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So I just read The Fountainhead


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#1 Revah

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 01:11 AM

Hello all,

I'm Revah. I'm not an Objectivist. I'm a woman who has just finished reading The Fountainhead and found it to be one of the most profoundly influential and life-changing books I have ever come across.

I shan't bore you all with too many details of my life history. I find it sufficient to say that I was raised by a narcissistic mother, to whom I was worthless and only had value to the extent that I met her needs, that I lived for her. I have spent my adult life thus far seeking the approval of others, basing my conditional self-esteem on the extent to which I could sacrifice myself for others, and hating myself for failing to live up to my own altruistic ideals.

I was, in the words of Ellsworth Toohey, asking to be whipped.

This is not an excuse. This is an explanation.

The truth is that reading this book has given me a hope of a freedom that I didn't have sight of before. The creative impulse, the intellectual delight of meeting a challenge, they remain still within me. Perhaps they will never burn so bright as when I was a young girl who had not yet learned to be conscious of the opinions of others, but the flame is not yet stamped out; I can rekindle it. To think that I stopped writing for fear that nobody would approve of my words, denying myself that simple joy of creative work!

Someone one told me that I needed to put myself, my own goals and my happiness first. I laughed, because it was a mindset to alien to me. I came last, if at all, for that was the only way to be a good person. I did so want to be good.

I suppose I'm here because I think that in one instance, Howard Roark was wrong. I don't think it was necessarily too late for Peter Keating. It would be a long road back to integrity and authenticity, and not an easy one, beset by trial and the lure of living at second-hand - because that is easier. Not better, by any means, but easier. However, I don't believe it would have been impossible. (After all, it had very little to do with the quality of his paintings, and everything to do with the quality of his mind. A person committed can always improve.)

If it wasn't too late for Peter, then it's not too late for me either. I read somewhere on this forum athread about self-esteem and that if nothing else, you have the knowledge that no matter what you may have done, you can do better in the future.

I'm here to read, to learn, and to resolve to do better, because I deserve better than to carry on squashing down every part of me, mind and soul, that ever really mattered.

~ Revah
"See, Leisha -- this tree made this flower. Because it can. Only this tree can make this kind of wonderful flower. That plant hanging up there can't, and those can't either. Only this tree. Therefore the most important thing in the world for this tree to do is grow this flower. The flower is the tree's individuality -- that means just it, and nothing else -- made manifest. Nothing else matters." ~ Beggars In Spain, by Nancy Kress

#2 Selene

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 01:25 AM

Good Morning:

Welcome to OL.

This is a beautiful manifesto. One of the best that I have read by a new poster in the five (5) years I have been a member.

Do you prefer to be addressed as Melissa, or Revah?

A tea drinker, how shocking a Brit tea drinker!

I know that you will find a very positive reception here. There is a place on OL for you to post any original writings that you have.

Just one observation, your mother had parents also and she may have been just as chained as you felt you were. She is the past, you are the future.

Once again, welcome to OL.

Adam
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#3 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 06:54 AM

Welcome to OL, Mellisa.

Thanks for sharing your liberation. When I was nineteen, forty-four years ago, The Fountainhead saved my life.

Wishing you fine creations.

Stephen

#4 Dglgmut

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 07:41 AM

I think that in one instance, Howard Roark was wrong. I don't think it was necessarily too late for Peter Keating.


I'm almost done reading the book for the first time and I was surprised by that exchange. I would have expected him to say something along the lines of, "What the hell are you showing these to me for? They're awful. ...Oh, hey, but at least they're yours."

So, yeah, I agree with you on that.

#5 Reidy

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 08:42 AM

Your statement was an inspiration to us all. Welcome to OL.

To be precise, Roark told Keating that it was too late to start a career as a painter, not to reform his character. He'd shown some glimmers of good character before (by refusing initially to take advantage of Katherine Halsey's connection to Toohey and occasionally in his marriage to Dominique), but he stomped them out quickly, and he was still free, at that stage of his life, to live up to his better moments.

What I've seen of the work of Grandma Moses inclines me to think that Roark was right as an art critic.

#6 studiodekadent

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 08:54 AM

Hello all,

I'm Revah. I'm not an Objectivist. I'm a woman who has just finished reading The Fountainhead and found it to be one of the most profoundly influential and life-changing books I have ever come across.

I shan't bore you all with too many details of my life history. I find it sufficient to say that I was raised by a narcissistic mother, to whom I was worthless and only had value to the extent that I met her needs, that I lived for her. I have spent my adult life thus far seeking the approval of others, basing my conditional self-esteem on the extent to which I could sacrifice myself for others, and hating myself for failing to live up to my own altruistic ideals.

