Know your enemy

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Know your enemy

Postby Azur » Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:43 pm

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=reg_ls_capitalism_without_guilt

I was doing some reading when I ran into this Ayn Rand institute. I knew nothing about Ayn Rand. She is not very well-known in Europe but as I understood she is quite popular in the US, especially in the conservative circles. So I went to see…and it’s awesome. I found myself a perfect illustration of what I consider the wrong way of thinking. There are so many others of course I don’t claim to have the right one, but this is very powerfull!

Everything is there: Margaret Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as society. There are only individuals”. Selfishness and greed are not only efficient, they are moral! The myth of a self-made man, a heroic life. Nitzsche’s “humanity is justified by its great men”. These people have a philosophy: objectivism. Yes objectivism!

The trouble is, this “philosophy” is and has been extremely influential for the last 40 years. Anyway it depicts very well the state of mind of today’s top finance and the ruling class in general. The “objectivism” makes them feel so good about themselves, as it makes them believe that their only responsibility is toward themselves and not the society.

A lot of influential people are or were Ayn Rand’s great fans. Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan (the former chairman of the federal reserve bank), Vladimir Poutine, Jimmy Wales (the creator of wikipedia), Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie….yes Hollywood is all about objectivism. ;0)

So this phrase came to my mind: Know your enemy!
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Re: Know your enemy

Postby mirjana » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:01 pm

Hi Azur,

I also didn´t know about her. Thank you for the information. After I read what you have written, I also was doing some research about her, this center, objectivism...
Before continuing this topic, I think it would be interesting to hear the first hand information about everything, morality, capitalism, socialism, religion, society and what Ayn Rand words are about it. These are part 1 and 2 of Ayn Rand Mike Wallace Interview in 1959. Both are shorter than the video of that D.C., Executive Director Yaron Brook who demonstrated , as he called it "her revolutionary ethics of rational self-interest supplied the moral foundation that previous proponents of capitalism lacked". It seems that some people in America have found a new way to reject McCain/Obama-style “national service”.






...and some quotes:
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Re: Know your enemy

Postby Azur » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:44 am

Ok let's see...

I like it when she says :”study economics and history of economics!” I think she has slipped over some major lessons in economics. For instance, the accumulation of capital. She calls for a separation between the state and the economy like there is a separation between the state and the church.Without government intervention, large corporations in one sector would just set the prices between themselves and thereby prevent competition. This was the case in the 19th century in the US before the antitrust laws. So without that particular government regulation in the economy, there would be only monopolies or at any case oligopolies. Afterwords she says nothing about monetary creation and finance. What about usuary practice in credits? She says nothing about the relationship between the employer and the employee. I mean I could go forever like that. All economic legislation should be erased and left to free market? That just means going back to 19 th century’s ruthless exploitation of the working class.
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Re: Know your enemy

Postby Sabina » Thu Feb 24, 2011 6:01 pm

Azur,
I wasn't acquainted with Ayn Rand either, so I was curious to do some research before I reply to this topic.
I apologize up front for my lengthy reply. I could of course keep it brief and merely express my own conclusions, or I could share with you some of the many findings, along with my invaluable comments. I have decided for the latter.
Oh, rejoice!
80|

Here is a nice introductory article by Alexander G. Rubio


There are very few books that actually enrage me. There are of course works such as "Mein Kampf", by everyone's favourite moustachioed mad man, and "The Protocols of the Elders of Sion". But in such cases you know going in, that you're dealing with historical documents by fruit cakes and loons.

And then there are those books which come highly recommended by a vast number of seemingly sane and educated people, but turn out to be either loony or borderline evil. Such a book is "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.

It is difficult for Europeans, and other non-Americans for that matter, to appreciate the influence of Ayn Rand's work in The United States.
Image
Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, as she was originally named, was born in Russia in 1905, on the cusp of the cascading revolutions which would result in the foundation of the Communist Soviet Union. Her family lost just about everything in that process, something which imbued her with a deep seated hate for anything smacking of socialism.

In 1926 she emigrated to The United States and tried to make her way as a writer in Hollywood, with mixed success. It wasn't until "The Fountainhead" in 1943 that her philosophical and political thoughts, later called Objectivism, began to crystallise and she found a wide audience. Her 1957 magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged" went on to become, according to some, the "second most influential book in America, after The Bible".

