I wouldn’t even know where to insert underpants gnomes into that argument

by John Holbo on March 15, 2016

I look at the world, there are so many issues, so many issues. Don’t just take regulation and energy and fracking. It’s all in Atlas Shrugged,” all of it. State of Colorado, Rearden Metal, how he made it with some magic kinetic energy.

Link.

P1: Colorado exists.
P2: Rearden Metal exists.
P3: Rearden Metal is magic.
C: Libertarianism?

{ 44 comments }

1

Ze K 03.15.16 at 10:50 am

“Let them have their 10% return on capital. Small price to pay. Lights go on every time I hit the switch.”

Sure, why not. As long as Ilyich’s bulb goes on, I’m grateful to The Party.
But, surely, we can do more:

Capital eschews no profit, or very small profit, just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 percent will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 percent certain will produce eagerness; 50 percent, positive audacity; 100 percent will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 percent, and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged.

— T. J. Dunning

2

Lee A. Arnold 03.15.16 at 11:01 am

You’ve got to admit though, all the blather emitted from both right and left in this massive crack-up is really entertaining.

3

Jake 03.15.16 at 11:24 am

“those that made the trains run on time” Is Santelli confusing John Galt with Mussolini?

4

Peter T 03.15.16 at 11:39 am

side note: I read somewhere of a PhD thesis that looked at the performance of the Italian railways under Mussolini. Conclusion: the trains did NOT run on time.

5

Alex K--- 03.15.16 at 12:12 pm

The stranded quotation mark after “Shrugged” is confusing. The FBI vs. Apple angle is interesting.

@ 1: I always thought the quip about crime and 300% interest was by Marx himself. Now I know Marx was quoting Dunning on that.

6

bianca steele 03.15.16 at 12:21 pm

“I wouldn’t even know where to insert underpants gnomes into that argument”: isn’t that the grail of political debate? There are people who would kill for an argument too confused so that underpants gnomes to be inserted there.

7

cs 03.15.16 at 12:41 pm

It’s all in Atlas Shrugged,” all of it. State of Colorado, Rearden Metal, how he made it with some magic kinetic energy.

I would read that as

P1: Colorado is in Atlas Shrugged.
P2: Rearden Metal is in Atlas Shrugged.
P3: Rearden Metal is magic.
C: Libertarianism

8

Doug T 03.15.16 at 1:23 pm

This strikes me more as a Chewbacca defense than an underpants gnome argument.

9

Glen Tomkins 03.15.16 at 1:27 pm

P1: The govt does not sufficiently respect our intellectual property rights
P2: We owners will all go on strike
P3: OF COURSE, the govt will completely and scrupulously honor owners’ right to control the means of production, no matter that children starve, cities go dark, etc.
imaginary C: Libertarian paradise
real C: Dictatorship of the proletariat achieved without need for violent revolution.

10

Ginger Yellow 03.15.16 at 1:38 pm

Maybe we should shut Wall Street down for 24 hours, see how everybody who blames Wall Street for everything likes that.

We could call it “Sunday”.

11

Gary Othic 03.15.16 at 1:41 pm

“John Galt is all of us.”

I can’t believe that every American is that much of a dick.

12

jake the antisoshul soshulist 03.15.16 at 1:49 pm

Santelli, huh. Has anyone seen Santelli and John Stossel in the same place at the same time, though Stossel’s arguments may be marginally more coherent.
Please, please Mr. Santelli, go Galt.

13

mjfgates 03.15.16 at 2:11 pm

But if you try to impose any sort of regulations on a business, they’ll just evade them, and then pass the costs onto their customers, and then go out of business, and THEN you’ll be sorry.

14

Kevin 03.15.16 at 2:14 pm

You would think that Santelli would be more careful about saying things like this after he accidentally created the Tea Party.

15

P O'Neill 03.15.16 at 2:21 pm

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor where Santelli delivered his tea party rant has since been shut down due to that form of trading being obsolete.

16

marcel proust 03.15.16 at 2:54 pm

P O’Neil.

Nope, it’s not “been shut down.” Its traders shut it down, anticipating Santelli’s point here. How do you like that? Want it back yet? No? Then it will stay shut down until you (and everyone else) change their mind and start begging for it to re-open…

17

Plume 03.15.16 at 2:59 pm

“”Maybe we should shut Wall Street down for 24 hours, see how everybody who blames Wall Street for everything likes that. Maybe we should shut energy down for 24 hours, see how people like that. Because in the end, these are great industries and they are run well.”

This is like:

You have this community which used to be self-sufficient. But warlords stole everyone’s land and water rights, and now they appropriate the fruits of the land and then distribute food and water back to the community for a price. And some people in the community object to this, so the warlords hire Santelli to go on TV and say: “Maybe we should just shut down our distribution center and make all of you folks fend for yourselves!” And the people in the community yell at their TVs and say, “We used to do that just fine, moron!!”

