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Heroes and villains

Near to the end (on p. 189) of Peter Thiel’s Zero to One there is this very quotable quote, which I think captures a lot about both the success and the failure of Ayn Rand as a story teller:

That we need individual founders in all their peculiarity does not mean that we are called to worship Ayn Randian “prime movers” who claim to be independent of everybody around them. In this respect Rand was a merely half-great writer: her villains were real, but her heroes were fake.

I agree with both parts of that last pronouncement, but I am guessing that not everyone who regularly comes here would.

Also, some libertarians have asserted (for example in the comments on this earlier Thiel posting that I did here a while back) that there is now a distinct whiff of the villain about Peter Thiel himself. As he relates in Zero to One, he and his Paypal pals worked out how to use large amounts of computer data to spot crooks, and thereby to save Paypal a ton of money. Now he has made another fortune to add to his Paypal fortune, by selling this expertise to, among others, various branches of the US government, a notorious collector of large amounts of data in ways that most libertarians are not at all happy about.

Commenter “Rob”, to whom thanks, emailed me this link to a Thiel video performance. Rob recommends, as do I, looking at and listening to a particular bit of the Q+A at 1:06:00. Says Rob:

I don’t buy Thiel’s response.

I hope, although I promise nothing, to be offering a longer review of Zero to One, Real Soon Now. I am more than ever convinced that Peter Thiel is a very interesting man.

45 comments to Heroes and villains

  • Frank Ch. Eigler

    ” “prime movers” who claim to be independent of everybody around them. ”

    FWIW, I never got that sense from or about the characters in the books.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I agree with Frank on that.

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    ‘in ways that most libertarians are at all happy about’- I assume a ‘NOT’ is missing in that sentence.
    FWIW, throwing off customary social constraints was one of the things that the book was about, so being independent was what it was about.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    You assume correctly. Thanks. Corrected.

  • Intellectual independence of mind is depicted and endorsed, but the characters have trading and spiritual relationships with each other (excuse the repetition after the “but”).

  • Humans have two opposing interests. Morality and advantage. How one balances those makes for an interesting life.

    When I was an anti-war leftist I worked for a defense contractor. I gave technical advice to some fellows designing an atom bomb altitude trigger.

    No one is perfect. BTW I was the first to mention in the previous thread Thiel’s “other” interests.

    Would I be less than pure to accomplish something I really wanted to do? Depends on how much “less than”. I have my limits.

    There is some tech I’m working on that would solve our energy problems for at least 10K years at relatively low cost – if it works. OTOH it would make the manufacture of Plutonium easier with a slight design tweak. I have actually published how to do that on the www. So give up my energy dreams? No.

  • Being a Randian, I find the theories expounded in Atlas Shrugged to be thought provoking, but her characters, both good and evil, made of cardboard. A bit like pantomime, we know who to cheer and who to boo because they are in effect stereotypes.

    As for Peter Thiel, he is a real person and by virtue of this his life and works are a mixture of things I support, such as breakthrough technologies in gerontology and machine intelligence. However there are a lot of things that he has done that I hate – such as the way Paypal works and the intrusiveness of Facebook (in which he was an investor at a critical stage of that companies life).

    Does this mean that his libertarian claims are invalid? I don’t think so – he’s worked hard and played a bit fast and loose in a highly regulated environment and made some serious money. I can understand that – but he’s no saint and quite clearly will go against his libertarian instincts if this will be to his financial advantage – not idealistic, but understandable.

    In short, Peter Thiel is a real person, with aims and ambitions I can support, but equally tainted by some of the things he’s had to do to make his way in the world.

  • Humans have two opposing interests. Morality and advantage.

    That is a controversial statement for a Randian. The whole train ride sequence in part 1 of Atlas Shrugged, and one of the major themes of Rand’s work, is to show that a proper moral system leaves no gap between the good and the practical, or between body and mind.

    I have recently begun to think of Randian ethics as a kind of utilitarianism, but one which avoids the usual dilemmas by being methodologically individualistic, and long termist.

    The mind/body split (or lack of one) is also why honesty and integrity are core objectivist virtues.

  • GC

    I’m amazed more people haven’t had this straw man thrown at them before.

