Ayn Rand as Paul Ryan's biographer

Paul Ryan's first day on the job, as written by Ayn Rand (as written by Bloomberg's Michael Kinsley): "Paul Ryan laughed. He stood naked on top of the vice president’s desk in the Senate chamber, scanning the crowd of sniveling politicians below him." (via Memex 1.1)


      1.  Zoinks, Scooby! Do you think Old Man Whithers who owns the haunted amusement park had anything to do with this?

        Coming up: “I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids.”

      1. Darn, i heard about the Sony studio closing down but i did not know they started out as Psygnosis. Me sad now.

  1. I don’t understand how people get Ayn Rand’s beliefs so wrong.  It’s enough to make me wonder whether I’m the one giving her work too much credit.  Perhaps that is the case, but Atlas Shrugged remains brilliant in my eyes for the same reasons it is NOT what most people say it is.

    Those who do not produce should not be those rewarded.  Those who do produce are those who should be rewarded, with the fruits of their own labor.  The atlas of an unjust society was shrugged away specifically because that was the fairness which their society refused to provide.  A fair return on investment was defined not by paperwork in Atlas Shrugged but was rather when those who produced the real work reaped the rewards of their labor; THAT is when fair equity and economic equality exists.

    Yet Paul Ryan promotes a system where the Financiers rule unchallenged while those who labor, those who actually are the Producers, bear the weight of the taxes the Financiers are attempting to shirk off under his plan.  His beliefs, his economics are antithetical to the message of Atlas Shrugged.  Indeed, Paul Ryan is the villain of Atlas Shrugged, not the savior he wears the rhetoric of.  He wears those beliefs as loosely as he appears to wear his religion, it is a show of words in something he doesn’t really believe in.

    So, please PLEASE stop humoring Paul Ryan claiming he is the good Objectivist.  He’s awful, he’s not, and it’s an insult to those of us whom that title actually means something to.  

    To clear up some basic confusions:
    1.  You help your neighbors because you share a community, not because you owe them.  
    2.  Every person is as potentially capable as the next. The beauty of John Galt was that he was just a man, the same as all of us.  
    3.  Waiting for a savior to appear to do the saving you need to do for yourself is a fool’s errand.

    Objectivism isn’t that complicated and I’m exhausted with people thinking inaccurately it’s about stupid selfishness.  To quote the Dalai Lama, “Intelligent selfishness is a good thing.”

    1. For the sake of brevity I’ll leave aside most of the reasons I think Rand’s philosophy is flawed and cut straight to this point you bring up:

      Yet Paul Ryan promotes a system where the Financiers rule unchallenged…

      One thing that pretty much every Objectivist I’ve ever spoken to can agree on is “keep government small and regulation of private enterprise to a minimum.” That stands in direct opposition to a system capable of putting any real limitations on the financial industry, or any other industry for that matter.

      Simply put, you can’t have big business and small government at the same time if you expect the latter to have any meaningful control over the former. If you want someone keeping an eye on that gigantic multinational conglomerate then you’re going to need a bureaucracy that’s up to the task of doing it.

      1. There is a definite distinction between “minimal” regulations versus none.  There are most definitely minimal standards that are necessary to maintain however, negative externalities are a constant threat needing guarded against.  Accordingly, there are clear and necessary roles for a Government.

        I think the main thing is the distinction between an effective Government versus its size though.  Small, big, whichever it is, what is most important is that the Government is actually competent in seeing compliance achieved with its regulations.  We’re not seeing that happening currently.  Adding even more bodies to it or adding more toothless regulations to the books I don’t really believe are the solutions to that problem however.  

        Still, I think a more apt term than ‘small government’ might be in saying we need a lean one.  We shouldn’t be taxing everyone to pay for 3 people to do a job when 2 people should work.  We also shouldn’t be wasting our pooled dollars pursuing regulations that don’t actually achieve their targeted results, which is the reality for the vast majority of regulations.  Until we can evolve the conversation past the oversimplified polarity between “We need BIGGER Government” versus “We need SMALLER Government” however, getting to the real issues of how we can get to an actually WORKING Government won’t much progress.

        1. I think the main thing is the distinction between an effective Government versus its size though. Small, big, whichever it is, what is most important is that the Government is actually competent in seeing compliance achieved with its regulations.

          That’s an oft-used talking point for Democrats and Republicans alike, but it doesn’t change the fact that governments must grow in both size and complexity to effectively regulate industries of great size and complexity. Nobody wants “bigger” government as an end unto itself, but you quite often hear the opposite being argued by folks like Ryan.

          You want to make sure that private businesses aren’t secretly contaminating the groundwater with industrial chemicals? You need a whole lot of environmental scientists and field agents to find out.

          You want to make sure everybody in the country is paying what they should into the system? Better hope the IRS has enough accountants.

          You want to hold the people who violate these rules accountable in court? You need an army of lawyers capable of taking on the armies of lawyers employed by those companies.

          1. I don’t necessarily think Governments have to grow in size, relative to current employees or budgets, to still grow in complexity. Honestly I believe the U.S. Government’s current size could be drastically reduced while also substantially increasing efficiency at the same time. There’s a reason for why I believe this.

