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Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4) 
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Post Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)

Please use this thread for discussing the above chapters. You're welcome to create your own threads too.



Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:05 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
The Top And The Bottom
I really enjoyed the first two chapters, but this one is starting to make me a little nervous. Some of the speakers appear to be caricatures rather than developed characters. In the beginning executives are talking about avoiding blame, unfair competition, and the need for the country to use resources for the public good.
Quote:
"Conditions and circumstances, Jim," said Orren Boyle. "Conditions and circumstances absolutely beyond human control. We had everything mapped to roll those rails, but unforeseen developments set in which nobody could have prevented. If you'd only given us a chance, Jim."

Quote:
"The only justification of private property," said Orren Boyle, "is public service."
"That is, I think, indubitable," said Wesley Mouch.

Quote:
"Jim, you will agree, I'm sure, that there's nothing more destructive than a monopoly."
"Yes," said Taggart, "on the one hand. On the other, there's the blight of unbridled competition."
"That's true. That's very true. The proper course is always, in my opinion, in the middle. So it is, I think, the duty of society to snip the extremes, now isn't it?"
"Yes," said Taggart, "it is."

I don't think we're likely to hear statements of that ilk outside of a commie Image hippie Image or artist :artist: commune let alone in a corporate board room. These seem like straw men set up for a good ol' fashioned flame throwing. Image

What do you think of those discussions on capitalism and the economy? Other examples?

And yes, I DO like smilies. Either get used to it or over it.
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Last edited by LanDroid on Sat Sep 08, 2012 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
A little bit later, the statements above are extended into foreign policy and aid. These sound more familiar.
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They spoke at great length about the poverty of the Mexicans and their desperate need of railroads, "They've never had a chance." "It is our duty to help an underprivileged nation to develop. A country, it seems to me, is its neighbors' keeper."
...
"The Mexicans, it seems to me, are a very diligent people, crushed by their primitive economy. How can they become industrialized if nobody lends them a hand?" "When considering an investment, we should, in my opinion, take a chance on human beings, rather than on purely material factors."

Between the two quotes above, Dagny worries about the lack of maintenance at Taggart Transcontinental.
Quote:
She thought of the ominous need of repairs, ominously neglected over the entire system. Their policy on the problem of maintenance was not a policy but a game they seemed to be playing with a piece of rubber that could be stretched a little, then a little more.

I bring this up partly to show how short sighted the executives are (I work in a company with similar "maintenance problems") and partly in the hope there's an error in the version I'm reading: Rand didn't actually use the same word twice in one sentence? If it's not an error, perhaps you can defend this instance of repetition? It's page 42 in the .pdf file I'm reading.

Heh, I know the risk of branging dat up, y'all don't even go on critiquing my grammar an spelin as payback - I ain't a claimin' tuh be a published author 'er nuttin.
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Sat Sep 08, 2012 6:25 pm
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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Nat Taggart sounds like a wild character - he built a railroad, but had a dangerously explosive temper. What's your opinion? Here's Dagny's with independent minded superhero qualities in bold.
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Dagny regretted at times that Nat Taggart was her ancestor. What she felt for him did not belong in the category of unchosen family affections. She did not want her feeling to be the thing one was supposed to owe an uncle or a grandfather. She was incapable of love for any object not of her own choice and she resented anyone's demand for it. But had it been possible to choose an ancestor, she would have chosen Nat Taggart, in voluntary homage and with all of her gratitude.



Last edited by LanDroid on Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Well I'm at the end of Chapter 3 and I'm not sure what the title "The Top And The Bottom" means. It could refer to the executives in relation to the Mexicans or perhaps to both Dagny and Eddie Willers enjoying talks with very low level workers?


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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Thinking a bit more about my first post above and problems with straw men, perhaps Rand is warning about what would happen IF people with such opinions about private property and capitalism got into positions of power. I can go along with that, but I doubt it satisfies Objectivists*. I suspect Rand would say her warning was about the very near future and Objectivists would say that problem has long since occurred.

*Rand's philosophy is known as Objectivism.



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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Landroid, would you be willing to expand on what you mean? Is the displayed empathy at odds with Rand's philosophy?


