Bryan Caplan  

Patri Friedman Reads Atlas Shrugged

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I've repeatedly braved mockery by naming Atlas Shrugged as my favorite novel.  So I'm overjoyed to see one smart guy move from mockery to admiration as a result of... actually reading Rand's masterpiece.  From Patri son of David son of Milton:
Now's a good time to note that while I've spent most of my career as a libertarian thinking of Objectivism as a subject for mockery, I am now reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time, and loving it. It hasn't changed my mind about any of the things I think are wrong with the philosophy, and I do get annoyed by things like her constantly equating certainty with strength/good and doubt with weakness/evil (sorry Ayn, but the world is Bayesian and posteriors are rarely 100%. Certainty may be sexy, but it is rarely correct).
The focus of his praise:
But the good things about it are things that hardly appear anywhere else, and are needed now more than ever. The whole theme of how bad laws turn honest people into criminals and outlaws, into hiding from other men instead of taming nature, and what an awful reversal this is of how a good society should be, is just awesome. That's how I've felt my whole life - I just want to create value, not constantly struggle with stupid artificial constraints, and to live my life openly, not constantly have to hide my consensual activities.
My real dream, though, is to persuade Robin Hanson to finish AS despite its Manichean characters.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
JP writes:

If there's a world in which Bryan Caplan does not consider Atlas Shrugged his favorite novel, I don't want to live in it.

Jayson Virissimo writes:

Anyone who doubts the existence of people like the villains in AS should take a look at this blog:

http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/libertarian_inadvertently_argues_for_90_marginal_tax_rate/

"Right now, he’s obviously not getting out of the house much, and all that sitting around counting his money and not associating with the real world is breaking his mind. He needs something to do, and needs to associate with people. Ideally, he’d be in a situation where he had occasional exposure to people who don’t indulge his crazy fantasies. And with the amount of money shielding him from the world, that’s not going to happen. For his own good, that pile of money he’s sitting on needs a dramatic reduction."

They literally want to take away Peter Thiel's money for his own good and for the betterment of society.

Zac Gochenour writes:

Robin hasn't read Atlas Shrugged? That's a travesty.

Patri Friedman writes:

I still think Objectivism is ridiculous, though. Galt's speech, which is the part where she is actually propounding her philosophy, was by far my least favorite part of the book - riddled with exaggerations and errors.

But the rest of the book was awesome!

H writes:

But the rest of the book was awesome!

Did you like the gleeful train wreck scene? My favorite part.

Steve Roth writes:

When I first read it, in my late teens, I was amazed to find therein purported adults who reminded me of my own adolescent self.

I remember saying to my mother and my sister when I was about 13, "why can't people just be objective?!" [blush]

(cf. Perry's Stages of Intellectual Development in the College Years, in particular the methods whereby individuals avoid ever exiting a particular stage.)

Any adult who has the gall to call her philosophy "Objectivism" probably should have been exposed at birth.

This putting aside that the thing--thinly veiled and simplistic monotribe that it is--is just plain rotten by my standards of (great) art, which require a cohesive complexity that at least vaguely approximates the spectacular reality of human life and mind.

Instead it is simplistic, cloying, pretentious, heavy-handed, clumsy, and obvious. (I would have loved it when I was 13!)

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