Ayn Rand and The Martian

The Martian is the most Randian movie in years, perhaps in decades. Ayn Rand is best known for her defense of capitalism but her defense of reason was even more fundamental to her thought. The Martian has no bearing on politics but it reminded me of Rand’s essay on Apollo 11 and the moon landing, the launch of which she witnessed Apollo 11 - 2from Kennedy Space Center.

Rand wrote that the Apollo 11 mission “conveyed the sense that we were watching a magnificent work of art – a play dramatizing a single theme: the efficacy of man’s mind.” The  efficacy of man’s mind and the power of reason is exactly the theme of The Martian.

As Rand continued:

That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubt…And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being–an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.

The difference is that Apollo 11 gave the sense that we were watching a magnificent work of art but it was real. While the Martian gives the sense that we are watching something real but it is a magnificent work of art. Have we not been diminished? Nevertheless, the sense of life of the event and the movie are the same and the movie is gripping, thrilling and uplifting, a triumph for Ridley Scott and the author, Andy Weir.

Addendum: See Tyler’s review as well.


And yet it isn't capitalism. In both cases the great minds couldn't achieve the moon landing without a very anti-capitalist policy of gov't taxing and borrowing to fund a huge space program. It's hard to get the same feeling watching either if the story was about a private venture capitalist borrowing a few billion to make satellite radio to paying subscribers, say.


+1 Yep!!

Perhaps you should read what Alex wrote.

Ayn Rand is best known for her defense of capitalism but her defense of reason was even more fundamental to her thought. - See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/10/ayn-rand-and-the-martian.html#comments

Was/is NASA cost effective? Is there a lot of waste in program? We can debate these things. But that does not take away the achievements of the people involved.

Countries are very good good at waging war. They can organize resources and create almost unthinkable weapons of mass destruction. People show amazing courage and resourcefulness under stressful situations. But you usually surrender liberties and freedom to achieve those state goals. You can praise the soldier and his efforts while questioning the role of the government and the creation of the situation.

Alisa Rosenbaum was more an emotional romantic than rationalist.

Collecting moon rocks was a colossal waste of scarce economic resources, but standard operating procedure for government induced activity. Squandering private resources is not a 'public good'.

Military competition was the impetus for the U.S. Space and Apollo programs. Apollo did nothing for genuine military capability.

"Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance." ― George S. Patton Jr.

It depends on how serious Rand is in her narrative. If she merely extends a metaphor, and paints a polar opposite of (real) Marxism, no harm done.

Of course, taken literally, all that statist innovation is impossible. And many take her to mean it pretty literally.

Yes, the war metaphor was no joke. I read Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff a couple months back. A major theme of the book was how the Mercury and Apollo missions were very much about beating the Soviets both in the public's mind and the minds of those who were a part of those missions. There's a quote from Lyndon Johnson which sums it up quite nicely: “I do not believe that this generation of Americans is willing to resign itself to going to bed each night by the light of a Communist moon.”

Startups by their very nature are wasteful because they have to constantly experiment with different approaches where the best practices have not been established.

The current private space programs would be much more expensive if they did not have the findings of the earlier space programs to build on.

Countries are very good good at waging war.

Only when it is Government verses Government not as good as when it is Government against a group of people.

"Was/is NASA cost effective? Is there a lot of waste in program? We can debate these things. But that does not take away the achievements of the people involved."

True and Rand was speaking not as a capitalist but as a humanist. I do find it ironic, though, that what she views as such a great and noble human achievement would, at the same time, not happen had the US blindly adopted her policy recommendations. Not only that, her philosophy essentially said the project was immoral theft.

An analogy might be a thief who rips off little old ladies but uses the money to build himself a fantastic mansion that is a paragon of great architecture and interior design.


Capitalism and socialism have nothing to do with this. The former is an economic systems where the means of production are privately owned, and the latter where they are publicly owned.

There is no question the moon landing was a government led effort funded with taxes, but that doesn't make it non-capitalist or socialist. Public goods are widely recognized as a market failure - the inability of the free market to provide the optimal level of a public good voluntarily. This does not mean in the absence of government intervention the free market would provide no space exploration or never get to the moon. In fact, the government action itself could be as inefficient as the market failure, going to the moon when the costs exceed the benefits.

The moon landing involved technology that was widely developed by private businesses who owned their capital. Government provided a subsidy for their actions, not appropriating their capital. Even during WWII when government directed corporate activity to the war effort, private firms still owned their capital and were compensated for their use.

Public good provision isn't socialism or anticapitalist. It might be viewed as anti-free market, but only to a limited degree for limited purposes.

