Atlas Chugged

August 31st, 2010 at 2:23 pm David Frum | 20 Comments |

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Conor Friedersdorf asks:

Glenn Reynolds writes: “Atlas Shrugged seems prophetic in ever so many ways…”

What ways specifically?

As a participant in Hipster Shrugged I am curious.

I’ll bite: Because Rand anticipated the coming revival in passenger rail?

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20 Comments so far ↓

  • easton

    That is funny because I thought the same thing before I read what you wrote.
    That book is so dated in so many ways. But it was prophetic in one way:
    “Then why should you wish to quit?”
    “It’s a personal matter.”
    “Are you ill? Is it a question of your health?”
    “No.”
    “Are you leaving the city?”
    “No.”
    “Have you inherited money that permits you to retire?”
    “No.”
    “Do you intend to continue working for a living?”
    “Yes.”
    “But you do not wish to work for Taggart Transcontinental?”
    “No.”
    “In that case, something must have happened here to cause your decision. What?”
    “Nothing, Miss Taggart.”
    “I wish you’d tell me. I have a reason for wanting to know.”
    “Would you take my word for it, Miss Taggart?”
    “Yes.”
    “No person, matter or event connected with my job here had any bearing upon my decision.”
    “You have no specific complaint against Taggart Transcontinental?”
    “None.”
    “Then I think you might reconsider when you hear what I have to offer you.”
    “I’m sorry, Miss Taggart. I can’t.”

    She predicted the game 20 Questions, Or maybe non communicative teenage responses.
    Honest to God, who the hell talks like that in business?

  • Posting From Fake America

    I’ll give Rand credit for predicting that many of the country’s largest corporations would become giant monopolistic quasi-governmental institutions who use their influence in Washington to consolidate their power in the industry and in times of crises, hold the government hostage for a bailout. What’s sad is that many Rand followers fail to make the connection and instead defend all multi-nationals corps as exemplars of free enterprise.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    A much more thoughtful argument worth engaging, yet ultimately proven wrong, was Hayek’s argument that a state providing for the welfare of its citizens leads to serfdom.

  • maxbell

    The sad thing about Ayn Rand is not that her critics don’t get it, but that her proponents don’t get it, either.

  • frouglas

    The sad thing about this question by Conor is that Glenn Reynolds very specifically pointed to the inspiration for his quote: a claim of a new energy technology out of Brazil that takes energy from the atmosphere (essentially), just like Galt’s motor. It’s not a big mystery, it’s that 50 years ago, Rand made up a technology, and now, with her name on the lips of an entire movement, that technology may be coming to fruition. Say what you will about her philosophy, but from a tech standpoint, she looks pretty good right now.

  • MSheridan

    I recently picked up and read a speculative fiction book titled The Unincorporated Man by a pair of brothers who have read far, far too much Ayn Rand. It’s a very interesting read, and I predict it will become a cult classic for modern-day Randian Objectivists, but what is even more interesting is that it reads as if Rand herself wrote it. It exhibits the same invincible ignorance of human motivations, the same confusion of wealth with virtue, and another protagonist who might as well have crashlanded from Krypton.

    I hope to see the moment someday when a nearby Randian suddenly comes to the realization that Homo Sapiens is not, in fact, Homo Economicus and that all attempts to pretend otherwise are in vain. Rational Choice Theory may work in certain narrowly specified circumstances, but it simply isn’t realistic. Such moments must happen frequently, but I have yet to witness it.

  • easton

    frouglas, you have got to be joking right? You are suggesting her using one of the most common literary devices as evidence of foresight? You are aware of a genre called Science fiction, right? I can literally show you tens of thousands of ideas and inventions in SCI FI books that have come to pass, the people were not prophets, they used what even 3 year olds have, a little imagination.

  • sinz54

    Posting from fake America: I’ll give Rand credit for predicting that many of the country’s largest corporations would become giant monopolistic quasi-governmental institutions who use their influence in Washington to consolidate their power in the industry and in times of crises, hold the government hostage for a bailout.
    I was going to mention that, and also Obama’s outright nationalization of GM and Chrysler. (Truman had nationalized the steel industry, but that was almost immediately ruled illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court.)

    Despite all the problems with Atlas Shrugged, I did take away from it one important lesson: There is no limit to how much government control over the economy the Left would impose, if they could think of good reasons (or just excuses). As far as they are concerned, the private sector exists only on their sufferance and restraint–but those aren’t guaranteed to be permanent.

  • freedomrings

    sinz, do you really think Obama wanted to have control over GM? I think he saw it as a necessary evil and will be happy to get rid of it as soon as possible.

  • GEValle

    How about her prescient views on socialism and statism??

