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Category Archives: Atlas Shrugged
Posted: August 4, 2017 at 1:40 pm
The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 11
Roark is on the job site in Connecticut, where his vision for Austen Hellers house is taking shape. He doesnt have anything important to do there, he just wants to see the construction in progress:
Roark walked up the path to the top of the cliff where the steel hulk of the Heller house rose into a blue sky. The skeleton was up and the concrete was being poured; the great mats of the terraces hung over the silver sheet of water quivering far below; plumbers and electricians had started laying their conduits.
As Ive mentioned in the previous two posts, Rand handwaves away the realistic obstacles that Roark would be bound to face by going into business for himself. But she always takes the time to insert some unrealistic obstacles, just so we see how unfairly the world treats her hero. In this case, it was finding a construction firm willing to take his money:
He had had trouble in finding a contractor to erect the house. Several of the better firms had refused the commission. We dont do that kinda stuff. One contractor had looked at the plans briefly and thrown them aside, declaring with finality: It wont stand.
It will, said Roark. The contractor drawled indifferently. Yeah? And who are you to tell me, Mister?
He had found a small firm that needed the work and undertook it, charging more than the job warranted on the ground of the chance they were taking with a queer experiment.
Charging more for a job that required different building techniques from the ones theyre familiar with that would be understandable. But from the text, were led to believe that contractors flat-out refused Roarks commission because they disliked the aesthetics of it (We dont do that kinda stuff).
Theres just one objection that makes sense, and thats the firm that thinks Roarks design wont stand up. Although Im sure it was unintentional, this is one way in which The Fountainhead closely echoes real life.
Ive said that all the major characters in this book were based on real people. Howard Roarks inspiration was Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous 20th-century American architect, whom Roark echoes both in his modernist aesthetic and his reputation for arrogance and a short-fuse temper.
You probably know Wrights most famous house, Fallingwater, which was built for the department-store tycoon Edgar Kaufmann. Its been suggested that it was Rands model for the Heller house, since her description bears some similarities to the real building, especially the cantilevered balconies jutting dramatically out over the water.
However, impressive though the balconies are, the contractors that Wright hired to build Fallingwater had doubts about the soundness of his design from the beginning. A structural engineering firm pointed out that the stress on the material was pushing the margin of safety and suggested that extra columns be added to prop the balconies up and keep them from collapsing.
Wright, taking a very Howard Roark-like attitude toward criticism, furiously rejected the suggestion and threatened to quit if his design wasnt followed to the letter:
A note Wright penned to his patron suggests he cowed him: I dont know what kind of architect you are familiar with but it apparently isnt the kind I think I am. You seem not to know how to treat a decent one. I have put so much more into this house than you or any other client has a right to expect that if I havent your confidence to hell with the whole thing. (source)
Problem is, the critics were right. Without consulting Wright, the contractors quietly doubled the amount of reinforcing steel, but even that wasnt enough. As soon as the scaffolding was removed, the balconies began to sag. Beautiful though it might be, Fallingwater was in serious danger of collapsing. Over the years, its successive owners have had to spend millions of dollars bracing and reinforcing it.
Several of Wrights other houses, such as the Pope-Leighey House in Alexandria, Virginia, have also required significant structural repairs. As innovative as his designs were, Wright has acquired a reputation as a bad structural engineer who thought he was a good one.
Meanwhile, in the literary world where physics takes a back seat, Roark is enjoying himself to the point that hes, well, groping the house:
There were moments when something rose within him, not a thought nor a feeling, but a wave of some physical violence, and then he wanted to stop, to lean back, to feel the reality of his person heightened by the frame of steel that rose dimly about the bright, outstanding existence of his body as its center. He did not stop. He went on calmly. But his hands betrayed what he wanted to hide. His hands reached out, ran slowly down the beams and joints. The workers in the house had noticed it. They said: That guys in love with the thing. He cant keep his hands off.
I mean, loving your designs is one thing. But Roark seems to be in love with his designs?
Is it possible this goes deeper than mere aesthetic appreciation? It could be that Roark, though hes only dimly aware of it, is one of the people who form romantic relationships with architecture, like the woman who married the Eiffel Tower. It would explain a lot.
Its not enough for Rand that Roark enjoys his work. As in Atlas Shrugged, she believes that work should be the only genuine source of meaning or purpose in life. Id agree that there are fortunate individuals for whom thats true, but she insists that it should be true for everyone. And people who dont derive fulfillment from their day job or, God forbid, desire leisure time are worthless cattle in her eyes:
Roark stood on the cliff, by the structure, and looked at the countryside, at the long, gray ribbon of the road twisting past along the shore. An open car drove by, fleeing into the country. The car was overfilled with people bound for a picnic. There was a jumble of bright sweaters, and scarves fluttering in the wind; a jumble of voices shrieking without purpose over the roar of the motor, and overstressed hiccoughs of laughter; a girl sat sidewise, her legs flung over the side of the car; she wore a mans straw hat slipping down to her nose and she yanked savagely at the strings of a ukulele, ejecting raucous sounds, yelling Hey! These people were enjoying a day of their existence; they were shrieking to the sky their release from the work and the burdens of the days behind them; they had worked and carried the burdens in order to reach a goal and this was the goal.
He looked at the car as it streaked past. He thought that there was a difference, some important difference, between the consciousness of this day in him and in them. He thought that he should try to grasp it. But he forgot. He was looking at a truck panting up the hill, loaded with a glittering mound of cut granite.
Yeah! Take that, you lazy Millennials!
The difference between Roark and these young people seems to lie mostly in the pejorative language Rand uses to describe them: voices shrieking without purpose, overstressed laughter, yanked savagely, raucous sounds. If you strip that away, all shes describing is a young group of friends going to a picnic in the countryside, singing and playing music along the road. Doesnt sound so bad to me.
I mean, two can play at this game. If the young people in the car glanced in Roarks direction, what must they have thought of him?
It was a beautiful summer Saturday in the Connecticut countryside, and the friends were out for a drive, the wind whipping at their hair, a picnic basket of wine, cheese and French bread at their feet, heading for their favorite spot to sing songs in the grass, play catch in the shade of the trees and watch the fireflies come out as afternoon cooled into evening.
As they sped on down the road, they passed a construction site on the cliffside, a jagged skeleton of cold steel beams and granite blocks. Standing in the midst of it was a grim, joyless man, looking out at the road with a face empty of expression. As soon as they saw him, they could tell that he was spending his weekend enveloped in that choking cloud of grit, oil and smoke because he had no friends, no family and no one who loved him, and it was either that or sit in his unlit office paging through dusty blueprints.
The man glanced at them, and for a second, his lip curled in an expression of unconscious contempt, his hatred for pleasure plain on his face. Then he turned back to the construction, reached out and began lasciviously stroking the dirty steel, staring at the welders and carpenters with a flat, dead-eyed stare of lust.
Image credit: Esther Westerveld, released under CC BY 2.0 license
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Posted: at 1:40 pm
Its the first day of August, and it rained for 30 seconds in L.A., which means were stocking up on canned goods and putting chains on our tires.
Hello from Los Angeles, where were hoping to spot Sean Hannity at the Polo Lounge, pulling out our dog-eared copies of The Glass Castle, and welcoming Carol Burnett back to the tube.
Sign up to receive Rebecca Keegans HWD Daily, Hollywoods new must-read, in your inbox.
Welcome to the Hollywood elite, Sean Hannity! On Tuesday nights episode of Hannity, the conservative Fox News host will premiere a trailer for a new film hes executive producing, the faith-based drama Let There Be Light, directed by and starring Kevin Sorbo, per Varietys Dave McNary. The movie, about an atheist who converts to Christianity after a near-death experience, will also star Travis Tritt and Dionne Warwick. Though he regularly rails against liberal Hollywood, Hannity has said hes a big film fan himself, citing Gladiator, Braveheart, and The Passion of the Christ as personal faves. Sorbo is sort of the Tom Cruise of the faith-based genrehis 2014 movie Gods Not Dead grossed a whopping $60 million domestically. Working together, Hannity has said he hopes theyll fill a void in the marketplace. Liberal Hollywood has increasingly moved the bar, making simple and honest films with solid faith and family values harder to find, Hannity said. Let There Be Light will arrive in theaters October 27, courtesy of Atlas Distribution, a company run by John Aglialoro, the former Cybex C.E.O. who bankrolled and distributed the Atlas Shrugged movies. No word yet on whether Hannity will use his pull with the Trump administration to orchestrate the ultimate marketing event for this projecta White House screening.
By Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Redux.
VF.coms Hillary Busis e-mails:
Producer Gil Netter gave Jeannette Walls a warning before she sat down to watch an adaptation of her best-selling memoir, The Glass Castle: He said, People never like movies about themselves. Its just too weird to see your life on screen, Walls told VF.com contributor Christine Champagne. Luckily for both him and Walls, Netter was wrong. Here, Walls opens up about the strange, emotional experience of watching her difficult childhood brought to life by skilled actors including Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelsonand whether her own mother will have a similarly positive experience once she finally sees the movie as well. It might be a little weird for her, Walls says. The book was tough on her. But bless her heartshe said, I dont see it quite the way you did, but thats the way you saw it.
VF.coms Yohana Desta e-mails:
Comedy queen Carol Burnett is ready to grace your TV screen once more. Or your laptop screen. Or your iPhone screen. Wherever you stream Netflix, really. The iconic comedian is starring in a new series for the platform titled A Little Help with Carol Burnett. Per Netflix, the unscripted series will feature celebrity guests and everyday people receiving advice to their real-life problems from the straightest-shooters around: little kids. Sounds like the perfect comedy playground for Burnett, who has spent the last few years turning in guest roles on shows like Hawaii Five-0 and generally reveling in her status as a living legend. The series also further solidifies Netflixs reputation for attracting notable actresses of a certain age, from Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin on Grace and Frankie to Dame Julie Andrewss childrens puppet show Julies Greenroom. Has anyone checked Betty Whites availability?
VF.coms Laura Bradley e-mails:
Monday was not kind to Anthony Scaramucci. In the early afternoon, news broke that the freshly appointed White House communications director had been firedand come nightfall, late-night comedians took turns lampooning the Moochs short-lived tenure. Stephen Colbert and his staff even had time to write a brief, Queen-inspired song to sing as a farewell. Scaramouche might no longer get to do the fandango in the White House, but his tenure was a hell of a ride while it lasted. Now all thats left is for him to sign on to the increasingly plausible Donald Trump-themed season of Dancing with the Stars.
