7
   

Ayn Randian Ethics

 
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 05:01 am
@OCCOM BILL,
OCCOM BILL wrote:
You're confusing said captains with thieves and exploiters, as if there is no difference.

They've been making it awfully easy.

OCCOM BILL wrote:
Sorry I’ve wandered. Here’s the simple truth of why Rand’s philosophy is far superior to that of Marx (not to mention diametrically opposed, unbeknownst to the moron you quoted earlier) … one that is so easily overlooked by the armchair CEO: No entrepreneur; no company.

Oh for god's sake. The commenter noted that the two, although obviously on opposite ends politically - an obviousness so obvious it did not need to be pointed out - the nature of their prediction and quality of solution had something in common. Pointing out that the two's views are, of course, ideologically "diametrically opposed" doesn't address that point at all.

For example: today's extreme right and surviving communists in Europe are ideologically at opposite ends of the spectrum (and please dont go Jonah Goldberg on me on that one). On most every major issue of the day - from immigration and integration to taxes and welfare - they are right across from each other. And yet it's easy and valid to find parallels between them, in the nature of their rhetoric, the target groups whose fears and resentments they address, the way they look at the established powers that be, and in the intolerant and dogmatic manifestations of their ideology.

That's the kind of comparison the commenter was making here, and it takes a certain bullheadedness to just bulldozer over that with a treatise about how Marxism and Randism are diametrically opposed in general. I mean, sorry, but do'h .. and?
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 08:10 am
@OCCOM BILL,
OCCOM BILL wrote:

joefromchicago wrote:

OCCOM BILL wrote:
Taxing production has to be the single dumbest solution ever conceived. And guess what? You can blame Conservatives/Republicans AND Liberals/Democrats for that. Mr. Smith would never have approved of either.

I don't recall, from my reading of The Wealth of Nations, that Adam Smith ever addressed that subject. Where did you find it?

I assume, of course, that you've also read The Wealth of Nations (both volumes -- not the abridged versions). After all, you certainly wouldn't attempt to characterize Smith's position without having read his book.
There's actually 5 books in the series, Joe. But I'm sure you knew that and were just testing me, right? Sorry I don't remember Book, Chapter or Verse... but his point was abundantly clear: Something to the effect of direct taxes on labor cause the prices of consumer products to go up, AND the demand for labor to go down. He thought the idea ridiculous and favored a tax on the goods themselves, so as not to deter business or the demand for labor.

Ah, I see. Your use of the term "production" was confusing, since you seem to be using it interchangeably with "labor," which Adam Smith, as far as I know, never did. "Production" is simply an act of producing something, which may or may not involve labor. For instance, contributing capital is part of the process of production, but it involves no labor. Smith didn't say "production" when he meant "labor" because he already had a perfectly good term for "labor:" he called it "labour."

But then he didn't talk about taxing "labor" any more than he talked about taxing "production" because it would be nearly impossible to tax either. He did, however, talk about taxing the wages of labor. That would be fairly easy to do, since wages (unlike "production" or "labor") are easily quantifiable. Likewise, products can be taxed, but not the act of production itself.

OCCOM BILL wrote:
I'm sorry you don't recall it, but I promise it's there.

Well, if Smith actually talks about "taxing production," I'd appreciate it if you could find that for me.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 08:39 am
@OCCOM BILL,
Quote:
You're confusing said captains with thieves and exploiters, as if there is no difference.


There's a difference?

Modern Corporate structure in America is economic feudalism. Those at the top have no problem convincing themselves that they are 'worth' the exploitation and thievery.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 09:51 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Quote:
There's actually 5 books in the series, Joe. But I'm sure you knew that and were just testing me, right? Sorry I don't remember Book, Chapter or Verse... but his point was abundantly clear: Something to the effect of direct taxes on labor cause the prices of consumer products to go up, AND the demand for labor to go down.

