Tag Archives: politics

Thoughts on A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

I’ve finished reading A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling, a seriocomic take on the Libertarian Free State Movement by illustrating what happened when the “Free Town Movement” came to Grafton, New Hampshire.

In short, it’s a funny book if you like black humor. (I do.) I am also amused that a couple years ago, I was seriously considering writing a novel that would be a spiritual successor to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The question central to the novel would be, “What happens to Galt Gulch if it was based on other libertarian attempts to create a utopia?” I planned for it to be a horror novel. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is, essentially, what I was going to write, except funny, and with bears.

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Police use of chokeholds as torture

Let’s talk about strangling people. More specifically, how cops strangle people and how it’s a vicious cycle leading to torture and murder.

I’ve been in enough jujitsu classes to have been strangled a fair bit. I’m almost a connoisseur of strangulation. Which is to say that I know what happens when a person gets strangled.

In short – you freak the fuck out. You want it, you NEED it to stop. Panic sets in almost immediately. This is a big part of the reason how waterboarding works. When you can’t breathe, even if for a few seconds, your body freaks the fuck out.

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Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner review – it’s a history of the CIA!

I have finished reading Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. I found it to be a very odd book.

On the one hand, I have no fault for Weiner’s research. Since I’ve been following the CIA for a while, much of it was known to me, but seeing it collected in one spot was moving – the CIA has done so much evil.

On the other hand, Weiner doesn’t follow his research to the obvious conclusion: that the CIA never worked, and never will, that people operating in secret cannot be trusted, and secret services are a threat to democracy and global stability. Which is to say, the CIA should be shut down for the good of the United States and the world.

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Atlas Falls Cycle – Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and the lessons of Donald Trump

As I transition to doing more research for the Atlas Falls cycle, which is a parody of Atlas Shrugged, I think that the current administration makes the work highly trenchant. Indeed, part of my research!

Part of my criticism of Objectivism is that it doesn’t work because people aren’t anything like the heroes or villains of Atlas Shrugged. What makes this highly apropos is the relationship between Rand-devotees in the Senate like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul with Donald Trump.

I have thought a long time to the extent that Trump shares the goals of Objectivism. While Trump is the kind of man that would be created by Objectivism, that’s because of its ideological idiocy – the idea that ruthless ambition has a limit, an idea that is verbally expressed in the novel but ignored in practice. But, in the end, Trump is one of Ayn Rand’s enemies: a crony capitalist who finessed government regulations to get taxpayers to foot the bill of his construction contracts, using tons of insider pull. In the parlance, Trump is a looter, raiding the public trust to subsidize his business ventures, succeeding more because of federal largesse and elaborate contacts than holding himself to the tenants of laissez-faire capitalism.

Yet, he is the President, and none of the government Randroids have the guts to call him what he is: a crony capitalist. Not only has Trump gotten one over on the disciples of Rand in the government, Ryan, in particular, has his tongue so far up Trump’s ass that he knows what Trump ate for dinner two minutes before Trump does.

When writing a parody of Atlas Shrugged, though, this dynamic between the followers of Rand and a man that Rand would consider an archenemy (if one consistently adhered to Objectivist philosophy) is fascinating.

I acknowledge that this is a lot of interpretation, in part because the characters of Atlas Shrugged don’t live up to Rand’s stated ideology. From murderous piracy of Ragnar Danneskjold to the intellectual property theft of Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden to innumerable breaches of contract (which are supposed to be the bedrock of Objectivist law and order), the characters of Atlas Shrugged don’t live Rand’s ideology. So, given the immense failure of the cast of Atlas Shrugged to live up to Objectivism, Trump is very much like a Randian hero as written.

You read Atlas Shrugged without understanding the supposed ideology of Objectivism, the lesson of the book is clear: it’s okay to do anything, to break any law, destroy any contract, to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to kill to get your way. In this regard, Trump is very much like Rand’s heroes, even down to the sexual abuse of women.

Which, ultimately, is a big part of what the Atlas Falls cycle will be about: how Rand’s heroes aren’t who they think they are, how they violate all the principles they claim to hold. That Paul Ryan and Rand Paul’s horror at Trump is simply the horror over the lessons of Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas Shrugged Reviews as Political Commentary

My finishing purge of Atlas Shrugged is to discuss the flaws in her political and social reasoning, as opposed to merely talking about why the book is a disaster artistically.  (And it is a disaster artistically, as close to objectively awful as a book gets.)

Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged and elsewhere, isn’t just proposing a form of laissez-faire capitalism. She is proposing a system of ethics in which selfishness and greed are the dominant – maybe even sole – principles. To many people, this is absolutely terrifying, and Atlas Shrugged does a very good job of exposing the reason that’s terrifying, even though Rand doesn’t seem to notice it.

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