Monday, September 05, 2011

Analogies ~ Ayn Rand ~ Barack Obama ~ Capitalism ~ Libertarianism

Analogy is one of the most useful of all language tools. A good analogy can serve to more clearly explain a difficult or foreign (to the receiver) concept in a way no other effort at explanation can come near.

I feel in need of good analogies to fully appreciate what's what in politics these days, in the USA, and elsewhere - and in issues relating to "the economy". Luckily there are excellent journalists and commenters around who can oblige.

"One good analogy is worth three hours discussion."
(Dudley Field Malone)

Three quickies first:

From a commenter using the screen name conan 776 ( I regret losing the link to the website where I found this little gem). An analogy to illustrate socialism versus capitalism.

"If the government wants to move a pile of dirt from point A to B, buying a bulldozer and hiring an operator is socialism.

But if it contracts that out to a company, where the CEO gets 20%, the VP gets 15%, upper management gets 10%, lower management gets 7%, the lawyers get 5%, the author of the contract gets another 5%, the stockholders reap whatever else, and the operator gets minimum wage anyway, that's capitalism at it's finest!

And we wonder why government can't do anything under budget!"

Two referring to President Obama:

A sporting analogy from Tsalco, commenting on and improving another commenter's analogy at HuffPo on a piece by Steven Weber titled simply "Well...?"
"Obama doesn't punt on third down. He often huddles with the opposition­, while ignoring his own teams huddle altogether­. He tends to throw the game. He punts on first down BEFORE his own line is even in position."

One thing I would disagree with - Obama doesn't punt on third down. He often huddles with the opposition­, while ignoring his own teams huddle altogether­. He tends to throw the game. He punts on first down BEFORE his own line is even in position.

And from Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters - and this one can be related to much I and others interested in astrology have seen - the illusion of Neptune emanating from the Prez.

He is an illusion masterfully crafted by himself, his handlers, and his sychophant supporters in the press.
What (Robert) Redford and "so many others" are beginning to realize is that when you strip back the veneer, there's nothing but cheap particleboard held together with Elmer's Glue.

And one on finance from blog-buddy Jefferson's Guardian at No Corporate Rule, in his post of 31 August: Around the Monopoly Board

Whatever is happening, one thing's for sure. The lending institutions are making out like bandits. While they're drawing interest on public funds given to them to stay alive, they're capitalizing into derivatives, commodities, precious metals, and god know what else, while we're feeling the double-whammy of increased food prices, increased energy costs, and increased everything. It's like when we played Monopoly as kids, and one person had everything. Their stack of money just sat and didn't help anyone. All we could do was go around the board and hope to land on Community Chest (i.e., public assistance) or Free Parking (i.e., the lottery), but eventually we knew it was just a matter of time before we were sucked down the drain with the little money we had left. Our only other hope was going to jail. In our current real life scenario, that's not a pleasant thought.

Next, a stab at Libertarianism and Ayn Rand, but before launching into the next analogy, as this is an astrology blog, a look at Ayn Rand's natal chart. She was a Sun Aquarian, as I noted in a blog on Aquarius-types : Aquarius Pro & Con (Progressive & Conservative).

She was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on 2 February 1905. Astrodatabank gives a "C" rated birth time, probably rectified, not 100% to be trusted as accurate, but I've used it here anyway. The rising sign may or may not be as shown, Moon's degree likewise, but Moon would have been in Capricorn whatever her time of birth.

For me the key to Rand's right-wing conservative/libertarian views is the placement of Saturn in Aquarius, with a secondary key being Moon in Capricorn (ruled by Saturn). Aquarius Sun people are often politically inclined, with a yen to "change the world" in one direction or t'other - direction being governed by the rest of their chart, and by their own life experiences.

For an astrologer's interpretation of Ayn Rand's chart see Joseph Crane's take on it in the Astrology Institute's Newsletter, here.

Disclaimer: I have not read Atlas Shrugged, the long novel many see as Ayn Rand's "magnum opus" . The more I read about it the less inclined I feel to read it. The novel is said to portray the idea that a world in which the individual is not free to create is doomed, that civilization cannot exist where people are slaves to society and government, and that the destruction of the profit motive leads to the collapse of society.

There's an interesting piece by Cathy Young from 2005: Ayn Rand at 100.
Penultimate paragraph of that piece kind of describes the conflicting traits of Aquarius/Saturn/Capricorn within Ayn rand:
Rand herself was a creature of paradox. She was a prophet of freedom and individualism who tolerated no disobedience or independent thought in her acolytes, a rationalist who refused to debate her views. She was an atheist whose worship of Man led her to see the human mind as a godlike entity, impervious to the failings of the body or to environmental influences. (Nathaniel Branden reports that she even disliked the idea of evolution.) She was a strong woman who created independent heroines yet saw sexual submission as the essence of femininity and argued that no healthy woman would want to be president of the United States because it would put her above all men.

