But the best evidence we have that time travel is not possible, and never will
be, is that we have not been invaded by hordes of tourists from the future.
—Stephen Hawking, “The Future of the Universe”
As far as why the masses cannot survive without these elite and why the elite should abandon them, Galt says:
The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.
This is, clearly enough, a reversal of the classic Marxist view. Rather than having a few capitalists deriving their vast wealth by exploiting masses of workers, Rand envisions the masses deriving their very survival by exploiting the competent and intelligent few. All the unfortunate elites receive is mere “material payment”, which is presumably not enough compensation for their efforts. The idea of a small elite toiling to keep the moronic masses alive was also put forth in Cyril Kornbluth’s 1951 short story “The Marching Morons”, which predates Atlas Shrugged.
Mike LaBossiere goes on to see how, with the appropriate blinders and intellectual myopia that some could see the world this way. Great ideas, great inventions, culture changing innovations are few. Out of all the people who have ever inhabited this planet a very small percent of them have the combination of intellect and drive to give those ideas life. Humanity could probably do quite well with less leadership than we have in either private enterprise, government or philanthropic endeavors, but the masses do seem to need leadership. I have some experience with formal team business management theory and I readily admit that a very flattened pyramid of authority can be frustrating, messy and frequently it is the individuals who have the least power and the most to lose who have sought to return to a power centered authority driven management model. They seem willing to sacrifice personal power to gain expediency of problem solving, especially in conflicts with others. Probably not much of a shock that the same people who like a nice neat, if excessive, power structure also tend to have the least formal education and being self-directed is not one of their great features – though they do have positive qualities, like a high degree of loyalty and concern with the team’s overall success. As much as the inventors, executive class, leadership, innovative thinkers, mathematicians, etc are needed by the masses of people, those at the top are not islands unto themselves,
The above points do, of course, rest on the assumption that Galt is right about the many. However, the claim that “the man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains” certainly can be questioned.
This matter is, of course, an empirical one. Taken at face value, the “bottom men” are so inept that they could not even acquire food for themselves and so useless that they contribute nothing (at least nothing to those above them). While there are some people who are like this, they seem to be rather few in number. First, average intelligence (or less) would seem to suffice to be able to sort out how to acquire food (if only after a rough period of trial and error). There is also the obvious point that the elites would probably also have a rough time of it without farmers and other providers of food. Put crudely, it is not the CEO who is out in the field raising the crops or tending the cows. Second, while there are some people who do contribute nothing, most people do work and contribute. As just noted, the food that appears on the CEO’s plate does not arrive there by magic. The roads, universities, dams, power plants and so on also do not appear and run themselves. As D’Alembert said, “but while justly respecting great geniuses for their enlightenment, society ought not to degrade the hands by which it is served.” That seems sound advice.
I forget where I read it, I tend to think it was a book on the psychology of teams in modern corporate structure, the idea that reaching the personal development stage where one acknowledges the value and contributions of others means you have reached the kind of black belt stage of team management. The same concept could also apply to how we value workers in American society. They seem to do a fair job of valuing themselves. So it is perplexing that many gravitate towards adoration of the very hierarchical model put forth by Randians or Objectivitists. They have a picture of some tea baggers at the link. These people seem to believe they will be John Galts(see link at bottom) one day or believe they should know their place and keep the Galtian model in place. It is one of the ironies of conservatives and most libertarians that they seem to worship the authoritarian hierarchical economic model, yet claim to have such great esteem for the freedom of the individual. If the latter were true there would be plenty of common ground with classical or post-John F. Kennedy liberals who believe in maximizing personal freedom while seeking a balance, a respect for the commons and how our actions might be to the detriment of others. There is little common ground because in reality these tea baggers and libertarians are actually the ones who Galt would assign to the slag heap of humanity. mere lesser mortals who might serve some lowly purpose. In politics and the national stage Objectivism is rarely mentioned. It is discussed a lot on the net where The Mises Institue, Cato and Lew Rockwell generate a lot of net buzz, but in real life their half baked ideas are claoked in subtler, less derisive terms. This About statement from the wen site of Shopfloor, a blog of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is a great example of what has become the nation’s way of thinking about itself in terms of work, economics and how people picture themselves as part of the big picture,
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 12 million workers, contributes more than $1.6 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, is the largest driver of economic growth in the nation and accounts for the lion’s share of private sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers create jobs and growth. The NAM – 11,000 manufacturing companies and nearly 12 million workers – is our strongest force for sensible government policies that will reduce the cost of production and tear down barriers to exports.