            A good example of an opportunity for efficiency increases regards the area you mentioned, the need for more environmental scientists and field agents. I believe you are correct, people laboring under these job descriptions need drastically increased. There are very, VERY few people actually employed in those productive roles. It’s the glut of middlemen that are the problem however.

            It just so happens my brother until recently was employed by a State Department of Environmental Quality after going through Academia to become a scientist. Literally a member of the working class you mentioned, truthfully. He, much like I, views our natural environment as a mutually shared asset the public at large owns and accordingly one we are all responsible for being mutual good stewards of. He went into his job hoping to make a difference.

            What he found was a soul crushing cluster f*** of intentionally broken policies and institutionalized ineptitude. Hundreds of people spent their days doing largely pointless tasks that appeared if anything to be systematically manipulated to prevent them from earnestly enforcing the very regulations they were charged with. An entire Agency, hundreds strong, leveraged to be dysfunctional. One political appointee after another in charge tasked by their appointing Governors to do little more than make sure the donating favorites of their campaigns didn’t have to worry very much about Environmental Regulators. This is much less hyperbole than it ever ethically should be.

            The thing is lack of people wasn’t the problem. Adding bodies and budgets wouldn’t solve this particular situation, and it’s not a situation I believe to be all that uncommon. The problem is we are humoring incompetence being perpetrated by those using the dollars we’ve entrusted to the Government’s care, wastefully.

            Demanding competence of the people we are paying to protect our shared resources, to administer our very Government, is not asking too much. But, that is a problem we are currently seeing very little done to prevent or even correct. If we did, I honestly believe we could see done much, much more even with less provided those worthy of their jobs are the ones we are paying to do them. Humoring the Financial Regulators who fell asleep on their watches, the Police Officers who have abused their public, the Officials who neglect to do their duties, I think ending our self-defeating tolerance of these unacceptable individuals being employed in those roles, as if they were owed those tasks despite being wrong for them, is the single most potent thing we could do to both shrink the necessary size of the Government while at the same time strengthening it. So, like I said, it’s not necessarily a “small” Government I personally think we need. It’s just a lean one.

            While I know that’s a view not everyone who claims Objectivism will share, in reality probably few of us in fact, it is quite possible there’s a broad range of interpretations to the school of thought. As diverse as Pentecosts versus Methodists. Such tends to happen with beliefs derived from fictional books. Still, I for one am tired of the far right objectivist claimants being the defining group and I sincerely hope to see more open dialogues in the future. I’m tired of being treated like some crazy snake handling fool for claiming that title; if objectivism to me was what people said it was I’d hate it too. But, it’s not.

    2. “1.  You help your neighbors because you share a community, not because you owe them.”

      I help people because I like helping people, and because I believe the world would be a much better place if altruism, generosity and caring were the standard.

      I’m all for  ‘intelligent selfishness’, but when people place their own needs so far above others, and weigh others’ worth on such a mechanical value system, well, it just makes me want to give them a kind, altruistic punch in their faces.

      1. “I help people because I like helping people”.  Me too.   

        But just what value system does Objectivism represent?  One of the core concepts is that each person is capable and responsible for judging value for themselves.  I see value in helping my neighbors, which is everyone in our global community, so I choose to do so.  

        I think mostly this is a semantic debate however, what does it mean to be ‘altruistic’.  The way I read Atlas Shrugged is that the fundamental truth is that we are all, universally, acting selfishly.  It’s not that you suddenly say one day “I want to be selfish” and then you act differently thereafter, suddenly becoming an insufferable objectivist asshole.  It’s that you, and I, and all of us always were acting out selfishness to begin with.  

        You help your neighbors because you like helping people.  You like to do it, that’s a value to your own self you are pursuing.  Technically, that is a selfish reason.  It always was, whether you acknowledged it or not.  Knowing that is the case, the realization of that allows you to inspect your own motivations more honestly and through that better refine just what values it is you want to see increased in the world for yourself rather than relying on others to define those values for you.  For my sake, I want to see a world where no person starves, where no one has a reason to be lonely, and where we have peace of mind because we enjoy real peace.  I, quite selfishly, want these things because they are the values I think would best improve the world as I experience it.  I have no other option but that perspective, why try to treat reality as if that wasn’t the case?

         But, the altruism debate remains.  Can true altruism still exist in a world in which people admit they choose to help others because they see that as a way to improve upon the things they value for themselves?  Considering I think that fundamental reality was always the case regardless, altruism does exist as much as it ever has.  Just a more honest version of it.

    3. “Those who do not produce should not be those rewarded.  Those who do produce are those who should be rewarded, with the fruits of their own labor.”

      That’s Communism in a nut shell you know, but Rand had a radically different definition of who was a producer and who was parasite, namely it was the titans of industry who were the producers rather than the the workers themselves.

      1. Honestly jetfx, I think you’re incorrect.  You appear to define the the characters of Atlas Shrugged as titans of industry presumably in the context of modern CEOs.  Modern CEOs in Multinational Corporations are largely paper pushers, specialists at slashing bottom lines often through moving those Corporations operations from one nationality out to others.  Modern CEO’s tend to be making it rich because of their capacity at finding ways to pay their laborers less and screw over their supply chains more.  