The best one-line review of Atlas Shrugged I came across in my searches is to read it in tandem with The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, by Robert Tressell - a novel portraying the other side of the coin:
"Clearly frustrated at the refusal of his contemporaries to recognise the inequity and iniquity of society, Tressell's cast of hypocritical Christians, exploitative capitalists and corrupt councillors provide a backdrop for his main target — the workers who think that a better life is "not for the likes of them".
Balance is everything - in all things!

Back to analogyland then, and John Atcheson's piece from last week: Atlas Mugged: The Ayn Rand Six Step. Mr Atcheson uses the analogy of an apartment building as the USA.

Imagine your landlord coming to you one day and saying, “It’s everyone for himself. We’re not going to supply heat or water or electricity any longer, and we’re not going to conduct repairs.Of course, you and the rest of the tenants wouldn’t stand for such a thing . You’d kick him out if you could and move out if you couldn’t.

But suppose, over the years, he cuts the part of the portion of your rent that goes to utilities and repair work. Year after year, he’d stop by and announce his cuts with great fanfare, telling you how much money you’ll save.

On each visit, as he handed out the meager savings, he’d rail about how the utilities were incompetent, and filled with lazy workers, and that repair and maintenance work was a rip-off perpetrated by equally lazy laborers.

“We’re gonna show them,” he’d say, “The market will take care of these bozos.”

Meanwhile, year after year, you pay a little less. Things might get a little ragged. The maintenance man might not show up every day; the fire alarms might stop working; the elevators get stuck more, there’s an occasional power outage, water’s a bit murky … but there’s those savings.

Unbeknownst to you, most of the money the landlord saves is going to upgrade the top floor where he and his cronies live, bringing in their own dependable power and clean water. But you don’t investigate much because … there’s those savings.

Every time you passed him in the hall, he’d give you his spiel. “Those repair guys are thieves,” he’d tell you, again and again. “And you might as well burn money as give it to the utilities,” he’d say with a sage nod of his head. “Just wait ‘til those market forces hit, that’ll show them.” But he’d begin to add a new verse to his rant. “And hey. What about those gays in 3G? Or the Mexicans in 2D? Disgrace how they double up like that …”

Then finally, one year, he announces he can no longer afford to supply heat, electricity or water, and he can’t be repairing anything that breaks any longer. “Just not enough money – besides, look what’s happening around here … throwing more money at those lazy good-for-nothings is no solution.”

Now imagine complaining to him about the frozen pipes, or your child’s pneumonia and him responding with: “Hey. It’s all about the market – if you want it, figure out a way to get it – the market will provide if you’re diligent. Look at the top floor. Besides, it’s all the fault of those Mexicans. Or those gays … or …”

Would you believe that crap? Would you put up with it?

.......Call it the Ayan Rand six step. Step one: discredit government. Step two, starve it. Step three, when the underfunded government can’t perform, stand back and say “I told you so.” Step four, create the myth of the individual uber-alles – the Marlboro man on steroids; Step five, if anyone gets wise, find a scapegoat and blame it on them – gays, immigrants, government workers; government working gay immigrants. Step six, when things get bad, divide and conquer – “if it wasn’t’ for them…"

The whole comment thread is well worth perusing, but a couple of especially insightful comments ought to be highlighted here - these match my own thought. Several commenters agree that if the author of the piece is relating his analogy only to Republicans/Libertarians he is missing something. Both major parties in this two-party nation serve the same master.

At 2.06pm on 2 September in the comment thread Rick Wright commented:

....both parties ultimately serve the same social interests, but in different ways, utilizing different types of rhetoric, & appeals to different constituencies. The 2-party system is a kind of "division of labor," allowing the Repubs to specialize in appeals to nationalists, militarists, Christian evangelicals, anti-abortion fanatics, racists, militia types, libertarians, Red States, etc. Meanwhile the Dems specialize in herding constituencies like the liberal intelligentsia, groups connected to organized labor, & traditionally Blue State populations.
The point is that both parties are in effect working together to herd the entire population to submit to the prevailing social structure (including its enormous military establishment, & the 2-party system itself), with the corporate plutocracy sitting atop the social pyramid.

At 1.46pm on 2 September Obedient Servant wrote the following. (Hint...hint) the new character introduced ought to be ringing loud bells for any current or former Democrats! (Mr. Atcheson's piece) needs critical tweaks for the sake of authenticity, verisimilitude, and relevance.

For one thing, it's sorely lacking a Good Landlord to complement the Bad Landlord villain of the piece. You know-- a partner, perhaps a spouse, who meekly tiptoes around, ostensibly behind the Bad Landlord's back, and commiserates with the increasingly beleaguered tenants.

The Good Landlord administers tea and sympathy, whispers encouragement and even promises to the tenants, praises the maintenance staff, and is particularly solicitous to those lazy good-for-nothings scapegoated by the malignant but dominant Bad Landlord.

The Good Landlord by turns seems to cry real tears and shake a fist in real defiance when the Bad Landlord isn't around. In fact, the Good Landlord piteously stage-whispers that he or she would like to do so much more for the tenants, if the mean, bullying Bad Landlord didn't constantly intimidate it and thwart its best intentions.

To demonstrate his or her benevolence, the Good Landlord furtively hands out occasional amenities-- blankets, candles, matches, aspirin.

Oh, and the Good Landlord isn't above accepting, and even soliciting, tips and gratuities from the grateful and desperate tenants in return for his or her apparent good will and promises to usurp the Bad Landlord's place once he or she has sufficient resources and support to manage it.

Only then will the place become the Tenants' Paradise advertised in the prospectus!

Postscript for Monday 5 September ~~
It's Labor Day in the USA. A day on which, once upon a time, the people celebrated "the workers", their solidarity and their efforts. Nowadays it represents little more than a long weekend. Unions have been gradually de-fanged by successive governments. Solidarity among the workers scarcely exists now. If the lot of ordinary folk in the USA is ever to improve, some form of solidarity, something akin to the old union movements, will need to arise. Until then the working class (or as Americans for some reason prefer to call it "middle class") is right "up a creek without a paddle", and if things don't change soon, "without a canoe". Another analogy!


Anonymous said...

GP: Don't know if to congratulate or commiserate, T. This must be one of your most "laborious" post so far. Well, being labour day, probably you worked hard on purpose to show that you care. Which all of your readers know you do!

The first analogy, the capitalist tower is the best. Looks like the tower of Babel to me.

But America (it's Neptune-istic features - and Obama's and so many other "American Dreams") stands for ephemeral values. Money/power, they can be created (Bernanke knows best), accumulated (seldom lasting for more than 3 generations - see the Rockefellers, Kennedys etc.) and, with the hindsight and the benefit of astrology, regretting anything past is really futile. The stars had decided anyway what's going to happen. Stupid is merely who did not believe in it...

Twilight said...

Anonymous/Gian Paul ~~ It's too long really, but I kept finding more analogies and couldn't resist adding them. :-) I'll leave it up for a couple of days anyway.

You say "the stars had decided" - hmmmm. I guess so, in a very broad way, kind of. The interesting, and occasionally scary, part is exactly HOW their "decision" will manifest, how such a multiplicity of disparate human psyches will bring about that "decision".

Anon and Ever said...

It is true, the first picture, that of the Pyramind of Capitalism, it is very well done.

It gives the clear idea of the way this system works - forgetting... the workers! - but it does not touch the basic point.

The basic point makes you understand the difference bewteen socialism and capitalism...

The basic difference is that the economical principle of the exchange is put udner a certain control of the reality in socialism, while in capitalism it can be left to itself, theoretically with no end...

But reality wakes up and gives capitalism the bill, that is: It **must** exist a limit in the exchange. When this happens it comes what is called a crisis. Crisis is paid by the ones who had the less to gain in the phase of expanding exchanges...

This is capitalism, the total domination of the value of exchange, different from the value of use... Water is water, what you can gain on it is few, but if you bottle it you can sell the bottles. Socialism thinks that there are things that cannot be simply sold for their quality makes them of special importance. For capitalism anything can be exchanged, no matter what **is** - the quality - of that same thing...

This system is destroying the Earth...

Anonymous said...

GP: Putting it simply - and seen from who lives outside the US (but still undergoing it's "plutocratic influence over the rest of the world"): There must be a "heavenly" reason for America (and the now fading American Dream) existing.

The lesson to be learned (if such can be done) is that the more humans believe that their leaders (if democratically elected even worse than with others, being a double kind of illusion) are able to bring about a better future, they probably will be proven wrong.

It's almost as if a "devilish complot" was at work. And what do we know, maybe not almost, but a real illusion after all (Plato...)?

It's not just Dick Cheney (of all Americans) who thinks that with Hillary President things would have been better.

But THAT'S NOT HOW DESTINY WORKS. We can all think and wish and twist our "intelligent" minds - at the end little remains of our wishful thoughts. And that must be destiny too...

Anonymous said...

GP: In order to give another twist to the "medieval language " used in my previous comment: Just came accross a visibly serious medical study (,1518,7844.00,00html) which concludes that almost 40% of Europe's population (including the Swiss), is mentally ill. The description with all its details is staggering!

More staggering even that these are the people who vote for whom talks well, helped by a teleprompter, or money, or the media, or by all of that.

Personally I believe that the "almost 40% of mentally deranged" is an understatement. All those "unofficially" using some tranquilizer, or booze, or etc. mostly use these because of being on the verge of being mentally impaired as well...

Frightening perspectives, except, of course for 1) whom sits on top of this pyramid of fools and 2) the drug companies and psychatrists waiting for some more clients.

Twilight said...

Anon & Ever ~~~ I think that capitalism, when well-regulated can be beneficial, but only when balanced with some socialist-type background policies. Total capitalism or total socialism are both bad, and couldn't exist for long.

What seems to be happening now in the USA is a slide into a type of neo-feudalism. If it goes too far it'll be pulled back eventually - revolution perhaps in years to come - as the old type of feudalism was in centuries past in England and elsewhere.

Twilight said...

Anonymous/Gian Paul ~~~

You are in a fatalistic frame of mind today, I see. ;-)

Destiny. I don't know (my default position!)

If the planets (or something indicated by the positions of the planets - somehow) point to how things will turn out (Destiny), they also point to a zillion different potential ways for that eventuality to come about. Whereas we can't change Destiny (if one believes in it) if we believe the planets tell us anything at all, we have to think that there is wiggle room due to the zillions of different human blueprints on Earth at any one time. Which will come to the fore?

Analogy warning!! :-0
Say Destiny = the end of a journey, and the end of the journey is on top of a mountain.
There are numerous ways to reach the top of the mountain, some comfortable, some disastrously dangerous and painful. No. Maybe a better analogy in our case is not the top of a mountain but the floor of a very deep cave.
Same choices apply. In that very deep cave - we might find a powerful spring that will send us back rapidly upward. Destiny may still have surprises up its sleeve.

And maybe I'm one of that 40% of mentally deranged. :-D

Anonymous said...

GP: T, you should be careful in putting into print things like your concluding frase of your last comment.

Reminds me of some post you made about Hieronymus Bosch. That guy certainly knew something more about humans and nobody calls him "fatalistic" because of that...

Twilight said...

Anon/Gian Paul ~~~

Ah - you mean the Ship of Fools post

I'd forgotten about that one.

I didn't mean to imply that you are fatalistic in general (I don't know if you are or not) just that your comments today seemed that way.

Talk of Destiny made me reach for my copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (a favourite piece of mine)
and find this

Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
And -- "A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.

Wisewebwoman said...

Love that poster, T!
A "heavy" post today, I wish we could strike the balance between capitalism and socialism but I don't expect to see it in our lifetimes. If we're not all blown away that is.

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~~ You and I will almost certainly not see it, but grandchildren and their children might.....might; or at the very least some attempt to bring it about. :-)

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Hello Twilight! Navjot Singh Sidhu, an Indian cricket commentator, is said to have observed: "I think political analogies are like miniskirts - what they reveal is suggestive, what they hide is essential."

A more "truthiness" truth is nowhere to be found. ;-)

By the way, Twilight, thank you very much for the favorable mention. It is certainly appreciated!

Twilight said...

Jefferson's Guardian ~~ That's a good one! :-)

I logged on after being out for several hours, saw your comment - first thought as my half-in-gear brain read the first line was - he's greeting in the style of Gort
"Klaatu barada nikto"
LOL - then I read on. Many apologies to Mr. Sidhu!

JD said...

excellent post Twilight and rather a lot in it to digest :)

I know little about Ayn Rand but when I saw a TV programme about her, the few film clips of her were enough to convince me that she was barking mad.
He most devoted acolyte was a man called Alan Greenspan - now that explains a lot!

Twilight said...

JD -Thank you kindly!

Yes, this post did go on a bit. I was like a kid at a birthday party wanting to include a bit of everything I could find all on one plate. :-)

"Barking mad" sounds about right for Ms Rand, from the little I know of her. Her early background in Russia, and her family's treatment at the hands of the Bolsheviks must have left a permanent scar I guess, a scar which later festered.

R J Adams said...

Excellent post, Twilight. I have no idea why you would want to take it down after 'a couple of days'. Leave it up, and be proud of it.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams - Thankyou RJ!

I used the wrong expression - I meant that I'd leave the post at top, without another post following. I often post every day, but as that one was extra long it would "do" for 2 days. :-)
Am feeling extra Bolshie lately, so no way I'll tone, or take, anything down.
Thanks again.