That isn't even remotely true. The moon landing involved importing Nazi scientists and having a government funded rocketry program here and in Germany. I'll add this to my collection of "lies conservatives have told me".

The emigration of German scientists began decades before the intent of a moon landing - fifteen years at the least.

The space race was a veiled ICBM improvement and demonstration program. Even that is a public good. This doesn't change the fact that the resources of production were privately owned.

The point, for the slow witted among you, is that not all government action is akin to socialism. The successes of democratic government are not a feather in the cap of socialism. But every failure of government raises a legitimate doubt as to the efficacy of command economies. Many logical implications point in only one direction.

"The space race was a veiled ICBM improvement and demonstration program."

Not the race to the moon, though. NASA specially built the Saturn V rocket as the launch vehicle for the moon missions and retired it almost immediately after the Apollo program was terminated. You don't need anything nearly as powerful as a Saturn V to deliver a hydrogen bomb and nothing like it has been built since. It was a one-off.

The purpose of the Moon Race and the entire Cold War Arms Race was to squander Soviet resources.

We spent 6-8% of economic output on defense to force the Soviets to spend 20%+ in an attempt to maintain power parity. It worked. America won. The USSR was bankrupted.

Everything else was a sideshow.

"The emigration of German scientists began decades before the intent of a moon landing – fifteen years at the least"

Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither was the Apollo team. What is your point?

"This doesn’t change the fact that the resources of production were privately owned."


Anyways, I guess this is exhibit B in lies conservatives repeatedly told me about the Moon Mission.

So, investing in capital assets by paying millions of workers to "profit" millions of taxpaying workers plus the farmers who got free land by government land redistribution from the native landowners to immigrants, to profit the corporations who got paid to build the capital assets who then redirected that capital to "profit" from selling to 150 million taxpayers new stuff based on taxpayer funded capital to "profit" taxpayer consumers who got consumer surplus,..., is not capitalism because too much stuff profits workers and consumers, not the capitalists with monopoly power to create shortages to create profits?

The sat radio "capitalists" borrowed billions several times to use the taxpayer funded capital assets to fail to merely pay back the debt, causing savers (workers) to take haircuts, plus the investors losing it all in Federal technocrat wealth redistribution (bankruptcy court judges and masters) is your idea of successful capitalism??

Failed sat ventures are numerous. The sat comm that has been profitable has relied on various stages of state capitalism, like PUC return-on-capital-guaranteed telcos (AT&T) for PUC approved capital investments, and then free spectrum granted by the FCC and ITU.

Who do you think funded Bell Labs? We the People by way of state capitalism implemented by PUCs at State and Federal levels. Once the telcos were deregulated for new services, the Bell Labs that had been the source of all the new technology leading to new services became too costly to shareholders so all the jobs were killed to boost monopoly profits. And if you stop innovation, monopoly profit is easier.

After all, Bell Lab researchers didn't get Nobel prizes for figuring out how to make sat comm work better, but for figuring out that the noise was not a bug in the Bell Lab hardware design for sat comm. LEDs and fiber comm came from state capitalism R&D - the only way AT&T could pay higher dividends was to increase the labor cost of its capital investments because PUC regulations prohibited capital gains and profits, instead allowing only market returns on invested capital - no economic profits - on investments in labor approved by the PUC. Economists advised lawmakers and the PUC on capitalism, explaining ROIC, R&D to produce innovation, capital asset depreciation as a cost because assets have limited lives, the need to pay labor fairly, so for AT&T and its subsidiaries, paying for the maximum labor to create the most invested capital it could convince the PUC to approve was the only way to increase dividends. But if the investments were approved by the PUC, the dividend increases were assured.

Milton Friedman hated this system because the telcos and power utilities were too good, serving too many customers too reliably. He argued that a significant percentage of customers be charged more to price them out of the market, and the reliability dropped a lot so high prices could be charged to a few who are willing to pay a lot for reliability. He saw inequality as being cheaper for the middle who cluster together to be served cheaply and who can easily put up with power and telco outages of several days from lack of investment in prevention and redundancy.

But Comcast has proved you get higher prices along with poor reliability and inequality of service to deliver high monopoly profits without state capitalism of PUCs.

Comcast has not innovated. Ted Turner innovated to extend his FCC state capitalism assets. ARPA (taxpayers) funded innovation and lots of state capital assets. Comcast has only sought to generate monopoly profits off the fruits of state capitalism, lobbying Congress hard to block competition that would kill its monopoly profits.

