Made You Think Podcast

May 22, 2018
Who is John Galt? Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Part of

“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders—what would you tell him to do?” “I . . . don’t know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?” “To shrug.”

In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and Nat discuss Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, a piece of philosophy disguised as a novel. Probably the 10th longest book in Latin language, Atlas Shrugged is a controversial, polarizing book that attacks Socialism, references Postmodernism and develops Objectivism, Rand’s philosophical system.

So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Money as the root of all evil or source of all good
  • Why academics and politicians see successful businessmen with distrust
  • Wealthy kids arguing for socialism
  • The truth about law (spoiler: you are not obliged to obey it)
  • A 3 hour long discourse
  • Writing sex scenes

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand!

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our episode on Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson, a book that foresee how governments will react with new tech, as well as our episodes on Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (part 1&part 2), a book about the power of myths and humans collaborating for a greater outcome.

Links from the Episode

Mentioned in the show

Books mentioned

People mentioned

Show Topics

6:55 – The structure of the book is an interwoven of essays spoken by the characters. Re-reading the book may help understand better the concepts.

9:05 – The book starts with a parallel world set in the 50ties, with two kinds of people: the industrious productive ones running big infrastructure businesses of the Nation, and the socialists, government ones (described as parasites). The main plot is that the productive ones start disappearing, and the socialists intervene to try to keep the economy running and avoid collapsing.

13:19 – The idea is that the more one tries to control the economy, the worst it’s going to get. The example of limiting book sales to 10k.

15:24 – Introducing the characters of Francisco d’Anconia and Hank Rearden. Money as the root of all evil. Criticism of money made by people that never understood how someone actually makes money.

19:00 – Tangent. Most of the critiques to money as the origin of all evil originates between academics or congressman, people that project their experiences “playing politics” and assume businessmen are filthy rich because of a more aggressive political game.

21:11 – Examples of activities that make money without creating value. High frequency trading, hardcore rent seeking. The money test, or how to know if you are effectively creating value. Feeling guilty when asking money, cutting through bullshit.

25:05 – Counter-argument: money as the source of all good. Money allows us to cooperate.

29:47 – We don’t see that many successful people in business arguing for socialism. On the opposite side, we can see many wealthy kids arguing for socialism. Why people in the artistic communities advocate for socialism while earning millions on performances. The different approach to socialism between wealthy kids and kids with scholarships. Forced redistribution may not be sustainable in the long term.

34:22 – Tony Robbins about the ideal amount to tax, so to pay for public services, and not to discourage taxpayers to fly away. Striking a fine balance is even more important when technologies that enable us to avoid taxation are widely available.

38:28 – Hank put on trial by the government. The nature of laws is that they have to be enforced by force. Most people won’t voluntarily do what government order them to do unless pointed with a gun.

42:56 – Most people think of laws and rules as things they have to follow, instead of options that have consequences. The idea that a rule is just something that typically advantageous to follow. Startups influencing how new rules for grey areas will be legislated. Why NY regulators don’t go after illicit listing on AirBnB.

47:24 – John Galt speech (spoiler alert). Layout of objectivism, Ayn Rand’s main contribution to philosophy, as some sort of adaptation of Aristotelian ethics and metaphysics. In Rand’s objectivism there can’t be contradictions. Or, going against postmodernism, there is no complete subjectivity.

51:39 – Objectivism: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification. Reality is not going to change if we hide away from it. Meaning of life and meaningful work as the purpose of life. Reason, purpose, self-esteem.

55:00 – Why people is unhappy with their job. Our jobs is where we spend most of our active ours, and if that is not purposeful, it’s hard to be satisfied. Corollaries from Sovereign Individual. We are in a time where in response to new technologies, government reacts in a more socialist direction, so the more productive people go somewhere else. The importance of cryptocurrency in this movement vs gold.

59:52 – Logic against postmodernism. Not saying anything, keeping the mouth shut and dying, is the only way to fulfill the argument of objectiveness non-existence.

1:01:43 – The roles of governments. The need of a third-party force as a result of the concept of property. Protection, Roads, Public Parks: how would they work if left to private initiative. Social Security, a legalized Ponzi scheme, works only if enforced. Alternatives to Social Security and who pays for it.

1:11:29 – Tangent. Criticism to Atlas Shrugged as it doesn’t convince someone who is convinced of the opposite. University is very liberal biased. It’s very tough to get grants to do research that doesn’t confirm liberal ideology.

1:13:56 – Outlawing ideas make them more compelling. The case of silencing gender differences.

1:16:43 – Diving into objectivism in School. The contrast of female characters of Ayn Rand books. Sex scenes and description of scenes.

1:22:11 – Tangent. Rand’s sex scenes are more emotional-psychological than physical. Philosophy of love, related to the meaning of life. Love as a sense of achievement. Interpretations of love possession.

1:26:29 – Closing quote. “In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”

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