Tag Archives: ayn rand

Atlas

In his introduction to Brand Blanshard’s On Philosophical Style (book | online), Michael Walsh highlights a passage from the essay that deals with the importance of clarity when it comes to putting philosophical ideas to paper. Blanshard wrote-

To say that Major André was hanged is clear and definite; to say that he was killed is less definite, because you do not know in what way he was killed; to say that he died is still more indefinite because you do not even know whether his death was due to violence or to natural causes. If we were to use this statement as a varying symbol by which to rank writers for clearness, we might, I think, get something like the following: Swift, Macaulay, and Shaw would say that André was hanged. Bradley would say that he was killed. Bosanquet would say that he died. Kant would say that his mortal existence achieved its termination. Hegel would say that a finite determination of infinity had been further determined by its own negation.

Walsh concludes by quoting another passage from the essay-

Berkeley proved against all the Heideggers of the world that philosophy can be written clearly, against all the Hegels that it can be written simply, against all the Kants that it can be written with grace. He was no mere popularizer; he was an acute, original, and technical thinker, urging a theory that is about as shocking to common sense as any theory ever offered. But though even Dr. Johnson could not answer him, the plain man could read him and understand. ‘I shall throughout endeavour,’ he wrote, ‘to express myself in the clearest, plainest, and most familiar manner, abstaining from all hard and unusual terms which are pretended by those that use them to cover a sense abstracted and sub­lime.’ He kept to this engagement. He ‘spoke with the vulgar’ without ceasing to think with the learned. Like G. E. Moore in our own day, he showed in the one wholly convincing way—by example—that philosophy could maintain all the sharp-eyed wariness of the specialist while walking the road of ordinary speech.

This is what Long wrote about Rand-

Rand owed much of her success to the power and directness of her writing style. She was a master at what one of my colleagues calls reductio ad claritatem, “reduction to clarity” — i.e., the method of refuting a position by stating it clearly — as when she wrote that “if some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor,” or when she summarized the view that human perception is unreliable because limited by the nature of our sensory organs as “man is blind, because he has eyes — deaf, because he has ears.”

Clarity. One could accuse Rand of many things, but one can never say that she was unclear. Which is why I don’t buy most of the attacks on her ideas, particularly those from people whose political philosophy and ethics are in conflict with hers. Like this exercise in pissing and name-calling (kindergarten is a wonderful place) by someone who likes to write about things which he is clueless about (I covered his previous fit here). He approvingly links to this hatchet job on Rand in a religious journal. When I read pieces like these, I imagine the author perched on his septic tank, dipping his pen in it every few minutes. Would it kill them if they read a couple of her works before writing page after page of unadulterated nonsense? Probably. Neither Chait’s progressive-liberal world view, nor Hart’s which has its roots in Christianity, could survive the Randian sledgehammer. They’d rather pretend that it was an icepick.

Here’s another paragraph from Long’s article-

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Rand’s philosophy — her rejection of altruism and her embrace of ethical egoism — is also one of the most misunderstood. Despite her sometimes-misleading rhetoric about “the virtue of selfishness,” the point of her egoism was not to advocate the pursuit of one’s own interests at the expense of others’, but rather to reject the entire conflictual model of interests according to which “the happiness of one man necessitates the injury of another,” in favor of an older, more Aristotelean conception of self-interest as excellent human functioning.

It was on such Aristotelean grounds that she rejected not only the subordination of one’s own interests to those of others (and it is this, rather than mere benevolence, that she labeled “altruism”) but also the subordination of others’ interests to one’s own (which she labeled “selfishness without a self”). For Rand, the Aristotelean recognition of properly understood human interests as rationally harmonious was the essential foundation for a free society.

Misunderstood? Hardly. “Deliberately” misunderstood. Ah, selfishness! Rand advocated killing one’s neighbor, stealing his horse and taking his wife!

A few words on the film that is struggling in US theaters. If it was not obvious to the people who decided to have a nose vs. face moment w.r.t. it (graveyards are a riot compared to the publicity the “official” Randians have provided this film with), Atlas’s box office results are being viewed as a referendum on the relevance of Rand’s ideas. The only help it has received is from some quarters of the (lunatic!) right, and even that hasn’t helped very much. If this attempt fails, I sincerely doubt that anyone will bother with an encore. Why spend millions filming a polarizing novel which only appeals to twenty picky-as-hell people when one can make two billion dollars on Blue People 2, two more on Blue People 3, and then some more on Blue People Visit Mars!