Occom Bill -- you know how much I despise an exchange of arguments, and how much I hate to contradict you. But the principles of taxation you are putting forward are not Adam Smith's, they are somebody else's. Adam Smith clearly states four maxims of proper taxation, and the very first of them is that taxes be in proportion to someone's income. You can use Adam Smith as an authority against a progressive income tax if you want.But you cannot use him as an authority against every conceivable form of income tax. The following excerpt, from his chapter on the Sources of the General or Public Revenue of the Society , practically calls for a (flat) income tax, which would in practice work out as a tax on labor and thrift today.
Adam Smith wrote:
I. The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. The expence of government to the individuals of a great nation is like the expence of management to the joint tenants of a great estate, who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests in the estate.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN21.html
I think you need to read that chapter again (and the excerpt I quoted from it.) It is clear that Smith thought subjects of every state ought to contribute in proportion to the protection they enjoy from the state, however, this in NO WAY suggests, let alone calls for, a flat tax on Income. He pointedly described a direct tax on labor as “absurd and destructive”, and described why rather thoroughly.
Heres a broader quote that further demonstrates his dislike of direct taxes on labor:
Adam Smith wrote:
The ordinary or average price of provisions determines the quantity of money which must be paid to the workman in order to enable him, one year with another, to purchase this liberal, moderate, or scanty subsistence. While the demand for labour and the price of provisions, therefore, remain the same, a direct tax upon the wages of labour can have no other effect than to raise them somewhat higher than the tax. Let us suppose, for example, that in a particular place the demand for labour and the price of provisions were such as to render ten shillings a week the ordinary wages of labour, and that a tax of one-fifth, or four shillings in the pound, was imposed upon wages. If the demand for labour and the price of provisions remained the same, it would still be necessary that the labourer should in that place earn such a subsistence as could be bought only for ten shillings a week free wages. But in order to leave him such free wages after paying such a tax, the price of labour must in that place soon rise, not to twelve shillings a week only, but to twelve and sixpence; that is, in order to enable him to pay a tax of one-fifth, his wages must necessarily soon rise, not one-fifth part only, but one-fourth. Whatever was the proportion of the tax, the wages of labour must in all cases rise, not only in that proportion, but in a higher proportion. If the tax, for example, was one-tenth, the wages of labour must necessarily soon rise, not one-tenth part only, but one-eighth.
V.2.132
A direct tax upon the wages of labour, therefore, though the labourer might perhaps pay it out of his hand, could not properly be said to be even advanced by him; at least if tile demand for labour and the average price of provisions remained the same after the tax as before it. In all such cases, not only the tax but something more than the tax would in reality be advanced by the person who immediately employed him. The final payment would in different cases fall upon different persons. The rise which such a tax might occasion in the wages of manufacturing labour would be advanced by the master manufacturer, who would both be entitled and obliged to charge it, with a profit, upon the price of his goods. The final payment of this rise of wages, therefore, together with the additional profit of the master manufacturer, would fall upon the consumer. The rise which such a tax might occasion in the wages of country labour would be advanced by the farmer, who, in order to maintain the same number of labourers as before, would be obliged to employ a greater capital. In order to get back this greater capital, together with the ordinary profits of stock, it would be necessary that he should retain a larger portion, or what comes to the same thing, the price of a larger portion, of the produce of the land, and consequently that he should pay less rent to the landlord. The final payment of this rise of wages, therefore, would in this case fall upon the landlord, together with the additional profit of the farmer who had advanced it. In all cases a direct tax upon the wages of labour must, in the long-run, occasion both a greater reduction in the rent of land, and a greater rise in the price of manufactured goods, than would have followed from the proper assessment of a sum equal to the produce of the tax partly upon the rent of land, and partly upon consumable commodities.
V.2.133
In If direct taxes upon the wages of labour have not always occasioned a proportionable rise in those wages, it is because they have generally occasioned a considerable fall in the demand for labour. The declension of industry, the decrease of employment for the poor, the diminution of the annual produce of the land and labour of the country, have generally been the effects of such taxes. The consequence of them, however, the price of labour must always be higher than it otherwise would have been in the actual state of the demand: and this enhancement of price, together with the profit of those who advance it, must always be finally paid by the landlords and consumers.
V.2.134
A tax upon the wages of country labour does not raise the price of the rude produce of land in proportion to the tax, for the same reason that a tax upon the farmer's profit does not raise that price in that proportion.
V.2.135
Absurd and destructive as such taxes are, however, they take place in many countries.

I don't see how you can interpret such obvious distaste for direct taxes on labor as an endorsement of same. He went out of his way to describe the ill effects of such direct taxes against a tax on rent and the consumer goods themselves, demonstrated why it is destructive, and then came right out and called them "absurd and destructive."

In all cases, his desire to distribute the burden fairly according to the benefit received is evident; but he clearly favored taxes on rents and consumer goods over direct taxes on labor.

