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I was suprised by this mostly positive article in USA Today that I am cross-posting from another forum.

Scandals lead execs to 'Atlas Shrugged'

By Del Jones, USA TODAY

In these post-Enron days of corporate scandal, some of the millions of copies of Atlas Shrugged that have been sold over 45 years are being dusted off by executives under siege by prosecutors, regulators, Congress, employees, investors, a Republican president, even terrorists.

Executive headhunter Jeffrey Christian says many of his clients are re-reading the 1,075-page novel to remind themselves that self-interest is not only the right thing to do from an economic standpoint but is moral, as well.

CEOs put the book down knowing in their hearts that they are not the greedy crooks they are portrayed to be in today's business headlines but are heroes like the characters in Rand's novel. They strive to be real-life achievers who do far more to lift the world's standard of living, cure disease and end starvation than Mother Teresa and altruists who believe a full life requires self-sacrifice and serving the needs of others.

You can read the rest of the article from the link in the first sentence.

It's good to see businessmen and prominent CEOs coming out supporting Objectivist principles and Atlas Shrugged, in particular.

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A criticism against Ayn Rand and her capitalistic utopia that I once read cited the huge lack of businessmen to live by her views, or give her any sort of credit. (I may or may not have read this on Nathanial Branden's site, in his anti-Rand essay). I must admit, the businessmen proponents in the story are not exactly the cream of the crop.

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The article is a good plug for Ayn Rand (albiet with TOS references).

..., the businessmen proponents in the story are not exactly the cream of the crop.
Nto sure what you mean. They all seem to be legitimate businessfolk.

The only strange thing I found in the article was this:

When Microsoft was being sued by the Justice Department, founder Gates should have threatened to move the corporate headquarters up the road from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, Hudgins says. The political fallout would have forced the government to retreat, he says.
Canada! The bastion of Capitalism?
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I would have liked to have seen references to the Ayn Rand Institute rather than the Atlas Society, but at least it's positive press for Atlas Shrugged.

This section, though, is a little wonky:

The premise of the book is that such innovators become so fed up with the "moochers" who regulate, tax and otherwise feed off of those who achieve, that the achievers go on strike. They withdraw their talents from the world, threatening to send it back toward the Dark Ages.

...

"We are the producers of society," says Will Koch, CEO of a development company that owns the Holiday World & Splashin' Safari theme park in Santa Claus, Ind.

emphasis mine

God help us all if the Splashin' Safari shuts its doors! That'll be a Planet of the Apes Heston moment, for sure ...

:)

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This section, though, is a little wonky:God help us all if the Splashin' Safari shuts its doors! That'll be a Planet of the Apes Heston moment, for sure ...

:)

Hey, easy there.. This is a sensitive subject, because Astroworld, a theme park here in Houston, recently got torn down, and I still get a little sad when I drive by the spot it used to be, and see an empty lot where there used to be rollercoasters and rides. : ( I imagine if all the theme parks in the world started shutting down.. that would make me notice "something's going wrong here"! [edit: Also, if they were not shut down and replaced by something else productive, but shut down and replaced by nothing].

Edited by Bold Standard
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Yeah, that's what I was insinuating. It wouldn't be that big of a deal if most of those businesses didn't exist.
Is there some assumption being made that running Safari park is a "lesser vocation" than, say, being employed (say) as a university professor, a computer-programmer, a soldier, etc.?
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Also, the man is question is the CEO of a development company. Safari Park is only one business that his company supports. I don't know where his company sits in the heirarchy of development firms, but you had better believe that development companies are important to getting things built in this country.

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Is there some assumption being made that running Safari park is a "lesser vocation" than, say, being employed (say) as a university professor, a computer-programmer, a soldier, etc.?
Actually, yes, that's what I thought. Before I start spouting off some poorly-developed justification for such a belief, for my benefit could you please explain why you think theme parks are as valuable as computer companies, energy companies, medical researchers, steel factories, and other such "essential" businesses?

Concerning development companies, I don't know much, so right now I can't comment on that type of business.

(Btw, Astroworld is a funny name.)

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I'm a little troubled at the notion of people who don't themselves engage in a particular business determining whether or not that business is "essential." In a purely Randian sense, doesn't that smack of "the boys in Washington"?

Whether it is MicroSoft or a Safari Park, a business that is trading value for value IS essential to the people who own it, trade with it or are employed by it. Plus which, how many business that would be deemed by you to be not essential are the paying customers of business you do consider essential? If Safari Park does not buy MicroSoft products I'll eat my sock.

Any business that allows the owner to grow wealthy by providing a desired product to his customers at no harm to anyone else in a fair market is definitely essential. It takes a lot of variety to drive the engine of this masssively successful economy.

Surely an innerspring mattress is not essential if a straw mat will suffice. Is a movie theatre essential? An ice cream shop?

