Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
Location
New England, USA
Title
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
Bio
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.

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JANUARY 9, 2010 9:55AM

Erik Naggum on Atlas Shrugged

Rate: 31 Flag

Erik Naggum died last summer. He was a very intelligent, interesting and highly controversial human being. Before his untimely death, he wrote these thoughts about the meaning of life at his web site:

[Erik Naggum in 1999]

People search for the meaning of life, but this is the easy question: we are born into a world that presents us with many millenia of collected knowledge and information, and all our predecessors ask of us is that we not waste our brief life ignoring the past only to rediscover or reinvent its lessons badly.

Because I am not religious, I have no mystical conception of an afterlife. To me, a person lives on not in Heaven or Hell but instead in the minds and hearts of those they touched while alive—or, even if no one knows it, as an integrated part of the world through the effects of their substantive contributions on the way in which the future comes to unfold. In that spirit, I hereby offer some remarks he once wrote about the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I wanted this writing to persist as part of the public record, rather than quietly fading into the obscurity of my personal mail archives. I think he’d be happy I thought this worth sharing.

Atlas Shrugged is the source of immense controversy generally, but is specifically relevant lately since this book is often cited as formative by many among what I would call the “Modern American Ruling Class,” by which I mean those who control the corporations and the big money that buys politicians’ votes. Erik here gives his views of this book, and discusses how those views have changed with time.

And, to clarify, I don’t offer this piece for the purpose of saying that I either agree or disagree with everything he has to say; as with all things Erik, this piece is complex and bravely resists reduction into the deceptive simplicity of words like Good, Bad, Right or Wrong. I like some of what he says, parts of it makes me uneasy, and all of it makes me think.

These are actual thoughts, reified into text by one who was fearless about self-expression. This is a view into the mind of a person unafraid to think, a stark reminder of the power of our words to transcend our existence, to speak for us even when we are gone.

I hope this text, in being offered posthumously, reminds each of us that we have at our respective fingertips the power to leave such a gift to others, so that when it’s our turn to join our predecessors in history, we will do so having augmented the knowledge, information, and wisdom of the world that came before us.

This was not an essay written for publication. It was just a casual message shared with a friend who had asked a question and earnestly sought an answer. Coming from a man who had a well-documented lack of patience with people who he perceived to be wasting his time, it honored me by suggesting I was worthy of the time required to express a lifetime’s evolution of thought on an important issue, that his time writing it might be well spent.

It is a reminder—a challenge—to each of us to write, to write something meaningful, to write something passionate, to write something worth reading, to write something worth saving.

If you’d prefer not to read white-on-black, click here.

Erik Naggum on Atlas Shrugged
March 13, 2003

I first read it in 1978 at the ripe old age of 13, much to my parents’ chagrin, and I therefore enjoyed the company of other people who had enjoyed the book and more of Ayn Rand’s works throughout the 1980’s. In addition to the science fiction fans who hated Ayn Rand, these two groups of weirdos from another planet formed the basis of my social life, including my choice of university, until about 1991, when I attended the inaugural meeting of David Kelley’s Institute for Objectivist Studies in New York City and was promptly shunned by the orthodoxy back in Oslo, who had become Peikoffians. I did meet with a bunch of objectivists in California when I worked in Sunnyvale in the last half of 1993 and re-established ties with some of my old friends, who had returned to sanity after tumultous breaks with the Peikoffians, but I had found something really evil in the human nature: The survival characteristics of the group. I have later come to define freedom as the maximum tolerable amplitude of the diversions from the most accepted norm of the community, and this is a function of both the group’s surplus resources and the ability of the individual to produce more than it demands from the same community.

I think Atlas Shrugged portrays an extremely strong model of the world which it can be difficult even to detect that is different from the Real World. This model is a romanticization of a handful of aspects of the human condition. There is nothing wrong in this per se, since e.g. the rule of law with constitutional democracies and human rights and all that good stuff is also a romanticization of a few select aspects, too, but the real question when it comes to dealing with real people is how able the model is to accomodate those who disagree with it. In normal society, we have married the good of the rule of law with the unbridled evil of locking people up in prisons or even killing them when they disagree with the model. This evil is, however, deemed acceptable because the good it is married to is the foundation of so much human progress. However, like socialism, which is a far simpler model than capitalism and which has proved fantastically evil in its treatment of those who disagreed with it, objectivism has turned out to be completely inept at dealing with disagreement. Constructing a social system that tends to those who agree with it is a piece of cake compared to constructing one that makes those who disagree with it want to obey its principles.

If I had not been as unscathed by real life when I read it, I would have noticed that the whole principle underlying Atlas Shrugged was precisely that of a massive, systemic failure to deal with disagreement. I mean, appealing as it seems to people who have failed to deal with some people who think differently (or not at all), going on strike against something you can externalize and segregate from yourself as Evil is really the strongest evidence of intellectual defeat there is. Suppose we take one premise for granted, that only those people who have been able to grasp certain ideas are necessary to run the new world and to hell with the rest, the question that is never asked, because it would ruin everything, is: What do you do with the offspring of the chosen ones, who maybe wanted to disagree with these ideas? In other words, how long would it last? Or, put differently, what kinds of freedoms would one have to think critically about anything in this ideal society? Constructing a social system that tends to those who agree with it today is really not a worthy accomplishment when you measure it against the standard of a system that not only needs to encompass those who do not agree with it, but with future generations, as well.

One particular problem that has been highlighted by the abject irrationality of George W. Bush and his cohorts is that in a society where you have the freedom to keep the products of your work, the kinds of accidents that take it away from you become a question of life and death at the personal level and hence define your risk and threat assessments. In societies where people band together and form nation-wide insurance systems designed for accidents large and small and where people have to pay a hefty price for the freedom to go their own way, the same accidents mean that people still pull together and manage to pull through a large number of accidents that would have crippled and killed individuals. The deep irony of the rationality of Ayn Rand’s philosophy is that a supremely rational individual does not want to be left in a post-accident situation where he has to fend for himself without the social fabric that formed an invisible tapestry of freedom pre-accident. The even deeper irony is that the level of education that would be necessary to teach the vast majority of the people how to set up insurance and spread risks would be unimagineably more expensive than forcing people to participate in such a system. The fundamental problem is that you cannot “choose freedom”, which President Moron has suggested that the terrorists have not and the Iraqi people would want to. What one can and does choose in life is the level of risk, and the level of freedom falls out from the consequences of how competently you manage your risks. The absolutely stupidest thing you could possibly do if you want people to embrace freedom is to increase the risks in their lives. Just like the United States has dispensed with its freedoms to feel more secure, so does every other nation and group of people.