    “You didn’t raise yourself in the wild, therefore independence is a myth”. They seem to be forgetting that what applies to a child does not apply to an adult and that there’s voluntary and involuntary ways of interacting with others. Those pushing this argument are usually the purveyors of some variant of statism.

  • Myno

    Her one great good character (if you follow my meaning) was the copper baron. Shoulda gotten the girl.

  • Allen Farrington

    re: Rand’s characters, I couldn’t agree more, and moreover admire the brevity of Thiel’s observation. In a literary sense, her characters (/writing/story-telling) are of course one dimensional tripe. Her heroes are all hybrid stormtroopers of righteousness and purity, struggling against the sorry ineptitude of everybody else around them. This doesn’t make for a particularly serious story; we want our heroes to have failings and to either learn from their mistakes or suffer because of them. That is what really resonates in a story that has its audience invest in the characters. Failing this, you are left with a cartoon / action movie. There is nothing wrong with cartoons or action movies, but Rand’s heroes are effectively cartoon superheroes parachuted into morality plays.

    On the other hand, this seems to be crucial to Rand’s moulding of her stories into parables. Her focus would be distracted if the villains were equally cartoonishly super-evil; it would give her superheroes a clear and noble obstacle, rather than the moral frustration of everybody else being wrong. And evil is often banal, so her fallible, conniving, and yet unduly powerful villains are often excellent.

    Like I said, however, Thiel was briefer.

  • PeterT

    The young are the most receptive to Rand’s message. The good characters need to be compelling, not nuanced. Older readers are more likely to be settled in their views. I don’t think there are that many readers of Atlas Shrugged that were ‘converted’ in their forties.

    I would not underestimate the ability of even intelligent people to read into stories messages of which they approve. I have heard the hunger games described as a story about the fight against capitalism. I found this a bit of a stretch.

    Peter Thiel. The Koch brothers are not short of enemies in the liberal media. If the media know about Thiel at all they know him as ‘that facebook guy’. Obviously none of us are in a position to tell him to throw money at what quite often appears like a pointless cause, and I believe he has contributed to the Seasteading institute and I think Ron Paul’s foundation.

    If he wants to contribute to the fight for freedom in a way that makes him money then I volunteer crypto-currency and privacy technology for his next projects. This sounds more on the mark than producing surveillance tools (Palantir) for the US government.

  • Some rather interesting and nuanced comments here

  • JohnW

    Howard Roark, Dominique Francon, and Hank Reardon have no failings?!
    They come very close to destroying themselves!
    Wynand literally does destroy himself in the Fountainhead movie scripted by Ayn Rand.
    For a more thoughtful analysis I would direct interested parties to Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

  • Peter Thiel: “….Rand was a merely half-great writer: her villains were real, but her heroes were fake.”
    What a psychological confession! Thiel is able to recognize the villains in Rand’s novels – they’re perhaps “more real” than her heroes and heroines. Models for the villains in the public sphere and in Thiel’s personal encounters and experiences abound. But no models for her heroes and heroines exist in either the public sphere or in his personal life? Does this paucity include him? He doesn’t regard himself as a hero? Isn’t capable of being or becoming one? The actions and character of her heroes and heroines don’t resonate at all in Thiel’s hierarchy of values? If there’s no such mirror in Thiel’s character, what is his conception of a credible hero or heroine?

  • Watchman

    I never quite get why libertarians still feel the need to refer to Ayn Rand, who was correct in many ways (but not in all) and who failed to foresee that the future of human freedom would be the fragmentation of monolithic edifices allowed by the internet (although I will allow that this fits with her hopes), probably due to writing 20 years too early to predict it…

    It sometimes gets to the point where libertarians treat Rand in the way some leftists treat Marx – and that is clearly a mistake, as if there is a central theme to libertarian thought it is individualism, not focus on a text. So this thread with its challenges to and defences of ideas of Rand is probably a good example of libertarianism at large; however, it also risks being another nail in the coffin that is the perception that libertarianism (note the small l) is in fact Libertarianism, a religion of a book (I doubt most people interested in setting up straw men about libertarians are aware Rand wrote more than Atlas Shrugs. And to be honest, I can see why people might not want to follow a book written by Ayn Rand – it is no more comforting or encouraging than that written by Muhammed.

