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Who, in Atlas, are the "men of the mind"?

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It has been many years since I've read Atlas and I need to re-read it, but I was just browsing it and noticed the part where the Taggart tunnel collapsed and Dagny rushed back to help. In that section I couldn't help but infer that Dagny is pretty much the sole person in the whole company who carries it. Evidently everyone else is incompetent and needs her there to tell them what to do. It has a Nietzsche flavor to it. Is that characteristic of the whole book? Who exactly are the "men of the mind" who will shrug and thus bring the economy down? Is it mainly the Uberman CEO's? I remember Eddie Willers as being lost without Dagny. He really wasn't up to the task. But he wasn't he the best of the best other than her within TT?

Is this why Galt's Gulch only has about 1000 people in it? Is that Rand's view, that ~1000 people carry all of America on their shoulders?

Shayne

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Is this why Galt's Gulch only has about 1000 people in it? Is that Rand's view, that ~1000 people carry all of America on their shoulders?

Shayne

The American economy is driven by millions of intellectual workers. They vary from seminal creators of science and technology at the upper end to capable technicians at the lower end. All are necessary to make the whole shebang work. The same was true during the 30's and 40's, so I wonder how Rand could fantasize of bringing the machine to a halt by getting a thousand or even two thousand to go on strike.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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The American economy is driven by millions of intellectual workers. They vary from seminal creators of science and technology at the upper end to capable technicians at the lower end. All are necessary to make the whole shebang work. The same was true during the 30's and 40's, so I wonder how Rand could fantasize of bringing the machine to a halt by getting a thousand or even two thousand to go on strike.

Ba'al Chatzaf

That would be near my estimate of things too. And I'm thinking that "fantasize" is a good word -- Rand thought she was writing romantic realism, but could it be that she was really writing fantasy fiction in Atlas Shrugged? (Proviso: I really do need to read the book again to make any definitive claims).

Shayne

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Here's a relevant post which I'll copy in full.

Note: Rand did NOT, according to her own statement which appears on the ARI website, consider the plot device of all the creative minds going on strike realistic.

Speaking of "[Rand's] conception of Atlas" as being that "of a world in an altered time frame from the start," some while ago, in a Google search with a Rand connection, I came upon a link to relevant material quoted from Rand herself on the ARI site. I didn't have time to format this the other day when I was replying to Dragonfly. Here it is. I'll first post an excerpt with underscoring of the directly pertinent statement. I find especially interesting the comment about the plot device not being "realistic." Then I'll quote the whole comment.

link

[underscore added]

For one thing, [Atlas Shrugged] was “built on an unusual plot device which is not naturalistic in any sense. It’s not even realistic.” Also, it was “completely detached from any journalistic reality,” compared, for example to The Fountainhead, which mentioned specific years and was tied to a particular historical period.

link

Atlas Shrugged in Ayn Rand’s literary development

In her 1960–61 biographical interviews, Ayn Rand compared Atlas Shrugged to her other novels. It was, she said, “completely my sense of life, without reservations. Particularly in the literary sense. We the Living, I did not consider fully my kind of writing, because it’s too historical or too journalistic. The Fountainhead, although it represented me fully philosophically, did not represent my idea of a novel, in the purest sense of the word, because it’s the story of a whole lifetime. The fact that its action takes place over a period of something like 18 years is what I always held against it. It was necessary for this kind of theme, but it’s not the kind of thing which I consider an ideal novel.” Atlas, was her “kind of universe.” For one thing, it was “built on an unusual plot device which is not naturalistic in any sense. It’s not even realistic.” Also, it was “completely detached from any journalistic reality,” compared, for example to The Fountainhead, which mentioned specific years and was tied to a particular historical period. “I personally feel most at home,” she said, “where everything is made by me—everything except the metaphysical human abstraction. In other words, it has to be things as they might be, but from then on, I want them to be as they ought to be. As I want to make them. I don’t like being tied to the choices of other people; that is what it amounts to. When you go into cultural issues, it’s really the choices of others. And I want to be in my own universe of my own abstractions, so that even the villains are stylized by me.”

Ellen

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Here's a relevant post which I'll copy in full.

Note: Rand did NOT, according to her own statement which appears on the ARI website, consider the plot device of all the creative minds going on strike realistic.

