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Atlas Shrugged - Week 3: Ch 5&6

Kak

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Let’s not mistake the act of voluntary philanthropy with support for central control.

Musk is a bad example that leads to such comparisons. I just think he is a good guy that wants to leave his mark.

Being a good person and wanting to improve the world around you doesn’t necessarily make you some Jim Taggart.

A much better example of capitalist altruism with this in mind is Charles Koch. Why? Because he believes that he already made the world a better place by employing hundreds of thousands and providing value to millions. That is not all though. He also supports nonprofit organizations like CATO and Americans for Prosperity. These are organizations that exist to help Americans continue to have to ability to build things that matter. Their own masterpieces. He does this BY CHOICE... Not by force.

On the other side of the fence we have the REAL Jim Taggarts... How about Jamie Dimon? Warren Buffet? Ray Dalio? These are the guys that will still be rich even if they get a central control. The JTs of the world are already large enough that they can comply easily with new regulation perhaps even help draft it while it severely hurts competition. So they support forcing their will on others in the name of economic freedom, the greater good and giving back. Ironically, handouts and government propped up advantages do not equal economic freedom, they equal economic slavery and all they do is take.
 

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csalvato

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Let’s not mistake the act of voluntary philanthropy with support for central control.

Musk is a bad example that leads to such comparisons.

Being a good person and wanting to improve the world around you doesn’t necessarily make you some Jim Taggart.
I definitely agree!

A much better example of capitalist altruism with this in mind is Charles Koch. Why? Because he believes that he already made the world a better place by employing hundreds of thousands and providing value to millions. That is not all though. He also supports nonprofit organizations like CATO and Americans for Prosperity. These are organizations that exist to help Americans continue to have to ability to build things that matter. Their own masterpieces.
I'm not sure that the phrase capitalist altruism makes sense. In the capitalist system if you don't get something in return for what you provide, you die.

Koch in particular sought out, and made, billions for the value he added to the world; so he can't fit the definition of an altruist.

A secular example of an altruist is the Giving Tree: http://www.thebestclass.org/uploads/5/6/2/4/56249715/the_giving_tree.pdf

In the book, James Taggart parades around as though he's an altruist, willing to give up everything to help others just like the Giving Tree.

In reality, he's giving up the hard work of his ancestors so that other people will think more highly of him.

This raises a question: is there such a thing as altruism, really? Should a person ever really act against their own self-interest? Is it even possible to do that?

EDIT: Addressing your edit:

On the other side of the fence we have the REAL Jim Taggarts... How about Jamie Dimon? Warren Buffet? Ray Dalio? These are the guys that will still be rich even if they get a central control... The JTs of the world are already large enough that they can comply easily with new regulation while it severely hurts competition. So they support forcing their will on others in the name of economic freedom. Ironically, handouts and government propped up advantages do not equal economic freedom, they equal economic slavery.
Damn straight. I love when you post.

Warren Buffet is pretty bad through this lens.

He preaches altruism and how 'All lives have equal value' while investing in companies with shady-as-hell business practices, making billions more, and then preaching how he wants to give all his money away via wealth taxes.

Something about how he conducts himself just doesn't add up to me.
 
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This raises a question: is there such a thing as altruism, really? Should a person ever really act against their own self-interest? Is it even possible to do that?
Hol' up. Selfless and disinterested doesn't equal self-sacrifice. The giving tree is selfless but you don't need to self destruct or act against your self interest in order to be altruistic.
I'd argue it's different to EXPECT something in return FOR YOURSELF than to choose to pursue a venture that is of benefit to someone and produces revenue as a plus, which you can roll up into other ventures of the similar nature, which is coincidentally what I'm trying to do with my product. I don't need to be homeless to help the homeless. I can sell a product and help the homeless and if I have extra I'll help who knows who next. I think the intention makes it altruistic, not where the funds come from.

Edit 2- Also yes, you can be altruistic and act against your self-interest if you, for example, donate a kidney. It's not in your best interest to lose a kidney, but you're helping someone else. I guess the context changes things quite a bit.

Edit-
Elon would be an altruist if he was trying to get the public to invest in Tesla with no expectation of a return (i.e. a non-profit).
Like why is it more self-less and noble to raise the funds from donations than to get your hands dirty to produce the money yourself so you don't have to beg or depend on donors every year? That is why I don't want a non-profit btw.
 
