November 16, 2016
If Elon Musk were in 'Atlas Shrugged'...
... he would be Oren Boyle.
It has been widely reported that among SolarCity, Tesla, and the rocket company SpaceX, Elon Musk's confederacy of interests has gotten at least $4.9 billion in taxpayer support over the past 10 years.
But one of the good things about changing regimes in Washington D.C. is that cronies often get uprooted.
The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have launched a probe into tax incentives paid to solar companies, according to The Wall Street Journal. The committee probes, led by their respective Republican chairmen, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have found an appropriate and disturbing target to begin this work.
November 15, 2016
"I will stop the unstoppable"
In what is reminiscent (to me, at least) of John Galt's "I will stop the motor of the world" President Elect Trump is not backing away from his campaign pledge to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Trump's advisers are considering ways to bypass a theoretical four-year procedure for leaving the accord, according to the source, who works on Trump's transition team for international energy and climate policy.
"So where's the John Galt reference, johngalt?"
I'm projecting just a bit, in response to French President Hollande, who said the agreement is "irreversible." And to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who said,
"What was once unthinkable has become unstoppable," Ban said at a news conference of the landmark Paris deal, agreed by almost 200 governments last year after two decades of tortuous negotiations. The accord formally entered into force on Nov. 4 after a record swift ratification.
A "record swift ratification."
The Trump source said the president-elect's transition team is aware of the likely international backlash but said Republicans in the U.S. Congress have given ample warning that a Republican administration would take action to reverse course.
(What was the mood in Washington on November 4 that had the Administration so anxious to rush this through prior to Hillary's coronation? Hmmm.)
But former French President Nicholas Sarkozy has a warning for Trump if he doesn't stand by his predecessors promises.
Speaking to French broadcaster TF1, Sarkozy said late Sunday: "Donald Trump has said - we'll see if he keeps this promise -- that he won't respect the conclusions of the Paris climate agreement. Well, I will demand that Europe put in place a carbon tax at its border, a tax of 1-3 percent, for all products coming from the United States, if the United States doesn't apply environmental rules that we are imposing on our companies."
Whoa! Who's the trade warrior now?
April 18, 2016
I am a capitalist. I believe in the natural right of every human being to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe happiness is tightly coupled with prosperity. I believe prosperity comes from jobs and jobs come from businessmen, not government.
The two leaders for the Republican presidential nomination are cast as "the businessman" and "the lawyer." On its face that is an easy choice - businessman, all the way. But this particular "businessman" is better known for his failures than successes, and his techniques are properly described as a full-employment program for lawyers, principally to sue other businessmen. The "lawyer" on the other hand is reviled by nearly all of his fellow lawyers in the US Senate, and during a floor speech there quoted heavily from Ayn Rand's epic novel 'Atlas Shrugged.' A story in which the hero was, the businessman. He went so far as to say, "If you have not read 'Atlas Shrugged' then go out and buy a copy. And read it."
What I'm saying is, if you too value prosperity and the earned rewards of hard work, be careful to vote for the man who actually values what the other man claims to be, but is not - instead of the man who became famous for firing people on prime time TV.
* Testing it out here in the laboratory before taking it on the road to social media.
April 5, 2016
President Ted Cruz - A Philosophical Endorsement
Three days ago, Craig Biddle, editor of The Objective Standard, endorsed Ted Cruz for president. Craig gives an issue by issue summary of the many ways Ted Cruz stands alone in this political contest, and all of them boil down to his recognition of individual rights and holding ideas as absolutes. Read it in full here, if you like. He cites many of the quotes I've heard Cruz state over the months of this primary campaign. He also cites several of the times that Cruz has quoted the seminal work of Ayn Rand - 'Atlas Shrugged.' One of these was when I first became a stalwart fan of the first-term Senator from Texas. Namely, in a 2013 Senate floor speech urging the defunding of Obamacare:
Cruz also read the passage in which Dagny Taggart poses the question, "What is morality?" - and receives the answer, "Judgment to distinguish right and wrong, vision to see the truth, courage to act upon it, dedication to that which is good, integrity to stand by the good at any price." After pausing to let that sink in, Cruz said:
Imagine a politician who recognizes the difference between right and wrong, or even acknowledges that the distinction exists. Imagine a politician willing to defend the good at any cost. Imagine the benefit that could abound to all honest and self-respecting people.
Imagine the possibility of a U.S. president speaking from the Oval Office, "I'd like to share a few excerpts from one of my favorite books, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand . . ." and encouraging Americans, "go tomorrow, buy Atlas Shrugged, and read it."
November 12, 2015
Why let anyone teach you to doubt yourself?
You have a human mind no less capable than those who claim, usually without cause, to be your "better." In fact, if you organize your mind properly it will probably be more capable than most others.
From yesterday's comment link to "Philosophy: Who Needs It?"
"Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation -- or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt."A great book. Highly recommended. And quite brief, particularly when standing beside Atlas Shrugged.
September 25, 2015
Bernie Fan is Spittin' Mad
Uhh, because he couldn't afford two bucks to buy his own sticker?
Maybe 'Bernie fan' would feel better if the federal agency ISS - Internal Sticker Service - had audited his car and, finding him with more stickers than the sticker poverty level, forced him to scrape it off and mail it in for redistribution himself. Under penalty of law, of course!
August 12, 2015
At the most recent Liberty on the Rocks - Flatirons a local Objectivist discussed the subjects of morality and politics, and how they relate to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Morality, he said, is a code by which a man guides his own actions. A non-contradictory morality also recognizes that every other man must be free to guide his own actions. Suffice to say, most folks do not adhere to a non-contradictory morality.
Q&A at the conclusion of the talk was wide ranging. At one point, yours truly made the assertion that altruism, or Christian charity to the poor, is a "back door" to the moral justification of collectivist redistribution. In our modern age we know Christian charity as an act of personal choice, subject to each person's free will. But, as I found evidence of today, this has not always been the teaching of the church.
[Saint] Ambrose [340-397 A.D.] considered the poor not a distinct group of outsiders, but a part of the united, solidary people. Giving to the poor was not to be considered an act of generosity towards the fringes of society but as a repayment of resources that God had originally bestowed on everyone equally and that the rich had usurped.
Marxist egalitarianism thus has honest origins, at least among those who honor Christian traditions.
(Or, since this quote is referenced from a 2012 text by a Princeton professor of history, it could be complete revisionist crap.)
June 6, 2015
"Rebel against the guilt"
"To everyone within the range of my voice, you now have a choice to make: If you decide to support the notion of sacrifice enforced by the state, your game is up. Your world is in a downward spiral and you will ride it down to destruction. But if you share the values of our strike; if you believe that your life is a sacred possession for you to make the most of; if you want to live by the judgment of your own mind, not edicts from the state, then follow our lead. Do not support your own oppressors. Stop letting the system exploit you. Form your own communities on the frontiers of your crumbling world.
When I saw this speech in the theatrical showing of Atlas Shrugged Part III, effectively compressing the message of 59 pages of text in to 4:40 of narration, I thought it was a faithful synopsis that could serve as a sort of "uber elevator talk." Now the recording has been publicly released by its creators and I get to share it.
January 29, 2015
Economics Hoss Walter E. Williams: Gas-Price Demagogues Feed Off Economic Ignorance
Show me someone who doesn't want more of something, be it cars, houses, clothing, food, peace, admiration, love or war. The fact that people want more is responsible for most of the good things that get done.
October 10, 2014
Wings of the Right, Unite!
Following on BR's 'Christians, Libertarians and Ayn Rand' post yesterday I received '5 Things the Right Can Learn from Ayn Rand' from a friend via email. (Subscriptions are about $75 per year, well worth the price if you can afford it.) But until you can, or he publishes the article elsewhere, you'll have to settle for my paraphrase.
Author Robert Tracinski, one of the best Objectivist authors I know, cites the Wilhelm piece as a "less charitable" (to Rand) response to Hunter Baker's earlier piece in The Federalist: 'The Devil and Ayn Rand: Extending Christian Charity to John Galt's Creator.' Of which Trancinski writes, "I have a few quibbles with this piece, but as an advocate of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, I appreciate its spirit."
RT summarizes Wilhelm as "basically conceding the point: that the various wings of the right need to work together in a common cause, that
"what pushes these two groups together -- the fact that a big, bureaucratized, powerful government will inevitably smother freedom, crush creativity, and bulldoze people's rights -- also might be one of the few things that Ayn Rand got right."
He then accepts that feeble twig of olive branch and suggests that conservatives "examine Ayn Rand's literature a little more closely and less grudgingly and to take her ideas a little more seriously" before offering "the top five things I think the right can learn from Ayn Rand."
The strongest disagreement on these pages has regarded item 2. I suggest that is a case of inconsistent terminology, where the grim and gritty reality of altruism as a code of self-sacrifice is confused with what Baker described as "human solidarity" of which he said, "[Rand] was an atheist and clearly had an insufficient appreciation for (and accounting of) human solidarity, but she loved freedom and she understood the importance of work for human flourishing."
So in conclusion: Remove the devil-horns from Rand, consider her ideas of freedom, self-sufficiency and rational self-interest, and of "dignity, joy and love in work rather than in wealth per se." And then ask yourself if you can find common cause with those other wings in order to defeat the champions of "big, bureaucratized, powerful government."
September 13, 2014
Atlas Shrugged Part III - From the other side
And then there is the predictable movie critic review, included in fairness and objectivity, and to illustrate that, yes, the movie has flaws. But then, not every movie has the production values of 'Gone With the Wind' or "Titanic.'
From two scenes about the ultimate destiny of Dagny's sister-in-law, which seem to have been awkwardly shoehorned into the movie after the fact, to a love scene in L.A.'s Union Station destined to enter the Bad Movie Sex Scene Hall of Fame, “ASIII” feels like the most scattershot entry in the trilogy, despite a relative rally toward competence with the second movie.
Not just awful. SINGULARLY awful. As in, "The worst movies of all time" awful. This gratuitous ending, to me, betrays a feeling that as much as the reviewer tried to besmirch the creative product of other's efforts with the smug "anyone could have done better than this" attitude of one who has never attempted to do anything himself, he still needed to take one last parting shot.
Thus ends my review of his review.
The face without pain or fear or guilt
Dagny and I saw it last night. In every scene, actually, but particularly, when Leader Thompson attempted to negotiate a "name your price" deal with Galt.
The movie was superb. Like the book, it was too short, but you'd expect me to say that. No, I realize that every nuance that I know and love from the book could not be included. And Dagny regretted that Hank Rearden was almost completely left on the cutting room floor. But we are "steeped in the lore." I fear that so much was included and happened so quickly that the neophyte will miss many points. But he won't miss the big point. And if he gets that one he will be back for viewing after viewing. I think the most important message is loud and clear:
"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
"The world you desire can be won. It exists... It is real... It is possible... It is yours."
The title of this post is my answer to the question: Who is John Galt? For fun I did a global search on that phrase and found a very interesting blog by one jg lenhart. (Et tu, jg?)
This blog presents the non-contradictory explanation for God's Nature and Grace...which is the key to resisting Universalism.