I don't think what you quoted quite addresses what I have in mind, though it partly does. Rand said that Atlas is what might and ought to be. Is it true that it might and ought to be that the world is such that if 1000 people left it, that everything would collapse? Might and ought it be that one person in a company of thousands holds everything together?

It's not that the characters are not realistic; I see, in essence, Dagny's and Rearden's in the real world. The issue is that I don't think they are as few and far between as Rand seems to indicate in Atlas. Does Rand think it might and ought to be that they are that few and select? Again, it isn't looking like Atlas is romantic realism per Rand's definition, but fantasy fiction.

If we ask the question of who the Atlases are that carry mankind on their shoulders, the nearest way I can answer would be to point to men like Issac Newton. But what he did has been learned well by many of us, and can't be taken away when just a small handful of us leave.

And what about those questions you hear now and again from Objectivists, whether it's "time to shrug." I even think Rand entertained the question once. This indicates that this "plot device" is actually taken seriously by some, perhaps even Rand (by entertaining the question).

Shayne

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Folks:

Posit the world today without Edison, Tesla, Henry Ford, Marconi and the Wright brothers just to name five from a specific period of the early 1900's.

Adam

Edited by Selene

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Folks:

Posit the world today without Edison, Tesla, Henry Ford, Marconi and the Wright brothers just to name five from a specific period of the early 1900's.

Adam

Tesla is the only one of that era of significant consequence. All the others just happened to be at the front of a pack that would have caught up a year or a decade later. Without Tesla we might still be using candles to read, pencil and paper to compute.

Heaping too much glory on men like Edison only subtracts from true heroes like Tesla. There aren't a thousand men like him from that era, or from all eras of human history combined. If he were in Galt's Gulch he would be Galt. And he wouldn't invite Edison there, that's for sure.

Shayne

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Folks:

Posit the world today without Edison, Tesla, Henry Ford, Marconi and the Wright brothers just to name five from a specific period of the early 1900's.

Adam

Tesla is the only one of that era of significant consequence. All the others just happened to be at the front of a pack that would have caught up a year or a decade later. Without Tesla we might still be using candles to read, pencil and paper to compute.

Heaping too much glory on men like Edison only subtracts from true heroes like Tesla. There aren't a thousand men like him from that era, or from all eras of human history combined. If he were in Galt's Gulch he would be Galt. And he wouldn't invite Edison there, that's for sure.

Edison had his strong points, especially sweat for genius. He was no genius, that's for sure. Tesla is the man most Galt-like I can think of: the mixture of genius with invention. Edison was more an SOB. Tesla was akin to Mozart, but Edison was no Beethoven.

--Brant

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Edison had his strong points, especially sweat for genius. He was no genius, that's for sure. Tesla is the man most Galt-like I can think of: the mixture of genius with invention. Edison was more an SOB. Tesla was akin to Mozart, but Edison was no Beethoven.

--Brant

Indeed. In our Roman-style culture, we put the guy who wins the race on a pedestal, and the guy who got second place gets forgotten even though he was only seconds behind. Tesla died poor, so according to our gladiator games value system, he sucks.

One time at an ARI conference I attended years ago, Andrew Bernstein was listing all the great men in history and I brought up Tesla, and he said something like "Yeah, but Tesla was insane." Look at the real history of Tesla to understand how vile that remark is -- if anyone had a good reason to be old and bitter and maybe even a little bit crazy, it was Tesla. (Add this to the list of things that turned me off about ARI).

Shayne

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Folks:

Posit the world today without Edison, Tesla, Henry Ford, Marconi and the Wright brothers just to name five from a specific period of the early 1900's.

Adam

Marconi was the secondhander. Tesla was the true inventor of practical radio.

With all due respect to the Freres Wright, heavier than air flying was virtually inevitable. The breakthrough work on lift had been done by Lileanthal in Germany. The Wrights improved Lilianthal's numbers incrementally. The real break through for the Wrights was the wing twist or aileron for banking the plane. But that would have been done by someone not too long after the Wrights. There were people all over the world working on heavier than air flying.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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There is something more relevant to consider than the number of men in Galts Gulch. What is left out of your consideration is the cascade effect. Think of the hundreds of men that are unable to build and compete in the automotive industry due to the oppressive taxes and regulations. To use an actual example from the book think of the Phoenix Darango line. The rules which were set in place discouraged new competitors from entering the field, the railroad industry was burdened with inefficient rules. People are appointed to positions not because they are able to do the job but because of who they knew (If you say this would never really happen or is absurd look at soviet russia). When something goes wrong they pawn it off on someone who actually knows what they are doing because they know what they are doing. in a situation like that you do not want to stick out and get raises and promotions because you dont want to get stuck with the blame, thus only the incompetent rise to the tops. There are many real world businesses which are elegant examples of this.

