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Posts Tagged ‘Ayn Rand

“Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied.”*…

(Roughly) Daily readers have encountered Henry George here before. An economist who wrote late in the 19th century, he was hugely influential in his time and into the early 20th century. Indeed, his philosophy was the inspiration for (original) version of the game Monopoly. Michael Kinsley argues that we should take another look…

So, you’re a Silicon Valley billionaire and you’ve already got the private plane. What you need next is a philosophy, something to live by, and to help finance, and—most important—to use to explain or justify yourself. Don’t just grab the next philosophy to come along. Chances are that will be Ayn Rand and her extreme form of capitalism, which she called objectivism.

Rand has a lot going for her, to be sure. First, you may have actually read her in high school and may have been genuinely influenced. Second, in a nutshell, she rationalizes greed, which you have nothing against. Third, she was into mildly kinky sex—something else you may have in common. Fourth, she was associated in some way you don’t quite follow with Alan Greenspan, who is respectability itself, whatever other Rand enthusiasts may have been up to.

But you’re too late. Ayn Rand, who never was really undiscovered (The Fountainhead became a movie, starring Gary Cooper as a heroic architect, a few years after it was published), has by now been thoroughly re-discovered. According to James Stewart (the prominent business journalist, not the even more prominent actor), writing in The New York Times, President Trump says Ayn Rand is his favorite writer and that The Fountainhead, her pulmonary embolism of a book, is his favorite novel. Travis Kalanick, the onetime Übermensch of Uber, is on board, as is (liberal foodies, please note) John Mackey, co-founder and C.E.O. of Whole Foods.

My dear billionaire, you need an economist almost no one has heard of. One who addressed the most pressing problems of today, which do not include the insufficient greed of rich people. But one who was not completely out of sympathy with rich people, either.

May I nominate Henry George (1839–97)—economist, pamphleteer, journalist? Once famous, he is now widely forgotten. He described himself as a man who came out of the great American West, which he did—but only after he got there via Philadelphia, where he was born. He later moved to New York City, ran for mayor, and attracted 10,000 people to a political rally (but lost nonetheless). He made the best-ever short defense of free trade: You wouldn’t fill your harbor with rocks to keep out goods your citizens want to buy, would you? Well, that’s what you’re doing when you slap tariffs on imports.

George’s masterwork, published in 1879, was Progress and Poverty, which set forth to explain how “increase of want” could go hand in hand with “increase of wealth.” Thus George took on precisely the question we face today: not the general question of poverty or inequity, but why specifically are middle-class incomes stagnating, and incomes of people at the bottom falling, while those at the top continue to rise?

George was no vulgar Marxist. You might call him a “supply-side socialist.” All products of the economy, he reasoned, are ultimately derived from three sources: labor, capital, and land. What else is there? Labor and capital are both productive. Put them to work and you end up with more. But land is different. As the man said, “They aren’t making any more of it.” When you work for an hour, you increase society’s wealth (and your own) by an hour’s worth of wages. When you save a dollar rather than spending it, you increase society’s (and your own) wealth by a dollar. But when you buy a piece of land for $10,000 and sell it for $20,000, you haven’t increased the total wealth of society by a nickel. Yet the price of land keeps going up, up, up, as the population increases and society grows richer. Where does that money come from? It comes from the pockets of the other two factors of production, labor and capital.

George distinguished, in other words, between the capitalist who is truly productive and the capitalist who is simply a “landlord.”… You’ve got to think of “land” as a metaphor for all unproductive forms of capitalism. Much of the financial industry, for example: hedge funds, private equity, I.P.O.’s and I.R.A.’s. Some might defend finance as an industry that makes the making of what other industries make more efficient. But when you read that Goldman Sachs is getting some enormous fee for fuck-all or that two companies are merging that unmerged a few years ago and will unmerge again in a few years, you gotta wonder…

Henry George’s theories might have something to offer people who want to put their money to good use today: “The Obscure Economist Silicon Valley Billionaires Should Dump Ayn Rand For,” from @michaelkinsley in @VanityFair. Eminently worth reading in full and pondering.

* Henry George (who, to Kinsley’s observation that he might be considered a “supply-side socialist,” also said: “Laissez faire (in its full true meaning) opens the way to the realization of the noble dreams of socialism.”

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As we return to first principles, we might recall that it was on this date in 1996 that Oprah Winfrey launched Oprah’s Book Club (with he then recently published novel The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard). In total the club recommended 70 books during its 15 years in its original (Oprah Winfrey Show form), and has subsequently been revived via OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Apple TV.

While the selections have occasionally generated some controversy (e.g., Michale Franzen, James Frey), they have for the most part been warmly– and enthusiastically– received, adding massive sales to the chosen titles. Indeed (per Business Week), publishers estimate that her power to sell a book is anywhere from 20 to 100 times that of any other media personality.

This year, Oprah was awarded the PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion award, which “recognizes a lifetime of devoted literary advocacy and a commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers.”

