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Posts Tagged ‘Ayn Rand’

It was an old fashioned frame building, this headquarters of the great Danagger Coal Company. Somewhere in the hills beyond the window were the pits where Ken Danagger had once worked as a miner. He had never moved his office away from the coal fields.

When she glanced at the clock on the wall of the anteroom, she caught the secretary glancing at it at the same time. Her appointment was for three o’clock; the white dial said 3:03.

“Please forgive it, Miss Taggart,” said the secretary, Mr. Danagger will be through any moment now. Please believe me, this is unprecedented.”

When she raised her head to glance at the clock again, the dial said 3:06. Dagny looked at the closed door of Danagger’s office. She could hear the sound of a voice beyond the door, but so faintly that she could not tell whether it was the voice of one man or the conversation of two.

“How long has Mr. Danagger been in conference?” she asked.

“Since a few minutes before three,” said the secretary grimly. “It was an unscheduled caller.”

The door was not locked, thought Dagney; she felt an unreasoning desire to tear it open and walk in. She realized that she was thinking of Hugh Akston. She had emailed him at his diner in Wyoming. The email had bounced back from a new spam filter. She told herself angrily that this had no connection with the present moment and that she had to control her nerves.

Dagny asked the secretary slowly, as a demand, in defiance of office etiquette, “Who is with Mr. Danagger?”

“I don’t know, Miss Taggart. I’ve never seen the gentleman before.”

“Did he give his name?”

“No.”

“What does he look like?”

“I don’t know,” she answered uneasily. “He’s hard to describe. He has a strange face.”

They had been silent for a short while, and the hands of the dial were approaching 3:08 when the buzzer rang on the secretary’s desk — the bell from Danagger’s office, the signal of permission to enter.

They both leaped to their feet, and the secretary rushed forward, smiling with relief, hastening to open the door.

As she entered Danagger’s office, Dagny saw the back exit door closing after the caller who had preceded her. She heard the knock of the door against the jamb and the faint tinkle of the glass panel.

Ken Dannager (from Atlas Shrugged part II)

He did not rise when she entered — he looked as if he had not quite shaken off the reality of the prior caller and had forgotten the proper routine — but he smiled at her with such a sarcastic twist that she found herself smiling in answer.

“How do you do, Miss Taggart,” he said. “Forgive me, I think that I have kept you waiting. Please sit down.”

“I didn’t mind waiting,” she said. “I was exremely anxious to speak to you on a matter of urgent importance. I came to speak to you about your indictment.”

“Oh, that? Don’t worry about that. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to pay off the judge by making a big donation to one of his favorite ‘charities’.”

She sat still, feeling nothing. Her first movement was a sudden jerk of her head toward the exit door; she asked, her voice low, “Who was he?”

Danagger laughed. “I have no idea! Some sales guy I assume. He was apparently talking about some property he wanted me to invest in — Galt’s Gulch, can you believe that? Trying to cash in on that whole ‘Who is…’ meme? He had some kind of rationalistic morals appeal and said it was some kind of perfect Nirvana!”

“Oh God, Danagger!” she moaned.

“You’re wrong, kid,” he said gently. “I know how you feel, but you’re wrong. Oh, it sounded great — like most of those guys sound — but I told him it wasn’t ‘practical’. I have my business here and I’ve spent years building it up, I can’t retire now! I’ve almost paid off my condo and I want to buy that new boat next spring. And I have to think about my kids! I have to get them into the right schools after all!” And at that he laughed.

Dagny nodded.

“I wonder if he was the same guy Wyatt told me about. Some guy hit him up too, trying to get him to burn his oil fields and go to some remote place in Colorado for goodness sake! Wyatt said with his new fracking method he can pull out enough oil in North Dakota to make this entire country energy independent in just over 5 years — well that is if he can get that pipeline built and get the permission to drill in that national park where he says the big deposit is located. And of course, he’s dealing with all the red tape from the EPA and the BLM.  They’re giving him some song and dance about a rare field mouse in the area. But I’m sure they’ll come around, right?”

Danagger just shrugged.

“OH, can you do me a favor. If you’re heading back to your office in the next few days, can you drop this check off in Washington?”

She picked up the check and could see the 5 zeros on the sum next to the words ‘Republican National Committee’.

“What is this?” she asked.

“Oh, just a donation to someone’s favorite ‘charity’ — I want to make sure they get it in time to make good use of it for Christie’s 2016 run against Hillary….