Of course, Comcast depends on the PUCs regulatory authority that still remain to set the rules and prices for use of the public way which includes the poles for power and telco. Call use of public ways crony capitalism.

As if the private sector couldn't do it, and largely does by being contracted by govt anyway.

Who wants to hear about Ayn Rand? She was a selfish immoral heartless author who had a following of cruelest excuses of empty shells of bodies who believe only the strong should survive. Hitler got a start on that.

Nichole, your comment is silly (and I'm not referring to the grammar and punctuation). Rand, whatever you think of her philosophy, had no philosophical kinship with the statist Adolf Hitler. "The needs of the community outweigh the needs of the individual" was the Nazi slogan printed on every Reich coin. Does that sound like Rand? No sane, honest person could read THE FOUNTAINHEAD or ATLAS SHRUGGED and come away with "only the strong should survive." Anti-Rand "critics" need to grow up. You want to take on the lady, fine. But these silly, fact-free rants are just tiresome. Their cumulative effect (to those not involved in the 15 minutes of Hate) is that the anti-Rand crowd literally have nothing to offer but insults.

At least you didn't type it in all caps.

Boonton October 5, 2015 at 7:31 am

And yet it isn’t capitalism. In both cases the great minds couldn’t achieve the moon landing without a very anti-capitalist policy of gov’t taxing and borrowing to fund a huge space program.

It is about capitalism. The policy of government taxation is not anti-capitalist. It is anti-liberal (in the classical sense). Capitalism does not require the state to be small. Nor does it care if money is taken from low level consumers and given to large companies.

It is about capitalism because only a capitalist society could afford to do something so frivolous. Socialist states are too close to starvation to do something like this. It is also about capitalism because it relied so much on Nazi scientists. Who did their best. The Soviet system did not trust anyone especially not their own scientists. So their Nazis were not allowed near the Soviet rocket program. Korolev was so mistrusted he spent six years in the Gulag including time in Kolmya. Name a single American scientist who did any time.

Capitalism assigns people to jobs they want to do. It creates trust in people who do them. It creates the sort of trust that leads to team work. They do not spend their time denouncing each other as in the USSR. They do not live in fear of being shot. Capitalism sent a man to the moon. Socialism did not.

I would think the recent Atlas Shrugged movies are more Randian.

That or "Tomorrowland". I wasn't sure if it was the writers' intent but it's very much Atlas Shrugged.

Hated "Tomorrowland" with a passion..

B rated the book was filmed and was in 2 parts year spart. The last one was a freakish failure.

Yep, and fundamentalist Christians see the image of Jesus in their mashed potatoes.


It's like reading coffee grounds. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

I couldn't help laughing when I read Ayn Rand write "The fundamental significance of Apollo 11's triumph is......moral-epistemological."

Really? And I suppose the primary impact of Google was on theology?

Yes, same feeling here. Quoting Rand for any random Sci-Fi story where human ingenuity saves the day feels like propaganda. Any coherent philosopher fits better, i.e. Bertrand Russell.

Uh, rand was a coherent philosopher, and this narrative fits her philosophy perfectly.

You mean Catholics see the image of Jesus in their mashed potatoes. Fundamentalist Christians are mostly against icons and pictures of Jesus and so know that they have no idea what he looks like.

True. Give the devil his dues.

And yet, there is still a sizeable portion of Americans who will decry every NASA image as a complete fake, looking back to the moon landing as the first in a long series of bogus NASA propaganda. Yet, these people never question the existence of satellite TV or the ability to send nukes across the planet to a fairly specific location ...

landing on the moon is much more difficult...

though i dont think thats why they dont believe it...

I think the common dissonance is more interesting: people who take great pride in NASA and hate big government.

If I recall correctly, Tea Partiers protested against NASA cuts.

You are mixing up Tea Party people with Libertarians.

Tea Party people aren't ideologically anti-big-government, they are nationalists. They like big government when it achieves "National Greatness", such as wars and space travel. They oppose the welfare state, but largely only because they see it as a subsidy for "Anti-American" lifestyles - They don't oppose the welfare state for seniors, because they believe that seniors have "American Values".

They Left often purposely tries to confuse Tea Party with Libertarians, because as the Left as completely abandoned Liberalism and embraced the right-wing paranoid police state, they are losing more and more supporters over to Libertarians.

That is a good explanation, maybe one not common when Tea Partiers were trying to keep libertarians under the roof. Or when libertarians thought they glimsed common cause.

Thank you for that brief description.

A pat explanation for a diffuse movement with no single organizational structure.

Can you actually point to a platform that supports spending on National Greatness that is not actually national defense.

