Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ayn Rand, Illogical Nonsense and the Market meltdown

I got response from my last post from a supporter of Ayn Rand. It claimed that Atlas Shrug was a work of genius and had I read it. I am familiar with Atlas Shrug, and my mistake was to think that most intelligent people would see through its glarying emotional irrationalism. While I don’t have the space to go through most of its internal logical flaws, I will give one of the most obvious one. First, I do have to admire Atlas Shrug as a masterful work of rhetorician appealing to emotionalism, but it is exactly that that precludes it from be a work of genius. Brothers Karamazov, Marcel Proust’s work, and Moby Dick are works of genius, and by that standard, Atlas Shrug fails miserably.

The bookshelf of polemics as novel next the work of Upton Sinclair rather than bookshelf of great novel is a better place for her work. Upton Sinclair's work is very similar to hers as both are very Manichean in their worldview. The only difference being that he chooses the workers to be the Children of Light and capitalists to be the Children of Dark, while Ayn Rand chooses the opposite. They both still suffer from simplistic view of human beings divided by Good guys and Bad guys. Contrast these works with Brothers Karamazov’s view of human nature is enough to refute any claims of genius about Atlas Shrug.

Saying this, let's back it up by exposing just one of the illogical flaws (of the thousands I might add) in Atlas Shrug. One of the major forces, if not the major force is her character John Galt's dislike of the collective, or any collective movement. He is the hero standing for the power of the individual. He gets tired of being pushed around by the "looters" and "moochers" (her shorthand for those who are for the power of the collective), and decides to do something about it. He will pull out of the world and watch it fail, because without his genius, world will fall apart. If that premise were followed through to its logical conclusion then novel would be about a Ted Kazinsky type character, but a crackpot out in the middle of Colorado would be a honest, yet boring novel. What Ayn Rand has John Galt do is to gather and convinced other rugged individuals to join him in his strike, and then when the world collapses, they would come and take over the world. The famous gesture of making a dollar sign at the end of her novel is her exclamation point. So where is the flaw? John Galt gathers the power of the collective to battle the collective. It is not Galt who has the power, but his movement that does. And how do you join his group? You recite a creed against becoming part of a group and your belief in the individual and join the anti-group group.


Huh? You stay on the good side of individualism against the power of groups by joining a group and losing your own individuality to the mass agreement spewed by John Galt. Again, Huh? You join John Galt's movement for the sake of John Galt in order to prove you stand for yourself and not another even if it bennifits john Galt and not yourself. (Long live double think, would have been a more honest creed for Galt) Galt is only powerful in the novel for violating his own creed. Only by joining the anti-group group can you fight the power of the group with … (You guessed it) the power of the group. We have entered into an Orwellian world where war is called peace, poverty is called wealth, and illogical nonsense is called Reason. So goes the Circus world of nonsensical thinking that Ayn Rand pass off as Reason, which would be funny entertainment if her views was not taken seriously. We are in middle of largest Randing experiment when Alan Greesnpan fought for and won the principle of no regulation for the derivatives markets. It is this market and its underlining greedy irrationality causing the meltdown. Who is John Galt? A fictional character who embodies illogical double speak.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Tito -- for reminding us all that unqualified opinions, incorrect analysis, and bad ideas are alive and well!

N said...

I see you took as much care getting the title of the book straight (Atlas Shrugged) as you did grasping the meaning of the novel.

You would do yourself a big favor if you properly conceptualized the terms individualism and collectivism. The distinction is not between groups and loners, it's between subjugation and independence. Galt as an individualist and a capitalist *co-operates* with (not serves) many others to their mutual benefit.

I'd also suggest reading "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" but you'd probably think it was just about spelling words correctly or something.

Tito Tinajero said...