Ayn Rand grew up in a society that intended to provide people with a nearly risk-free existence provided that they also gave up all their freedom to disagree with the decisions that would remove all the risk. Now, if you remove all risks from someone’s life, they will want both freedom and risks and will most likely fail to grasp that freedom from the consequences of risks is what human society has been working on for the few thousand years it has existed. Capitalism and rational egoism is vastly superior to communism and rational altruism in solving this problem of communal risk management, but if the problem is forgotten and the solution is seen as an end in itself, the problem will come back and destroy you. For instance, if you seek the freedom to enter contracts and seek the force of society to protect the sanctity of contract, there will still be a point at which you will have to accept the risk that the other contractor fails to deliver. We do not want a society where one man’s failure to protect himself from risks can be used to enslave his offspring for generations. We do not want a society where people are left to starve to death and therefore will kill others to survive if their risk management network breaks down. In the end, whether you create a society of all people who pay for a communal risk management system involuntarily (that is, the system becomes more advanced than the individual is able to understand) and so makes a tradeoff between freedom and risk through what will be considered force by those who disagree with it, or you create a society with a voluntary communal risk management system with much smaller groups of people who can opt in or out and then have a form of involuntary support for those who fall through the cracks to keep them from having to use force to survive, whether you choose one over the other is merely a question of the size of the group who band together for communal risk management.

There is ample evidence that if the group becomes too large, the first problem becomes that of the impossibility of opting out of it. Atlas Shrugged solves this problem by taking the one group that matters out of the greater system’s circulation, but it still is not a group of one person. The internal reward for taking part in the communal risk management system is productive work, which provides a short and very powerful link between how much risk management a person can provide to the group (i.e., the profits of producing more than it consumes) and how much it needs in return. Capitalism and the United States are based on the premise that what needs protection in society, that is, the focus of the communal risk management, is each individual’s productive capacity. The rule of law and the laws themselves are both set up to protect those who are vastly more productive than sustenance requirements from those who are unable to sustain even the standard of living that they enjoy in the society they live should they be left to their own devices. The core problem is that those who consume more than they produce refuse to die and cannot be killed. The surplus of the community that those who have overproduced have built up, and which is their pension funds, insurance, drought supplies, etc, will be stolen by those who face the death of their overconsumption. The big question is whether it is more cost-effective to keep people fed and clothed and housed than to prevent those who need food and clothing and shelter from stealing it.

There is very strong evidence, historically, biologically, and psychologically, that the survivability of the individual is a function of the group’s ablility to hoard and thus to protect itself from risks by overproducing when times are good. Failure to overproduce is in fact the single greatest threat to group as well as individual survival, because each accident that comes along will cause a net loss that is not recovered and replenished. Now, accidents are not only inevitable, the accidents that the group survives defines the group. It is a truism that “that which does not kill you makes you stronger”, but the summary of evolution and natural selection is all wrong: It is not “survival of the fittest”, a phrasing that has prevented billions of people from grasping the mechanism, it is “death of the unfit”, by which is, of course, meant that which failed to deal with a particular accident, which means that those individuals or groups that had less surplus than was required to stay alive long enough to recover after an accident had wiped some of them or their stored resources out, strengthen the group and the survivability of all fit individuals by dying. Therefore, each individual is not only morally obliged to overproduce if it wants to stay alive, it is morally obliged to underconsume, i.e., not consume all that it can.

Where Ayn Rand objected only to a society that was mired in overconsumption, as in “account overdrawn”, and desperately wanted a society marked by the aristocratic exuberance that e.g. José Ortega y Gasset described, where massive overproduction would be the rule rather than the exception, she failed to enunciate this latter point, and I have serious doubts that she understood the ramifications of her “sense of life”. Perhaps it would have been unpalatable to her American readers, perhaps she could never have lived with the full force of the realization, considering that she herself mooched off several people and retouched her past when she met with success and the profits of overproduction herself, but at least she followed through completely in her own failure to procreate. The single greatest source of overconsumption is procreation to exhaust resources. The single factor that best defines civilizations as they become richer and therefore offer more freedom, is that people procreate less and at a later age. Capitalism has proved to be inordinately effective in keeping people from procreating when they could not produce enough to feed and care for their offspring. Nothing has been done more wrong against the poor black in America than encouraging them to breed like rabbits, and the new groups of people who are still stuck in poverty are precisely the groups that breed out of control, like the latinos. The strongest contributing factor to the rise out of poverty by the Chinese slaves, was that they did not procreate. With considerable historic irony, China has non-procreated itself out of third world economy, as well, while Africa has been encouraged to keep up their overconsumptive procreation.

As for the success of capitalism, its success is not in higher degrees of freedom, not in better communal risk management, not in a higher standard of living, but in causing people to volunteer to delay procreation and to opt out of it altogether. Only by providing women with something to do that is vastly more worthwhile than rearing children have capitalist countries improved their standard of living. By giving women something that it costs so much to give up by having children that they weigh the cost that having children is and decide against it, capitalist society has short-circuited the senseless wastes of procreation with wild abandon that have marred every pre-capitalist society that happened to overproduce. By giving each woman a present that is very attractive, women have not felt the urge to spawn a new generation that they could hope would get a better stab at life than they got. Not only is the easiest way to underconsume simply to avoid procreation, the time and energy released by breaking the natural cycle and not having children goes into overproduction. And the childless die younger, too.

Atlas Shrugged is a novel set in a fictional reality that is entirely incompatible with the Real World. To many people, this fictional reality is incredibly enticing and attractive. Rational egoism, not this base, natural altruism of child-rearing, it appeals to people who are not of child-bearing age themselves. The more people want to take care of their children, the more they work to set up communal risk management systems that will not break down when some major accident occurs. Freedom will always translate to the death of those who can afford to take too large risks. To be able to afford freedom, some people will need to accept the burden of spawning the children that those who seek their freedom do not. A politico-economic system that managed to encourage people who were able to bring forth viable offspring to do so at a higher than replenishing rate, while it encouraged those who were not so able to spend their lives doing something else, would be both genetically and financially optimal. This is profoundly incompatible with the capitalist society as it has evolved in the United States. By sheer luck of a narrow window of opportunity, Ayn Rand escaped the Soviet Union and entered the United States at a time that allowed her philosophy to sound rational and profound. Indeed, much of it was probably predicated on timing, and so much of it points the way to a better way for human beings to live on earth, but there are some glaring flaws in the core premises that modern-day readers should “check”.