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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
LanDroid wrote:
Some of the speakers appear to be caricatures rather than developed characters. In the beginning executives are talking about avoiding blame, unfair competition, and the need for the country to use resources for the public good.


What Rand is doing is identifying social tendencies and exaggerating them. Her simplistic caricatures are designed to show how she imagines people really think, beneath the veneer of concealment. Of course no real businessmen ever speak like this, but Rand's agenda is to help a conservative readership imagine the hidden thought process that leads to the baffling partisan hostility where policies are blocked for no good reason.

It also aims to show why some firms succeed and others fail, with the argument that a single minded focus on profit alone is key to success, and that only a profitable economy delivers the social spillover benefits of improved living conditions for all. The job of a railway company is to build railways, not to be diverted by second-guessing how ignorant people feel about their operations. Rand argues that a tough visionary focus on core business provides the values required for private success, and therefore for social improvement. When people don't get on board a competitive mindset the whole economy stagnates. It goes back to the argument of Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations that the invisible hand delivers the greatest good, with market forces coordinating supply and demand.

Assumptions are pervasive in politics. By setting out the overlap she perceives between communism and liberalism, Rand is engaging in a class war struggle on behalf of capital against labour. Her caricatures aim to reinforce the assumptions of business people that liberals are airheads and communist fellow travellers.

It is useful to understand these caricatures to know where politicians like Paul Ryan are coming from (see New Yorker article on Ryan and Atlas Shrugged). But if implemented, Rand's policies would be dangerous. This came through to me in considering the views of international mining executives, who understand social licence to operate as key to enlightened self interest. Rather than seeing community engagement as morally corrosive and a waste of money, sensible businesses and governments recognise the costs that come from failure to distribute the benefits of growth. As I commented in the discussion on Haidt Chapter 12, wealth creation and wealth redistribution stand in dialectical relation. What this means is that good policy requires a balance between different approaches that have some contradictory impacts. Too much equality and the economy stagnates: too much inequality and the society explodes.


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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Interbane wrote:
Landroid, would you be willing to expand on what you mean? Is the displayed empathy at odds with Rand's philosophy?

If "the displayed empathy" refers to the commie/hippie/artist statements by the businessmen, then yes, those statements are in complete opposition to Rand's philosophy. Rand advocates heroic individual action against any claim whatsoever on those efforts. As we've seen from Dagny above, this applies even to the emotional bond from immediate family which, like a salary, must be earned.
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R. Tulip sez: What Rand is doing is identifying social tendencies and exaggerating them. Her simplistic caricatures are designed to show how she imagines people really think, beneath the veneer of concealment. Of course no real businessmen ever speak like this, but Rand's agenda is to help a conservative readership imagine the hidden thought process that leads to the baffling partisan hostility where policies are blocked for no good reason.

I think the first part helps, but not sure about the last bit. The book explains why libertarian ideals are not universally accepted by exaggerating commie opinions? Don't conflate conservatives with libertarians, it's important to recognize libertarians (Rand) are a different breed - not conservative, liberal, or independent.

To get a flava, see where you stand by taking the "World's Smallest Political Quiz".
http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz



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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Chapter IV - The Immovable Movers
Uh-Oh...Dagny confronts an atrocity.
Quote:
On her way through the plant, she had seen an enormous piece of machinery left abandoned in a corner of the yard. It had been a precision machine tool once, long ago, of a kind that could not be bought anywhere now. It had not been worn out; it had been rotted by neglect, eaten by rust and the black drippings of a dirty oil. She had turned her face away from it. A sight of that nature always blinded her for an instant by the burst of too violent an anger. She did not know why; she could not define her own feeling; she knew only that there was, in her feeling, a scream of protest against injustice, and that it was a response to something much beyond an old piece of machinery.

Coldly indifferent to most other humans, but outraged by this image? And yet more of the mysteriousness mentioned by sal10e earlier, "She did not know why; she could not define..." There is a lot of weird going on in the emotional life of The Heroic Characters (Tm).
Please discuss...



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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Cold and calculating? It's a travesty to waste good machinery, especially precision machinery. Such unintentional degradation is an unfortunate part of this world, just like death. It's an injustice that's built into the fabric of the universe. Two steps forward, and one step back due to human nature. All the backbreaking effort we put into progress(including resources)... how much is lost due to human indifference?


