Archives For Book Quotes

Ayn Rand Inspiration for 2016

December 27, 2015 — 1 Comment

If you’re not familiar with Ayn Rand, I’m writing a post that will come out in a few weeks with my full biased review and explanation of her philosophies. I’ve had quite a cycle starting with an obsession with her philosophies and going “all in” on her objectivism, to then disagreeing with most of her stances, to now being a bit more neutral and pulling some things I like and discarding the rest.

Regardless of my own cyclical thoughts and tendencies, the fact remains there’s a lot of merit in her writing and philosophies and she has some really great quotes. With quotes from Rand’s powerful book Atlas Shrugged, I wish you a prosperous 2016!

I’ll start with my favorite quote of Rand’s that continues to drive my quest for a BREAK FREE lifestyle

“What greater wealth is there than to own your own life and to spend it on growing?”

This really drives my interaction with work and money along with my desire to create a lifestyle where I get to focus on my wife and my visions – and not spend it all working in a job I may not want. However, to get to this point, you have to realize the system we live in and avoid things like this

“A viler evil than to murder a man is to sell him suicide as an act of virtue”

I equate “suicide” in this quote with giving up your life for the profit of someone else. Work is necessary to get to where you want to go:

“there’s no such thing as a lousy job – only lousy men who don’t care to do it”

However, dedicating your entire life to a job you hate because you need to pay the bills on a bunch of crap you don’t need is the suicide. But you can take control of your money and think about how you can pursue the things you want to pursue.

“Thought is a weapon one uses in order to act.  Thought is the tool by which one makes a choice.  Thought sets one’s purpose and the way to reach it”

Think. Act. Make the decision to live the life you want to live. Don’t be another cog in the wheel, unless of course you want to.

“this is what they want of me, this is where they want me – neither living nor dead, neither thinking nor insane, but just a chunk of pulp that screams with fear, to be shaped by them as they please, they who have no shape of their own.”

No matter where you have to start, just start.

“Do not say that you’re afraid to trust your mind because you know so little.  Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the little that you know?  Live and act within the limit of your knowledge an keep expanding it to the limit of your life.  Accept the fact that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible – that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.”

Know your life is incredibly valuable

“to live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life:  reason – purpose – self-esteem.  Reason, as his only tool of knowledge – purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve – Self-esteem, as his inviolated certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means:  is worthy of living.”

You have the potential

“Every man is free to rise as far as he’s able or willing, but it’s only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which he’ll rise.”

And if you haven’t already, find the why

“the desire not to be anything, is the desire not to be”

Because in the end,

“What greater wealth is there than to own your own life and to spend it on growing?”

Summary

A fantastic book that chronicles the history of Scotland and the magnificent minds that came out of it.  From Hutcheson, to Adam Smith and Hume this book cover the thinkers and doers that transformed our world modern.  It has many great lessons and ways of thinking that are useful today.