In today's economy; the benefits of such a taxing scheme would be immense. The entrepenur would be free to re-invest his money into furthering his enterprise, which in turn generates more dollars to be spent on rents and consumer products, eventually, by the end user. He who chooses to consume rather than reinvest in the economy at large, would pay a greater share than he who sought to expand his business. The frugal little guy could save a greater portion of his earnings, while, again, the spendthrift would pay a greater share of the burden.

The only real advantage a diret tax on labor has is it's ease of collection. He covered this as well and his his distaste is quite obvious in this consideration as well:
Adam Smith wrote:
Capitation taxes, so far as they are levied upon the lower ranks of people, are direct taxes upon the wages of labour, and are attended with all the inconveniences of such taxes.
V.2.146
Capitation taxes are levied at little expence, and, where they are rigorously exacted, afford a very sure revenue to the state. It is upon this account that in countries where the ease, comfort, and security of the inferior ranks of people are little attended to, capitation taxes are very common. It is in general, however, but a small part of the public revenue which, in a great empire, has ever been drawn from such taxes, and the greatest sum which they have ever afforded might always have been found in some other way much more convenient to the people.

Note to readers who would like to take the simplistic view and erroneously compare Smith's thoughts with Reagan's trickle down economics: It just aint so. Where Reagan sought to relieve business while taxing the labor of the little guy, Smith does no such thing. By taxing rents and consumer goods, as opposed to labor, every man of every income level gains control over how much he contributes based on his spending habits rather than his earning habits. While the little guy who chooses to consume less, whether it's out of desire or necessity, would gain an obvious advantage, so too would the big guy who chooses to further his investment in business rather than consumables for himself. This in turn creates more jobs, which in turn, inevitably, drives up wages as the number of job seekers diminishes in ratio to the number of jobs. ALL of which increases the amount of capital available to be spent on rents and consumables in the process. Hence, it is a win/win scenario for the little and big guys alike.

I believe our founding fathers well understood this principle and it wasn't until about a 100 years ago that our government lost it's collective mind in misguided greed, that ultimately has done it far more harm than it ever did good in terms of gross receipts. I am not disputing that the money needs to be raised, nor that it should be raised in proportion to one's benefit... and I even agree that those who benefit most should pay a greater percentage share. Punishing production, however, is NOT the best way to accomplish this goal. Not by a long shot.
0 Replies
 
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 10:59 pm
@nimh,
nimh wrote:

OCCOM BILL wrote:
You're confusing said captains with thieves and exploiters, as if there is no difference.

They've been making it awfully easy.
I once crashed my car in a place called Riviera Beach, FL (Among the very worst places in the country for crime per capita.) I shouldn't have been surpised, but I admit that I was; every single person who stopped or commented asked questions like, "are you okay?""Do you need me to call anyone?" You'll probably chastise me for highlighting the obvious point; but it turns out the bad apples who've tarnished the repuatation of the whole really aren't terribly representative of it.

I've known some scumbags in business myself and consider them the exceptions... NOT the rule.

OCCOM BILL wrote:
Sorry I’ve wandered. Here’s the simple truth of why Rand’s philosophy is far superior to that of Marx (not to mention diametrically opposed, unbeknownst to the moron you quoted earlier) … one that is so easily overlooked by the armchair CEO: No entrepreneur; no company.

Oh for god's sake. The commenter noted that the two, although obviously on opposite ends politically - an obviousness so obvious it did not need to be pointed out - the nature of their prediction and quality of solution had something in common. Pointing out that the two's views are, of course, ideologically "diametrically opposed" doesn't address that point at all.

For example: today's extreme right and surviving communists in Europe are ideologically at opposite ends of the spectrum (and please dont go Jonah Goldberg on me on that one). On most every major issue of the day - from immigration and integration to taxes and welfare - they are right across from each other. And yet it's easy and valid to find parallels between them, in the nature of their rhetoric, the target groups whose fears and resentments they address, the way they look at the established powers that be, and in the intolerant and dogmatic manifestations of their ideology.