The key to note is this. Imagine that you have a football team, the second string only get better by practice and playing so you load the field with first stringers but you put a few second string so they get play time and real world practice. however imagine playing in a league like the NFL. Everyone in the NFL quits and so they suddenly promote a bunch of college kids, eventually those kids would quit. Why? Because given more time they would play at the level that the fans expect them to play at but they are suddenly pressed into the spotlight before their time, the pressure is immense for them to be the next this or that former player.

One could very well see Atlas Shrugged become real just because of who goes on strike. by taking out the first string of American talent, you get the frozen trains.

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One could very well see Atlas Shrugged become real just because of who goes on strike. by taking out the first string of American talent, you get the frozen trains.

For a while.

Read the very end of -Player Piano- by Kurt Vonegut.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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On the subject of how a whole society can be brought down by getting a thousand or so super smart people to go on strike, as in Atlas Shrugged:

In real life there was a rivalry between Microsoft and Borland. Microsoft wanted to beat Borland. Guess how Microsoft went about it.

I read somewhere that in any large software company, the success or failure of the software company depends on the top 2% or 5% or something like that. Some programmers are, without exaggeration, a hundred times as productive as the average programmer. And they probably can do things that the average programmer would not be able to do in any amount of time.

Microsoft's method of beating Borland was to drive to the Borland campus and wine and dine Borland's top programmers and offer them multi-million dollar deals. With Borland's top programmers hired away from Borland and into Microsoft, Borland became a weaker company. Take away the top programmers, the company collapses. That resembles the theme of Atlas Shrugged.

What Ayn Rand did to the world in Atlas Shrugged was like what Microsoft did to Borland, take away the best brains. But what Ayn Rand did in fiction, Microsoft did in reality.

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As I read all the posts above it occurs to me that rather than wondering and pondering how many galt-like people need to abandon society to bring it down, we should be figuring out how to win the struggle so that societal collapse can be avoided altogether.

We know the antidote is known in the form of the rational, comprehensive, integrated philosophy of which we are aware thanks to Miss Rand. In addition to the philosophical root, rational knowledge abounds in the fields of economics and psychology. Can we bypass academia and bring the wisdom directly to the populace? A modicum of infiltration of academia has been occurring and will continue so it is not either / or but both / and.

Given the pathetic demonstration of the voters in the primaries who engage in various forms of mindlessness, it does appear to be an exercise in futility to try to enlighten those who would vote for Romney because he is a Mormon as they are, or for Santorum because he is a fanatical mystic as they are too.

Even if an additional enlightening book were written which addressed the relevant issues, probably none of these non thinkers would pick it up to read, but someone would, maybe their children.

All the years I have been aware of the Objectivist "movement" I have heard that there already exist enough books such as those of Rand and von Mises.

I nevertheless feel as if I/we are aware of a coming tsunami of which most people are simply unaware and a sense of urgency to wake them up to the reality and to the existence of the movement which would save the day.

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Gulch:

Are you coming to grips with the reality that Dr. Paul will not be the nominee?

Frankly, if it is Romney, I am going to have a real tough time working for the campaign. I do not work in political campaigns without being paid, but even with that proviso I hope he is way out in front of the head of the marxist mafia because the only way he gets my vote is if it is close.

Adam

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It has been many years since I've read Atlas and I need to re-read it, but I was just browsing it and noticed the part where the Taggart tunnel collapsed and Dagny rushed back to help. In that section I couldn't help but infer that Dagny is pretty much the sole person in the whole company who carries it. Evidently everyone else is incompetent and needs her there to tell them what to do. It has a Nietzsche flavor to it. Is that characteristic of the whole book? Who exactly are the "men of the mind" who will shrug and thus bring the economy down? Is it mainly the Uberman CEO's? I remember Eddie Willers as being lost without Dagny. He really wasn't up to the task. But he wasn't he the best of the best other than her within TT?

Is this why Galt's Gulch only has about 1000 people in it? Is that Rand's view, that ~1000 people carry all of America on their shoulders?

You're reading Atlas too literally.