VF.coms Hillary Busis e-mails:
Filmmaker Bryan Fogel set out to make a gonzo documentary about dopingand ended up unearthing the largest, most unbelievable sports scandal in recent memory. The entire saga is captured in Icarus, a Sundance darling that made waves this January when Netflix acquired it for $5 millionone of the highest sums a doc has ever fetched at the festival. We have an exclusive look at a pivotal point in the film, the moment that Dr. Grigory Rodchenkovthe docs central character, and the man who masterminded Russias notorious state-sanctioned doping programrealizes that he may know too much to be able to stay in his home nation. See everything that came before and after when Icarus premieres on Netflix August 4.
Thats the news for this overcast day in L.A. What are you seeing out there? Send tips, comments, and a Carol Burnett Tarzan yell to Rebecca_Keegan@condenast.com. Follow me on Twitter @thatrebecca.
Posted: at 1:40 pm
Stand outside any entrance of Los Angeles' Central Library, look up, and you see only tall buildings, all of them clearly dating from the mid-20th century and later. 611 Place, Aon Center, the twin towers of City National Plaza, and the Citigroup Center all bear the marks of the late 1960s and 70s; in the 1980s and 90s appeared the Gas Company Tower and, tallest of all, the U.S. Bank Tower, commonly known as the Library Tower. That last gets its nickname not from the presence of public library facilities on any of its 73 floors, but from the source of the air rights literally, the legal right to build upward into the air that allowed it rise to 73 floors in the first place. That skyscraper owes its existence to the library, but the library also owes its existence to that skyscraper.
The Los Angeles Public Library had finally arrived in its own permanent home: not just a building in which to store books, but a temple to knowledge itself.
In this context of utilitarian verticality, an aesthetic common to downtowns across America since the time of postwar urban renewal, the Central Library can look like a relic from an era of altogether different values. But when it first opened in 1926, it looked like an arrival from a future of altogether different values, having taken shape, after several revisions, in a style almost avant-garde in its use of hard geometric edges, raw concrete surfaces, abundant allusions to distant places and times Egypt, Rome, Byzantium, the Islamic world and a philosophical foundation in addition to its concrete one. The Los Angeles Public Library, having had to move from rented space to rented space since its founding in 1872, had finally arrived in its own permanent home: not just a building in which to store books, but a temple to knowledge itself.
Circa 1935 postcard of the Los Angeles Central Library, courtesy of theWerner von Boltenstern Postcard Collection,Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.
The design, both inside and out, makes that purpose explicit. At the top of one staircase a goddess statue has always stood, flanked by a pair of sphinxes and holding open a book whose pages offer a multilingual selection of quotations: the Bible's In the beginning was the word, Seneca's Knowledge extends horizons, Keats' Beauty is truth, truth beauty. Her body bears images of mankind's progress from East to West: the Egyptian pyramids, the tablet of the Ten Commandments, the Parthenon, Notre Dame, the Liberty Bell, a procession of covered wagons. Her name is Civilization, and her creator is Lee Lawrie, a sculptor best known for the forcefully symbolic works made for some of the grander American buildings of the early 20th century, especially the bronze Atlas seen in front of Manhattans Rockefeller Center (and on certain editions of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged).
Lawrie came as something of a package deal with Bertram Goodhue, the New York architect hired to design the Central Library. They'd previously worked together on projects like St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York, chapels at West Point and the University of Chicago, and the Central Library's clearest aesthetic precedent, the Nebraska State Capitol. The blunt, symmetrical podium-and-tower exterior of that monumental structure, designed in 1920, stood in stark contrast to the elaborate Spanish Colonial Revival master plan and building designs Goodhue had come up with earlier, in 1915, for the Panama California Exposition in San Diego, the work that made his name in California and which did much to eventually win him the Central Library commission.
The Central Library's architect, Bertram Goodhue, became associated with the Spanish Colonial Revival style after his work for San Diego's 1915 Panama-California Exposition.
Despite having then personally moved on from Spanish Colonial Revival, Goodhue initially managed to come up with a design for the Central Library sufficiently infused with that official style of the Ramona vision of Southern California. This addressed some of the objections aired by officials (including Mayor George Cryer) to hiring a non-local architect much less a high-bidding East Coaster that prolonged the selection process for months. Yet even after Goodhue got the job, his design had a number of rejections still to endure, and with each revision demanded it moved farther away from Spanish Colonial Revival and closer to a strikingly different, almost sui generis modernism.
Some of the Central Library's unusual qualities arise from its unusual site. Los Angeles' first major boom, which saw its population grow from around 100,000 at the turn of the 20th century to 1.2 million at the end of the 1920s, coincided with the peak influence of the City Beautiful movement across the English-speaking world. That fashion in city planning, conceiving of urban aesthetics as a tool of moral improvement, emphasized the importance of elegantly landscaped parks and neoclassical monuments. When it became embarrassing that Los Angeles lacked a dedicated public library facility commensurate with the city's newfound importance, to say the nothing of the far greater importance boosters envisioned ahead, some City Beautifiers argued for putting the monumental public building and the green space (or at least what green space would remain thereafter) together by building it in Pershing Square.
The downtown park fell out of the running as a site, however, when the city came into possession of the old location of the State Normal School, UCLA's predecessor, unoccupied since the institution moved to its Vermont Avenue campus in 1914. Though much easier to develop, the cramped parcel (first proposed as a library site in a 1907 report by City Beautiful planner Charles Mulford Robinson) at the end of a cul-de-sac between Bunker Hill and the Bible Institute posed serious design challenges. These were somewhat alleviated in 1923 when the library board bought up the properties along adjacent Flower Street, thus allowing the plans to expand a bit farther out to the west, but that only heightened confusion about which side of the building should get its main entrance. Goodhue's unorthodox solution: simply make the four sides' entrances stylistically different, each its own separate aesthetic experience.
Circa 1922 photograph of Normal Hill (the former site of the State Normal School) flattened in preparation for construction of the Central Library, courtesy of the Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.
A crowd gathers at the Central Library construction site, circa 1922. Photo courtesy of the California Historical Society Collection, USC Libraries.
Not that the Central Library, when it first opened, offered nothing to catch the eye but four distinct entrances. Lawrie conceived of its extensive sculptural program as a branch grafted on to the architectural trunk, producing forms that portray animated life, emerge from blocks of stone and terminate in historical expression. This accorded with The Light of Learning, the thematic scheme drawn up by Hartley Burr Alexander, the University of Nebraska philosophy professor with whom Goodhue and Lawrie had previously worked on the Nebraska State Capitol. Light and learning are associated together by an impulse so natural that it pervades the great literature of the world, says Alexander's explanatory text in the 1927 guide to the library. Knowledge is imagined as a lamp, wisdom as a guiding star, and the conscious tradition of mankind as a torch passed from generation to generation.
More than a few visitors have seen, and continue to see, a sinister element in the building's sculptures, decorations, and inscriptions.
Noble though that may sound, more than a few visitors have seen, and continue to see, a sinister element in the building's sculptures, decorations, and inscriptions. The Central Library's mosaics, sphinxes, and especially the pyramid that tops its tower betray to them the deep influence of such much-mythologized secret societies as the Freemasons or even the Illuminati. Despite the Masonic resonances of certain design elements, writes Los Angeles Public Library docent Kenon Breazeale, there is no overt use of the Masons easily recognizable 'trademark' of the compass and square anywhere in the building Goodhue designed. To conspiracy buffs, he and Lawrie's previous work on the University of Chicago's Rockefeller-sponsored chapel is deemed an adequate demonstration of both mens willingness to take orders from an occult elite bent on world domination.
You could read these features as signs of a buried will to power, but you could also read them as signs of insecurity. In that interpretation, Los Angeles, having lacked the kind of grand downtown public-library building seen in so many of the longer-established great cities of the world, attempted to make up its perceived intellectual credibility deficit a campaign that still hasn't quite ended with a heartily overt, almost worshipful display of appreciation for learning. Hence, for instance, the sometimes-translated Latin quotations chiseled into the exterior walls; hence the likenesses of Herodotus, Socrates, and Leonardo da Vinci now staring out at their own reflections in the glass of all those skyscrapers.
All this might seem incongruous with the concept of a library laid out like a department store (and indeed formerly housed in one, having occupied part of Hamburger's Department Store on Broadway and 8th between 1908 and 1914). City Librarian Everett Perry, who pushed for the construction of the Central Library since his 1911 arrival in Los Angeles, had a floor plan in mind which granted each department its own reading room connected, through the stacks, to a central space of card catalogs and circulation desks. (The underlying notion of a large library made of interconnected smaller libraries would come to resonate, decades later, with the widely held perception of midcentury Los Angeles itself as a multi-centered metropolis.)
Circa 1928 postcard featuring an aerial view of the Central Library, courtesy of theWerner von Boltenstern Postcard Collection,Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.
The History Room of the Los Angeles Central Library in 1937. Photocourtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
Though the spatial preferences of librarians and architects, the former tending toward the functional and the latter toward the artistic, haven't always proven compatible, Goodhue could work with Perry's non-negotiable layout, placing that central space under an ornate rotunda. Into that space arrived, in 1933, a series of murals by artist Dean Cornwell (promoted, with Los Angeles' usual marketing panache, as the largest work by a single artist since Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel) depicting the history of California. But Goodhue never lived to see those them, nor did even to see the completion of the Central Library itself, which opened in 1926, two years after Goodhue's sudden death of a heart attack.
The remaining work fell to his longtime associate Carelton Winslow, and though Winslow completed it by all accounts ably, the ensuing decades saw the building become increasingly inadequate to its role. Its publicly accessible stacks held an ever-smaller proportion of the books in the library's collection, forcing patrons to ask clerks to retrieve most of the books they wanted from the internal stacks, and eventually all the usable storage space in the entire aging structure filled to the bursting point, a situation helped not at all by ever-more-deferred maintenance.
The Central Library is an antiquated firetrap, argued historian and novelist John D. Weaver in a 1975 issue of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. No self-respecting landlord would permit it to be used as a sweatshop and no collector of rare books and manuscripts would suffer it to shelter his treasures for a single hour. As Goodhue's building huddles in the shadow of the new downtown skyscrapers like the decrepit townhouse of an elderly widow clinging to the home she came to as a bride 50 years ago, and as library use is declining at the Central Library and the branches closest to it, promoters of a new building insist it be located in downtown Los Angeles, where the money is, rather than in the Valley, where the heaviest library usage is, or in the black or brown communities with the greatest need.
