I’ve just got done with John Galt’s long speech in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It’s part philosophy lecture and part insult-comic rant. It is bad at both. (Later on, in my general critique of Atlas Shrugged, I’ll cover the most serious of her flaws in regards to art, politics and economics. It would take a book-length critique to get them all, but there are several that are especially glaring, even to me.)
There are three primary philosophical sins in John Galt’s 36,000 word speech: the first is badly constructed syllogisms, the second is reliance on arguments from authority, the third is straw man arguments. I’m going to give an example of each, but just one, because the speech sixty-plus pages long and it would take forever to cover everything.
I believe I have figured out the appeal of Atlas Shrugged.
#1. Herbert Spencer’s defense of capitalism is flawed. Before there was Ayn Rand, the philosopher of the market was Herbert Spencer, who used a social Darwinism message to defend the unchecked accumulation of wealth. The argument ran: “Evolutionarily speaking, if you’ve got it and you can keep it, you deserve it, no matter the source.”
The immense flaw with this plan is that if, say, the Russian Revolution came along and reminded merchants that they were a bunch of wussy powderpuffs wholly dependent people capable and willing to kick ass to defend them from brutal thugs who would kick their middle classes asses in a hot minute, then the very philosophy they espoused was turned against them: unable to hold onto things, they did NOT deserve them, and now the communists do.
Ayn Rand “math”: Rearden Metal is cheaper per pound than iron. One of the major components of Rearden Metal is copper. It is not used in trace amounts, but requires hundreds of tons of the stuff for thousands of tons of Rearden Metal. In other words, Rearden Metal is at least 10% copper – and maybe more.
Cost of iron, per pound: $0.004 per pound.
Cost of copper, per pound: between $0.55 and $1.95 per pound, depending on quality.
I just finished reading Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns.
As I started to read it, I said I was concerned about its attempt to “balance”. Balance usually means the author won’t say what is obvious and true in order to placate someone, somewhere. After reading Goddess of the Market, I feel confirmed in this.
In particular, Burns doesn’t really talk about the American “right”. She sometimes touches on how awful they are, but only with the briefest of touches and the lightest of hands. So, she mentions “Birchers” without discussing the John Birch Society at all – specifically it’s brand of racism and sexism, co-founded by Fred C. Koch, the father of arch-conservative and profoundly racist, sexist assholes Charles and David Koch (names that should be familiar to anyone following current Republican politics). Likewise, the nativist, intensely racist America First organization is mentioned only as a libertarian organization.
Indeed, Burns barely touches on Rand’s intersection with conservative Republican thought. Burns, instead, focuses her attention on Rand’s association with libertarians. This has the effect of creating a straw man, since the libertarians aren’t in any positions of power and the Republicans definitely are. Even if you don’t have any ideological opposition to the Republicans, hiding Rand’s effect on Republican economic conservatives (such as Alan Greenspan or Timothy Geithner) is just a filthy lie.
I very nearly stopped watching the Netflix show, Stranger Things, in the first three minutes, even though it is the kind of show I like. Government conspiracy horror? Yes, sir and/or ma’am, I’m your guy!
But it started in 1983 and some kids were playing ADVANCED D&D. So, like, the party is attacked by troglodytes and then “the” Demogorgon shows up. Demogorgon is a proper name, fools! And there’s no adventure where the party fights the very low level troglodytes AND DEMOGORGON. Trogs are, like, less than one HD, and Demogorgon is the baddest mo’ fo’ in the AD&D Monster Manual! PLUS, the mini of Demogorgon is CLEARLY a WOTC Aspect of Demogorgon mini from much later than 1983.