Saturday, April 16, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

Yesterday the movie “Atlas Shrugged” (Part I) opened in select theatres nation-wide. As most probably know it is based on the best-selling novel by objectivist Ayn Rand and deals with what would happen if the most productive segment of our society suddenly decided to call it quits, withdraw and let things go to Hell without them. I would encourage everyone who can to go and see this movie. I’m sure Rand fans, objectivists, libertarians and so on will go see it in any event, for others I think it will at least be informative, a cause for thought and discussion and I would also encourage it just because good returns on a film like “Atlas Shrugged” is mud in the eye to the whole liberal, socialist, Marxist, UN, EU etc crowd that I despise. I have talked before (readers will remember) about libertarianism and monarchy, making frequent reference to Ayn Rand who has become something of a “patron saint” to the libertarian movement. However, do not misunderstand my endorsement of seeing this movie; it is certainly not about monarchy and has nothing to do with monarchy. I’m sure Ayn Rand herself would be rather discomforted to know that a monarchist was pointing people in the direction of her work were she alive to see it.

To be sure, in many, many ways, someone like myself is as far apart from Ayn Rand as the east is from the west. For me, the primary difference is not even monarchy though we certainly part company there. A native of Mother Russia, Ayn Rand had nothing but utter loathing for her homeland and made it clear that such attitude applied to Tsarist Russia as well as Soviet Russia. I’m sure everyone knows that Tsarist Russia is near and dear to my heart. The biggest gulf between us would be on religion. Ayn Rand was a strident atheist, and perhaps the most genuinely atheist figure I have ever heard of, who viewed religious belief as a psychological weakness. I, on the other hand, view religion as the fundamental underpinning of all history, humanity and civilization. The only reason I can even entertain the ideas of Ayn Rand was that, despite being an ardent atheist and having nothing good at all to say about any religion, she was equally adamant that she opposed any restrictions of any kind being placed on religion or religious belief. She would think me mad for believing in religion but she would never do anything to force me to give it up.

I do think monarchists can, with some thought, relate to “Atlas Shrugged” but we have to go back in time in our minds to more traditional monarchies in order to do so. Nowadays, most monarchies (certainly in the western world) have become wards of the state. They are allowed no power but are allowed to remain on their thrones by the state with a pension provided by the state so long as they do as the state says and follow very strict rules and give up the vast majority of their rights and freedoms to the state. The recent case of HRH Prince Laurent of Belgium shows what uproar will result when a royal does not abide by the wishes of the all-powerful state. In the past, it is true, some monarchs supported the rise of the total state but, as I have mentioned before, in the end, most who did so were consumed by that total state and such is why we have the world of monarchy we all know today. For most monarchies, where they remain, the state has the royals right where they want them; reduced to the status of the lilies of the field who toil not neither do they spin, but they are pretty to look at.

For monarchists to relate to “Atlas Shrugged” we have to, I think, go back to when monarchs actually had some power and ultimately had that before because they were self-sufficient, possessing the lands and the income from those lands to make them significant. It is also significant that this tended to coincide with a very strong aristocracy. Many libertarians and objectivists would tend to lump all royals and aristocrats into the category of shiftless masses on the take from the government. However, we must remember that most royals and aristocrats, if you go back to the beginning, earned their position. In the case of the first Capetian King of France, he was actually elected. The aristocracy of England, as an another example, as it traditionally was (before the advent of those ludicrous “life peers”) began when William the Conqueror rewarded with lands and titles his most faithful and *effective* lieutenants. In that regard, you could say, they “earned” what they were given and had every right to pass it on to their heirs and successors, be it a lord passing down wealth, lands and a title or the King himself passing on a Crown and a country.

“Atlas Shrugged” hearkens back to a time when private property was viewed as sacred and inviolable and that I unashamedly admire. It is also why I have always had a libertarian antennae go up when I read the testimony of King Charles I of Britain at his “treason” trial. Far from fighting for royal tyranny, the King was fighting for nothing more than that which was legally and legitimately his own. In doing so, as he stated, he was also fighting for the right of every man to that which was his own and for the sanctity of the law over simple brute force. That always seemed to have a very libertarian tone to me. Likewise, much of the same wickedness denounced in “Atlas Shrugged” can also be used to describe what brought down much of the aristocracy in monarchies, such as Great Britain, where government regulations and over-taxation forced the break-up of the great estates, the selling of manor houses and the reduction of many lords and ladies to “ordinary” people with meaningless titles. In general though (again, aside from annoying the people I dislike the most) I think “Atlas Shrugged” can be appreciated by monarchists simply for striking a compelling blow against the ideas of class warfare, class envy and hatred of success that has brought down a number of monarchies around the world.