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I was listening to this address on the way home and found the first portion highly pertinent in this coming election cycle:

Ayn Rand Institute Multimedia Library

From Ayn Rand’s address “A Nation’s Unity” on October, 1972 at the Ford Hall Forum (click the graphic or link to hear the full audio of the address)

Every four years, at about this time, we begin to hear louder and louder appeals for national unity. We hear them between Presidential elections as well—particularly when something is about to be put over on us—though they are uttered in a more perfunctory manner.

Observe, however, that in recent years it has become fashionable to disparage unity, between elections, and to praise dissent as a kind of moral or patriotic duty. But the pattern of a Presidential election remains the same: first, there is a campaign in which the candidates denounce each other and seem to appeal to some sort of unstated principles; then, when the election is over, the appeals become, in effect: now let’s forget all about principles—national unity comes first.

This is, therefore, an appropriate time to examine the issue of national unity and to ask certain questions: Is such unity necessary? Is it possible? What makes it possible? What is the alternative? What are the consequences? The present election campaign offers many clues to the answers.

As in the case of many other errors or evils, today’s appeals for national unity are based on a perverted element of truth. It is true that, in order to exist as a nation, the large number of men who live in the same geographical area and deal with one another, must agree on some fundamental principle(s). And more: any two men who choose to deal with each other must have some sort of basic agreement, at least for the duration of their joint action. If you joined forces with another man in order to lift a heavy boulder, and you strained to lift it while he strained to push it down, nothing would come of both your efforts but failure, frustration, and—if the issue were important enough to both of you—the recourse to blows and mutual extermination.

The fact that in case of disagreement men can resort to physical force, i.e., to human destruction, is the reason why every human association is based on some sort of agreement, which is implemented by certain rules of conduct. An agreement, in this context, does not necessarily mean a common purpose: you may make an agreement with a neighbor that you will not attack him so long as he does not attack you—and if both of you abide by it, you are free to go your own ways and, perhaps, never see each other again. The fundamental agreement which is required of a nation is an agreement on the rules of peaceful coexistence. A territory inhabited by men engaged in perpetual conflicts, chronic fighting, physical violence, and general hatred of all for all, is not a nation nor a country, but a bloody mess. Internal peace and some sort of harmony are the precondition of the existence of a nation.

The big questions, however, are: Peace—at what price? Harmony—on what terms? Agreement—about what? And more: Can such terms and agreements be chosen arbitrarily? Can men choose any terms and make them work simply by wishing them to do so? Or are there objective factors which necessitate certain principles of human association, and defeat all others? In sum, the fundamental social question is: What principles should men agree upon in order to live and deal with one another?

The best way to answer questions of this kind is to start not with an enormous, floating abstraction, such as “society as a whole,” but with one member of society, the one you know best: yourself. Ask yourself: What rules of conduct would you be able and willing to accept in order to deal with your neighbors?

Let us say you are a young man who knows that he must work in order to support his life. You have a good job, a small family, and a home in the suburbs. Since you do not intend to stagnate, you maintain a certain financial and intellectual balance between the present and the future; you budget your money and your time: your money, to provide for your present needs and to improve your standard of living, For example, to pay off the mortgage on your home—your time, to do your present job well and to study in order to qualify for a better one. You like some of your neighbors, and you dislike others, but you are not afraid of any of them: they are not a threat to you, nor you to them.

This is the normal pattern of your life and you take it for granted, as if it were a fact of nature. But it is not. It took thousands and thousands of years to achieve it. Let us see what it depends on.

Suppose this country’s political system was changed. It was decided that the affairs of each community are to be determined at a monthly meeting of all it’s citizens – by general democratic vote, and that the rule of the majority is absolute – without limits or appeals. It would mean that you could be thrown out of your home and out of your community if the majority so voted. It would mean that you could be sentenced to die, if not liking your manners or your ideas, the majority so voted.

This is not fantasy. This was the social system of many Greek city-states – pure democracy, unlimited majority rule. Would you agree to accept it in the name of communal unity? No? Than would you agree to accept it on a much larger scale and by remote control?

Suppose it was decided but never announced openly and explicitly that the nation holds the absolute power of a Greek city-state. But since one cannot convene an entire nation to a monthly meeting, the people are compressed into groups representing various interests, and the government acts as arbiter and ruler – who listens to their clashing demands and enforces the will of those it deems to be representative of the public interest.

