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There is a very interesting scene in the beginning of the 2008 film Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr., in which a (cute) reporter calls him a war profiteer, to which Tony Stark--billionaire genius and entrpreneur--says that all the breakthroughs to which he's made billions came from military funding. The link to the scene is posted at the bottom of this question. What is interesting from this statement that Tony Stark makes is the fact that it is true. The nuclear bomb was indeed developed under the Army, from Oppenheimer, whom Ayn Rand based her character Dr. Stadler, who John Galt considers the epitome of evil, calling him the man who knew better, but chose not to act for the good. Some advancements in healthcare also came from military funding.

Tony Stark is giving credit to government subsidies, financing, and funding for the accomplishments in technology we have today. These are doubtlessly amazing advancements, and it is true the government was involved in their conceptions, but what if it wasn't? The technology came from the minds of brilliant men who had a helping hand from the government. Do you think we would have the same things if the government did not loan money? Lastly, would a man such as Hank Reardon or John Galt support Tony Stark's view in the video? I consider Tony Stark a admirable hero, but I'm unsure if his philosophy is strictly conservative or libertarian.

I would like to say, before recieving any answer, that if I had to answer the question myself, I would assume that private enterprise probably would have made the same technology with or without government assisstance, the only difference being the amount of time it would take to develope whatever was being made.


asked Dec 17 '12 at 13:40

Collin1's gravatar image


edited Dec 18 '12 at 12:02

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

The question doesn't mention where the questioner obtained his information about J. Robert Oppenheimer being a model for Dr. Robert Stadler. For those who are interested, there is a highly informative chapter in Journals of Ayn Rand on a documentary movie project that Ayn Rand once worked on, titled, "Top Secret", about the development of the atomic bomb during World War II. Refer to Chapter 9, pp. 311-344. Ayn Rand actually interviewed the key people involved in the bomb project, including J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her notes from the interviews, as well as a synposis of her screenplay (unfinished, for financial reasons explained in Chapter 9), comprise most of the chapter. The connection (much later) to Dr. Robert Stadler is mentioned in an editor's note on pp. 330-331.

The wording of the question may suggest that Ayn Rand considered the atomic bomb project to be in the same category as Project X in Atlas Shrugged, and the funding of the atomic bomb project (by the U.S. Government) to be in the same category as the State Science Institute in Atlas Shrugged. Yet, on p. 318 in the Journals, Ayn Rand observed:

As far as I know without further research, our government seems to have behaved properly in regard to the atomic bomb. All we have to do [in the movie] is show the government's actions factually, stressing that in this case it acted as a free country's government should act: it did not use compulsion.

The issue of freedom versus compulsion was featured prominently in Ayn Rand's screenplay. She observed:

  • "Now, in our day, the basic issue of the world -- the crucial conflict -- is between Statism and freedom. Specifically: between an all-powerful government and free enterprise." (p. 314)

  • "For the last hundred years, the world has been going toward Statism, gradually, in one form or another. If Statism were the right principle, this would have made the general condition of mankind progressively better, in corresponding degree. Instead, it has made conditions progressively worse -- under every form of Statism and no matter who held the power." (p. 315)

  • "The whole history of the atomic bomb is an eloquent example of, argument for and tribute to free enterprise. It would be monstrous to disregard the lesson, to ignore it or to twist it into the exact opposite.... we must only present the truth ... thewhole truth and nothing but the truth." (p. 317)

On p. 318, she continues:

How do we do that? Very simply. By presenting the issue not in superficial, political terms -- but in its deeper, essential terms. We state our theme like this: "Man's greatest achievements are accomplished through free, voluntary action -- and cannot be accomplished under force, compulsion and violence." [...]

Our theme must be explicit, clear-cut, and expressed not in speeches, but in action. It must be integrated into the structure of our story.... where we must express our theme full blast is in our treatment of the governments of the countries from which the scientists escaped. This is the heart of the real issue historically -- and this is the crux of our theme. We must show that Statism destroys, exiles and paralyzes men of genius -- why they produced only in a free country.

The question states: "Tony Stark is giving credit to government subsidies, financing, and funding for the accomplishments in technology we have today." If we are talking about government aid for the development of an atomic bomb in the midst of a world war, as a weapon for defeating the enemy, it's an aspect of a proper government's role as man's defender against those who initiate physical force against others. But if we are talking about Project X in Atlas Shrugged, against whom was that project aimed, and by whom?

(Some, perhaps, may see no connection between government funding for non-military projects and government compulsion in general. But the former is a step in the direction of the latter, and an outright expression of it in the case of those whom the government loots in order to obtain the funds which the government spends.)

I haven't seen the complete movie from which the YouTube video was taken and can't judge the complete characterization of Stark, but he comes across in the short YouTube clip as mostly cynical and impulsive, not particularly principled or purposeful. The clip leaves me wondering: how much real thinking has this guy ever done? Is his great wealth just an accident of circumstances and fierce determination by him, devoid of integrated principles and independent rational judgment? What makes him "tick," besides cynicism and impulse?

answered Dec 23 '12 at 13:33

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Dec 17 '12 at 13:40

Seen: 1,349 times

Last updated: Dec 23 '12 at 13:33