I was, in the words of Ellsworth Toohey, asking to be whipped.

This is not an excuse. This is an explanation.

The truth is that reading this book has given me a hope of a freedom that I didn't have sight of before. The creative impulse, the intellectual delight of meeting a challenge, they remain still within me. Perhaps they will never burn so bright as when I was a young girl who had not yet learned to be conscious of the opinions of others, but the flame is not yet stamped out; I can rekindle it. To think that I stopped writing for fear that nobody would approve of my words, denying myself that simple joy of creative work!

Someone one told me that I needed to put myself, my own goals and my happiness first. I laughed, because it was a mindset to alien to me. I came last, if at all, for that was the only way to be a good person. I did so want to be good.

I suppose I'm here because I think that in one instance, Howard Roark was wrong. I don't think it was necessarily too late for Peter Keating. It would be a long road back to integrity and authenticity, and not an easy one, beset by trial and the lure of living at second-hand - because that is easier. Not better, by any means, but easier. However, I don't believe it would have been impossible. (After all, it had very little to do with the quality of his paintings, and everything to do with the quality of his mind. A person committed can always improve.)

If it wasn't too late for Peter, then it's not too late for me either. I read somewhere on this forum athread about self-esteem and that if nothing else, you have the knowledge that no matter what you may have done, you can do better in the future.

I'm here to read, to learn, and to resolve to do better, because I deserve better than to carry on squashing down every part of me, mind and soul, that ever really mattered.

~ Revah


Revah,

I think its fair to say you've learned the most important lesson The Fountainhead can teach, irrespective of whether or not you consider yourself an Objectivist.

Best wishes.

-Andrew
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#7 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 09:32 AM

Revah,

Welcome to OL.

I agree with you about it never being too late to start. I believe Rand used that example of Keating wanting to be a painter as a dramatic event to illustrate a point more than a metaphysical condemnation of a single character. Interestingly enough, Rand's own husband became a painter very late in life and she did nothing but support him, morally and in every way she could--even putting one of his paintings on the cover of The Fountainhead (it is called "Man Also Rises").

If you want to write, get busy. A forum is a wonderful place to develop your writing chops. And you have plenty of space to get out all the crap you have to put out in order to develop a high-level skill and start creating masterpieces. Don't think you won't make mistakes. You will. After all, if you never make mistakes, why would you need to learn?

So do that here (if you end up liking it here). Or find another forum or place where there are online discussions--one that you feel comfortable with--and do it there. (Here is good, but I'm biased. :) )

A forum can be intimidating, though, because you will find some real jerks commenting on your efforts. Get yourself prepared for them and don't feel bad about feeling bad when it happens. (Fortunately you will get encouraging people, too.) No one likes to be bashed and they don't like their work to be bashed.

Rand cried--literally cried--for 2 years about the negative reception of Atlas Shrugged. The good news is that, with a forum, nobody has to go through that anymore. You can practice dealing with rejection and negativity from others on a much smaller scale, thus it's a lot easier to learn to handle. In Rand's case, she lived in a bubble for eleven years.

The great part of a forum is that you can get encouragement from the oddest places. Remember that part in The Fountainhead where Rand described Roark's growing fame as sprouting up like a spring in the most unexpected places across the country? Writing online is like that. Good people just seem to pop up from nowhere.

I know you didn't ask for advice, but I'm going to give you some anyway, especially since it ties into what I am saying. At least it's the best advice I can think of to give you--one that took me years to learn.

You need to keep your audience in mind when you write, so choose well the kind of person you want to write for and ignore the rest. I'm talking about deep down. On the surface, of course you will tell a troll to buzz off. Now here's the part I missed all those years. Make sure you belong to that audience.

I used to write only for myself, but it never worked. But I studied and I kept reading books on writing and most of them said to imagine a member of your typical audience and write for that person. So I tried that (over and over) and it didn't work either. I started improving and things started getting a lot easier when I joined the two images. There actually is a kind of person I seek to address and I can see him and her in my mind--and I am one of those kinds of people. I am fully convinced that this is what Rand did, too. She just never expressed it that way.

Most of all, don't write for your mother's approval in your mind. She does not belong in your audience. Feeling the way you expressed yourself, you will only become paralyzed if you allow her in. Just walk away from her. You can deal with all those feelings later--and your mother herself--when you have some success under your belt. (From that angle, you might even discover some goodness you can't see right now.)