I see you aren't into irony. Shrug means a gesture of "I don't know." I thought that it was funny to point out by changing the novel's name to more in line to her muddle way of thinking. Maybe I should not have used use irony for the sake of her fans. Oh I have read, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Before I read that I read "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" and Austin's "How to do things with words." As such her views had no effect on me. A is A is a tautology and says nothing about the world. (We known that since David Hume.)

N said...

"Oh I have read, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Before I read that I read "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" and Austin's "How to do things with words." As such her views had no effect on me."

I believe you.

I've read the Tractatus, Austin and the rest. And of course I'm well aware of the tautology claim. But now I understand your inability to grasp the basics of Objectivism.

You obviously see the analytic movement as an advance in philosophy, I see it as a corruption, culminating in the conscious rejection of the basic axioms as "mere" tautologies, axioms that even babies grasp in some form but which philosophers have worked centuries to deny.

As far as the axiom of identity goes, you say it says "nothing about the world" and almost every philosopher agrees with you. But the fact that the axiom is always true, is true of everything, doesn't make it empty, it makes it powerful. The axiom is a fundamental fact about existence, it says something crucial about everything. And that's why it is grasped at our first awareness of anything, and why it can not be denied.

But in order to (re)grasp that and all it's implications, from metaphysics to politics, one needs to stop playing games with words and reconnect them to reality. That's precisely what "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" achieves, it is Ayn Rand's unknown epistemic revolution, without which her moral and political contributions can not be fully understood, let alone appreciated.

Good luck.

Weird said...

Ted Kaczynski- from Chicago, a product of Harvard and U of M, an ex-Berkely professor. He's a bonafied anti-technology anarchist, not a capitalist at all. We owe his existance to collectivism, he's a product of groups forcing themselves upon the individual. In his case it cracked him. Read his manifesto.

Groups are formed by self-interested people to promote their agenda. This is true of everything, religion, politics, masons, etc. But one can join a group without sacrificing their individuality. Cases in point; the group called "Republican" no longer represents my self-interests and a church I once belonged to started burning books and records, therefore I no longer belong to those groups. The collective had changed its priorities so I left and maintained my principles. If people maintain their principles group power is reduced. Surrendering to a collective is when individuality is lost, that is the "sin". Case in point; a gun-toting, independent real-estate agent, friend of mine is gay and belongs to This person blindly supports ALL MoveOn agendas because they happen to be "Pro-Gay" even though they are anti-nearly everything else this friend holds dear.

There is no thing called "group" just like there is no thing called "forest", they are abstractions used to describe a collection of individuals. Collectives are necessary but dangerous things. Only with individuality can we maintin our principles.

I'm more concerned with reality than Rand's fantasy world and its shortcomings. Better examples of doublethink are; The Department of Education under which Education has only suffered. The Patriot Act which allows patriots to be surveilled. Homeland Security which secures more control over individuals. That Bush's administration is "conservative" yet spends at an unprecedented rate. Christianity is a religion of voluntary acceptance but preaches against other religions. Islam is a religion of peace but allows for jihad.

Whether or not Rand's work is "genius" doesn't matter, it is the principle of the thing that people follow. The bible is also full of thousands of illogical flaws yet people follow it because of its principles.

Tito Tinajero said...

Dear N,
As I pondered you first response, I though maybe I don't get that distinction about *co-operates* for in fiction you can get full agreement with characters, but in practice I could not see how it would work. I cannot see how Galt's strike works without complete agreement. Saying that I might be missing something. Your comment on *co-operates* interests me. Would you be interested in posting a detail rebuttal to my post. I would post as is as its own post without changing it. (With the stipulation of being civil. Which reading your comments, I don't see being a problem.

Tito Tinajero said...

You are correct in your views of double think. The ones that concern me are also in real life. We are all party to double thinking, myself included. Why I spent time with Ayn Rand is the influence she had on Greenspan. We are watching the largest unregulated market in the world go up in flames. The problem was not the sub-prime mortgages foreclosure rates, but the speculation around credit default swap markets. AIG and Lehmen Brothers needed bailout because of its bets in the derivative markets. As Warren Buffet says "Derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction" I find that the people who had their hand in the cookie jar are busy pointing fingers at anyone but themselves.

