Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter I: Atlantis


Reflections:

This chapter is chock full of risible content.  You’ve got the comically overheated description of John Galt.  There’s Dr. Hammonds’ rather insane notion that medicine should concern itself first and foremost with the healthy rather than the sick.  If it weren’t for the sick people, who the hell is Dr. Hammond supposed to operate on?  I get that the point is that whiny sick people wouldn’t get better if it weren’t for the genius of genius genuises, but the doctor/patient dynamic is pretty much the definition of a symbiotic relationship.  Every person, even the most brilliant doctor who’s ever brillianted, has to willingly submit themselves to the ministrations of a medical professional, and they only do that because they trust their well being is their doctor’s top priority.  If Dr. Hammond gets appendicitis at Galt’s Gulch, somebody else is going to have to cut him open.  Sometimes we need other people, and the inherent vulnerability of placing yourself in the hands of someone with a scalpel in their hand cannot be ameliorated by reminding yourself how much money you paid him. What’re you gonna do if he kills your ass? Ask for a refund?

Dr. Hammond makes House look like Patch Adams

There’s the fact that Rand creates a frictionless plane of Objectivist society: a society peopled entirely by genuises in every conceivable discipline, all of them completely committed to the same ideology, a near autarkical economy, and not a looter or hobo to be found for miles, and she STILL needs to invoke a magical power source to make the thing viable.

Unless Lisa Simpson moves to Galt’s Gulch, those dudes are SOL.

I think the most irritating thing is still Rand’s obsession with the idea that gold is some sort of “objective” currency.  She seems caught up on the fact that paper currency was originally intended to represent a fixed amount of gold.  But even when gold was the preferred medium of exhange, it was still a representative of value, not a thing of value in itself. You can’t eat it, you can’t drink it, you might be able to build a house out of it, but it would be drafty as hell.  Society agreed to place a value on gold and use it to facilitate transactions. It’s value is less volatile than that of paper currency, but it’s not an absolute constant, and that value does not exist at all outside of a social fiction.  The Ubermensch of Galt’s Gulch have agreed to give gold a set value and to honor that value. In a closed economy like theirs, they could just as easily have chosen wampum, or seashells or, dare I say, a paper currency.

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  1. Ed
    October 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    i found your blog searching for something like “rand economics underpants gnomes.” While I’m disappointed that yet another of my clever ideas turned out to not be original, I think reading through your treatment of Rand’s self-justifying hackery was absolutely worth it.

    Thanks.

  1. December 3, 2010 at 11:51 pm

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