18

Bloix 03.15.16 at 3:16 pm

The whole “intellectual property” thing is hilarious. The patent laws have become a license to steal and Santelli is complaining that the patent-holders aren’t rich enough.

“A report by the largest U.S. prescription benefit manager, Express Scripts Holding Co., also found the average price of brand-name drugs already on the market increased by 16.2 percent in 2015 and has jumped 98.2 percent since 2011. One-third of brand-name prescription drugs had price increases exceeding 20 percent last year.”

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/03/14/business/ap-us-rising-drug-prices.html

19

phosphorious 03.15.16 at 3:40 pm

“You would think that Santelli would be more careful about saying things like this after he accidentally created the Tea Party.”

Accidentally? I’d say that’s what he wanted. The banks had nearly destroyed the country, and there was a crowd with torches approaching. . . and his speech got them going after “socialists.”

I hope the current panic in his voice is a good sign. . .

20

Older 03.15.16 at 4:17 pm

I have traveled by train in the not-too-distant past and it was my experience that the trains did not run on time. Moreover, the usual reason was track issues; ie. maintenance. I don’t in general believe that the people in charge of running things do a good job.

21

The Temporary Name 03.15.16 at 4:55 pm

Ayn Rand on Rick Santelli:

Nothing is given to man on earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways – by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite faces nature through an intermediary.

The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men.

The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive.

22

The Temporary Name 03.15.16 at 4:56 pm

Standard CT blockquote fail.

23

DRickard 03.15.16 at 5:15 pm

There’s a common misunderstanding of Mussolini: he actually modified the trains to use organic fuels

24

Bloix 03.15.16 at 5:54 pm

“by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others”

George W. Bush always seemed to me to be a sort of giant tapeworm – blind, stupid, spineless, with its horrible mouth sunk deep into the guts of the country, draining its blood.

25

sillybill 03.15.16 at 7:11 pm

I think Rick needs to go back and reread. 1) Colorado is indeed a state, also in AS – he got that part sort of right. 2) Rearden Metal doesn’t exist, just a fictional invention used to prop up the storyline. 3) Rearden didn’t create the metal with some ‘magic kinetic energy’. He made it with ordinary electricity and ordinary coal/coke in his ordinary steel plant in Pennsylvania. It was Galt’s motor that ran on weird energy – ‘atmospheric electricity’ iirc, basically a plot device akin to perpetual motion by an author who didn’t know diddly about physics (or metallurgy ftm).

I guess my point is if you are slinging BS in order to make some BS point, you should get yer BS straight.

I was a teenage objectivist who read Atlas Shrugged 5 times. Happily I snapped out of it.

26

Dean C. Rowan 03.15.16 at 7:35 pm

This is how books get read, then, eh? As superficial allegory? I smell an argument for substantial subsidization of humanities and liberal arts education. Goddamnit, Anita Brookner died last week, a tremendous loss to English literary arts. Am I supposed to return to her books to find clues to how to deal with “so many issues”? I suppose Rand wanted her readers to connect the dots or find the missing pictures. She wrote a 1200 page issue of Highlights magazine.

27

Chip Daniels 03.15.16 at 10:00 pm

I think its noteworthy that most market fundamentalists like libertarians start with the assumption that property rights are self-evident artifacts of nature, their existence unassailable, yet here Santelli is using intellectual property, perhaps the most ephemeral and artificial of constructions whose very existence is only made possible by social agreement and enforced coercively by government.

28

Brett Dunbar 03.15.16 at 11:11 pm

For medicine the patent term is, if anything, too short. The length of the approval process means that the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t have much time to profit from a drug before the monopoly period expires. The research process is expensive and the profits have to pay not only the research costs for that drug but also for a number of failures.

29

David of Yreka 03.15.16 at 11:30 pm

Martin Shkreli didn’t go on strike. He just raised the price on his intellectual property.

Makes a lot more sense to me. But then, orcs.

Have I just blown a Godwin?

30

Belle Waring 03.16.16 at 12:57 am

I think this is a case for the soiled underpants gnomes.

31

Chris G 03.16.16 at 1:23 am

It’s all a bunch of empty talk. None of them have the balls to ‘Go Galt’. I dare them to do it. I double-dare them to do it. I double-dog-dare them.

(Let them self-deport to Galt’s Gulch, let them hop on the B Ark – I don’t particularly care where those twits go if they’d just go away. Could they be baited into doing so?)

32

js. 03.16.16 at 1:49 am

Because how could I not?

But really, does Santelli not get the “trains run on time” thing?

33

DMC 03.16.16 at 4:22 am

For medicine the patent term is, if anything, too short.

This would be rather more convincing if pharmaceuticals weren’t by far the most profitable industry in the US. The money they spend on research averages about 14% of annual outlay. By contrast, US Pharms spend an average of 30% of annual outlays on advertising. Which the AMA wants them to discontiue, at least retail advertising as opposed “to the trade”. So don’t lose any sleep over pharm executives and investors. They won’t lose any over you or how you’re going to pay tens of thousands a year for some drug devoleped 100% at the taxpayers expense and then sold for a dollar to some pharmacorp(anyone for Taxol?).

