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13.8.01

I finshed Atlas Shrugged today. Finally. Overall, I thought the story was good, but the philosophy got overbearing at times (although it makes sense, as it was her last work of fiction before she switched over to just writing essays about Objectivism). I'm kind of ambivalent about the ending, specifically the fate of Eddie Willers. On the one hand, I really liked Eddie (though I can't really explain why), especially once she turned Jim Taggart from a well-meaning altruist into a bastard as selfish as any objectivist but without their ban on the use of force, who was only using "the public good" as an excuse for grabbing power for himself and tearing other people down. So I was disappointed that Eddie (spoiler, highlight to read)wound up laying on the tracks in front of a stalled and abandoned train. But on the other hand, despite knowing that, as a treatise on Objectivism disguised as a novel, the book would end with the Objectivists triumphant, I was sort of hoping for a more cynical end. In this respect (spoiler)I was disappointed with "Project F" -- I was hoping they had gone beyond traditional torture and come up with a way -- like a drug to increase suggestibility -- to make Galt work for them, which would lead Dagny to have to kill him lest his genius be used to prop up the looters, or something like that. So maybe I should be happy that Eddie met defeat, since there was a cynical ending for at least the one guy I liked.

There are a lot of problems I have with Objectivism, but I won't bore you with them. I just have one nagging question: How would an Objectivist society pay the police and the army? John Galt says quite explicitly that there is a role for government in protecting the necessary preconditions of a rational society -- enforcement of laws against theft, muder, etc, and courts to judge contract disputes, and a military to provide defense against outside threats. But I can't see any way that taxes could be considered anything other than "looting," and thus antithetical to Objectivist principles. And since Objectivism refuses all forms of compromise (never mind that every trade is a compromise between a seller trying to get as much money for his goods as possible and a buyer trying to pay as little as possible), there's no way to say that a little tax is ok because the need for police protection outweighs the evil of taxation. It's possible, I suppose, to have some sort of privatized policing (though that seems liable to turn into a protection racket) and private dispute mediation in place of courts. But I can't imagine how a privatised army (wherein a person exchanges money for the service provided if they want the service) could work. Would they let the invading Canadian armies take over 203 Elm Street because Mr. Smith didn't want to pay for the army, but defend 205 Elm Street because Mrs. Jones bought the full military package (including the missile shield option)?

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