But the first thing I saw of it was this page which, among other impressive insights in Part II, Chapter 9, included this about the title phrase:
Eddie – Dagny is Eddie's sound moral code. Not only does he think this moral code is flawed, he found this out at the same moment he discovered what this moral code was. Eddie is reeling. And since he is in the middle of the scale, he can go to the negative side very easily. He ends up going to his only other "friend". Eddie's confessional is no longer set apart from the story. With this visit, the worker enters the narrative. "You know, I never thought you cared whether you saw me or not, me or anybody, you seemed so complete in yourself, and that's why I liked to talk to you, because I felt that you always understood, but nothing could hurt you." The worker is not Eddie's sound moral code because the relationship is one sided; he doesn't know what this worker stands for. Eddie does the overwhelming majority of talking (praying?). "Do you know what's strange about your face? You look as if you've never known pain or fear or guilt…" Isn't that the kind of face God would have?
September 11, 2014
War on Terror = War on Collectivism
On this 13th Anniversary of 9/11 I will post a 9 year old article by Atlas Society Founder David Kelley (who is also a Consulting Producer on the Atlas Shrugged films, the third of which premieres nation wide tomorrow.) The Ideas That Promote Terrorism. Hint: It is not, primarily, religious faith. I will excerpt rather liberally:
The war on jihadist terrorism is a battle of ideas, a battle against the ideology of Islamism from which the terrorists emerged.
In return for my bald-faced theft of so many paragraphs for their unauthorized reprinting here, I have left a comment on the linked article. The subject: Islamists' claim that they "love death for Allah, like our enemies love life."
In this 2-week old article from Fox News, contributor Walid Phares gets the problem correct, but the solution all wrong.
"The problem in Western liberal societies... is that we don't act against ideology, we don't have legislation against ideology as the Germans or French have against Nazism, for example," Phares said. "And because we haven't had this possibility, we are waiting - law enforcement are waiting for [Choudary] to make a mistake, to make a mistake with the law."
The correct response to bad ideological speech is good ideological speech, not censorship.
September 9, 2014
Planning your Friday evening yet?
Visit the Official Atlas Shrugged Movie Web Site!
January 30, 2014
Mystery Movieset Theater
This seems to be the day for posting videos. Try this one. See if you can recognize the fictional setting.
Yes, friends, AS3 is filming.
November 22, 2013
'Papas, Don't Let Yer Babies Grow Up to be Princesses'
Lifted directly from a Slate article: This Awesome Ad, Set to the Beastie Boys, Is How to Get Girls to Become Engineers
This is a stupendously awesome commercial from a toy company called GoldieBlox, which has developed a set of interactive books and games to "disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers." The CEO, Debbie Sterling, studied engineering at Stanford, where she was dismayed by the lack of women in her program. (...) As the GoldieBlox website attests, only 11 percent of the world's engineers are female. Sterling wants to light girls' inventive spark early, supplementing the usual diet of glittery princess products with construction toys "from a female perspective."
I'll let readers know my daughters' reaction to it.
August 5, 2013
I'm quite sure blog brother jk linked the George Will piece on Detroit already, but I just got around to reading it today via a still prominent position on the IBD Ed page. It contains an analogy just as apt as Starnesville.
The ichneumon insect inserts an egg in a caterpillar, and the larva hatched from the egg, he said, "gnaws the inside of the caterpillar, and though at last it has devoured almost every part of it except the skin and intestines, carefully all this time avoids injuring the vital organs, as if aware that its own existence depends on that of the insect on which it preys!"
Detroit's union bosses and "auto industry executives, who often were invertebrate mediocrities" were not, however, quite as intelligent as the lowly ichneumonidae. They knawed right through the alimentary canal. Why did the executives go along? Did they not know the lavish compensations were unsustainable? This matters little, for government followed the private-sector lead:
Then city officials gave their employees - who have 47 unions, including one for crossing guards - pay scales comparable to those of autoworkers.
And grow it did, in Detroit and in cities and states as far and wide as union influence stretched.
Detroit, which boomed during World War II when industrial America was "the arsenal of democracy," died of democracy.
Yet democracy lives on, an unnoticed and unindicted threat to the life of all American cities, states, and nation.
July 22, 2013
Selfishness - Rational vs. Imperial
This reflects a deeper abuse of Ayn Rand's philosophy. The prevailing philosophy of altruism, in denouncing business and profit-making as evil, has to construct a caricature of self-interest designed to make it look bad. In this caricature, "selfishness" is crassly materialistic, viciously adversarial, and stoked by personal vanity. Above all else, self-interest is defined in a way that is superficial and short term--making it into a straw man of that is easy to knock down.
Daniel Hannan at the Telegraph (UK) quotes a description of Detroit from the Observer, then compares it to Starnesville in Atlas Shrugged:
A few houses still stood within the skeleton of what had once been an industrial town. Everything that could move, had moved away; but some human beings had remained. The empty structures were vertical rubble; they had been eaten, not by time, but by men: boards torn out at random, missing patches of roofs, holes left in gutted cellars. It looked as if blind hands had seized whatever fitted the need of the moment, with no concept of remaining in existence the next morning. The inhabited houses were scattered at random among the ruins; the smoke of their chimneys was the only movement visible in town. A shell of concrete, which had been a schoolhouse, stood on the outskirts; it looked like a skull, with the empty sockets of glassless windows, with a few strands of hair still clinging to it, in the shape of broken wires.
Statism is turning America into Detroit -- Ayn Rand's Starnesville come to life
UPDATE: James Pethokoukis: Must there always be a Detroit?
June 8, 2013
Soul of Atlas
Man oh man, the things I find in my email inbox. Is that a receipt from the NSA?
Blog friend sc sends a link to an interview of a guy who is writing a book...oh how can I put this?
A Christian scholar and author has taken the experience of growing up under the influence of a stepfather who cherished the objectivism philosophy of Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged) and his biological father who became a follower of Jesus Christ, to write a book about two world views that he feels can come together for the good of society.
A very sincere effort.
March 23, 2013
Explaining Freedom to your Facebook Friends
I recently discovered a few video discussions of scenes from the Atlas Shrugged movies (Part 1 and Part 2) by David Kelley of The Atlas Society. They are well done and I hope can inspire more people to see the movies, if shared with people who otherwise wouldn't be interested.
In this one I found an answer to my Facebook question, "Why are so many people so certain how OTHER people should live their lives?"
"The system bred hatred among people and they began meddling in each other's lives. In this collectivized system where need is a claim on the common pool, everyone's needs are a threat to everyone else."
Now all you have to do is catch them at a time when they're willing to watch a video longer than 3 minutes without cute animals.
March 13, 2013
Atlas Shrugged Part III - Summer 2014
"We're not going to get critics coming on board,"Aglialoro said. "The academic-media complex out there doesn't want to like the work, doesn’t want to understand it, fears the lack of government in their lives, wants the presence of government taking care of us."
Insists on demanding the unearned.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has expressed support for some of Rand's writings, and Aglialoro says Ryan's 2012 campaign alongside Mitt Romney could have used a bit more of her thinking.
But that's in the past and we're looking forward.
Aglialoro is looking at a different politician to carry the mantle of Ayn Rand in Washington: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
February 21, 2013
The new ThreeSources Entertainment Channel: 3!
With surprisingly little fanfare, considering all the Twitter, Facebook, and email lists for which up I am signed, Atlas Shrugged Part 2 was released Tuesday on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Amazon Instant.
The lovely bride and I enjoyed it last night. It's very good to see it again, yet I still think I lean toward preferring Part 1.
December 26, 2012
From the Ayn Rand essay 'The Objectivist Ethics' I posted on Facebook today:
I will close with the words of John Galt, which I address, as he did, to all the moralists of altruism, past or present: "You have been using fear as your weapon and have been bringing death to man as his punishment for rejecting your morality. We offer him life as his reward for accepting ours."
November 25, 2012
In Lieu of Review Corner
Waiting for my pal JC before I publish my review of "The Dynamics of Change" by Don Fabun. Next week I hope to do a second-time-through on Atlas Shrugged. But today? I got nuthin'. Ergo, bonus Atlas QOTDs.
My sagacious interlocutor of last weekend expresses discomfort with material success as a measure. Less sagacious friends on Facebook are at paties-in-a-wad-defcon-3 because of the rampant consumerism of Black Friday. But I want my nieces and nephews to have the wealth and innovation of 2012 and not 1970. Those who think it's okay to steal 1% of GDP growth a year to feather our nests fail to realize that it will probably be two. And a 2% cut in growth means that my kin will be half as wealthy in 35 years. That is generational theft.
Just material wealth? Dagny sees the power source in Atlantis:
She thought of this structure, half the size of a boxcar, replacing the power plants of the country, the enormous conglomerations of steel, fuel and effort-- she thought of the current flowing from this structure, lifting ounces, pounds, tons of strain from the shoulders of those who would make it or use it, adding hours, days and years of liberated time to their lives, be it an extra moment to lift one's head from one's task and glance at the sunlight, or an extra pack of cigarettes bought with the money saved from one's electric bill, or an hour cut from the work-day of every factory using power, or a month's journey through the whole, open width of the world, on a ticket paid for by one day of one's labor, on a train pulled by the power of this motor-- with all the energy of that weight, that strain, that time replaced and paid for by the energy of a single mind who had known how to make connections of wire follow the connections of his thought.
And the townspeople:
"Alone?" " Used to. But we've grown so much in the past year that I've had to hire three men to help me." "What men? From where?" "Well, one of them is a professor of economics who couldn't get a job outside, because he taught that you can't consume more than you have produced-- one is a professor of history who couldn't get a job because he taught that the inhabitants of slums were not the men who made this country-- and one is a professor of psychology who couldn't get a job because he taught that men are capable of thinking."
November 12, 2012
Ayn Rand and Kim Kardashian
If that title does not drive blog traffic, then I'm just gonna quit!
I started Atlas Shrugged again yesterday. It has been 25 years or so, people are talking about it, the movie's out -- and the lovely bride bought it on Kindle®.
I had internalized/accepted the idea that her prose was -- if not bad -- not quite up to snuff. My first reaction was how very good it is. It does not appeal to today's Balph Eubanks because of its moral clarity, but to suggest that it lacks subtlety suggests you missed it. Bonus Balph quote:
"Lillian, my angel," Balph Eubank drawled, "did I tell you that I'm dedicating my new novel to you?" "Why, thank you, darling." "What is the name of your new novel?" asked the wealthy woman." "The Heart Is a Milkman."
The early years with Francisco and Dagny are sweet and powerful. I know they cannot squeeze 1080 pages into even three films, but I was stuck at their omission and their importance in the plot line. I'm hoping for at least some flashbacks in Part III. Among the things I missed: Francisco's ancestor Sebastian "shrugging" from Spain and rebuilding in the new world. What an excellent rhythm from the past and foreshadowing.
I highlighted a dozen quotes in the first seven chapters. I'll share a few as I progress. But today's comes with a bonus Kim Kardashian segue:
Francisco smiled; it was a smile of radiant mockery. Watching them, Dagny thought suddenly of the difference between Francisco and her brother Jim. Both of them smiled derisively. But Francisco seemed to laugh at things because he saw something much greater. Jim laughed as if he wanted to let nothing remain great.
People are struck by economic and political arguments from AS, yet I contend that the preceding quote may be its beating heart.
I snobbishly and rationally avoid celebrity news. I care little for what these people do or think or how they live. I may or may not enjoy their art (cf. Joss Whedon). I hear about the Kardashians all the time but I really don't know for what they are famous. Nor has anyone ever explained it to me.