A contract

Back in September*, I had linked to this post by S. Oliva at the Mises blog and had said I would write about it “one of these days.” Given that there’s a new “discussion” on the validity of intellectual property going on between the Randians and Rothbardians, this is a good time to do it.

Oliva writes-

[R]and’s defense of intellectual property outshines even the most litigious pharmaceutical company. Consider a core argument of the Randian canon – Howard Roark’s trial defense in The Fountainhead. Roark manages to justify trespassing and physical destruction of another person’s tangible property, all in the name of preserving the sociopathic architect’s “right” to avoid looking at a building that was similar – but not identical – to one he designed.

For those unfamiliar with the novel, Roark is an architect who spends his career in relative obscurity despite his obvious talent. Roark personifies Rand’s concept of pure egoism: He designs and constructs buildings primarily for his own satisfaction. The climax of the novel involves Roark designing a government housing project called Cortlandt. Roark makes a deal with Peter Keating, the architect who actually holds the commission for Cortlandt: Roark will design Cortlandt for Keating anonymously and free of charge provided the complex is constructed to Roark’s exact specifications. Keating cannot change the design. Keating, in turn, secures a similar promise from Cortlandt’s owners, but they ignore this and make changes. When Roark sees the “deformed” Cortlandt, he sneaks onto the property and blows it up with dynamite.

(About the trials, court cases, in The Fountainhead, K.M. linked to this interesting analysis a few months back.)

He’s right for the most part, and has more to say on the subject (I will come to that later), but here’s the situation again. Cortlandt is a government housing project whose units would be let out at a low rent to people whose income is below a particular threshold. Keating gets the commission, but Toohey, the man who has the power to recommend an architect, knows that there’s only one person who can create Cortlandt, Roark. And that if Keating does come up with the plans, the man behind him would have to be Roark. Now what does Roark think about the whole thing?

I hate the whole blasted idea of [housing]. I think it is a worthy undertaking—to provide a decent apartment for a man who earns fifteen dollars a week. But not at the expense of other men. Not if it raises the taxes, raises all the other rents and makes the man who earns forty live in a rat hole. That’s what’s happening in New York. Nobody can afford a modern apartment—except the very rich and the paupers. Have you seen the converted brownstones in which the average self-supporting couple has to live? Have you seen their closet kitchens and their plumbing? They’re forced to live like that—because they’re not incompetent enough. They make forty dollars a week and wouldn’t be allowed into a housing project. But they’re the ones who provide the money for the damn project. They pay the taxes. And the taxes raise their own rent. And they have to move from a converted brownstone to an unconverted one and from that into a railroad flat. I’d have no desire to penalize a man because he’s worth only fifteen dollars a week. But I’ll be damned if I can see why a man worth forty must be penalized—and penalized in favor of the one who’s less competent.

[…]

I don’t believe in government housing. I don’t want to hear anything about its noble purposes. I don’t think they’re noble. But that, too, doesn’t matter. That’s not my first concern. Not who lives in the house nor who orders it built. Only the house itself. If it has to be built, it might as well be built right.

So we know his stand on the morality of government housing, and why he would do it regardless.

Then he lays down the conditions under which he will do the project-

Your government housing, among other things, has made all building so expensive that private owners can’t afford such projects, nor any type of low rent construction. And I will never be given any job by any government.

[…]

Peter, I love this work. I want to see it erected. I want to see it real, living, functioning, built. But every living thing is integrated. Do you know what that means? Whole, pure, complete, unbroken. Do you know what constitutes an integrating principle? A thought. The one thought, the single thought that created the thing and every part of it. The thought which no one can change or touch. I want to design Cortlandt. I want to see it built. I want to see it built exactly as I design it.

[…]

[H]ere’s what I’m offering you: I’ll design Cortlandt. You’ll put your name on it. You’ll keep all the fees. But you’ll guarantee that it will be built exactly as I design it.

[…]

You’ll have to get yourself an ironclad contract with your bosses and then fight every bureaucrat that comes along every five minutes for the next year or more. I will have no guarantee except your word.