These groups are not elected. They are formed informally, spontaneously, democratically. Anyone is free to form them and to clamor demands for anything. How will you adjust to it?

First, there is a business lobby. But you don’t mind it, it helps your boss.

Then there is a labor lobby. But you don’t mind it – it helps you!

Then there is a farm lobby. But you don’t notice it. It is too remote from your activities.

Then a neighbor on the next block forms a group demanding better roads, and two blocks further a woman forms a group demanding better schools.

Another group demands ‘free lunches‘ for all school children and a rival group demands ‘free textbooks‘.

Your windows are smashed one night by a group of the ‘local juvenile delinquents’ or ‘problem adolescents‘. They show non-negotiable demands which you cannot quite untangle, but you gather it has something to do with ‘Youth Power’.

The residents of the local old-folks home form a group demanding ‘Senior-citizen power’.

The old-maid file clerk at the office – that you can’t stand because she can’t keep the files straight – is given a promotion with the help of a group that demands the liberation of women.

You have no time to keep track of it all. You notice only that your taxes keep rising and rising, and your money keeps buying less and less.

You are late getting to the office one morning because the local ‘welfare recipients’ group lies stretched out across the highway demanding a yearly income greater than half of your’s. You slam on your breaks just in time to avoid running over the group’s leader: a lady known as ‘fatso’ who has 12 children and no visible husband.

You had planned to have three children but you decided to wait a little for the third one – you cannot afford them.

A long haired, young man forms a group to forbid anyone to have more than two children, and a short haired young woman forms a group to forbid abortion and the use of contraceptives.

There’s a group that demands the display of sexual intercourse on the screen and another group that demands censorship of all movies above the intellectual level of a 6 year old. So you give up going to the movies.

You fall behind in your mortgage payment but your property taxes keep rising and rising. You consider giving up your house and renting one in a new development five miles away. But a local ‘birdwatchers’ group is suing the developer, demanding that the land he cleared be turned into a public park.

Your boss has promised you a promotion: the job of managing a new branch factory he is planning to build in your district. But he does not build it. The lady who used to have the local poetry club now has a group that demands the preservation of the beautiful ‘swamp’ he was going to kill.

Then, an educational group decrees that you cannot send your children to the local schools which so much of your property taxes has gone to pay for. So your children are bussed to a distant town: a daily trip of two hours going there, and another two hours coming back. This you are told will achieve ‘racial integration’.

You have never thought of it before, but you have become race conscious and try to untangle your own ancestry. You find it so mixed that you cannot qualify for any of the groups into which your community is [based]. The afro-americans, the chicano-americans, the italo-americans, the jewish americans, the irish americans, etc. And you … you are just a ‘mongrel-american‘. (so am I)

A title of which you would have been proud at one time but which is becoming ‘dangerous’. If you lose your job, there will be no preferential quota to help you get another one, and no way of knowing how many ‘ethnic’ applications will be pushed ahead of you. There will be no preferential quota for your son’s admission to a college when the time comes.

You are alone, unprotected, defenseless – and the only reason you know that you are living in a human society and not on a deserted island is the fact that your ‘taxes’ keep rising and rising.

How do you adjust? To whom and to what? The first thing to go is your future.

You can barely keep up with your current expenses. You have no way to plan ahead. If you try to save, you do not know which demands of which groups will eat up your savings in the form of new taxes and higher prices.

Why study to develop your skills? You do not know if you will ever get a better job or what new obstacles will spring up overnight or whether there will be anyone left to hire you.

You used to plan your course in terms of years. The range of your concerns shrinks to one year, then to one month, and then to next payday. You can see nothing beyond but a black void.

Strange things happen to a man without a future. You begin to act like the type of man you once despised.

You become sloppy at your job. You can barely summon the effort just to get by.

You get drunk too often. You buy a luxurious lawn mower which you have no time to use and you quarrel with your wife over the expensive cut of lamb chops she bought for dinner.

And when you hear a seedy lecture at the group meeting that declares that Horatio Alger’s stories are a myth, [and claims] that man cannot rise by individual effort and ability, you applaud defiantly and beligerently.

Oh yes! You have joined a group! You have joined several groups.

You do not know exactly what they stand for but they talk of community action and mutual protection and they denounce other groups. You do not know clearly which ones or why. You had tried to get it clear but gave up.