That's the kind of comparison the commenter was making here, and it takes a certain bullheadedness to just bulldozer over that with a treatise about how Marxism and Randism are diametrically opposed in general. I mean, sorry, but do'h .. and?
[/quote]
That is just so much nonsense Nimh. Mostly because like the person you quoted, you haven’t read the book either and apparently have no clue as to what Rand may or may not have had in common with Marx. Here, I’ll break it down for you further:

Quote:

I've always suspected that Rand, who fled to America as a result of Stalinist persecutions, at least according to her data, was a Soviet sleeper agent sowing discord in America by effectively starting a religion that raised self-satisfaction to the highest of human aspirations
What a bizarre rant about someone who’s entire philosophy glorified the things Americans were proud to compare to the Soviet’s mirror opposite (and frankly, idiotic) ways. How precisely was promoting worship of raw capitalism supposed to be sow discord in a capitalistic society and how diluted would a Soviet have to be to believe such a strategy tenable?
Quote:

and openly mocked and scorned concepts like altruism and charity; her view, enshrined in ATLAS SHRUGGED, that men of great talent should step away from society and await its inevitable collapse under the weight of its own corruption is oddly similar to Marx's conviction that communism was the natural and inevitable end result of capitalist society.
Had this idiot (or you) read the book, he’d know better than to arrive at such an absurd conclusion. In the first place; Marx thought Socialism would follow Capitalism (and in many ways was right about that… certainly should get partial credit at least) and that would lead to Communism (pity he never envisioned the veritable hell that leads to).

Secondly; Atlas Shrugged was meant as a warning NOT to let Marx’s predictions come true. There is no “odd similarity” there; it was quite intentional indeed. Further; originally, the book was slated to be titled the Strike as in, take some time off till they miss us bad enough to negotiate more fairly. Her fictional “men of great talent” weren’t hell bent on stepping away; they resisted until each determined for themselves that the collapse appeared inevitable. They stepped away because they refused to take any further active roles in their own undoing. Rand’s version of Utopia, where the “men of great talent” gathered, couldn’t possibly be any further from communism… and indeed it was the wish of that collective to return sanity (purer capitalism) to the country once the country collectively realized how inept the parasitical bureaucrats were without the individual minds who made the country run.

When they tried to share his mind, equally, leaving him only an equal share for himself; John Galt revolted and vowed to stop the motor of the world… and did. Cartoonish? Yep. Are there some mighty fine lessons to be learned therein? You bet your ass.

Anyway: Capitalism… to bureaucratic incompetency (insert whichever kind of anti-capitalism nonsense you like here; it all works (doesn’t work) the same)… back to Capitalism. Rand believed that the most capitalistic persons rise to the top of every “ism” anyway, so it’s just foolish not to work with what comes natural. Does that sound even remotely similar to Marxist Theory to you? (Of course not.)
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 11:42 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

OCCOM BILL wrote:

joefromchicago wrote:

OCCOM BILL wrote:
Taxing production has to be the single dumbest solution ever conceived. And guess what? You can blame Conservatives/Republicans AND Liberals/Democrats for that. Mr. Smith would never have approved of either.

I don't recall, from my reading of The Wealth of Nations, that Adam Smith ever addressed that subject. Where did you find it?

I assume, of course, that you've also read The Wealth of Nations (both volumes -- not the abridged versions). After all, you certainly wouldn't attempt to characterize Smith's position without having read his book.
There's actually 5 books in the series, Joe. But I'm sure you knew that and were just testing me, right? Sorry I don't remember Book, Chapter or Verse... but his point was abundantly clear: Something to the effect of direct taxes on labor cause the prices of consumer products to go up, AND the demand for labor to go down. He thought the idea ridiculous and favored a tax on the goods themselves, so as not to deter business or the demand for labor.

Ah, I see. Your use of the term "production" was confusing, since you seem to be using it interchangeably with "labor," which Adam Smith, as far as I know, never did. "Production" is simply an act of producing something, which may or may not involve labor. For instance, contributing capital is part of the process of production, but it involves no labor. Smith didn't say "production" when he meant "labor" because he already had a perfectly good term for "labor:" he called it "labour."

But then he didn't talk about taxing "labor" any more than he talked about taxing "production" because it would be nearly impossible to tax either. He did, however, talk about taxing the wages of labor. That would be fairly easy to do, since wages (unlike "production" or "labor") are easily quantifiable. Likewise, products can be taxed, but not the act of production itself.

OCCOM BILL wrote:
I'm sorry you don't recall it, but I promise it's there.

Well, if Smith actually talks about "taxing production," I'd appreciate it if you could find that for me.
In other words; since Bill's now provided Book, Chapter, and Verse... rising to and meeting Joe's challenge; Joe feels like he needs to bob and weave behind some petty word games to pretend he wasn't caught. Not fun Joe.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 06:10 am
@OCCOM BILL,
OCCOM BILL wrote:
In other words; since Bill's now provided Book, Chapter, and Verse... rising to and meeting Joe's challenge; Joe feels like he needs to bob and weave behind some petty word games to pretend he wasn't caught. Not fun Joe.