[…]

Sign it…. [a] contract between us, stating the terms of our agreement….It would probably have no legal validity whatever. But I can hold it over your head. I couldn’t sue you. But I could make this public.

This…is a contract between Roark and Keating. Keating has a different contract with the government, which then goes on to ignore it. Roark dynamites the monstrosity, and this is what he has to say in his defense-

Now you know why I dynamited Cortlandt.

I designed Cortlandt. I gave it to you. I destroyed it.

I destroyed it because I did not choose to let it exist. It was a double monster. In form and in implication. I had to blast both. The form was mutilated by two second-handers who assumed the right to improve upon that which they had not made and could not equal. They were permitted to do it by the general implication that the altruistic purpose of the building superseded all rights and that I had no claim to stand against it.

I agreed to design Cortlandt for the purpose of seeing it erected as I designed it and for no other reason. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid.

I do not blame Peter Keating. He was helpless. He had a contract with his employers. It was ignored. He had a promise that the structure he offered would be built as designed. The promise was broken. The love of a man for the integrity of his work and his right to preserve it are now considered a vague intangible and an inessential. You have heard the prosecutor say that. Why was the building disfigured? For no reason. Such acts never have any reason, unless it’s the vanity of some second-handers who feel they have a right to anyone’s property, spiritual or material. Who permitted them to do it? No particular man among the dozens in authority. No one cared to permit it or to stop it. No one was responsible. No one can be held to account. Such is the nature of all collective action.

I did not receive the payment I asked. But the owners of Cortlandt got what they needed from me. They wanted a scheme devised to build a structure as cheaply as possible. They found no one else who could do it to their satisfaction. I could and did. They took the benefit of my work and made me contribute it as a gift. But I am not an altruist. I do not contribute gifts of this nature.

Oliva attacks this sequence of events in various ways. One, Roark has no “intellectual property,” or any kind of property right in the design of the actual Cortlandt Homes. Two, Roark’s contract, “the promise,” with Keating is meaningless because Keating is not the owner of Cortlandt. Three, Roark has no case of “fraud” against the government because he didn’t enter into a contract with the government, but with Keating.

Rand did have very strong views on IPR, and her distinction between first-handers and second-handers in The Fountainhead could, if one wants to, be read as a support for IPR. But I don’t think looking at this from an IPR perspective is going to provide any solutions. A very strong reason: the Stoddard fiasco. Roark built the “temple,” knew later on that he had been baited by Toohey, lost the suit filed against him, quietly paid up the damages sought, and watched his building being desecrated by louts like Prescott, Webb and others. Rand describes what happened to the temple which was converted to “The Hopton Stoddard Home for Subnormal Children”-

The original shape of the building remained discernible. It was not like a corpse whose fragments had been mercifully scattered; it was like a corpse hacked to pieces and reassembled.

Writing about what he calls the “Roark Doctrine,” Oliva says-

But the most offensive part of Roark’s defense is that his intangible “right” to destroy a building with a similar-but-not-identical design to his supersedes the tangible property rights of – wait for it – altruists. Since Cortlandt’s owners had an “altruistic purpose,” this effectively negated any rights they had in their own physical property, including their right to change a building design without the permission of an architect they never actually hired.

If that were the case, one wonders why Roark didn’t demolish the modified “temple.” It wasn’t fear that stopped him. He had been paid for his work. He knew he had been had. It taught him to stop building structures to abstractions that people would struggle to understand.

Which is why the Cortlandt case is not about IPR, but breach of contract. Before I make the case for breach of contract, I would say that whatever one’s opinion about the legalities of IPR, there does exist something called a moral right. One does find declarations in books where authors assert their “moral right” to be recognized as such. Regardless of whether one pays for one’s copy of The Fountainhead, or lifts it from a server and redistributes it for free, it would be disingenuous for him to claim that he wrote the book. Anyone interested in Human Action, author George W. Bush?

Okay, breach of contract. Roark has an agreement with Keating. Keating has one with the government which incorporates his “promise” to Roark. But this is ignored.

When Keating invoked his contract, he was told: “All right, go ahead, try to sue the government. Try it.”

