Thursday, March 19, 2009

Matthew Yglesias on "Atlas Shrugged"

A couple of weeks back, Matthew Yglesias attacked GOP Representative John Campbell for literally "taking cues" from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and then concluded:

I haven’t actually read the book but my understanding is that in Atlas Shrugged they’re actually building a high-speed rail link from Las Vegas to Disneyland.
Now, in response to Caroline Baum's argument that Barack Obama needs corporations like AIG more than they need him, Yglesias says this:

Atlas Shrugged is a stupid book, Ayn Rand is a stupid woman, and John Galt’s ideas are stupid. That said, none of them are nearly this stupid. Rand’s novel isn’t about a world in which executives who build companies based on a lot of incorrect decisions, then pay themselves millions of dollars while bankrupting their firms ...
Atlas Shrugged is a beefy novel, over a thousand pages long. Yglesias must have a lot of leisure time to enjoy works of profound literary and philosophical importance; either that, or he's one helluva power reader!

It's bad enough to repudiate rational self-interest as the guiding ethic of a moral political economy, but attacking Ayn Rand's objectivism, and those endorsing it, without having read the book is beneath contempt.

No doubt the thought police over at American Nihilist and
Lawyers, Guns and Money will be on top of the case, calling out Yglesias for his abject dishonesty and total stupidy.

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UPDATE:
Instalanche!

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember when Yglesias appeared in Atlas Shrugged.

Rand bought him and his fellow cluckheads to sadly all-too-accurate life with the character of Bertram Scudder.

sears poncho said...

Isn't Yglesias a PHD in Philosophy? Rand has never been given "academic" circles. That's why he can say what he said. Yglesias can also give you a measure of just how sad an ivy league PHD is nowadays.

EDH said...

Yglesias said...
Rand’s novel isn’t about a world in which executives who build companies based on a lot of incorrect decisions, then pay themselves millions of dollars while bankrupting their firms...

So sad. Why is Yglesias equating Randian criticism of the negative incentive effects of Obama's big government agenda with "too big to fail" businesses being bailed-out by big government?

Randroideka said...

I've always liked Rand's answer to one of Tom Snyder's observations:

Tom Snyder: "There are many people ... in this world who think you're daft."
Rand: "They don't. They want you to think that."

It's at around 6:20 in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFy9A7WEzPA

The following questions are particularly appropriate today.

Anonymous said...

How dare you disagree with Matt Yglesias! He went to Harvard, for crissakes! HARVARD!!!

Timber said...

No doubt the thought police over at American Nihilist and Lawyers, Guns and Money will be on top of the case, calling out Yglesias for his abject dishonesty and total stupidy.

Ok, that's some high grade funny. (Fist pounding indignation!!!!)

And yes, how could you call out Yglesias? He not only went to Harvard he's also an independent minded member of JournoList!

paul a'barge said...

Is there a bigger moron out there than Yglesias?

Shouldn't someone have pity on the rest of us and feed him to their dog?

Franco said...

I am gaining a new lack of respect for Harvard. By the way, I heard Atlas Shrugged has just surpassed the more recently released "The Audacity of Hope" on Amazon.

Franco said...

I am gaining a new lack of respect for Harvard. By the way, I heard Atlas Shrugged has just surpassed the more recently released "The Audacity of Hope" on Amazon.

Franco said...

I am gaining a new lack of respect for Harvard. By the way, I heard Atlas Shrugged has just surpassed the more recently released "The Audacity of Hope" on Amazon.

jefe said...

I *have* read Atlas Shrugged, and it is a stupid book. And boring.

Kyle Haight said...

I have also read Atlas Shrugged, and found it neither stupid nor boring. But don't take either of our opinions as gospel -- read it and make your own decision.

Brian said...

Hey, why should he read it to have an opinion on it? After all, our Congress spends a trillion bucks without reasing it, so what's the difference?

Anonymous said...

I never read anything written by Matt Yglesias. But it must be stupid and boring, and wrong, for exactly the same reasons that he uses to attack Atlas Shrugged.

In other words, I am Wise, and when I say something I don't need any reasons to back up what I say. If you have to ask what those reasons are that means you must be incapable of understanding the answer.

How sad. There's nothing more dangerous than a moron who believes he's a genius.

Anonymous said...

Yglesias has a BA in philosophy from Harvard which leads me to think someone was cheated. Either Harvard was cheated out of a degree or Yglesias was cheated out of an education.

Anonymous said...

Well...