Weaver saw Los Angeles as a city that long ago lost its center, and the campaign to keep the Central Library central as a spasm of the same downtown boosterism that flung up a magnificent terminal for trains at the dawn of the air age. Others shared his critical view, thinking that a decentralized city needed an equally decentralized library system. Though proposals to demolish Goodhue's building had circulated since the 1960s, even some of the plans that retained a prominent downtown branch reflect, to an almost parodic degree, the car-centric suburban urbanism then in fashion: one proposed a kind of drive-in library entered directly from its own ramp off the Harbor Freeway.
The struggle for the architectural and urban soul of the Los Angeles Public Library prompted, in large part, the 1978 formation of the Los Angeles Conservancy, the organization that eventually took the demolition option off the table. Five years later the city settled on an ambitious combination of restoration and expansion, addressing all at once the problems and inadequacies that previous efforts had handled hamfistedly (half of Goodhue and Carleton's original gardens had been lost in the 1960s, paved over for the noble cause of staff parking) or not at all. The question of how to pay for it brought the idea of selling the library's air rights into the conversation.
Though quite a tall building by the imposed small-town aesthetic standards of downtown Los Angeles in the 1920s whose 150-foot height limit Goodhue circumvented with the tower-topping pyramid and its 188-foot tip its scale, no matter how radical the latter-day additions, would never match that of the buildings that began to rise around it after the Second World War. And so the Central Library financed its future by, among other deals, selling the verticality it didn't need to the developers who would go on to build not just the Library Tower but the Gas Company Tower as well, both of them still among the tallest buildings in the city. Even so, nothing had been done by 1986, the year of two still-unsolved arson fires in the Central Library, one in April and one in September, that burned more than 20 percent of its holdings.
Aerial view of the 1986 Los Angeles Central Library fire, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
Arson investigators in art and music reading room of Los Angeles Central Library, 1986, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
There is no point now in finding a scapegoat for the downtown library disaster, wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Jack Smith in the aftermath of the first. Even if we catch the person who set the fire, we can't blame him alone. Smith declared that ultimately the blame must fall on us the citizens of Los Angeles. We have been reluctant to pay for our library; we have rejected bond issues and voted for Proposition 13, which infamously, and severely, limited property tax revenue. One of the reasons for the council's fateful temporizing was public apathy. The library fires, followed by 1987's Whittier Narrows earthquake, shook away some of that apathy, which observers of Los Angeles within and without have diagnosed over and over in a wide variety of contexts. Renovation and expansion of the Central Library began in 1989, and by the time of its re-opening in 1993, the city had endured another complacency-shattering disaster in the form of the previous year's riots.
Both Goodhue's building and the city surrounding it had made a go of rising from the ashes to a degree literally and the new Central Library, now outfitted with gardens by the prestigious urban landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and an expansive atrium wing named after just-departed Mayor Tom Bradley, stood as the effort's monument. (Performers at its dedication ceremony included Barney the Dinosaur.) Essentially unchanged since, Los Angeles' Central Library officially named the Rufus B. von KleinSmid Central Library after the onetime USC president until 2001, when it was renamed after Bradleys successor, Richard Riordan inhabits a downtown unrecognizably different from the one in which it arrived early in the 20th century: the second half of that century saw it grow tall yet strangely empty on the ground, and the early years of this one have begun to fill it in again, not just with built density but with forms of life other than office workers entering in the morning and retreating in the evening.
The city's presiding opinion on public space, its necessity or lack thereof and how or why to create and maintain it, has shifted with each era, but through all of them the Central Library has almost continuously provided public space itself, and public space of an intellectually and historically robust (if not always ideally spotless and convenient) kind. In the world of affairs, we live in our own age, reads one of the buildings inscriptions Alexander came up with to enlighten the approaching patrons. In books, we live in all ages. The same could well be said of certain kinds of architecture.
The Library Tower, under construction in 1989, dwarfs the Central Library. Photocourtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
Circa 1930 postcard of the Los Angeles Central Library, courtesy of theWerner von Boltenstern Postcard Collection,Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.
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Posted: July 29, 2017 at 7:37 pm
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, July 29, 2017, 3:00 AM
Brooklyn: In response to Voicer Candy Cipriani s request for people to look up from your phone, please, I am in total agreement. Everywhere I look there are people young and old alike casting their glance downward to check their phones.
As I am driving to work early in the morning, there are people crossing the streets, riding their bikes, running to catch a train or bus clutching tightly onto their phones. As hard as it is to believe, I even see joggers looking at their phones as they are running!
All of this is disturbing to witness because these people are so fixated on their devices, they are missing out on the amazing sites and sounds this world has to offer. The most disturbing is to see parents, guardians or nannies crossing the street with a child either walking beside them or pushing a child in a stroller all the while chatting away on their phone while the young child is left to trail next to them in danger sometimes because the adult they are with is more interested in their phone conversation than the safety of the young child they are with. I call these children CPOs Cell Phone Orphans.
Please wake up, parents, guardians and nannies these children are young for a precious short time. Dont you think they deserve your undivided attention? Engage with them while you can and make them feel more important than the caller you are neglecting them for. Margaret D. Mirailh
Far Rockaway: People keep talking about illegal immigration, what about so-called legal immigration? Im talking about all the Russians who arrived in NYC during Rudy Giulianis reign as mayor. The Russians arrived at JFK with Section 8 apartments, SSI, welfare and food stamps already in their hands. Thats what was happening in those compounds President Obama shut down. The Russians in those compounds had access to all social service, Social Security and all other government databases. They were hooking their people up and many resided in Trump Tower. In the meantime, Americans who were eligible and waiting for these benefits were put on long waiting lists. What about that? Sandra Smith
Salem, N.H.: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski should have the courage to bring criminal extortion charges against President Trump! He has threatened her and Alaska, if she doesnt do what he says. I hope she seriously considers this! Shirley Kerman
North Arlington, N.J.: I think President Trump makes a valid point in citing the increased medical costs transgender people serving in the military bring. Lets say Robert, who is transgender, joins the Army. He then makes it known that he wishes to have a sex change operation. Upon completion of his/her surgery, and rehab, he enlists an attorney who informs the Army that he no longer wishes to serve. The reason being that Roberta never would have joined the Army. The taxpayers are stuck with the bill for the surgery, and a cottage industry is born. Armand Rose
Flushing: What next? Will President Trump dig up the graves of transgender soldiers and sailors who gave up their lives for their country and who are buried in Arlington Cemetery, in order to remove them? Saul Grossman
Seaford, L.I.: The author Ayn Rand has influenced many capitalists over the years. Donald Trump and members of his White House team are firmly in her camp. Rands philosophy of objectivism (individualism) can be summed up as Every man for himself. She promoted a form of free enterprise that leaves behind the poor, middle class, sick and aging. As we inch closer to The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, by putting ourselves before others, and disregarding the affect our actions have on others, our individual freedoms slowly start to slip away. This is not fiction, but real life. Moral questions abound. Socialism exists in our world because self-centeredness also does. The U.S. is not the first great civilization to travel down this egotistical road and will not be the last. At some point though, they all collapsed into moral poverty. We need to plot a different course. Our current GPS needs a new destination. Bob Bascelli
Brooklyn: I enlisted and served in the Air Force between 1965 and 1969. Those who criticize President Trump for being reluctant to serve in the military should be happy he didnt. Would you be comfortable having a coward covering your back? Anyone who volunteers and vows to serve and protect our country should be honored for their service. Back in the 1960s, and with the airmen I served with, Trump would be considered a Dirt Bag. I hope others who served will also write in to Voicers and tell their stories about how they were proud to wear their uniform and were loyal to their fellow brothers and sisters. Kenneth Ackermann
Kearny, N.J.: What is it with this guy, Trump? He goes before the Boy Scouts, curses (in violation of the Scout Oath to be clean in speech), attacks the media and the last President, and brags about his Electoral College victory and crowd size (get over yourself, dude, they were there for their Jamboree, not you). This man is the antithesis of a role model to the Scouts and the values they represent. Theyd have done just as well if theyd invited O.J. Simpson or R. Kelly to speak to them. John Woodmaska
Suffern, N.Y.: So many times, in tragedies such as the police killing of Justine Damond in Minneapolis, I return to my thinking when I was a police officer. I remember the apprehension, and concern when approaching a suspect in a situation that appeared to be dangerous. The point of this message has been offered before many many times. When a police officer gives a command, just do what the command dictates. If there is cooperation, the level of apprehension and concern diminishes and the issue can be resolved without unnecessary escalation. Just do what the cop says to do. Simple. Bob Gould
Lewes, Del.: The picture of the moving of the Kosciusko Bridge brought back memories. Growing up in the Marble Hill Houses we watched the old Broadway turnstile bridge at 225th St. being floated out and the new lift bridge that was built down at 207th St. floated in. For a 12-year-old, it was quite the sight. Kevin Bell
Manhattan: To Voicer Juanita M. Johnson: As a non-payer of rent going on 24 months, I was amused by your suggestion that the laws ought to be changed to allow for the expedited removal of people like me within 60 days. Have you never heard that justice is the firm and continuous desire to render to everyone that which is his due? Desires take time. You seem to believe the law confers upon couples with children some special advantage over other litigants in eviction matters. As a happy, loyal, repeat respondent in Manhattan Housing Court, I can assure you they do not. You say the judge in your brothers case made a mistake. Bad precedents? Maybe. But outright error? The burden to present the facts in arguments lies solely with plaintiffs and it beggars belief to insist your brother did just that and the judge was somehow misled and made a mistake anyway. I do not know whether justice ultimately triumphed in your case but I do know karma simply owed me one in mine. Aydin Torun
Bellerose: If private companies really want to help straphangers, let them pledge not to discipline their employees for documented transit delays. Why isnt Gov. Cuomo talking about that, instead of flowers and light shows? Robert Berger
Waco, Tex.: The closing of a burrito shop in Portland, Ore. owned by two white women over claims of cultural appropriation in The Portland Mercury newspaper is absurd. I dont have all the facts, but here in Texas, we have Mexican food on every corner. Most of the eateries are owned by Mexican-Americans, but many are owned by whites, so what is their point? Appears to be a typical narrow-minded opinion, or sensationalized journalism. David Rosen
Oak Ridge, N.J.: Are you kidding me? Todd Frazier hits into a triple play and theres barely a mention of it during the postgame; yea it was the Yanks that did it but come on man, how friggin often does it happen? Jim Heimbuch
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Posted: at 7:37 pm
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, July 28, 2017, 7:00 PM
Manhattan: Attorney Damien Brown, representing Tymel Abrams, who was shot by police officers and arrested on gun charges last Friday night, was quoted as saying that Abrams is adamant that he was unarmed, and that we should look into the actions of the officers involved in the incident (Atty: Client shot by cops wasnt armed, July 23).