Atlas Shrugged is a “time piece” that works exceptionally well to set off something bad as destructive and evil, but it does in reality not offer anything at all to replace it. The core principle of overproduction (in defense of profits) is not coupled with underconsumption, although her heroes are prudent and physically slender people compared to the fat villains. Today’s capitalism is marked by both overproduction and overconsumption, and our social insurance systems encourage reckless wastes such as single welfare mothers. The really stupid religious conservatives who want to prevent both responsible parents and abortion virtually force a segment of the population into poverty and makes them produce the nation’s future generations, like the most braindamaged dysgenics experiment one could think of, where the least fit are “breeders” for society. Atlas Shrugged appears to reach for the same solution to its next generation: Whoever on the outside just happen to become usable to them, will be included. There is a stark parallel here to the Biblical Garden of Eden, which was also unsustainable and required people from the outside to make the next generation “work”.

However, all this said, I think Atlas Shrugged and the philosophy of Ayn Rand has set up a number of interesting warning signs and just as a group is evolutionally defined by what they survive, those who have read Atlas Shrugged and have thought about how it can let them learn from the world they live in more productively, will form “The New Intellectuals”. It is just as impossible to become a contributor to a free, humane society without having read Ayn Rand as it is to become one having only read Ayn Rand. To make the crucial leap requires that one be able to think about a society that must deal with its discontents and its detractors humanely and fairly, without jeopardizing the benefits to those who choose to subjugate their desires to those that are allowed within its freedoms. To many young people, the concept that one can benefit greatly by succumbing to the desires of the group, or at least not to deviate too far from them, appears to be intellectually unavailable, but to live in a society means precisely that one understands that one benefits from that society.

I have changed this text only to add a title and to add better typography, since our exchange in email was unformatted. For example, he used notation like “/text/” in plain text for emphasis, which I’ve upgraded to “text” for this publication. But the choices of what to italicize are his, not mine. I’ve also updated the quotation marks to be curly instead of straight. The text is otherwise a direct and complete quotation, without editorial correction.

I added hyperlinks in a couple of places, but they aren't visually marked so as not to disturb the text. Some of the references he makes may be unfamiliar, so if you want further reading, there are places you can click through. Adding these is not an endorsement on my part.


To learn more about Erik, see my eulogy of him.


If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.

If you would rather read Erik’s piece in black-on-white,
click here to visit the post on my home site.

Photo cropped and resized from a photo by Kevin Layer,
licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

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Rated and appreciated.
NeilPaul, I don't know that Erik meant to be commenting on race so much as using race as a shorthand for culture. His text was really about choices, and I'm sure he was aware that race is not a choice and would not have been remarking on that. That text, just in its form, is part of what I referred to as “uneasy” but it is part of the burden of discussing the wisdom of those who come before us that we cannot change the form of what they have said, we can only attempt to mine useful content from it. So I agree with you that people should look past that detail and focus on what I take to be the central bit, which is the issue of the choices we make in deciding what kind of society we will be and the rationales we use for making and justifying those choices. Even then, we won't all agree. But good societal discussion doesn't have to be about making everyone agree.

What I loved about Erik's way of speaking was not that he was always graceful; he wasn't. He was sometimes what most people would call blunt. He offended many. But he was unafraid to think and to speak. And he offered content sufficiently thoughtful that it was worth taking the time to find it among the occasional distraction of the rest. I pleaded with him from time to time to find a way not to do the offensive part. But people are sometimes not made that way, and he could be only who he was.
Kent,

I’m going to read Erik’s email when I have more time this afternoon, but I had to say that his thought regarding the meaning of life, with which you opened, completely arrested me.

From this one expression I would jump to a very quick conclusion that this was a man worth knowing.

I'm looking forward to my afternoon now, thanks.
Fusun, thanks for visiting.

Mark, you too—I'm glad you'll be back later.

I see only a few ratings and a few comments, but the views indicator says over a thousand views already, so I'm pleased about that. Thanks to all those who are just reading quietly—that's just fine, too.
You know my feelings endlessly expressed about those I've categorized as "Aynal Retentives". Eric reaches the heart of the matter, tho' he takes an awfully long way to get there. I confess I prefer Thomas Hobbes' much more concise explanation of why even the most rugged of individualists need government:

"Even the strongest man must eventually sleep"
Tom, I knew I'd get something useful from a poet. Thanks for offering the brief yet focused analysis. I think there's more in there, yet I'm not unhappy with your summary as one crystalized point of view. And I'd not heard that quote, so I muchly appreciate your sharing it.
"Capitalism and the United States are based on the premise that what needs protection in society, that is, the focus of the communal risk management, is each individual’s productive capacity. The rule of law and the laws themselves are both set up to protect those who are vastly more productive than sustenance requirements from those who are unable to sustain even the standard of living that they enjoy in the society they live should they be left to their own devices."

The above sentimet assumes an equation between wealth and productivity or that wealth is an index of productivity--that the accumulation of all that would go under the sign of socioeconomic value--for it is precisely such accumulation the law defends--is the same thing as a social produciton that contributes in a positive way to risk management in society. But the problem with capitalism (which does not prevent it from being preferable to all other lived alternatives) is that there exists a systemic disjunction between wealth accumulation and productivity, and hence the enjoyment of risk management as freedom and the suffering of risk as a threat to survival. Marx's name for the dynamic that produced this disjunction was the appropriation of surplus value and his name for the macroeconomic consequences of the dynamic was the exponential consentration of weath at variance with productive capacity. What ever Marx may have been wrong about, including the basic model of commodity value that produced these insights, he was right about the disjunction itslef, the existence of the law in capitalism as the defender of this disjucntion, and the consequences of the disjunction (hyperconcentration of capital), which we are living at this moment
libertarius, I may have to do some homework before I am up to replying coherently to the points you make, some of which uses terminology or ideas I'm not familiar with at the level of detail you seem to be. Not that that's bad. I don't mind going off and learning new things, or different ways to measure and express the same things. But anyway, thanks!
I am reading quietly and rated
I would love to read this entire post, but I have a basic inability to read white text on a black background. Within a paragraph or two the text is dancing around, my eyes begin to wander, and I find myself unable to read anything for a short time afterward.

It's like starring into a low wattage sun, frankly.