I'm conservative. Really. And I've read Atlas Shrugged. Really. And I agree that it's a, well, stupid book. It's sophomoric, and Rand seems to have some kind of diarrhea of the typewriter...could you just shut up once in a while? You made your point already, for goodness sake, and if you didn't or don't think so, then writing isn't your strong suit.

Anonymous said...

Matt learned all he needed to know about Atlas Shrugged from JournoList dummy!

Anonymous said...

If you have to ask what those reasons are that means you must be incapable of understanding the answer.

Heh!

I once lost a job that posted as requiring 2 years experience in the area. I lost out to a big-boobed nincompoop who had 3 months experience (I had 4 years of same). The fellow explaining it all to me used that kind of reasoning. I laughed in his face and told him he was a clown masquerading in an administrators suit. I think he must now work for the White House. :)

Oligonicella said...

"Yglesias has a BA in philosophy from Harvard..."

So, you're saying he doesn't have an actual degree.

Anonymous said...

Who needs to read a bok when one has the expert opinions from all the kool people at JournoLis™

Q- Did any one of you experts or journalistt read it?

Multiple Answers of: No, but it is super stupid I assure you

-- Matt blog:

It's stupid.

--

JournoList™ is awesome!

Anonymous said...

Atlas Shrugged is the fable of the Golden Goose writ large.

It's not 'stupid' - unless by 'stupid' you mean it makes a point so obvious that 99% of the people in politics miss it ....

Laserlight said...

Atlas is not at all a stupid book, but it is roughly 600 pages longer than it needs to be.

Random Numbers said...

I have both read it and listened to the audiobook. I've found that it is much better heard than read.

Anonymous said...

I read Atlas Shrugged as a teenager and thought it was pretty good. Today, it would probably go over better as a graphic novel and accompanying blockbuster movie.

I'd hoped for a strong recovery led by investors returning money to the markets, but it looks like that would be self-defeating: It would give President Obama the political capital necessary to completely restructure the economy.

Now, it looks like the best long-term hope is a prolonged, weak recovery that keeps Congress and the President reigned-in until the populace tires of them. The reality might be a populist revolt that keeps the economy spiraling downward in the hands of Chris, Barney, Nancy, Rahm, and Barry.

Anonymous said...

would scarlett johansson play dahney taggart?

Anonymous said...

I thought Arthur C. Clarke's three pages in 'Songs' 'prooving' the nonexistence of Omega God were a crime against art. So you can imagine my opinion of a 53 page speech (and yes, I like Starship Troopers).

I've tried a little Rand, but it did not go down well.

She might well be a bit daft, or even a lot daft, but without her, we might have saluted the Hammer and Sickle this morning. I can forgive a lot of craziness for that.

Lump her in with Joe McCarthy.

Steven said...

"Rand’s novel isn’t about a world in which executives who build companies based on a lot of incorrect decisions, then pay themselves millions of dollars while bankrupting their firms"

It isn't?

The characters James Taggart and Orren Boyle are both corporate executives who make lousy decisions while living the high life, drive their companies into the ground . . . and then use the government to keep the companies in business, with the excuse that they're critical to the nation's welfare.

It's not like these are hidden, tangential characters; Boyle is mentioned frequently (especially in the early parts), while James Taggart is the most prominently featured villain from the book's beginning to its end.

Atlas Shrugged is hardly great literature — but that is in large part because of its didactic, repetitious pounding of its points. That makes its critics' mischaracterization of those points especially telling; it indicates these critics didn't read the book, are incapable of simple reading comprehension, or are deliberately lying about the content of the book.

Anonymous said...

WSJ Blog had this in Apr 08

Ayn Rand: Casting The ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Movie

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Deal Journal readers like Objectivist author Ayn Rand. So, good news for Rand fans who can tear themselves away from their copies of the Romantic Manifesto long enough to get to a theater: a new Atlas Shrugged movie is in the works, and a new Fountainhead (potentially starring Brad Pitt) may not be far behind.

Some of the chess pieces are already in place. Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns has acquired the rights. Vadim Perelman, the director of The House of Sand and Fog, will direct the movie, which will star pillowy-lipped, bedroom-eyed actress Angelina Jolie as the heroine, Dagny Taggart.


http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2008/04/25/ayn-rand-casting-the-atlas-shrugged-movie/?mod=WSJBlog

Chip Ahoy said...