  1. I think we are in agreement. I have a problem with Rand’s attempt to make Selfishness a Virtue, and dislike a lot of her moral ethic which stems from Neitche’s “Will to Power”, but her Libertarianism and dedication to Free Enterprise is admirable indeed.

    The only problem is, today Monarchists are told we are Left Wing ( Yes I’ve spoken of I a lot lately, “The 5000 Year Leap”) and somehow Monarchy an Communism are the same.

    The Irony is, the old feudal Monarchies were run by Private Estates and ultimately reflected the Ideal that we are told Conservatives want. Decentralised Government, mainly kept Local, run by Landholders.

    Somehow, though, while they rail against Public ownership of various Industries or services, even now saying Private Roads are superiorly managed than Publicly owned ones, it escapes them that the Same Principal also apply to Government. They think the government of, For, and By the people is the only logical, only Just, and only efficient one, and all else would be Tyranny and corrupt. The inefficiencies of Public Ownership don’t seem to apply to Government itself in their minds. it’s a giant Cognitive Dissonance.

    By the way, I do disagree eon one thing. While Rand said she did not like Any Religion, and today we see Atheism as the exact opposite of Religion, the Truth is, Religion is nothing more than our Philosophical Understanding of our existence, and today’s Atheists are just as Religious, and I’d say just as Devout, as any Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or other.

    I’d say that Rands Objectivism was not a Philosophy as opposed to a Religion, it was a Religion in and of itself, and Rand was the Foundress of a Religion. I do, however, think her Religion is better than the Religion hat Drives the EU and UN, and most of the World today. Humanism.

  2. Ever since I decided to call myself a Monarchist, I've been opposed to libertarianism.

    They seem to think everyone can rule themselves. Businesses are fit to trade, not to rule.

    That's my 2 cents. :)

  3. Zarove, I said Rand was one of the more honest atheists I know of because she actually said what you often do about many atheists. She said that the Soviet Union was actually one of the most "religious" states in the world because of their deification of the leader, devotion to Marxist dogma and so on.

    Jacob, you can look up, if you care to, my past post on libertarianism and monarchy. In short, in the traditional monarchies of old, people actually ruled themselves to a much greater extent than today because, a monarch being only one man, government busied itself only with the "big" issues and not the minute details of the everyday lives of their people.

  4. I can definitely relate to the sanctity of private property, I also firmly believe that the love and belief in the empowerment and liberty property provides is not exclusively a Libertarian concept. For I believe such belief is inherent to the very concept of Monarchism

  5. See, that form of libertarianism is fine to me, Mad Monarchist. The government should deal with foreign policy, war, public order, that sort of thing, things that are commendable and give the government a good standing with the public.
    Until recently, even in disliked governments, the public servants were generally liked. Not quite so anymore.
    However, I worry that libertarianism can devolve into anarchy. I've always felt an attachment to a strong state, and I feel that the 18th Century monarchy of France and the German empire as well, represent my ideal form of government presence.
    I do think that while private property is sacrosanct, the government, when common sense allows it, should be able to seize property, or at least lease it freely in some fashion. To house troops for example during war.
    I suppose I find it difficult to differentiate between my love for monarchy and my desire for a strong, capable state versus libertarianism. I suppose the two are not mutually exclusive.

    But let us remember as well where an increase personal freedom leaves us especially in a civilization that has forgotten its religion: decadence, lethargy and stupidity.

  6. I only disagree that she was herself not Religious. it’s a thing with me. I don’t think anyone is Truly Irreligious, they simply have divergent Religions. Some are Nontheistic, but still Religions all the same.

    She agreed about the Soviets, but not herself, of course. I just think her Objectivism was a Religion and Religion doesn’t need a god.

    Even if it did, her Ego made her her own goddess, just as the god of Reason was for he Jacobins or modern Hyper-Atheist like Dawkins, or the god of Humanity for the Humanists.

    I suppose we will always have gods we worship, even if we don’t call them gods. They will have their Shrines and Altars.

    Democracy, Reason, and Humanity itself have all been deified these days, and the same emotions and sentiments attached to the Reverence of God in former times now finds its home in them.

    But I digress. I may go see “Atlas Shrugged”.

    I disagree with her Hard Core Self Interest Philosophy, but not her ardent support for the Freedom of the individual, or her insistence on the Sacrosanct nature of Property Rights.

    Now, Who is John Galt?

  7. While obviously Ayn Rand errs in going too far with an admittedly good thing (what philosophy doesn't?), I am at a loss as to how you can think this is a good film even in the artistic sense. It's propaganda, pure and simple, and it contradicts every idea of noblesse oblige.

    While one should be familiar with objectivism to be philosophically informed, I don't think anyone needs to inflict anything so ridiculously black and white and intellectually dishonest on themselves as a work pinned by one of the 'Architects of the Culture of Death.' But why am I still talking? Whittaker Chambers said it all so much better:

    Why play with fire in such wicked company?

