Many people write or speak to tell us what we should think. Some want to be believed because they are experts, or think they are. Some want to be believed because they claim to speak for us. Some have had revelations. Others want us to trust them because they communicate through prominent media outlets. Many tell us what we should think. I write to encourage my readers to think for themselves. I write to ask you to inquire. Question me. Have fun.

Comment of the Day
The Editorial Board should have no opinion

Jul 11, 2020

The WSJ Editorial Board expressed its opinion about the case of Michael Flynn. It does not matter what they said; in my book, the Editorial Board should have no opinion on any topic. Editorial boards’ job is not to lecture, but to facilitate views from individuals who can present valid arguments. The Editorial Board's job at the WSJ is to guarantee to me, a subscriber, that the different opinions presented are fact-checked. I pay a subscription for the WSJ because I do not have the time nor the means to fact-check whatever is written and posted on the internet. I do not pay for the subscription to be brainwashed by whatever the self-anointed authority of the Editorial Board believes is right. I can make my judgment based on the facts and their interpretation by other individuals.

More parenting is needed
Aug 01, 2019
Peter Gray in Psychology Today advises for less parenting. The problem is exactly the opposite: There is not enough parenting. In the past, when most of our ancestors lived in self-supporting households, often a farm, out of necessity, children were an integral part of whatever adults needed to do during their daily life, and they learned that way. Now, we do not need to do as much at home. Work is outside the home, food is brought in, heat is turned on and off, and mysteriously magical, colorful screens are the center of most activities. If we leave children free to explore what they find the most attractive, they will play video games. There might be some educational value in it, but one needs to learn much more. Hence, we need more effort in parenting, with parents doing more in the home than is otherwise required, and spending more time with children outside in order to introduce them to the real world. This realization hit home after I witnessed the surprise of a 7-year old seeing apples on my apple tree.
Less fight more work
Jul 30, 2017

The fight over Obamacare repeal is over, at least for now. The GOP can start to work on a new proposal that each of us can look at it, and then compare how my particular health care solution would play in it, as compared to Obamacare. In a television interview, HHS Secretary Tom Price said that Obamacare “may be working for Washington, it may be working for insurance companies, but it’s not working for patients.” Maybe it is time to consider patients’ involvement in the preparation of an Obamacare alternative? It could be that Obamacare repeal failed just because it has been prepared by Washington with consultation from insurance companies. Let us start with addressing 19 health care issues that politicians avoid talking about.

How to pay for the wall?
Apr 04, 2017

If you want to build the wall, pay for it with your own money. How much of your own money are you willing to donate? Trump received 62,979,879 votes. If each of Trump’s supporters voluntarily donates at least $1,000, which corresponds to about $42 per month for the next two years, and if we encourage those who are more affluent to double their donations, then Trump can have on hand about $100 billion, which may suffice for a substantial piece of the wall. Hence, all of you who are talking loudly about spending my money on building this wall, stay away from my wallet, but open your own wallet and send money to the “Build the Wall Fund.” Put your money where your mouth is.

What is wrong with Russia?
Dec 22, 2015

It appears that Russian leaders cannot free themselves from the medieval concept of regional influence, where weaker neighbors were subdued into becoming serf states. Is anyone capable of explaining to them that in these times of a global economy, any influence comes from economic strength? Russia, thanks to its size, natural resources and well-educated labor force, has everything that it takes to maintain a dominant position in the region, just by maintaining free trade with all its neighbors. It can do so without military interventions in Georgia and in Ukraine. Russia has everything that it takes to be a respected wealthier neighbor, to whom everyone in the region would turn for help when needed. Instead, it is a bully and a hooligan. It would take so little to change that. But it is so hard for Russia to do it. 

Closed mind for closed borders
Nov 19, 2015

Known to some as a libertarian, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. speaks against open borders. His argument is that it is an infraction against private property. He misses the point that most people migrate just because Mr. Rockwell’s neighbors want them on their private property – for picking apples, washing the dishes or writing a computer code. Then, Mr. Rockwell wrongly laments that those foreigners invited by his neighbors violate his private property rights by loitering in the public spaces that he frequents. He wants the government to deny the rights of his neighbors to do on their private property whatever they wish, so he will not need to face immigrants in the public spaces. Mr. Rockwell left the train called “liberty” at the station called “xenophobia.”    