So I clicked an Insty link today: Reasons Why You Shouldn't Like Kim Kardashian. At last! The answer to my questions. I expected at least some nonsensical celebrity-limousine-progressive nonsense.
No. There are -- in this collection -- zero reasons not to like Ms. Kardashian. Nada, nothing, zip. I don't know that that is an exhaustive list and there might be quite a few very good reasons. But I clicked through six or eight and saw nothing (well, not nothing -- I saw quite a bit of Ms. K and she is not without her charms). But "this Halloween costume doesn't look cute on her" (it does, BTW) and "she's too into fashion" (umm, she is in the fashion business) and "she's even on credit cards" (okay) and "she only cares about herself!" (Ms. Rand, caller on line one -- she said it's an emergency...)
So, disabuse me, but is Kim Kardashian our generation's Randian hero? Like Hank Rearden, she seems to have multiple business ventures. She seems successful and dedicated. She's neither on welfare nor on my TV every night saying that others should be. Like Rearden, she takes care of her family:
"Shall I tell you the rest of the words?"
Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (pp. 146-147). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.
October 13, 2012
No Shrug from Me!
JK went first for Part 1 so I'll break the ice this time. I faintly remember my opinion of the first Atlas Shrugged film suffering from too high expectations so I'll try not to elevate the reader's unreasonably. As for Atlas Shrugged Part 2, this movie was fun. For one thing, it looked and felt more like a modern movie than did Part 1. Cinematography was still run of the mill, but a far cry better than we were made to endure last time. Enough so that I only noticed the deficiency once.
My only complaint is the audio was dull and lifeless, most noticeably during scenes with dramatic music. The scene deserved more from the soundtrack but did not get it - either in volume or fullness. Awareness of this may have been heightened by a too-low volume setting in the theater and I will have a word with the manager on my next viewing.
I really liked the new casting. Characters are more mature and believable, more closely matching my personal expectation from the original prose. But the story was the real star. I think it was all there. Character and relationship introductions were effective, bridging the void for new viewers who didn't have experience to draw upon. A non-sequitur opening scene got the excitement going from the start and it rolled swiftly without being rushed, as ASP1 felt on a recent reviewing. All of the scenes were greatly abbreviated from the novel form but the gist was not lost, even in the completely revised retelling of John Galt's departure from 20th Century Motor Company: Galt left because "the Starnes heirs announced they would manage the company as a collective where we all belonged to each other. Each was expected to work according to his ability, and was compensated based on his need. Galt said he'd have nothing to do with that" and a few more things. The result was also explained: "Productivity declined, the needy got needier, and worker turned against worker." It didn't matter to the story that this was told by a conscientious railroad employee instead of a train-hopping hobo.
I'm really quite surprised by how big a deal it seems to be to so many people that the cast changed from film to film. They really seem to have gotten distracted by the fact. I predict this will pass for those who view more than once.
Stars? I'm giving all five of my Ayn Rand fanboy stars to this one. As with the novel, I didn't want this movie to end. Can't wait to see it again!
October 12, 2012
See You on the Red Carpet!
AMC Promenade Westminster at 3:55.
October 11, 2012
Five days before wowing the ThreeSources contingent at Liberty on the Rocks -- Flatirons, Yaron Brook gave a similar speech to the Michigan Tea Party: [link]
UPDATE: EVEN BETTER! Ari Armstrong posts the video from our event -- replete with Brother Bryan's eloquent intro!
October 9, 2012
ThreeSources Book Club
October 3, 2012
Olympic Gold Medalist Views Atlas Shrugged Part 2 Premiere
October 2, 2012
LIVE STREAM - Atlas Shrugged Part 2 World Premiere
Scheduled for 1830 EDT today.
UPDATE [1847 EDT]: It works! Intermittently. Please be patient. Harmon Kaslow is carrying his Macbook around and wirelessly broadcasting to the known universe. Apparently there's an actual cameraman trying to get set up as well. Perhaps that link will be less fragile. Rather amazing, actually.
UPDATE [1855 EDT]: Harmon came on for 30 seconds to apologize that the live stream wasn't going to be possible. The good news is we still get the new scene, an extended version of the September 5 teaser. See second video frame below.
CORRECTION: I'm pretty sure it was John Aglialoro. I'm fairly certain it wasn't Harmon Kaslow.
UPDATE [10.3.12 1545 EDT]: Well, live blogging certainly proved to be a perilous activity for me. A couple more corrections are in order. It wasn't John Aglialoro live casting from a Macbook, it was Scott Desapio (I am told.) More importantly, I may have given the impression that this video was/is a broadcast of the Atlas Shrugged Part 2 film itself. It was not. It was live coverage of activities surrounding the film's premiere at a theater in Washington D.C. So you aren't missing anything in the first video frame, but the second frame is a brand new release of a 3 minute scene from the new movie. - That should cover it.
Hank Rearden meets the "wet nurse." The wet nurse is the central character of one of my favorite scenes in the book.
September 28, 2012
What are you doing the Friday after next? The producers called me today and asked that I preorder my tickets instead of waiting and buying at the box office. Selling out the theater in advance is the goal.
September 6, 2012
Okay, so we watched the teaser for the trailer. Now the trailer is out. Anybody think we have "a problem?"
September 5, 2012
A special dispatch from Galt's Garrison-
Feature release date: October 12, 2012
August 3, 2012
July 25, 2012
"Lost" Ayn Rand Tonight Show tape found!
And in 1967 her celebrity was officially recognized by an invitation to appear on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Those who remember it say that Carson was so fascinated that he scrapped his other guests and kept her on for the whole show. He invited her back twice more. Alas, many of the early Carson shows were lost in a fire at NBC's archive, and Objectivists have lamented the lost tapes ever since. Now a partial tape of that first Tonight Show appearance has turned up, and Libertarianism.org has it:
UPDATE: Hell, let's embed -- this is big news!
July 21, 2012
Economic Freedom or Economic Dependency?
Another good Atlas Shrugged vid. This one with Congressman Allen West. Ten minutes long, it includes very good short answers to questions like "How did Atlas Shrugged inspire you" and "Do you see any change in the American culture back towards individualism?" He even uses the ladder to prosperity analogy I use to explain how minimum wage and equal pay laws hurt workers instead of help them.
July 18, 2012
Atlas Shrugged QOTD
What? I can't play? An especially germane selection from the Ayn Rand Facebook page:
"He didn't invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?"
May 18, 2012
Bought some T-Shirts
April 25, 2012
If I wanted America to Fail
April 22, 2012
"My Name is John Galt"
That was D.B. Sweeney speaking. Sweeney is cast in the pivotal role of the next installment of the Atlas Shrugged movie series, Atlas Shrugged: Part II - Either-Or
Sweeney is new to the franchise, partly because the John Galt character had a minor role in the first film and partly because the producers have chosen to recast the entire movie! There has been much consternation about this on the movie's discussion boards but I'm looking forward to it. My sense is that the first movie wasn't as well acted as it could have been. The leading roles of Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden were played by Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler who, while attractive, didn't seem to have their hearts in their roles. They are replaced by Samantha Mathis and Jason Beghe.
Mathis is a better fit in the role, being born in 1970 instead of 1984, and starring in major motion pictures like Broken Arrow, where she played the fetching park ranger who tracked down John Travolta and his nuclear missle.
And Beghe's name may not be familiar but viewers will recognize him from Judging Amy, G.I. Jane, Thelma and Louise, Castle, and dozens more TV series' where he had supporting roles.
Perhaps the only recognizable name in the cast is Esai Morales who replaces Jsu Garcia as Francisco. Garcia gave, I thought, the best performance of the heroic characters in Part I but Morales is still an upgrade. A consistent theme of the new cast is more experience and more maturity. It can't help but show up as a more compelling movie than the brave and fearless but out-of-its-league production of Part I.
And finally, who is D.B. Sweeney? New York-born in 1961, he set his sights on a pro baseball career. When a motorcycle accident scuttled that he pursued acting. His filmography is heavy on television roles and he had starring and supporting film roles as well, including Eight Men Out, No Man's Land and The Cutting Edge. [The last of these has special meaning to me and dagny. As washed out hockey player Doug Dorsey, Sweeney takes up figure skating with Olympian Kate Moseley and when they first meet, on the ice, Sweeney's effort to impress the young lady is dashed when he catches the ice with the toepick of his figure skate (non-existent on hockey skates) and face plants on the ice. I did the exact same thing on my first date with dagny.] Sweeney has the right build for the role of John Galt, and a natural smirking swagger that both fits the role and can lend it warmth and likeability.
I, for one, am really looking forward to the premier of Atlas Shrugged: Part II in October.
April 9, 2012
A Crony by any other Name...
Maybe "Taggart" isn't the best name for a company that may well devour $300,000 in special-interest tax breaks from Kentuckians. From the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce press release:
Couldn't get any worse. . . Umm . . .
"We're extremely excited to announce our plans to locate in Edmonson County," said Dagney Johnson, president of Taggart Solar.
The head of Arby's was named after Howard Roark I hear...
February 18, 2012
Atlas Shrugged & Public Choice Theory
Have to hat-tip Brother Keith for this. It was one click from the Alex Tabarrok piece he linked.I don't know if anybody had a chance to catch the Bryan Caplan debate I linked last week, but Tabarrok links to Caplan's superb "Atlas Shrugged and Public Choice: The Obvious Parallels" (It's an MS-Word dcoument --- holler if you need conversion.) This particular quote caught my eye:
The economic condition of the country was better the year before last than it was last year, and last year it was better than it is at present. It's obvious that we would not be able to survive another year of the same progression. Therefore, our sole objective must now be to hold the line... Freedom has been given a chance and has failed. Therefore, more stringent controls are necessary. (p.503)
February 2, 2012
Bad News: Atlas Part II starts filming in April
Smug movie criticism? No way -- I was hoping that Pt II was being filmed quietly without a lot of attention and would open on April 15, 2012.
Rube! For you realists: Great News! ASII greenlit!
Santa Monica, CA -- February 2nd, 2012 -- Atlas Productions, LLC announced today that "Atlas Shrugged Part 2", the second installment of the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy, has been officially greenlit with principal photography to begin this coming April in Los Angeles, Colorado, and New York.
January 26, 2012
Corporations are not people!
After watching a large part of this David Stockman interview with Bill Moyers I'm about ready to adopt the dirty hippies #Occupy meme. When they villified "Wall Street" and "Greedy Corporations" I always had a mental image of Fidelity Investments and WalMart. But if I replace that with Goldman Sachs and General Electric I think we would agree on more than we differ.
This also magnifies my distrust of the GOP establishment and, by association, the Romney candidacy.
December 30, 2011
Obama is the President of Equality
Ayn Rand Institute's Yaron Brook on TheStreet.com:
December 4, 2011
Quote of the Day
"I was so shocked by being handed this bag today at your Portland, Ore., store that I literally WALKED BACK to return this horrific bag," one customer wrote on Lululemon's blog. "In this political and economic climate, I find it baffling that your company would choose such an inflammatory and offensive statement."That's from a NYTimes story on Lululemon Athletica: "the retailer of yoga pants and hoodies, has long decorated shopping bags with slogans that appear to have been lifted from self-help books. But this month its bags have asked a question that some may find more provocative: 'Who is John Galt?'"
