlas Shrugged wherein John Galt has nothing to teach Dagny plays havoc with several plot points.

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Actually, yes. That was the whole point of the book.

You're wrong about that. The point of that storyline (with Dagny struggling to decide whether to go on strike or not) was that one should always act in accordance with their own mind and in selfish pursuit of their own goals: as long as Dagny thought that there's a chance she can save Taggart Transcontinental (which is the goal she chose, and what made her happy), it was right for her to stay on and do her best. (even though the good guys were asking her to join them instead) This was explained by John Galt, when she told Dagny that he understands that she has to leave the gulch and go back to NY--look for it toward the end of the chapter in which Dagny is Galt's guest for a month.

If you're to apply that to the question at hand, people should not give up their jobs in this economy, just because their bank is doing shady deals with the government. In the long term, it is a good idea to choose an employer which is competent, obviously, but there's no moral imperative to sacrifice yourself to make a political point.

When and if the time comes to shrug, that's a different story: then it will still be up to each individual to decide whether it's in their best interest to stop working or not, but at least there'll be a reason to quit. (the reason of course will be the chance of a better future, brought about in less time by the organized effort to speed up the crash)

Also, to the OP: A bank isn't evil (it's not even "evil"), just because it accepts loans from the government. They may be failures, but the main source of evil in this mess are politicians and the American voting public.

And the Fed is not owned or controlled by private companies, it is a public institution controlled by politicians and bureaucrats. (I know, I know, it's been pointed out already)

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TC? What happened to Taggart Transcontinental? When you get finished writing your version of Atlas Shrugged I would be interested in reading it. An Atlas Shrugged wherein John Galt has nothing to teach Dagny plays havoc with several plot points.

Sorry, TTC. (Sheesh, could ya be more pedantic about it?)

John Galt did, indeed, teach Dagny quite a lot. However, if you will recall, Dagny continued to believe that the existing system could be saved, and chose to re-enter the outside world and to not go on strike, but to continue her struggle against the destruction of reason to the bitter end. I'm curious, did that not happen in the version you read?

It was only when she was faced with the choice between TTC *and* John that she herself went "on strike".

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John Galt did, indeed, teach Dagny quite a lot. However, if you will recall, Dagny continued to believe that the existing system could be saved, and chose to re-enter the outside world and to not go on strike, but to continue her struggle against the destruction of reason to the bitter end.

She didn't struggle against the destruction of reason, she struggled against the destruction of her railroad. She accomplished nothing. Of all the people John Galt eventually collected in Galt's Gulch she was the worst.

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What a dick this Galt guy was then, huh? ;)

I think you're interpreting AS as this Us vs. Them, class warfare manual. And that's not what it is.

How terribly disappointing that I must explain Atlas Shrugged to my fellow students-in-Objectivism.

As a literary construction, if the author makes the initiator of the strike fall in love with the last person to join the strike, look for a reason linking the love and the reason she was the last. Remember always that this is all by design, every word.

Dagny is guilty of the sanction of the victim, and she is the chief perpetrator of it. From the Journals of Ayn Rand

Dagny is an example of the material exploitation of the creator, in the sense that her life in the world, with others, is made miserable ..... but she is not touched inside. They use her only in the sense of expropriating the material benefits which are the result of her ability, and robbing her of credit for it. She has to give up (in effect, not quite knowing it) all hope of a real world of her own kind, and live alone in her own world, seeing its expression only in her work.

The magnitude of her error is in direct proportion to her own personal virtue:

Dagny Taggart

Her error—and the cause of her refusal to join the strike—is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last).

Her over-optimism is in thinking that men are better than they are; she doesn't really understand them and is generous about it.

Her over-confidence is in thinking that she can do more than an individual actually can; she thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent, not by forcing them, not by enslaving them and giving orders—but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they'll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.)

On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied (through lack of understanding of others and of their own relations with others).

This is excusable, since it is their nature not to be too concerned with others, therefore not to understand them, particularly when the creators are unsocial by nature, and also could not possibly understand the psychology of a parasite, nor wish to bother wondering about it.

