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Rand & Feynman

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Ayn Rand’s WP, ELZR Atlas Shrugged AM is on the wishlist. I’ve read a sketch of the plot and as soon as I get my hands on it, it’ll be the first book I read. It was a tortuous decision though. I tend to anguish over negative criticism and she’s a woman with her fair share of it. People talk jadedly about “growing out of Rand’s idealism.” They compare her with Herman Hesse, good for rebel-without-a-cause teenagers but pity the adult that still believes them. And so on.

The thing is her radical capitalism and love for America are exactly where I am at.

You see, from Atlas Shrugged AM (This particular excerpt on money online here.):

So you think that money is the root of all evil? 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?

Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss — the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery — that you must offer them values, not wounds — that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of GOODS. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find.

You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities.

To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a COUNTRY OF MONEY — and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man’s mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being — the self-made man — the American industrialist.

If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose — because it contains all the others — the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to MAKE money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity — to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted, or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.

From The Fountainhead AM:

I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window — no, I don’t feel how small I am — but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.

From We The Living AM:

Do you believe in God, Andrei? No. Neither do I. But that’s a favorite question of mine. An upside-down question, you know. What do you mean? Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they’d never understand what I meant. It’s a bad question. It can mean so much that it really means nothing. So I ask them if they believe in God. And if they say they do — then, I know they don’t believe in life. Why? Because, you see, God — whatever anyone chooses to call God — is one’s highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It’s a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own.

From Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal AM:

Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman’s tool is values; the bureaucrat’s tool is fear.

Businessmen are the one group that distinguishes capitalism and the American way of life from the totalitarian statism that is swallowing the rest of the world. All the other social groups — workers, farmers, professional men, scientists, soldiers — exist under dictatorships, even though they exist in chains, in terror, in misery, and in progressive self-destruction. But there is no such group as businessmen under a dictatorship. Their place is taken by armed thugs: by bureaucrats and commissars. Businessmen are the symbol of a free society — the symbol of America.

Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation’s troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen.

Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others.

From Atlas Shrugged AM, again:

She was twelve years old when she told Eddie Willers that she would run the railroad when they grew up. She was fifteen when it occurred to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought — -and never worried about it again.

So I stalled the decision. Until I suddenly remembered Feynman in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track AM.

When a Caltech student asked the eminent cosmologist Michael Turner what his “bias”? was in favoring one or another particle as a likely candidate to comprise the dark matter in the universe, Feynman snapped, “Why do you want to know his bias? Form your own bias!”?

To hell with other people’s Ayn Rand biases. I’m gonna make my very own.

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