I was there at the Tea Parties. It was a broad spectrum from libertarians to social conservatives. It differed regionally, but out here in San Diego we had many large events and they were all about the spending and big government. Even the social cons kept to the fiscal issues.

Just to play devils advocate, is there an alternative way to deliver broadcast signals to a radio dish and claim it is satellite when it isn't?

Has anyone ever seen the pinpoint delivery of a missile from beginning to end?

You also attack a straw man. Conspiracy theorists do not doubt the existence of satellites, only that we transported men to the moon. They claim radiation would fry them long before getting there.

I don't for one minute believe any of the skeptic claims, but a reasoning person should give them at least 30 seconds. Otherwise you're not thinking at all.

You can usually discount conspiracy theory on its general basis in human nature - an abnormal few are convinced that another abnormal few could pull it off.

Perversely, to believe NASA would lie about moon landings or global warming, you have to believe they are scrupulous enough to keep on messagw.

You need scrupulous liars, something not in the historic record.

Of course the successful conspiracies don't make it into the historical record. By definition.

lol, yes. The logic is that once sealed, they are sealed forever. Whatever conspiracies were in vogue in 1906 are true, but just forgotten.

Fair enough. I'll give just about any conspiracy theory at least 30 second of genuine consideration. Generally, I start with reasoning about interests: "could anyone profit from that?" If not, then I'm very doubtful. But then, still ask: "could any ideological/religious/nationalist purists use it to advance their cause?" If no to both, then I basically write it off.

My understanding is that the Apollo mission was an imperative in response to "holy shit, the Soviets are that far ahead?" after Sputnik. Why risk faking the moon landing? Any potential gain from the "America is great" PR would turn into a ridiculously embarrassing disaster, with the USA as the laughing stock of the entire world for faking it - moreover, waaay to many people would have had to be in on it to pull it off. So, I think it fails both the tests of "could anyone profit?" and "could any ideological/religious/nationalist purists use it to advance their cause?".

So I'm busy dreaming up ways to get signals to satellite TV without satellites. Total fail. No idea :)

The interesting thing about taking a conspiracy theorist seriously, is that often there are grains of truth in their reasoning and you can glean some tidbits about the world, without wholescale buying the conspiracy. So ... Bush didn't do 9-11 on purpose (I'm 99.9% sure, but surely there had to be a couple rogue agents involved), but indeed, why are we sooooo tight with the most radically fundamentalist regime on the planet (Saudi) while purporting to fight radical Islam? And if all the bombers were from Saudi, why attack Afghanistan and Iraq but protect high ranking Saudis and sell them more and more fighter jets? OKOK, raw geopolitical strategizing could explain the apparent contradictions...

Because we weren't always against Radical Islam. The old threat in the 50s, 60s, and 70s was Pan-Arab nationalism. At one point, it seemed possible that Iraq would join the United Arab Republic which would in turn take over Saudi Arabia and there were would be a United States of Arabia in control of huge oil supplies, transportation chokes....and did I mention pro-Soviet?

No we were just one of their main promoters. Who funds the madrassas after all?

I am not sure what you mean, Moreno.

Hmmm. Yeah. Cold War dynamics are before my time. I sorta doubt that a Pan-Arab state would take orders from either side of the Cold War.

New (old) conspiracy: Cold War players preferred it that way (a divided Middle East with client states rather than another contender for power).

An example of a conspiracy theory which turned out to be 100% true (though at a smaller scale) is the Lance Armstrong doping case. And he would got away with it if he wasnt such a jerk... Other cyclists surely did.

There are strange abnormal and mentally affectives posing as good neighbors and heros.A.K.A. nuts

"And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being–an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality."

This was me recently when I changed an electric water valve in my dishwasher that was bad. I was going to call a repair person. But I opened it up, traced the wires. Found an equivalent valve on Amazon. Replaced it, hooked it backed up. It worked.

"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me."

That one too.

Thats one small step for Steve, one ... small step for anyone else too.

Hooray Steve! A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do.

Don't forget about The Incredibles and even Ratatouille since Rand was a fan of Cyrano.

Obviously the Atlas Shrugged trilogy as mentioned above.

"That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubt…And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being–an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality"

The part she forgets in that passage is that it is also a triumph of collective action and a suppression of rational self-interest. The moon-landing was very much a government program, one undertaken for the very un-Randian goal of geopolitics, that cost a huge sum of taxpayer money for almost no rational reason (there were plenty of emotional and spiritual reasons, but I wouldn't think Ayn Rand would give those much weight).

