And then he cites Ayn Rand, who's most famous book had as it's central story line how if you were rich that it didn't matter if you violated your marriage vows, because rich people are above morals.
I left this alone, until I decided what to do with it. So I brought it out for its own thread. Note this is a massive spoiler of Atlas Shrugged, so if you plan on reading it, stop and close this thread.
One of the key figures in Atlas Shrugged is Hank Reardon. He is the love interest of the protagonist, the under-appreciated female Operations manager of a rail company, Dagny Taggart.
The plot concerns the economic destruction of the USA as executed by disingenuous socialists/communists using methods of corporate regulation and nationalization, all for the public good. In order to achieve this, they use morality as a weapon against the capable of society, in an attempt to ensure they remain in place to run the machinery of economy after the Socialists have completed their takeover. Hank Reardon is the one victim that does not escape their villainy, because of a plot designed specifically for him.
Before the novel begins, Reardon is in Colorado, and seeks to turn the state into a metal producer to rival Pennsylvania. Initially, he has little success against the old boys' network already arranged against him (and the regulations they buy from gov't in order to ensure a non-level playing field), but he sustains himself while he attempts to engineer a new metal using available resources, hoping to outdo steel which will avoid the regulations already in place. During his early work, he marries Lillian, a socialite from a previously wealthy family.
As one of the opening moves of the novel, Dagny contracts Reardon for his newly created metal to make rails because Pennsylvania isn't delivering promised steel to her. Reardon realizes he has a deep desire for Dagny, which he does not truly understand. At the same time, Lillian is described as being emotionally and sexually frigid, and obviously uses Reardon only as a source of money for her social functions. It is a loveless marriage, and one Reardon does not understand, since it seems to him Lillian has no reason to sustain it, but makes no indication she wants to find love elsewhere. Reardon begins a sexual (but not loving) relationship with Dagny, which is exciting, satisfying, and enjoyable. Later, he will learn that this is because the highly capable Dagny is his equal, and sex with equals is the only rationally satisfying relationship one can have. (Basically, you cannot appreciate sex without respect for your partner and yourself. Ayn firmly believed that, and pointed to her own marriage as an example.)
The socialists, with the aid of people like Dagny's incompetent brother and CEo of the rail company, begin their takeover of the USA. They start a campaign of regulations and nationalizations, which each seek to solve a perceived social problem, but in fact conspire to drive Capitalists into the poor house as a primary effect and solve the issues as a secondary. Every regulation has unintended consequences, unless you view them from a Capitalist perspective, which predict an ever devolving economy. (A bunch of them are downright foolish.) One by one, the Capitalists disappear, leaving their companies to be run by those that the socialists' choose, which inevitably forces more regulations to try to protect the failing companies from mismanagement. (I agree completely with this. The only Canadian nationalizations that succeed are the ones that get non-competitive regulatory aid. Petro-Canada. Air Canada. Bureaucrats are not good businessmen, because Arts degrees don't teach you what business degrees do.) Reardon is rapidly becoming the sole effective industrialist in the nation, protected by his distance from Washington and individualism, but his empire is slowly taken away from by rules that, for instance, limit the number of companies a single individual can own or operate. Reardon and Dagny implement creative bandaid solutions, convinced that the socialists will eventually acknowledge the failure of their methods, and allow the industrialists to return and restore the economy.
In time, Lillian learns of the relationship. She then reveals she was awaiting the discovery of a tryst throughout the marriage and was worrying that it would not happen. Reardon would give in to the socialist faction, run his company under their command, or she would destroy his reputation by revealing the affair. She would not accept a divorce, and would deny the affair in court and tell a judge the marriage could be saved, in order to prevent his escape. The socialists owned the judges by this point, so she would get her decision. Reardon realizes that the socialists need his good name and reputation to gain support from the public in the public eye. Reardon's metal has come to represent the American success story, and if Reardon backs the sociaists, the people will accept the socialists.