November 8, 2011
October 29, 2011
Occupy Wall Street Shrugs
Over at Occupy Boston, a protester complains, "It's turning into us against them. They come in here and they're looking at it as a way of getting a free meal and a place to crash, which is totally fine, but they don't bring anything to the table at all." Another report concludes with a similar sentiment."We have compassion toward everyone. However, we have certain rules and guidelines," said Lauren Digioia, 26, a member of the sanitation committee. "If you're going to come here and get our food, bedding and clothing, have books and medical supplies for no charge, they need to give back," Digioia said. "There's a lot of takers here and they feel entitled."
"Our" food? What did they do to earn it? Who is it who really feels "entitled?"
Then he refrains a tale he dubs The Spaghetti Bolognese Incident.
The Occupy Wall Street volunteer kitchen staff launched a "counter" revolution yesterday—because they're angry about working 18-hour days to provide food for "professional homeless" people and ex-cons masquerading as protesters.
August 25, 2011
He. Is. John. Galt.
In Don Luskin's glowingly reviewed "I am John Galt," Luskin and Andrew Greta correlate Rand's fictional characters to some of today's corporeal personalities. I was thinking of the book when I heard the news of Steve Jobs's retirement as CEO of Apple. Jobs was Howard Rourke in the book.
The character I knew least was BB&T's John Allison, who is presented as John Galt.
It's no secret that John Allison, the retired chairman and chief executive of BB&T Corp., is a devotee of author Ayn Rand and the conservative philosophical theory called objectivism.
Today, Glenn Reynolds interviews Allison for Instavision:
UPDATE: My search led me to Luskin's iamjohngalt.com blog. His speech at Freedom Fest on his book and his appreciation for Rand is a good watch. (I just watched part one, he might extol the virtues of Communism in the next three).
UPDATE II: Part three describes Allison -- must view.
July 24, 2011
Still the only guy posting Atlas Shrugged movie quotes
(My favorite has to be the line by Wesley Mouch.)
July 2, 2011
My new favorite third baseman...
is in the American League.
"This is my bible," Cabrera said. "It's over 1,000 pages long."
June 21, 2011
Ayn Rand Comic Book
John Blundell, former director of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, has written a new comic book biography of Ayn Rand. Find it in comic book stores, at Barnes and Noble, or on Amazon. Publisher Bluewater says:
I preordered several copies (some relatives will be getting special presents if it's good).
May 30, 2011
Five stars. A masterpiece.
I did not want ThreeSourcers hanging on with bated breath to see if I liked Don Luskin and Andrew Greta's I Am John Galt. It is one of the most entertaining books I have read in some time.
I suggested in my pre-review, that it was an informative and miraculously satisfying overview of Rand's philosophy. I consider the book in total to be like an engineering text that reifies abstract physical phenomena by application. Seeing Rand's ideas in the book's subtitle of "Today's Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It" bring the ideas to life.
A second but not secondary benefit is this book's historical record of factors which caused and exacerbated the financial meltdown of 2008. The roles of Wesley Mouch/Barney Frank, Angelo Mozilla/James Taggart, and Alan Greenspan/Robert Stadler receive careful study, as does the contrary example of BB&T's John Allison as John Galt. The sum of these chapters is a comprehensive, factual, rational explanation of the crisis and how it could have been lessened or averted.
Brother jg was good enough to give me props for fulfilling my end of a bargain and reading "Making Peace with the Planet" by Barry Commoner. Trust me that was a walk in the park compared to my first paying $3.99 and then watching Inside Job at the request of another Facebook friend.
Inside Job gives us Matt Damon's view of the crisis -- really, isn't that what we have all been waiting for? At the risk of some spoilers, the basic problems were:
"I am John Galt" provides a different version of the story in the context of Randian philosophy (I have to laugh that the authors use the work Randian non-pejoratively).
My reading oscillates between dry factual (okay, dismal) economics and history and boisterous, partisan polemics. IAJG delivers an excellent mix of pointed commentary, factual information, and some well deserved whacks at people who behaved very badly. I suggested I might shave a fractional star for Luskin's chapter on Paul Krugman/Ellsworth Toohey because he was "too close" to the topic. I'll not. Ms. Rand would not pull punches on a second-hander like Krugman and I was wrong to think -- even for a minute -- that Luskin should.
NOTES ON THE REVIEWER'S EDITION: I pre-ordered before the Kindle® version was announced, so I have an honest-to-goodness hardcover copy available for loan to any Colorado ThreeSourcer. I finally met commenter "nanobrewer" who borrowed "Lochner Revisited."
May 24, 2011
Donald Luskin's New Book
The hardcover I had preordered arrived last week. I think every ThreeSourcer will at the very least enjoy this video where Luskin connects today's heroes and villains to Rand's fictional ones.
May 8, 2011
"The Words You Will Need..."
All readers know we're fond of quotations 'round here. Most readers know I'm fond of quoting Atlas Shrugged. I can now officially report that I have the distinction of posting the very first quotation on the IMDB page for the Atlas Shrugged Part 1 movie.
Henry Rearden: What is your purpose in talking to me?
I was pleasantly surprised to even find an entry for the film and frankly, even more surprised to find that I could add to the content personally. I plan to add more after my third viewing... with dagny, Mike Rosen and Michael Brown. (Get tickets while they last here.)
May 6, 2011
This Guy Really Makes me Appreciate Jon Stewart
Stephen Colbert's lame take (but I repeat myself) on Atlas Shrugged, Part 1.
UPDATE: Stewart, hell, this guy makes me appreicate Ellsworth Toohey.
UPDATE II: They have lashed out at Colbert once or twice today. @Atlas Shrugged The Movie
Atlas Shrugged is currently #1, #2, AND #4 at Amazon - guess Colbert was right about no one being interested. If only we could get a hold of that pesky #3 spot too.
May 1, 2011
'Atlas Shrugged Part 1' - Only the Beginning
I enjoyed the very fair Pollywood review of 'Atlas Shrugged Part 1' by two relatively pro-Rand film writers, Lionel Chetwynd and Roger Simon that JK linked for us. They had some very good points and I fully expect the producers to follow as much of their advice as possible in future efforts. This first production clearly had some handicaps that led to its shortcomings, many of which will not apply to the sequels, e.g. the looming expiration of contratual rights, inexperience of the independent production company, and perhaps most importantly... working with the most tedious and least compelling portion of the novel, i.e. the first third. As a first-time reader I wasn't hooked by the story until the tunnel scene, which won't transpire until Part 2.
If the Aglialoro-Kaslow Atlas Shrugged franchise produces better products with its promised sequels than was the original it will not be the first such situation in motion picture history. I'm thinking of the progression in production value, if not necessarily the story line, of the Australian 'Road Warrior' series. The film by that name was far more entertaining and compelling than the predecessor 'Mad Max.' And it's a well-known fact of life that improving on an existing product is a shorter bridge than must be crossed when blazing an original trail.
'Atlas Shrugged Part 1' also suffered from an almost maniacal focus on keeping a quick pace. This led to many stilted scenes where a bit more dialogue would have fleshed out the scene considerably. For example, the "old wounds" in the relationship between Francisco and Dagny are only hinted at in their solitary scene together alone. Rand wrote a richer storyline than was presented to viewers of this film and allowing it to "balloon" to a full two-hours wouldn't have hurt its flow one bit.
But I must disagree with Mr. Chetwynd over his characterization of Rand's novels as mere "ciphers" for her philosophy, having no "depth of character" and lacking the undescribed qualities that would have resulted from "a reflective, creative work." I did find the character portrayals in the film to be rather two-dimensional but I attribute this to the aforementioned limitations and not to the source material to which the producers "slavishly" adhered. I would have liked to see more of the warmth and vulnerability of the literary Dagny in the movie character - an extended scene with Francisco could have provided this. In contrast with Messrs. Chetwynd and Simon, Robert Tracinski observed:
But Ayn Rand started out her career--in the 1920s through the 1940s--as a Hollywood screenwriter, working for such legends as Cecil B. DeMille and Hal Wallis. She wrote her novels in a very cinematic style, with stark visuals, sharp exchanges of dialogue, and peaks of high drama. She gave a director everything he could ask for to keep the audience in their seats: visually beautiful settings from the skyline of New York City to the mountains of Colorado, large-scale action scenes set on railroad lines and in steel mills, big ideas expressed in sharp-witted exchanges of dialogue--and, of course, passionate love scenes with handsome leading men and beautiful leading ladies.
I applaud the passion and dedication which drove Aglialoro, Kaslow, and the entire The Strike production company to complete this much anticipated movie that so many have tried and failed at previously. I am encouraged by their reaction to the predictable reception these Hollywood outsiders were given for their faithful adaptation of Rand's paramount though controversial work. I look forward to bigger and better products to follow, on both the big screen in Parts 2 and 3 and in special DVD releases such as director's cuts and a possible miniseries. These film adaptations can only add to the inspiration and defense of liberty offered by the most influential book ever written save the Bible.
April 30, 2011
April 27, 2011
Another 'Atlas Shrugged Part 1' Movie Review
Because, if we aren't talking about it every day it isn't often enough.
Via email from Dr. Clifford Asness who produces the excellent Stumbling on Truth website, where he posts periodic original columns on topics in economics and investing. This as much a review of the reviewers as a review of the film. First, the film:
"I am telling you it's good. Particularly if what you're looking for is a rather straight (though adopted for modern times) telling of the story. Does it have its amateurish moments and characteristics? Sure. It was made for a trifle by Hollywood standards. The same critics that, if this tiny amount of money was spent on a poorly produced and acted "Indie" film, that happened to be about a hermaphrodite Palestinian boy who after escaping fascist Israeli persecution moves to Texas to face fascist American persecution (and isn't immediately granted his full "right" to all the healthcare the USA can afford), would sing it's praises and laud it's signs of a tight budget as "authentic."
OK, I guess that was about the reviewers too. Or maybe even mostly about the reviewers. But this is really about the reviewers:
"The book was also savaged by critics of the left and right in 1957, but loved by its giant number of readers beyond almost all others. History is repeating, but that's because sadly little has changed. We have to fix that. On Rotten Tomatoes (wouldn't the left love for me to have left off the "e"?) the critics have been running, wait for it, 6% for the movie, 94% against. The people have been running 85% for the movie. Now, you could argue that the people have tended to be Rand fans so that's biased. That's a bad argument. Rand fans would be the first, the absolute first, to savage it if it wasn't a good movie (have you ever seen Rand fans agree on anything except loving Rand?)."
And his conclusion:
"If you love the book, if you like the book, if you are at all open to the arguments in the book, you will love this movie. If you're a leftist who hates liberty, or a snob who enjoys destroying civilization with your superior-sounding mendacity, you probably won't like it so much.
Uncut and unedited version follows, including a link to the LA Times story where Aglioloro hints he might not make Parts 2 or 3 because "he's going on strike."
I've sent to this distribution list essays on limited government, and wonky quant finance papers. Now a movie recommendation (that is itself kind of a mini-essay on limited government).
Go see Atlas Shrugged. I did and loved it.
The critics hate it like socialist cats in the bath. The movie's producer, a hero of mine, is close to shrugging (see link below). It's hard to spend money, time, and blood on something, and have the critics savage it (which sadly matters a lot to success if not at all to truth), and go on.