Weird said...

Finger pointing in D.C.? Who would ever guess ;)

I'm familiar with the Doctrine of Rand though I haven't read it myself yet. I think Greenspan in this case is just the tip of the iceberg but I can't see him as a follower of Rand. His interest is paid for by the Federal Reserve. His involvement in that organization (cartel) is anything but "free market". I know he professes to be a free marketeer (i've not read his book yet though) but he just isn't. He was a big government tool of intervention in the market.

Personally I'd like to see a firmer hand from courts in the prosecution of the obviously fradulent loans from our recent past. Free markets don't mean jungle rules. Law must be present to protect people from fraud and force.

Thanks for the conversation!

Tito Tinajero said...

Thanks again for response. I do hope that some people are held accountable. Not holding my breath, though. Alan Greenspan was actually part of Rand's inner circle she like to ironically call the collective. He has never officially left.

Nigel said...

Tito, I don't mean anything special by "cooperation," it's just voluntary collaboration versus forced servitude. It happens all around you in the real world, every corporation, every voluntary organization, is an example of individuals choosing to work together for common goals. On the other hand, the draft, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. are instances of collectivism and coercion; you are not free but forced to serve the "public good". It is the difference between being a sovereign being and being a slave. This should clear up any confusion: individualism versus collectivism.

Thanks for the offer to write a rebuttal post (why would you want me to?) but I'll pass.

Greenspan is definitely not a capitalist and definitely not an Objectivist, and hasn't been for a long time. The financial crisis is not a failure of capitalism, not much left of that, it's a failure of interventionism.

Anonymous said...

I will be blunt. You sir, are an idiot...

Tito Tinajero said...

Dear Anonymous,

I once had a logic professor claim that when in a debate one starts calling names, they have reached the limits of their own logic. Most Objectivists tend only to last a minute or two before they start name calling. This is to be expected as they have tried to build a system of logic on A is A (a tautology). As most beginning logic students can understand a tautology is true and meaningless. A is A, A unicorn is a unicorn, or Ayn Rand is Ayn Rand are all true statements but meaningless. It only when you start to place in common language do they start to have meaning, and why so many objectivists have problems in the real world, their definitions don't make sense, and why they retreat into a world of make believe like Atlas Shrugged. Personally, with so many better fictional worlds than hers, why retreat into a silly world not much better than a bad Saturday cartoon is beyond me. But what ever floats your A is A boat

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate this analysis.
I see these Ayn Rand followers everywhere.
I love how you pointed out they hypocrisy of John Galt. He 'needed' the other people to join with him.

But in Ayn's world people shouldn't 'need' anything.

They should be self supporting.
What I find hypocritical is how these followers take the fact that they were born in this country for granted.

They could have been born in a third world country without all of the things that our government has taken responsibility for.
Clean water, clean air, untainted food, maintained streets, education and all of the other things that as a collective our taxes provide for the good of society.

They take for granted that they benefited from the water, air, streets, food, healthcare , police, military etc that our country's collective has provided to them.

They would sooner shoot themselves in the foot than admit that they have benefited in ANY WAY.

Here is where the sociopathy of the Rand followers is exposed.
THEY get to a point where they have benefited and yet they don't want others to benefit.

They will proclaim that 'this will 'cost' them unfairly.

It is a selfish kind of person who grabs a hold of Ayn Rand's preachings in this way.

They only care about themselves and don't see fit to thank this great country for all they have been provided.

They falsely believe that if they had been dropped from the heavens onto a dirt plot in some hell hole third world country that they would be where there are today.
I suggest that they move to a third world country and start all over and I can't wait to hear how easy it is to thrive when you don't have a community that believes in health, clean air, education etc