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lludwig

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Hmm...I might be arguing details, but I don't think that's altruism:



Altruism is where you selflessly do things for others and expect nothing in return.
Ayn Rand defines altruism slightly differently. Yes, I know this is confusing, but hey I'm just the messenger.

In her terms, you are altruistic if you sacrifice yourself for the means of others.

That you hurt yourself to help others.

She also believes this is the most immoral thing one can do.

With regards to the green movement, Elon believes that CO2 emissions are a problem, and he's found a way to solve that problem while making a profit. In the example of the green movement, Elon would be an altruist if he was trying to get the public to invest in Tesla with no expectation of a return (i.e. a non-profit).
Profit? He's certainly not. Tesla is certainly NOT profitable even with government handouts.

He's always stated a profit is just around the corner.

Elon is using the green movement (which is altruistic in itself) to promote the buying of his cars. That the world is a better place because of his cars. His cars will save the environment. Which he has stated his dire predictions about the earth. This is also why he created SpaceX so we can have a man on Mars to make sure we live out our lives in a world post-earth.

Nevermind the fact that his cars are made from batteries (the materials to make the car aren't green in any sense of the word) and most of the electric still come from coal. But he plays people's altruistic tendencies to a tee.

The green movement is a social mission; trying to solve that social mission is not the same thing as altruism, nor is taking government money to accomplish that mission - it's simply using an available tool to get the job done, I think.
But it is. The government creating laws that require higher MPG, or a certain amount of cars to be electric made feeds into helping his company. Instead of letting the free market determine if they make good cars.

The same goes for the tax rebate for his cars. Having poor people pay for what is essentially a "rich person's" car.
 
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lludwig

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Hol' up. Selfless and disinterested doesn't equal self-sacrifice. The giving tree is selfless but you don't need to self destruct or act against your self interest in order to be altruistic.
I'd argue it's different to EXPECT something in return FOR YOURSELF than to choose to pursue a venture that is of benefit to someone and produces revenue as a plus, which you can roll up into other ventures of the similar nature, which is coincidentally what I'm trying to do with my product. I don't need to be homeless to help the homeless. I can sell a product and help the homeless and if I have extra I'll help who knows who next. I think the intention makes it altruistic, not where the funds come from.
And to be clear, Ayn Rand has also said she's not against helping others. It should be done voluntarily and not put you into any harm.
 

lludwig

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Musk is a bad example that leads to such comparisons. I just think he is a good guy that wants to leave his mark.
Agree, though you can be a "good guy" and yet have be morally or philosophically wrong.

There are many current business leaders who might be trying to do the right thing, but their premises are all wrong.

The question that Ayn Rand brings up in the book are they any different?

Is a person who has malintent any different from someone who's just has a belief that's wrong?
 

csalvato

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Hol' up. Selfless and disinterested doesn't equal self-sacrifice. The giving tree is selfless but you don't need to self destruct or act against your self interest in order to be altruistic.
Ayn Rand defines altruism slightly differently. Yes, I know this is confusing, but hey I'm just the messenger.

In her terms, you are altruistic if you sacrifice yourself for the means of others.

That you hurt yourself to help others.

She also believes this is the most immoral thing one can do.
I think we're all on the same page, really; just getting caught up in definitions.

If we throw all of those terms in the bin, we're talking about a few different drivers:
  • Sacrificing yourself for others.
  • Focusing on helping others, and not necessarily expecting anything in return
  • Focusing on helping others, and expecting something in return
  • Focusing on helping yourself, and if you help others too, that's cool
I don't think this necessarily makes things more clear - but maybe we can all agree we're actually on the same page by throwing away terms?

Profit? He's certainly not. Tesla is certainly NOT profitable even with government handouts.
I'm going to take this to DM, since I think it would derail this thread, and I'm interested in discussing it with you more :cool:
 

csalvato

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I wanna read, thanks

There'll be a new thread for the next chapters anyway
OK!

Profit? He's certainly not. Tesla is certainly NOT profitable even with government handouts.

He's always stated a profit is just around the corner.

Elon is using the green movement (which is altruistic in itself) to promote the buying of his cars. That the world is a better place because of his cars. His cars will save the environment. Which he has stated his dire predictions about the earth. This is also why he created SpaceX so we can have a man on Mars to make sure we live out our lives in a world post-earth.