I'm not sure if we have art imitating life or the other way around, but the critics are themselves Randian characters. They have an agenda - punish those who love liberty and have the temerity to defend it, then go to parties and be lauded by their friends for their heroic progressivism. And if they can make some snobby lies about cinematography along the way, more the better. (note - a small minority of critics have not seemed ideologically motivated, with them I simply disagree thinking they are using the wrong standard)
The book was also savaged by critics of the left and right in 1957, but loved by its giant number of readers beyond almost all others. History is repeating, but that's because sadly little has changed. We have to fix that. On Rotten Tomatoes (wouldn't the left love for me to have left off the "e"?) the critics have been running, wait for it, 6% for the movie, 94% against. The people have been running 85% for the movie. Now, you could argue that the people have tended to be Rand fans so that's biased. That's a bad argument. Rand fans would be the first, the absolute first, to savage it if it wasn't a good movie (have you ever seen Rand fans agree on anything except loving Rand?).
If you love the book, if you like the book, if you are at all open to the arguments in the book, you will love this movie. If you're a leftist who hates liberty, or a snob who enjoys destroying civilization with your superior-sounding mendacity, you probably won't like it so much.
Go see the movie.
p.s. The movie superbly preserves a message from the book that gives the lie to so much the left says about it. The heroes are not "businessmen" and the villains "government". The book and movie clearly show the heroes are liberty loving creators and the villains totalitarian thieves - and those thieves come in the form of big business crony capitalists (those who don't create but use the state's power to steal to enrich themselves) as often as government apparatchiks (and never the defenseless poor). Look for this. The movie and book are honest, the critics are not.
April 21, 2011
Online Education Rocks!
This time, in history and literature.
First JK brought us the Khan Academy for math and science.
My contribution in kind is Shmoop University.
No one will be surprised that I found these guys by searching for something relevant to Atlas Shrugged.
In the brief time I've spent perusing the voluminous content they offer on this controversial and revolutionary novel I have been greatly impressed. The treatment is honest, accurate and thorough. I hope to use it to help explain some of the book's themes to others. (And to refer to other literary titles and, when time permits, move on to history topics.)
Looter of the Spirit
When I explain to people that environmentalists and some in the government don't really have any aspirations of their own, they just want to deny the aspirations of others, they typically ask me why anyone would choose to live that way. Here's an excellent explaination derived from Ayn Rand's novel 'Atlas Shrugged' courtesy of Shmoop dot com:
But then Jed Starnes died and his three children took over the factory. These children were all horrible people who ran the factory into the ground and inspired Galt to begin his crusade. The kids preached the slogan "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Basically they did away with salaries and had people "vote" on what others should earn based on their "needs." This turned into a disaster.
April 16, 2011
Going Galt - The Ayn Rand Factor and the Atlas Shrugged Movie
Robert Tracinski is one of the best Objectivist writers on the scene so I was very interested when I recieved this 'Atlas Shrugged Part 1' movie review from him in my inbox. In short, he is glad the film was made but thought it should have been of higher quality.
I have seen the film, at an advanced screening arranged by the producers, and I am afraid that it is a pale shadow of the book. A friend of mine calls it "a Roman copy of a Greek original," a reference to the Roman empire's penchant for copying Greek sculptures of gods and heroes--but when you compare the copy and the original side by side, you inevitably find that the energy in the limbs has gone slack and the life has gone out of the eyes. The details are reproduced, but the animating spirit has been lost.But Tracinski does not suggest that all of the story's spirit has been lost.
This same combination--vaporous leftist "idealism" and cynical looting by gangster government, all of it wrapped up in appeals to "sacrifice"--might remind you of an important political leader in today's environment.
The movie's greatest signifance, according to Tracinski, is its relationship with the TEA Party.
The Tea Party movement began, in last 2008 and early 2009, during a huge surge in interest in Ayn Rand's masterwork, when talk of "going Galt"--a reference to one of the novel's heroes--sent Atlas Shrugged back onto the best-seller lists after more than 50 years. The two phenomena are connected. The financial crisis and the giant government bailouts sparked a renewed interest in Ayn Rand's intellectual and literary defense of capitalism, and in turn Atlas Shrugged helped give ideological confidence to the nascent Tea Party movement. Now the Tea Parties and their supporters have repaid the favor by winning a 300-theater opening for the small, unheralded film version of the novel. [emphasis mine]
[For the hopelessly obsessed, such as myself, I've posted the entire article including original hyperlinks below.]
TIA Daily • April 14, 2011
The Ayn Rand Factor and the Atlas Shrugged Movie
by Robert Tracinski
After more than 50 years, a movie version of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's perennially best-selling pro-capitalist epic in finally coming to the big screen—but through the strangest route possible.
That the film hasn't been made long ago, despite being one of world's most successful literary properties, is surprising—but not too surprising. No, it's not because the novel is difficult to adapt to the screen, as you will sometimes hear from both its critics and its admirers. Yes, the book has long, complex exchanges of dialogue that have to be ruthlessly condensed. But Ayn Rand started out her career—in the 1920s through the 1940s—as a Hollywood screenwriter, working for such legends as Cecil B. DeMille and Hal Wallis. She wrote her novels in a very cinematic style, with stark visuals, sharp exchanges of dialogue, and peaks of high drama. She gave a director everything he could ask for to keep the audience in their seats: visually beautiful settings from the skyline of New York City to the mountains of Colorado, large-scale action scenes set on railroad lines and in steel mills, big ideas expressed in sharp-witted exchanges of dialogue—and, of course, passionate love scenes with handsome leading men and beautiful leading ladies.
If you can't figure out how to make a good movie out of all of that, then brother, you don't know your own business.
Hollywood, as many of us have long suspected, does not know its own business. Plenty of big-name directors, writers, producers, and stars expressed interest over the years. But whether it was the pro-free-market politics, the larger-than-life heroic characters, or the big philosophical ideas, the book forced modern Hollywood outside its comfort zone, and no one was able or willing to figure out what to do with it.
So the version that comes to us now is one that was hastily put together at the last minute, with only weeks to go before the film rights lapsed. It has a small budget, no recognizable stars, an inexperienced director, and a script co-written by a producer with no literary or artistic experience whatsoever. The resulting film was unable to find a major distributor, so even though it was scheduled for April 15—a perfect symbolic date for a protest against big government—the movie was originally set to open only in a dozen small "art" theaters in a few big cities.
That was about six weeks ago. Then something remarkable happened.
Atlas Shrugged is set to open tomorrow in 300 theaters across the country. True, that's still a fraction of the opening distribution for a big blockbuster—but it's an awfully big fraction. This means that the film won't just be opening in a few big cities but will play in quite a number of towns across the heartland. Places like Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and Lakeville, Minnesota. In politics, we ask: but will it play in Peoria? Yes, it will, at the Grand Prairie 18 in Peoria, Illinois.
More remarkable is how this happened: as a result of grass-roots pressure and agitation from fans of the novel. This allowed the producers, who decided to self-distribute the film, to convince many local theater operators to give the movie a chance.
I know from local experience that a lot of this pressure came from Tea Party groups or individual Tea Party members, many of whom have taken inspiration from the novel, so this huge jump in distribution has to be seen as the latest success—and as a show of strength, numerical and ideological—for the Tea Party movement.
I have never seen a film spread through this kind of grassroots groundswell of enthusiasm, with zero support from movie critics, cultural elites, or celebrities. This is all the more remarkable because most of the people clamoring for the film are doing so sight unseen. So we have to interpret this as an enormous demonstration of support for Ayn Rand's novel, which readers hope will be faithfully adapted in the film.
I have seen the film, at an advanced screening arranged by the producers, and I am afraid that it is a pale shadow of the book. A friend of mine calls it "a Roman copy of a Greek original," a reference to the Roman empire's penchant for copying Greek sculptures of gods and heroes—but when you compare the copy and the original side by side, you inevitably find that the energy in the limbs has gone slack and the life has gone out of the eyes. The details are reproduced, but the animating spirit has been lost.
The movie does not adulterate or rewrite the ideological content of the novel. Rather, the script has a tendency to take Ayn Rand's complex and original characters and reduce them to Hollywood clichés. Yes, you read that right. Contrary to the usual literary smears against Rand, it is her characters who are fresh and complex, while it is Hollywood's stock heroes and villains who are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. The novel's version of Lillian Rearden, for example, is a fascinating study in how the left uses its pose of moral and intellectual superiority to keep the people who do the actual thinking and the actual work—the world's innovators and wealth-creators—intimidated and suppressed. Lillian's goal is to prevent these men from expressing pride in their achievement and to make them eager to demonstrate their subservience to their "progressive" overlords. She does this in high society by using her husband's money and position to support a salon of leftist artists and intellectuals. Much more memorably, she does it at home by subjecting her husband—an innovative, self-made steel tycoon—to a constant drumbeat of emotional abuse intended to make him feel that business, like sex, is not a subject to be mentioned in polite company. (He eventually learns to question both of those assumptions.) Lillian Rearden is a totally original yet instantly recognizable archetype of manipulative power-lust—yet in the film, she is reduced to not much more than a catty trophy wife of the type we've seen many times before. So Hollywood found a way back to its comfort zone, after all.
Unfortunately, this persistent flaw takes a good deal of the ideological and dramatic punch out of the story and may leave some new viewers of the film wondering what all of the fuss is about. I hope they take the time to find out by picking up the original novel, because there is a lot there that will justify the enthusiasm of Ayn Rand's fans and of the Tea Partiers who have picked up her novel in recent years.
The film covers just the first part of the novel. The producers wisely chose to divide Ayn Rand's densely plotted thousand-page epic into three segments, with the plan of presenting them in a trilogy of films. The main story line in Part 1 is the struggle of the protagonist, railroad executive Dagny Taggart, to hold her railroad together and save an American economy dying from suffocating taxes and government regulations. Sound familiar?
But Dagny's story isn't just about economics. It is about her sense of loneliness and isolation in a world where men of enterprise, initiative, and ability seem to be disappearing. And more: we see her loneliness in a culture where clear-eyed rationality and self-assertive ambition are no longer valued. Dagny faces a world that has fully adopted, in all of its ugly actual details, the left's credo of "need, not greed." Everyone has needs—expressed in long, whining complaints about how "sensitive" they are—and no one has the guts to take responsibility for supporting his own life and achieving his own happiness. In short, these guys have taken over.
Dagny finds an ally in the steel tycoon, Hank Rearden, who helps her build a crucially needed rail line to the nation's last remaining industrial boomtown—and I think you can guess that they find, in each other, a solution to their problems.
Dagny's main obstacle is her older brother, Jim, who is no good at running the railroad but knows how to run to Washington. While Dagny tries to keep the railroad alive by supporting the last growing industrial enterprises, Jim is always scheming for short-term profits from political favors and government subsidies. Again, sound familiar? He is the perfect fictional villain for the age of bailouts—the era of Government Motors and banks being turned into "government sponsored entities."
It is Jim's cabal of politicians and politically connected businessmen who begin the action in Part 1 by plunging the nation into an economic crisis, from which Dagny saves them, and they end Part 1 by causing another, worse crisis. Again, sound familiar? But while the film presents Jim as another Hollywood cliché, a soulless young corporate schemer, the novel's portrayal is more complex, interesting, and relevant to today's political environment.
In the novel, Jim has pretentions of being an intellectual and a deep, sensitive, "spiritual" type. Even when his schemes have the obvious ulterior motive of extorting unearned wealth, they are always pitched in terms of altruist bromides. But he really means the bromides, and Ayn Rand's point is that you can't tell where the "idealist" motive leaves off and the cynical one takes over. Jim believes that someone needs to be sacrificed to "the public good"—and he always tries to make sure he is "the public" and not the one being sacrificed.