  • Butler Reynolds

    When I read Thiel’s book, that sentence stuck in my craw. It’s the same kind of “no man is an island” critique that leftists make of Rand. Thiel is supposed to be a genius, but if he read Rand and got the idea that we are supposed to worship prime movers who act independently of everyone else, then it really makes me wonder.

    Whether you enjoy Rand’s writing style or not, unlike the literature they make you read in school where you require the teacher or professor to explain to you what in the stinking heck the author is talking about, Rand writes rather clearly.

  • Mary Contrary

    her villains were real, but her heroes were fake

    I agree completely. I have always found her heroes to be, to put it most kindly, useful two-dimensional archetypes to carry her parable’s message. When I hear some libertarians say that she espoused some good ideas, but was pretty mediocre when judged as a pure storyteller (rather a pedogogue), it is when thinking of her heroes that I am most inclined to agree.

    On the other hand, her villains are much more interesting. I think it is this: for Rand, her concept of virtue was pretty consistent, so characters that exemplify it tend to seem the same as each other. But she correctly identified a broad range of attitudes, motivations and rationalisations that lead people into the same evil through different paths; this allowed her a rich cast of villains each recognisable from everyday life.

  • JohnW

    I never quite get why libertarians still feel the need to refer to Ayn Rand, who was correct in many ways (but not in all) and who failed to foresee that the future of human freedom would be the fragmentation of monolithic edifices allowed by the internet (although I will allow that this fits with her hopes), probably due to writing 20 years too early to predict it…

    What does the internet – or a railroad – depend on?
    That is the issue which Atlas Shrugged addresses.

    Ayn Rand viewed the world in terms of essential principles – that is why she remains relevant to today.

  • Two thumbs up for you, JohnW.

  • Laird

    I agree with Mary Contrary. But I have trouble understanding Edward Cline’s complaint. He asks: “But no models for her heroes and heroines exist in either the public sphere or in his personal life?” Where did that come from? Rand’s heroes are archetypes, not “role models”. In real life no one does, or likely could, ever hope to emulate them. I certainly wouldn’t pretend to do so, and I can’t imagine that Thiel would admit to such hubris either. And why would he consider himself a hero? Do you? He’s a flawed human being like the rest of us. “The actions and character of her heroes and heroines don’t resonate at all in Thiel’s hierarchy of values?” Obviously they “resonate” with him; if not, why would he even have mentioned Rand at all?

    Personally, I am very much looking forward to reading Zero to One (it’s on order). I’ve watched a couple of his talks about the book on YouTube and think he has some very insightful things to say. And I’m also looking forward to Brian’s review of it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Edward Cline’s comments are spot on.

  • GC

    This reminds me of the Last Psychiatrist’s essay on action heroes: http://goo.gl/xXa7bd

    I wonder how many people here can find themselves being described.

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    Dean Koontz, horror novelist, once wrote a book about how to write fiction, and he pointed out that the villains are always the more interesting characters in stories because their amorality means they might do anything, so they are more unpredictable, whilst the heroic characters have some moral code, so they are more predictable- a villain might kidnap someone, but the hero would not then kidnap any loved-ones of the villain (if he or she had any such)in exchange, etc.

  • John Galt III

    Silicon Valley is pretty much a one party area – hard leftist Democrat. Thiel is a breath of fresh air. I don’t care for most of the people there I have met and dislike their thoughtless political stances.

    I am a former owner of Apple’s first distributorship in the 1970’s and co-founder of Harvard Business School’s Venture Capital Club, so I know a little about Silicon Valley.

    This guy is ok too:


    We have few friends there so be happy with what we have.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Natural Genius, that’s an interesting point and a good one, when it’s true. [Some thriller-writers do have good-guys who skirt the edges, or seem to. Or, of course, have protagonists who do away with innocents, or with plausibly-innocent at least, in order to save Milwaukee (but why??) or the whole human race –Although now that you mention it, I’m not sure I can think of one offhand…. Jack Bauer comes close a couple of times, but — sometimes the guy he does really is guilty as sin; when the family was “going to be tortured, slowly and painfully, to death” unless the Muslim terrorist gave it up, it turned out to be a bluff and the family knew they were safe all along. The only actual case I can think of was when he actually did kill Ryan Chappelle on the bad-guys’ orders, to save the rest of the known Universe, and with Chappelle’s agreement, not that he was happy about it.]