Nevermind the fact that his cars are made from batteries (the materials to make the car aren't green in any sense of the word) and most of the electric still come from coal. But he plays people's altruistic tendencies to a tee.

But it is. The government creating laws that require higher MPG, or a certain amount of cars to be electric made feeds into helping his company. Instead of letting the free market determine if they make good cars.

The same goes for the tax rebate for his cars. Having poor people pay for what is essentially a "rich person's" car.
Tesla has to be focused on profit because it's taking for-profit investors. Sure, Elon may be scamming his investors like Madoff, but it doesn't seem that way to me.

The company needs to be in the red and not be profitable. Getting out of that hole is very hard, and will take a lot longer than almost anyone expects. I don't think that's for lack of trying or because he's trying to bamboozle the public.

He also isn't controlling the gov't, and, AFAIK, he's not even lobbying for his position in congress like FAANG is lobbying for their positions on data privacy.

I believe it's pretty clear that it's his intention is to realize his mission at a profit. What makes you disagree? Because his company is in the red?

If so, that's commonplace in the high tech industry...just doesn't seem like a fair assessment to me.

----------

I think a key point in what Rand is doing, even in these early chapters is showing that there are people who preach altruism as an ideal, but they tend to be hypocritical.

In the case of James Taggart, he's preaching altruism, but only for his personal gain to better other people's opinions of him.

In reality, some people are even more nefarious (e.g. preaching altruism to raise money for the poor or to do God's work, then using that money to buy a private jet).

I don't think Musk comes anywhere close to falling into that category.
 

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In her terms, you are altruistic if you sacrifice yourself for the means of others.

That you hurt yourself to help others.

She also believes this is the most immoral thing one can do
She didn’t have kids huh?
 

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Agreed. Also reminds me of all socialist leaders in South America preaching "we are with The People" blabbla bla pocketing everything and vacationing in Miami, using the most expensive hospitals while ours fall apart etc etc. you know how it goes. Every page of this novel makes me think of how things work down there.

Fake altruism at its finest just to manipulate for your own personal gain.
 

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How did you guess?

Though long-term she is right though. Even for your kids.
Isn't it cool how this can trigger discussions at so many levels

From the creators of Elon Musk's Altruism comes

Helicopter Parents
 

lludwig

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Fake altruism at its finest just to manipulate for your own personal gain.
It's a common sales technique, I'm not knocking it but hey it works.

Tony Robbins does this with the sale of his books. He'll donate to charity for every book bought.
 
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lludwig

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Tesla has to be focused on profit because it's taking for-profit investors. Sure, Elon may be scamming his investors like Madoff, but it doesn't seem that way to me.

The company needs to be in the red and not be profitable. Getting out of that hole is very hard, and will take a lot longer than almost anyone expects. I don't think that's for lack of trying or because he's trying to bamboozle the public.
In the end, Tesla is a car company and history shows car companies aren't that profitable. Especially at the valuations of what Tesla is going for.

Does Telsa have some neat inhouse tech? Sure does it does, but justify that high valuation is debatable.

It's not like there aren't other companies who are building similar autonomous drive cars or building electric vehicles.

Those car companies have huge competitiveness since they've been building cars for many years and know how to do so at a profit.

This makes Tesla not so unique.

Can Elon pull it out of his a$$ and make money? Sure he's done things by the skin of his teeth from his biography I read.

He also isn't controlling the gov't, and, AFAIK, he's not even lobbying for his position in congress like FAANG is lobbying for their positions on data privacy.

I believe it's pretty clear that it's his intention is to realize his mission at a profit. What makes you disagree? Because his company is in the red?
While he might not be lobbying, he's benefiting directly from government laws. He's also making money from SpaceX primarily from government contracts.

Actually I disagree because of his off-putting comments he made at his quarterly conference call. Analysts asked him real questions about the companies numbers and he scalfed at them like "who you are you to ask such a dumb question".

I think a key point in what Rand is doing, even in these early chapters is showing that there are people who preach altruism as an ideal, but they tend to be hypocritical.

In the case of James Taggart, he's preaching altruism, but only for his personal gain to better other people's opinions of him.

In reality, some people are even more nefarious (e.g. preaching altruism to raise money for the poor or to do God's work, then using that money to buy a private jet).