If you ever do a traditional version I'll read it through to the end. I'm curious.
That is a headful to absorb in one sitting. I've never read Atlas Shrugged, though I did read The Fountainhead, but have to say I didn't get much out of it. I got far more from this short musing of Erik's. Some will consider the remarks on Blacks and Latinos over breeding as racist, but I'm not so sure they are. Poor white people of low education are also prone to over breeding. Does that make me a racist? I think that is fact is due to lack of education than it is to race.
It would take me a month to absorb all that Erik said here. I agree with much of it, yet there is much I also missed. Deep thinking isn't my specialty. I like his take no prisoners approach. Ignoring a fact does not make it less of a fact. Someone please tell the Republicans.
I think our own system is failing because those that are producing aren't getting their rewards for doing so, while those at the top are far and away overcompensated for what they do.
Wealth is being distributed unfairly and has been for at least the past thirty years. This leaves people working their asses off while managing to get nowhere and it harms the society in more ways than I can count.
Corporations and banks have an unfair advantage over the people and now run the country. Congress can't pass anything without their approval because they all hang on the money tit to keep their jobs, so they are in effect, working for the corporations and not the people. Until that is corrected, the daily economic concerns of everyday people will only deteriorate causing more human suffering and death in our little peace of paradise.
This piece by Erik needs to be dissected for easier consumption by those of lesser brain power (meaning me). It is brilliant on so many levels. I remember your piece on Erik and can understand why you admired him. The world has surely lost a great mind. He blows Ayn Rand away in that department.
Michael, for what it's worth, I personally found Atlas Shrugged to be, as a piece of literature, tighter and simpler in many ways than The Fountainhead, so don't write off the idea that you might find it interesting and enjoyable. (I listened to each on unabridged Audiobook, which I found quite enjoyable.) Atlas Shrugged impressed me in some ways and in others it seemed slightly fanciful. Ideas are often best learned in isolation but are necessarily played out combined with others, and those that resist integration with others don't work well in the real world. Writings like this one of Erik's help me see better the pitfalls I was sensing. And yet, like so many things, I wouldn't say there was nothing to be learned in Rand's writings. Rather, one learns to take them in context. And that's what I liked about Erik's wrap-up here, too. It acknowledged this complexity.

Something I so much detest about modern political discourse is that a lot of people define it as an activity of separating good ideas from bad, rather than an activity of categorizing ideas as having positives and negatives, often in particular circumstances. Capitalists speak of socialism as “disproven,” which would be fabulously simplifying if it were true, but really parts of capitalism have troubles and parts of socialism have trouble, and anyway these are just names for large bunches of smaller ideas, but there is still much to learn from both. And the best solutions are probably hybrid.

The US itself, it became clear to me as I got into the Federalist Papers is exactly an attempt to build a hybrid from bits taken from various successful and failed societies. They looked for tools that worked and didn't, effects to cater to and effects to avoid, etc. They didn't divide the countries into Red and Blue and then pick only from the Red or the Blue as if all that poured from one was good and from the other was bad.
Kent,

I enjoyed Erik’s email and to his credit I got all fired up about Objectivism. I started writing about how I concurred that Objectivism is simply an un-implementable model, then I remembered that the purpose of your post is to encourage others to think, to write with zeal and to leave a meaningful echo of themselves.

Erik succeeded.
Jamie, Oops—I did the background in black for artistic reasons, and had some apprehension about it. I'm sorry you had problems!

It's worthwhile if you have this problem a lot to know many printers will fix this if you just print the page; many will not bother with pouring out ink to match the background. I printed a draft of this this morning and it came out as black on white using my HP OfficeJet 6500 printer.

A variant that uses black-on-white is now available at my personal web site so you don't have to use your printer, though.

By the way, you're not the first person I ever ran into that has complained about backgrounds interfering with vision. A popular technical document I once published, the Common Lisp HyperSpec, came out in its first public version in black on gray and someone complained that dyslexics have trouble reading this and that the solution is high-contrast (black on white) so later versions of that were done to fix that.

And just to bring things back in a circle: It may be that Erik Naggum learned Common Lisp from the HyperSpec. Certainly he seemed to like having it for reference. I'm pretty sure it's one of the things he and I discussed when we first encountered each other online. Funny how all things in the world are so connected...
Mark, it's great to see ripples of thought fanning out. :)
Ironically the biggest Randroids I know are Communists.....
Gruntled, hi, thanks for visiting. I have no way of verifying that, but it's interesting if true.
I've never enjoyed Rand much as she makes me grit my teeth when I read her. At the end, my jaw always hurts. ;)

But what an interesting commentary by your friend! I'm certain procreation is at the heart of many problems, along with overconsumption. I do not really think overpopulation can be laid solely at the feet of the poor (or the religious, who I find do their more than fair share). It's a communal aspect that is, in fact, extremely complicated and would take years to fully construct. Also, it's pretty caught up in that 'years of plenty' and 'years of lean' construct. We overproduce people for the years we might need more population percentages to continue the human race. Unfortunately, we don't have many natural predators besides ourselves. (Not that I want to be eaten by a bear tomorrow, thank you very much.)

A very thoughtful work. I'm also very sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you, Kent.
Odette, I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged just for the purity of its presentation style, independent of the dogma. I actually tend to ignore a lot of the descriptive material that comes in books figuring it mostly just doesn't matter. I know others really like that stuff. And the fact that she was minimalist with some of that was kind of nice. Do you recall if it was her politics or her presentation style that gets you uptight? I could imagine either and am curious. But either way, thanks for stopping in.
I think the book was mainly about meritocracy vs favoritism, old boy networks and the dictatorship of virtue. That great minds are attacked by mediocre who have to use connections, emotional blackmail and any advantage to succeed lacking any real skill. It was basically an extention of The Fountainhead.
Hi Kent,

This post is one one of the most fascinating posts I have read on OS.

I read all of Rand's works, beginning in 1980, right after high school. Though I am no "Randian" at all, I have continued to reread "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" periodically since then. Her vision was obviously too simple to take seriously. I could see that even when I was a kid. There was just no room for anyone who was less than perfect, but her ideals have always challenged me anyway.

Erik Naggum's thoughts (btw: never heard of him till your post; now I've got MORE to look up and study, thanks a LOT!) regarding societal and individual risk management strategies were very thought provoking. I hadn't considered that's what we are all doing all the time, whether we understand it or not. Interesting.

He also poked me in the thinker again with the line of reasoning about what it takes, on a societal scale, to convince a generation of women that there is something more worthy to do with their lives than put all of their energy and resources into creating the next generation.