  8. I would agree on France, to some extent. I don't think the centralization of power was a good thing because it cut off the nobility from their people and that, I think, was one of the causes of the revolution. The German empire didn't exist in the 18th century so I'm not sure about that. When it did come into being it was more decentralized (a good thing) but not without its problems (rampant socialism that ended up bringing the empire down).

    Zarove, I would agree with you, only adding that Ayn Rand was adamant that she was against any law limiting people's freedom of religion. Her views, as you say, made her a goddess in her own mind and you can look at her life to see the unhappy results of her attitudes.

    Jacobitess, I am not judging the artistic value of the movie because I've not yet seen it (and I doubt you have either) but noblesse oblige was something Rand never contradicted. Noblesse oblige was never an enforced government policy, it was simply a tradition of good behavior. Rand was never against allowing the wealthy to help the less fortunate if they wanted to, what she was against was the state forcing the matter; taking from the productive to give to the unproductive; taking what one had worked for and giving it to someone who hadn't worked for it by force. She was against collectivism.

    I know all about what Chambers thought of Rand and it doesn't change my opinion (I'm not an unqualified supporter and never claimed to be). What I do support is the struggle against the super-state, socialism, communism and the idea that people have a right to hate anyone who is better off than they are and have some right to something someone else produced. To put it in 'Jacobite' terms, I favor Stuart subsidiarism over Hanoverian centralization and the voluntary giving of support such as the Jacobites gave to their King across the water rather than the forced taxation of the Hanoverian court.

    I also agree with Ayn Rand that democracy has limits and no one should be able to vote themselves something that does not belong to them or to take away what someone else justly owns. Rather like the public voting to take the Crown from James II to give it to the Prince of Orange. I assume you would be opposed to that even though the majority in England thought that doing so was for the "common good".

  9. Yes, I'm only a fellow-traveler with Rand by a shared contempt for the welfare state, over-centralized bureaucracy, and egalitarianism, which you saw among communists in Eastern Europe and social democrats in the West. However, that's about it.

  10. Agreed, I *only* agree with her on the inviolability of private property, the right of everyone to the fruit of their labors, taking pride in honest accomplishment, reward going to those who take risk, recognizing rather than punishing the successful, opposing governments that regulate every minutia of your life and trying to force everyone down to the lowest common denominator. That's it! Other than that -can't stand the woman!

  11. Oh, I know the German Empire wasn't 18th Century, I was just saying "18th Century France and the German Empire".
    I wouldn't say I favor withe big government or small government. I prefer old government, like we had back in the 18th Century and early 19th. That period I regard as the pinnacle of Western civilization, for various reasons.
    So if that's small government, so be it.

  12. Responding to the point Jacobitess made about noblesse oblige, let's be serious about why the nobles, the wealthy, or even the Church developed this practice - it forges bonds of loyalty between the giver and the receiver, or what could be called in ancient Roman terms: a patron/client relationship. Even if the receiver is never able to give anything back, the giver still wins prestige and is seen as both worthy for holding a higher station in the community and indispensable to the community. That's why corporations also do charitable things.

    Our federal government is no different in that the high taxes and welfare state are used to create a patron/client relationship between the politicians and the governed. The politician as an individual has millions at his disposal, but as a group, they have trillions. Of course, this comes at the expense of all other patron/client relationships in the society: whether it be among the wealthy, the church, the individual states, private associations, etc. For example, the wealthy give most of the taxes, but they get no credit for it; in fact they are usually insulted and called "greedy" by our rulers. That's why they try to avoid paying taxes, if they can help it - because they are basically financing the power and prestige of someone else.

    Furthermore, hard-core statists, like our current White House, would like to cut off charitable giving deductions or make it more difficult for private schools to stay in business? Why? Because noblesse oblige is a zero-sum game. If some wealthy people get some influence and credit for doing charitable things, then that weakens people's dependence on the Feds for "charitable" giving. Why would they want to encourage that?

    There are two things that have made our federal government so powerful, which would make it difficult for any state to consider seceding today: first, a military that is always engaging in some overseas campaign, in that this makes people more patriotic and loyal to the nation as a whole. It also justifies a large military that could also dwarf anything a state might be able to muster (the "stick"). Second, the welfare state, which tries to replace every other association that people would rely on in a time of need. This also creates powerful bonds of loyalty between the Fed and the ruled. If a state decided to secede, a number of people would oppose it because they still want their Social Security, Medicare, or the eventual Obama Care. (the "carrot"). Add to this that the Fed owns about a third of the Western States, and so forth, it would be difficult for any of those states to secede.