Everytime you read the newspaper or listen to the snarling voices on television, things grow murkier.

You do not know by what steps your attitude toward your neighbors has changed. You have begun to watch them suspiciously.

Whenever you see two of them in a heated discussion or observe several cars parked in front of a house you feel a touch of anxiety. You do not know what they might be up to, what ‘new group’ might be formed and what it will do to you.

You learn to feel ‘fear’. You are afraid of your neighbors – of any human being.

You are afraid to speak. You smile and you agree with everyone you meet.

You are afraid to think.

One day, you discover that what you feel for men … is hatred.

In that moment, you wonder ‘what has happened to your neighbors?’ They were decent people once – you remember vaguely. They did not act like wild packs, scrambling to get at one-another’s throats – and pockets!

You do not know how many of them are wondering the same thing about you.

You know only that there was a time when the local bird watcher, and the problem adolescent and the poetry-club ladies and ‘Ms fatso‘ were of no danger to anyone – but now they are! Why were they better in the past?

If someone answered:

Because – they – did – not – have – a – GUN!

you would not understand it.

You have come to believe that people are no good and that force is the only practical way to deal with them, since ‘reason’ – they all tell you – has failed.

You cannot cope with the enormous complexity of an entire nation’s problems. You have no way of knowing – you conclude – who is right or wrong, so let some groups force others and re-established order.

No one has explained to you that the ‘golden rule’ applies to politics. If certain conditions of social existence are unacceptable and unbearable to you, you cannot expect others to accept them and make them work. And what these conditions do to you, they do to society as a whole.

Do you agree to accept a social system of this kind?

It is of course, the system under which we are living today, but which we have never ‘chosen’.

It is important to consider it now because, in the coming presidential election one of the candidates is asking us to agree – and in the name of ‘national unity’ – explicitly to accept the principle that society has an unlimited power, and that our lives belong to the state!

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The subject of ‘Randroids‘ keeps coming up.  The Urban Dictionary defines it as “A blind follower of Ayn Rand & her philosophy of objectivism,” going on to say “…with emphasis on the more cultic aspects of the movement. Often marked by exclusivist rhetoric, dogmatic individualism, and determinedly narcissistic self-praise.”

I generally tend to think that labels are only really useful for telling the difference between a can full of peaches and a can full of peas, but let’s examine this further.

Obviously, it’s an attempt at ad hominem and is intended to belittle someone who self-identifies as ‘an objectivist‘ or who frequently quotes from Ayn Rand.  Ad hominem is a term referring to a fallacy in argumentation that involves attacking the individual making an argument rather than the premises they present.  In short, it’s a lazy person’s way to avoid addressing the facts involved in an issue and often times serves as an indicator that they are either ignorant of those facts or just plain wrong.  More often than not, it’s both.

Truth be told, I have run into a few ‘cultish’ types in the Objectivist community myself, but they are by far not a majority.  And the fact is that a lot of people engage in various forms of ad hominem as well as many other forms of fallacious argumentation.

One thing that I have learned over the years when it comes to ad hominem and other forms of personal attacks is to examine what is really being said and then, try to see if what they ‘mean’ and what they are actually ‘saying’ are really in tandem with one another.  In other words, is what they are saying (or the words they are choosing to say it) really that bad after all?

Consider ‘Randroid’.  It’s an obvious coinage merging the terms ‘Rand’ from the author’s last name and the word ‘android’ – the implication being that you are an unthinking robot.  But let’s first start with the definition of the word.  Dictionary.com says:

an·droid
–noun
an automaton in the form of a human being.

The same source says of automaton that it is something capable of acting automatically or without an external motive force. And wikipedia says of automaton that it is a self-operating machine. The word is sometimes used to describe a robot, more specifically an autonomous robot.  Wiktionary goes on to say it is a machine or robot designed to follow a precise sequence of instructions; A formal system, such as finite automaton.  I saw a few other sources that described it as an ‘intelligent machine’ and having a free or independent will.

When it comes to words, I also like to go back to their originations to help get a better feel for their true meanings.  Automaton extends from Ancient Greek αὐτόματον (automaton), neuter of αὐτόματος (automatos, “self moving, self willed”) and android was coined from the Greek root ανδρ- ‘man’ and the suffix -oid ‘having the form or likeness of’.  Both terms have gotten more exposure from science fiction where they are often depicted as mindless monsters bent on destroying mankind, but – as with most things – reality works out differently.