Rand's "men of the mind" are basically what Richard Florida calls "the Creative Class." Rand didn't restrict things to Uberman CEO's.. Richard Halley (composer), Kay Ludlow (actress), Hugh Akston (philosophy professor), Ragnar (philosopher who became a pirate), and Galt himself (inventor).

Galt's the personification of the strike, really, and he's not an Uberman CEO. He was an inventor who never held an executive position within a corporation. The theme of the book is not "business executives on strike" but human intellect on strike.

By reading the book too literally, you're making a common mistake. This mistake is usually made by Rand's enemies because the mistake allows them to make the typical argument that Rand "loved the rich" and "loved big businessmen" as a class. It also allows them to claim she thought that all human beings that weren't heroic CEO's were parasites.

The strikers are symbols NOT of a group of humans, but of a faculty common to all humans (in varying degrees), INTELLIGENCE.

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It has been many years since I've read Atlas and I need to re-read it, but I was just browsing it and noticed the part where the Taggart tunnel collapsed and Dagny rushed back to help. In that section I couldn't help but infer that Dagny is pretty much the sole person in the whole company who carries it. Evidently everyone else is incompetent and needs her there to tell them what to do. It has a Nietzsche flavor to it. Is that characteristic of the whole book? Who exactly are the "men of the mind" who will shrug and thus bring the economy down? Is it mainly the Uberman CEO's? I remember Eddie Willers as being lost without Dagny. He really wasn't up to the task. But he wasn't he the best of the best other than her within TT?

Is this why Galt's Gulch only has about 1000 people in it? Is that Rand's view, that ~1000 people carry all of America on their shoulders?

You're reading Atlas too literally.

Rand's "men of the mind" are basically what Richard Florida calls "the Creative Class." Rand didn't restrict things to Uberman CEO's.. Richard Halley (composer), Kay Ludlow (actress), Hugh Akston (philosophy professor), Ragnar (philosopher who became a pirate), and Galt himself (inventor).

Galt's the personification of the strike, really, and he's not an Uberman CEO. He was an inventor who never held an executive position within a corporation. The theme of the book is not "business executives on strike" but human intellect on strike.

By reading the book too literally, you're making a common mistake. This mistake is usually made by Rand's enemies because the mistake allows them to make the typical argument that Rand "loved the rich" and "loved big businessmen" as a class. It also allows them to claim she thought that all human beings that weren't heroic CEO's were parasites.

The strikers are symbols NOT of a group of humans, but of a faculty common to all humans (in varying degrees), INTELLIGENCE.

Precisely Andrew.

I have never been amused by this misreading of Ayn because it does not reflect well on her "flock," so to speak.

The book is filled with examples of what you clearly identified.

For example, the scene in the valley where Dagny looks at one of the workers at Wyatt Oil, the "roughneck," with the face of a truck driver. Dagny, on pages 665 and 666, condescendingly asks, "What were you outside? A professor of comparative philosophy, I suppose?" "No, ma'am," he answered. "I was a truck driver." He added, "But that's not what I wanted to remain."

Another is Dick McNamara's wife who explains motherhood/parenting to Dagny while she wraps her bread [Pg. 724, 35th Anniversary Edition paperback].

Richard Halley, his best pupil, the "brakeman on the comet,

By the way, Shane does not appear to post here anymore.

Adam

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Well, to be fair, I don't think a truck driver going on strike would be a threat to the looters. The men of the mind, as far as those with the power to prevent at least some of the cancer-like spreading of government intervention, were those who contributed a disproportionate amount to the infected society.

Taxation is not exactly stealing, because we know about it before we work. So anyone who is willing to pay more tax in order to make more money is willing to help those who tax him/her. Unfortunately, government follows the law of increasing returns, as the more they receive, the exponentially more they are able to demand.

Not only do they take from the productive, that's not the worst of it, but to give to the unproductive a means of influencing the market... It's impossible to judge what's really profitable, because money has little meaning left.

There's a thread about making The Strike a reality, and people act as if it's crazy, but wouldn't it be one of the most peaceful ways to stop a country from destroying itself? Again, like dealing with cancer, the option left to America seems to be either an amputation or a total collapse. The problem is not the parasites, but those who feed them.

It is rational for one to produce as much, or more, than what one would consume... unless the excess goes to benefit a threat to oneself. If nobody produced more than they needed, the system would have to change. Has there ever been any success stories of nations throughout history solving a problem like the States has right now?

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