They do not know…
Sep 14, 2015

Mr. Trump says: “A lot of what I’m doing is by instinct.” I prefer that our President would make decisions based on systematic due diligence. The instinct that guides Mr. Trump in his professional life arrives from his vast experience, starting when he was growing up under the mentoring of his successful father, followed by a solid education and years of practice. Mr. Trump's confidence is misguiding, as it gives his supporters the illusion that someone who mastered real estate dealing can be equally skillful as President. It is similar to the illusion surrounding Dr. Carson, that he can be as good a President as he is a brain surgeon. If both gentlemen were humbler, they would realize that they qualify to be President equally as much as Mr. Trump qualifies to conduct brain surgeries and Dr. Carson to run Mr. Trump’s real estate empire. The problem is not that they do not know many things they should; the problem is that they do not realize that.

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How I fell into Ayn Rand’s snares

Most people do not care much about philosophers – unless it is Ayn Rand.

About two months ago, Medium editors suggested an article by Paul Constant explaining how COVID-19 unraveled Ayn Rand’s ideology. I was not impressed, finding it as one more political opinion piece lacking understanding of the message of “Atlas Shrugged.” At that time, there were only several comments, most of them applauding the author. To strive for more of a balance, I made a short, critical post. Two months later, Paul’s article has about 100 comments more, with quite a few highly critical. I was surprised that, according to Medium’s statistics, about a quarter of the readers of my post applauded it. I received a few responses as well, some deserving a broader reply.

I find it meaningful that “Atlas Shrugged” influenced Paul Constant in his youth, but he grew out of it. Andrew Cheng, an author of another similarly shallow critique of Ayn Rand, mentioned a similar experience. I bet that inquiring readers can find well-written essays for and against Ayn Rand’s ideas. I find it intriguing why some support her vividly when others despise her. And some, as mentioned above, have done both. Let me look at that through a prism of my own experiences.

I ‘met’ Ayn Rand late

I grew up in then-socialistic Poland, where Ayn Rand’s ideas were nonexistent in media and education. I read “Atlas Shrugged” when already in my 50s, and I was not much impressed. But I found astonishing the precision of Ayn Rand in describing some of my own observations and conclusions. Looking back, I will trace the experiences that led me to Ayn Rand’s snares.    

It is my parents’ fault

When we did something wrong because everybody else was doing the same, my parents kept asking, “If they went on a cliff and jumped, would you do it as well?” There was no excuse even if we acted upon the encouragement of someone supposedly smarter; we should know better. But if, following the same principle, we got in trouble at school, our parents stood behind us, and our teachers knew that.

Our parents taught us to see right from wrong and good from bad. They expected us to evaluate the situation objectively to the best of our abilities and act accordingly regardless of the circumstances. That ability to be objective was crucial.

The education path did not help

In Poland, besides four-year college preparatory high schools, they have five-year high schools, which provide professional training as well. I ended in the one training radio and TV repairmen. It was not my calling, but I got hooked by the challenges of troubleshooting. In electronics, it is more exciting because often, one cannot see the problem. It is the process of guessing the most likely cause, taking some measurements, and following it to a resolution. Troubleshooting is frustrating for many because often, it is hard to pinpoint the problem. But, again, objectivity is the key to success. The causes of the problem are brutally objective – no “if,“ “and” or “but” about it.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The math teacher did not help either

In my early teens, I was not too fond of math. Yet without much effort, in high school, math became my favorite subject. The teacher was the secret ingredient. Later, when studying engineering, I was given math at its highest level. It was fascinating seeing math describing the dynamics of multidimensional processes that are beyond our imagination. At that time, I was already interested in politics.

I soon realized how limited are formal math applications in social science. Besides their complexity, the uncertainty principle rules: the closer to the detail, the more the observer’s bias applies. However, we still are a part of nature. We may never can know social behavior as objectively as the functionality of a complex machine. But by understanding patterns in complex systems, we can better estimate possible scenarios in social systems. In mathematical terms, identifying orthogonal axes in the multidimensional space is the key. In layman’s terms, those are the independent factors determining the outcome.

Criticizing my commentary, Eric Engheim was right when writing: “You cannot deal with questions of society as if it was mathematical equations.” But, it is a cheap shot in criticizing Ayn Rand. As a programmer, Erik uses math to build models of complex processes and to simulate possible outcomes. One can do it only under the assumption that there is an objective truth about how things work and an objectively better solution than others. But Erik declares himself as a social democrat, and as such, he divorces his political views from activities that pay his bills. For him, “it is a value judgment”; “a society has to be judged by the conditions of the lesser among us.” In my finding, societies have to be valued by adopting solutions that work. Without cash on hand, caring about “conditions of the lesser among us” is just hollow talk.