Quotes

  • “I admire commercial enterprise… it is the vigorous outgrowth of our industrial life.  I admire everything that gives it free scope, as wherever it goes, activity, energy, intelligence – all that we call civilization – goes with it.  I hold that the aim and end of all ought not to be a mere bag of money, but something far higher and better.” (commentary… perhaps even, through his bridges and canals, a kind of immortality.)  – Thomas Telford, builder and engineer that opened up the Highlands among other great achievements
  • “The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it” – John Stuart Mill (Scottish-descended Philosopher)
  • “National progress is the sum of individual industry, energy, uprightness; as national decay is of individual idleness, selfishness and vice.” – Samuel Smiles (Self-Help, first self-help thinker)
  • “Knowledge is of little use when confined to mere speculation.” – Benjamin Rush (helped to found the American Philosophical Society)
  • “The best-known Scottish writers were no longer philosophers or political economists or essayists or historians, but masters of the field of fantasy and escapist literature.” – Author Arthur Hermann commenting on the downfall of Scotland in the 1900s (now Scots were pioneers in a new field: the tabloid press)
  • “The grandest moral attribute of a Scot is that he’ll do nothing which might damage his career.”  – James Barrier put it best with a bitter irony.  Towards the end of the Scottish Enlightenment
  • They (Haig, Robertson & Hamilton – Scottish soldiers during WWI that saw grotesque war efforts) were vivid examples of what Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson had warned might happen in an overspecialized modern society, where “the minds of men are contracted and rendered incapable of elevation” – but now at the top of society rather than at the bottom. – Author Arthur Herman
  • Speaking of Bond, He has become like Adam Ferguson’s vision of commercial society’s soldier or bureaucrat, “made, like the parts of an engine, to concur to a purpose, without any concert of their own,” like ants in an anthill. – Author Arthur Herman
  •  “liberty is the perfection of civil society, but authority must be acknowledged essential to its very existence”; and how a strong faith in progress also requires a keen appreciation of its limitations. – Author Arthur Herman, inside quotes is Dave Hume
  • If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants – Newton
  • 97 – Hume’s point seems to contradict Kane’s belief that property stands at the origin of society, but it actually restates it.  We establish government precisely to put a check on other people’s avidity for our personal goods.  Where property is, laws and government follow, not out of keen desire for them, but out of necessity.  What we want and have, others want, too, and they will do anything to get it, if we let them.  If we left them.  What we might not have the time or even the inclination to do, compelling others to leave our possession alone, the law does for us.  In this way, Kames believes the law, meaning not just legal rules but their enforcement as well, served a powerful didactic purpose.  It tells us our duty, toward others with regard to property and other rights, and towards ourselves.  Doing injury to one person’s property hurts everyone, because violating the rights of one, such as the right to property or the right to lie, threatens the rights of all.  In other words, the law projects a particular moral picture onto the world, which we as members of the community must share.  It its very earliest stages, as in the laws of Moses or of Hammurabi, the law simply taught men not to harm others, in their person or their possessions.  Then it taught the importance of keeping promises and contracts, including the buying and selling of goods.  Finally, as in the civil law code of the ancient Romans, “it extended to other matters, till it embraced every obvious duty arising in ordinary dealings between man and man.”  Eventually the law’s role in creating a moral order is supplemented by an internal device: the voice of conscience.  “In the social state under regular discipline,” Kames explained, “law ripens gradually with the human faculties, and by ripeness of discernment and delicacy of sentiment, many duties formerly neglected are found to be binding on conscience.”  our innate moral sense finds a social footing, and the law is forced to catch up with the new attitudes:  “such duties can no longer be neglected by courts of law.”
  • 101 – why, if everyone has the same desire to be free and happy, as Hutcheson had claimed, are there so many societies in which people are neither?  Now Lord Kames gives us the answer.  Because, under certain primitive material conditions, when resources are scarce or in uncertain supply, the rights of the individual have to give way to the imperative of the group.  The Bushman hunter divides his kill with the rest of his little clan, whether he wishes to or not, because otherwise the group might starve.  During the Dark Ages, peasants were bound to the land to produce food because no one knew when the next attack by marauding Vikings or Saracens might disrupt the harvest and plunge the community into famine.  Then, as material conditions improve, as they inevitably will when human beings devise new ways to increase their stock of property, the institutions governing the community also improve.
  • 208 – our imagination, the inner picture of ourselves being as rich and comfortable as a Duke of Argyll or a Bill Gates, spurs on our efforts, focusing and directing our energies toward a single purpose.  Smith “It is the deception which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind.  It is this which first prompted them to cultivate the ground, to build houses, to found cities and commonwealths, and to invent and improve all the sciences and arts, which ennoble and embellish human life; which have entirely changed the whole face of the globe, have turned the rude forests of nature into agreeable and fertile plains, and made the trackless and barren ocean a new fund of subsistence, and the great high road of communication to the different nations of the earth.
  • 209 – the fruits of division of labor’s increased productivity become “commodities”; which creates capitalism and allows us to do things like are – Author Arthur Herman
  • 213 – better to be a poor man in a rich country than a rich man in a poor one – Author Arthur Herman
  • 214 – self interest:  an inner compulsion to better ourselves and our circumstances, which forces us to take action even when we do not particularly want to.  It is in fact the drive behind the division of labor. (but not all are this driven by self interest – but we all profit all of the productive ones that do).  The pursuit of our own self-interest causes us to reach out to others – Author Arthur Herman
  • 214 – It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest – Adam Smith