Its one thing for a lawyer to plead his clients innocence and quite another to impugn the integrity of police officers without factual basis. Actually, it is an outrage given the overwhelming evidence in this particular case. These brave officers responded to the sound of shots fired and saw Abrams pursuing another man while clearly armed with a handgun. They confronted him and ordered him to stop, and when he turned toward them, with the gun still in his hand, an officer fired, striking Abrams in the thigh. Abrams continued running and tossed the gun to the sidewalk, where it was immediately recovered by police. Much of this incident is captured on video, including the foot pursuit and Abrams discarding his pistol.
Has the reflexive disparagement and resulting distrust of our hardworking police gone so far that members of the public now casually question cops honesty simply because a criminal with a history of gun possession adamantly denies his current charges after being caught in the act?
This is precisely the behavior I spoke about earlier this month at the funeral of Detective Miosotis Familia, who was targeted, ambushed and assassinated by another criminal with clear disdain for our uniformed men and women, and our nations rule of law. This is how cops the very people who choose to step forward to protect our neighborhoods and everyone in them become vilified by the public: when unfounded, outlandish accusations lacking footholds in reality are offhandedly uttered at arraignments and repeated in the next days newspaper.
As I said two weeks ago in the Bronx: Hate has consequences. There is a distinct apathy among some of those we serve regarding the work and role of our dedicated police officers. Adding to a misguided narrative by smearing the honest efforts of societys greatest protectors is both disingenuous and contemptible.
Last Friday, these officers went directly toward the danger and possibly saved a life by interrupting Abrams actions. As far as the attorneys suggestion that someone should look into the actions of the officers, I certainly will, and very likely will commend them for taking another gun, and another dangerous, armed criminal, off the streets of New York City. Police Commissioner James P. ONeill
Brooksville, Fla.: Hillary Clinton ignored and insulted the basket of deplorables, and destroyed thousands of emails. Her shady pay-to-play as secretary of state is the only cause of her losing last Novembers election. She continues to exhibit bad judgment with another poor-me book that does not matter to anyone but her (Hillary Clintons election book titled What Happened, July 27). A cynical view is that she is doing it for the money. Apparently, no public service can go unexploited by her. Everyone knew she wanted it too much anyways. Why? She could not even serve out her secretary of state position. Maybe the joke is on the public either way, but most of us feel better off without her. Michael Connelly
Manhattan: I see squadrons of so-called traffic cops who do nothing but ticket parked cars. I get that it produces revenue, but if New York City cares little for human life as is evident in paltry failure-to-yield summonses and simultaneous green lights and walk signs for pedestrians in the most dangerous places in the city then perhaps they will be inspired to hire and assign more cops to enforce speeding and other traffic laws. Linda Reynolds
Utica, N.Y.: Sen. John McCain risked his fragile health to fly across the country, in order to cast his vote to take health care away from 25 million Americans (John McCain, A Man Of Supreme Honor, Op-Ed, July 25). I ask Richard Cohen: Is that the act of a wholly honorable man? No, it isn't. That would be the act of one of those drizzle of apparatchiks that you see in Washington, one of the coterie of sycophants who have gathered around President Trump. A truly honorable McCain would stand up to Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell. He would, loudly and proudly, vote to allow those 25 million Americans the same health benefits that enable him to fight his terrible cancer! Time for McCain to act with supreme honor. Jeff Ganeles
Bronx: I remember when the last President Bush looked the nation in the eye during a State of the Union speech and said he supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, and I remember the super-conservative Attorney General John Ashcroft going out of his way to publicize his prosecution of an anti-gay double murder. It was easy to be proud to be an American with examples like them, even if I wasnt always happy. Now President Trump uses Twitter to stab his attorney general and transgender servicemembers his most loyal employees in the back, and pride doesnt come so easily. But I know that I want to see things get better, I know who I and the rest of us are, and I am an American. Jorge Sierra
Manhattan: Trumps senseless persecution of transgender Americans is cowardly and disgusting. His so-called justifications are fabrications and out-and-out lies. Who are these expert advisers? Let them come out of their closet for all to see. Can Trump go any lower than this? Time will tell. Dick Ziegenfuss
Houston: Former transgender Navy SEAL Kristin Beck says that being transgender does not affect military service. But transgender is not acceptable as normal by the majority of American society. There are only two genders. One should not force their beliefs on others, as the liberal agenda attempts to do. Joe Wojcik
Staten Island: The LGBTQ community should pull an Atlas Shrugged on the current administration by going on strike to protest President Trumps latest smack in the face to transgender Americans regarding service in our military. Let every one of us, working in every single type of business across all of the United States, stop working for several days. Perhaps then Mr. Trump will see how important, valuable and even vital LGBTQ people are to the success of the American way of life. Lillian Pennino
Marion, Ky.: Sex is the ultimate driving force of all species and many times it causes violence and death within a species. To argue otherwise is ignorant. Its hard enough to control straight folks within the military. Throw in transgenders. Now thats even more of a problem. Remove transgenders from the military by all means possible. Its just not the place for them. The only purpose it serves for transgenders is they get a free sex change. Bill Frazer
New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arthur Caplan argues that, sometimes, medicine must say no more (After Charlie Gard, learning tough truths, July 25). Medicine cant talk. Medicine cant think. Medicine cant act. People do so. Caplans sleight of hand substituting medicine for people is a good but dirty trick. He knows that it leaves no one responsible and makes the end of treatment easier. Tom McFarland
Manhattan: Football can be fun. Its fun to run and dodge, its fun to throw, catch, tackle and block. Whats not fun is running head-first into a brick wall at 30 mph. Thats the impact equivalent of a helmet hit that occurs over and over, until your brain is permanently damaged. Lets dump all the collision gear that has turned our players into crash-test dummies, and start playing the game again. John Van Couvering
Ridgewood, N.J.: An eye for an eye. Tow their cars, bar armed feds carrying weapons, check them at the door, from all city buildings. New Yorkers governing bodies should cut all special protections from federal buildings, and Trump properties. If feds want someone for immigration, make them get a judicial warrant, not just an ICE detainer. Peter J. Peirano
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Posted: at 7:37 pm
The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 11
The second person to visit Roarks new office is Peter Keating, whos full of praise and congratulations for his old college pal. Roark is just as warm and gracious as youd expect:
He walked in, without warning, one noon, walked straight across the room and sat down on Roarks desk, smiling gaily, spreading his arms wide in a sweeping gesture: Well, Howard! he said. Well, fancy that! Your own office, your own name and everything! Already! Just imagine!
Who told you, Peter?
Oh, one hears things. You wouldnt expect me not to keep track of your career, now would you? You know what Ive always thought of you. And I dont have to tell you that I congratulate you and wish you the very best.
No, you dont have to.
Have you ever heard the word gratitude, Roark? Really, you should try it sometime. It wont hurt, I promise. Here, you can use this as a template: Thank you, Peter, thats a very nice thing for you to say.
As with Hank Rearden and his wife in Atlas Shrugged, when Roark has to talk to someone he doesnt like, he can only communicate in surly, mumbled monosyllables. This applies even when that person is trying to give him a compliment. Its a thoroughly passive-aggressive and, dare I say it, adolescent way of expressing his displeasure.
Keating points out that Roark has taken an awful chance by going into business for himself so early in his career with nothing to fall back on, and Roark shrugs it off:
Have you thought about getting your registration?
Ive applied for it.
Youve got no college degree, you know. Theyll make it difficult for you at the examination.
What are you going to do if you dont get the license?
Ill get it.
Rand excels at putting fake obstacles in her heroes path, pseudo-problems they can overcome by sheer force of will. But as we saw last week, when Rand has a chance to script a realistic challenge, she brushes it off.
Most states and countries have strict professional requirements to be licensed as an architect (as well they should; you dont want someone to build a skyscraper that falls down). In almost every jurisdiction, one of those requirements is a degree in architecture which, oops, Roark doesnt have.
In New York States actual requirements, which seem the most relevant, you need a total of 12 credits to be licensed, which are derived from a combination of education and work experience. Completing a professional degree from a school accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board gives you 9, but again, Roark was expelled without getting his. Is it possible for him to get to 12 regardless?
If you dont have a degree, you can get 2 credits for each year of completed coursework at an NAAB-accredited school, up to a maximum of 7. Roark was expelled in 1922, after three years (he was a year behind Peter Keating, and was expelled at the same time Keating graduated), so that would be 6. Then you can get one additional credit for each year of work experience under a certified architect. Presumably, his time with Henry Cameron, Guy Francon and John Erik Snyte would all count towards this.
Problem: Roark worked for Cameron for less than three years. He was expelled in the summer of 1922, moved to New York and began work for Cameron soon thereafter, but Cameron retired in February 1925. Roark was scooped up by Guy Francon at Peter Keatings urging, but only lasted a few months before being fired. Then he was hired by John Erik Snyte, but he only worked there for five months before he met Austen Heller and quit. At most, hed have 3 credits of work experience.
No matter how you slice it, Roark cant get to 12 credits. Under current law, its impossible for him to be licensed to practice as an architect in New York State. And thats without even considering the requirement that an architect be of good moral character. He doesnt exactly have a lot of friends wholl write character references for him.
Rand apparently couldnt think of a way to overcome this problem, so she just handwaves it away. Neither the exam nor the license is ever mentioned again, so were left to wonder how (or whether!) Roark passed.
Keating says he assumes Roark will be joining the Architects Guild of America, slipping in a little self-deprecating humor:
Well, I guess Ill be seeing you now at the A.G.A., if you dont go high hat on me, because youll be a full-fledged member and Im only a junior.
Im not joining the A.G.A.
