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I finally got a hit from a search engine. And oddly enough, the search string was australian core tool and scraper tradition is. Yet my page doesn't seem to show up in Google's results. Strange.

I reached the halfway point of Atlas Shrugged today. And I figured out what the problem is. Throughout the book, she's extoling Objectivism by setting her Objectivist protagonists against disreputable characters acting in the name of the "common good." It's pretty clear that she's trying to present a false two-option choice between Objectivism and a quasi-communist strawman version of altrusim. But today I realised an interesting contradiction in the way she does it. We're supposed to see Objectivism as better because it works -- Taggart Transcontinental and Rearden Steel are booming in the earlier part of the book, but as a rapid succession of restrictive laws are passed for the public good, the economy of the whole country goes down the tilet. So far, so good -- selfishness (lassiez-faire capitalism) brings prosperity, altruism (socialism) doesn't. But then it occurred to me why the "public good" laws seemed so terrible -- they weren't actually serving the public good. I want the restrictions lifted not so much because I see how unjust it is to Dagny and Hank and their fellow industrialists, but because she makes it clear that their immediate consequence is poverty for all. So we're presented with a false choice in the book. It isn't individual at the expense of the collective versus the collective at the expense of the individual. It's a choice between one system that serves the industrialists' self interest and the public good, and one that, while in the name of the public good, does neither. If she really wanted to be convincing (to the extent that a fictional economic situation would be "convincing"), she should show us one situation in which Rearden prospers and the public suffers, versus one where the public prospers at Rearden's expense, and try to get us to feel that the first is better. The second section of the book is titled "Either-Or," but what Rand is giving us is "both or neither."

I suppose one could make the argument that she wants to show that trying to do things in the name of the public good will bring harm to the public, while allowing people to pursue their own self-interest is ultimately in the public interest. However, that seems like a contradictory position in the context of Objectivism -- be selfish because it's in the best interests of everyone. She's trying to sell us on selfishness by appealing to the altruist in us. And I'm not buying it.


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