Luxury empoly’d a million of the poor,

And odious pride a million more;

Envy itself and vanity

Were ministers of industry;

Their darling folly, fickleness

In diet, furniture and dress,

That strange ridiculous vice, was made

The very wheel that turned the trade – Bernard Mandeville

  • 216 – Adam Smith’s real point behind the ‘invisible hand’ was that market-based order was more beneficial and rational than ones put together by politicians or rulers, who are themselves creatures of their own passions and whims – Author Arthur Herman
  • 217 – Smith explains the importance of a strong national government; but not as a monopolistic industry leader – more for protection and large public projects – Author Arthur Herman
  • 219 – Smith’s overall picture of a typical businessman is unflattering.  “they say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits.  The government of an exclusive company of merchants is, perhaps, the worst of all governments for any country whatsoever.”
  • 220 – another bad effect of commerce is that it sinks the courage of mankind, and tends to extinguish martial spirit.  In all commercial countries the division of labor is infinite, and everyone’s thoughts are employed about one particular thing… the minds of men are contracted, and rendered incapable of elevation.  Education is despised, or at least neglected, and heroic spirit is utterly extinguished. – Adam Smith
  • 220 – Through capitalism we gain, but we also lose.  The loss, Smith felt, was felt most among the lowest classes – his particular example was employees in a pin factory – whose cramped place in the chain of production leaves no room for the enlargement of the mind and spirit, which the freedom of commercial society should open up.  It was especially worrisome to Smith, because “in free countries, where the safety of government depends very much upon the favorable judgment which the people may form of its conduct,” a mass of ignorant, culturally degraded citizens easily becomes an immense drag on the system.  They become easy prey to demagogues and applaud every attempt to undermine the foundations of that “natural liberty” which they have enjoyed the first place.”
  • 221 – Ferguson found in them (Highlanders, Native Americans) honor, integrity, and courage, which commercial society, with its overspecialization and mental mutilation, destroyed – Author Arthur Herman
  • 222 – today, the individual considers his community only so far as it can be rendered subservient to his personal advancement and profit – Ferguson
  • 223 – the last stage of modern history would not be liberty, but tyranny, unless something was done to prevent it.  Left to itself, commercial society would become humanity’s tomb (Ferguson – freedom itself becomes a commodity, to be sold to the highest bidder – or seized by the strongest power) – Marxism grew from Ferguson
  • 223 – Smith and Hume clearly saw the shortcomings of a society organized completely around the gratification of self-interest and the calculation of profit and loss
  • 272 -the science of legislature should remove the obstacles that hinder the natural path of commercial society and its social order – Dugald Stewart
  • 273 – Burke insisted it was the elaborate network of civilized ‘manners’ meaning morality, law, and tradition grown grown up over the ages, that made a system of commercial exchange based on trust possible, and hence human progress possible (Edmund Burke)
  • The Scots believed the great driving force in the progress of civilization was economic change – Author Arthur Herman
  • 278 – information is made more memorable when it is tinged with bias – Author Arthur Herman
  • 279 – the judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted – the Edinburgh Review
  • 287 – The great cause of revolution is this: that while nations move onward, constitutions stand still – Macauly
  • 340 – Man was designed by nature to appropriate – Lord Kames
  • 392 – A new force was stirring in the Western Education world, that of the German University ideal, which stressed rigorous research and professional specialization rather than the generalist approach the Scots favored
  • 393 – “Elective approach” encouraged dilettantism, more importantly it destroyed the notion of a fundamental unity of knowledge, learning everything ‘scattered like the start dust out of which worlds are said to have been made.” – Scottish education vs German
  • 406 – the Republic may not give wealth or happiness, she has not promised these.  It is the freedom to pursue these, not their realization, we can claim. – Andrew Carnegie
  • 406 – “the great error in your country is that things are just upside down.  You look to your officials to govern you instead of you governing them.”  – Andrew Carnegie
  • 428 – the great insight of the Scottish enlightenment was to insist that human beings need to free themselves from myths and to see the world as it really is – Author Arthur Herman