Saturday, December 05, 2009

One More Funny Thing About Atlas Shrugged

I think it is hilarious that the industry that Ayn Rand picked to represent the rugged individualism of the ruthless entrepreneur is a transcontinental railroad. It would be hard to find an industry in America that is more beholden to government. Perhaps an updated version of the story would feature a heroic, anti-government space explorer who built the Mars colony all by herself, with no help from the "looters" of the government.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

To the contrary. The government is beholden to rugged individuals. You see the government cannot build a railroad or anything else without taking (stealing by force) from us individuals.

Gruntled said...

You mean those rugged individuals who used the government's grant of its power of eminent domain to build the actual transcontinental railroads?

Of course there need to be entrepreneurs and smart people to envision and carry through any large task. But to imagine that these were done alone and without any help from the massive infrastructure made by the sovereign people through our government is obtuse.

Anonymous said...

I may be obtuse but you may be blinded by your own incentives. You earn your living through the sweat of others including working stiffs like me.It seems to me you have things a bit backwards. Especially now when our present leaders may be the most corrupt and inept in decades if not longer.

Gruntled said...

Do you think railroads were built by rugged individuals acting alone? What, exactly, is it that I have backwards?

Anonymous said...

What, exactly, is it that I have backwards?

You should fear the government more than rugged individualism. That's what I mean by "backwards". When govenment screws with you there is no recourse. When capitalism does there is.

Gruntled said...

The Gruntled Center is about preventing fear with reasonable information.

And in any case, whether one fears government more or less doesn't change the facts of who built the transcontinental railroads.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the effort. I guess when you are employed by the government one sees things differently.

Gruntled said...

Who is employed by the government?

Anonymous said...

Don't be churlish. How would I know?

paul said...

See, I've always felt the opposite of what Anonymous says is true. If you're getting screwed by a multi-billion dollar corporation that has an effective monopoly on the market you have no real recourse (look at how many copies of Windows ME Microsoft sold as evidence), but if you feel you're getting screwed by the government you always have the option of working to oust the leadership through elections and are given the opportunity to do so on a regularly scheduled basis (one of the truly great things about the United States).

No matter how much I hate Humana, I can't make them fire their CEO because I think they charge too much. Now in a perfect free market I would just vote with my dollar, drop Humana, and go with an insurance company that suites my wallet better. Unfortunately all insurance companies' rates have skyrocketed at a similar rate and I can't afford the premiums without my employer's help. Since Humana is who they get the best deal from, that's who I'm stuck with.

The important thing is to realize that neither rugged individualism nor government control does as well on it's own as they do in tandem, in true Gruntled fashion. Warren Buffet, a model of individual success, has famously given examples of how this is so and "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell gives many more examples that you wouldn't expect.

Gruntled said...

Amen,Paul.

And this is particularly true in large, society-wide projects that private industry is incapable of doing by itself. This list includes ports, roads, schools, mail, armies, sewers, broadcast regulation, space exploration, and, let us not forget, transcontinental railroads. Government creates essential infrastructure with everyone's money that makes it possible for businesses to make their private profit.