Monday, March 2, 2009

Finishing Ayn

I have more or less finished Atlas Shrugged although I stopped reading much of Rand’s philosophy about half way through. My basic rule was that anytime one of Rand’s prime movers talked for more than a couple of paragraphs, I skipped ahead to look for plot. That saved me fifty pages on John Galt’s big radio speech.

One of the things I can’t help but wonder was whether Rand actually knew anything about American history. At one point, Francisco d’Anconia spouts the following nonsense:
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.
I can’t help but think think Blacks and Native Americans might have a little bit different take on the slavery and conquest questions.

5 comments:

  1. I understand what you're saying, but I think the point is that America was built not by serfs farming someone else's land but by men farming their own, who profitted from their own sweat.

    Though this is a bit idealized, it is still a realistic contrast between how people prospered in early America vs early Europe.

    And, of course, there were lots of people who didn't have slaves.

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  2. Chris,

    You are absolutely right although the Jeffersonian yeoman farmers are not the heroes of Atlas Shrugged. For Rand, the heroes are the American industrialists who I suspect prospered in much the same way that their European counterparts did.

    For example, one of the most important characters is the great grand-daughter of the founder of a great transcontinental railroad. Her anscestor is often held up as as the epitome of a self-made man who achieves success despite government and society rather than because of it.

    In actual fact however, the transcontinental railroads were built with government financing, government land grants, and government troops to fight the Indians.

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  3. Don't forget the Chinese! They were slaves even after slavery was officially abolished.

    And to Chris: [jerking-off motion] whatever. No slaves, no America.

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  4. Hey Pokey,

    Is that really any different than an emoticon?

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  5. Hmm, in principle, you may be right.
    Although, the fact that my point can be expressed in layman's script as well as douchebagspeak makes me think that maybe I've stumbled upon a slightly more universal notation.

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