    Anyway, yes, good point, thanks!

    As to Miss R., I go along with JohnW and Ed Cline and Johnathan on that one. Although it’s true that the heroes and heroines in her books are somewhat archetypal, which is another good point.

    In one of the newsletters, she answered a student’s question: why don’t we ever see JG having the kinds of problems real people have? If JG pops a champagne cork, it’s going to pop, but real people often have to excavate the cork with a corkscrew. (Digression: We’ve all seen the UT about how to pop the cork using your shoe, yes?)

    She answered, m-o-l, “JG might very well have trouble popping the cork. But that is merely incidental, not important enough to get any of his attention, not important enough even to notice.” An example of “don’t sweat the small stuff,” shown here in a novel, in fiction. An example of “keep your eye on the ball.” An example of deleting or ignoring the unimportant; and in Bertie’s life such an event might blow up out of all proportion and Jeeves would have to dig everybody out from under, but The Code of the Woosters has a different aim from Atlas Shrugged’s and to JG it’s utterly beside the point, and properly so.

    One of my pet peeves is a certain class of thriller-writers who don’t ever seem to be able to have a hero who’s not either alcoholic or one who’s given up the sauce, and now 185 years later still can’t get over it. Going on and on and on for pages and chapters and volumes (if a series of novels) about what a terrible dreadful person he is because he drank to excess in 1679 and still desperately needs the booze. (Interestingly, I find that a lot in writers of some Irish ancestry and almost never in their Jewish counterparts. Huh!)

    Well…as far as we know, Francisco never had a drinking problem, Dagny never had a failed marriage for which she can’t stop blaming herself, Dominique isn’t suicidal over the kids’ lives that she and her husband wrecked with their incessant fighting and his philandering, Cheryl Taggart wasn’t obsessed with her weight problem, and nobody was in therapy. These folks are not, mostly, into self-blame or its surrogates. In Atlas, only Hank Rearden is, and part of his problem is that he feels guilty over not feeling guilty and can’t quite figure out why, and the subplot of the book is to work him out of that mindset. And even then, he doesn’t force us all to suffer his moral D.T.’s along with him. He does what he thinks he should in order to be a better, finer person, that’s all.

    So in a way, maybe we miss the ultra-negative characteristics that even some of best-seller writers visit on their good guys. (I except “mainstream” fiction. I haven’t been able to get interested in it, since some time in high school.)

    I dunno. Actually I thought that with the exception of JG, who IMO is a pamphlet not a person, the good guys were pretty interesting characters. Because NOT the sort of people you see every day in the office, and their minds worked differently. A breath of fresh air.

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    Dear Julie near Chicago, If it wasn’t for the bottle, and the temptation of the bottle, the hero might have to be a saint, who could then solve the problem by starting a miracle. The author is trying too hard to add variety to the character, so the reader will be interested. This is not needed. Nobody cares about Miss Marple’s reading habits, or what she ate for breakfast, and what type of whisky she washed it down with. Nor do we need to know for what scandalous reason she is single. The same with Sherlock Holmes. Yet these books keep on selling.

  • It is strongly hinted by Christie that Marple lost the love of her life in WWI and never quite got over it. Holmes is a cocaine user and an obsessive so when he decides there is no woman who can compare with Irene Adler… Also, bear in mind, the Holmes stories are (with one exception) narrated by the somewhat unreliable Watson who forever being astonished by what he has only just discovered about Holmes. It is quite possible other things were beneath the deer-stalker. Note at no point is the age of Mrs Hudson even hinted at and there is no Mr Hudson. Jus’ sayin’

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    NickM, these days, they go too far in the opposite direction. We can barely scrape some character of Holmes from the stories, but we wouldn’t have heard about Sherlock’s brother Mycroft if he hadn’t been important to one story! Yet the modern novel seems to want to make you part of the hero’s family! I know more about Alex Cross’s girlfriends than I want to know- and most of it is not germaine to the story. I would prefer the old-fashioned murder-mystery to the modern last-man-standing-must-be-the-killer. Are there any stories like that?