Think of the thousands of extremely qualified engineers and scientists, people who could've gotten massive pay-raises working in the private sector, but who chose to forgo their personal gains for the collective good of advancing human exploration. If those people had followed Rand's advice, there would still be no footsteps on the moon. And while I don't have actual numbers for this, but I bet that if you had made a poll the day after the moon landing asking the American people whether they thought their tax dollars were well spent going to NASA, the result would have been an overwhelming "yes".

It was an achievement of science and mathematics, of engineering and aeronautics. It was also a huge spiritual and emotional achievement. It was, however, in no way a "Randian" achievement.

Think of the thousands of extremely qualified engineers and scientists, people who could’ve gotten massive pay-raises working in the private sector

Most of the people working on the moon mission where in the private sector.

The space race was extremely rational. The problem is you believe the propaganda. The space race was for the development of ICBM technology, and demonstration of the ability to land a large payload very far away. We couldn't do this with actual ICBMs, so we did it in space. The propaganda effort overcame political resistance and provided funding. Keeping the Soviets from thinking we couldn't bomb them from afar is undoubtedly worth the price of admission.

Glad you are intelligent. Randian and their relatives need to go away like the Rhomneys and his running mate a Rand worshiper whomgives him an excuse for all the government handouts he and his mother fell back on when his father passed.Now eith the governments help he's played the ststem and wants the poor to go away and middle class be serfs .

Rational self-interest is about far more than one's take-home pay. Do you really think that an Apollo engineer would be happier and better off with any amount of money if it meant giving up the chance to work on Apollo? I was lucky enough to take a class from a professor who worked on Apollo and got to see a talk by David Scott, commander of Apollo 15. It was obvious that the moon landing was the greatest experience of their lives and that no amount of money could have made them give up that opportunity. They didn't think about it in these terms, but working on or flying Apollo was a supremely selfish act by these two men.

The main character makes it off the planet because the people who left him come back to get him. That doesn't sound very Randian.

Indeed, as Andy Weir says in the novel's final chapter, "every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out."

It doesn't sound Randian if you have only heard about Rand via second-hand accounts.

I've read the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I agree with Joshua's comment below that the crew's decision to risk their lives for their comrade was very altruistic. I take your argument to be that Rand was okay with altruism, correct? Typically, I would see it phrased by Randians like a rationalization of altruism. Like, oh, it's in my self-interest to be altruistic. I feel like that doesn't explain anything.

I think the purpose is to deconstruct, not to explain. If altruism isn't different in core motive from any other act, it loses a lot of its power as
a moral imperative. Many people are, consciously or not, attracted to it mostly as a form of self-overcoming, as opposed to genuine goodwill.

I doesn't have to be THAT altruistic. Do you want to be on the team that leaves people behind or the team that comes back to get you?

This is what occurred to me. The entire crew was very altruistic, and that seems anathema to objectivism.

My favorite part of Atlas Shrugged is when John Galt is captured by the government, who proceeds to torture him. D'Anconia, Rearden, and Dagny all choose not to save Galt, because "we're only in it for ourselves."

Oh sorry that didn't happen. It happened exactly the opposite, they pulled a SEAL Team Six and broke Galt's rear-end out of jail. You'll forgive me for completely mischaracterizing Rand, since you did the same thing.

I certainly didn't remember anything about Atlas Shrugged from the point that speech starts. [After checking wikipedia] You are correct that they break Galt out of jail. I don't recall what the specific discussion surrounding the decision is in the book (it was more than 10 years ago when I read it, until I got to the speech I had enjoyed it) and I don't really feel like debating what happens in a book for that reason. Objectivism as a philosophy is more than just about interpreting what some characters do in a few fictional stories. I could, for instance, argue that Rand has the characters rescue Galt because that's how every successful writer ever would end it. Nobody would have liked the book if it ended with a 70 page speech and Galt getting tortured to death for his beliefs and the main characters not going because it was not in their self-interest. So the question for the Randian is how do you justify the conventional ending? In my experience talking with Randians, they prefer rationalizing away altruism as rational self-interest as I discuss above (and others disagree with, which is fine).

There is no comparison. This is rubbish . She was a refugee and hates people who give giving feels good. She was ugly thru and through.

Everybody is making comparisons to Robinson Crusoe, but the book and movie reminded me of a modern-day version of Leiningen Versus the Ants, which is a fantastic short story but isn't very well-known these days.

Haha, what the hell.

It is nice to see that I am not alone as a fan of Tyler Cowen who finds Rand revolting.

Before we draw too many profound conclusions, I'd like to point out that "The Martian" is a work of fiction. It ain't real.