I hate to puncture your pathetic little fantasy, O'BILL, but contrary to your claim you didn't provide "book, chapter, and verse" showing that Adam Smith said anything regarding "taxing production." Your excerpt from TWON talked about taxing wages, not production. I know that Smith talked about that -- remember, I'm the one here who has actually read TWON -- and if you had claimed "Smith didn't like taxing wages" I wouldn't have said anything. As it is, however, you still haven't provided any evidence that Smith disapproved of taxing "production." Your post, therefore, was irrelevant to my query. I still await some evidence that Smith had any opinions regarding the taxation of production.
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 08:48 am
@joefromchicago,
I have neither time for, nor interest in, your word games Joe. My point was clear enough and I remain convinced that Smith would have concurred. I chose words favored by Rand (which you probably recognized, but enjoy being disagreeable too much to accept) while making my point. So what? It shouldn’t surprise you that in drafting my opinion; I didn’t choose exactly the same words as a Scotsman chose to use a quarter of a millennia ago. Since you’ve now admitted your complaint was a misunderstanding (or pedantic nonsense from the onset), there is no further need to discuss it. Frankly, I am a thousand times more interested in Thomas’s substantive disagreement than I am your petty, pedantic, substitute for same.
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 09:21 am
@OCCOM BILL,
OCCOM BILL wrote:
Rand’s version of Utopia, where the “men of great talent” gathered, couldn’t possibly be any further from communism…

As I said before, pointing out that the political ends of Randism (for lack of a better word) and Marxism are obviously diametrically opposed does not address in any way the observation that the nature of their prediction and quality of solution had something in common. You can have opposite ends but go about achieving them in similar ways, or look at the existing system's ambiguities with, for example, a similar ideological rigidity.

A desire for a "more pure" system, an affirmative prediction that the current system is bound to end in a big kaladeradatsh and that the right people, the select few who know better, should just wait and remain uninvolved as the system collapses, so its downfall will pave the way for an ideological utopia of some sorts ... well, et cetera ad infinitum; utopians with a certain ruthlessness can share all kinds of characteristics, methods etc, even as their ideology and desired end point of development are diametrically opposed; and their similarities are often telling.
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 09:30 am
@OCCOM BILL,
OCCOM BILL wrote:
You'll probably chastise me for highlighting the obvious point; but it turns out the bad apples who've tarnished the repuatation of the whole really aren't terribly representative of it.

The current collapse of the financial system and the revelation of the sheer greed-driven recklessness and irresponsability that gradually came to undermine it is not a question of "a few bad apples". That's just naive.

Just like it's terribly naive to point to the fact that someone is personally friendly and helpful when encountered on the street as some kind of purported evidence that he can't have been behind criminally reckless, callous or megalomaniac acts within the echo chamber of his work. The British noblemen and industrialists were always extremely polite in any interpersonal communication, but they still funded and fuelled the British Empire into subjugating various colonies with the utmost brutality.

I mean, seriously, historical analogies that will be debated in turn aside, surely you can see this. Arguing that the captains of industry or finance can't possibly be thieves or exploiters because they are so friendly when they come across you when your car is stranded is just an enormous nonsequitur, isn't it? I'm sure that if Madoff had passed by, he would have been very friendly to you too. And?
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 09:37 am
@nimh,
OK NEVER MIND I totally misread your first paragraph so please disregard the nonsense in those last two paras.

(I tried to delete the post, but it's too late. I should get some sleep.)
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 09:38 am
@nimh,
nimh wrote:
As I said before, pointing out that the political ends of Randism (for lack of a better word) and Marxism are obviously diametrically opposed does not address in any way the observation that the nature of their prediction and quality of solution had something in common.
Except they had nothing in common, Nimh. Nothing. Her fictional characters fought the system, individually, until defeat looked inevitable. They didn't seek control, rather, they sought freedom from it. That they eventually gave up when collapse appeared imminent is no eerie coincidence either; it is the inevitable conclusion of a rational mind.

I think you are trying too hard to lend your own well thought out theories to that poster’s ignorant rambling.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 09:42 am
@OCCOM BILL,
OCCOM BILL wrote:

I have neither time for, nor interest in, your word games Joe.

Or, in other words, O'BILL feels like he needs to bob and weave behind some petty word games to pretend he wasn't caught. Not fun O'BILL.
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 09:59 am
@nimh,
nimh wrote:

OK NEVER MIND I totally misread your first paragraph so please disregard the nonsense in those last two paras.