This is summed up in a scene early in the novel when Taggart concludes the negotiations for one of his corrupt deals by offering a macabre toast: "Let's drink to the sacrifices to historical necessity."
This same combination—vaporous leftist "idealism" and cynical looting by gangster government, all of it wrapped up in appeals to "sacrifice"—might remind you of an important political leader in today's environment.
This is just scratching the surface of an epic novel, and the story widens and deepens as it goes beyond Part 1. But I think you can now see how an obscure, low-budget film has become a grassroots crusade before it even opens in the theaters. The spread of the Atlas Shrugged movie is just part of a wider Atlas Shrugged phenomenon—and part of the Tea Party phenomenon.
The Tea Party movement began, in last 2008 and early 2009, during a huge surge in interest in Ayn Rand's masterwork, when talk of "going Galt"—a reference to one of the novel's heroes—sent Atlas Shrugged back onto the best-seller lists after more than 50 years. The two phenomena are connected. The financial crisis and the giant government bailouts sparked a renewed interest in Ayn Rand's intellectual and literary defense of capitalism, and in turn Atlas Shrugged helped give ideological confidence to the nascent Tea Party movement. Now the Tea Parties and their supporters have repaid the favor by winning a 300-theater opening for the small, unheralded film version of the novel.
The novel has not yet found anything near its fullest and best expression on the screen—nor have we seen anything near the full scope of its impact on American politics.
I'm astonished to be the first. I snuck out of work early and caught the 4:45 Atlas Shrugged Part 1 in Westminster. It was sparsely filled -- not empty, not packed. The lovely bride and I grabbed the two handicap seats in the front section that look like they're reserved for the Queen and VP Biden or something. Only two others braved the front section but I heard a good number in back laugh at some of the lines. And there was significant applause at the end.
I liked the movie better than I thought I would. It's been two decades since I last read the book, so I was not doing a page by page comparison, but I found that when I expected something to happen, it always did.
More important was a faithful portrayal of the characters, and on this account I will be generous with the stars. Taylor Schilling's Dagny Taggart was flawless. She has to carry the first part on her own and did; I'll give props to the writers and Ms, Schilling. Casting Rep. Barney Frank as Wesley Mouch was a bit of genius. No, seriously all the characters were well cast, though I think Francisco d'Anconia gets short shrift from the writers. Perhaps his role (and role) will be better fleshed out in subsequent releases.
The pacing and cinematography were very good. The action happens in the plot and people and nothing got in the way. By the same token it looked good, moved crisply, and had a serious score with classical themes instead of hip hop.
Five stars. I loved it and will buy the DVD the day it is released and watch it again.
April 14, 2011
One more day...
Don Luskin on Ayn Rand
This link should be good for 7 days for non-subscribers.
Those who have given the pound of flesh to Rupert: here
Rand was not a conservative or a liberal: She was an individualist. "Atlas Shrugged" is, at its heart, a plea for the most fundamental American ideal--the inalienable rights of the individual. On tax day, with our tax dollars going to big government and subsidies for big business, let's remember it's the celebration of individualism that has kept "Atlas Shrugged" among the best-selling novels of all time.
April 13, 2011
Two more days...
April 12, 2011
High, Fast, Over the Plate
Joy Pullman is not so keen on the Atlas Shrugged movie. What's it need? Compromise:
Refusing a philosophical compromise on the book's message makes the script and its performance, in some scenes, as unconvincing as the book.
"Most Americans will find Ayn Rand's worldview distasteful, immoral, and absurd" screams the subtitle which may or may not be Pullman's. It's not quite Whittaker Chambers, but it is equally surprising coming from the AEI.
I'm in no position to comment on the film, but the idea that you'd water it down to appeal to modern tastes is patently ridiculous and antithetical to everything for which Rand stood. I can't imagine anybody (except perhaps Pullmann) who would enjoy an apologetic, diluted Randian tale.
April 11, 2011
A Little Free Advertising
March 4, 2011
Quote of the Day
"Atlas Shrugged" is a lengthy parable about individualism and freedom. Set in the not-too-distant future, it depicts an America whose economy is falling apart under the weight of an overweening government run entirely by people with approximately the integrity, cognitive ability and humility of a New York Times editorialist. -- James Taranto
February 12, 2011
Fictional 'Atlas Shrugged' Becomes America's Reality
With the 'Atlas Shrugged' movie [thanks for the link KA] set to open in just two months it is nice to see favorable treatment of the book in the press. This short column by Michael Smith of the Panama City News Herald includes one of the most objective summaries of the plot that I've ever read. But the main point is to show how the 1957 fictional plot so closely mirrors 21st century current events.
Hayek and Rand provide examples that are simplified views of our current times and the evolution of governmental control using collectivist policies in a "crisis" as an effective approach to problem resolution. A similar march toward a predictable endgame pitting the "looters" against the "producers" of value is clearly visible today.
And yes, he does also quote Hayek. (Now you can't resist clicking through, can you!)
Otequay of the Ayday
While looking for publication numbers for Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' I found the data on this review page. It included this sarcastic quip by the New Yorker magazine in their review of the book upon its release:
The review in the New Yorker called the theme unbelievable and pointless. "After all," wrote the reviewer, [in October, 1957] "to warn contemporary America against abandoning its factories, neglecting technological progress and abolishing the profit motive seems a little like admonishing water against running uphill."
Nah, those things could never happen in contemporary America.
February 11, 2011
Here are a few words of advice to the fellows behind the "No Labels" movement:
Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking:"
"The man who refuses to judge, who neither agrees nor disagrees, who declares that there are no absolutes and believes that he escapes responsibility, is the man responsible for all the blood that is now spilled in the world. Reality is an absolute, existence is an absolute, a speck of dust is an absolute and so is a human life. Whether you live or die is an absolute. Whether you have a piece of bread or not, is an absolute. Whether you eat your bread or see it vanish into a looter's stomach, is an absolute."
It's even more pointed if you continue reading...
UPDATE: Yes, the word "break" instead of "bread" (underlined) was a typo. My 21st printing copy has it correctly. The error must have been imposed on the electronic version I own and excerpt from.
"There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who shoves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube."
February 8, 2011
Why state the obvious, you may ask? Because many postmodern schools of thought deny it.
Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking:"
"We, the men of the mind, are now on strike against you in the name of a single axiom, which is the root of our moral code, just as the root of yours is the wish to escape it: the axiom that existence exists."
"Existence exists -- and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.
This is the foundation of my philosophy and world view. What's yours?
January 18, 2011
Who is "Responsible" for the Tucson Shooter?
(This is not a court of law, so I need not include the superfluous term "alleged.")
From Atlas Shrugged, Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking"
"Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man -- for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life."
Like the mysticism of fundamentalist Islam teaches the Jihadi, one of the western mysticisms taught a young Jared Loughner that his life on earth is not of value to him, that existence on earth should not be his goal, or that such an existence does not depend on his choice of actions. He was not prepared to live a happy and prosperous life. He was "a metaphysical monstrosity."
"Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly amuck on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain."
Why is it so common to find a man who is depressed and confused and desperate to discover some "meaning" for his life? Because those who purport to give him that meaning do nothing of the sort. Whether the self-described "moralists" tell man that he needs no morality or that self-sacrifice is morality's greatest virtue, they do so in contradiction with reality. When man's rational faculty attempts to resolve this contradiction it must either abandon faith, abandon reason, or self-destruct.
January 13, 2011
Two Wings of the Same Bird of Prey
How may a nation, "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" long endure when it is afflicted with a moral code such as this:
Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking"
"You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social. You have been taught that morality is a code of behavior imposed on you by whim, the whim of a supernatural power or the whim of society, to serve God's purpose or your neighbor's welfare, to please an authority beyond the grave or else next door -- but not to serve your life or pleasure. Your pleasure, you have been taught, is to be found in immorality, your interests would best be served by evil, and any moral code must be designed not for you, but against you, not to further your life, but to drain it."
January 12, 2011
The Strike of the Human Mind
The final entry of 2010 told us why we have an ongoing world economic disaster. The new year begins with a description of "the strike." Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking"
We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.[Italics in original]
January 6, 2011
Here Comes John Galt
To the big screen.
Many of my trepidations about making this story into a movie have been salved by this interview with executive producer and financier (read: owner) of the film, John Aglialoro.
Ranked by Forbes Small Business as the 10th richest executive of any small publicly-traded company (revenues under $200 million) in 2007, Aglialoro is one of those rare corporate executives who fully "gets" the philosophical message in Atlas Shrugged.
So the storyline should be safe. The scope of this movie is Part I of the book, which readers can review key points from by reading those entitled entries in Three Sources' "Atlas Shrugged QOTD" archive.
And the casting appears excellent as well. In my mind's eye I can envision Ms. Schilling walking through an abandoned factory, or consoling her poor, misguided young sister-in-law. And the movie's Hank Reardon, played by Grant Bowler, seems a perfect fit. I can easily see him telling Tinky Holloway that his game is up.
But we'll have to wait for the second sequel for that scene. I've heard that the intentions for Parts II and III of the book are to be separate sequels, each following about a year after it's predecessor.
Judging by some of the scene photos the setting of the movie will be decidedly modern. Apparently it will be set in our time, not in that of the book's writing. This is as it should be. The uninitiated youth will be more captivated than with a more faithful portrayal of the book. And, more importantly, we are closer to the events of the story becoming reality today than at any time in history.
December 23, 2010
The World Crisis - Part 2
It is a moral crisis - not of failing to behave morally, but of failing to define morality.
Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking"
"Since virtue, to you, consists of sacrifice, you have demanded more sacrifices at every successive disaster. In the name of a return to morality, you have sacrificed all those evils which you held as the cause of your plight. You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty."
December 22, 2010
A Report on the World Crisis
Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking:"
"Ladies and gentlemen," said a voice that came from the radio receiver -- a man's clear, calm, implacable voice, the kind of voice that had not been heard on the airwaves for years -- "Mr. Thompson will not speak to you tonight. His time is up. I have taken it over. You were to hear a report on the world crisis. That is what you are going to hear."
December 20, 2010
"I Order You to Solve it"
This one also has a personal meaning to me. My PhD electrical engineer father tells a story of his university's chancellor making a quip during technical difficulties prior to a speech he was about to give to the faculty, including the entire electrical engineering department: "We ought to be able to get this problem fixed with all of these electricians here in the audience." None of them moved to help him.
Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking:"
In a moment, he went on, his voice oddly solemn: "It looks like a wall of radio waves jamming the air, and we can't get through it, we can't touch it, we can't break it.... What's more, we can't locate its source, not by any of our usual methods.... Those waves seem to come from a transmitter that ... that makes any known to us look like a child's toy!"
December 18, 2010
The Crippling of Young Minds
If there is a passage in this monumental tome that strikes a stronger personal chord within me than this one, I have yet to find it.
Part III, Chapter 6 - 'The Concerto of Deliverance:'
[Read slowly, with reverence. "He" is Hank Reardon.]
He walked, as if this were his form of last tribute and funeral procession for the young life that had ended in his arms. He felt an anger too intense to identify except as a pressure within him: it was a desire to kill.