Good luck to you.

Write.

Michael

Know thyself...


#8 PDS

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 10:49 AM

Welcome to OL, Mellisa.

Thanks for sharing your liberation. When I was nineteen, forty-four years ago, The Fountainhead saved my life.

Wishing you fine creations.

Stephen


Same for me, Stephen. Same age for me as well.

#9 jts

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 11:05 AM

Seems to me Howard Roark was a loser. He went thru some trials and tribulations (that's okay) and then designed a building the way he wanted (good) and allowed someone else to take the credit (not so good) and it was not built the way he designed it (not good) and then he destroyed it (loser). I call that a loser.

If there is a theme to the novel, it seems to be that life is a losing game. If one such as Howard Roark, with his great mind and his extreme focus and his capacity for hard work, ends up a loser, what chance do the rest of us have?

#10 Dglgmut

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 11:41 AM

jts, I don't think I'm reading the same version you found. In my copy Roark is almost always privately ecstatic that he has the opportunity to do the sorts of things he does.

What would winning be? What Wynand "achieved?"

#11 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 11:54 AM

If there is a theme to the novel, it seems to be that life is a losing game.

Jerry,

Say what?

How about this theme? You can win even against great odds.

Roark got the girl and a profession on his own terms in the end.

He won.

He lost battles along the way but won the war. What part of that is a "life is a losing game"?

I don't understand.

Michael

Know thyself...


#12 Revah

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 12:53 PM

Thank you all for the kind welcome!

Do you prefer to be addressed as Melissa, or Revah?


Revah, please. It's a name I use online quite often, so it's one I'm comfortable with.

Just one observation, your mother had parents also and she may have been just as chained as you felt you were. She is the past, you are the future.


Oh yes. But part of moving forward is understanding that I can't set her free, regardless of how much I may want to or how clear it is to me that she's got her own demons to fight. She's got to do that on her own and not look for me to do it, because it's not my responsibility and it's not my fault if she's not where she wants to be.

When I was nineteen, forty-four years ago, The Fountainhead saved my life.


I wish, Stephen, that I had read it at nineteen, although perhaps it's better that I didn't. I probably wouldn't have been in a place, mentally, where I could understand it. Still, I'm twenty-four now. Not so very much lost time, taking the bigger picture into account.

Michael, thank you for your advice - it may be unsolicited, but it's very timely!

You can practice dealing with rejection and negativity from others on a much smaller scale, thus it's a lot easier to learn to handle.


Yes, and that's one of my problems, that I can't handle it at all. If I'm ever going to make anything of my writing, though, I need to overcome that. I think I'll start work on a piece to post here. I don't expect it'll be good, because I haven't worked on anything of the sort in a while. But it'll be something.

You need to keep your audience in mind when you write, so choose well the kind of person you want to write for and ignore the rest. I'm talking about deep down. On the surface, of course you will tell a troll to buzz off. Now here's the part I missed all those years. Make sure you belong to that audience.



Oh, but isn't that a sticking point! One of the reasons I stopped was because I was told, by people close to me, that my work was not marketable. They advised me that while maybe I had future potential as a writer, I wouldn't get anywhere unless I wrote the sort of thing that would appeal to the masses - comedy or mystery or romance. Don't misunderstand, there's nothing at all wrong with these genres, they're just not where my interest (and whatever measure of talent I may possess) happens to lie.

Holding as I did that the only reason for writing at all was the approval of others, and unwilling to compromise on my creative vision to appeal to those others, it's no wonder that I just stopped.

I rather like your notion of combining writing for self and writing for audience, though. After all, I write the sort of thing I would enjoy reading, and my tastes can't be all that unique.

I hope you'll be willing to offer some comments when I post up some of my work! (Even if they're negative. Like you said, I've got to start somewhere in order to improve.)

jts, I'm going to have to disagree. Howard Roark was a success on his own terms, which is an accomplishment far greater than being a success on society's terms - unless, yes, you consider Wynand the better man. I certainly don't.

I'd actually hold that even if Roark had 'lost,' in the end, to do so with his level of integrity is a greater achievement than 'winning' with the knowledge that you have betrayed your own values in order to do so.

Again, thank you all for responding and making me feel as if there's a place for me here. I look forward to seeing you around the forum!