Roark sold his services, the economical design for Cortlandt, to Keating and demanded as payment the construction of the project “exactly as I design[ed] it.” Unless Keating pays him for the same, Keating is not the rightful owner of the design, or any part of it. Keating’s contract with the government is of a similar nature. And thus, if Roark is not paid, the government cannot make use of his design. If anyone argues (rightly) that contracts only bind the contracting parties, like Stephan Kinsella does in his Against Intellectual Monopoly-

Suppose, for example, that A writes a book and sells physical copies of it to numerous purchasers B1, B2 . . . BN, with a contractual condition that each buyer B is obligated not to make or sell a copy of the text. Under all theories of contract, any of the buyers B becomes liable to A, at least for damages, if he violates these provisions.

But the advocates of the contractual approach to IP are mistaken if they believe that private contract can be used to recreate the same type of protection afforded by modern IP rights. Patent and copyright are good against all third parties, regardless of their consent to a contract. They are real rights that bind everyone, in the same way that my title to a parcel of land binds everyone to respect my property—even if they do not have a contract with me. A contract, by contrast, binds only parties to the contract. It is like private law between the parties. It does not bind third parties, i.e., those not in “privity” with the original parties.

I would say: true, but we have two contracts between three parties, and one of them incorporates the conditions specified in the other. If Webb & Co. had broken into Roark’s offices and copied the designs and then sold them to the government, or if they had merely copied the design of one of Roark’s existing buildings, or if Keating had not signed a contract with the government, that would have been a different matter. In such cases, Roark wouldn’t have any case against the owners of Cortlandt, but only against Webb, Keating etc.

But that’s not what has happened here. Even someone who does not believe in IPR has to acknowledge that Roark “worked” on Cortlandt, and was not paid for it. The government broke its agreement with Keating, which automatically resulted in the breach of his contract with Roark. If the case had gone to a proper court, the judge would realize after consulting the books of accounts and the tendering process of the project that it was not the balconies added by Webb, the “alteration,” or the bricks and cement supplied by someone else but Roark’s design that was the mainstay of the project. And he would have assessed damages accordingly, the government being liable to compensate Keating, and Keating, Roark. But where’s the drama in that? Rand’s resolution of the Cortlandt case—Roark dynamiting the project, but being freed by the jury in spite of “confessing” to the “crime”—accomplishes the same result in a far more satisfying manner.

In a civilized, capitalist, society with a proper legal system, there would be no need for a “right” to dynamite something. In a decaying society where rights are not protected and the government simply takes what it wants without paying for the same, there is.

[*Except the last paragraph or so, and minor edits, everything else is as written in December ’09]

On Rand, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan

Some people are “rejoicing” over the news that Rand accepted government handouts (social security, medicare etc) in the last few years of her life. Apparently, the scum indulging in such schadenfreude expect laissez-faire capitalists to be true to their principles: refuse government benefits, and not make use of government-funded infrastructure, even if they have paid for it in the form of taxes. I’m amazed at the stupidity that goes behind such reasoning. Of course if Rand cheated on her taxes, that’s a different matter, though even that wouldn’t bother me. Learning that she converted to Buddhism in the end, or that she got caught up in the mysteries of Tao, or Kabbalah, or similar crap; that would probably disturb me.

In other news, the first part of the Atlas Shrugged film trilogy will be released in a couple of months, and here’s the trailer. Can’t help thinking that filming the story like they did with Sky Captain, or even the animated Batman series of yore would have added to the drama. Flat screens and cell phones don’t get along that well with steel mills and railroads.

Immoral, and irrational, laws deserve to be broken, but without getting caught. The world doesn’t forgive people who get caught. Government employees who get paid for doing unproductive work harassed a singer who was leaving the country with his own hard-earned money. That’s how I see the Rahat Fateh Ali Khan fiasco. The sum in question pales in comparison to what officials of the various “revenue” departments of the state have amassed from bribes. And people point fingers at “tax dodgers.” I hope Mr. 10% and his revenue department don’t show up at the airport to receive Khan, after the Indians are through with him. That would make a bad situation worse.

An optimist

Explanation of a trope from the TV Tropes deconstruction of Atlas Shrugged

Very cynical in its appraisal of the motivations of high government officials who wish to exercise control over the country. However, Rand had a decidedly idealistic take on humanity as a whole, or at least human potential, and she also argued for a very benevolent conception of the world itself (i.e. she denied any person’s joy need come at any other person’s cost).

Rand, I mean.