In reality, we are learning that making a ‘human like’ machine that can act on it’s own volition requires an ‘intelligent’ – in fact – a ‘very VERY intelligent machine’.  In essence, the ideal android would be something that appeared and behaved in a manner identical to most biological humans but that also possessed the superior abilities of a machine.  A being who’s decision making was based on a logical process of ‘rules’ including many compiled in through very hard work of those that came before it or helped to develop it, but also many rules created through learning capabilities and drawn from the realities of the universe.

There is nothing more dispelling to an attempt at ad hominem or other means of tainting an argument by-way-of ridicule than to point out the obvious flaws in the attempt and then own the moniker with pride.

So based on the examination of the words and motivations involved, I re-assemble the definition:

Randroidn. a human being who behaves like an intelligent machine, following a logical set of rules – many of which were exemplified by Ayn Rand in her Objectivist epistemology – that extend from the nature of what ‘is’ (existence) and all that reasonably can be deduced or induced from it.

Randroid?  Yeah, I can live with that!

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Once when I was in my teens I was exploring out in the woods.  I went further than I had ever explored.  I loved exploring and learning new things as well as finding new places.  I was heading toward a far northern corner of the club that my parents belonged to where there were no roads or marked trails.  I got up into a thick area of woods at a bend in the creek surrounded by muddy swamp that I had to sludge knee deep through to get to the place where I stood.

It was a beautiful summer day with blue sky speckled only with a few, sparse, whispy clouds.  The air was clear and full of nature smells.  The breeze was light and the temperature mild.  I could hear the birds chirping and the sound of the muted gurgles of the river bending around me in stereo.  The thought suddenly occurred to me that my efforts could well be awarded by the distinct possibility that I was very likely one of the few if not one of the first humans to ever head to this backwards corner of the property and stand on this spot.

Then I looked down and saw the deteriorating remains of a plastic grocery bag  a few feet ahead of me laying on the ground…

That was a long time ago and a great many epiphanies struck me in that moment.  One of the epiphanies was revisited again tonight in a manner of fashion when I was reading some quotes from Henry David Thoreau.  One of the quotes in particular reminded me of that event:

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
— Henry David Thoreau (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods)

I have always loved and craved the outdoors.  Nothing will change that.  But in recent years I’ve gained a love for things such as the works of Ayn Rand.  I remember reading something at one time that she wasn’t particularly fascinated with things ‘wild’, likely due to their randomness.  She was far more fascinated by things shaped and hewed by the hands and ultimately the mind of men.  I can see merit in that, yet I’m still drawn to the wilderness.

This confused me a bit, not because I particularly needed a specific justification to love the woods, but because I generally try to find the ‘why’ behind things that compel me and my interests.  I too find things created by men to be fascinating.  But I am equally fascinated by the manner that randomness of nature tempered by the requirements of survival lead to smatterings of ‘natural order’ in random wilderness.

What it comes down to is the same thing that I have discovered in other areas when it comes to my joy of things made by the hands (and ultimately the minds) of men.  I can appreciate things built by the mind.  But when building things myself, I don’t really get a particularly overwhelming thrill when I build things that have already been built before.

When I looked up at the sky on that day, I saw myself as ‘treading new ground’.  When I looked down, I realized that someone had in fact been there before.  It was still a beautiful summer day, but it was not longer special and my efforts not as rewarded.

Yeah, I like the wilderness.  I like to figure things out for myself whenever possible.  I didn’t read Rand until I’d figured out a great many things that she wrote about already for myself.  Perhaps part of that can be summed up by something else attributed to Thoreau:

“We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.”  – HDT

But more than anything, I crave the frontier…

Out on the border
of a changing skyline
We put hope in front of fear.

And all the heroes
have gone east of eden.
We all need new frontiers.

Journey, Frontiers

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Originally posted on Facebook Notes

Q: Do ‘you’ support socialist reforms?

On a number of occasions recently I have found myself explaining various choices in my life that for lack of a better way of putting it have been akin to the ‘Life of Galt”. Even true fans of Rand will still point out to me that “it’s simply a work of fiction”, to which I explain that they were choices I was making even before reading the book.
What kinds of things am I talking about? Well here’s a short list of examples:

  • I have not watched more than 30 minutes of ‘network’ television or purchased a mainstream newspaper in going on 4 years
  • I no longer have any bank accounts or credit cards. My money is tied up in either tangible assets, utility based assets and a couple of money market accounts (not run by ‘banks’). I do have debit-cards tied to the money markets but seldom use them.
  • I only purchased one ‘new’ vehicle in my life time and probably never will again. I take my time when I need a new car, buy used and pay cash.

