Sunday, April 05, 2009

Going Galt

While a teenager I devoured Ayn Rand’s fiction and relished the ideas of her philosophy of objectivism. I discovered her work at a party the spring of my junior year in high school. Always liking to examine bookshelves, I saw For the New Intellectual and out of curiosity opened it almost exactly in the middle and found Francisco d’Anconia’s exquisite The Meaning of Money. The teenage x4mr candy had me trembling with excitement. In the summer of 78, after working 10-15 hours each day bussing tables at The Montgomery Inn, I would read Atlas Shrugged. My friends also read the 1000+ page epic, which we would discuss for hours. Oh, Donna.

I bonded with steel maker Henry Rearden right out of the gate in The Chain (Chapter 2), squealing aloud when Dagny Taggart took the metal bracelet from Lillian. The electricity between Rearden and Dagny mixed with youthful hormones produced about as compelling a read as a reader ever experienced. Fiction rarely gets better than when Rearden confronts Francisco, pointing at Dagny, "Is this the woman you love?"

A couple years later my friend Barry remarked of the pulse raising author, "I’ll bet sex with Ayn Rand is fantastic!"

The recent economic meltdown has led to a spurt in the sales of the book and stirred conversation about its hero, a genius named John Galt who organizes a strike where the competent withdraw from the world, leaving it to the inept looters and moochers. Not having work experience outside of the favorite town restaurant, I found it logical to surmise that competence climbs the ladder and that those at the top (individuals like Galt, Francisco d’Anconia, Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, Ellis Wyatt, and the rest) belong there. Sadly, the orgies now gracing the headlines paint a different picture of the characters leading the nation’s companies. Should any of these clowns wish to "Go Galt" and deprive us of their services, by all means, have a nice trip.

The first warning that something was amiss occurred while employed at a plant that produced air compressors for the military. They charged $90 for 30 cent o-rings. Employees made next to nothing save for five executives who took everything and did little. Scandal finally closed the place. Thinking the compressor company an exception, I joined IBM in 1983. Recall 1988? Five years later I found a terrific company run by geniuses, Magma Copper. BHP bought the Rearden-like operation in 1996, and Australian morons squandered billions as they destroyed the place. In 2003, I got to be a Rearden, turning a $350,000 loss into a $50,000 gain in a single year, training thousands of those in the Tucson workforce. Then TREO’s goon squad infiltrated the board and tried to take the place over. Failing, they gutted its funding. If you want to meet Wesley Mouch and Bertram Scudder in the flesh, visit TREO. Rand's fiction has a lot of reality.

I first voted in the election that put Ronald Reagan in the White House. My Randian world view intact, I cast my vote for Ed Clark, the Libertarian. The distinctions of Rand’s fiction are rich and deep, and it poses an interesting question. If Atlas is not holding up the world, who is? I don’t like the most probable answer.

No one.


Blogger Stephen said...

Holy crap! I was a busser at Montgomery Inn @ the boathouse in '95! Small world.

I too read Atlas Shrugged years ago and found myself drawn to objectivist theory & the libertarian party.

My viewpoint changed after a trip to Haiti. A place that shows the real-world effects of a libertarian society. In Cite Soleil, where the keeping of the sweat of one's brow is at best a home built of raw sewage. That the people living there, even keeping all they have made through their labor, they are still slaves of their situation.

This is why there is no "shining example" of a libertarian society. All we have are works of fiction.

4/06/2009 11:42 AM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

The libertarian model is a myth. I can't stand it when wealthy, high socio-economic snobs express the view that success is available to everyone who wants it.

When you express it all in one paragraph, x4mr, I am rather amazed at the degree of adversity you have faced through no fault of your own.

The thought of you and Wesley Mouch in the same meeting is a hoot.

4/06/2009 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Observer said...

This post ties well with your previous one about the economy. Stephen is spot on. I too enjoyed the book but read it when I was old enough to reject Rand's laissez-faire views. As x4mr claims, the characters make for a terrific read.

I will never forget when James T. got married, and the bride walked up to Dagny and said, "I just want you to know that I'm the woman of this family now."

"That's quite all right," replied Dagny, "I'm the man."

Oh, god. Remember the Anti Dog Eat Dog Rule?

4/06/2009 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

I have been churning over the concepts recently posted at this blog, and I think I’ve had a Nash like eureka worth sharing, and it is elegantly simple yet far reaching in its economic implications. Like Nash, we require a perspective that transcends the pursuit of self-interest. We must recognize that we are attached, not symbolically for purposes of political correctness, but truly ATTACHED. We must adopt views, policies, and practices that recognize an aggregate metric that realizes the connections between us. The rich “getting theirs” while the rest go without does not yield the optimal result.

You do not get ahead screwing that which exists within the same system of which you are a part. I think this view explains the bifurcation between blue and red. In the bar scene from the movie about Nash (A Beautiful Mind), the Republicans are the Adam Smith devotees who go for the girl in the center, a very small number of them successful, while the rest continue to hope. Democrats get we’re all in this together. Anyone taking bets on the party affiliation of the bankers that got theirs while throwing us off a cliff?

4/06/2009 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember where Hank and Dagny are trying to get to the factory of the 20th Century Motor Company? They find a guy along the road.

"Listen," said Rearden, "can you tell us whether there’s a road to the factory?"
"There’s plenty of roads."
"Is there one that a car can take?"

Ha Ha Ha!!

"I guess so."
"Which one?"
"Well now, if you turn to the left by the school house," he said, "and go on till you come up to the crooked oak, there’s a road up there that’s fine when it don’t rain for a couple weeks."
"When did it rain last?"

It gets better.

"Is there another road?"
"Well, you could go through Hansen’s pasture and across the woods and there’s a good, solid road there, all the way down to the creek."
"Is there a bridge across the creek?"
"What are the other roads?"
"Well, if it’s a car road that you want, there’s one on the other side of Miller’s patch. It’s paved. It’s the best road for a car. You just turn to the right by the school house and—"
"But that road doesn’t go to the factory, does it?"
"No, not to the factory."

I remember laughing until it hurt. Thanks for your post.

4/06/2009 9:16 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

I grew up less than a mile from the original Montgomery Inn right across the street from La Rosas. Ever have La Rosas pizza? Ahhh. I knew Ted Gregory, Matilda, Dean, Tom, Terry, Vicki, and the rest. The stories I could tell. Lots of famous people (Bob Hope, etc.) would come in.

I was long gone by the time of the boathouse, but I've eaten there.

That sequence looking for the factory is just one example of her humor. What a gifted woman. I would love for her reality, one where the good prevail, to be reality.

Your comments are welcome, and I'm glad your thoughts were provoked, but a Nash like eureka? Are you suggesting your insight that "we are connected" compares to the game theory result of a Nobel prize winning Princeton University mathematician?

No offense, but heard the bit about the scorpion and the frog?

4/07/2009 12:00 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I miss LaRosas too. The day before we moved here, I almost cleared the shelves at Kroger of cans of Skyline, LaRosas sauce, & bottles of Montgomery Inn sauce.

4/09/2009 1:11 PM  

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