A murderer as hero

There are so many hitjobs on the internet based on Rand’s “praise” for (and being inspired by) the murderer William Hickman (google it)—I guess tabloid journalism will never go out of fashion—that the real story risks being buried under a pile of (overwhelmingly liberal) crap. It’s not a case of “serial killer love” and Rand’s not a “serial-killer groupie.” One must suffer from a special kind of incurable stupidity to write gibberish like that.

Nevertheless, here’s what Burns says about the inspiration-

When the tabloids filled with the sensational case of William Hickman, a teen murderer who mutilated his victim and boasted maniacally of his deed when caught, Rand was sympathetic rather than horrified. To her, Hickman embodied the strong individual breaking free from the ordinary run of humanity. She imagined Hickman to be like herself, a sensitive individual ruined by misunderstanding and neglect, writing in her diary, “If he had any desires and ambitions—what was the way before him? A long, slow, soul-eating, heart-wrecking toil and struggle; the degrading, ignoble road of silent pain and loud compromises.” Glossing over his crime, Rand focused on his defiant refusal to express remorse or contrition.

She began to plan “The Little Street,” a story with a protagonist, Danny Renahan, modeled after Hickman. It was the first of her stories to contain an explicit abstract theme. She wanted to document and decry how society crushed exceptional individuals. In a writing notebook she explained her attraction to the scandal: “It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.” Still, Rand had trouble interpreting the case as anything other than an exercise in mob psychology. She wrote, “This case is not moral indignation at a terrible crime. It is the mob’s murderous desire to revenge its hurt vanity against the man who dared to be alone.” What the tabloids saw as psychopathic, Rand admired: “It is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul.”

And here’s “The Hickman Case,” in Rand’s own words-

The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the “virtuous” indignation and mass-hatred of the “majority.” One always feels the stuffy, bloodthirsty emotion of a mob in any great public feeling of a large number of humans. It is repulsive to see all those beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal, proud and secure in their number, yelling furiously in defense of society. This is not just the case of a terrible crime. It is not the crime alone that has raised the fury of public hatred. It is the case of a daring challenge to society. It is the fact that a crime has been committed by one man, alone; that this man knew it was against all laws of humanity and intended that way; that he does not want to recognize it as a crime and that he feels superior to all. It is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul.

A mob’s feeling of omnipotence is its most jealously guarded possession and therefore a dangerous thing to wound. The mob can forgive any insult or crime except one: [the act of] challenging its ultimate power. It can forgive a criminal who erred, but who is just one of itself, i.e., has the same soul and ideas and bends to the same gods. But to see a man who has freed himself from it entirely, who has nothing in common with it, a man who does not need it and who openly disdains it—this is the one crime a mob can never forgive.

It seems to me that the mob is more jealous to possess a man’s soul than his body. It is the spiritual despotism that is so dear to it. It does not care whether it [physically] possesses a man, as long as the man acknowledges to himself that he belongs to it. It cannot stand to see a man who does not belong and knows it. That tyrannical monster, the mob, feels the helpless fury of impotence in the presence of the one thing beyond its power, that it cannot conquer, the only thing that counts—a man’s own soul and consciousness. And when the mob sees one of those rare, free, clear spirits, over which it has no control–then we have the [spectacle] of a roaring, passionate public hatred.

Worse crimes than this have been committed. Not one has ever raised such furious indignation. Why? Because of the man who committed the crime and not because of the crime he has committed. Because of Hickman’s brazenly challenging attitude.

[It can be seen in] his strange letters, which are a little theatrically melodramatic, but so boastful and self-confident, eg: “If you want help against me, ask God, not men,” signed “The Fox.” [It can be seen in] his utter remorselessness; his pride in his criminal career and in things that are considered a “disgrace”; his boasting of more and more crimes and his open joy at shocking people, instead of trying to implore their sympathy; his utter lack of anything that is considered a “virtue”; his strength, as shown in his unprecedented conduct during his trial and sentencing; his calm, superior, indifferent, disdainful countenance, which is like an open challenge to society—shouting to it that it cannot break him; his immense, explicit egoism—a thing the mob never forgives; and his cleverness, which makes the mob feel that a superior mind can exist entirely outside of its established morals.

No: [the reaction to] this case is not moral indignation at a terrible crime. It is the mob’s murderous desire to revenge its hurt vanity against a man who dared to be alone. It is a case of “we” against “him.”