There are plenty of other items I could list, but I just want to set a basis for what I am about to address.

OK, so what?

A lot of folks that could be classified in the ‘hard working’ and ‘honest’ category of life complain about government, socialist reforms, taxes, etc. They should! They work hard for what they earn and people with political power are taking increasing portions of it.  The current complaint is about increasing social welfare or, in essence, socialization of America.  It is important, however, to examine the cause.

Ideas like socialism don’t exist because poor people want what belongs to the rich. “Crime” exists because poor people want what belongs to the rich. Socialism is proliferating because rich and powerful people either allow it or promote it – and the two are distinct and separate groups (the allowers vs the promoters). Then, in turn, socialist reforms ‘succeed’ in gaining support for the obvious reason: the poor like how it sounds… “Free stuff!”

When making arguments against socialist reforms, the ‘hard working’ folk implore the beneficiaries (welfare recipients, etc.) to ‘do for themselves’. If the implication is that the recipients of social welfare are lazy, then would it not stand to reason that ‘working’ to them would be tantamount to a ‘sacrifice’? If you don’t like work, and someone is handing you free stuff… why work???

But guess what, free stuff isn’t free. It has to be paid for.

And who’s paying for it? The hard working folks!

And why do you work hard? Any number of reasons;

  • to get what you need or want,
  • for the sense of achievement,
  • to achieve specific goals or gain respect,
  • to achieve enough wages and goods to feel more secure

any or all which equate to “it is of value to you to earn for yourself”.  So why are you upset? Because another beyond your control is taking what you find of value.  Did you ever stop to think that maybe a lazy person in some twisted or subconscious way finds value in their laziness?

For right or for wrong, therefore, asking them to ‘work for themselves’ is asking them to give up their value to seek your value in ‘working for yourself.’  It just makes sense right?  OK, so why then are you are not willing to give up your value (the sense of achievement, security, property, etc.) to stand for what you believe as well?

ManCarryingBoxOnBackI may not be the best at communicating this concept, but it just strikes me as odd that the achievers are asking (rightfully so) for those in the position of receiving social welfare to do what can amount to a ‘lot’ (overcoming various hardships, social stigmas, adverse circumstances and simple ingrained patterns of behavior) to arrive at their (the achievers) ideal… but at the same time the achievers will just blindly accept being enslaved to support policies they abhor just to maintain their own sense of right.

Does this sound extreme?  In essence it is saying ‘stop achieving!’  Most would not think of it – it goes against all they believe.  Or does it?

Has anything else you have tried done anything to achieve your desired ideal? Complaining about it has done little to slow the growth and support of social reforms as the last century or more can attest. More and more people are gaining an ‘entitlement’ mentality. Going to the voting booth hasn’t seemed to slow it either.

The reality is, those that ‘achieve’, support the growth of socialist policies!  And whatever power(s) they have left are doing little to abate the growth of further social reforms.

Would it not make more sense to re-examine your ideals, re-visit the realities of this growing movement, consider your own role as it’s enabler and then figure out how you can make ‘personal sacrifices’ (free choices) as not to be it’s willing participant?

If weeds are growing out of control in your garden because you put down fertilizer to feed your plants, would you continue to fertilize the whole thing (and thereby promote more weeds) or would you find a way to kill the weeds first?

Think about it!  Any man (or woman) that is resourceful enough to excel in art, science, business, etc. should be able to find more than enough creative ways to not allow the ‘system’ that is growing out of control to make them a willing participant.

When the greek god Atlas challenged the status quo of the gods of Olympus, he was relegated to use his strength to support the entirety of the heavens and the universe at the behest of Zeus. Rather than continuing to defy the gods, he accepted his fate carrying the burden of all existence on his shoulders.

But what if Atlas had merely shrugged?