I don't think Musk comes anywhere close to falling into that category.
No, he's not at the same level as say level of a Bernie Maddoff.

Nor even James Taggart in the book himself is an outright fraud.

But Elon is using altruism to sell cars is in the end what was my primary point. And as I just mentioned using altruism to sell works and works very well. Because it leads to one of our primary beliefs in society.
 

csalvato

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It's a common sales technique, I'm not knocking it but hey it works.

Tony Robbins does this with the sale of his books. He'll donate for every book bought.
I think you are conflating donations and accomplishing a social mission with altruism. Not all donations are altruistic. Donating for every book sold adds value to the purchaser, it's not an altruistic move.
 

lludwig

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I think you are conflating donations and accomplishing a social mission with altruism. Not all donations are altruistic. Donating for every book sold adds value to the purchaser, it's not an altruistic move.
No, I'm referring to the one being sold to.

They look to say Tony Robbins and think "Look how altruistic Tony Robbins is by giving up some of his profits to charity". The prospect looks at that and thinks "Tony is doing right in the world so therefore I will buy his book".

It's a very powerful sale technique.

The law of reciprocity.
 
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How did you guess?

Though long-term she is right though. Even for your kids.
Explain how any woman could bring a baby and birth it and feed it for the recommended first two years without sacrifice?

Then explain how any man works and provides for his family without doing the same?
 
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csalvato

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In the end, Tesla is a car company and history shows car companies aren't that profitable. Especially at the valuations of what Tesla is going for.

Does Telsa have some neat inhouse tech? Sure does it does, but justify that high valuation is debatable.

It's not like there aren't other companies who are building similar autonomous drive cars or building electric vehicles.

Those car companies have huge competitiveness since they've been building cars for many years and know how to do so at a profit.

This makes Tesla not so unique.

Can Elon pull it out of his a$$ and make money? Sure he's done things by the skin of his teeth from his biography I read.

While he might not be lobbying, he's benefiting directly from government laws. He's also making money from SpaceX primarily from government contracts.

Actually I disagree because of his off-putting comments he made at his quarterly conference call. Analysts asked him real questions about the companies numbers and he scalfed at them like "who you are you to ask such a dumb question".
Thanks for elaborating!

Going back to the point that he's being altruistic, nothing you said denotes a level of altruistic motivation – just that you believe he's misguided (and there's definitely a case for that).

I also don't see how taking government contracts, belittling analysts, or benefiting from existing laws/grants means he's being an altruist.

He's definitely using a tool that's available to accomplish his mission, and also being a jerk. Seems like a different point though. :)

I'm not sure where to take this convo from here...we seem on very different wavelengths on this topic.

Explain how any woman could bring a baby and birth it and feed it for the recommended first two years without sacrifice?

Then explain how any man works and provides for his family without doing the same?
The argument here is that the parents of the child are having the children for themselves. There's a ton of motivations to become a parent:
  1. A belief in fulfilling life's purpose
  2. The satisfaction of raising and cultivating life
  3. Passing on genetic material
  4. Because it's highly regarded in their social circle (e.g. friends, family, church)
In this line of logic, all the sacrifices you make after having the child are fulfilling your own desires, not that of the child (who never asked to be birthed into this world).

Using the Giving Tree as an example of parenting, the tree is helping the boy because of the satisfaction it gives the tree – even until it leads to the tree having to give everything to the boy, and losing its own identity (and it's own happiness).


EDIT: I missed this from you @lludwig:

But Elon is using altruism to sell cars is in the end what was my primary point. And as I just mentioned using altruism to sell works and works very well. Because it leads to one of our primary beliefs in society.
I think I understand your point better now – and the reason I'm having a hard time getting aligned is because I don't think the word `altruism` is the correct word here, so it's tripping me up – yet I don't know the right word :rofl:
 

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Are we accounting for the possibility of having multiple motives? Most human action is driven by multiple motives. Everything doesn't need to be simply "self-seeking" or "other-seeking." Everything doesn't need to be "either/or" and reduced to a single motive.

Hypothetical:

Maybe the amount of disposable plastic water bottles distresses me because I know the havoc they wreak on the environment. I genuinely care about the environment. I come up with a biodegradable material that is just as useful as the plastic bottles, but biodegrades within a year.