    Rand understood that socialism allows the unproductive, the slackers, the bureacrats, and the losers in society to dictate policy to those who produce wealth. Socialism appeals to the non-productive classes because it gives them power that they would never otherwise attain in a true meritocracy.

    She also understood that ultimately, socialism is a losing proposition economically, and antithetical to the human spirit.

  • easton

    I was going to mention that, and also Obama’s outright nationalization of GM and Chrysler.

    Yeah, Nationalization. Dude, so bankruptcy court equals nationalization now? And good thing he bailed them out, GM sold more cars in China this year than in America. Yes, it would have been great for America to lose that whole marketplace for no sane reason.

  • Krom

    “Rand understood that socialism allows the unproductive, the slackers, the bureacrats, and the losers in society to dictate policy to those who produce wealth. Socialism appeals to the non-productive classes because it gives them power that they would never otherwise attain in a true meritocracy.”

    Really? Rand boldly anticipated the consequences of socialism?? How forward-thinking!

    Putting aside that this post is hopelessly simplistic, I felt compelled to comment on one particular aspect of it: the implication that the opposite of “socialism” is “meritocracy”. Absolutely not the case. Systemic obstacles to smart people and good ideas are quite possible in other systems, so long as insufficient protections are afforded to individuals and small groups from larger or more powerful organizations.

  • WillyP

    “the sad thing is” that the leftists, and even some of us on the right, still don’t recognize that the Democrat party has become all but indistinguishable in practice to the socialist parties of Europe.

    Rand wasn’t a politician; she was a philosopher and author. I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged (though I have read and enjoyed The Fountainhead), but the past 2 years I’ve read so much ABOUT Atlas Shrugged that it seems to me she was on to something.

    No?

  • drdredel

    WillyP, you remind me of a colleague of mine who was writing a movie review and asked if he could describe the film as “Fellini-esque”… he had never actually seen a Fellini film, but wanted to sound like he had some business reviewing cinema.

    If you’re so curious about this book, why not read it?

    As for the Democrats and their Socialist tendencies, if only we were so lucky as to have our Democratic party suddenly espouse the incredibly sound and rational ideas currently in practice in places like Sweden. Sadly, and in spite of your erroneous claim, a Swede would see our Democrats as pretty far right (and the Republicans as just out and out wackos). Having lived in Sweden for some time, I can tell you that we can definitely learn a thing or two from those crazy Socialists on how to run a country.

    And they, of course, would find the assertion that their system of government and finance is “doomed” as per Rand’s ramblings, pretty laughable.

    In defense of Rand though, her only experience with “Socialism” was hardcore fanatical dictatorships dressed in “communism’s” fur. So, being a relatively dim woman, she was only able to evaluate the antithesis to said construct as positive, and incapable of seeing how a system not predicated on fear and death might actually work quite nicely, even if the central theme of that system was not “I’ll take what’s mine, and the rest of you can suck it”.

  • drdredel

    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Atlas_Shrugged/Technology#Galt.27s_Motor

    This passes for “prophetic”?!

    Someone needs to read some Jules Verne.

  • WillyP

    drdrendl,
    I’d encourage you to move back to Sweden, or at least show up to the polls on Wednesday.

  • drdredel

    “drdrendl”? I think it’s awesome that your insults (or attempts at them) are roughly on the same level of maturity and intellectual ability as the rest of your commentary. Why don’t we meet on the playground at recess and push each other around until our 2nd grade teacher breaks things up?

    You’d encourage me to move to Sweden? Wow. That IS original. I compliment a foreign system and Knee-Jerk (that’s you) responds with the first Pavlovian mantra that comes to mind.

    Making fun of you is getting boring. You didn’t even notice that gem I had about you getting blown by a 10 dollar transvestite in an alley that you referred to as your “professor”, did you?

    Total waste of time.

  • WillyP

    sounds good by me! would you leftists leave me (and the rest of us!) alone the rest of my life, i’d shut up and get back to the important things in life – family, friends, and work.

    as-is, anybody who isn’t a rabid communist apologetic troll or an ostrich is out trying to save what’s left of our constitutional republic.

    as for the tranny bit, why don’t you keep your cross dressing to yourself, hey?

  • Blankenship

    “Rand understood that socialism allows the unproductive, the slackers, the bureacrats, and the losers in society to dictate policy to those who produce wealth. ”

    Yeah, because if there is one major problem in America, it’s that the wealthy don’t have enough political power.

  • larry

    Sinz54 will recall that it was Bush/Paulson who first proposed the auto bailout in December 2008. It was the Obama administration that required bankruptcy before extending the loans. As it turns out, not a really bad investment.