(see also: “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad“)

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Originally posted on Facebook Notes

A lot of the topics I discuss hinge on the principle of ‘value’. A topic that seems simple enough but that requires further clarification because ‘value’ is a very subjective concept.
Since I am often speaking about – or at least from – an objectivist standpoint, value plays a very important role in that one of the key tenets of Objectivist philosophy is that any interactions between men, to be ethical and moral, must involve an equal exchange of value. So what is value and how do we define it – especially in the case of these interactions? In this case, the value is relative to each person involved in the exchange – i.e. they must mutually agree that what they are giving and what they are receiving in such an exchange is a worthy exchange of value.

To demonstrate this fact I often use an analogy, interchanging the nature of the allegory to suit the circumstances and to better suit the audience. The most basic form is essentially as follows:

Imagine that at some point in your life, someone you care about and have great admiration and respect for offers you a gift. Perhaps you are seeking your first job or leaving home for the first time, and this person you admire – for example your grandfather – hands you a copper penny. You ask them “what is this for?” and they tell you that when they were first going out on their own, their grandfather handed them a penny as a gesture to get them started. They explain to you that they carry that penny with them always and even go so far as to pull out their wallet to show it to you and you see the tell-tale circle worn into the outside of the leather to back up the claim that he always had it with him.
You too carry this penny with you until you find that first job and continue to carry it with you always as a reminder of your grandfather’s gesture to teach you a lesson or show you support when you got started.
How much then is that penny worth? To everyone else it is worth $0.01 but to you it may be something with a sentimental attachment that you would not give up for all the money in the world.

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Originally posted to Facebook Notes

“I want to make something clear… I am not a conservative. I think that today’s conservatives are worse than today’s liberals. [..] If anyone destroys this country, it will be the conservatives. Because they do not know how to preach capitalism, to explain it to the people [and] because they do nothing except apologize [..]” – Ayn Rand {excerpt from the Tomorrow Show, 1979}

SW comment:
I have often said that as far as my identification with ‘being an objectivist’, it was not Ayn Rand and her writing that made me ‘decide’ to be an objectivist – i always was an objectivist thinker, Ayn Rand’s words simply validated a world view I already had and eloquently communicates the nature of that view in both her works of fiction and her essays and public speeches.
It never fails to astound me that when I find some other writing or read an essay I have not yet read or stumbled on footage of an interview, how things coming out of her mouth are almost identical to things I have thought, said or written myself.

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Originally posted to Facebook Notes

Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent but by compulsion, when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing, when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods but in favors, when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you, when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed.

– Ayn Rand (Francisco D’Anconio to Hank Reardon in Atlas Shrugged)

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Originally posted on Facebook Notes

OK, in case you haven’t figured out by reading my other notes, I love cosmology and ontology – i.e. philosophy. Question everything! To quote Aristotle, the “unexamined life is not worth living”. A subject that seems to keep getting bounced off me as of late is the concept of power, who has it, how they get it and what they do (right or wrong) with it.

One of the things that keeps bringing it up is the obvious, politics. I tend to examine just about everything and anything by breaking it down to basic truths. I tend to think it is a basic truth that any form of governmental control attracts and/or breeds within it power hungry people. And as they say, power corrupts. It’s just the nature of the beast. (although I am prone to disagree with this on face value.  Instead I think ‘the nature of power attracts corruptible men’.  And by consequence, ‘corruptible men should be granted as little power as possible’)

This led me to consider the nature of power and then in turn led me to the following conclusion:

No man has power over another without it being granted or taken and allowed.

Let’s start with the second part because the two concepts really have to go together. Once someone has power, the most likely means to get more if they are corrupt is to take it. If they have no power in the first place other than what was granted to them by someone (or a group of someones), then the only way they can take power unwillingly from one of those someones is for the rest of the someones to ‘allow’ them to get away with it.
But of course the easier way to get power is to have it given to you. This led me to another consideration. What is the easiest way to get someone to give away power? There’s one simple answer that repeats itself throughout our society and history:

convince them that there is something greater then themselves or their own self-interest

Without drawing specific conclusions on whether each is right or wrong, good or bad, we can see examples of things deemed ‘greater than one’s self’ in everything from religion (god) to environmentalism (earth/nature) and even collectivism/marxism (the state).

As a note in conclusion, all of this sounds kind of selfish – well guess what? it is! But it does not have to be a denunciation of the things we find good in any or all of the above. After all, ideas do not gain support if there is not some truth or good in them.
So how can you put your own self-interest before everything else and still exist in society? Simple! Simple because it is in our self interest to maintain and improve our environment, it is in our self interest to be on good terms with our neighbors and for our neighbors to share a similar social and financial status (not identical, but similar). I could go on, but I think you get the idea – self interest does not preclude being a good citizen, good neighbor or good patron to our world – but denying self-interest is the quickest way to grant someone else (potentially tyrannical) power over you.