From the first catch-phrases flung at a child to the last, it is like a series of shocks to freeze his motor, to undercut the power of his consciousness. "Don't ask so many questions, children should be seen and not heard!" -- "Who are you to think? It's so, because I say so!" -- "Don't argue, obey!" -- "Don't try to understand, believe!" -- "Don't rebel, adjust!" -- "Don't stand out, belong!" -- "Don't struggle, compromise!" -- "Your heart is more important than your mind!." -- "Who are you to know? Your parents know best!" -- "Who are you to know? Society knows best!" -- "Who are you to know? The bureaucrats know best!" -- "Who are you to object? All values are relative!" -- "Who are you to want to escape a thug's bullet? That's only a personal prejudice!"
December 16, 2010
"A Temporary Adjustment"
Part III, Chapter 6 - 'The Concerto of Deliverance:'
"We can't theorize about the future," cried Wesley Mouch, "when there's an immediate national collapse to avoid! We've got to save the country's economy! We've got to do something!" Rearden's imperturbable glance of curiosity drove him to heedlessness. "If you don't like it, do you have a better solution to offer?"
"That's just theo …" His voice trailed off and stopped.
December 15, 2010
The "Radical Center"
Part III, Chapter 6 - 'The Concerto of Deliverance:'
"Can't we all stand together for the sake of the country in this hour of emergency?" said Dr. Ferris. "Can't we disregard our differences of opinion? We're willing to meet you halfway. If there's any aspect of our policy which you oppose, just tell us and we'll issue a directive to --"
December 10, 2010
Mommy, Where do Jobs Come From?
Part III, Chapter 5 - 'Their Brothers' Keepers:'
Hank Reardon and his freeloading brother Philip conversing at Reardon's steel mill...
Philip's body drew a shade tighter together and his eyes became a shade more glazed, as if in fear of the place around him, in resentment of its sight, in an effort not to concede its reality He said, in the soft, stubborn whine of a voodoo incantation, "It's a moral imperative, universally conceded in our day and age, that every man is entitled to a job." His voice rose: "I'm entitled to it!"
December 9, 2010
Since you have the privilege of strength, I have the right of weakness
Part III, Chapter 5 - Their Brothers' Keepers:
Dagny Taggart's realization, after being scolded by her brother Jim: "You're the realist, you're the doer, the mover, the producer, the Nat Taggart, you're the person who's able to achieve any goal she chooses! You could save us now, you could find a way to make things work—if you wanted to!"
There was the goal of all those con men of library and classroom, who sold their revelations as reason, their "instincts" as science, their cravings as knowledge, the goal of all the savages of the non-objective, the non-absolute, the relative, the tentative, the probable - the savages who, seeing a farmer gather a harvest, can consider it only as a mystic phenomenon unbound by the law of causality and created by the farmers' omnipotent whim, who then proceed to seize the farmer, to chain him, to deprive him of tools, of seeds, of water, of soil, to push him out on a barren rock and to command: "Now grow a harvest and feed us!"
December 7, 2010
"My Life is the Highest of Values"
Part III, Chapter 4: 'Anti-Life'
"Cherryl, what you've been struggling with is the greatest problem in history, the one that has caused all of human suffering. You've understood much more than most people, who suffer and die, never knowing what killed them. I'll help you to understand. It's a big subject and a hard battle - but first, above all, don't be afraid."
The look on Cherryl's face was an odd, wistful longing, as if, seeing Dagny from a great distance, she were straining and failing to come closer. "I wish I could wish to fight," she said softly, "but I don't. I don't even want to win any longer. There's one change that I don't seem to have the strength to make. You see, I had never expected anything like my marriage to Jim. Then when it happened, I thought that life was much more wonderful than I had expected. And now to get used to the idea that life and people are much more horrible than anything I had imagined and that my marriage was not a glorious miracle, but some unspeakable kind of evil which I'm still afraid to learn fully - that is what I can't force myself to take. I can't get past it." She glanced up suddenly. "Dagny, how did you do it? How did you manage to remain unmangled?"
"By holding to just one rule."
"To place nothing—nothing—above the verdict of my own mind."
"You've taken some terrible beatings … maybe worse than I did … worse than any of us.… What held you through it?"
"The knowledge that my life is the highest of values, too high to give up without a fight."
She saw a look of astonishment, of incredulous recognition on Cherryl's face, as if the girl were struggling to recapture some sensation across a span of years. "Dagny"—her voice was a whisper—"that's … that's what I felt when I was a child … that's what I seem to remember most about myself… that kind of feeling… and I never lost it, it's there, it's always been there, but as I grew up, I thought it was something that I must hide.… I never had any name for it, but just now, when you said it, it struck me that that's what it was.… Dagny, to feel that way about your own life - is that good?"
"Cherryl, listen to me carefully: that feeling—with everything, which it requires and implies—is the highest, noblest and only good on earth."
"The reason I ask is because I … I wouldn't have dared to think that. Somehow, people always made me feel as if they thought it was a sin… as if that were the thing in me which they resented and … and wanted to destroy."
"It's true. Some people do want to destroy it. And when you learn to understand their motive, you'll know the darkest, ugliest and only evil in the world, but you'll be safely out of its reach."
December 6, 2010
All of us have been taught that compassion is a moral human virtue, and it is said to be even more virtuous when that compassion is blind. But what is wrong with unearned compassion?
Part III, Chapter 4: Anti-Life:
"You know, Miss Tag--Dagny," she said softly, in wonder, "you're not as I expected you to be at all.... They, Jim and his friends, they said you were hard and cold and unfeeling."'
"But it's true, Cherryl. I am, in the sense they mean - only have they ever told you in just what sense they mean it?"
"No. They never do. They only sneer at me when I ask them what they mean by anything … about anything. What did they mean about you?"
"Whenever anyone accuses some person of being 'unfeeling,' he means that that person is just. He means that that person has no causeless emotions and will not grant him a feeling which he does not deserve. He means that 'to feel' is to go against reason, against moral values, against reality."
He means… What's the matter?" she asked, seeing the abnormal intensity of the girl's face.
"It's … it's something I've tried so hard to understand … for such a long time.… "
"Well, observe that you never hear that accusation in defense of innocence, but always in defense of guilt. You never hear it said by a good person about those who fail to do him justice. But you always hear it said by a rotter about those who treat him as a rotter, those who don't feel any sympathy for the evil he's committed or for the pain he suffers as a consequence. Well, it's true - that is what I do not feel. But those who feel it, feel nothing for any quality of human greatness, for any person or action that deserves admiration, approval, esteem. These are the things I feel. You'll find that it's one or the other. Those who grant sympathy to guilt, grant none to innocence. Ask yourself which, of the two, are the unfeeling persons. And then you'll see what motive is the opposite of charity."
"What?" she whispered.
November 22, 2010
Are you thinking of truth?
Rand's words of fiction resemble non-fiction more and more with each passing day of the Obama Administration.
Part III, Chapter 3 - Anti-Greed:
[Dr. Floyd Ferris:] 'Robert Stadler' is an illustrious name, which I would hate to see destroyed. But what is an illustrious name nowadays? In whose eyes?" His arm swept over the grandstands. "In the eyes of people such as you see around you? If they will believe, when so told, that an instrument of death is a tool of prosperity - would they not believe it if they were told that Robert Stadler is a traitor and an enemy of the State? Would you then rely on the fact that this is not true? Are you thinking of truth, Dr. Stadler? Questions of truth do not enter into social issues. Principles have no influence on public affairs. Reason has no power over human beings. Logic is impotent. Morality is superfluous. Do not answer me now, Dr. Stadler. You will answer me over the microphone. You're the next speaker."
October 28, 2010
Right and Wrong in a Mixed Economy
I haven't yet quoted enough of Ragnar Danneskjold for the unfamiliar to know that he robs from looters and statists and returns the wealth to those from whom it was taken, by force, in the form of govenment taxes. Here he explains the balance due to Dagny Taggart.
Part III, Chapter 2 - The Utopia of Greed
"Your account, however, is not as large as some of the others, even though huge sums were extorted from you by force in the past twelve years. You will find - as it is marked on the copies of your income-tax returns which Mulligan will hand over to you - that I have refunded only those taxes which you paid on the salary you earned as Operating Vice-President, but not the taxes you paid on your income from your Taggart Transcontinental stock. You deserved every penny of that stock, and in the days of your father I would have refunded every penny of your profit - but under your brother's management, Taggart Transcontinental has taken its share of the looting, it has made profits by force, by means of government favors, subsidies, moratoriums, directives. You were not responsible for it, you were, in fact, the greatest victim of that policy - but I refunded only the money which was made by pure productive ability, not the money any part of which was loot taken by force."
When liberals denounce "corporate welfare" I agree with them to the extent they refer to such "government favors, subsidies, moratoriums, directives" no matter what corporation may be the beneficiary. Yet what do those same liberals then resort to when they want to foist their "new energy economy" upon us? Government favors (green energy use in government buildings) subsidies (tax rebates for "green" producers and consumers) moratoriums (outlawed light bulbs and artificial carbon caps) and directives (mandates for "renewable" energy production.)
NO MORE CORPORATE WELFARE!
October 25, 2010
What "free trade" looks like
Now we are in Part III of Atlas Shrugged, entitled "A is A"
Chapter 1 - Atlantis
She smiled and asked, pointing at the machinery, "Shale oil?"
October 21, 2010
"His name was John Galt"
As ending to the previous entry...
"But what about John Galt?" she asked.
October 19, 2010
The Common "Good"
This one is rather long for "quote" status, but every word is worth the effort to read it. Part II, Chapter 10 - The Sign of the Dollar.
And when you saw it, you saw the real motive of any person who's ever preached the slogan: 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.'
October 15, 2010
Produce or Perish
An intentional play on the academic mantra "publish or perish." Here Francisco explains to Dagny that production - that which is necessary for human life in any state of technological progress - does not come from material, or labor, but from man's intellect.
Moving on to Part II, Chapter 8 - By Our Love:
Dagny, learn to understand the nature of your own power and you'll understand the paradox you now see around you. You do not have to depend on any material possessions, they depend on you, you create them, you own the one and only tool of production. Wherever you are, you will always be able to produce. But the looters - by their own stated theory - are in desperate, permanent, congenital need and at the blind mercy of matter.
Do you want "progress?" Then concentrate on production, not redistribution or "equality" or the "rights" of every living creature except man.
October 12, 2010
It Can't Be Done
Part II, Chapter 7 - The Moratorium on Brains:
"But Christ Almighty, how do they expect us to move trains without engines?"
October 7, 2010
Executive Genius, and Lack Therof
Part II, Chapter 7 - The Moratorium on Brains
When things go well—which is never longer than half an hour - Mr. Locey makes it a point to remind us that 'these are not the days of Miss Taggart.' At the first sign of trouble, he calls me into his office and asks me - casually, in the midst of the most irrelevant drivel - what Miss Taggart used to do in such an emergency.
October 6, 2010
Justice: When Man is Free to Profit
Part II, Chapter 7 - The Moratorium on Brains:
"Why should you be shocked, Mr. Rearden? I am merely complying with the system which my fellow men have established. If they believe that force is the proper means to deal with one another, I am giving them what they ask for. If they believe that the purpose of my life is to serve them, let them try to enforce their creed. If they believe that my mind is their property - let them come and get it."
October 5, 2010
Looter, Victim, or ...
Part II, Chapter 7 - The Moratorium on Brains:
"Ragnar Danneskjöld …" said Rearden, as if he were seeing the whole of the past decade, as if he were looking at the enormity of a crime spread through ten years and held within two words.