How many jobs have manufactures created? Probably close to none. There might be a shop that has a workforce of one or two people that are assume all roles – management, labor, research and development, sales, marketing and maybe even delivery. Any manufacturers that does not have that model contracts with labor to perform work it cannot or will not do on its own. Let’s say those 11,000 manufacturers employed no one – who would they sell their products to. Each other? Not a very big customer base. Without labor you not only do not have qualified people to create wealth for the corporation, you also have no workers who use their paychecks to buy your products. At best manufacturers, by themselves are planes with one wing. They cannot, never have, created one job by themselves, they must have the value added by labor to produce anything that will pay costs plus a profit. Captains of industry such as the Koch brothers inherited their wealth. They rely on scientists and engineers to create their products and invent the machinery to make their products. Look at the top paid Wall St investment banks and their leadership. The vast majority children of privilege. They have taken the formulas of ex-physicists and used them to invent investment products out of thin air – such as CDOs. They do not produce much of anything, they are deeply reliant on farmers producing grain, truck drivers delivering lumber, nurses working overtime to buy a new car. Yet these fantasies that society must nearly worship, pamper and give even more power to those at the top persists.
The Post said while polls show most Americans blame wasteful federal programs for the red ink, routine bumps in defense and domestic spending account for only about 15 percent of the problem.
Two recessions torpedoed the stream of income tax revenues that had the government on solid footing. The combination of tax cuts under President George W. Bush and President Obama and recessionary losses totaled about $6.3 trillion in revenues that never appeared, the review of CBO data shows.
Bush administration spending decisions added 12 percent and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan piled on $1.3 trillion, the Post said.
I’ll admit partial defeat here. A sizable portion of the public has become convinced that our economic woes are all about runaway spending. Its about unpaid bills leftover from King George and a Republican Congress that acted like his hand maiden rather than the legislative branch and a lack of revenue.
Detective Work on Courier Led to Breakthrough on Bin Laden. The best article I’ve read today on the events which lead up to Bin Laden’s death.
And this is related to the top post, The Lottery Mentality
Personally, I lean toward two other theories. Americans are mistaken about income inequality because of national self-confidence and the lottery effect.
By national self-confidence, I mean the widespread conviction that the American way is probably right because all those other ways don’t seem to work out so well. This is a wonderful national quality and one of the reasons America has such resilience. But confidence in the American way can make it hard for the country as a whole to recognize when things aren’t working.
Take, for instance, the health care debate, when a politically effective criticism of what has come to be known as Obamacare was to argue that it would destroy the “best” health care system in the world. Mary Meeker, a Silicon Valley guru of impeccably capitalist and American credentials debunked that idea in her recent USA, Inc. presentation, in which she pointed out that “U.S.A. per capita health care spending is 3x OECD average, yet the average life expectancy and a variety of health indicators in the U.S. fall below average. But if you spend way more than everyone else, shouldn’t your results (a.k.a. performance) be better than everyone else’s, or at least near the top?”
Aside from faith in American national excellence, the other main reason Americans seem so unperturbed by the widening chasm between the rich and everyone else is what I like to call the lottery effect. Buying lottery tickets is clearly an irrational act — the odds are hugely stacked against us. But many millions of us do, because we see the powerful evidence that an ordinary person, someone just like us whose only qualifying act was to buy a ticket, wins our favorite lottery every week.
For many Americans, the nation’s rowdy form of capitalism is a lottery that has similarly bestowed fabulous rewards on the Everyman. The current leading exemplar of self-made billions is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and he may soon be outstripped by the even more instant cyber-star Andrew Mason, the founder of Groupon.
But the problem with lotteries is that there are only a few winners.