~ Revah
"See, Leisha -- this tree made this flower. Because it can. Only this tree can make this kind of wonderful flower. That plant hanging up there can't, and those can't either. Only this tree. Therefore the most important thing in the world for this tree to do is grow this flower. The flower is the tree's individuality -- that means just it, and nothing else -- made manifest. Nothing else matters." ~ Beggars In Spain, by Nancy Kress

#13 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 02:11 PM

Revah,

I will be glad to mouth off when the time comes. :)

Here's some motivation: You can take heart in one thing. There are over 2 billion people on the Internet right now (see here). In the USA alone there are over 270 million. And those numbers are growing at an enormous rate. (The rate should taper off as number of users approaches world population, although new people are being born every second.)

Surely there will be some folks among them who are like you and will resonate with your writing.

That's a crap-load of people. :)

Michael

Know thyself...


#14 Selene

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 02:31 PM

Ya know, that thar sounds kinda like that thar global village that McLuhan guy was talkin 'bout when we heered him at the general store sittin round the ole pot bellied stove a while back!

Canadian fella, I think...
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#15 jts

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 04:32 PM

What would winning be? What Wynand "achieved?"

Winning would be designing the building as he wanted (which he did) and having it built the way he designed it (which did not happen) and taking credit for it (which did not happen) and not destroying it.

#16 Selene

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 04:35 PM


What would winning be? What Wynand "achieved?"

Winning would be designing the building as he wanted (which he did) and having it built the way he designed it (which did not happen) and taking credit for it (which did not happen) and not destroying it.


I disagree Jerry.

That is your arbitrary definition of winning. The men at the Alamo won. The men at Bataan won.
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#17 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 05:27 PM

I'm not an Objectivist. I'm a woman who has just finished reading The Fountainhead and found it to be one of the most profoundly influential and life-changing books I have ever come across.


You know what you are and have every right to it. If someone says that they are or are not this or that, I take them at their word. With that as a ground point, allow me to suggest that what an "Objectivist" is or is not does not come via some kind of Immersion or Confession, though there are those who call themselves Objectivists who do require passing their Catechism. I look at Ayn Rand's statement "Standing on One Foot" see here. For myself as for many others, while Atlas Shrugged is the "greater" of the two in scope, The Fountainhead is the more symbolic, complete in itself, standing alone and yet inclusive. Howard Roark does not demand that Kent Lansing or Roger Enright share his views on sex and cigarettes. In Atlas Shrugged, the bad guys do not share the good guys' view on those two and many other peripheral issues. Ayn Rand's magazine, The Objectivist, once carried a condemnation of Rodin's The Thinker. She was parodied by former friends for her opinions contra Mozart and Beethoven. There are those who claim that you cannot enjoy Beethoven and be an Objectivist. Myself, I think that you can enjoy rock n roll and be an Objectivist, if you find yourself resonant with the basic principles. Ayn Rand famously said: "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."

To think that I stopped writing for fear that nobody would approve of my words, denying myself that simple joy of creative work!


I noted that you write science fiction. Anything completed? I write non-fiction myself, but I have published two science fiction short stories, one of which garnered a prize, so there is that, though neither appeared in an actual science fiction magazine. There are many venues out there. How do you see yourself bringing your work to publication?

... Howard Roark was wrong. I don't think it was necessarily too late for Peter Keating. It would be a long road back ...


I agree with the earlier posts that there is a distinction between the salient salvation of Peter's "soul" on the one hand and his potential as a commercially viable artist on the other. Ayn Rand's own husband came to art late in life. The American physicist and racanteur, Richard P. Feynman once bet an artist that he (Feynman) could learn to paint well enough to sell his work and also teach the artist physics. Feynman's friend failed to learn physics -- gave up on his own -- but Feynman did sell his works under the name "Ofey." Just to say... Keating's demise was symbolic within the context of the story, not a literal pronouncement ex cathedra on all who take up new learning late in life. You might not be able to teach new tricks to an old dog, but people are not dogs.

Welcome to the forum. Feel free to share your views, whatever they may be on any subject. As you must see already, there is quite a range here.

MSK re JTS -- Mikey, you must buy that troll food in 50-lb bags at COSCO. Myself, I follow Conway's Game of Life and let them die by isolation... But, its your board.... enjoy....

Mike M.
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#18 Selene

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 05:32 PM

Michael:

You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Adam
being an old dog - I am grateful that that old homily is wrong
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#19 Revah

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 02:31 AM

With that as a ground point, allow me to suggest that what an "Objectivist" is or is not does not come via some kind of Immersion or Confession, though there are those who call themselves Objectivists who do require passing their Catechism. I look at Ayn Rand's statement "Standing on One Foot" see here...