The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specific men. First, it's not necessary, the creator's life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it's up to him to decide by his own reasoning mind which he wants to be; the decision will affect only him; it is not (and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being. Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man (which is reverence for his own highest potentiality), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind (as a collective); these are two entirely different conceptions with diametrically opposed consequences. Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled with each creator himself, and within such other men as he finds around him who live up to that idea. This is all that's necessary.

Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it; he alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational being who acts according to his nature.)

It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the "optimism" about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize—and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better) and to be tied to the world by that hope.

It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it's up to him to do it. (He feels it because he knows that his reason is a [powerful] tool—so long as he remains in the realm of reason, i.e., reality, and thus does not desire or attempt the impossible, the irrational, the unreal.) But he must be careful to define his proper sphere of desires or accomplishments, and not to undertake that which is contrary to the premise of independence and individualism on which he functions. This means not venturing into second-handedness (which will end in certain failure).

Here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes—if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe, and his own proper morality, i.e., if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator's province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander. Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. He must not think that he can simply carry others or somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way.

He must face other men as they are (recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence), deal with them only on his own, independent terms, and deal only with such others as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him). He must not deal with the others—and if he does, he must not fool himself about them, nor about his own power to change them.

Now, in Dagny's case, her desperate desire is to run TT. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence, and competence. She thinks she can run it with incompetents and parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility, while she, in effect, is the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can't be done. This is her crucial error. This is where she fails.

But both these errors—of over-optimism and over-confidence—are excusable and understandable, because they proceed from a creator's nature and virtues, because they proceed from strength and courage, not from weakness and fear.

Dagny of all the strikers demonstrates the greatest strength and most courage by enduring her burden the longest.

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How terribly disappointing that I must explain Atlas Shrugged to my fellow students-in-Objectivism.

Employ that snotty tone to explain to me your position, and how exactly are we supposed to guess it from this conversation:

She didn't struggle against the destruction of reason, she struggled against the destruction of her railroad. She accomplished nothing. Of all the people John Galt eventually collected in Galt's Gulch she was the worst.

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Grames, I find it interesting that in your quotes to prove your point, not once does Ms. Rand mention "Sanction of the Victim" with regards to Dagny. Nor does "Sanction of the Victim" appear as a recurring theme around Dagny in the actual work.

You are crossing the themes.

Hank Reardon's theme in AS was the sanction of the victim. Dagny's theme was exactly as Ms. Rand explained it. Perhaps you should try reading the quote you cited more carefully, as well as Atlas Shrugged, again.

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Employ that snotty tone to explain to me your position, and how exactly are we supposed to guess it from this conversation:

It is not my position it is Dagny's, and by extension the author's. Since the argument is Atlas Shrugged itself, and more explicitly the Journals, I didn't feel the need to recapitulate it until several posters expressed the same mistaken viewpoint. Familiarity with the subject matter is assumed until demonstrated otherwise.

Grames, I find it interesting that in your quotes to prove your point, not once does Ms. Rand mention "Sanction of the Victim" with regards to Dagny. Nor does "Sanction of the Victim" appear as a recurring theme around Dagny in the actual work.

You are crossing the themes.

Hank Reardon's theme in AS was the sanction of the victim. Dagny's theme was exactly as Ms. Rand explained it. Perhaps you should try reading the quote you cited more carefully, as well as Atlas Shrugged, again.

I must admit you are correct here. Dagny makes a terrible error, but it isn't the sanction of the victim because she never internalizes the enemy's moral system or accepts unearned guilt. Nevertheless, her continued labors do materially support the corrupt schemes of the statists. Dagny makes a different error but with the same result. Because her problem is not the sanction of the victim but her indulgence in a kind of naive vitality, she preserves her moral innocence in a way that sets her apart from the other strikers and makes her unique and uniquely valuable in Galt's mind.

Her continued self-imposed martyrdom while she refused to join the strike was no virtue. This is how she can be both the worst and the best simultaneously. It is not a contradiction but only a paradox, because the best and worst are found in the same person at the same time but in two different respects.

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