If people fail to keep an eye on what makes societies wealthier, the path of Argentina is the fate of the United States, China, or Norway, where Erik lives. But, as the case of Argentina illustrates, it takes almost a century to bankrupt a wealthy nation. Erik is unlikely to see the fruits of the implementation of his ideas.

The literature teacher was not any better

My literature teacher could keep in check a class of 40 young males, despite having a petite figure and being at the age of our grandmothers. She was seven years older than Ayn Rand. Her mantra was that we would do fine in life even if we forget everything we learned in school, except the following three rules:

  1. Everything can be done better than before.
  2. Each ailment can be corrected by clearly defining its essence.
  3. Identifying the problem is half the solution.

Does it not sound like a credo of objectivism? There is an assumption that, objectively, there is a better way. Further, there is a way to identify the true, ergo, objective causes of our problems. And, there is a conviction that it is the only way of advancing each of us individually and society as a whole. My teacher knew that before Ayn Rand wrote her famous book.

My religious upbringing added as well

The Judeo-Christian doctrine emphasizes personal responsibility. Regardless if one is rich or poor, powerful or powerless, we are all equal in front of God. We are judged by our deeds at the moment of death, not by the wealth we accumulated or the power we had. We cannot bribe St. Peter at the gate. We cannot force ourselves in by commanding guys with guns. Putting aside disputes about God’s existence, that religious message reflects the core universal moral truth – we die alone.

Nikos Papakonstantinou, my other critic, does not like that Ayn Rand’s message is “you will die alone.” I do not recall that message, but if Ms. Rand mentioned it anywhere, she did not invent it; she only repeated one of the fundamental moral values of Western civilization.

Nikos is correct that “Man is a social animal. It survives only in groups.” But he is wrong when concluding that “the purpose of the group is to be greater than the individual.” The purpose of the group is to enable individuals to perform to the top of their abilities. There is no such thing as the greatness of the group. Some groups might be superior to others only by creating better conditions for individuals to flourish. “Whoever fails to understand this does not understand how human civilization became possible in the first place,” as Nikos wrote, arguing for the opposite.

Image by kostkarubika005 from Pixabay

Influence of Tadeusz Kotarbiński

Outside of Poland, very few people have heard of Tadeusz Kotarbiński, one of the greatest Polish philosophers of the 20th century. He was 11 years older than Ayn Rand. He is known for a concept of a good person as dependable and trustworthy. His writings about the ethos of work became a part of the Polish national tradition. All his major writings predate the Ayn Rand’s book.

In the 1960s, it became evident that Poland and other countries in the Soviet Bloc were not advancing as fast as Western Europe. The government blamed human faults and tried to motivate Poles to work harder. In this context, Kotarbiński’s writings were welcome. For the system’s critics, Kotarbiński’s concepts of good work could never function in the socialistic system; they proved the unrepairable faults of socialism. Facing that dilemma, the government limited publications about Kotarbiński’s ideas. It had an opposite effect because many who otherwise would never have cared got interested in the ideas feared by the government.

Interestingly, history delivered the verdict. Socialists bankrupted Poland to total economic collapse in the 1980s. Twenty years after the system change in 1989, Poland, as a capitalistic country, emerged as one of the fastest-growing European nations. The same people, the same country, a different system.

I knew that before reading “Atlas Shrugged.”   

Doers and moochers

An experienced manager once told me that there is at least one, maybe two achievers in every team of 10. They are at work on time; they excel on their assignments with little or no supervision. But on the same team, there is at least one loafer masquerading as a worker. The remaining 68 employees look at how achievers and moochers are rewarded, and act accordingly. When reading the biography of Steve Jobs, I noticed that he was adamant about firing the weakest employees. He could do it in the startup he ran. In this way he built one of the most successful businesses of our time.

But if the purpose of business is more than bringing profits to shareholders, we start noticing that moochers have children and mortgages to pay. We impose on businesses other social goals as well. Some people stay on the jobs they hate because of benefits like health care, which are tied to their jobs but not related to work performance.

