Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Ayn Rand Social Club


She told them not to help looters and moochers but they insisted on donating to orphanages anyway.

Jane McGalt is at it again, stroking her audience with sweet, sweet Randian words of self-pity and greed. For the longest time we who snark could not understand why Miss McArdle chose the financial industry as the object of her worship. It wasn't until we began mocking and therefore reading Atlas Shrugged (Part II coming soon!) that everything became clear.

Like every other "under-appreciated" and overpraised young child of privilege, Miss McArdle read Atlas Shrugged at an impressionable age and the life and times and personality of one Miss Dagny Taggart imprinted upon her soul like that of a baby duck and his mother, if the baby duck were a resentful teenager and the mother duck a Russian harridan with little writing talent. While McArdle was growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, CEOs and Wall Street were the most celebrated "industries" of her little world. Naturally when she became a Randian, McGalt chose to work with the captains of industry, leaders of men, superior in birth, education, and success--the elite of Wall Street. Megan McArdle became Jane Galt, a producer in a world of moochers and looters, an Ubermensch among inferior public school rabble, a natural leader of men and women into a new age of innovation and success. Sadly, working on Wall Street did not lead to personal success, no doubt because lesser men dragged her down into failure with their envy and inability to make the trains run on time.

But the Jane McGalts of the world do not let a little thing like failure keep them from their goal of worshipping businessmen and financial industry innovation. McArdle's relentless networking obvious superiority as a blogger and thinker led to worshipping businessmen and financial industry innovation as a journalist, thus proving that nothing can keep an Ubermensch from achieving his or her goal. But despite her success, McArdle is still plagued with the whining and carping of lesser beings, who want everything to be faaaaaair and think people should help the looters and moochers instead of despising them for their weaknesses. What can journalists who also happen to be people of quality do in the face of such constant, debilitating negativity dragging them down to the masses' inferior level? They can attack other bloggers!

In Should We Redistribute Grades Like We Do Income?, McArdle responds to Xpostfactiod's critique of Robin Hanson's post about taxation. The discussion is foolish; Hanson states taxation is income redistribution, ignoring everything that taxation pays for so he can call college students hypocrites for being for taxation and against "grade redistribution." Xpostfactoid's Andrew Sprung argues that "tax[es] of one kind or another is the price of admission to any human community" and earning grades is not the same as taxation. McArdle responds in (what is for her) exhaustive detail complete with logical fallacies, saying society has no more right to take money from people than it does to take away grades from students, and Sprung has not proven that it does. Sprung goes on to explain social utility to McArdle, although he acknowledges, " I think that charge boils down to the fact that I accept the society's collective right to make its own rules by democratic means, and she does not."

McArldle's post ends with this passage:

But the poor quality of the arguments for difference does not bode well. They suggest that most of us just want to redistribute income because, well, we wanna . . . not because we have any particularly good reason. Which was Robin's point in the first place.


Helping others is a privilege. Paying our way is a duty and responsibility. To Randian princesses, taxation is theft, redistribution of her money to inferior people who were too weak, stupid and lazy to get a good education and job.

But McArdle is just one of many people who enjoy talking themselves out of basic human decency; here Ramesh Ponnuru tells us that Jesus really didn't mean it when he said turn the other cheek; we Americans have a get-out-of-hell-free card because God loves us best--or whatever reason is floating and bobbing around in that snow globe he calls a head.

23 comments:

Downpuppy said...

Megans post only makes sense if you think of it as an experiment : How confused can a word salad be before her commenters notice that it's incoherent?

I suspect that she'll still have them when she gets down to random letters and cleaned up limericks.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Sadly, working on Wall Street did not lead to personal success, no doubt because lesser men dragged her down into failure with their envy and inability to make the trains run on time.

A+! Yes, underlying all their dancing and fibbing is this:

"Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power"

- Benito Mussolini
~

Anonymous said...

I cannot think of any particularly good reason why a wealthy person should pay for the meal of a starving child.

Susan of Texas said...

Exactly. When Jesus said, "When I was hungry you gave me to drink," he was just being one of those socialist losers.

Eventually the elite will go too far and people will start to turn on the them but that might be a long time from now, and that's a risk that the elite's grandchildren and great-grandchildren will just have to take, so their ancestors can act with impunity.

Pete said...

There is a serious deficiency in these putative people. They are crippled emotionally, and they boast of what should shame them. If the McM were to look into a shiny reflective thing, would anything be looking back at her?

My I am cheerful this morning.

KWillow said...

I cannot think of any particularly good reason why a wealthy person should pay for the meal of a starving child.

Well, chances are good that the starving child's parents did the actual work that created the wealthy person's money.

NonyNony said...

I cannot think of any particularly good reason why a wealthy person should pay for the meal of a starving child.

Me neither.

Well apart from the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Civil War, and any other time in human history where the have-nots have finally decided that they were sick of not eating and decided to eat the rich.