What do you mean, youre not joining? Youre eligible now.
Youll be invited to join.
Tell them not to bother.
You know, Peter, we had a conversation just like this seven years ago, when you tried to talk me into joining your fraternity at Stanton. Dont start it again.
You wont join the A.G.A. when you have a chance to?
I wont join anything, Peter, at any time.
It appears that Roark is channeling the old Groucho Marx line about not joining any club that would have him as a member.
Its not that he doesnt know what hes doing. When Keating points out that hes making things harder for himself by refusing to join the AGA, Roark just agrees: I am. And when Keating cautions him that hell surely make enemies of other architects if he snubs their invitation, Roark says coolly, Ill make enemies of them anyway.
Its not clear what principle Roark is standing on, if any. Theres a difference between being an uncompromising individualist and being a deliberately standoffish misanthrope. Not wanting to follow current fashions in architecture is one thing, but refusing even to associate with other architects can only be seen as him broadcasting his contempt for the rest of the profession which of course, he is.
This is another example of how Ayn Rand had to go to the exact opposite extreme of any belief system she rejected. She disliked the idea that you could become successful by exploiting personal or professional connections, so she wrote a hero who refuses to form any connections at all. She hated the idea of being forced to join a collective, so her hero refuses to join any group for any reason. Someone who was merely an individualist would just want to do his own thing, but as far as Roark is concerned, its not enough to stand out from the crowd. You also have to make it crystal-clear that you consider everyone else beneath you.
Image credit: Hendrik Dacquin, released under CC BY 2.0 license
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Posted: July 26, 2017 at 4:42 pm
The New York Times recently published an article holding up Ubers recently ousted CEO Travis Kalanick as a cautionary tale for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are influenced by Ayn Rand. The implication is that implementing Rands ideas in managing a business will lead to disaster.
This is not the first time weve heard this kind of argument, and it serves an obvious purpose. Critics of Rand know that her popularity among businessmen is a key part of her appeal. More broadly, they sense that the achievement of capitalism in continually transforming and improving human lifeparticularly in Silicon Valley, which is famous for giving us astonishing new products at ever-lower pricesprovides a large-scale, real-world validation of key parts of her philosophy. So they have to come up with arguments, however thin, to show that Rands ideas are bad for business.
The evidence for such claims is very thin indeed. The New York Times article, for example, is ostensibly about Travis Kalanick and Uber, but it gives no real description of Kalanicks management practices, aside from Silicon Valley rumors about Uber tolerating sexist behavior from its employees. Its worth noting that Kalanick was forced out as CEO, not because of poor performance by his company, but because of a string of bad PR over the last year. Meanwhile, he spent much of the past decade shepherding Uber from a tiny startup to a company that has changed transportation in cities across the world and is worth more than $50 billion. Not exactly proof of management failure.
As I have discussed elsewhere, Uber is based on precisely the kind of disruptive business idea that Rand would have loved, particularly because it found a way to undermine irrational government regulations and break the local taxi monopolies. The company has gotten away with this because it offered so much value to so many peopleincluding the urban, upper-middle-class types who would normally support government regulations, but who dont want to give up their Ubers. I have sensed for a while now that some these customers are uncomfortable with the compromise, so they leaped at a chance to cover that gap between principles and practice by sacrificing Travis Kalanick for a reason that seems politically comfortably. Thats why you can color me skeptical about the notion that Kalanick was not a good CEO taken as a whole.
The same is true for the other examples in the article. Fast-food executive Andy Puzder is cited as an example of management failure because he was too controversial to be appointed to a cabinet post. John Mackey is cited because he had to sell Whole Foods to Amazon for nearly $14 billionthis, for a chain he co-founded as a single small store in Austin, Texas, in 1980. If only the rest of us could be so fortunate as to suffer such management failures.
Other claims have been a bit more substantive. A few years ago, some leftists were gloating that the slow-motion collapse of Sears, a venerable old retailer, was because its CEO, hedge-fund manager Eddie Lampert, was a fan of Ayn Rand who supposedly drew on her ideas for managing the company. Unfortunately for that thesis, there was in-depth reporting on how Lampert was actually running Sears. The overall theory might sound vaguely plausible at first.
Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the companys leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.
Then you look at it in more detail and see how this theory was implemented. As I wrote at the time:
In practice, all of this ends up being less Atlas Shrugged than Game of Thrones. Its a system of constant warfare among rival fiefdoms.
Ayn Rand celebrated the freewheeling entrepreneurs who acted on their own judgment and chafed at the inertia of entrenched bureaucracies. But Lamperts system multiplies the bureaucracy. [T]here were more than 30 slots to fill at the head of each unit. Executives jostled for the roles, each eager to run his or her own multibillion-dollar business. Marketing directors interviewed with the newly appointed presidents, hoping to snag coveted chief marketing jobs.
Because Sears had to hire and promote dozens of chief financial officers and chief marketing officers, personnel expenses shot up. Meanwhile, many business unit leaders underpaid middle managers to trim costs.
The most cumbersome aspect of the new structure, former employees say, was Lamperts edict that each unit create its own board of directors. Because there were so many departments, some presidents sat on as many as five or six boards, which met once a month. Top executives were constantly mired in meetings.
As for whether anyone can make a decision and just move on it, If product divisions like tools or toys wanted to enlist the services of the IT or human resources departments, they had to write up formal agreements. So you have 30 separate divisions all trying to negotiate agreements with each other. Its a nightmare of red tape.
Philosophically, Lamperts error is childishly simple. At one point in Kimess report, a Lampert spokesman compares central management of a private company to socialism. But this drops the basic distinction between coercive government action and uncoerced private action.
The business heroes in Ayn Rands novels all have one thing in common: they take seriously the responsibility of thinking and planning and making decisions. They know that they cant pass the buck and that it is their job to set the direction for the companies they run. But Lamperts system seems to be an attempt to evade that responsibility by pretending that decisions will somehow emerge spontaneously from an imaginary internal marketplace.
One former employee summed it up nicely: Eddies Sears is not the free market, nor is it the Soviet central planning committee. It is the imperial court of Byzantium.
But our concern here is not so much the merits or demerits of any particular CEOs management style, which would depend on in-depth reporting about the companys internal decision-making and a long-term consideration of its success. Our concern is with something we can assess more definitively: what can a fan of Rands work reasonably take from Atlas Shrugged as her views on management and running a business?
This, by the way, is the biggest error in the New York Times article. It quotes a sneering philosophy professor who says that Rand never really explores how a dynamic entrepreneur actually runs a business. Did he read the same book?
Atlas Shrugged is not a book about business and management, in the same way that The Fountainhead is not a book about architecture. Yet Rand ends up having an awful lot to say about both of those topics. Business and management is not the subject or theme ofAtlas Shrugged, but it is the setting. As one of the few novelists to make a serious and sympathetic attempt to portray people who run businesses, she frequently sets up her characterization and plot points by showing us how the heroes and villains operate in the business world, how they make important decisions, and how they treat their employees.
We can look at that and derive a few basic rules for how an Ayn Rand hero does business. Call it The Management Secrets of Atlas Shrugged.' After all, weve had a string of business books over the decades giving us supposed management secrets from a whole cavalcade of unlikely sources, from Sun Tzu and Machiavelli to Winnie the Pooh (yes, really). Recently, weve even been told about management secrets from Game of Thronescorporate motto: Chaos Is a Ladderwhich seems like a really terrible idea, considering how things tend to end up in that series. At least in the Winnie the Pooh books, everybody lives.
Its time we took a look at management from the perspective of an author who actually cared about portraying the world of business and productivity. And she did not draw purely on her imagination as a writer. She had studied the history of capitalism, drawing on great American industrialists as the models for her heroesas well as the business leaders she met up close in her career in Hollywood and the publishing business, from Cecil B. DeMille to Jack Warner to Bennett Cerf. She took those observations and sought to distill them into the characters and setting of her novel.
So what can we learn from Ayn Rand about running a business? Here are the seven management secrets of Atlas Shrugged.
(Warning: In this overview, there will be plenty of spoilers, discussion of important plot points that will ruin the novels suspense for someone who does not already know how it all turns out. I dont want any reader to find himself slapping his forehead in the middle of one of these articles and thinking: if only I hadnt missed out on this experience that has now been wrecked for me. So take this spoiler warning seriously. I mean it.)
Many of Ayn Rands business heroes are self-made men who worked their way up from the bottom, starting with the lowest, grittiest entry-level jobs in their industries. Hank Rearden rose up out of the iron mines before becoming a mine owner, then the owner of multiple iron and coal mines, then a steel tycoon.
He saw the day when he stood on a rocky ledge and felt a thread of sweat running from his temple down his neck. He was fourteen years old and it was his first day of work in the iron mines of Minnesota. He was trying to learn to breathe against the scalding pain in his chest. He stood, cursing himself, because he had made up his mind that he would not be tired. After a while, he went back to his task; he decided that pain was not a valid reason for stopping.
He saw the day when he stood at the window of his office and looked at the mines; he owned them as of that morning. He was thirty years old. What had gone on in the years between did not matter, just as pain had not mattered. He had worked in mines, in foundries, in the steel mills of the north, moving toward the purpose he had chosen.
The same goes for Ken Danagger, who is described as having started work in the coal mines at age 12this was before the era of modern child labor laws.
Even the heroes who inherited successful companies learned the ropes by starting outsometimes surreptitiouslyat low-level jobs. At age 16, railroad heiress Dagny Taggart starts a summer job as the night operator at a rural train station. Francisco DAnconia, heir to a vast copper fortune, spends his college years working at a dilapidated copper foundry, which he then buys with money he earned by speculating on stocks in his spare time. (If this strikes you as over the top, thats the whole point of Franciscos character.)
In one memorable scene, this is the bond that seals the friendship between the ultimate self-made man, Rearden, and the worlds richest heir, DAnconia: the fact that they both know an obscure and long-forgotten method for sealing a furnace breach by hand.
In the few moments which Rearden needed to grasp the sight and nature of the disaster, he saw a mans figure rising suddenly at the foot of the furnace, a figure outlined by the red glare almost as if it stood in the path of the torrent, he saw the swing of a white shirt-sleeved arm that rose and flung a black object into the source of the spurting metal. It was Francisco dAnconia, and his action belonged to an art which Rearden had not believed any man to be trained to perform any longer.