(I tried to delete the post, but it's too late. I should get some sleep.)
Okay, I won't.

You know; if you want to characterize the government representatives as the corrupt A-holes you seem to think every CEO is; you'll get little argument from me. It just isn't fair hold every CEO in disdain because a relative few are scumbags. I'd wager most priests don't molest children either.
0 Replies
 
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 10:01 am
@joefromchicago,
Rolling Eyes
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  2  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 10:04 am
It's only a relative few CEOs which are 'scumbags?' Really?

Perhaps not scumbags, but I would wager that a large percentage of them are interested in advancing any argument which justifies ever-increasing rises in CEO pay, at the expense of... anything, apparently.

Cycloptichorn
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 10:13 am
@Cycloptichorn,
Cycloptichorn wrote:

It's only a relative few CEOs which are 'scumbags?' Really?

Perhaps not scumbags, but I would wager that a large percentage of them are interested in advancing any argument which justifies ever-increasing rises in CEO pay, at the expense of... anything, apparently.

Cycloptichorn
Laughing That' is not scumbaggery, Cyclo. That's capitalism. Moreover, it is human nature. Will you now tell us that you wouldn't like a raise yourself?
Cycloptichorn
 
  2  
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 11:56 am
@OCCOM BILL,
OCCOM BILL wrote:

Cycloptichorn wrote:

It's only a relative few CEOs which are 'scumbags?' Really?

Perhaps not scumbags, but I would wager that a large percentage of them are interested in advancing any argument which justifies ever-increasing rises in CEO pay, at the expense of... anything, apparently.

Cycloptichorn
Laughing That' is not scumbaggery, Cyclo. That's capitalism. Moreover, it is human nature. Will you now tell us that you wouldn't like a raise yourself?



Not at the expense of harming my company, no, I wouldn't. See, there's more to consider than my bottom line. And it's not like I'm hurting as it is.

It seems that modern CEOs don't care what the negative effects of their high salaries are - after all, that's human nature as well, to not give a **** about the side effects, as long as you get what you want right now. Unless you've grown up, that is.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  3  
Reply Mon 27 Apr, 2009 06:35 pm
The Randian ethics is what is giving justification for the actions of culprits who were behind the current financial melt down. Ayn Rand is what I call a 'teen infatuation' philosopher i.e. it also appealed to me when I was a kid and knew nothing. It is a low level self-gratification and justification for immature acts. It is stone-age philosophy. A modern analogy would be a car with only a powerful engine with no steering, brakes, gears, carburation, or fuel injection. It is a start and stop operation. Ayn Rand was fixated on motive i.e what motivates us to action. True, selfish is the primary motive as much as the engine in a car is the motive power. But you you need more than an engine to get around similarly you need more than selfishness to steer around in modern society. You need controls. Steering wheel, brakes, gears, carburator or fuel injection are controls. Adam Smith is no philosopher for he misses the point that division of labor is itself a regulation. His theory is based on the improved production thru specialized skilled labor which means certification and training. Regulations are controls.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  4  
Reply Tue 2 Feb, 2010 07:42 pm
Quote:
How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon
The perverse allure of a damaged woman.

By Johann Hari
Posted Monday, Nov. 2, 2009, at 7:01 AM ET

Ayn Rand is one of America's great mysteries. She was an amphetamine-addicted author of sub-Dan Brown potboilers, who in her spare time wrote lavish torrents of praise for serial killers and the Bernie Madoff-style embezzlers of her day. She opposed democracy on the grounds that "the masses""her readers"were "lice" and "parasites" who scarcely deserved to live. Yet she remains one of the most popular writers in the United States, still selling 800,000 books a year from beyond the grave. She regularly tops any list of books that Americans say have most influenced them. Since the great crash of 2008, her writing has had another Benzedrine rush, as Rush Limbaugh hails her as a prophetess. With her assertions that government is "evil" and selfishness is "the only virtue," she is the patron saint of the tea-partiers and the death panel doomsters. So how did this little Russian bomb of pure immorality in a black wig become an American icon?

Two new biographies of Rand"Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns and Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Heller"try to puzzle out this question, showing how her arguments found an echo in the darkest corners of American political life.* But the books work best, for me, on a level I didn't expect. They are thrilling psychological portraits of a horribly damaged woman who deserves the one thing she spent her life raging against: compassion.