September 29, 2010
Look for the Union Label
Chapter 7 of part II flew by and I'm into chapter 8 already but here's an excellent scene about labor unions and government that I forgot to post from the beginning of Part II, Chapter 6 - Miracle Metal.
"Do you think the country will stand for it?" yelled Taggart.
September 24, 2010
A Justice Worth Defending
Part II, Chapter 6 - Miracle Metal closes with this life-altering realization:
When one acts on pity against justice, it is the good whom one punishes for the sake of the evil; when one saves the guilty from suffering, it is the innocent whom one forces to suffer. There is no escape from justice, nothing can be unearned and unpaid for in the universe, neither in matter nor in spirit--and if the guilty do not pay, then the innocent have to pay it.
Productive accomplishment is no vice, and for it no Atonement is owed.
September 23, 2010
The Unearned: Love and Wealth
Today's is the penultimate entry from the turning point that is Part II, Chapter 6 - Miracle Metal:
I broke their code, but I fell into the trap they intended, the trap of a code devised to be broken. I took no pride in my rebellion, I took it as guilt, I did not damn them, I damned myself, I did not damn their code, I damned existence—and I hid my happiness as a shameful secret. I should have lived it openly, as of our right—or made her my wife, as in truth she was. But I branded my happiness as evil and made her bear it as a disgrace. What they want to do to her now, I did it first. I made it possible.
September 22, 2010
Original Sin -> Guilt -> Self-Immolation
In this passage Reardon learns how to break the cycle.
Part II, Chapter 6 - Miracle Metal:
He thought: Guilty?--guiltier than I had known, far guiltier than I had thought, that day--guilty of the evil of damning as guilt that which was my best. I damned the fact that my mind and body were a unit, and that my body responded to the values of my mind. I damned the fact that joy is the core of existence, the motive power of every living being, that it is the need of one's body as it is the goal of one's spirit, that my body was not a weight of inanimate muscles, but an instrument able to give me an experience of superlative joy to unite my flesh and my spirit. That capacity, which I damned as shameful, had left me indifferent to sluts, but gave me my one desire in answer to a woman's greatness. That desire, which I damned as obscene, did not come from the sight of her body, but from the knowledge that the lovely form I saw, did express the spirit I was seeing—it was not her body that I wanted, but her person--it was not the girl in gray that I had to possess, but the woman who ran a railroad.
September 21, 2010
The Moral Code of 'Life'
Again, Part II, Chapter 6 - Miracle Metal
This passage immediately follows yesterday's ASQOTD:
"Yours was the code of life," said the voice of a man whom he could not forget. "What, then, is theirs?"
September 20, 2010
Anthropogenic Psychological Depression
Part II, Chapter 6 - Miracle Metal:
Such was the code that the world had accepted and such was the key to the code: that it hooked man's love of existence to a circuit of torture, so that only the man who had nothing to offer would have nothing to fear, so that the virtues which made life possible and the values which gave it meaning became the agents of its destruction, so that one's best became the tool of one's agony, and man's life on earth became impractical.
September 17, 2010
Man? Or Sheep.
No, I haven't given up the 'Atlas QOTD' franchise. I'd stopped listening during drive time due to a pressing need to keep up with developments in the CO governor's race on talk radio.
Today's quote comes from the meeting to discuss the implementation of Directive 10-289 on "the morning of May first" and resonates with our nascent liberty movement. Might society's intellectual luminaries protest their plan to make everything in the private sector "stand still?"
Part II, Chapter 6 - Miracle Metal:
Fred Kinnan, head of the Amalgamated Labor of America speaking:
July 21, 2010
Under stifling taxes and regulation, industry is in widespread collapse. Unemployment is the spirit of the day. Cold and hungry Americans are told that "privations strenghten a people's spirit." And yet, government only continues to pile on more of the poison that brought them here.
Part II, Chapter 5 - Account Overdrawn:
Rearden, that evening, his coat collar raised, his hat slanted low over his eyes, the snow drifts rising to his knees, was tramping through an abandoned open-pit coal mine, in a forsaken corner of Pennsylvania, supervising the loading of pirated coal upon the trucks which he had provided. Nobody owned the mine, nobody could afford the cost of working it. But a young man with a brusque voice and dark, angry eyes, who came from a starving settlement, had organized a gang of the unemployed and made a deal with Rearden to deliver the coal. They mined it at night, they stored it in hidden culverts, they were paid in cash, with no questions asked or answered. Guilty of a fierce desire to remain alive, they and Rearden traded like savages, without rights, titles, contracts or protection, with nothing but mutual understanding and a ruthlessly absolute observance of one's given word. Rearden did not even know the name of the young leader. Watching him at the job of loading the trucks, Rearden thought that this boy, if born a generation earlier, would have become a great industrialist; now, he would probably end his brief life as a plain criminal in a few more years.
July 18, 2010
July 16, 2010
This, on the other hand, might fit on a bumper sticker:
"I hold that there is no clash of interests among men who do not demand the unearned and do not practice human sacrifices." -Hank Reardon
UPDATE (7/18): There's already a "COEXIST" bumper sticker. The world needs one of these too.
The "greatness" of sacrifice
I'm endeavoring to be more succinct. From Part II, Chapter 5 - 'Account Overdrawn':
"Privations strengthen a people's spirit," wrote Bertram Scudder, "and forge the fine steel of social discipline. Sacrifice is the cement which unites human bricks into the great edifice of society."
Alas, it's probably still too long to print on a T-shirt.
This philosophical point, counter-point comes after a brief description of the results of central planning:
"Storms are an act of God," wrote Bertram Scudder, "and nobody can be held socially responsible for the weather." The rations of coal, established by Wesley Mouch, permitted the heating of homes for three hours a day. There was no wood to burn, no metal to make new stoves, no tools to pierce the walls of the houses for new installations. In makeshift contraptions of bricks and oil cans, professors were burning the books of their libraries, and fruit-growers were burning the trees of their orchards.
July 15, 2010
The crowd burst into applause.
The Tea Party movement, if sustained, has the potential to take America back from an entrenched establishment of big spenders, political careerists, and rent-seeking corporations. The values that animate us all—lower taxes, less government, and more freedom—is a big philosophical tent set at the very center of American politics.
This reminded me of a sentiment I've expressed, though I couldn't find the instance on these pages, that individualism is Americanism. At the base of the moral code of most Americans is the idea that each of us is entitled to choose our own path, without permission from any master, and to dispose of our earnings as we see fit. All of this is segue to today's 'Atlas Shrugged' QOTD.
Part II, Chapter 4: The Sanction of the Victim- [Henry Reardon at his trial before the judges of the "Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources."]
It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise. If it were true that men could achieve their good by means of turning some men into sacrificial animals, and I were asked to immolate myself for the sake of creatures who wanted to survive at the price of my blood, if I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above and against my own—I would refuse. I would reject it as the most contemptible evil, I would fight it with every power I possess, I would fight the whole of mankind, if one minute were all I could last before I were murdered, I would fight in the full confidence of the justice of my battle and of a living being's right to exist. Let there be no misunderstanding about me. If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned, I will have no part of it!"
July 13, 2010
"The only man I ever loved"
Lest anyone think I had given up on regular quotations from my favorite tome ... note the new subcategory.
"The only man I ever loved." It came from Ken Danagger, who had never expressed anything more personal than "Look here, Rearden." He thought: Why had we let it go? Why had we both been condemned—in the hours away from our desks—to an exile among dreary strangers who had made us give up all desire for rest, for friendship, for the sound of human voices? Could I now reclaim a single hour spent listening to my brother Philip and give it to Ken Danagger? Who made it our duty to accept, as the only reward for our work, the gray torture of pretending love for those who roused us to nothing but contempt? We who were able to melt rock and metal for our purpose, why had we never sought that which we wanted from men?
July 1, 2010
"Who is destroying the world?"
Here's what comes after JK's quote from the first of the year. From Part 2, Chapter II: The Aristocracy of Pull
"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion - when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed.
And here was a good answer for Sharron Angle to give the questioner about her reference to "Second Amendment remedies."
"When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, 'Who is destroying the world?' You are.
This was the sentiment she was describing, even if she couldn't have explained why.
It also explains why we're not seeing economic recovery anywhere on the horizon.
"Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.
June 29, 2010
"Everything is Something"
The answer to the Dr. Pritchett post, from Part One, Chapter VI: "The Non-Commercial-
"Why, hello, Professor!" said Francisco, bowing to Dr. Pritchett.
June 28, 2010
One of the cool features of my electronic copy of Atlas Shrugged (and of virtually everything else Rand wrote) is the ability to search by keyword. Today's quote is inspired by this passage from the Merle Hazzard Monetary Policy song:
Investment banks make billions, While factories turn to rust.
The quote that follows made an indelible impression upon my first reading of the book. I have recounted it personally to many, many friends. From Part One, Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers (keyword was "rust")
On her way through the plant, she had seen an enormous piece of machinery left abandoned in a corner of the yard. It had been a precision machine tool once, long ago, of a kind that could not be bought anywhere now. It had not been worn out; it had been rotted by neglect, eaten by rust and the black drippings of a dirty oil. She had turned her face away from it. A sight of that nature always blinded her for an instant by the burst of too violent an anger. She did not know why; she could not define her own feeling; she knew only that there was, in her feeling, a scream of protest against injustice, and that it was a response to something much beyond an old piece of machinery.
June 25, 2010
Profit: A Moral Directive
In rebuttal to Josh Tickell's involuntary assumption that profit is not a moral directive I give you Miss Dagny Taggart addressing Eugene Lawson, past president of the failed Community National Bank of Madison, Wisconsin, the "banker with a heart" who then took a job in Washingon in the "Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources." Part 1, Chapter X: Wyatt's Torch
"Good day," she said.
* * *
June 24, 2010
"We must control men in order to force them to be free"
I've been recommending to people who aren't sure whether they're prepared to read such a "huge" book (still less than half as long as the healthcare bill and far more engaging) that they begin with chapter 6 and see if that inspires them to read more. Today's excerpt is from that chapter.
From Part 1, Chapter VI: The Non-Commercial
A young man asked hesitantly, "But if we haven't any good concepts, how do we know that the ones we've got are ugly? I mean, by what standard?"
And a bonus:
A businessman said uneasily, "What I asked you about, Professor, was what you thought about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill."
Click continue reading to see both quotes in context.
UPDATE: Read Francisco D'Anconia's rebuttal to Dr. Pritchett here.
"Man? What is man? He's just a collection of chemicals with delusions of grandeur," said Dr. Pritchett to a group of guests across the room.
June 23, 2010
The symbolic meaning of "Robin Hood"
Okay, maybe there won't be one every day, but I'll try...
This is the horror which Robin Hood immortalized as an ideal of righteousness. It is said that he fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don't have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. He became a justification for every mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, had demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters, by proclaiming his willingness to devote his life to his inferiors at the price of robbing his superiors. It is this foulest of creatures—the double-parasite who lives on the sores of the poor and the blood of the rich—whom men have come to regard as a moral ideal. And this has brought us to a world where the more a man produces, the closer he comes to the loss of all his rights, until, if his ability is great enough, he becomes a rightless creature delivered as prey to any claimant—while in order to be placed above rights, above principles, above morality, placed 'where anything is permitted to him, even plunder and murder, all a man has to do is to be in need. Do you wonder why the world is collapsing around us? That is what I am fighting. Mr. Rearden. Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive."