Friday, February 10, 2012

John Galt as a Producer?

Producers vs Predators is the class analysis that informs my book Elegant Technology.  Chapter One covers the history of this struggle, Chapter Three is devoted to class analysis, Chapter Four describes the cultural manifestations of the Producers, Chapter Six is devoted to Producer Class monetary theory, etc.  I HAVE covered this subject in depth and detail and nowhere can I find any example where a banker can be mistaken for a Producer.  In fact, if Predation has an archetype these days, it is most certainly the bankster.

What is especially ironic is that John Galt in Rand's Atlas Shrugged is an engineer—the highest status occupation of the Producers.  And the fictional Galt really IS a Producer (including negatives like the unfortunate tendency to make facile social and political judgements.)  But Producers do have a unifying complaint. From the humble truck driver to the most arrogant research scientist, they all agree with the sentiment that their work is far more difficult and important than they are given credit for, they hate idiots meddling in their jobs, and once in a while they just want to stop working to see if maybe THEN they will be properly appreciated. Rand calls this last sentiment "going Galt."

And of course it IS possible, even likely, that bankers are feeling a bit under-appreciated these days.  After all, most of them work pretty hard at whatever they do and even though only about .00001% of what they do has any social utility whatsoever, apparently this is enough to allow them to appropriate one more thing from the Producers—their main complaint!  From the perspective of those who must do the community's necessary work, this cultural theft borders on blasphemy.  As they see it, the trouble with banksters is that the harder they "work," the worse it is for the rest of us.  How can it be otherwise when 99.99999% of what they do, by volume, is nothing more than a slick version of larceny.

John Galt Is A Crybaby And So Are You
by Richard Eskow | February 9, 2012

Dear Self-Described "Producer":

I received your hate mail this morning. Thank you for emerging from your self-creating illusion long enough to write it. I particularly enjoyed your unstated rhetorical debt to the John Galt character in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, who isn't acknowledged enough nowadays for his historical importance as the most long-winded and incoherent crybaby in literary history.

It's reassuring to know that his tradition lives on.

I still have faith that there can be a productive exchange of ideas between rational libertarians and people on the left, who share a common perspective on certain issues. But a substrain of libertarian and conservative thought is characterized by a large and undeserved measure of self-regard, combined with an excess of self-pity and a lack of clear ideas.

For today's purposes let us stipulate that your email is Exhibit A.

Letter from a Galtian 

"I am really curios (sic) to know what motivates the mind of a socialist," you write. "Why do you think its (sic) fair to penalize those of us who produce while rewarding those who do not?"

(Apparently the email software used by producers doesn't have a spell-check function. Fitting, I guess, for people whose fictional hero described scientists and other educated members of society as "parasites of subsidized classrooms.")

Later you ask, "What happens when the government has exhausted the money acquired from the producers? I have a feeling producers will stop producing if the government is just going to take it."

I don't know you personally, and you didn't sign your name. (Until the novel's end, everybody knows Galt's name but he refuses to speak. His legions of anonymous Internet followers like it the other way around.) I have no way of knowing if you've read the book or just imbibed Rand's ideas second-hand.

Either way you're a follower of John Galt, who, in Rand's famous (and entirely implausible) climax, leads a "strike" of job-producing visionaries rebelling against taxes and regulation.

Atlas Shrugged is so revered in right-wing circles that, as one ex think tanker admitted, people who hadn't read it were described as "virgins." (Without the readership of virgins it would have languished in obscurity.) Rand's acolytes are always threatening to "go Galt" and deprive us of their beautiful minds, but they never really get around to it. Like the old Dan Hicks song says, "How can we miss you if you won't go away?" more
I could not resist adding my $0.02 to this post over at the Smirking Chimp.

Producers vs Predators

The class distinctions between Producers and Predators date from the 19th century. Producers were farmers, construction workers, engineers, etc. They were those who believed that in order to prosper, they would have to do something very difficult, very well. The Predators were folks like bankers and stock speculators who lived off the efforts of the Producers.

In the Rand novel written in the 1940s, Galt was still an engineer. Rand didn't get much right but at least she got THAT right. But in today's telling, someone who is clearly NOT a Producer (a banker) claims to be one. Liar!

Which prompted this wonderful response.
An old guy who wore wigs and dressed funny agrees with you

"All the capital employed in paper speculation is barren and useless, producing, like that on a gaming table, no accession to itself, and is withdrawn from commerce and agriculture where it would have produced addition to the common mass... It nourishes in our citizens habits of vice and idleness instead of industry and morality... It has furnished effectual means of corrupting such a portion of the legislature as turns the balance between the honest voters whichever way it is directed."
--Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Washington, 1792.

"We are now taught to believe that legerdemain tricks upon paper can produce as solid wealth as hard labor in the earth. It is vain for common sense to urge that nothing can produce but nothing; that it is an idle dream to believe in a philosopher's stone which is to turn everything into gold, and to redeem man from the original sentence of his Maker, 'in the sweat of his brow shall he eat his bread.'"
-Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816.

What would the Randians think of such a 'socialist'?

The wealth obtained by "Greek gods" was that stolen from those who actually produced and earned it. The only thing created was an obfuscatory fraudulent mythology that enabled them to pull the ongoing heist off.
Just excellent! Thank You! 

I got my first exposure to Producer / Predator class analysis when I read Veblen's distinctions between the Leisure and Industrial Classes (business vs. industry). Since the Veblenian scholars seemed confused where this idea came from, I did some of my own exploring and discovered that this class analysis was actually older than USA itself.

And as you noted, Jefferson certainly understood! And I have discovered that once you get your arms around Producer / Predator class analysis, everything—including Clint Eastwood's Superbowl commercial—suddenly makes a LOT more sense.

1 comment:

  1. A bit off topic, but here's some amazing, recent Producer technology:

    3D printing a 2,800 square foot home out of concrete in ~1 day, including pipes and electrical wiring!