Please read the post before commenting.

Astounding. How could Rand a support a multi-billion dollar exercise in collective consumption like the Space Program financed by progressive taxation? Is it intrinsically any more beautiful than millions of SS checks being deposited in bank accounts every month? Or Medicaid paying for the health care of millions of poor people?

Bizarre false equivalence. Is the Sistine Chapel more beautiful than the DMV? Is the Acropolis more beautiful than your local post office?

We can debate all day about whether going to the moon was a good way to spend the money, but there is no doubt it was a peak of human achievement, as opposed to the everyday functioning of the bureaucratic state.

A man on the moon makes for pretty good TV, but I think being the first generation in all of history to GUARANTEE access to food, education and health care for the entire population is a more significant achievement. It's just hard to capture that achievement in a single photo.

Meh, disagree. I'm not sure how the bottom 1% fares is a good assessment of a society. Ancient Greece did some awesome things without coming close to solving these problems. And we do some awesome things not being terribly close to solving these problems.

The idea that we need to wait until 2250 to consider humanity to have accomplished something seems a bit pessimistic to me. Surely putting humans in space is much more consequential for more people, long-term, than having particularly complete welfare programs.

From Kitty Hawk to the moon ! That's progress to be proud of Rands a dark spot in literature and history takes all kinds.

"The Martian is the most Randian movie in years, perhaps in decades."

Are you trying to make Matt Damon cry?

"Public goods are widely recognized as a market failure – the inability of the free market to provide the optimal level of a public good voluntarily."

It is certainly not "widely recognized" by libertarians.

Libertarians are not widely distributed, especially among economists.

Even when you face a staunch anarchocapitalist who denies the existence of market failures, it doesn't take long before they describe one. Those libertarians who are best educated accept that markets don't optimize social welfare, they just don't think optimizing social welfare is the right objective. Others think it is a fools errand because social optima are not describable through the revealed preferences of any voting system. Others fall back on the notion that while markets fail, collective action can fail just as bad in the opposite direction.

Under any reasonable theory of markets, mankind would eventually land on the moon when the benefits justified the costs for a private actor. It may have just taken a lot longer.

At a guess, relatively few members of any poliical faction know what economists mean by the term "market failure." I'd guess more libertarians than liberals or conserrvatives probably know the term and its meaning, but
I don't have any data to demonstrate that I'm right.

There is an innate knowledge from policy prescriptions. Public goods were provided by governments long before anyone described the economic rationale for them in rigorous ways.

Republicans certainly understand the rationale for national defense, and Democrats certainly understand the rationale for pollution abatement regardless of their lack of economic education. You don't see any examples of a stable libertarian community. Too many libertarians prefer to live in a world of fiction.

That said the term libertarian is quite broad. I consider myself one, and I obviously believe in market failures and government as one possible remedy. I have libertarian friends though that deny the very existence of market failures. If the army isn't manned by volunteers, if the roads don't get built, if the levees aren't raised, then they weren't meant to be. That is literally the extent of their argument. The flood, the impassable briar patches, and the invading Mongol hordes are natural and therefore desirable. Either that, or they well wish these things into existence upon urgent need.

Well put.

Libertarians pretty much have it right. Much of what the govt does has nothing to do with public goods.
Trouble is that the left's definition of public good is 'something I really, really want.'

Public goods are not the only market failure. Natural monopolies, asymmetric information, externalities, incomplete markets, etc are common threads in public policy.

Government failures from principal agent, rent seeking, log rolling, budget maximization, Arrow Impossibility, etc are often raised by libertarians with good support. Those criticisms don't invalidate the existence of market failures, they are a mere counterpoint to a proposed remedy.

They don't have it right when they stick their heads in the sand regarding obvious problems and speak in bumper sticker wisdom with Ayn Rand quotes.

Perhaps some people vote that way, after all, basically all models of rational voters assume that they vote rational self interest.

But if you stop for a second and forget about the opportunity to make an ideological cheap shot ... there isn't an economist worth their salt who is leftist and would define a public good that way. You know it's true.

Ayn Rand is the one philosopher almost anyone in any comments section believes they know enough about to ridicule. Get over it, people. No one's asking you to agree with Ayn Rand, but assuming you've actually read "Apollo and Dionysus" and have seen The Martian, you have to admit that AT makes an interesting point.

Yeah, that's right. An interesting point, even though it contains the letters A-Y-N-R-A-N-D. Whoooa, spooky! Hang in there, you'll survive.

Nobody is trying to insult you with these comments. Don't take it personally.

