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General Category => Books => Topic started by: seshnath on September 18, 2011, 05:22:39 AM

Title: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: seshnath on September 18, 2011, 05:22:39 AM
Atlas Shrugged

I was born in the state that democratically elected the first ever communist government.  This book changed the course of and approach to my life.
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: SouthernYankee on September 19, 2011, 07:40:07 AM
A discussion about this book in this forum should be very interesting. My own opinion is great book, pretty "hard" (in tough love way), a little unrealistic once TV came about, and I can see how a person who grew up in a less free society would love it! We take our liberties for granted; I am glad there is a movement in the United States for people to stay more involved with the political process.

Cheers.
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: Vish_ram on September 19, 2011, 08:06:54 AM
an interesting link
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704662604576256782014528702.html?mod=wsj_share_facebook

I think any concept taken to the extreme becomes a crap. We saw this in the recent financial debacle. Who would have had the chutzpah to speak for government regulation of mortgage industry during 2006?

The context has also changed. When Rand wrote her book, it was the communist era.
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: alpha23 on September 19, 2011, 09:30:22 AM
I think that Rand's writing is more relevant today than ever before. It's more about the human spirit and what is possible than any particular political ideology. She was an ardent supporter of capitalism, but because she believed that it is the economic platform that provides the best incentives and avenues for individual achievement, and therefore the best macro policy. Many of our governments leaders would do well to read her work!

That said, it is fiction, and of course it omits countless complexities of the real world. That doesn't diminish it in my estimation. I thoroughly enjoy her writing.
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: netnet on September 19, 2011, 10:48:06 PM
Sorry seshnath,  I must disagree.  (I did not grow up in Kerala though, but you know despite everything, they did not ruin the chai!  And it's not as if any other party has particularly clean hands.)

I like  (most of) you guys and how you think on financial matters, but seriously Ayn Rand--indeed it is fiction and rather insipid fiction at that, whether as fiction or as political theory.  (how's that for being a skunk at the garden party!)

I am reminded of Munger's comment about overdosing on Rand, something to the effect that even the economic equivalent of axe murders were considered acceptable as long as it was "market" based.
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: seshnath on September 20, 2011, 04:58:18 AM
Sorry sesnath,  I must disagree.  (I did not grow up in Kerala though, but you know despite everything, they did not ruin the chai!  And it's not as if any other party has particularly clean hands.)

I like  (most of) you guys and how you think on financial matters, but seriously Ayn Rand--indeed it is fiction and rather insipid fiction at that, whether as fiction or as political theory.  (how's that for being a skunk at the garden party!)

I am reminded of Munger's comment about overdosing on Rand, something to the effect that even the economic equivalent of axe murders were considered acceptable as long as it was "market" based.
Net - I am not talking about partisan politics here.  Agreed, it is fiction.  All I said was it changed the course and approach to life.  Followers of Rand may have taken it to a ridiculous extent - especially, Greenspan. 

Let me see, if I can try to plot the course of seshnath without Ayn Rand's influence. 
First, I wouldn't be talking on this board - I wouldn't have invested in Berkshire - would have probably never heard of Warren Buffett and definitely never Ben Graham. 
Even if I did join this board - my language here would be peppered with terms like bourgeois and petty-bourgeois and exploitation and class warfare - the list is endless.

I am with Munger when he said that it is a bad idea to overdose on Rand. (my addition to that is "and for that matter any 'ism' "). 

After this particular shift in paradigms, I have always tried to seek out the other side of the argument.  This approach (somewhat like  inversion) has helped me a lot with my investment thesis and life in general since that point of time.
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: Eric50 on September 20, 2011, 09:09:35 AM
Seshnath - Greespan was a friend of Rand but nothing he did as a Fed chairman would have been approved by Rand. I suggest you re-read Francisco d'Anconia's speech on money in Atlas Schugged... Had Greenspan stuck to that definition of money, I doubt he would have kept interest rates so low for so long... The Fed and its politburo philosophy of long term of the economy represents everything Rand fought against...

Rearden heard Bertram Scudder, outside the group, say to a girl who made some sound of indignation, "Don't let him disturb you. You know, money is the root of all evil--and he's the typical product of money."

Rearden did not think that Francisco could have heard it, but he saw Francisco turning to them with a gravely courteous smile.

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Aconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

"When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor-- your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?

"Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions--and you'll learn that man's mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is MADE--before it can be looted or mooched--made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced.

"To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except by the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss--the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery--that you must offer them values, not wounds--that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of GOODS. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find. And when men live by trade--with reason, not force, as their final arbiter--it is the best product that wins, the best performance, then man of best judgment and highest ability--and the degree of a man's productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

"But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality--the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

"Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants; money will not give him a code of values, if he's evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he's evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth--the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve that mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Money is your means of survival. The verdict which you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or men's stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment's or a penny's worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you'll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Or did you say it's the LOVE of money that's the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It's the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is the loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money--and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it."