Yes! It is this existense of businesses that provide the means of enjoyment of life that marks ours as a great system.

Michael Martin

[email protected]

Actually, yes, that's what I thought. Before I start spouting off some poorly-developed justification for such a belief, for my benefit could you please explain why you think theme parks are as valuable as computer companies, energy companies, medical researchers, steel factories, and other such "essential" businesses?

Concerning development companies, I don't know much, so right now I can't comment on that type of business.

(Btw, Astroworld is a funny name.)

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Well, I would begin my argument by pointing out that without farmers, factories, philosophers, and other such mega time-savers, businesses like Splashin' Safari would be obsolete. And without Microsoft, many businesses now would just not exist.

But as I said, I haven't developed my thoughts much on this subject, so that's why I would like SoftwareNerd or anyone else who has to articulate what they have concluded.

And I don't think your notion that any business which generates wealth by every party's mutual consent is essential. I mean, a cake factory is certainly not essential... I think.

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Well, I would begin my argument by pointing out that without farmers, factories, philosophers, and other such mega time-savers, businesses like Splashin' Safari would be obsolete. And without Microsoft, many businesses now would just not exist.

And I don't think your notion that any business which generates wealth by every party's mutual consent is essential. I mean, a cake factory is certainly not essential... I think.

I agree that the businessmen quoted in the article are probably from smaller businesses. However, I would ask what you mean by "essential"?

If it implies valuable, then value of anything can only be contextuallized as value to whom. A cake factory (or any other concern) does not have an intrinsic value. The factory is essential, to its owners and its employees. The fact that it produces something that someone might consider as a non necessity does not replace that fact. Any business which generates wealth is essential, to someone.

If you mean the scope of value, then I could buy that. However, you might consider that just by the very nature of division of labor, a producer aggregates bits of entities that are essential or non-essential to someone, and specializes in manufacturing those. The more advanced the civiliation, the smaller the bits, so ultimately less "essentialness to anyone". Is plastic essential? Sure. Is the plastic produced by GE Plastics in my Dell laptop essential? that's a tougher question considering how many plastics producers there are.

Also, I don't necessarily judge a businessman's worth by the scope of his business. What do you think?

Edited to add some thoughts and for clarity.

Edited by KendallJ
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Also, I don't necessarily judge a businessman's worth by the scope of his business. What do you think?

Needless to say, I would differentiate between entrepreneurs who offer products and services that do not encourage immoral behavior versus purveyors of products that are intellectually and/or physically harmful. An example of something intellectually harmful would be a form of media that enthusiastically encourages hedonistic behavior such as binge drinking. An example of something physically harmful would include vending a dangerous substance that is known to be addictive such as crack cocaine.

Of course, when we restrict our consideration to scopes of business that are ethical I see no reason to judge a businessman's worth as a function of his business. I would reserve special commendation for those who are offering innovative products and/or services such as Larry Page and Sergey Brin for co-founding Google or Jeff Bezos for founding Amazon.com.

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The reason why the only businesses cited in that article are either frivilous or small is because large companies that deal in products and services that are most essential to human life believe that they have too much to lose by openly proclaiming admiration for Ayn Rand.

No large company, which sells its wares to all kinds of people, wants to develop a "bad" reputation for being selfish. The trend in big business is to curry favor by presenting the company as a servant of the community rather than a privately owned, for-profit enterprise. Also, as the economy becomes more and more regulated and tax rates grow ever higher, profit margins begin to shrink. In order to compensate for this, since improved performance is increasingly becoming a unfeasible solution, many companies take to things such as providing goods and services to government-run programs or filing anti-trust suits, or lobbying for legislation that would hinder their competition.

- Grant

[edit]: typo

Edited by ggdwill
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Actually, yes, that's what I thought. ... ...could you please explain why you think theme parks are as valuable as computer companies, energy companies, medical researchers, steel factories, and other such "essential" businesses?
Well, I didn't say that :) -- I actually compared their choice of individual vocation with some other vocations.

Nevertheless, let's say food, clothing and shelter is the most essential goods. That does not mean that the best and the brightest should aspire to go into those businesses. We live in a modern economy with a whole lot of productive people. If someone is passionate about music and extremely good at it, would one advise him to drop that and become (say) a doctor or an engineer? We have the luxury of living in a wealthy economy where a researcher may spend a year making Windex into streak-free Windex.

So, if some businessman is passionate about sport and another passionate about exercise and they can run large businesses based on these passions, and make a lot of money doing so, then they're probably doing something right. I daresay that if there was a lot of money to be made in farming, they might have chosen that and excelled at it. A couple of these guys (the Ballys and the Safari park guy) are basically into developing real-estate. Perhaps they could have been successful at residential real-estate development too; but would that have been the right decision for them, as individuals? I doubt it. Should they have thought: residences are more essential than exercise clubs, so I build those? Probably not, once they look at the industry and consider who is already making houses, etc.