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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
LanDroid wrote:
libertarians (Rand) are a different breed - not conservative, liberal, or independent.

It depends whether this 'breed' is self-defined or other-defined. The mass media operate with a crude political spectrum where everyone serious is placed on a single line ranging from extreme right wing across to extreme left wing, with moderates in the middle who are willing to compromise and negotiate. The only ones off the line are kooks who everyone ignores.

Libertarians are represented in the US political sphere by Ron Paul and Paul Ryan, both of whom are generally regarded as extreme right wing conservatives due to their desire to slash into the size of government and focus on entrepreneurial values.

It is a bit like debates in religion where people say 'hey you can't define me by your simplistic categories'. People can and do define others on a simple spectrum, and Rand gets placed on the hard right. In the public mind libertarian is just a subset of conservative. Libertarianism is viewed as extreme because its ideological leaders such as Hayek and Mises have a rather uncompromising stance on the role of government.

Of course in some respects this simplistic labelling breaks down. We see that with Ryan who has distanced himself from Rand, despite his agreement with her, in order to shore up his social conservative base who don't like atheism and libertarianism.


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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
As Dagny comes up in the company, I wonder why the other people don't oppose her. I wonder if it is because they don't bother due to her being female, or do they not want to oppose the boss's kid. She moves into the position she has and it seems this is what she always wanted, but she does not seem fulfilled in the position. Maybe this is why she does not want Nat to be her relative. Maybe she wishes the business hadn't been created. She does seem to respect him as a businessman however.

Eddie and Dagny seem the most committed to the company, but I wonder if Halley's character is supposed to forshadow Dagny's. Once the Rio Norte succeeds, does this mean that Dagny will bow out and leave the company and the public eye?

Robert Tulip wrote:
... good policy requires a balance between different approaches that have some contradictory impacts. Too much equality and the economy stagnates: too much inequality and the society explodes.
This is why I was concerned with the meeting about the Anti-dog-eat-dog rule. They constantly talk about the need to follow the majority and that sacrifice for the greater good is always the way to go. If the greater good is always what to look toward, then this will eventually lead towards communism. The "greater good" can never be perfect until everyone is equal. Without the competition of the railroads, there will never be a need to upgrade rail or better services as everyone will have access and the rail will always be "good enough". My other concern with lack of competition would be that Rearden Metal would be so good a product that no one else would ever sell anything again, but also that there would be no need for replacements, repairs, or improvements. Without this, it causes the demise of Reardon's company as well.

I know these may come across as three disjointed thoughts, but these are the major things that I noticed in the two sections and the points that I plan on keeping in mind in the reading of this book.



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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Tigerlily22
Rand uses a strong sense of sarcasm to show her disdain for the altruists. Even the name of the Anti-dog-eat-dog rule shows how rediculous she thinks this type of approach is. I feel that she goes a bit overboard in showing how ignorant the group and Taggart are, but she was bent on making her point against Communism.



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Post Re: Part One, Chapters III–IV (3 - 4)
Good point Lindad.

I think we get a good look into the personality of Dagny when after the anti dog eat dog act she rushes to a railroad owner who has lost a great deal of his railroad. She is furious with him because he will not fight for what he owns. Although she admits she would take advantage of his loss, she wants him to fight. She says,
Quote:
Nothing can make self-immolation proper. Nothing can give them the right to turn men into sacrificial animals. Nothing can make it moral to destroy the best. One can't be punished for being good


She continues:
Quote:
One can't be penalized for ability. If that is right, then we'd better start slaughtering one another, because there isn't any right at all in the world. . . . If it's that kind of world, how can we live in it?


She tells this owner, Dan, that he has been punished for being good. So although Dagny is seen as this tough ass chick, she seems to have a great concern for morality and goodness. Terms such as self immolation and sacrificial animals make me think of religion and reminds me of something Robert said about Rand's view that some see capitalism as a religion. Dagny certainly is a capitalist, however, this dialoge shows her to be a moral one, where her brother and other railroad owners are not.

With this type of thinking by Dagny in her business makes her the odd ball. This type of thinking could really shake up the railroad world. Or, could make the Atlas shrug?



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