You're quite right that the peripheral issues don't matter all that much. In fact, I'd say that if someone based their opinion of a musician purely on the opinions held by Rand (or any of her intellectual successors) then they aren't relying upon their own independent reasoning at all, but a sort of cultish devotion, which would be at odds with Objectivist philosophy.

If I'm honest, though, my problem with the philosophical system comes far before that point. It's the notion of advocating laissez-faire capitalism that I can't agree with. I do agree that under a system where everyone was an Objectivist - where everyone acted rationally and wished neither to rule nor to serve - then capitalism would be the best system, the only system to suit. However, to advocate it now seems to be a misunderstanding of the nature of wider humanity. It would so easily be taken advantage of by the unscrupulous. It is perfect for an Objectivist society, but not for ours.

(I understand that my view here is likely to be an incredibly unpopular one! I'm posting in good faith, though, putting forward why I cannot call myself an Objectivist, so hopefully it'll be understood in that spirit and not as an attempt at political trolling.)

I noted that you write science fiction. Anything completed? I write non-fiction myself, but I have published two science fiction short stories, one of which garnered a prize, so there is that, though neither appeared in an actual science fiction magazine. There are many venues out there. How do you see yourself bringing your work to publication?


I admire you for having seen your work through to publication! I haven't got anything close to that point as of yet; I stopped writing seriously when I began to work full-time. The plan, however, is as follows: test out a few pieces here, to see if I'm anywhere close to publishable standard or if (as I believe more likely) it'd be better for me to focus on improving my technique. I've got the ideas, but not necessarily the right way of conveying them.

When I'm ready, I'll start submitting to small-circulation magazines, not with a view to making significant profit from my work, but just to build a publication history. From there I'll work up to the more popular magazines and actually writing in full one of the several novels I have outlines and sample chapters for. I also intend to start a website showcasing selections of my work and offering viewers the opportunity to independently purchase more through the site. Sort of a serial story for the modern age.

This is a long-term plan, however. It's my passion, but it can't as yet be my primary focus. As I've said, I do work full time (in a day nursery) and that does leave me physically and mentally tired much of the week, with little energy for writing. I'm also planning for my site some opinion pieces dealing with the education system (my view leans closer to John Taylor Gatto's than the British government's) but that's something to take care with since I do depend on the system for my livelihood. At present, anyway. I'm planning on opening my own childcare centre once I can afford the startup costs, but that's probably 7-10 years away. More immediately, I'm buying an investment property next month, with a view to purchasing another a few years from now (depending, of course, on what the market does between now and then) and thus eventually generating additional income once the rents outsrip the mortgage payments.

It's quite nice to be able to write down my long-term plans and know that I probably won't be told they're impossible, like I have been offline. (Difficult? Sure. But I don't believe impossible.) So writing is just one aspect of my career plan, but it's a significant part, because it's something I find very intrinsically rewarding.

... but Feynman did sell his works under the name "Ofey." Just to say... Keating's demise was symbolic within the context of the story, not a literal pronouncement ex cathedra on all who take up new learning late in life. You might not be able to teach new tricks to an old dog, but people are not dogs.


Very interesting about Richard Feynman! And yes, I do recognize that Keating's fate as a character was not intended as a literal statement about anyone who might at present bear more resemblance to him than Roark. I was just - surprised, I suppose. As someone said above, I expected Roark to tell him the paintings might be terrible, but at least they're his own work. I suppose in my initial post I was playing off the comparison a little heavily for dramatic effect. (Besides, even if Rand had intended it quite literally, my resolve wouldn't be worth much if her opinion was enough to stop me trying... :wink: )
"See, Leisha -- this tree made this flower. Because it can. Only this tree can make this kind of wonderful flower. That plant hanging up there can't, and those can't either. Only this tree. Therefore the most important thing in the world for this tree to do is grow this flower. The flower is the tree's individuality -- that means just it, and nothing else -- made manifest. Nothing else matters." ~ Beggars In Spain, by Nancy Kress

#20 Dglgmut

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 08:09 AM

It would so easily be taken advantage of by the unscrupulous.


Just wanted to point out that "Capitalism" cannot be taken advantage of, only people can. And in a Capitalist society they would have to volunteer for it.

How do people learn the lessons that Ayn Rand's novels teach? Rand didn't invent the idea that people should produce more than they consume, or that people should deal with reality... these lessons are all out there in the real world. Unfortunately people think its necessary to protect one another from the world that educates, because the lessons are too scary to learn.

A transition to real Capitalism would entail a learning period for consumers, business people, everyone... What would they be learning? How to deal with facts.




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