Nope, just lots of mindless signaling that they have correct-thoughts about how grotesque that Ayn Rand woman is.

I try to be compassionate to the mentally ill, especially when it is the result of trauma.

Objectivism is the result of trauma.


RPLong's point made.

Did Rand teach you to be that kind of whining loser?

Whining loser. That was a very compassionate comment there, John.

Do you know the Soviets used to diagnose people with mental illness to justify their incarceration when no crimes had been committed? Partially in response to that, it is now deemed an international crime to use psychological diagnosis against a person for their religious or political/ideological beliefs.

Can you see she was horrid?

Broken clock, right twice a day.

Sounds like Palin another lost retard.

How can any work subject to an editor be Randian?

Actually the one criticism that many people make of The Martian book is that there is too many technical speeches so it is also Randian in that sense.

Yeah, though in the circumstances, a long discussion of the many ways to blow yourself up getting hydrogen out of the hydrazine fuel you have lying around is pretty relevant, in ways that a long discussion of the moral meaning of money is not.

Seems like Rand would have argued for leaving Damon there, not going to great expense to rescue him.

It is Matt Damon, after all. I'd have left him there too, even though I'm not an objectivist.

This is why I love The Departed.

My only regret is that Alec Baldwin didn't get whacked with the others. It also desperately needed Tim Robbins as a casualty.

Well, if we're leaving capitalism and politics out of it, pretty sure Aristotle beat her to "human being is the rational animal" by a couple millennia. Isn't the list of philosophers who *wouldn't* see the story that way pretty much limited to a few post-modern word-salad French and German guys?

I have always wondered what Nietzsche would have said of the landing of the moon. (I hope you don't count him as a post-modern German guy).

Definitely not. Was wondering what he would think too, actually.

I think you could tell a Nietzschean story about the moon landing being the result of a few men bending the rest of society to their will. Interestingly (for me, anyway, since I wasn't born when the Apollo program was terminated), the Apollo program was always controversial among the general public for its expense and its danger. "Blonde beasts" like JFK, Werner von Braun and the top scientists and astronauts who supported and worked for the program plunged into unknown anyway.

I think Nietzsche would have been impressed.

Shouldn't an economist point out how much money is being spent to save one life as opposed to using the funds to save many more lives here on Earth?

There is an incentive problem from leaving someone stranded. The Marine Corps philosophy of leaving no body behind is inefficient, but it seems to do the job of maintaining morale.

There is also a political problem of publicly declaring the rescue failed cost benefit analysis. Why do you suppose we rebuilt New Orleans?

Maybe we should only send up people we wouldn't mind leaving stranded.

BTW, I like Matt Damon, but I just can't build up any enthusiasm for saving him. Maybe I'd feel different if it were Sela Ward, Madeleine Stowe, or Salma Hayek stuck up there.

Sigourney Weaver in an interview with film critic Anthony Lane at the New Yorker Festival: “A little Saudi prince wanted to sit next to the woman from Ghostbusters,” and, “every time I opened my mouth they were like ‘Is that actress talking again? Is she allowed to talk like that?’” She was also in Alien and The Martian, but somehow I don't connect her with Ann Rand. That louse the Saudi prince, yes, but not Ms. Weaver.

Well, OK.

But are we really supposed to believe that thoughts like these are brilliant insights, available only to Rand and a select few, and that we should marvel in awe at their wisdom?

I don't believe that. No one could.

Capitalism created the wealth that made the moon landings possible

So anything celebrating the triumph of reason is Randian? Yeah, right. There is nothing appreciably Randian about the moon landing.

Rand's love of reason, by the way, was adolescent and nonsensical. Her whole philosophy is built on these ridiculous "axioms" that are a load of nonsense, and even if we stipulate them as true, the conclusions she draws from them don't follow at all.

Rand is mostly good for self-congratulation by teenagers who think that taking AP Calculus and being unpopular makes them a misunderstood genius.

Libertarians need to vocally ditch Rand and shout from the rooftops what a load of nonsense it is, because there are many less silly ways of being a libertarian.

I think that's the first time I've seen an attack on the objectivist axioms as "ridiculous." The axioms, by the way are "existence," (existence exists), "identity," (things are what they are), and "consciousness," (you have a mind capable of grasping reality). The single-sentence phrase she used to sum them up was "there is (existence) something (identity) of which I am aware (consciousness)." This is the implicit statement at the root of all knowledge. The reason they are axioms is that any attempt to refute them depends on their validity. For example, any time you speak of "this" as opposed to "that," you are making use of the axiom of identity.

