BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Paul Mason
« Previous | Main | Next »

I start a run on Atlas Shrugged!

Post categories:

Paul Mason | 17:37 UK time, Saturday, 20 September 2008

Yikes! I seem to have caused a run on Altlas Shrugged. Everyone is queuing at the doors of the Ayn Rand meisterwerk to withdraw their own metaphoric lessons on the week that's passed - ranging from blogger Guido to Huffposter and ex-Goldman guy Greg Zehner. They may soon have to shut the doors and take Atlas Shrugged into public ownership.

Maybe I should have gone long on Atlas Shrugged, it was the 50th anniversary year last year and there is a good Penguin edition out. It would certainly have been the bottom of the curve - weirdly September 15th, day of the Lehman collapse, was a 90-day low for mentions of Atlas Shrugged on Technorati (actually, even the 180 day trend for the book is down), which is weird given Angelina Jolie is about to crest her method-acting triumph in Beowulf by starring as Dagny Taggart).

However on further investigation it turns out that I was not the first to have the idea. See Randex, the site which measures "latest news and commentary on Ayn Rand and Objectivism" to find out who had the idea first. So far nobody has mentioned Ayn Rand at Labour Party conference, which I have been watching dozily all afternoon. They have mentioned "freemarket capitalism" though, and not in a nice way.

Warning: the value of your Atlas Shrugged metaphor may go down as well as up. Any forward looking statements in this blog etc etc....


  • Comment number 1.

    Well I would like to see all banks nationalised - credit union style.

    We can't borrow more than is there and the profit made from our borrowing is ploughed back in.


  • Comment number 2.

    Parmenides shows any philosophy that denies the idea of the good/the one as the highest idea of the mind will fall into moral relativism and nihilism.

    There is a hierarchy in existence based on the good as the fundamental term. But it is unfashionable to say so because to moral relativists who worship 'equality' at their fundamental term it sounds 'fascist'.

    Further because a hierarchy grades things according to how close to the good they are the moral relativists regard it as 'discriminatory'.

    Which means they have a 'pig philosophy' because pigs do not discriminate what they eat. Which is fine if one wants to be a pig.

    But if you'd rather swing on a star, carry moon beams home in a jar....

  • Comment number 3.

    these people need to read george soros. his basic thesis: free market zealots foolishly believe that the markets' job is to find an equilibrium price for the real world, whereas the truth is there is no equilibrium as the markets affect the real world just as much as the real world affects markets.

    nowhere is that clearer than in the current crisis, where the markets this week reached a moment of truth that their problems were out of control and were going to lead to an enormous recession that would just feed back to compound the financial meltdown.

    people who claim that the markets won't learn their lessons if the appropriate punishment is not meted out forget keynes' famous dictum that in the long run we are all dead. what is the point of cutting off your nose to spite your face? i would rather have the financial system fully nationalised (for a while) than spend the next decade in an economic depression. people can learn a lesson by walking up to a cliff and looking over the side - they don't need to jump over and feel the consequences as well.

    and anyone who claims that somehow this crisis was engineered by politicians in order to further their own devious accumulation of power is a fool and not even worth arguing with.

  • Comment number 4.


    I have just read a New Scientist piece that says we might not understand 'death'.
    Baroness Warnock has raised a storm among those who, perhaps, do not understand 'life'.
    I am quite sure we do not understand money.

    We are born - money is all around, and it buys stuff. How many of us, subsequently, go through the exercise of considering what money IS and what it represents; as a consequence, avoiding its misuse and abuse?

  • Comment number 5.


    benagyerek (#3) "anyone who claims that somehow this crisis was engineered by politicians in order to further their own devious accumulation of power is a fool and not even worth arguing with."

    Not politicians.... 'financiers'. The latter persuaded the former to give them control a long time ago.

    Surely it would be foolish to argue with that?

  • Comment number 6.


    I suppose I will have to check out all your hyperlinks for enlightenment but I actually don't understand a word.


  • Comment number 7.

    Oh I see - I have to read 645,000 words of 1950s American novel to find enlightenment.

    Ah, ignorance is bliss!

  • Comment number 8.


    Instead of reading Trotskyites/anrcho-capitalists like Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum or wondering who John Galt might be, folk here would be far better off reading Quine on extensionality, Skinner on stimulus control and behaviour management and Fisher on how we make a mess of matters - all of whom are now being sold short in my view.

  • Comment number 9.

    jj @ 5

    agreed that it was of the making of financiers, although i disagree it was "engineered" by them, as this would suggest they knew what they were doing.

  • Comment number 10.

    Has anybody read Gravity's Rainbow? There's a lot of Skinnerism in that.

  • Comment number 11.


    Whilst there's certainly a lot of radical behaviourism in Walden Two (and Skinner said he thought it might work in China), there's far more of Skinner's student's work behind the exploitation of behavioural economic laws in the recent sub-prime/credit crunch given that the teaser rates which helpless sub-prime clients were ensnared with are straight out of the Matching Law/Hyperbolic Discounting/Melioration Theory which was essentially Chung and Herrnstein's work from the 60s and Herrnstein, Vaughan, Ainslie, Rachlin and others in the 1970s (rebadged, in my view, as Prospect Theory by Tversky and Kahenman in 1979) with Kahneman getting the Nobel in Economics for it in 2002. Tversky and Kahneman cognitivised what's essentially a behavioural law of reinforcement which applies across species, and which should (as they did not) have been considered in the context of diversity, i.e. the Gaussian distribution of impulsivity/behavioural inhibition/self-control (which is not so curiously all very politically incorrect/inconvenient in Liberal-Democracies). That is, this is all 'Beyond Freedom and Dignity' which is why it's politically irresponsible not to regulate those who exploit this for personal gain whilst disingenuously using caveat emptor and equality law/Human Rights in defence of their predatory behaviour.

    It's ironic that the country where Skinner thought Walden Two might work is a Democratic-Centralist state whose constitution is essentially the 1936 Stalinist constitution, which would no doubt have treated the above behaviour as a crime against the people. Who said the Cold War was over? The Stalinists seem to have the Trots on the run...or at least by what matters to them


More from this blog...

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.