    So, let me be clear, I like the individual states in this country. I want nothing but cooperation between the states. However, the federal government is a whole other entity that has completely redefined the relationship between the states and the Fed for the last century in the latter's favor. When people today bleat about a compassionate government and the "meanies" who want to take it away, these are the "useful idiots" who are empowering a remote and impersonal government who are mostly concerned about their relative influence and power and jealously guard it from everyone else. These enablers now have been brain-washed into believing that if the Fed doesn't do something, no one will.

  13. Ponocrates, the real Irony is, those same people rail against Imperialism, yet want a Powerful Federal Government to dominate the States, not realising what the word “State” even means.

    They, and most Americans these days, understand America as a Single nation, in which the Federal Government is the Government of America that supersedes the Sate which is more local.

    The Truth is, America is not a Nation. It is a Confederation of independent nations. That’s what the word “State” means. Prior to the Civil War people said “The United States are” as opposed to “The United States is” and the concept was clear. When Robert E. Lee was asked to lead the Union Army against the new Secessionist Movement, he refused, and said “ I cannot raise my sword against my Country”. By “My Country” he meant Virginia, not the United States, and not the Confederate States. He meant only Virginia. He understood the State as its own Nation, in a voluntary Union with other States.

    Today though you have no independence of the States at all. The States are really just Provinces of a large singular Monotonous nation.

    But in a way, the United States remains a Confederation of Independent States in how its set up, so in the end you have a powerful Central Authority based in Washington DC that forms an overall Government that regulates and dominates other Nations.

    That is what an Empire is.

    So in a way, the United States of America is an Empire.

    Then again, its still better than the UN Idiots. Those who complain about Imperialism and see it as a catch word for any sort of interventionism they don’t like or policy they despise, and blame Imperialism on all the worlds woes have at their core a narrative of how Evil all Empires are and how peoples need to be free. Yet they then turn round and say we should all be subject to the United Nations, and live by its Charter and follow its Declaration of Human Rights.

    We should also all abide by the decisions of the United Nations.

    Many even go so far as to say that the United Nations needs to be given Global legislative and Judicial power, and to set International laws and Policies that are Binding on its Member States.

    I never understood that Logic. On the one hand, old Empires such as the British or French or Spanish, were wrong to impose a central Authority that supersedes Local Governments in far off lands, precisely because it is better to allow self governance and the independence of a Nation to act on its own Violation, not under the Yolk of control of another Nation. On the other hand, they want to bind all Nations under the Yolk of control of a central Authority based in New York City that gets to tell everyone what to do and that in the end abolishes Independence and Self Volition.

    Are the African Nations like Zimbabwe really better off under the UN than the UK? or for that matter, did Independence work out as we were told it would? Not to sidetrack further.

    Still, I just think its odd that Modern peoples will claim Imperialism is wrong only to turn round and want to create a Global all encompassing Empire that has far more sweeping powers than any previous Empire ever had, and think its OK because they say it’s not an Empire, as if calling it something else makes it fundamentally different.

    But then, wordplay is often how arguments work in Politics. Just like it was a necessary Humanitarian mission to secure Democracy in Kosovo when the United States and UN forces stepped in and rent it off of Serbia by force, and a Great Victory for Human Rights, but wrong for Russia to Invade Georgia, and redraw the boarders of a Sovereign and independent Nation and to stir regional and Political strife.

    Ah, see how words justify anything?

  14. Ponocrates, I have one issue with you on the matter of noblesse oblige. It was developed as charity, an act of mercy. Yes, it establishes a client-patron relationship, enhancing the reputation of the patron and winning the favour of the client.

    However, the level this has reached in the present welfare system goes well beyond that. I expect that many of the welfare promises proposed by politicians throughout the Western World are all about a "patron-client" relationship that ultimately leaves us enslaved to the state. Whereas once it was the Crown that remained and politicians that came and went, it is now the State that remains. Politicians still fill their role, though they enhance themselves by making the State bigger.

    Until, finally, you end up with enslavement.

    Alas, on the matter of Atlas Shrugged, I don't believe it's being screened in Australia. Anywhere.

  15. Zarove, that's an excellent point that the Fed behaves more like an empire over sovereign states. That makes sense to me.

    LAW Wells I totally agree that the welfare state takes this patron-client relationship to a whole new level. One thing is that it tries to be a monopoly and seems to be more able to bypass the web of intermediaries that characterizes pre-modern society. It levels society. However, as you say, the State also seems bigger than any of the individuals that comprise it, even the rulers, who are interchangeable.

    There is something ugly about that.

  16. A paradox to contemplate: those who abhor absolutism, absolutely dominating the world

  17. Economics aside, Ayn Rand was a nut: she supported Capitalism because she thought greed, selfishness, and egoism were great. Can't stand her.


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