But what you save on not helping out the less fortunate you can pay in increased taxes to fund prisons and more cops! Which I'm sure is more cost effective than just making sure everyone gets a slice of the pie in first place.

And then there's the whole question of human decency - which I guess probably doesn't count as a good reason if you're a rich sociopath.

But other than that, there's probably no good reason.

atat said...

You just have to refer back to Jane Galt's list of things to do to not be poor, which can be whittled down to one basic point: Don't be lazy and stupid. To paraphrase McGalt, The starving children are different.

atat said...

Whoops, forgot to add, So fuck 'em.

UncertaintyVicePrincipal said...

And of course also because all of the things that society organizes itself to pay and collect taxes FOR make it possible for these people to make all of their money. Money that they then think is their sovereign property and that they should be able to keep all of.

Like bridges, roads, and tunnels, unless you want to get to your gig on Wall Street by parachuting in from your private plane, which some probably would do if they could, but most of them can't. And plumbing, which you need even if you stay home.

There's a very long list, and this is not even to mention massive billions of dollars in bailouts from the government when your whole venture fails because you drove it all over a cliff. Rick Santelli isn't complaining about that part I notice.

It's not just morally flawed, this silly argument, it's logically flawed to the point of being utter nonsense.

It's not just that the rest of us wouldn't like it in a world without taxes, they wouldn't even exist in such a world.

Somalia really is the closest thing we have on Earth to the world we'd live in were their theories actually put in practice, and virtually none of them would be the type who thrives in that environment, not to mention that even those people don't thrive very long.

UncertaintyVicePrincipal said...

@KWillow said...

Bingo.

Reading threads backwards as usual.

BillCinSD said...

"You just have to refer back to Jane Galt's list of things to do to not be poor, which can be whittled down to one basic point: Don't be lazy and stupid."

KWillow said...

"Don't be lazy or stupid"

. . . and yet ArgleBargle is BOTH lazy and stupid.

Her advice should be: "Be lucky and kiss Rich people's ass every chance you get."

Lurking Canadian said...

We share the world with people who think A Christmas Carol is a tragedy, the hero of It's a Wonderful Life is Mr. Potter and the evil character in the New Testament is Jesus.

There is no point arguing with such people. They do not live in the same moral universe as the rest of us. All you can hope to do is inoculate everyone around them so the pathology doesn't spread.

Andrew said...

I've encountered Robin Hanson before: he has a whole Wikipedia page to himself. He is thick as a brick and completely unaware of the fact that he is thick as a brick.

Anonymous said...

AIMAI SAID:

In effect we do "redistribute grades" if by that we mean that grades on their own tell the consumers of grades (grad schools, employers) nothing without knowing a whole lot about the status of the teachers, class work, and university system as a whole. In other words, a whole lot of factors and people contribute to the actual *value* of the grade any individual student receives.

There's no need for redistribution from the lowest to the highest in a given classroom. The work of the lowest graded student and the highest graded student have already been averaged, intellectually, by grade consumers (parents, other schools, etc...) and the highest graded students benefit significantly from all those ancillary things like the overall status of the school.

How hard you worked for that grade or the notion that your individual excellence "entitles" you to singular ownership of that grade is to completely misunderstand the role that all those other factors and the labor of other people play in creating a meaningful grade.

Any grade has to be understood in terms of the quality of the teachers (their labor and their publishing), the quality of the other students (their GPA's, SATs, socioeconomic background) the quality of the Alums, the history of the school's placements at good jobs/other universities. This is what makes a B grade from a top school (sometimes) worth more than an A grade from a lower tiered school.

Plus, also, too if you ask the kind of person who makes this argument ("How'd you like it if Obama redistrubted your grade to someone who didn't do as much work as you! Haw Haw!") to a member of the actual god damned elites you will always find them acknowledging that they would send their kid to Harvard if they could not because of the difficulty of the work and the quality of the education but because of the elites they (theoretically) come into contact with each of which will be able to help their undeserving kid into a sinecure after graduation.

That's the entire story of Trump's son in law, isn't it? His grades weren't good enough to get him into Harvard so his daddy paid his way in with funny money straight to Harvard's endowment. All other Harvard students had their good, hard working grades *redistributed to that fucker* in the form of a diminished value to their actual work.

aimai

Downpuppy said...

C'mon Aimai - you know perfectly well that 'bout half the Harvard pool is full of legacies of the rich & famous. Also, that grades at WGU are as inflated as the professor's egos.

And that grades are to taxes as endowments are to rutabagas.

Anonymous said...