In an extreme case, my first job after college was at a large company, which was behind schedule with opening a new division but was hiring as planned. There was no work for anyone on my team, but due to contractual obligations and benefits that were crucial to me, I stayed on that job for more than a year. Some of us grabbed any opportunity to do anything useful, killing most of our time studying the company’s educational materials. But I discovered that others felt pretty comfortable doing nothing all day, except a few hours from time to time when compiling reports showing how much work they did.

Later, I ran my businesses for several years, where identifying and letting go of the least productive employees was necessary for staying solvent. Ayn Rand could not tell me anything new about doers and takers.  

Doers of all kinds

At my service business in Chicago, I had field technicians and technicians doing repairs at the shop. Once, we had a customer who was about five minutes’ walk from the office. To complete a service call, a field technician needed a second pair of hands just for a minute or two. It was a beautiful, sunny day in the early summer, perfect for a walk. I asked a repairman in the shop to help his colleague. He refused because it would disturb his work. Eventually, he did what I asked, but he complained about this for weeks.

My field technician wondered how one could sit all day in a claustrophobic room fixing electronics. For him, driving from one job to another was fulfilling work. I am citing this example because many critics of “Atlas Shrugged” see rich people as doers and poor people as moochers. In my example above, both technicians were doers. Both of them were good at their work, and both were devoted employees. The on-site technician was overreacting a little in his refusal to help in the field, but most employers would be happy to have only these kinds of problems.

Dagny Taggart, the protagonist of “Atlas Shrugged,” had a network of doers. Without them, she could not function. She could be a doer at her position because she learned how to identify doers. As Kotarbiński wrote, she trusted them, they trusted her, and they knew that they could depend on each other. I noticed that in reading the book, as it is a part of my personal experience as well.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Signing payroll checks on the front

Critics of “Atlas Shrugged” see it as the glorification of ruthless capitalism. I have noticed that people who sign payroll checks on the front see it differently. I opened my first business in Poland after I lost my job for political reasons. At that time, the alarm industry was in its infancy in Poland; within three years, we were a major player in our region.

Years later, when I could not find a satisfying job in Chicago, I started an alarm company again. It was much harder to enter the well-established market without any prior connections. Again, we did fine, selling the business 10 years later. I got a taste of being a capitalist and do not envy those who stay in the game and make more money than I did.

My most memorable experience from owning businesses is noticing that, before I was even able to make any meaningful money, so many already envied me. I was perceived as a capitalist, and it is a pejorative term now.

I noticed the same tone in the critical voices about “Atlas Shrugged.” My suggestion to critics: Go to the real world, open a business and try to make payroll for at least a year. 

In ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ I saw echoes of my experiences

I did not find in “Atlas Shrugged” anything I did not know before. But I was impressed with the precision of Ayn Rand in describing it half a century earlier. The clarity of her reasoning was refreshing. The boldness was encouraging.

There is a small collection of articles criticizing Ayn Rand on Medium and a few supporting her. Articles like the ones I mentioned at the beginning reveal something optimistic. The young authors were exposed to Ayn Rand’s thinking and rejected it. But they are not at peace with their decision. They need to keep writing to justify their rejection. There is no escape from the iron logic of Ayn Rand’s reasoning.

About me

I was born in 1951 in Gdansk, Poland.
Since my high school years, I have interest in politics and love for writing. During my college years, I started writing to student papers and soon became freelance author to major Polish political magazines.

In 1980 I wrote a book “Czy w Polsce może być lepiej?” (“Could it be better in Poland?” – this book is available only in Polish) analyzing major problems in Poland at the time and outlining possible solutions.

I was among those Polish political writers who by their writings contributed to the peaceful system transformation that finally took place in 1989. Since 1985, I live in the Chicago area. I went through the hard times typical of many immigrants. Working in service business, I have seen the best and the worst places, I met the poorest and the richest. I have seen and experienced America not known to most of politicians, business people, and other political writers. For eleven years, I ran my own company. Presently, I am an independent consultant.

My political writing comes out of necessity. I write when I see that the prevailing voices on the political arena are misleading or erroneous. Abstract mathematics and control theory (of complex technological processes) strongly influenced my understanding of social phenomena. In the past, my opponents rebuked my mathematical mind as cold, soulless, and inhuman. On a few occasions I was prized for my engineer’s precision and logic.

I have a master’s degree in electronic engineering with a specialization in mathematical machines from Politechnika Gdańska (Technical University of Gdansk).

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