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I stumbled on this old posting earlier tonight on one of the Objectivist groups I used to frequent (dated 3/22/2004):

What a day I have had. I just finished reading “We the Living” on the same day I got a notice that I was not going to be called back for an interview on a job I was seeking that I ‘thought’ I was well qualified for.
So here I was commiserating over the melancholy end of that Rand novel and even feeling guilty in a way. I took great interest in the subject in that I am a fan of Rand, a life long objectivist (even before I knew there was a word for it) and due to the setting – as my mother’s family was from around the borders of Poland and Ukraine and fled for the U.S. around the time of the Bolshevik uprising.
While I found myself feeling getting angry in this here election year to hear all the pretense of class warfare against the backdrop of the ‘true’ suffering portrayed in this excellent portrait of a post proletariat uprising, as aforementioned, I found myself guilty that – even though the characters are of a work of fiction, they no doubt represent a real time, a real place, of real suffering and real individuals who probably met the same fates and burned with the same desires. Yet here in my life, with no true suffering to compare, “what have I done to live up to their example? To ‘live’ as they lived? With the desire and burning for living as the essence of their being?”
I know, you are thinking, ‘what does this have to do with a posting in a dating forum or a rejection email about a job? Well, serendipity has a sense of Irony. I just left a job which lasted for 5 months. Prior to that, I was a victim of the .com crash and was essentially unemployed for 25 months with nothing but a few contracts and some fortunate circumstances to help me survive. Heretofore whenever I received a rejection, I just moved on to the next job.
At the same time, when someone would ask me “how are you doing?” my answer was almost consistently “I am surviving” – and that was more telling than any casual observer might ponder to understand, if they should care.
So, today, amidst reading the final chapters, I receive the rejection. For the first time ever I asked them for an explanation of why they were not interested in having me back for a second interview. In the meantime, I finished the book through tears and anguish and joy and confusion. I was emotionally wrought by the time I was through and left …. well, just in a daze of thoughts, emotions, sad yet reflective. And feeling guilty! Feeling guilty and questioning myself if I have, if I do live up to those objectivist principles I hold so dear.
That was until I got home. An email response awaited my question. Paraphrasing, he said in essence that they were very impressed by my skills and experience. That they thought I would be very well qualified… technically… for the task they had in mind. But then he went on to describe how I was too ‘domineering’ – in essence too independent and self-motivated to solicit a desire to have me back.
I have been grinning like a Cheshire cat ever since. So many rejections over 25 months and I turned to myself to find ‘fault’ – this may only be one representation of one employer, but I know it likely is akin to many over that period – over periods prior and jobs I left or was asked to leave. I am too into ‘I’ to be attractive to the corporate collective.
Sure, I will still seek work – and I have decided to also seek more opportunities where I am not dependent upon or accountable to someone else’s whim. I went to the store after reading the email, almost dancing on the way. Someone at the counter who recognized me as a ‘regular’ there, asked me “how are you doing today?” Without hesitating I told her with a smile too big for the question asked and said with great enthusiasm “I am alive! My dear, I am alive!!!”
So tomorrow will be a busy day as I set some more wheels in motion to take care of those mundane material needs, but for now I set forth to search the net for places where like minded folks may be hanging about.
Out of sheer disgust, I went into my normal ‘chat’ venues – more to mock them – and asked “so who wants to talk about objectivist philosophy and the epistemological review of their application in the real world?” Some guy answered that he has an 8″ penis and someone else mentioned they wouldn’t mind meeting a 14 year old boy! Ahh the internet!
So here is where I ended up! Sorry if I rambled on, but I felt it was important to describe my mindset before asking if any females out there understood. If any would like to talk more about what it’s like to be ‘alive’ as I feel at this moment!
Let’s be selfish! ‘I’ would love to hear from you if you understand….

Just for the record, I am now working for another company doing computer consulting and I have consequently been placed onsight with that very company. I can see now they were right – I would have been way too self motivated for the work they do which amounts to little more than assembly line programming from cookie-cutter program code. It seems I won’t have as much contact with that coding environment but will instead be working as a middle-person between project managers of two different companies. It’s a curious turn of events to say the least…

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