I don't see what's so ridiculous about "existence exisits." Could you enlighten me? Bonus points for doing so without any reference to reality existing, which is apparently ridiculous.

Fine, I'll take up the challenge.

First though some remarks about what's deeply confused about her whole approach. Axioms are statements made in a formal or semi-formal system which are intended to be useful in deriving later statements in that system. Unfortunately she doesn't provide anything like a reasoning framework for applying them nor does she properly distinguish properties of the reasoning system itself from the axioms.

Worse, she doesn't seem to have a clear grip on which terms she is defining and which she takes to have some primitive antecedent meaning. Consider the claim that existence is identity. Is this meant to *define* the word existence or to assert some important philosophical claim. It can't both be an important insight and merely a choice of abbreviation.

Just try for a moment to do anything like real philosophy in her framework. Try and come up with a plausible objectivist attitude toward blindsight (is unconcious perception that is nevertheless lets us `guess' right when forced perception?). Or, since Rand rejects the analytic-synthetic distinction, explain the regularity that certain sentences we can reliably assert without looking up from the dictionary while others seem different. Come up with a productive way to distingush feelings (which can't give knowledge) from the `feeling' that you looked into this before and the answer is X. How can we be justified in thinking the sun will probably rise tomorrow rather than all laws of physics suddenly going haywire without a priori knowledge (so no apriori probability assignment). Distingush revelation (no knowledge) from trust in authority/experts (mom and dad say this berry won't kill me).

Rand probably tried to address some of these questions but just find one and give it a shot. It's useless. As soon as you start asking hard questions and pushing for precisce definitions the whole thing melts away. Impressive sounding insights fade to dressed up trivialities gingerly sprinkled with confusion.

As for the challenge:

Existence isn't a thing like a dog, number, or the feeling of love that we could even conceivably pile into our ontology. Existence is a feature that things in our ontology have not a member of our ontology. Perhaps the *property* or *concept* of existence could exist but Rand isn't simply trying to assert that it's coherent to ask if things exist.

An existence claims can be thought of as metaphorically extending a search through a physical space, e.g., looking through your drawer for grandma's ring. An existance claim is true when there is an object in the domain which satisfies the description, e.g., grandma's ring exists in the drawer just if we can find something in the drawer that can be truthfully described as grandma's ring. Even stretching the limits of metaphor there is no sense in which we can think of sorting through the elements of reality (car, electron, space-time points, perhaps even redness) and finding one that we could call existence.

Rand made a point here that she was putting aside politics just to revel in human achievement.

Pity you over-intelligent fools can't understand that without mentally mansturbating it to death.

Ayn Rand?

Its 2015.


Couldn't of said it better

Yeah, it's 2015, forget Rand, embrace the socialist tyranny.


The difference is that Apollo 11 gave the sense that we were watching a magnificent work of art but it was real. While the Martian gives the sense that we are watching something real but it is a magnificent work of art. Have we not been diminished?

It is sad in a way, especially since the public has grown more fond of it as the years progressed (public support for the Apollo Program was tepid while it was actually going on). Even if it was a nationalist program created by a President who wanted a way to flaunt American technological superiority and might over that of the Soviet Union, it was still a magnificent, bleeding edge technological accomplishment.

But that's just the economics of space. The sad truth is there's very little need for human beings to go into space, something the military realized earlier on in the 1970s (hence why they phased out any crewed missions in space in favor of all robotic missions). Robots are just so much better for it, even when you figure that humans are still unfathomably more versatile when they are in space than the robots in question.

Meh. So Ayn Rand admired the achievements of the Apollo program, because it represented what mankind's reason and efficacy could achieve.

So did almost everyone else, of almost all political ideologies.

Ayn Rand probably found some sunsets beautiful to look at. That doesn't make her appreciation of sunsets some sort of insightful Objectivist or Randian insight.

Rand always insisted her philosophy was one not just of politics, morality and logic but also one of aesthetics. As such, I think it is fine to hold Rand or any of her followers to that and ask why they find certain things beautiful or impressive and whether those aesthetic judgments are consistent with the stated philosophy or not.

I wish I could construct a job for myself with great vacations, paid remote site trips close to the Equator, health care and a decent salary ..without having to provide tangible results ( ..that's right, I forgot Tang) before I pensioned out to leave it to another crew to 'sell' another boondoggle like the ISS to the public. ..but I have to work on the Economy. Jimmy

Then go get a PhD, earn tenure and get funding from sympathetic sponsors. It's easy, right?

jTPrxBrVAnwPoSqzMa 4953

Comments for this post are closed