Ouch, my thinker hurts. That's a good thing. Thank you.

Rated.
I have often observed in my own life that graceful writing comes from an intelligent and expert mind. I believe after reading Erik's letter that, though he may have been quite intelligent, in this subject he was not an expert. Of course, he is not first one to have fallen into the trap.

It is easy, after studying a little metaphysics, to believe that you have a broad understanding of the human condition. You might think, even without any particular knowledge of sociology, that you are qualified to share your opinion on the breeding habits of latinos, for example. But that would be a mistake. If I may, here are the points where I think Erik was misinformed:

Erik wrote, "socialism... has proved fantastically evil...," this is patently inaccurate. There are many examples of socialism not being evil. Countries like Canada and Sweden have highly socialist economies and it would be laughable (and somewhat offensive) to call either, "evil." Here are Erik's own words to prove his failure in this area: "going on strike against something you can externalize and segregate from yourself as Evil is really the strongest evidence of intellectual defeat there is."

Next, Erik shows his lack of understanding Rand's book: "The deep irony of the rationality of Ayn Rand’s philosophy is that a supremely rational individual does not want to be left in a post-accident situation where he has to fend for himself without the social fabric that formed an invisible tapestry of freedom pre-accident." This, alas, is not inconsistent with Rand's fictional work. Atlas Shrugged is, in fact, set during a disaster which has forced large portions of the population to rely on the social fabric for support. Any irony that might have existed in such a world is immediately brushed away by Rand's creative license. The end result is a book that is painfully written to prove the theories that it supposes. I think a hint of the actual contradictions in Rand's novels can be seen in the conflict between Rand's objectivism and Marx's materialism.

Each person reading this probably already knows which side of that debate they are on and won't be swayed by me. Suffice it to say, I don't believe Rand deserves to be compared to an intellectual giant like Marx. In my opinion, the objective, rational person does not exist. It is a fantasy dreamed up by a fiction writer to counter the threat she saw in the Soviet Union. Even though her fears may have been justified, Atlas Shrugged, or anything else she wrote, is not the alternative.
Gunther, that's certainly a possible reading of the book. Given that, did the remarks here by Erik resonate with you or not? It's a little tough to tell if you're agreeing or disagreeing (not that it necessarily matters, just trying to understand how you mean your words).

Charlie, I'm glad you have homework. I do, too, as a result of some comments here. I sometimes all myself a student of life... not to be confused with life student. I think life is forever presenting opportunities for study.

salsicha, your comments are really addressed to Erik and not to me. It's lamentable he's not here to respond but that's life (and death). I won't pretend to be his proxy to such degree as to fairly respond. I hate writing to Disney World with feedback and having them respond with quotes from Walt Disney, as if Disney had meant those out of context phrases for my situation—poor Walt! I wouldn't want to repeat the same paradigm here. I will instead just leave it all out there as part of the mix to ponder. Thanks for visiting though, and for sharing your thoughts.
Very, very, tactful replies, KP, yet in every case you were able to say exactly what you meant.

You have spent a lot of time weighing your words. Your thoughtfulness shows in every phrase you choose. It is going to be interesting to get to know you better thru your posts.

I look forward to that.
sounds like an internet Crank... RIP.... and your epitaph sounds a little like antiCrank....
ayn rand frames some key issues in a black&white way. I dont agree with her beliefs, but she did find some of the most critical/key/crucial issues to write on. and we as humans are still trying to sort it out. the 2008 crash would have shocked rand just as it did one of her main disciples, greenspan. at least greenspan had the guts to admit he was wrong-- in front of congress. a very rare occurrence that made headlines all over the world. "I was wrong!!" ... what incredible contortions people go through to avoid saying that.. some ppl are not religious but it would seem their religion is to avoid saying that.... some ppl probably go their whole lives without saying it....
Charlie, thanks—that's nice of you to say about my replies. And I can always use another reader dropping by, so feel free to stop in any time. Also, if you have the time/interest to survey my other writings, there's a complete list maintained at my personal web site that's indexed by category. Open Salon's ability to present such data in a useful form is pretty limited, so I maintain that list by hand.

vzn, I agree that the remark by Greenspan was remarkable, and yet it's weird because honest as it may have been at some level, it almost defied credibility that he could have been so incompetent as to have made the assumption he alleged to be relying on, which is that the self-interest of the individual and of the corporation were aligned. I knew and had remarked on, and many people I know had remarked on, the fact that there were lots of people in the game to get rich and cash out, and it was absolutely clear to anyone watching that it was possible to get rich at the expense of one's company. That, in effect, is what Greenspan confessed to. And a bit of me wonders if the remark was not cynically devised to remove himself from apparent culpability. It could be that he saw that without something said, someone would go after him legally. All of that said, whether he was wrong for reasons of incompetence or obliviousness (if those are even different), it is clear that it was an admission that he was wrong either way. So I guess your remark is still true. It's an interesting question whether Rand would have been up to acknowledging same; based on what I know of her, I'd guess she'd have rationalized it away. But that's obviously just a guess and she's not here to defend herself, so perhaps I'm being unfair.
I read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in high school. That was forty years ago so my memories are dimmed by the level of understanding I had then, but I do remember the book somewhat like Gunther, that the book was mainly about meritocracy vs favoritism. But even then I was aware that meritocracy, though it seemed like a great idea to a smart girl with smart friends, still seemed infected with the idea that you had to know somebody or you had to be somehow approved of by the people who believed in it. In any case, being working class at the time, and having changed schools close to 27 times when I read those books one right after another, I didn't think I fit into Rand's scheme of things at all. Maybe I felt a bit like folks expected me to raise a family and live my life barefoot and pregnant. I remember feeling that she was terribly arrogant and not in a productive way.

I probably wouldn't have read both books if my friends weren't all reading and talking about them.

As for your friend Erik, he has some interesting insights, and he is brutal about some of his ideas, but I can't help but think that his ideas, about the failure to procreate marking the advanced stages of capitalism, are all ready actually a problem for some countries, such as Japan and recently, I read that it is a problem for the French as well. At some point, if that idea were true, we would cease to exist, and somehow that doesn't seem like the point. And though the poor seem to procreate more, and sometimes seem to value children more, it would seem that the privileged and educated meritocracy's failure to procreate would lead to a decrease in human intelligence. I don't know that it has. You mention that his discussion was cultural, I think it was more about class.