I don't think the article implied that these guys were threatening to go on strike. If one were writing a book like Atlas Shrugged, then one would to choose businessmen in core industries. However, consider this: if the best businessmen in some of the "essential" industries were to go on strike, who could better take over and run their businesses: the mediocre businessmen in their industries, or the best businessmen from some unrelated industry?

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You are completely missing my point.

I'm not sure what your first paragraph has to do with anything, but I will give it a shot: Factories build the equipment and machinery that the theme park uses. They make the cars that people use for weekend getaways to those theme parks. They make the ancillary items the theme park sells as souveniers. They build the computers and other necesary items to operate the business. Farmers grow the produce that is made into the foods sold at the concession stands at the theme park. Do you have any idea how much produce is bought and sold through theme parks every year? It is a consumer outlet as important as any other from the perspective of the farmer, isn't it?

Your claim that the theme park would be obsolete without these or other businesses is pretty dubious. The same could be said with equal conviction in the reverse.

Yes, Microsoft has improved the productivity of just about every business I can think of and I'm sure a great many grew up because of opportunities created by Microsoft but you MUST know that theme parks existed and thrived long before Microsoft was founded. Come on.

Your final statement is wrong on the face of it. Yes, any business that generates new wealth in a fair trade of value for value is essential to those who own it, trade with it or are employed by it. Period. If you have a good argument why that is not the case, let me know. Your cake factory is a straw man and not a good one at that. If I owned the cake factory or the sugar supplier that sold to the cake factory or the grocery chain that bought the cakes, that cake factory is mighty essential.

What you are doing is a kind of socio-economical triage. This business is necessary, that one is not. That is what Fidel Castro and his sort do.

You should read Atlas Shrugged again and see what happens to a whole economy when businesses are favored or disfavored by the kinds of people who take it upon themselves to determine which are essential.

Michael

Well, I would begin my argument by pointing out that without farmers, factories, philosophers, and other such mega time-savers, businesses like Splashin' Safari would be obsolete. And without Microsoft, many businesses now would just not exist.

But as I said, I haven't developed my thoughts much on this subject, so that's why I would like SoftwareNerd or anyone else who has to articulate what they have concluded.

And I don't think your notion that any business which generates wealth by every party's mutual consent is essential. I mean, a cake factory is certainly not essential... I think.

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Hey, easy there.. This is a sensitive subject ...

I know, I know ... I was just being snarky, but perhaps I was being unnecessarily ruthless. It's just, when I read "we are the producers" my mind went back to Atlas, and I saw the heros standing tall against a swarm of looters and moochers. Then I read "Splashin' Safari" and had to giggle a bit.

There's nothing wrong with a theme park, and actually I have to admire them a bit. They give their patrons a momentary thrill, but it's all completely safe. Just imagine Rand's heros at a theme park - they'd have flung their hands in the air with wild abandon on the roller coasters.

And, of course, they'd be made of Readen metal, powered on Galt motors, designed on Roark architecture, and engineered by Taggart technicians. The lesser mortals would get a blood pressure spike just looking at the rides ...

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(Btw, Astroworld is a funny name.)

Yeah, it's cause of NASA being in Houston, too. So we have the Astros baseball team, and we had the Astrodome ball park until it was replaced by Minute Maid Park a few years ago. So, it was a funny but not terribly original name. : )

Well, the libertarian economist Leonard Read once wrote an interesting little article called I, Pencil, about the astonishing amount of effort and values being traded in order to produce a single pencil. [Edit: I went back and read this again after posting this, since I haven't read it in years. There are only a couple of slightly libertarianish touches that are a little annoying but easy to overlook-- I still think it's a good article.]

If you multiply that times the scale of a whole amusement park-- I think you'd be impressed to see what a contribution that amusement park makes to the economy. I mean, think of the engineers that have to design those things.. The massive amounts of lumber and steel and raw materials used to construct them. That's the role the park plays as a consumer (just for starters). But as a producer, recreation shouldn't be underestimated as a value. Many families plan whole vacations around going to some specific theme park. I know I have lots of good memories from going to amusement parks as a kid. Keeping in mind that the goal of life is eudaimonia, not mere "survival," it might be more clear that something like a cake factory or an amusement park could be essential to life-- essential to flourishing and the enjoyment of life.

Another thing that might help you gain perspective on this is to watch a good documentary on Walt Disney. I don't know which ones in particular are good, but they show them sometimes on those Biography or History type channels. He was a really amazing person with really astounding visions. He gave a lot of insights into why something like building Disney Land was important-- and why it would be worth the unfathomable amount of money and effort he and his supporters invested in it.

Edited by Bold Standard
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