I read the Atlas Shrugged out of high school and found it to be long. Though I do appreciate Rand's apparent need to take us through the achingly desultory process of the failure of so-called altruistic motivations step by painful step, and her need to take so long in reversing the bad rap greed has by carefully and repeatedly explaining rational self-interest in terms even a philosophy major could understand. I would not read it again, although I then read Fountainhead and found that to be less interesting. But here's the thing that blows me away. Shortly after that, I came to know a guy at work (Federal Reserve Bank) who was among the strangest people I've ever known -- eyeglasses the thickness of pop bottles, the fist guy I ever saw have an epileptic seizure right in front of me. Once I saw him carrying around a worn-torn Atlas shrugged and so I commented on it. He remarked he had read it six times already and was on his seventh. Now, that seems like an excessive number of readings to me considering he was quite smart, Jewish intellectual type, so this need of his to keep re-reading a book with such a simple premise confounded me. I do not believe he was Republican.

robert.g said...

I can't fault Yglesias for commenting on something he hasn't read; after all, Congress and the President passed a stimulus bill and a budget they all backed, but hadn't bothered to read.

North Briton said...

I read The Fountainhead, and I think it's a stunning book. Rand was very careful to construct her novels in a way that could certainly be misconstrued as 'sophomoric'- they are not written with the intention of featuring on a literature degree reading list. She was attempting to write thrilling propaganda, and while she may occasionally hammer home her points once too often, I think she did a damn good job. That said, I couldn't identify a single wasted sentence in Fountainhead, every one is there for good reason.

JournoList Zombie said...

Hey you! Has this posting been approved by a JournoList censor? If not, you will receive a visit from an IRS representative.

Is this a great country, or what?

Anonymous said...

fwiw,

I think anybody who professes to like/and or agree with Rand should be forced to read the speech John Galt gives at the end of the book out loud, without benefit of a cup of water - the way Galt did it.

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Matthew said...

Gentlemen,
it's a shame that the free-market philosophy doesn't have better literary expression than Ayn Rand.

The definitive review of her book, by the way, was by that other great foe of Communism, Whittaker Chambers, more than fifty years ago. It is reprinted here.

Steven said...

I specifically had the Chambers review in mind when I said:

"That makes its critics' mischaracterization of those points especially telling; it indicates these critics didn't read the book, are incapable of simple reading comprehension, or are deliberately lying about the content of the book."

Anonymous said...

"Rand’s novel isn’t about a world in which executives who build companies based on a lot of incorrect decisions, then pay themselves millions of dollars while bankrupting their firms."

As others have mentioned, that is precisely what the novel was about. Sheesh...

Rich said...

I just read Atlas Shrugged for the first time after seeing so many references to it. Some general comments – Galt’s speech towards the end (yeah about 50 pages) is long and after the first couple of pages boring. Later in the book he says something about it being 3 hours long. A bit of over kill.
Next: the executives shown are not executives in the sense we know them today. They are people who worked for a living and worked themselves up by hard work and not being an MBA in Finance. That is a major problem we have today, too many of the people running things never actually had to work for a living they just lived by the financial mantra - it is better to push paper than to make something. That was actually said to me by a CFO of a very large company that sold off it manufacturer business.
What hit me was how right she was about the sense of entitlement that people are showing. Some how because they made poor (stupid) choices you are obligated to help them, even to your detriment. You see that it many of the policies coming out of the democrats and the Rino republicans. The entitlements are rights that these people are owed, not anything to be earned. As has been said many times in other contexts, a cradle to grave nanny society where your “needs” are taken care of by the government. Anyone who made prudent decisions or is productive has to pay for the people’s needs because it is not fair that they do not have.
One example; About 10 years ago, there was a surcharge added to each phone line to pay for access to the internet by the poor. It was low only say a dollar. It is now about $7.00 per line. The government has decided that all must have access in their homes to the internet and companies must provide it to them. So who pays for it? The rest of us!

Atlas Shrugged is amazing to read because you can see it coming true today.

Steven Brockerman said...

Who (or what) is a Matthew Yglesias?

I haven't actually read his stuff, but my understanding is that he's an Ivy League has-been blogging a high-speed hyperlink between Las Dudgeon and Dishonestland.

Gabriel Hanna said...

I've read "Atlas Shrugged" and I agree that it is a stupid book.

As a novel, it is terrible, as philosophy it is puerile, and as advocacy for the free market it is far too long.

Anything she had worth saying was said better by Robert Heinlein--whose books are a lot more entertaining and a lot SHORTER.

Now, the book may turn out to be a success at PROPHECY. But it still will not be a good novel.