Take the practise of laissez-faire capitalism, turn it into an ideological creed while subtracting the invisible hand of the masses, mix liberally with debased and half baked Nietzscheanism and worship of the Superman, stir, and shake, with a soupçon of bitterness, ego-mania and contempt for average small minded human beings, and Voila! Objectivism, a name that belongs with DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) in the annals of egregiously false labels.

I was 15 when I borrowed the book at the library. And I'm sorry to say it was a bit the worse for wear when I returned it, as it had been thrown at the wall on a number of occasions by that time. It was the first time it dawned on me that Americans, not having been on the sharp end of it at home, had a problem recognising re-heated and re-packaged Fascism when confronted with it.

Now it seems that this dreary tale of the capitalist supermen cutting their ties to the rest of the useless mass of dolts, who subsequently flounder in ignorance and economic breakdown, at long last is getting its Hollywood apotheosis.

Variety reports (subscription required) that Lionsgate has picked up worldwide distribution rights to "Atlas Shrugged". Howard and Karen Baldwin will be producing along with business man John Aglialoro. And the actors rumoured to play Dagny Taggart and hero John Galt? Do-gooders par excellence Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt of course. Yes, starring in a propaganda vehicle for a philosophical school of thought which posits that even private and voluntary charity is an abomination and coddling the inferior, apparently goes hand in hand with saving the poor and downtrodden of the world. Putzes!

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Ok, I have noticed that the US seems obsessed with the "danger of Socialism".... Why the hell would they be? The best places in the world are ruled by socialist governments and they will visit these places and admire how well everything is organized, the low crime rate, the health system, the happy (or happier?) people, etc. Yet the mere mention of the word "socialism" seems to bring up the worst in some Americans, at least according to various media. Why??
When I first observed this many months ago, I was confused, perplexed, astonished. Then after some time I was more and more annoyed.
Anyway, let's continue....

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So what is her book Atlas Shrugged about?

Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the United States. Rand's fourth and last novel, it was also her longest, and the one she considered to be her magnum opus in the realm of fiction writing. The book explores a dystopian United States where leading innovators, ranging from industrialists to artists, refuse to be exploited by society. The protagonist, Dagny Taggart, sees society collapse around her as the government increasingly asserts control over all industry, while society's most productive citizens, led by the mysterious John Galt, progressively disappear. Galt describes the strike as "stopping the motor of the world" by withdrawing the "minds" that drive society's growth and productivity. In their efforts, these "men of the mind" hope to demonstrate that a world in which the individual is not free to create is doomed, that civilization cannot exist where men are slave to society and government, and that the destruction of the profit motive leads to the collapse of society.

Atlas Shrugged received largely negative reviews after its 1957 publication, but achieved enduring popularity and consistent sales in the following decades. In the wake of the late 2000s recession, sales of Atlas Shrugged have sharply increased, according to The Economist magazine and The New York Times. The Economist reported that the novel ranked #33 among Amazon.com's top-selling books on January 13, 2009.
Source: Wikipedia


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So, I'm curious... I haven't read the book, and am considering reading it now, just so I can make up my own mind, without anyone's interpretations in between me and the writer's original thought. But, then I would be contributing to the book's popularity... Ah, decisions...

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Ah! This is also interesting:

Over the years, Atlas Shrugged has attracted an energetic and committed fan base. Each year, the Ayn Rand Institute donates to high school students 400,000 copies of works by Ayn Rand, including Atlas Shrugged. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and former CEO John Allison directed their subordinates to read the tome. According to a 1991 survey done for the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged was situated between The Bible and M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled as the book that made the most difference in the lives of 5,000 Book-of-the-Month club members surveyed, with "A large gap existing between the #1 book and the rest of the list".[ Modern Library's 1998 nonscientific online poll of the 100 best novels of the 20th century found Atlas rated #1 although it was not included on the list chosen by the Modern Library board of authors and scholars.

The Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises admired the unapologetic elitism of Rand's work. In a private letter to Rand written a few months after the novel's publication, he declared, "...Atlas Shrugged is not merely a novel. It is also (or may I say: first of all) a cogent analysis of the evils that plague our society, a substantiated rejection of the ideology of our self-styled "intellectuals" and a pitiless unmasking of the insincerity of the policies adopted by governments and political parties... You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the efforts of men who are better than you."
Source: Wikipedia

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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are mentioned as fans of Ayn Rand, right?
Well, what exactly was it they said about her or her work?