Wikipedia, Hank Reardon wrote:As her motives become more clear, Lillian is found to share the sentiments of many other moochers and their worship of destruction. Her actions are explained as the desire to destroy achievement in the false belief that such an act bestows a greatness to the destroyer equal to the accomplishment destroyed. She seeks, then, to ruin Rearden in an effort to prove her own value.
Her plan was in place before the marriage. She intentionally created the environment that forced him to find love elsewhere. The marriage was a fraud: her vows were false when she swore them. She was not uniting with him to create a union of equals, but to enslave him with his morality, because the moral slavery they used to control most of the public of the USA ("From each according to his ability to each according to his need") would not work on a staunch capitalist that believed in "pay value for work." For a time, she succeeds, as Reardon gives in to the coercion.
Reardon eventually turns this on its head by admitting the affair himself on a national radio program intended to be a vehicle for advancing the socialist cause. His admission undermines faith in the socialist government by demonstrating their vile methods and he admits that his failure was giving in to them, and this adds to the growing dissatisfaction in the dystopia the Socialists have created, which is falling apart from the ground floor up, as failing rail networks can't even deliver the food needed in the cities. (The socialists fed the ever increasing poor in the cities instead of repairing the rails and engines that delivered the food, and thus the food rotted in the mi-west instead of feeding the east.) Lillian is lost, her power expended: she had no blackmail to extort money from Reardon with, and so even her socialists abandon her. She will later try to again use the guilt of her need to force Reardon to feed and clothe her, but that is a non-starter by this point. Society is completely failing, with no national agency able to operate anywhere, leaving most of the USa in anarchy.
The final moral message of Reardon's story is delivered by John Galt.
Reardon never believed in the moral values of his family, but he tried to live by them. His fault was not a failure to have morals, but a failure to live by his own morals, and instead by someone else's. He did not marry for love: he married because he was convinced that he had to marry in order to be a good man, and thereby put the noose around his own throat. He was saved, not by money, but by a final acceptance that he did not believe in the same morality as those that sought to use guilt to control him. He no longer felt guilt, no longer cared that his reputation might suffer, so he threw off the yoke the socialists placed on him, and revealed that the truly immoral were those that had tried to enslave him with his guilt.
It was ironic that I read this after Tiger Woods' infidelity was revealed. He made the same mistake, and I had come to Ayn's conclusion from his example. He tried to live by the morality of his family, and failed. While I saw many pundits state taht he should try to be a pillar of the community as an accomplished sportsman, I agree with those that said his private life should not affect his playing career. Tiger should have lived by his own morality, accepted that he could not be a one woman man, and not marry in the first place. I think we are all of us different, and that we should all live the way our minds demand we do, and not be a slave to the guilt caused by failing to live up to another person's standards -- so long as it doe not interfere in another person's capacity to do the same.
Rand herself, on the other hand, married and saw her husband die in their 50th year together. She obviously believed in marriage, but only for those capable of it.
Reardon's message is Rand's message, and it has been terribly misrepresented by the one that wrote that sentence I quoted. "Profit" and "richness" are goals, but not justification for an asymmetrical morality in society, as the quoted claimed. Rand'vilified the old boys' network along with the communist position, since she valued a level playing field for all to compete on. Rands Objectivism was intended for all humans, not the currently rich.
Do not think that just because I understand and can make Ayn's points, that I agree with all of Objectivism or have a blind faith in Capitalism. My own belief is that our best economic model is one of regulated Capitalism. I note that many who claim to believe in Objectivism typically violate its fundamental tenet -- pay Value for Work. We can look at a recent case in Canada, where one telephone company was using Interns for out-going phone campaigns to sell services. They were generating income for the company, but not being paid, which Rand (and I) would call slavery. (It's going before the courts, and charges may be laid yet, as a violation of Labour Laws.) Decreasing wages without a decrease in the value of the work being done is equally a violation of that tenet. Practical application of Objectivism has been grossly skewed away from Rand's beliefs in the last couple of decades, and across all business -- small and large -- in the quest for another Objectivism tenet -- competition. Anyway, this is about Reardon, not Rand, but I thought I should head off any false claims that I'm not capable of criticizing Rand, since that's the obvious false conclusion some may make.