I patent it.

I expect it to truly help the environment (which I genuinely care about).

I also expect to make a ton of money.

--

Is my example even possible in the Randian universe? Or is the possibility of me innovating because I care about something other than myself not possible in her world?

Serious question.
 

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Are we accounting for the possibility of having multiple motives? Most human action is driven by multiple motives. Everything doesn't need to be simply "self-seeking" or "other-seeking." Everything doesn't need to be "either/or" and reduced to a single motive.

Hypothetical:

Maybe the amount of disposable plastic water bottles distresses me because I know the havoc they wreak on the environment. I genuinely care about the environment. I come up with a biodegradable material that is just as useful as the plastic bottles, but biodegrades within a year.

I patent it.

I expect it to truly help the environment (which I genuinely care about).

I also expect to make a ton of money.

--

Is my example even possible in the Randian universe? Or is the possibility of me innovating because I care about something other than myself not possible in her world?

Serious question.
We'll have to keep reading? Maybe there's an altruistic character? This single novel isn't her entire philosophy I'm sure, but the characters in this particular one are more accomplishment-centered I guess. Not even money, at no point anybody is like "oh look at my Beemer". Dagny even gives away her diamond bracelet because their values go beyond material things. For them the success of their enterprises is a principle issue not a "I'm such a capitalist pig I want money haha oink"

Edit- Grammurrrr
 

lludwig

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Explain how any woman could bring a baby and birth it and feed it for the recommended first two years without sacrifice?

Then explain how any man works and provides for his family without doing the same?
I never said you shouldn't sacrifice. Those are Ayn Rand's terms. I did say in the long term she is right though.

Having a 30-year-old child home and not working and living off of you is wrong. They eventually need to be independent, productive members of society.

Though having a child is a choice. You choose to have children because it will make you happier than without. You did it for your own selfish reasons is the logic. And yes I have children.
 
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lludwig

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I think I understand your point better now – and the reason I'm having a hard time getting aligned is because I don't think the word `altruism` is the correct word here, so it's tripping me up – yet I don't know the right word :rofl:
I'm using it the way Ayn Rand defines it. Yes I agree it's odd and really needs another term for it. Don't shoot the messenger :)

It is the law of reciprocity and mentioned in the book Influence.

 
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I never said you shouldn't sacrifice. Those are Ayn Rand's terms. I did say in the long term she is right though.

Having a 30-year-old child home and not working and living off of you is wrong. They eventually need to be independent, productive members of society.

Though having a child is a choice. You choose to have children because it will make you happier than without. You did it for your own selfish reasons is the logic. And yes I have children.
So according to Ayn Rand who you are now speaking for since you’ve apparently read her so extensively and you’re sharing with us since we are specifically asking you to tell us all about her even though we haven’t read the book, choosing to keep your child and raise it to move out and be a productive member of society is ultimately a selfish choice?
 
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I'm using it the way Ayn Rand defines it. Yes I agree it's odd and really needs another term for it. Don't shoot the messenger :)

It is the law of reciprocity and mentioned in the book Influence.

Should we continue to use your, I mean Ayn’s definitions for the remainder of the book? This could get confusing.

Do you have a glossary of terms for her that doesn’t spoil the whole book for us, unlike the other link you shared?
 

lludwig

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Choosing to keep your child and raise it to move out and be a productive member of society is ultimately a selfish choice?
Yes.

According to Ayn Rand being rationally selfish is the best thing you can do.

Note the word rationally in there, as that's a key concept as well.

I don't claim to know everything about Ayn Rand, nor study all of her writings, nor am I an Objectivist. I just have read a lot of the subject.

This very subject has been discussed quite a bit online. So I don't think I'm speaking out of line on it.
 

lludwig

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Do you have a glossary of terms for her that doesn’t spoil the whole book for us, unlike the other link you shared?
Perhaps read the book first :)

You can understand the book without understanding Objectivism or her terms.
 
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Perhaps read the book first :)

You can understand the book without understanding Objectivism or her terms.
I’m quite familiar with passionate arguments based entirely on one word being improperly defined. It’s imperative to online discussion to agree to terms and to define things well.

If this happens again will you please explain the differences between the Webster’s dictionary definition and Ayn Rand’s definition faster? It will save us all time.
 

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