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Selfishness is not a virtue

The movie Atlas Shrugged (pt. 1 of a trilogy apparently) came out this weekend. I've tried to read the book before but it's really badly written and very boring. However neither of those things have dented its influence. It has been hailed as by Conservatives as one of the most important books after the bible. In what I believe is a bout of self-reassurance. The main thesis of this book, and mind you this book has a didactic thesis in it, is that there is no higher virtue than selfishness. In the world where this story takes place selfishness has become unacceptable socially (not spiritually btw) so in a rather comical exchange (well comical for me) a successful big brother industrialist donates money to his conceited little brother's cause and the brother will only accept it if he can hide where it came from so as not to be embarrassed by the selfish industrialist brother. Now this is funny because the big brother is doing something very altruistic, very unselfish. He is not only supporting his brother with his money, he is also donating a large amount to his brother's cause. While his brother who pretends to be altruistic and generous is a selfish prick who wont accept a gracious gift because it may make he look bad.

This book seems to be the progenitor of Gordon Gecko's "Greed is good" speech in the movie Wall Street, but like with that speech where people overlook the fact that Gordon is a thief whose speech is meant to allow him to fleece his investors, people also overlook how far-fetched the characters in Atlas Shrugged are:

A self-less capitalist, that willingly (with no promise of tax-breaks or even his name attached to the gift) gives of his money. Incompetent lazy people who won't fix a train change problem until they are scared their jobs might be in jeopardy (I mean there are lazy people out there, but this is an extreme to the point of caricature, the fix is stupidly simple).

You see, here is the problem with this book, it somehow portrays self-less capitalist as selfish. But they are self-less. The woman who runs the train doesn't do it to make herself rich, she wants a business (that by the way employs people) to run well (do a good job) and makes her clients happy. She doesn't seem so much selfish as wanting to be proud of her work. I don't know, maybe they become selfish later on on the book, but the book is so long and so poorly written I'll just catch the movie(s).


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