Eckhart Tolle joins Oprah to discuss his book A New Earth, which went on to sell 3,370,000 copies (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 17, 2022 at 1:00 am

“I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough”*…

 

“You’re a wizard, Harry,” Hagrid said. “And you’re coming to Hogwarts.”

“What’s Hogwarts?” Harry asked.

“It’s wizard school.”

“It’s not a public school, is it?”

“No, it’s privately run.”

“Good. Then I accept. Children are not the property of the state; everyone who wishes to do so has the right to offer educational goods or services at a fair market rate. Let us leave at once.”

An excerpt from the gloriously spot-on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Objectivism; more at “Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.”

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

– John Rogers

* Christopher Hitchens

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As we obviate Objectivism, we might spare a thought for José de Sousa Saramago; he died on this date in 2010.  A Portuguese author and Nobel Laureate, he was described (in 2003) by Harold Bloom as “the most gifted novelist alive in the world today.”

An atheist and proponent of libertarian communism, Saramago was criticized by institutions the likes of the Catholic Church, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, with whom he disagreed. In 1992, the Government of Portugal ordered the removal of his The Gospel According to Jesus Christ from the Aristeion Prize‘s shortlist, claiming the work was religiously offensive. Disheartened by this political censorship of his work, Saramago went into exile on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, where he lived until his death.

 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 18, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me”*…

 

Although well-known for her massive novels The Fountainhead (about an architectural genius who blows up his own skyscraper) and Atlas Shrugged (about a group of fiercely individualistic anti—union entrepreneurs who band together and go on strike), Ayn Rand was something of a culinary devotee–or so the publication of this hitherto unsuspected book of recipes would suggest.

Written in her trademark “romantic realist” style, this large collection includes recipes unique to its author, such as “I Need No Warrant for Being Green Beans,” “Rational Pumpkin Muffins of the Highest Intelligence,” and “Chicken Baked Only for Itself.”…

More– including a recipe for an old standard, made Objectively better– at “Preparing Eggplant Rollatini With the Highest Competence.”

See also Mc Sweeney’s “Recipes that would be officially approved by the Ayn Rand Institute.”

* Ayn Rand

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As we decide to diet, we might recall that it was on this date in 1992, at 11:00 a.m., that the current world record brown trout was caught on the Little Red River in Arkansas by Howard “Rip” Collins.  At forty-pounds, four ounces, it far exceeded the previous record-holder, a 38-9 brown caught by Mike “Huey” Manley of North Little Rock four years earlier.

Collins and his catch

source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 9, 2016 at 1:01 am

Bazinga!…

To Whom It May Concern:

I gave my lawyer instructions to release this message after my death. A joke I concocted when I was a kid has gone way, way too far. The most important thing you should know is this: Nothing I have ever written was meant to be taken seriously. You really don’t want to build some kind of philosophy around Atlas Shrugged, okay? I’m sorry if I caused any trouble. I owe you an explanation…

Discover the truth at “I Was Shitting You People – A Message From Ayn Rand.”

[TotH to reader CE]

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As we try to remain Objective, we might send more genuinely philosophical birthday greetings to Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire; he was born in Paris on this date in 1694.  The Father of the Age of Reason, he produced works in almost every literary form: plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works– more than 2,000 books and pamphlets (and more than 20,000 letters).  A social reformer, Voltaire used satire to criticize the intolerance, religious dogma, and oligopolistic privilege of his day.  The contrite Ms. Rand would surely have appreciated his immortal– and sardonic– advice (in Candide) that each of us should “tend his own garden.”

 source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 21, 2012 at 1:01 am

Objectiv(ist) advice…

 source

Dear Ayn,

I’m dating a man who I think I love, but I’m afraid he’s having an affair. He comes home late, he acts suspiciously, and he even has red lipstick on his collar. Should I confront him or just hope for the best?

— County Affair

Dear County,

Red lipstick? Your husband is a communist. Divorce him and sell his clothes, children, and pens to make money to spend on cars, human slaves, and bigger pens. This will simultaneously stimulate the economy and punish the slaves for not having jobs. Slaves: what lazybones!

Hope this helps,
Ayn

More advice-for-the-sniveling at Megan Amran’s “Ann Randers” in McSweeney’s.

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As we remind ourselves that the economic debacle of 9-15-08 was maybe not so surprising after, given Chairman Greenspan’s devotion to Ms. Rand, we might spare a thought for a strong woman of a very different sort; free-thinker Emma Goldman died on this date in 1940.  A political activist, writer, and speaker, she founded Mother Earth magazine in 1906.  She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.

– from the title essay, Anarchism and Other Essays, 1910

 source

Perhaps even more than constituted authority, it is social uniformity and sameness that harass the individual most. His very “uniqueness,” “separateness” and “differentiation” make him an alien, not only in his native place, but even in his own home.

– “The Individual, Society and the State” (1940)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 14, 2012 at 1:01 am

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