Angelina Jolie: "I just think [Ayn Rand] has a very interesting philosophy...You reevaluate your own life and what's important to you."
Brad Pitt: The Fountainhead "is so dense and complex, it would have to be a six-hour movie."

Ok, so if that is all they said, that's not really much... not enough to qualify a person as "a fan", I'd say. Everything else I found about them supposedly being fans is in public forums and gossip press (and those famously write whatever they want about whatever they want).
Angelina Jolie was rumored to play Dagny Taggart in the movie, but she isn't.... and here is the trailer for 2011 movie "Atlas Shrugged":



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Jimmy Wales (the creator of wikipedia) is indeed a self-proclaimed fan.
As for Alan Greenspan (the former chairman of the federal reserve bank) being a fan..-. well, that shouldn't be a surprise, no? :)
Whether Ronald Reagan was a fan or not doesn't matter much either way, and surely, him being a fan - again - kind of makes sense too, from everything I have heard so far.

Azur, I am so glad you opened this topic! It is not only highly interesting but also very very relevant.

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Re: Know your enemy

Postby Ryan » Thu Feb 24, 2011 7:06 pm

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Re: Know your enemy

Postby alija » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:28 pm

=0X
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Re: Know your enemy

Postby Azur » Fri Feb 25, 2011 12:42 am

This is funny ! I didn’t know that they were making that Atlas Shrugged movie. I first heard about Ayn Rand in an article from 2008 that I read recently because it was written by François Flahaut a French philosopher whose book I’m reading at the moment. Anyway, this coincidence probably means that Ayn Rand is gaining visibility.

So I am glad that you added all these articles. Thanx Sabina!

However I disagree with Alexander Rubio when he says that Randism is re-packaged fascism. Let’s not get it all mixed up. Fascism as well as nazism (national socialism) as well as Stalinism are all collectivisms. And collectivism is precisely what she rejects. She is right about something. All of these systems were oppressing the individual. Fascism and nazism were based on national or racial superiority and Stalinism on ideology and bureaucracy. Each of them in their own way wanted to coerce the individual into obeying blindly to the system in the name of society, be it fascist, nazi, Stalinist, or any other absolutism. So these systems forced the people to abandon individuality to melt into the mould of society

On the other hand I do agree with the fact that her thought was shaped by her own experience of communism in the soviet Union. So let’s try and follow what she’s really saying instead of accusing her of fascism.

Her solution was to get away from the Soviet Union system as far as possible. The idea was to oppose no society/ all individual to no individual/ all society paradigm. That means bringing the state to a minimum. As far as I understood the government has to be limited to the police which has to be there to secure private property…

She claims that she was inspired by the original thought of the forefather’s of America. And this is pretty clear if you take a look at the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”

This is one of the most important texts ever written and what does it talk about:
1. Individual rights: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness given by God
2. The government limited to safety and the possibility of the pursuit of happiness

So how do you reach happiness according to Ayn Rand? That’s where Aristotle comes in: through reason. As the government is there to ensure safety and the possibility of the pursuit of happiness, the individual in order to be happy needs to use reason. And a reasonable individual will pursue his rational self-interest, as she puts it. Furthermore she says that there cannot be a conflict of interest between rational men, because being rational they will find a way to sort it out.

So you might ask yourself do I really disagree with her? Yes and very strongly. To begin with she does not consider in anyway that individuals live in a society. In fact the society precedes the individual. We are first aware of others before being aware of ourselves. She fails to describe how you become an individual. People are not born separately and alone and with the ability to apply reason as soon as they are born. So the very essence of the individual is in a society and his self-interest is in the society. We are naturally empathic towards others as well as naturally enclined to excessiveness. François Flahaut in his book that I’m reading at the moment speaks about the greek poet Hesiod (8th century b.c) and his Theogony. In Theogony dikè (the justice “the empathic part”) is opposed to hubris ( “the excessiveness” associated with the tendancy toward the primordial void). Ayn Rand’s philosophy is all about hubris the way I see it. It might be even pathological with her, I don’t know.

As for her economic theory is also a non theory as I described it in my earlier post. The trouble is that this free market less state paradigm is still very much in power today. So Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and those alike have managed to do a lot of harm.

Of course all of what I said needs much deeper insight to be clear but I tried to summarize the essential.

Cheers
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Re: Know your enemy

Postby mirjana » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:53 pm

This topic turned into one of nice examples of mutual work and supportive and exploring debate that has brought to all of us a possibility to learn some new information.

As I have already said I also did some research . Along with this and the information I have got thank to Sabina Azur, I can also say that I disagree with her.
She has some good thoughts if taken "per se" and out of context. But all in all, her teaching is directed toward the main idea which is to support nihilistic freedom, ego allowed to do everything that pleases it regardless the consequences it has on the surrounding ;
I didn´t want to follow interpretation about her so I was listening to her original text and interviews and she shocked me with her ideas , just to mention some:
- It is OK that she prefers Aristotle vs. Plato, (her preference), but my understanding of Aristotle´s reason is far away of that how she related to it;
- She annulated everything else but reason(mind) putting the whole stress only on the mental aspect of humans . Empathy, sympathy, compassion do not exist for her.
- She was talking very badly about social programs (supporting only personal donations, which is a personal choice) and her words when talking about handicapped children are not to be repeated;
- When talking about American oil exploitation in other countries she considers that as their right because those people in those countries are for her only savages. Heard from the first hand it sounds like a slavery propaganda;
- I do not understand her philosophy as anything to do with a primordial void, because mental concept, for what she stands, is far away from that, and when talking about countries where this is a natural part of life and ancestors ´philosophy, like in India, she considers them as savages too;

- She seems to have some problems in observing us all as connected and I agree with Azur when he said: " It might be even pathological with her".

- Her Institute spreads each year thousands of her books over American universities for pure indoctrination purposes (money makes the world goes on). It is obvious that very powerful force stays behind finding the way to nurture this kind of doctrine that has brought the world to be where it is now.
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Re: Know your enemy

Postby Jade » Sun Feb 27, 2011 4:32 pm

Mirjana, reading your conclusions reminded me of Einstein's quote:

We should take care not to make the intellect our god;
it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

Albert Einstein
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Re: Know your enemy

Postby Ryan » Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:18 pm

I can't really find it in my logics to agree with you Azur...

Azur wrote:In fact the society precedes the individual.


And, in my opinion, I believe it is this "system of measurement" that causes the most problems... as we see in the results of so many things. We, as a species on this planet, have tampered with so many ecological systems and have thrown so many things out of balance... to the point of extinction of other species because of this "system of measurement". I do not believe it is correct to try and put things, which are supposed to be in a natural balance, above one another.

As you pointed out the individual and society are inevitable... you can't have one without the other... but to my way of thinking that only makes them equally important.

To further illustrate what I am trying to say... Did you know the sand from the Sahara desert fertilizes the Amazonian rain forest? Which is more important... if we turn the desert into a rolling fields of green does it not affect the rain forest negatively and doesn't that then affect the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? And then doesn't that affect other plants and animals... and so on, and so on...

In my opinion... when things are tied together, so precisely in a manner which one cannot exist with the other... they have to be considered equals. Neither can supercede the other... or you throw things out of balance... which will always end negatively.

Don't get me wrong, I follow what you are saying... and I have no real argument against any of it mainly because I am not all that informed. I am just saying that if any opinion or approach is built upon a foundation that is faulty the structure that follows is not stable. So by putting society or the individual "above" one another is... in my opinion... building a faulty foundation for any conclusions that follow... the birth of an individual (as you pointed out yourself) is the birth of a society... they are one in the same.

Where the enigma comes in is that nobody can really visualize this "balanced system" functioning because what is inevitable is that people's fears come into play... one fears socialism, one fears capitalism, one fears what-ever-ism and what is discussed instead of a balanced system are methods of prevention. Ways to protect against each others fears becoming reality in whatever system is to be constructed... and thus enters the vicious cycle... the dogs begin chasing each others tails and nothing gets accomplished.

I don't pretend to have the answers... one thing I know for certain is that as a global society... we are a sick species... we have far too many phobias, fears, and are much too tainted from generations of unhealthy environments to work together as "equals" to harmoniously come to a unified agreement and solution... there are too many wounds socially and individually...

We are... as a species... all in the same boat. All paddling in different directions, and taking pieces of the boat to make oars. So that we might get the advantage over the other to finally paddle the boat in the direction we want.

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