Alisa Rosenbaum (her original name) was born in the icy winter of czarism, not long after the failed 1905 revolution ripped through her home city of St. Petersburg. Her father was a self-made Jewish pharmacist, while her mother was an aristocratic dilettante who loathed her three daughters. She would tell them she never wanted children, and she kept them only out of duty. Alisa became a surly, friendless child. In elementary school, her class was asked to write an essay about why being a child was a joyous thing. She instead wrote "a scathing denunciation of childhood," headed with a quote from Pascal: "I would prefer an intelligent hell to a stupid paradise."

But the Rosenbaums' domestic tensions were dwarfed by the conflicts raging outside. The worst anti-Jewish violence since the Middle Ages was brewing, and the family was terrified of being killed by the mobs"but it was the Bolsheviks who struck at them first. After the 1917 revolutions, her father's pharmacy was seized "in the name of the people." For Alisa, who had grown up surrounded by servants and nannies, the Communists seemed at last to be the face of the masses, a terrifying robbing horde. In a country where 5 million people died of starvation in just two years, the Rosenbaums went hungry. Her father tried to set up another business, but after it too was seized, he declared himself to be "on strike."

The Rosenbaums knew their angry, outspoken daughter would not survive under the Bolsheviks for long, so they arranged to smuggle her out to their relatives in America. Just before her 21st birthday, she said goodbye to her country and her family for the last time. She was determined to live in the America she had seen in the silent movies"the America of skyscrapers and riches and freedom. She renamed herself Ayn Rand, a name she thought had the hardness and purity of a Hollywood starlet.

She headed for Hollywood, where she set out to write stories that expressed her philosophy"a body of thought she said was the polar opposite of communism. She announced that the world was divided between a small minority of Supermen who are productive and "the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human Incompetent" who, like the Leninists, try to feed off them. He is "mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned." It is evil to show kindness to these "lice": The "only virtue" is "selfishness."

She meant it. Her diaries from that time, while she worked as a receptionist and an extra, lay out the Nietzschean mentality that underpins all her later writings. The newspapers were filled for months with stories about serial killer called William Hickman, who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl called Marion Parker from her junior high school, raped her, and dismembered her body, which he sent mockingly to the police in pieces. Rand wrote great stretches of praise for him, saying he represented "the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. … Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should." She called him "a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy," shimmering with "immense, explicit egotism." Rand had only one regret: "A strong man can eventually trample society under its feet. That boy [Hickman] was not strong enough."

It's not hard to see this as a kind of political post-traumatic stress disorder. Rand believed the Bolshevik lie that they represented the people, so she wanted to strike back at them"through theft and murder. In a nasty irony, she was copying their tactics. She started to write her first novel, We the Living (1936), and in the early drafts her central character"a crude proxy for Rand herself"says to a Bolshevik: "I loathe your ideals. I admire your methods. If one believes one's right, one shouldn't wait to convince millions of fools, one might just as well force them."

She poured these beliefs into a series of deeply odd novels. She takes the flabby staples of romantic fiction and peppers them with political ravings and rapes for the audience to cheer on. All have the same core message: Anything that pleases the Superman's ego is good; anything that blocks it is bad. In The Fountainhead, published in 1943, a heroic architect called Howard Roark designs a housing project for the poor"not out of compassion but because he wants to build something mighty. When his plans are slightly altered, he blows up the housing project, saying the purity of his vision has been contaminated by evil government bureaucrats. He orders the jury to acquit him, saying: "The only good which men can do to one another and the only statement of their proper relationship is"Hands off!"

For her longest novel, Atlas Shrugged (1957), Rand returned to a moment from her childhood. Just as her father once went on strike to protest against Bolshevism, she imagined the super-rich in America going on strike against progressive taxation"and said the United States would swiftly regress to an apocalyptic hellhole if the Donald Trumps and Ted Turners ceased their toil. The abandoned masses are described variously as "savages," "refuse," "inanimate objects," and "imitations of living beings," picking through rubbish. One of the strikers deliberately causes a train crash, and Rand makes it clear she thinks the murder victims deserved it, describing in horror how they all supported the higher taxes that made the attack necessary.

Her heroes are a cocktail of extreme self-love and extreme self-pity: They insist they need no one, yet they spend all their time fuming that the masses don't bow down before their manifest superiority.

As her books became mega-sellers, Rand surrounded herself with a tightly policed cult of young people who believed she had found the One Objective Truth about the world. They were required to memorize her novels and slapped down as "imbecilic" and "anti-life" by Rand if they asked questions. One student said: "There was a right kind of music, a right kind of art, a right kind of interior design, a right kind of dancing. There were wrong books which we should not buy."