        The characters in Atlas Shrugged weren’t remotely that.  These were men and women slaving away willfully at their efforts, striving to succeed through personal toil and labors.  All they wanted from this was to have the returns of their efforts rewarded back to them, those rewards being their own.  I just don’t think that’s an unfair thing to want.  You want paid fairly for the work you do in your job, right jetfx?  We all do.  That’s all that honestly means.

        Also, I believe you may have read the line you quoted backwards.  The communist slogan is “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”.  That’d be the opposite of that.  

    4. As soon as the population is over ~10000, you stop “helping your neighbor” and just pay taxes so that the government (through delivering electricity, water, roads, schools, defense, social security, healthcare, …) will help your neighbor (whoever they are). It’s less idealistic but it works.

      “Those who do not produce should not be those rewarded.” This is either meaningless or, if put into practice, it’s demonic.  “Rewarded” is obviously a loaded term.

      What happens when your neighbor is unemployed, has an accident, is poor and can’t afford to go to school, is elderly and has exhausted retirement funds, is addicted to drugs?  These and others are all “non-productive” members of society.

      I guess they should’ve thought of the consequences before they got laid off, had the accident, were born into poverty, got old, were swindled, became addicted to drugs.

      1. “What happens when your neighbor is unemployed?”

        You help him out. My neighbor lost his job a couple years ago and I hired him to scrape and paint my house. He named the price and I agreed to it. He made good money and my house looked fantastic afterward. Win/win.

  2. I don’t believe so. For Atlas Shrugged it was useful to the story line to have the main characters as titans of industry who were producers, not mentioning all the other people in other positions who were also producers. John Galt wasn’t a titan of industry. A lot of the other people in lesser roles weren’t either.
    Part of one of Franciscos speeches: –
    “men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers–as industrialists.”

    1. But are industrialists really producers in a basic sense? They don’t actually produce anything themselves, they merely own the production facilities, but they claim all the reward for that production. To me that doesn’t seem a very useful storyline if we’re talking about the producers being rewarded for their labour, because those industrialists are simply the “aristocrats of industry”.

      1. Have you read the book? In it the successful industrialists were working to their full ability to make their companies as productive as possible.
        Rearden spent months working on his metal. Dagny worked in the logistics of the rail system.
        I think theres producer in the basic sense, & theres producer in the ‘Objectivist’ sense where a producer is one who works to their best ability to fulfil their job.

        1.  No, although I am familiar with it and it is next on my reading list. What I’m getting at though is that even though they work hard and to there full potential, that doesn’t justify them claiming the lion’s share of the rewards. This is because the vast majority of the work is done by others that earn a wage that doesn’t cover the full value of their work, and this is surplus is what Rearden and Taggart claim as profit.

          1. Perhaps, but then again, maybe that is you applying your value system to it. Also, at no point are quite the rewards pointed out. This was written in a different era where (as boingboing pointed out) even CEOs lead much less lavish lifestyles. I’m not familiar enough with objectivist principles to know how they’d interpret current reward systems.
            Anyway, as you’re aware, many peoples preconceived notion is that Rand thought it was only titans of industry who were producers (perhaps through misinterpretation of the story), but that really wasn’t the case as shown by the speech I quoted.
            I’m sure that most people would agree with the ‘producer’ notion that people should work to the best of their ability (that is how I interpret it.)
            Anyway, quibbling on about whether any particular ideology would work in the real world rapidly becomes academic :)

          2. @boingboing-997f53ea0020b02ed74514332a1460ac:disqus  I am contrasting Rand’s values with other values, because that is how you understand value systems. You can’t look at ethics in a vacuum.

            Less lavish lifestyles they may be, but lavish none the less, and no more deserved is my point. I am familiar with what the Ayn Rand Institute and the Atlas Society think about current reward systems, and that is the more the better. Whether this is a misrepresentation of Objectivism, I couldn’t tell you, but my suspicion is that it is not.

            I don’t think it is incidental to her philosophy that Rand picked CEOs for her heroes and as victims of the “moochers”. She rails against redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor, but she’s convienently ignoring that her heroes are the beneficiaries of a system that does the exact opposite.

            Francisco, who gave the speech, inherited all that wealth, so it’s a tad ironic he’s talking about aristocratic parasitism.

  3. You appear correct on the compensation side – http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=24017 (This article argues that people like Steve Jobs made massive changes to their companies prospects and so deserved their compensation.) I’m somewhat indifferent on the whole matter but it does appear that certain ceos are probably worth their salaries.
    You claim it isn’t incidental the many of the main characters in this book are ceos, etc, but Fransciscos speech in the book says otherwise fairly explicitly so we’ll just have to disagree on that.
    Yes, she rails against ‘unjust’ redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. She appears to think that people should work hard and earn their pay.
    Finally, Francisco did inherit the wealth, but is happy to throw it all the way as he believes he will be able to recreate it. From the book Rand appears to believe that inheritance is okay, but people who aren’t producers will become corrupted by it. From earlier in the speech – “Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth–the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?”

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