Years before, Rearden had worked in an obscure steel plant in Minnesota, where it had been his job, after a blast furnace was tapped, to close the hole by handby throwing bullets of fire clay to dam the flow of the metal. It was a dangerous job that had taken many lives; it had been abolished years earlier by the invention of the hydraulic gun; but there had been struggling, failing mills which, on their way down, had attempted to use the outworn equipment and methods of a distant past. Rearden had done the job; but in the years since, he had met no other man able to do it. In the midst of shooting jets of live steam, in the face of a crumbling blast furnace, he was now seeing the tall, slim figure of the playboy performing the task with the skill of an expert.
This is why the heroes in Atlas Shrugged are able to start up again in Galts Gulch. They have given up their large corporations and are starting over on a small scale, with relatively little capital. But they have not given up their knowledge of how a business works. They can readily downshift into the roles of foremen and mechanics, and they have no compunction about walking to work swinging a lunchbox.
The important contrast here is between Dagny and her brother, Jim. He is always demanding the impossible and the contradictory, as in the Taggart Tunnel disaster, when he demands that Kip Chalmers be given a train to get him to California on time, but also that it be done safelygoals that are mutually exclusive. He views it as his job to give vague and peremptory orders and somebody elses job to figure out how to make it work. He expects it to happen somehow, because he doesnt know or want to know the details of how his company operates. He started his career on the railroad in the PR Department, and as one of Reardens men later puts it, hes the type who is only good at running to Washington, not running his business.
All of Rands business heroes share a core of competence based on experience that keeps them in touch with the day-to-day operation of their businesses.This also earns them the admiration and support of their employees, because they know that the guy (or gal) in the executive office knows what hes doing. Which leads us to the next management secret.
In the very first scene where we meet our main protagonist, Dagny Taggart, we see her give decisive orders to solve a problem thats causing her railroads flagship passenger train to fall behind schedule. After she gives that order, one of the newer railroad workers asks someone who she is. Here is the reply: Thats who runs Taggart Transcontinental, said the engineer; the respect in his voice was genuine. And later: When she went out on the line, old railroad men, who hated Jim, said, There will always be a Taggart to run the railroad, looking at her as her father had looked.
When we first meet Hank Rearden, he is watching his workers pouring the first heat of Rearden Metal, and we get a sense of the camaraderie he shares with them: A worker saw him and grinned in understanding, like a fellow accomplice in a great celebration, who knew why that tall, blond figure had had to be present here tonight. Rearden smiled in answer: it was the only salute he had received.
Rands heroes are clearly inspirational leaders, but its not because they jet off to Davos or give TED talks about thinking outside the box or make pie-in-the-sky promises about putting a million people on Mars. Its because they earn the respect of their employees and business partners.
There is nothing worse than working for a boss who doesnt know the difference between your best work and somebody elses worst, or who constantly has to be talked out of bad ideas because he doesnt know any better. Thats what working for Jim Taggart is like, and its what Dagny feels while working her way up under one of Jims cronies.
She was defeated by loathing for the hours, the days, the nights she had to waste circumventing the interference of Jims friend who bore the title of Vice-President in Charge of Operation. The man had no policy, and any decision he made was always hers, but he made it only after he had made every effort to make it impossible.
Or consider Gerald Starnes, one of the failed heirs of the Twentieth Century Motor Company. Jeff Allen describes how, as director of production, Starnes led VIP tours of the factory and collected the magazine covers he appeared on, while being blithely unconcerned with the actual day-to-day running of the companyand how this earned him the contempt of the men on the factory floor.
Rands heroes inspire their employees because they lead from the front. They never demand that anyone give more, in terms of knowledge, work, or devotion, than they give themselves.
In another installment of this series, I described Dagny Taggart Mode, her characteristic way of dealing with a business problem: The basic pattern goes like this: somebody rushes in to report an emergency, saying, Miss Taggart, we dont know what to do. Dagny immediately assesses the situation, comes up with a solution, and starts giving orders. At some point somebody asks whos going to be responsible for giving the orders, and she says, I will.'
This is probably what stands out most about Dagnys approach to her work, and you can see how it ties in to the wider themes and conflicts of the novel. She is the kind of person who habitually takes on responsibility, and shes used to making good on it. So you can see why she keeps on believing, almost to the end, that she can single-handedly save the world.
They name their businesses after themselves as a way of stressing their responsibility, the idea that everything their company does is literally done in their name.
Similarly, when Mr. Ward of the Ward Harvester Company comes to Hank Rearden attempting to place an order for steel, he explains that Orren Boyles Associated Steel has been promising him a delivery any week nowfor a year. He then says hes come to Rearden because he is the only decentI mean, reliablesteel manufacturer left. Note the very deliberate implication that being a reliable business partner, one who honors his promises, is the same thing as being morally decent.
This is one of the reasons why the business heroes in Atlas Shrugged all have their businesses named after themRearden Steel, DAnconia Copper, Wyatt Oil, Taggart Transcontinentalwhile the villains run companies with vaguely collective names like Associated Steel. Part of the point Rand was making is that behind every productive organization there is a person who created it and keeps it going. But from the characters perspective, they name their businesses after themselves as a way of stressing their responsibility, the idea that everything their company does is literally done in their name.
(I cant help pointing out, in this context, the very different spirit of a major business figure in todays culture who likes to put his name on everything. Donald Trump is notorious for lending his name to a string of marginal and dubious ventures: failed attempts at celebrity branding (Trump water and Trump steaks), bogus real-estate investment seminars (Trump University), and overseas hotels that he doesnt run and for which he hasnt put up any capital. Trump names things after himself, not out of a sense of responsibility, but out of vanityand in a cheap attempt to cash in on his notoriety.)
The whole method of the business villains in Atlas Shrugged is to evade responsibility, constantly whining that it wasnt my fault, or I cant be blamed. We can see this most clearly in the Taggart Tunnel disaster, which happens because, with Dagny briefly gone, a whole chain of Taggart executives from Jim on down pass the buck.
Dave Mitchum was not good at understanding problems of engineering and transportation, but he understood men like Clifton Locey. He understood the kind of game the New York executives were playing and what they were now doing to him. The order did not tell him to give Mr. Chalmers a coal-burning enginejust an engine. If the time came to answer questions, wouldnt Mr. Locey gasp in shocked indignation that he had expected a division superintendent to know that only a Diesel engine could be meant in that order? The order stated that he was to send the Comet through safelywasnt a division superintendent expected to know what was safe?and without unnecessary delay. What was an unnecessary delay? If the possibility of a major disaster was involved, wouldnt a delay of a week or a month be considered necessary? The New York executives did not care, thought Mitchum; they did not care whether Mr. Chalmers reached his meeting on time, or whether an unprecedented catastrophe struck their rails; they cared only about making sure that they would not be blamed for either.
In turn, Mitchum finds a way to pass the buck all the way down to the most junior employee in the operation, with disastrous results.
This is why you will find that businessmen who are influenced by Atlas Shrugged often cite things like honesty and integrity as lessons they took from the book. Oh, what a nefarious influencebusinessmen who believe in integrity! But thats because this is the actual, practical reality of how her heroes live and run their businesses.
If Ayn Rands heroes expect a lot out of themselves, they look for the same qualities in the people they hire and do business with.
At the beginning of the novel, the basic plot idea is introduced to us in the form of Dagnys struggle to find and retain talent. One of the first things she does is to offer Owen Kellogg a promotion to replace an incompetent manager, then attempt to keep him when he says hes quitting. Why?
She knew that the superintendent of the Ohio Division was no good and that he was a friend of James Taggart. She had not insisted on throwing him out long ago only because she had no better man to put in his place. Good men were so strangely hard to find. But she would have to get rid of him, she thought, and she would give his post to Owen Kellogg, the young engineer who was doing a brilliant job as one of the assistants to the manager of the Taggart Terminal in New York; it was Owen Kellogg who ran the Terminal. She had watched his work for some time; she had always looked for sparks of competence, like a diamond prospector in an unpromising wasteland. Kellogg was still too young to be made superintendent of a division; she had wanted to give him another year, but there was no time to wait.
Later, in Galts Gulch, Dagny realizes that the foreman at Andrew Stocktons foundry is the disappeared coal tycoon Ken Danagger.
She glanced at Stockton with curiosity. Arent you training a man who could become your most dangerous competitor?
Thats the only sort of men I like to hire. Any man whos afraid of hiring the best ability he can find is a cheat whos in a business where he doesnt belong.
Or consider Midas Mulligan, the banker whose touch turns everything to gold, and how he describes the secret of his financial success.
I was born on a farm. I knew the meaning of money. I had dealt with many men in my life. I had watched them grow. I had made my fortune by being able to spot a certain kind of man. The kind who never asked you for faith, hope and charity, but offered you facts, proof and profit.
The idea of a certain kind of man, of a code of rationality and competence, runs through the worldview of Rands business heroes. The importance of men of ability, and what happens in an organization or society where they are not welcome, are not the abstract philosophical themes of the novel. Theyre a recurring concern of all the major characters. John Galt coins another metaphor for this outlook.
I went out to become a flame-spotter. I made it my job to watch for those bright flares in the growing night of savagery, which were the men of ability, the men of the mindto watch their course, their struggle and their agonyand to pull them out, when I knew that they had seen enough.
Unlike Dagny, Galt isnt trying to keep the railroad or the nations economy together. Hes trying to pull them down. But his description of his method serves as a guide for what Rands business heroes are trying to do to build up their companies.
The manager who is influenced by Atlas Shrugged is, above all else, a flame-spotter who is constantly on the lookout for talent, competence, and rationality, and hes always looking to elevate talented individuals to the highest level of work theyre capable of.
Rands business heroes are also trying to elevate their companies to a higher and higher level. They are not mere caretakers trying to administer an established organization and make sure it runs smoothly, or trying to eke out a marginal extra profit from a proven business model. They are visionaries who are looking for revolutionary new machines and the kind of innovations we would describe nowadays as disruptive.
There are two such disruptive innovations that embody this idea. Roughly the first third of the novels plot is driven by Hank Reardens invention of a revolutionary metal alloy that is strong, lighter, cheaper, and longer-lasting than steel. In fact, the plot of the novel is kicked off by two business conferences in the first chapter. In the first, Eddie Willers informs James Taggart of a freight train derailment and warns him of the disastrous state of the Taggart systems rail, particularly in the Rio Norte Line in Colorado. In the second conference, Dagny tells Jim that she has ordered new rail that will be made of Rearden Metaland dares him to cancel the order.
The metal itself is Reardens visionary idea. Using it to rebuild the Rio Norte Line is Dagnys innovative vision. She is an early adopter, pushing Taggart Transcontinental to embrace a new material that everyone else still considers risky and untested.
She is an early adopter, pushing Taggart Transcontinental to embrace a new material that everyone else still considers risky and untested.
Dagnys crucial idea is that innovation can be her companys way of surviving an economic downturn. With the nations economy in crisis, Jims reflexas usualis to hunker down, to be safe and cautious and do things in the established way. This is one of the things that makes Jim Taggart such a bad manager: his mania for wanting to make everything stand still, so he can go through the motions of running his business the way the people before him ran it, collecting all the same prestige without having to do any new thinking.
By contrast, Dagny understands that a Rio Norte Line made of Rearden Metal, serving the booming new businesses of Colorado, would generate profits that could be used to rebuild and revitalize the whole Taggart systemwhich, in turn, could help revitalize the nations entire economy. This innovative business vision drives everything in the first third of the novel. Its what motivates her to separate from Taggart Transcontinental to build the John Galt Line, its what forges her connection with Ellis Wyatt and the other business leaders of Colorado, and its what draws her and Hank Rearden together.
By the end of Part One of the novel, however, theyve proven their point. Rearden Metal is now regarded as a proven technology that is rapidly being adopted by others. In a gimlet-eyed and totally accurate view of the natural life cycle of a new technology, Rearden Metal will eventually go from being an unproven, pie-in-the-sky idea to an everyday product so thoroughly taken for granted that it is claimed by everyone as a universal entitlement and regulated by the government as a public utility. In other words, exactly the same process that is behind Net Neutrality.
Naturally, having proven one new technology, it is time for our innovators to move on to the next big thing, which is the revolutionary motor they find abandoned at the Twentieth Century Motor Company. What could be more disruptive than a motor that draws unlimited amounts of electricity from the atmosphere? The search for the motor drives the plot up through the end of Part Two and brings us into Part Three. Remember that Dagny crash-lands in the Valley because she is chasing Quentin Daniels, the researcher she hired to unravel the motors secrets.
So the business leaders search for innovation is at the heart of the novel and is the key driver of the plot.
This is a point that very few of the casual mainstream commentators get. In fact, its the opposite of what they always try to imply when they claim Rands ideas are bad for business. Because the Ayn Rand-inspired businessman is out for his own selfish gain, they assume, therefore he will naturally alienate others by seeking to profit at their expense.
If you actually read Atlas Shrugged, you notice that her heroes are very insistent on making mutually beneficial deals and never trying to get something for nothing out of the their customers or business partners. They expect the other guy to pull his weight in any business dealand they expect that they will have to provide a lot of value in return.
Consider what happens when Dagny shows Rearden the list of investors in the John Galt Line.
He reached for his fountain pen, wrote at the bottom of the list Henry Rearden, Rearden Steel, Pennsylvania$1,000,000 and tossed the list back at her.
Hank, she said quietly, I didnt want you in on this. Youve invested so much in Rearden Metal that its worse for you than for any of us. You cant afford another risk.
I never accept favors, he answered coldly.
What do you mean?
I dont ask people to take greater chances on my ventures than I take myself. If its a gamble, Ill match anybodys gambling. Didnt you say that that track was my first showcase?
She inclined her head and said gravely, All right. Thank you.
Incidentally, I dont expect to lose this money. I am aware of the conditions under which these bonds can be converted into stock at my option. I therefore expect to make an inordinate profitand youre going to earn it for me.
Rands heroes dont mind driving a hard bargainbut if they make a big profit, they expect to have earned it. You see the same pattern in her negotiations with Quentin Daniels over his work on Galts motor.
She protested, in astonishment, against the low monthly salary he quoted. Miss Taggart, he said, if theres something that I wont take, its something for nothing. I dont know how long you might have to pay me, or whether youll get anything at all in return. Ill gamble on my own mind. I wont let anybody else do it. I dont collect for an intention. But I sure do intend to collect for goods delivered. If I succeed, thats when Ill skin you alive, because what I want then is a percentage, and its going to be high, but its going to be worth your while.
When he named the percentage he wanted, she laughed. That is skinning me alive and it will be worth my while. Okay.
Likewise, when Rearden tells a reporter that I expect to skin the public to the tune of a profit of twenty-five per cent in the next few years, a reporter responds, If its true, as Ive read in your ads, that your Metal will last three times longer than any other and at half the price, wouldnt the public be getting a bargain? Rearden replies: Oh, have you noticed that?
It is the government officials and the altruistic humanitarians who keep trying to set up deals in which one side gets all the benefits and the other side takes all the losses. Thats how Jim gets Taggart Transcontinental into the San Sebastian boondoggle, which the socialist Peoples State in Mexico intends to nationalize from the very beginning. Or consider the Steel Unification Plan that Rearden is pitched toward the end of the novel, in which the revenues generated from his steel mills will be used to prop up his competitors.
Rand makes a specific point to show why these one-sided altruist set-ups have to fail. If you create a deal in which one side takes all the burdens and all the losses, you are ensuring that one of the parties to the deal will eventually be unable to fulfill its obligations and the whole thing will collapse. Heres how Rearden puts it as he considers the Steel Unification Plan.
You consider me of invaluable importance to the country? Hell, you consider me of invaluable importance even to your own necks. Yet you propose a plan to destroy me, a plan which demands, with an idiots crudeness, without loopholes, detours or escape, that I work at a lossthat I work, with every ton I pour costing me more than Ill get for itthat I feed the last of my wealth away until we all starve together.
This rule of management is codified by John Galt as the basic rule by which people should deal with one another: mutually beneficial trade. We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. In her non-fiction works, she would go on to add that The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice.
That brings us to the final management lesson from Atlas Shrugged.
This is shown in Atlas Shrugged, not by the positive example of her main protagonists, but by their biggest error.
In taking heroic action intended to save the railroad and the economy, Dagny actually ends up bailing out her worthless brother, time and time again. Consider her policy toward the San Sebastian Line, in which she anticipates the Mexican nationalization and brings as many objects of value back across the border as possible, cushioning the blow to the railroad. But what is the actual effect of that action? Jim gives a triumphant speech to the board of directors taking credit for her policy, buying him a reprieve from the consequences of his own decisions.
This is even clearer in the aftermath of the Taggart Tunnel disaster. Jim is shown staring at his letter of resignation and waffling about whether to sign it. He then storms over to Dagnys office to blame Eddie Willers for her absence. When she suddenly returns and goes back to work, what does Jim do? Like a paralytic, uncertain of his muscles obedience, he gathered his strength and slipped out. But he was certain of the first thing he had to do: he hurried to his office to destroy his letter of resignation.
This isnt about claiming credit or public glory. This is about not accepting a role as the person who always bails his boss, colleagues, or business partners out of their own mistakes, putting them in the position to make more mistakes that need more bailing out in the future.
They learn not to apologize for only hiring the most competent people, for seeking to make a profit, or for outperforming competitors.
This is a principle that has actually won a certain degree of acceptance in cases involving addiction to drugs and alcohol. In the current therapeutic terminology, the person who always bails a chronic drunk out of trouble is codependent or an enabler, the person who allows the addict to keep functioning when the best thing is to allow him to hit rock bottom, in the hope that he will eventually choose to confront his own problem.
Dagnys dilemma is that she also has to let Taggart Transcontinental hit rock bottom. In a world different than the one we are shown in the novel, she might have saved her railroad by quitting and let Jims misadventures crash the Taggart stock, then swooping in to lead a hostile takeover backed by Midas Mulligan. She could have been the ultimate activist investor ousting an incompetent CEOand dont believe for a moment that she couldnt have done it. But that would be a very different novel with a very different theme. More to the point, it would require that Dagny (and many other people) had already learned the lessons that they spend most of Atlas Shrugged learning.
Hank Rearden illustrates a variation on this lesson. What he learns is never to apologize for the productive core of his business. An Ayn Rand hero would certainly apologize for a genuine mistake, and they do so at various points in the novel. But they learn not to apologize for only hiring the most competent people, for seeking to make a profit, or for outperforming competitors. Such apologies are another form of enabling. They dont appease the resentment of the novels villains; they feed it.
This is the opposite of the public relations advice a businessman is likely to get these days. Since we started by talking about Travis Kalanick and Uber, its worth noting that Uber has a history of hiring left-leaning PR experts, such as Barack Obamas former campaign manager David Plouffe, to represent it. Yet when the whispering campaign against Kalanick built up, thats the wing of the company that helped throw him under the bus. Maybe theres a lesson in there that he should have learned from Ayn Rand and didnt.
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Gehrke: Billionaire Kochs may be getting a deal if they buy the U.’s reputation for $10M – Salt Lake Tribune
Posted: at 4:42 pm
Some welcome the new perspective to the U. A Deseret News editorial, for example, caricatured the school's economics department as being infested with Marxists who burrowed into tenure positions and spent a lifetime indoctrinating unsuspecting students with communist propaganda.
Maybe there's a little truth to that. I first read Marx in a political science class taught by a left-leaning professor with a beard and Birkenstock sandals who fit the role beautifully. But we also studied Adam Smith and David Hume and John Maynard Keynes and John Stuart Mill and a handful of others during the crash course in the masterworks of the field. It was one of the most challenging and informative classes I've ever taken.
The real problem with the Koch money isn't so much that it could warp what students learn although it certainly could do that. It's that it has been shown over and over again to undermine independence and warp the research that the departments produce.
And we don't have to look far to see examples.
For five years, Randy Simmons was the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State University, a position that started with a relatively minor contribution. That relationship has definitely flourished, and in May the Kochs and Jon Huntsman the father of Paul Huntsman, who owns The Salt Lake Tribune and pays my salary combined to invest a whopping $50 million in the Utah State University's business school.
The Huntsman money is mostly slated for student scholarships. The Koch money will fund six new faculty positions.
Simply put, it appears Simmons had produced for the billionaire Kochs. In April 2016, academics from around the country, many funded by Koch donations, gathered in Las Vegas for The Association of Private Enterprise Education conference and, according to documents and transcripts obtained by the group UnKoch My Campus, the work of Simmons and his USU colleagues was prominently featured.
They discussed research papers by Simmons and others that, for example, contend Yellowstone National Park is horribly mismanaged, the Endangered Species Act is a failure, government policies cause wildfires, human life is overvalued in cost-benefit studies of proposed regulations and that renewable energy is inherently unreliable.
The common themes: Privatize it, deregulate it, and drill, mine or harvest it.
Attacks on renewable energy, it so happens, got Simmons in a bit of hot water in 2015 when he wrote a critique of wind power for Newsweek without disclosing his Koch financing or his role in the Property and Environment Research Center, which is funded by Koch and Exxon Mobil. Newsweek later added a disclosure to the piece.
In the USU case, contracts show the Kochs can pull funding if they don't approve of how the money is spent.
When they get information they like, they weaponize it, using the hundreds of millions of dollars in political contributions over the years in a bid to reshape public policy into their own "Atlas Shrugged" vision of America.
Ralph Wilson, a co-founder and research director with UnKoch My Campus, points to an example at Troy University in Alabama, his alma mater, where the Kochs created a center in 2010 and hired a number of researchers whose aim was to "take down" the state's public retirement system, according to comments by the center's original director.
At West Virginia University, the Kochs created a center that produced research decrying coal mine safety and clean water regulations that were hurting workers in the coal industry where the Kochs had a financial stake. And there are plenty more examples out there.
"As recordings of Koch foundation officials have revealed, these programs are engineered to help achieve the very specific state and federal policy change for the Koch network," Wilson said. "The Koch network, known for buying influence over the U.S. political system, is now doubling down their investments in universities to secure long-term political change."
Maybe I'm too hard on the Kochs. After all, a spokesman for the Koch foundation said the organization believes a diversity of ideas promotes critical thinking, and really that is something for which universities should strive.
But the Kochs have also spent an awful lot of money trying to undermine education systems around the country. They have backed organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council that has attacked professor tenure and the higher education system generally.
And assuming an initiative to raise taxes to better fund education in Utah gets on the ballot, you can bet the leading group opposing it will be Americans for Prosperity's Utah chapter which is, you guessed it, bankrolled by the Kochs.
I'm not arguing the U. should have rejected the Koch money. Corporate donations always come with conflicts. Half the U. campus wouldn't exist without money attached to the Huntsman and Eccles families who have their own set of business and political interests.
It's vital, though, that the U. be vigilant about protecting the independence of the institution and the academic freedom of its faculty. Because, in academia, reputation matters, and the University of Utah shouldn't blithely sell off its hard-earned prestige for $10 million or any price.
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BIRTHDAY GAL: Actress Taylor Schilling was born in Boston on this day in 1984. This birthday gal earned a 2014 Emmy nomination and two Golden Globe nominations as Piper Chapman on "Orange Is the New Black." She also starred on the short-lived series "Mercy" and has appeared on "Drunk History." On the big screen, Schilling's film work includes "The Lucky One," "The Overnight," and "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1."
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Spin straw into gold. The least likely material could be useful. Gather information and write down interesting ideas and inspirations. Don't sweep personal problems under the rug, but face them head on with boldness.
TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Focus on friendship rather than fleeting doubts. A significant romantic relationship may move forward according to the storybook. If you are sincere and honest about your feelings there will be a happy ending.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Build up instead of tearing down. Gain the trust and respect of associates and loved ones by being sincere and true blue. Keep a careful eye on finances, however, and don't take a bite of any carrot dangled in your face.
CANCER (June 21-July 22): Mirages simply disappear when the distance grows smaller. Appealing romantic prospects or business deals might not hold up under scrutiny. Real friends will show their true colors in a one-on-one situation.
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): If you wish to be given the royal treatment then act like a prince among men. Rather than being critical and finding fault set a good example for others to follow. Work related activities will run smoothly under these stars.
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Be a proud participant. Unplug and become entirely engaged in the world around you. Social events don't need to be a spectator sport. Join in with group activities and make new friends who share your interests.
LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Knuckle down to finishing your normal chores. You may prefer to work on your own or in privacy where you can daydream at leisure. Step up the pace because the boss is looking for results, not excuses.
SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Reality isn't always rewarding. To win admiration you might let someone think you are better or more talented than you really are. Take a new relationship slowly until you know exactly where you stand.
SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Grow and prosper. Turn over a new leaf and face your formless fears. New friends might have interesting ideas and it is in your best interests to investigate them. Refuse to fall prey to feelings of inadequacy.
CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): If you lose your sense of purpose a friend, or social group, will help you find it. Your special someone might be able to fire up your enthusiasm or a trusted advisor can point you back in the right direction.
AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Test the limits or the limits will test you. It is possible that people don't look at you through rose colored glasses. They are very likely to throw up a roadblock that holds you back unless you honor your commitments.
PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Wait for it. It is better to want something you don't have than to have something you don't want. You can make an error with your checking account book so avoid making unnecessary financial transactions.
IF JULY 27 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: Because you have both energy and imagination you can make great progress with material success during the upcoming four to six weeks. Social activities and community events might widen your network of friends in September and could lead to a brief romance. During October and early November you can enjoy a vacation or give yourself a treat for all of your hard work. Because everything in your life is apparently running smoothly you might miss the warning signs and encounter problems in January. Make sure your bills are paid, your savings account is replenished and all your commitments are honored so that you can stand up to any potential criticism or trouble that might come your way in late December and January.
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Ayn Rand has been dead for 35 years, but in a way she is still very much alive, as the current "It" philosopher of hard-charging entrepreneurs and hard-right political conservatives.
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Ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is said to be a devotee. President Trump has praised Rand as his favorite writer, and Ray Dalio, founder of the world's largest hedge fund, has commented that "her books pretty well capture the mind-set" of the president's administration. What is the mind-set to which Dalio refers? Rand herself once summed it up, telling an interviewer in a statement members of the Trump administration could admire: "Man exists for his own sake."
Rand (1905-82) was a Russian-American immigrant best known for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for her moral philosophy, Objectivism, which she described as "the morality of rational self-interest." In the latter dystopian novel, especially, she imagined a fictional "strike" by society's most productive industrialists, artists and scientists meant to show that without the efforts of its most rational and productive citizens, our economy would collapse.
Fast-forward to the current day and the tech world: Some observers have pointed out that certain members of the Silicon Valley set have made headlines for all the wrong reasons, by following an Ayn Rand-style "me-first, dog-eat-dog" path. We agree with those criticisms, but would also argue that entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the important things that Rand gets wrong.
In essence, we think of her as an anti-guru.
Rand's bold boasts about the selfish nature of business capture the important truth that people are motivated by self-interest. But what all the executives out there today with Atlas Shrugged on their Kindles miss is that those interests are complex; and if you can't engage partners and employees as whole people, you are more likely to end up stoking a mass exodus from your company than a massive IPO.
In short, the people you work with are a lot more complex than the characters in a Rand novel and need to be managed that way. So, when you need to get people aligned behind a vision for your business, remember the following three anti-Rand truisms:
Randians love her simple, straight-forward view that we are all fundamentally in it for ourselves. While there's nothing wrong with getting what you want, you usually need to work with others to get it.
Kalanick was reminded of this when Apple CEO Tim Cook dressed him down in a meeting at the computer maker's headquarters. Cook had learned that Uber was using a system that identified iPhones on which the Uber app had been deleted. Because Cook believed this violated Apple's privacy policies, he hauled Kalanick into his office and said: "So, I've heard you've been breaking some of our rules."
Related: Casey Neistat's First Selection for His Book Club May Surprise You
A chastened Kalanick knew a fight with Cook would have ruinous consequences and backed off. And he clearly showed how he'd learned a principle described by Cook's predecessor, Steve Jobs, when Jobs had to make a case for partnering with Microsoft back in 1997: "Apple lives in an ecosystem, and it needs help from other partners," the late Apple co-founder said.
So, even the notoriously aggressive Jobs was willing to work with his competitors from time to time because he understood that getting ahead often requires getting along.
Innumerable websites quote Rand's famous phrase: "The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality." But it's more complicated than that: While some people are wealthy, and most less so, everybody looks for a satisfaction in working that goes far beyond wealth. As Studs Terkel put it in Working, his classic study of the stories people tell about their jobs, "Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash."
A well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist once told us that most startups fail well before the money runs out. They fail when hard-working teammates no longer enjoy spending time together. Workers need to make money, but they also need to feel they are doing a good job with people they like and respect.
Overall, what did Rand get wrong? For one thing, she ignored how people are sometimes inscrutable creatures, driven by countless contradictions and unconscious desires. There is no simple answer to the question of what makes a person tick -- no "essence."
We have heard so many executives say, "You just need to get the incentives right." And while we agree that incentives are important, they are not everything. As economists say, you get what you pay for but don't always get what you want. This is where the need for inspirational leadership and vision comes in, illuminating the need to connect with the deeper impulses that keep people surging together in support of a collective purpose.
Eddie Lampert, a hedge fund manager, learned this lesson when he tried to run businesses based on narrow Randian principles, in which general managers engaged in a brutal internal competition for resources and bonuses. Lampert's results at Sears and KMart, now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, raise serious questions about a hyper-aggressive, do-what's-best-for-me workplace culture.
Maybe Lampert should take a tip from Kalanick and start reading more widely. Kalanick was spotted in Manhattan last week carrying a copy of the Immortal Bard's Henry V. That classic tale recounts the transformation of a shallow, self-involved playboy into a leader who knows how to motivate his people. The mature king is less like The Fountainhead's Howard Roark and more like the real-world entrepreneur Richard Branson.
An entrepreneurial leader who's anything but a me-first type, Branson has no need to impose his will on others. He inspires his people. How? Notably, he says, by giving them "a chance to give something back to the community."
The problem with Ayn Rand, then, boils down to a caricatured view of motivation. In the real world, if you want to get the most out of somebody, take the time to get to know the whole person. Slow down. Pay attention to what people tell you about their experiences at work, at home and in the community. Take a wide-angle perspective on their aspirations.
Related: 8 Team-Building Mistakes Richard Branson Would Never Make
This is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your business. So, okay, go ahead and revel in Ayn Rand's inspiring celebration of individual achievement. Just remember that "to make money," you need to give people opportunities to make daily meaning as well as daily bread.
Mario Moussa and Derek Newberry are co-authors of Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance. Moussateaches in the Executive Programs at the Wharton School of Executive Education. Newberry is a member of the aff...
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