Rand had become addicted to amphetamines while writing The Fountainhead, and her natural paranoia and aggression were becoming more extreme as they pumped though her veins. Anybody in her circle who disagreed with her was subjected to a show trial in front of the whole group in which they would be required to repent or face expulsion. Her secretary, Barbara Weiss, said: "I came to look on her as a killer of people." The workings of her cult exposed the hollowness of Rand's claims to venerate free thinking and individualism. Her message was, think freely, as long as it leads you into total agreement with me.

In the end, Rand was destroyed by her own dogmas. She fell in love with a young follower called Nathaniel Branden and had a decades-long affair with him. He became the cult's No. 2, and she named him as her "intellectual heir""until he admitted he had fallen in love with a 23-year-old woman. As Burns explains, Rand's philosophy "taught that sex was never physical; it was always inspired by a deeper recognition of shared values, a sense that the other embodied the highest human achievement." So to be sexually rejected by Branden meant he was rejecting her ideas, her philosophy, her entire person. She screamed: "You have rejected me? You have dared to reject me? Me, your highest value?"

She never really recovered. We all become weak at some point in our lives, so a thinker who despises weakness will end up despising herself. In her 70s Rand found herself dying of lung cancer, after insisting that her followers smoke because it symbolized "man's victory over fire" and the studies showing it caused lung cancer were Communist propaganda. By then she had driven almost everyone away. In 1982, she died alone in her apartment with only a hired nurse at her side. If her philosophy is right"if the only human relationships worth having are based on the exchange of dollars"this was a happy and victorious death. Did even she believe it in the end?

Rand was broken by the Bolsheviks as a girl, and she never left their bootprint behind. She believed her philosophy was Bolshevism's opposite, when in reality it was its twin. Both she and the Soviets insisted a small revolutionary elite in possession of absolute rationality must seize power and impose its vision on a malleable, imbecilic mass. The only difference was that Lenin thought the parasites to be stomped on were the rich, while Rand thought they were the poor.

I don't find it hard to understand why this happened to Rand: I feel sympathy for her, even as I know she would have spat it back into my face. What I do find incomprehensible is that there are people"large numbers of people"who see her writing not as psychopathy but as philosophy, and urge us to follow her. Why? What in American culture did she drill into? Unfortunately, neither of these equally thorough, readable books can offer much of an answer to this, the only great question about her.

Rand expresses, with a certain pithy crudeness, an instinct that courses through us all sometimes: I'm the only one who matters! I'm not going to care about any of you any more! She then absolutizes it in an amphetamine Benzedrine-charged reductio ad absurdum by insisting it is the only feeling worth entertaining, ever.

This urge exists everywhere, but why is it supercharged on the American right, where Rand is regarded as something more than a bad, bizarre joke? In a country where almost everyone believes"wrongly, on the whole"that they are self-made, perhaps it is easier to have contempt for people who didn't make much of themselves. And Rand taps into something deeper still. The founding myth of America is that the nation was built out of nothing, using only reason and willpower. Rand applies this myth to the individual American: You made yourself. You need nobody and nothing except your reason to rise and dominate. You can be America, in one body, in one mind.

She said the United States should be a "democracy of superiors only," with superiority defined by being rich. Well, we got it. As the health care crisis has shown, today, the rich have the real power: The vote that matters is expressed with a checkbook and a lobbyist. We get to vote only for the candidates they have pre-funded and receive the legislation they have preapproved. It's useful"if daunting"to know that there is a substantial slice of the American public who believe this is not a problem to be put right, but morally admirable.

We all live every day with the victory of this fifth-rate Nietzsche of the mini-malls. Alan Greenspan was one of her strongest cult followers and even invited her to the Oval Office to witness his swearing-in when he joined the Ford administration. You can see how he carried this philosophy into the 1990s: Why should the Supermen of Wall Street be regulated to protected the lice of Main Street?

The figure Ayn Rand most resembles in American life is L. Ron Hubbard, another crazed, pitiable charlatan who used trashy potboilers to whip up a cult. Unfortunately, Rand's cult isn't confined to Tom Cruise and a rash of Hollywood dimwits. No, its ideas and its impulses have, by drilling into the basest human instincts, captured one of America's major political parties.

Johann Hari is a Slate contributing writer and a columnist for the Independent in London. He was recently named newspaper journalist of the year by Amnesty International.
 

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