"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.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another--their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

"But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride, or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich--will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt--and of his life, as he deserves.

"Then you will see the rise of the double standard--the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money--the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law--men who use force to seize the wealth of DISARMED victims--then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

"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. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: 'Account overdrawn.'

"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.

"You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it's crumbling around you, while your damning its life-blood--money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men's history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves--slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody's mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer. Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers--as industrialists.

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a COUNTRY OF MONEY--and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being--the self-made man--the American industrialist.

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose--because it contains all the others--the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to MAKE money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity--to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted, or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality.

"Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters' continents. Now the looters' credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide-as, I think, he will.

"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns--or dollars. Take your choice--there is no other--and your time is running out."
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: enoch01 on September 20, 2011, 10:58:43 AM
Seshnath - Greespan was a friend of Rand but nothing he did as a Fed chairman would have been approved by Rand. I suggest you re-read Francisco d'Anconia's speech on money in Atlas Schugged... Had Greenspan stuck to that definition of money, I doubt he would have kept interest rates so low for so long... The Fed and its politburo philosophy of long term of the economy represents everything Rand fought against...

Bingo.  A state-enforced monopoly like the Federal Reserve ought to be anathema to a Rand philosophy.  I'm no Rand apologist by any stretch, but whenever I hear people say things like "Greenspan overdosed on Rand", it grinds my gears a little.  The fact that Greenspan worked in and advanced the institution of a state-enforced monopoly is his own personal cognitive dissonance with whatever other parts of Rand's philosophy he ingested.  It's probably a price he was willing to pay for having so much power.
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: ragnarisapirate on September 20, 2011, 01:15:58 PM
I don't know why anybody would ever read Ayn Rand... What an idiot. ;)

But in all seriousness, it seems to me that the problem that seems to underly a lot of "isms" is a misunderstanding of them from people on the outside of the school looking in, and then, from people of the inside of the school looking out.

It seems that Greenspan may have been working in his own self interest by running the FED... Actually, I would argue, that in his own mind, he did a good thing; after all, why would he have done it at the time if that wasn't the case?

On the other hand, it seems that people often assume that Objectivists would simply let people die, simply because there is no "benefit" in doing so. I don't know a single person, even an objectivist that could live with themselves if they would just let a person die, by say, not throwing a life jacket to them off a ship. Well, I for one couldn't do that, but, then again, I am not overly objectivist...

To get de-regulation (or even over-regulation) and such to work, you need to get virtually everyone on the same page. It's kind of like the prisoner's dilemma. If everyone was totally self serving, and thought the same way about inflicting your will (or lack thereof), then anarchy/minarchism/any other small/non government ideal would work. If everyone was self serving on a societal level (believing  that individual sacrifice would benefit you, since society would be better off) then a more statist government would work quite well.

Our problem, seems to be that there is a lack of identity in America... We are not only very moody with politics, but, it seems that people lack conviction in their beliefs... If they have conviction, then, they generally lack the will to have a reasonable discussion about issues at hand, as they are too biased to at least accept the fact that they MIGHT be wrong. If this were 1792 again, we probably wouldn't be able to frame a constitution to become a nation, because our identity as a nation, is actually the lack of identity that we have.

Hell, I might just be simultaneously endorsing and proposing Charlie Munger for Philosopher King in 2012... ;P

Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: seshnath on September 21, 2011, 12:14:25 AM
Seshnath - Greespan was a friend of Rand but nothing he did as a Fed chairman would have been approved by Rand. I suggest you re-read Francisco d'Anconia's speech on money in Atlas Schugged... Had Greenspan stuck to that definition of money, I doubt he would have kept interest rates so low for so long... The Fed and its politburo philosophy of long term of the economy represents everything Rand fought against...

I hear you Eric50.  I remember thinking after reading an article written by Greenspan defending gold as currency during the time he was with Rand and wondering about the direction he took in his life - first taking up a post as a regulator and then gradually undermining that position as regulator with the naive belief that people self regulate the best.  I saw a big inconsistency in that behavior.

Like Charlie Munger said, Greenspan was one of the few to express contrition.  That redeems him in my books back to a normal level.  I don't think of him as a Maestro or even an Ayn Randian, really. 
Title: Re: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Post by: seshnath on September 22, 2011, 04:23:21 AM
I did not grow up in Kerala though, but you know despite everything, they did not ruin the chai! 
BTW, netnet I am glad you like chai.  You know, the stereotype of a Kerala communist is the guy who lives on chai and a spicy donut type snack called "parippu vada" "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parippu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parippu) " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vada (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vada).
Have you visited?