Downpuppy,
Heh. I'm a Harvard legacy--My grandfather, grandmother, father, uncle, brother and I all went. But both my grandparents were part of that extremely small minority of jews who got in despite all attempts to keep them out. The rest of us were legacies, no doubt. But Harvard has in the last forty years run on the same two track system as all other private colleges: spaces are clearly reserved for the children of alums and other well connected potential donors and the rest are doled out on a merit system that is increasingly onerous. With the rise of the applicant pool and the intense competition for the prestige of going the kids who get in these days are usually pretty amazingly smart and talented. Not the ones who are legacies but the rest. To fill all the rest of the slots Harvard doesn't have to take anyone mediocre. Hell, my kid's highschool is doing college level work at this point. When those kids go to college they are already better prepared than we were. Along with grade inflation there has also been a massive inflation of what is required to be considered special enough to get into these schools. Just like it used to be one book for tenure and now its three.

aimai

Anonymous said...

Downpuppy,
Heh. I'm a Harvard legacy--My grandfather, grandmother, father, uncle, brother and I all went. But both my grandparents were part of that extremely small minority of jews who got in despite all attempts to keep them out. The rest of us were legacies, no doubt. But Harvard has in the last forty years run on the same two track system as all other private colleges: spaces are clearly reserved for the children of alums and other well connected potential donors and the rest are doled out on a merit system that is increasingly onerous. With the rise of the applicant pool and the intense competition for the prestige of going the kids who get in these days are usually pretty amazingly smart and talented. Not the ones who are legacies but the rest. To fill all the rest of the slots Harvard doesn't have to take anyone mediocre. Hell, my kid's highschool is doing college level work at this point. When those kids go to college they are already better prepared than we were. Along with grade inflation there has also been a massive inflation of what is required to be considered special enough to get into these schools. Just like it used to be one book for tenure and now its three.

aimai

Anonymous said...

I don't know which is better here: the spiritual portrait of McMegan via Rand, or the mordant irony of describing hackwork, bloggery and toadying the rich as Randian "production"...like running a steel mill or something.

You've got a pen like a straight razor, Susan. I sure wouldn't want you for an enemy.

Wilson Reese said...

"Eventually the elite will go too far and people will start to turn on the them but that might be a long time from now,"

I agree with Susan that fate will be knitting under the guillotine again, but I think it will be sooner rather than later. There are so many folks hanging on by fingernails to survive, one more lousy bubble burst or crash and watch the dominoes fall. That karma, it's a bitch sometimes.

Batocchio said...

Like every other "under-appreciated" and overpraised young child of privilege, Miss McArdle read Atlas Shrugged at an impressionable age and the life and times and personality of one Miss Dagny Taggart imprinted upon her soul like that of a baby duck and his mother, if the baby duck were a resentful teenager and the mother duck a Russian harridan with little writing talent.

That may be your best sentence so far this year. Tying Rand to Mussolini is also nice (and Mussolini lied about making the trains run on time). Brava.

Batocchio said...

McArdle is sorta a dumber version of David Brooks, always shilling for the aristocracy. One reason McArdle doesn't research – and often doesn't bother to make a coherent argument - is that, like many glibertarians, McArdle just assumes that her position and notions are self-evidently superior. She believes her own hype, and is shocked when others challenge her and reality intrudes on the glibertarian castle.

An unspoken premise of her argument is that the point of education is train workers... versus, say, cultivating better citizens and more inquisitive, informed, reflective, fulfilled human beings. (As an English major, she should know better.)

That Hanson piece and McArdle's discussion of it are infuriatingly dumb. BTW, Robin Hanson is listed at the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Sprung does a pretty good job dissecting it all. My favorite part is where Megan complains about an apples to oranges comparison when that's exactly the point – grades and income are not equivalent, and the GPA distribution question is provocative, but shallow and disingenuous. This is over-simplified, but: grades are based on merit (we can apply the usual caveats, and aimai's points) while income is not, and wealth is certainly not. Merit can play some role in income, and often does, but the banksters and McArdle herself prove it's not always a factor. If the goal is a fair system, of course GPAs should not be distributed – and of course taxation should be progressive (although that takes long to explain, and I doubt many students have studied taxation much). It's not incidental that wealth distribution in America is grossly unequal, and that funding public education is one of the greatest ways there is of providing more equal opportunities and making America into more of a meritocracy. As Bill Moyers said, "plutocracy and democracy don't mix." Plutocracies and aristocracies are not meritocracies, either, but with every fiber of her being McArdle believes otherwise.

As a former teacher, I'm irked what Hanson, Sullivan and McArdle do with all this. Sprung's right about the moral intuition angle (and this John Casey post explains such dynamics nicely). I'm strongly in favor of asking students to challenge their notions. But this exercise smacks of familiar glibertarian, plutocratic propaganda versus an invitation to deeper thought. Let's say you pose the GPA question to a classroom of students, they object, but can't quite articulate why the analogy fails – great. Get a good discussion going, ask them to think on it, and their writing assignment is to come back with some answers. Maybe their first efforts are promising, but not fully thought out; repeat the process – discussion, reflection, writing. They'll get there eventually. Good teachers engage their students in this sort of process all the time. Maybe Hanson, despite any libertarian leanings, is a decent teacher; I don't know. But McArdle, as always, is not inviting deeper thought. She's never had much capacity for it herself.