But I did come away with the idea that architects were terribly interesting, productive, creative, romantic figures and dated a few and am married to one. If I'd been born middle class I probably would have chosen to be one.
PS - I agree with you about Greenspan's comment. Somehow, at the time it was both surprising and appeared disingenuous to me.
Kent,

Lots of interesting stuff here. I just pulled out a few things as I read to that struck me.

“… if the problem is forgotten and the solution is seen as an end in itself, the problem will come back and destroy you.”

The above statement especially struck me. I’ve stated in one of my own posts that capitalism can serve society well as long as society does not exist to serve capitalism. It seems that we have arrived at a point where capitalism, the solution, is seen as “an end in itself” and that society exists to serve capitalism.



“The surplus of the community that those who have overproduced have built up, and which is their pension funds, insurance, drought supplies, etc, will be stolen by those who face the death of their overconsumption.”

Wealth, production, overconsumption are often conflated. For instance, “production” that serves no purpose other than to increase profits is often not “productive” in other ways and, in fact, actually becomes destructive, instead. The idea that the wealthiest among us are necessarily “the producers” is not only often completely untrue, but they are, for the most part, the people who are most guilty of overconsumption.

“Therefore, each individual is not only morally obliged to overproduce if it wants to stay alive, it is morally obliged to underconsume, i.e., not consume all that it can. […] The core principle of overproduction (in defense of profits) is not coupled with underconsumption … Today’s capitalism is marked by both overproduction and overconsumption …”

There is a mutual need and reciprocal responsibility between those with wealth and those who actually produce; the creators and workers. It is clear that such mutuality has been lost.

And libertarius makes a point, with which I agree, about Marx and the idea that some of Marx's ideas have perhaps been tossed away prematurely.
While it is true that the more wealth one accumulates the fewer children they have, it is also true that as wealth expressed by productivity rose, so did population. The Industrial Revolution saw a rise in a population that could be fed and employed.
The cultural reasons the poor breed more are numerous, I think. In potential, they aren't inferior. In the reality of a system that distributes higher knowledge based on the ability to pay, it's no shocker that the the odds are slim those people will rise above their circumstance. In my mind, a blatant waste of a key natural resource.
And that before considering the concomitant costs of dealing with the results of poverty and ignorance. A pox on those whose policies create more poor - a double pox for those who blame the poor.

I haven't read Atlas Shrugged, but I think I get the idea. The Glorious Produces go on strike....so THERE you government power seekers and wealth robbing citizens! That'll show you!

That seems the basis for the toxic wealth worship that has put us in this economic misery.

So now I ask the Glorious Producer: Where are your customers?

The reply: Atlas Shrugged. "They don't have enough money. I did everything to reduce their incomes, but it hasn't helped. Perhaps if I were given more tax breaks, they would start buying..."

Atlas is a slow learner.

Building on Rick's comment--
The relationship between business and consumer is symbiotic, like a tick bird and a water buffalo. Our problem is we forgot we're the greater entity. The true Job Creators are workers/consumers. No demand, no investment, no job creation. A wise society would know that as long as the poor and middle can spend, the incomes of those higher up the food chain are secure.

As to Rand's Objectivism... I haven't bothered to study it for the same reason I don't eat fecal sandwiches. The smell keeps me from wanting to taste, and besides, the experience is almost the same.

Her brief description of Objectivism:

Metaphysics --Objective Reality
Epistemology --Reason
Ethics --Self-interest
Politics --Capitalism

I agree with the first 2, and confine the 3rd to an allowable personal belief.
As a system of society, numbers 1&2 negate 3&4

End of somewhat rambling response.
Rated.
What an honor to have this exchange and to share in its gift. You are truly blessed, Kent.
Preliminary comment (more later, I think) - Michael, *deep thinking* is overrated, and sometimes the obvious is what we should be looking at. IMO you summed up a problem with both Rand and the dazzling E. Naggum thusly: "I think our own system is failing because those that are producing aren't getting their rewards for doing so, while those at the top are far and away overcompensated for what they do.
Wealth is being distributed unfairly..."

The smart entrepreneurs that Rand praised cannot build their railroads and factories themselves or use the resulting products entirely - they have to use people. And it is human nature to Take Advantage. Unions and the need for industrial workers gave western society a large middle class...until the wealthy (who comprise a large proportion of parasites as well as smart entrepreneurs) figured a way around their fellow-national workers by going abroad. That system is unsustainable - their fellow nationals are becoming too poor to be consumers (and may become dangerously unhappy at some point) and at the same time the workers abroad will eventually unionize or revolt or in the course of things extract wages that are "too high" to maintain the flow of overproduction of wealth (not overproduction of goods and services). This surplus wealth thing has got way out of hand and does not benefit the society as a whole....which is why we need strong government that is willing to TAX THE WEALTHY... Eek, socialism. But there has to be some counter-weight to capitalism. The Scandinavian countries appear to have (fearless Vikings that they are) taken the bull by horns...

Okay, I gotta go walk the dog (a consumer of surplus that gives back nothing of material consequence - another problem with Rand, the absence of appreciation of the non-material aspects of human interaction), and this gives me something to occupy my mind while being dragged along in the snow and the cold thru the same old scenery...

Not that discussing Rand and capitalism and all that shit isn't being dragged along in the cold thru the same old scenery...
Goddamn, when I write a comment like, "Hey, cool, see you," which is 99% of the time, no prob. When I write one that required a bit of effort, goddamn site eats it. EAT IT, SITE!

I gotta go walk the dog, after which, chores willing, I'll bang away again at this (God I hate Rand and all the responses she inspires), but for the moment I'll just say, to Michael Rogers, that IMO *deep thinking* is over-rated and is trumped by pointing out the obvious, as you did: "I think our own system is failing because those that are producing aren't getting their rewards for doing so, while those at the top are far and away overcompensated for what they do.
Wealth is being distributed unfairly..."

Later...
This is a well done post, Kent. I am no fan of Ayn Rand, as I feel that any idea of 'the objective' to be delusional. We are all sending all information through the filter of our own experience, and I find anyone who thinks they see outside that, or that they are capable of applying 'logic', which is again the formula of personal experience, to the human condition, to be rather unwell. Her racism and misandry speaks for itself. xox
Kent---this is worth an afternoon of discussion. At least. So much here.

I have read both main Rand books---but never a critique this compelling.

Some thoughts to ponder---and let me apologize in advance if I missed answers to these from Erik's fine work.

1. "The inability to deal with disagreement." That is spot on. I think that goes way beyond Rand though. Might even see a bit of it on open salon!