And when we look at the other side of it—there is a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy turned into a purposeless monster. By whom? By what? Is it not by that very society that is now yelling so virtuously in its role of innocent victim? He had a brilliant mind, a romantic, adventurous, impatient soul and a straight, uncompromising, proud character. What had society to offer him? A wretched, insane family as the ideal home, a Y.M.C.A. club as social honor, and a bank-page job as ambition and career. And it is not the petty financial misery of these that I have in mind. They are representative of all that society has to offer: a high social standing and a million-dollar business position is essentially the same Y.M.C.A. club and bank-page job, merely more of the same.

If he had any desires and ambitions—what was the way before him? A long, slow, soul-eating, heart-wrecking toil and struggle; a degrading, ignoble road of silent pain and loud compromises. Succeed? How could he succeed? How do men succeed? By begging successfully for the good graces of the society they must serve. And if he could not serve? If he didn’t know how to beg? It’s a long and tortuous road that an exceptional man must travel in this society. It requires a steel-strength that can overcome disgust, which is a worse enemy than fear, and also a steel-hypocrisy, the patient art of hiding oneself when it is wise not to be seen.

A strong man can eventually trample society under his feet. That boy was not strong enough. But is that his crime? Is it his crime that he was too impatient, fiery and proud to go that slow way? That he was not able to serve, when he felt worthy to rule; to obey, when he wanted to command? That boy could not get along with the men that society forgives and tolerates. He could not get along with the majority. He could not lick boots—and one can’t succeed without licking boots. He was superior and he wanted to live as such—and this is the one thing society does not permit.

He was given [nothing with which] to fill his life. What was he offered to fill his soul? The petty, narrow, inconsistent, hypocritical ideology of present-day humanity. All the criminal, ludicrous, tragic nonsense of Christianity and its morals, virtues, and consequences. Is it any wonder that he didn’t accept it? That it left his soul emptier than it had been before? That boy does not believe in anything. But, oh! men, have you anything to believe in? Can you offer anything to be believed? He is a monster in his cruelty and disrespect of all things. But is there anything to be respected? He does not know what love means. But what is it that is worthy of being loved?

Yes, he is a monster—now. But the worse he is, the worst must be the cause that drove him to this. Isn’t it significant that society was not able to fill the life of an exceptional, intelligent boy, to give him anything to outbalance crime in his eyes? If society is horrified at his crime, it should be horrified at the crime’s ultimate cause: itself. The worse the crime—the greater its guilt. What could society answer, if that boy were to say: “Yes. I am a monstrous criminal, but what are you?”

This is what I think of the case. I am afraid that I idealize Hickman and that he might not be this at all. In fact, he probably isn’t. But it does not make any difference. If he isn’t, he could be, and that’s enough. The reaction of society would be the same, if not worse, toward the Hickman I have in mind. This case showed me how society can wreck an exceptional being, and then murder him for being the wreck that it itself has created. This will be the story of the boy in my book.

Rand wrote a short story in ’40 entitled “The Simplest Thing in the World.” The protagonist, Henry Dorn, is a fiction writer whose last book, “Triumph,” didn’t sell well. It got bad reviews, and the reviews that were “good” missed everything of substance while praising “the touching love story” in it. He struggles—with himself—to write a simple story that would sell, but can’t do that. He manages to convert every corny plot he can think of into a mighty crisis-of-values struggle with a heroic figure at its center. And that, naturally, doesn’t sell. In his final attempt, he tries to write a murder mystery, a blackmailer who kills to avoid exposure. And…he “slides,” again-

What if all those people he blackmails are utter lice? The kind that do horrible things, but just manage to remain within the law, so there’s no way of defending yourself against them. And this man chooses to deliberately become a crusading blackmailer…. He’s a Robin Hood of blackmail. He gets them in the only way they can be gotten. For instance, one of them is a corrupt politician, and the hero—no, the murderer—no, the hero

Oh, what a story! […] Prove honesty and courage and strength and dedication! Prove it through a blackmailer and a murderer! Have a story with a murderer for a hero and let him get away with it!

Dorn stops writing and looks for a menial job because he cannot compromise. Just like Roark, who chooses breaking stones in a quarry over making a minor change to his design.