T Nation

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, and Objectivism


Put simply, this is incorrect. I suggest you check put some economic texts to put aside the illusion that effort somehow defines value. Although I admit I smell something of a trap in this commentary, Marx's theory of value rears its ugly head...


Effort does not define value, the valuers must define it. I define yours as you define mine in any trade between two men. While I might have some notion of my product's worth, it is worthless without a buyer willing to pay it. Therefore, if my willingness to pay represents my belief, as does yours, AND my belief in your value creates that value, it cannot be that we both recieve the greater value and not the equal in its stead. If profit is gain, where is it? while both parties benefit, is it truly the same as gain? Did you not just trade something which has already been decided as equivalent in value?
I'd be more than happy for someone to spot the flaws in my argument, so if you see them please tell me where I am in error. This is why I posted in the first place :slightly_smiling:


In short, profit is not perceived value of 1 task vs. 1 single other task. It isn't that task A has to be overvalued while the single other task B is undervalued. You must understand that we aren't dealing with 2 single transactions in isolation. There is a network of transactions that make up a society. And they will not all be unit for unit. Some will make their profit in specialization, some in volume, some through innovation, etc. Not to mention that all transactions are not $ for goods. Individuals also pay for services. To view this in the context of a single 1 for 1 transaction is to not understand the nature of business in society. As I'm sure you're aware, in the SIMPLEST terms (Gross Profit = Revenue - Cost of Goods Sold). Thus even the COGS in the fore mentioned equation gives another an opportunity for profit. Based on this, it makes little sense to view an entire society by who comes out on top in a single transactions. There are other transactions each will partake in and there were a number of transactions with other buyers/sellers to even get the good produced or the worker ready for service.

You must also note that not everyone can or will profit. Another underlying theme of that same speech is not to punish the able for the sake of those who aren't. Not to punish those willing for those that won't. You've read it, you get the idea.

The goal is not to have a completely equal society because not everyone can or is willing to contribute to society equally. Because of this the able and/or willing should not be forced to pick up the slack for the rest (the key word here is forced, should it be by their own free will they can do what they deem fit). -- "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I shall not live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."--John Galt

Rand's philosophy was for the most part about living your own life by your own ability for your own interest without catering to any outside force or individual without your own desire. Rational selfishness. A mistake that many make is believing you can not serve others while still serving your own interest.


In addition to my last post, I should also note that no single philosophy in and of itself is perfect. With the importance Rand placed on rationality, this holds more so true for her philosophy. To believe it just because Rand said so, without thinking/validating/testing, you fall victim to the same irrationality with which she associated the likes of mysticism/religion.

As noted, another major flaw is the black vs. white, no gray, view which Rand had. Post Rand, Nahaniel Branden took a more moderate view while maintaining a lot of the good.


Rand's greatest achievement,IMO, was that she put her philosophy in novel form. If she had written philosophy texts per se, she would have been ignored and her work forgotten. She wrote a later book called "Philosophy --Who Needs It?" where she explains that philosophy is meaningless if it does not reach the general population (which this thread shows she accomplished).
She also makes philosphy intelligible, so that when you read Aristotle or Hegel, you have some of the principles down -- I always felt rather lost reading them. Nietzsche, on the other hand...


Thank you for a very well thought out post, I agree with you. I was working under the assumption that within the book I see only two types of people presented, those with absolute willingness to seek revenue and those with none. I agree that in the real world my model no longer makes any sense, but that was never my assertion. I brought it up as an apparent contradiction within Rand's own fictional world, in which it appears rational self-interest takes its purest form in whole hearted profit seeking. I believe it is Dagny Taggart who asserts the statement "I have never sought profit" to be the most vile and evil a man can utter.

I am not so certain, however, that the existence of a large social network wholly debunks the theory within this context. An example would be labor; as long as one person is willing to pay 15 dollars an hour for my service, is it not then worth 15 dollars an hour to me? Do I not pay a cost in 5 dollars an hour in working for only 10(whether I know it or not)? I believe opportunity cost does apply. If one considers opportunity cost, the entire network can be reduced to two symbolic individuals, buyers and sellers.

I can't say that I agree with Rand's philosophy at all, but find it thought provoking nonetheless. I forget who said it, but it brings to mind a quote from some economist which goes something like "in serving man's self interest, he best serves society."


It is a teaching tool. It helps get the message across to make the model simple.

Because in not doing so it means they place no value in their own product/trade/work. If you believe what you do is worthwhile, charge for it.

Your worth to yourself has nothing to do with profit and loss. It is the worth to the seller and the cost it took you to get there. If you are unable to make a true assumption of cost then you are guilty of being a "looter" (in trying to get more then your fair share or your worth). Not to mention, you won't sell shit and will price yourself out of the market...not a good way to pursue profit...meaning you wouldn't be. You have to set real pricing expectations.

You are only losing that money if there is someone else willing to pay you more at the same time (under the same conditions). If the opportunity is not present it isn't an opportunity cost (= the cost of a forgone opportunity).

You either don't understand profit/loss or the other poster was right and you're just really good with the passive aggressive B.S. :wink:
Making up symbolic transactions and ignoring other transactions is not good business and is not pursuing profit.

Which is a very Randian ideal. As I mentioned in the previous post. The biggest part of her philosophy (and the most applicable to the real world) is rational selfishness. The pursuit of profit is a very black and white simple model to work with for self value and worth. It is not the only interest that one can pursue. If you want to delve further, try The Virtues of Selfishness next. It's MUCH shorter then Atlas and is good for a quick recreational read since it's a collection of short essays.

Take care!