2. The basic inability of Rand to offer a better idea. I remember the comfort I felt in reading rand as a kid. A nice world. But like Erik said---not the real world. Rand is the Fox News of "philosophers."

3. Erik's point that despite the wooden cliche filled nature of the prose; Rand is worth reading as a cautionary tale.


4. I wonder what Erik would have thought of systems thinking. Whatever guesses we have on that question---I'd sure be interested in.

Thanks again for this fine piece.

Roger
I could ramble off an number of paragraphs that this post made me think about but I will keep it simple and just say, a simple thanks for this; I love being challenged in thinking about such things. I read Atlas many years ago without any real concerns. I may need to revisit this book. Thanks for the post.
salsicha - I wouldn't characterize Canada as a socialist society, certainly not on the same level as Scandinavia. We have government-paid (not government-run) health care, fairly strict strictures on banking, safety nets likeunemployment payments and government pensions (quite small), etc. We have fairly high taxes to cover these, but not as high (as I understand it) as in Scandinavia, who do cradle-to-grave in a much more thorough way. (Which doesn't seem to have destroyed their initiative or produced the sort of spy-on-your-neighbor thing that happened under the Soviet system.)

P.S. - I see my first comment, which I thought had been lost (in one of those sign-in schmozzles) made it through after all!
odetteroulette - I understand completely with respect to the sore-jaw syndrome!

Charlie - I agree that the risk management angle is thought-provoking. But...when you stop to think about it, that's what all life is about, though we don't usually put it in those terms. In the natural world, it's eat or be eaten, and creatures (plants as well as animals) develop strategies to lower risk of being eaten at the same time as raising the prospects of eating. In human society, we do the same thing, really, tho not in direct interaction with sabre-tooth tigers, etc., but jostle for increasing security and, ah, *consumption*. We have learned as a species (well, it's a built-in, along with its opposite) that cooperation gets individuals a better deal in both risk-management and benefit...but society is also always internally struggling with how much cooperation for the benefit of all vs every person for himmerself.

More later (perhaps). DAMN YOU AYN RAND!
Suzanne (okay, later proved to be 30 seconds later) - countries like Japan (France and other Euro countries maintain population thru immigration) HAVE to lower their population. That poor little island can't take care of unlimited population. Trouble is, our whole economic system is based on "growth"...alla time growth. We have to figure out maintenance rather than growth...and how to handle the interim time when there are a lot of old people to be supported by a much smaller number of young people. I certainly don't have any solution to offer, but I don't see any solutions being put forward by the people who could wrap their heads around the problem. (Of course, with computerization, that small number of young people might be productive enough to take care of themselves and the old demographic too...)

As for (I can't find who remarked on this aspect of what Naggum said) persuading women to find something else to do besides have children seems to be no problem at all - provide birth control and employment opportunities, and the birth rate plummets all of 'its own accord'.

Oh, and there was something about how the superior people aren't reproducing and the inferior poor people are...I think that England (other countries too, of course, but that's where I have - I believe - a little knowledge) is a good example of how the Lowah Clawsses lived deprived lives thru the peasant times and the beginning of industrial times, ravaged by poverty, bad diet and, upon the invention of gin, alcoholism. Yet those are the people who produced the lively intelligent middle class that worked the later industrial society and manned the wars, while the Uppah Clawsses famously (perhaps unfairly characterized) produced twits. Just the phenomenon of countries like China and India, not so long ago ravaged by famine, still retained the human potential for brainiacs and entrepreneurs and all the wherewithal to take over world leadership in...everything... So poor people reproducing faster than rich ones doesn't necessarily mean a decline in humanity - that's our reservoir for the next wave... (Except ENOUGH ALREADY - hand out the condoms before we're overwhelmed...)
Kent, as always your invitation to delve into something you have deemed interesting, important or thought provoking was too tempting to pass by.

I have found this particular piece tremendously rewarding, Erik has written the most readable, concise and clear summary of Atlas Shrugged and of Ayn Rand's ideas and precepts that I have ever encountered. I have never read anything like it; it rhymes with my thoughts in an almost mystical way.

The "take no prisoners" manner in which Erik writes is quite refreshing to me; I do not take offence in the "racial" remarks because I do not attribute a racist meaning or intent, I can however understand that some might.

Over all the essay is worth sharing and it provides food for thought and discussion to fill many hours.

Again I thank you for this valuable and enduring piece and a heartfelt posthumous thanks to Erik who is still around with us through his thoughts and ideas.
The Economist reported that in 2009, Atlas Shrugged was #33 on Amazon's bestseller list....xox
Susanne, personally, I just can't imagine any of our societies running into trouble reducing its numbers until their populations fall considerably lower. I think the key thing is not numbers per se but the ability to be productive and diverse and to provide for those numbers. In an increasingly information-based and robotics-based society, there is simply not the need for as many people in order to do all the production. People become wealthier by achieving a proper ratio of tasks needing doing by people to people. Unless we're going to continue to find jobs for all the people we have, the numbers need to decrease. Or that's my thought anyway. It felt to me like Erik's piece was agnostic on this point, but maybe I'm missing the place where he addressed it. Certainly that was my take in his comment about China's having made itself wealthier by heading off its population explosion. (Not that it's gotten small, but it's failed to blow out of control like the predictions had suggested would happen, and that's a big deal.)

Rick, I loved that quote about the difference between capitalism as a tool and as a means. I keep trying to make that very same point. This whole unseen hand thing drives me nuts. And I agree with you about the conflation of the other terms (wealth, production, consumption), too. Thanks for highlighting those.
Paul, quite a lively analysis for someone who hasn't read the book. I'm sure there have been less good analyses by people who have. :)

Blue, yes, I was saying to my wife that it feels like having hosted a very successful party. What a group has assembled and what fine discussion. A very enjoyable interchange.

Myriad, indeed, it's now been a while since I read Atlas Shrugged so someone can feel free to correct me if I misremember, but my recollection is that there was little fighting over what wages people got. People seemed to get fair wages as if that kind of thing comes from just being a good soul. Yet in the real world, it's not like that. Good wages do not come of doing honest work. Rather, good wages come of doing a task that someone cannot get at a cheaper price. The more common the task, the less the wage. This is almost necessary in order to have enough to pay people because if common tasks took the bulk of the wages, the distribution at the top would be very different.