34

Yankee 03.16.16 at 5:27 am

He just raised the price on his intellectual property.

First I hear that Shkreli was an intellectual. No added value, eh?

35

PaulB 03.16.16 at 12:07 pm

It takes about two minutes’ open-minded reflection to convince oneself that a patent system of monopoly rights is entirely the wrong way to fund pharmaceutical R&D.

36

Glen Tomkins 03.16.16 at 12:39 pm

“It takes about two minutes’ open-minded reflection to convince oneself that a patent system of monopoly rights is entirely the wrong way to fund pharmaceutical R&D.”

Good thing that’s not the way we fund pharmaceutical R&D. That socially useful end is achieved through university and direct govt funding.

The patent system as utilized in the pharmaceutical industry? That’s just rent-seeking we’ve decided to make a comfy home for.

Marx lacked the imagination to foresee the full extent of the filigrees that the owners would be capable of evolving, and the rest of us would put up with. We have to come up with some term for the deal Big Pharma enjoys that goes beyond what Marx dreamed of. What we have here isn’t rent-seeking, it’s rent-pushing.

It’s no wonder our current generation of owners has grown so intellectually and morally flabby. We don’t make them work at oppression any more, or show any creativity, we just hand them their rents on a silver platter.

37

Dr. Hilarius 03.16.16 at 6:15 pm

If all the garbage collectors, plumbers, and other essential workers marched off to Galt’s Gulch things would get stinky very quickly. But hedge fund managers, commodity traders and real estate speculators? Who could tell?

38

Ogden Wernstrom 03.16.16 at 11:54 pm

In high school, one of the English teachers assigned the 1200-page issue of Highlights Magazine known as Atlas Shrugged to all of her classes.

All. She was proselytizing. (Yes, that career employee of a tax-supported school had “objectivist” leanings.)

In addition to the classes required of all students, there were English electives – she assigned it in our Psych Lit class, along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and others. The teenaged students should have been the perfect audience for Ayn Rand, since there’s that teen predisposition to think one can do anything – but the world conspires to hold one back.

However, we had all been reading well-written books, with nuanced passages that led to mixed feelings (on the part of the reader) about the characters – who were less than 100% predictable – and inspired us to continue reading to see how the character would evolve and the storyline would resolve.

Ayn Rand’s characters are hardly two-dimensional, but her writing motivates continued reading much as a NASCAR race promotes continued watching.

Jennifer Government is a much better read than Ayn Rand’s stuff – which is not saying much at all. I pictured Galt’s Gulch turning out much the same as Jennifer Government, long before I read Max Barry’s book. What was most disappointing about reading J.G. is that my own thought experiment about the likely path of a fully-libertarian society was not so original.

@37, Dr. Hilarius 03.16.16 at 6:15 pm:

If all the garbage collectors, plumbers, and other essential workers marched off to Galt’s Gulch things would get stinky very quickly. But hedge fund managers, commodity traders and real estate speculators? Who could tell?

Things might get less stinky? I just love to picture all the rentiers with nobody around to extract money from.

They might just start abducting, um, indentured servants to bring to Galt’s Gulch.

39

js. 03.17.16 at 12:11 am

Having not read either, I’m curious which is worse: Atlas Shrugged or 50 Shades of Gray?

40

MikeN 03.17.16 at 2:13 pm

37
“If all the garbage collectors, plumbers, and other essential workers marched off to Galt’s Gulch things would get stinky very quickly. But hedge fund managers, commodity traders and real estate speculators? Who could tell?”

But what about the TV commenters bloviating about the hedge fund managers etc? Surely they are essential to our society’s functioning.

41

MikeN 03.17.16 at 2:19 pm

But what happens when a bunch of Objectivists go Galt’s Gulch and some Ben-op Crunchy Cons move into the next gulch over and start practising small ‘o’ Christian orthodoxy, and then Negan and the Saviors roll up and they have to hire Rick and the Alexandrians but there’s a whole herd of Trump-loving Walkers moving in?

42

reason 03.17.16 at 2:47 pm

Is Brett Dumbar @28 really, really (almost endearingly) naïve or does he just pretend to be?

43

Bloix 03.18.16 at 3:07 pm

“[G]eneric versions of the Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi can be profitably manufactured for $300 to $500 per treatment. The list price for the drug in the United States is $84,000… And raising the price of a drug by more than 10,000 percent as a result of patent monopoly causes all the economic waste and corruption that imposing a 10,000 percent tariff would. The market doesn’t care that we call the intervention a ‘patent’ rather than a ‘tariff.'”

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/

44

Peter T 03.20.16 at 8:28 am

reason @42

“determinedly naive” is the phrase.

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