Robin, that's an interesting way to put an objection to objectivism and it makes sense to me. Fortunately, when I read Atlas Shrugged I didn't know about objectivism so didn't get side-tracked in the whole circus that went with it. It was just a book with some interesting ideas, a wealth of them. But a book, to me, doesn't imply a dogma. I didn't read it as a religion and so was not threatened by it. I agree if taken as that it won't pass muster with me either. I did, however, like the simple idea of people trading money more often than they do. People often do favors for one another but this leaves the accounting messed up, since one can only trade on that favor with the person one did it with. Money allows a better interchange. So I thought that suggestion positive. To me, the flaw in Atlas Shrugged was not the fact of money or payment, it was that it didn't address how the prices were set. The devil is in that detail. Perhaps, back to your point, the problem is that price cannot be set objectively. I think this I'm saying is just a restatement of something several others have said when they've spoken of the higher ups taking advantage of those lower down. Properly priced, there would be no such taking advantage, in other words. I hope that's relevant to your point... I know I got a little side-tracked. I liked your observations in any case. Thanks!
ChicGuy, and interesting list you made and I enjoyed your characterizations. Regarding point #1: Yep. #2: Cute. #3: Indeed, life is full of opportunities to learn even from incomplete examples and things one doesn't agree with, and #4: I'm going to try not to speak for him and what he did or didn't believe related to that since I don't recall him speaking on the matter, but he was someone with definite opinions on how to think about things. You can read about some of them by clicking here.

Spudman, you're welcome. Perhaps you'll run into someone else from this discussion at the bookstore, since it sounds like several are on their way there.

Karin, I hesitate to interpret Erik, but I will say that I personally believe his statement true about China insofar as this: Had they procreated more, they'd have been poorer. They didn't make themselves rich by cutting births, but they did keep themselves from utterly melting down. Their population problem was immense and while the measures they took were severe to say the least, my personal take is that such measures are required when one waits too long. That's why other countries need to start caring about birth control sooner, to avoid the need for such drastic things. And Climate Change has the same problem. By delaying, we risk that we'll have to take unpleasant action on the climate analogous to what China did on population, rather than starting earlier while we can do something more measured.

Sorry about the white-0n-black text. There is a button that takes you to a page that's less artsy and easier to read. I guess you missed it. Oh well. I tried. :)
Bosh, I'm flattered that my invitation intrigued you and glad that the piece didn't disappoint. I had such a sense that this was an important writing, and yet I was apprehensive about whether others would agree. I've seen enough people say they got value that I'm no longer nervous about that.

Robin, that's really an interesting statistic. I wish I could get that kind of persistent rating out of some of my writings. Gotta work on that. :)

Thanks all. I was out for the day and came back to quite a number of comments, which was really great.
Penrose, I can't take credit for the site, but I'm happy to have hosted this particular discussion. It really is impressive some of the thoughts people have brought in and the friendly way the discussion of difficult issues has been happening.
Hey Kent...but you are fifth most viewed right now...cool! xox
Penrose, good observation. Though if I recall, the answer was in the book when you saw the change in human nature she envisioned (just not a credible one). Wasn't there at least one and maybe several situations where characters who were used to having “grand” jobs were content to just do menial jobs instead, thrilled merely by the notion of good work for good pay? This is a nice theory but not how people have been taught to be, and it's not just snobbery, people do come out of the box when they're born as blank slates but increasingly they become what they do, and it's hard to re-tool them later for other things. Just look at the problems in existing society surrounding career change. The issue is not even just changing careers, it's that when you do you end up at a different place in the social ladder. It's that your income changes as a result and you can't afford the things you are used to buying or even the fixed-cost commitments like mortgages you are obliged to pay. (Perhaps she would have people save up and buy houses for cash, which actually has its merit, but would surely be a change.) My point isn't that any given one of these or even several could never happen, it's that saying that society would not mind switching is naive at best.
You are at 14,803 views right now...and thank you for responding so thoughtfully to my comment...I appreciate it...xox
Robin, it was higher on the most viewed earlier in the weekend, it's just falling off now. As of this moment, it's had 14,806 views. My posts usually get about 300-800, so this one was quite popular and probably not due to my verbiage. I posted pointers to it on various web sites where people had gathered to mourn Erik's passing, and no doubt his many fans and perhaps some detractors or other curious parties have stopped in for a glance.
Heh, Robin, I wasn't trying to, uh, 3-up you. We just happened to cross paths in our last two remarks. :)
Kent, thanks for pointing me here. Too too much for me to absorb in a short span of time. I will have to do some back-reading with this to just penetrate a little of the surface. However, it reminds me a lot of a book my stepson gave me for christmas, titled Ismael. The book purports to be a series of conversations between an idealist and socially brilliant gorilla who has an outsiders view of society. At the root, the problems faced by society are due to overpopulation/overconsumption, which is at least a part of your friends writing here.
Again, thanks for sharing. I will be thinking on this for a while and maybe have a worthwhile comment later.
Tim, between Erik's essay itself and the many interesting comments that have come in, there's a lot to sift... but there's no urgency—at least none imposed deliberately by me. I'm glad you could stop by and look forward to any additional thoughts you may have.
Hi, Kent. Haven't had time to read Erik's essay yet (though I'm looking forward to it), but regarding the typography, the Readability project (http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/) is a great resource, and made this page very, well, readable.
A wonderful essay, Kent. Sorry it took me so long to get around to it. Eric made some very powerful points. I think it is a good book for teens to read, even if they misread it once, only to really get it later. Rated.
I appreciate you giving tribute to your friend who had some great writing talent. Ayn Rand and her philosophy as presented in this ridiculous "Bible"of hers is the most vile thinking ever presented. She may have left Russia but Russia never left her. Her hero in the Fountainhead was based on a serial killer. Who is John Galt? signs are carried by teabaggers in their protests. But I am sorry that you lost a friend and fine writer.
I have no mystical conception of an afterlife. To me, a person lives on not in Heaven or Hell but instead in the minds and hearts of those they touched
Faydalı Hayat
Kent, I believe Erik posted this text (or a version of it) on Usenet in Norwegian. I was not able to find it on Google Groups, but I'm fairly confident it's there somewhere in the no.* hierarchy, as I remember well reading it.
Hi, Kristian. You're finding this article a couple years after it was posted, so it's possible you saw this article re-posted there. But if what you saw was older, it's possible he just re-pasted something he'd written elsewhere (usenet/google groups) into the email. I'm sure he must have discussed such issues with the norwegian groups, since I think someone mentioned he had a prominent role in the Norwegian Objectivist Society (or some such entity) at one point. Either way, I'm just happy to get him some visibility, as he was a thoughtful guy and a lot of people have viewed this.