  • N(NG)G,
    I get your point. I feel it myself in a way. Perhaps Mycroft was what I was getting at in that Holmes has depths Watson is not privy to. Gives him an air of mystery. But yes, the good ol’ murder-mystery seems thin on the ground these days. My personal bugbear is the CSI style stuff. I want good old means, motive and opportunity and not people mooching in darkened labs (why are they always darkened?) fiddling with apparatus. I got that out of my system doing a physics degree! I don’t want it whilst kicking back with a glass of Shiraz. I guess on the telly “Midsommer Murders” comes close and (amazingly) I liked the total re-jigging of “Father Brown”. The interesting thing about “Midsommer Murders” is whilst the ‘tecs have families there is no real sturm und drang with them. There might be a vague tiff with the missus and Cally (the daughter of Barnaby MkI) might get stressed about something but that is it. It isn’t like anyone is fighting a meth habit or Cally is off to join ISIS or anything.

    So, Samizdatans any suggestions to go on for me and (I know it is presumptuous) the Natural Genius? Greatly appreciated. I don’t care if it is walking the mean streets or visiting tea rooms just as long as it’s not family therapy or a chemistry lesson.

    The “Campaign for Real Murder” starts here!

  • PeterT

    We’ve all seen the UT about how to pop the cork using your shoe, yes?

    Wine, yes. If you try it with a bottle of champagne please film it and put it on Youtube.

  • Alex


    Humans have two opposing interests. Morality and advantage. How one balances those makes for an interesting life.

    This presupposes that that which is advantageous to you is not aligned with the moral imperative. Acting morally is very advantageous in the long run, for both yourself and other parties. There are relatively few situations, mostly involving life or death decisions, in which the rational action to best advantage doesn’t align with the moral choice.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    One of my pet peeves is a certain class of thriller-writers who don’t ever seem to be able to have a hero who’s not either alcoholic or one who’s given up the sauce, and now 185 years later still can’t get over it. Going on and on and on for pages and chapters and volumes (if a series of novels) about what a terrible dreadful person he is because he drank to excess in 1679 and still desperately needs the booze.

    That’s exactly how I feel. There are lots of writers/producers of “gritty realist” thrillers where the presumed hero is at best a sort of Bruce Willis/John McLain type who is always rowing with his wife/kids, or divorced, or coming out of rehab. The “anti-hero” who saves the day with a few wisecracks, etc. To be “realistic”, it seems, a hero has to be a bit of a failure in certain ways, or a cynic, or a knobhead. And Rand said let’s focus on the essentials of a character and what he or she does, not worry about whether they have bad breath, or have annoying kids, or have to take out the garbage and fix the TV set.

    Galt is not a well developed character. Hank Rearden is my favourite. He’s genuinely credible as a fictional character.

  • TomJ

    As we’re still in the period of mourning for Sir Pterry, while Vimes has given up the sauce and it could be argued he’s not entirely over it, Captain Carrot is as unalcoholic as you can get. And while Ankh-Morpork can’t be described as “gritty realism”, it has a lot more truth about people than many fictional Londons or New Yorks…

  • it has a lot more truth about people than many fictional Londons or New Yorks…

    And I think that was the very essence of Pratchett’s genius.

  • JohnW

    Rearden is a great character likewise Ragnar and Francisco, but as I grow older, having said to myself a hundred times, “This is the final straw…” I think more and more of Galt who said it and meant it.

    And I think of Galt repeatedly described in the text as a man without “pain or fear or guilt,” as the man who would not allow his achievement to be used as a tool to destroy achievement – who you could torture to death and still he would not not break.
    Ragnar and Dagny were willing to kill the bad guys if they had to – but only Galt could eliminate the entire class of them.

    Galt is the baddest son-of-a-bitch in literature, but is this a description of a monster?:

    “Are you in trouble, too?” asked Eddie. “Oh, just that you’ve sat here for a long time tonight, haven’t you? . . . For me? Why should you have wanted to wait for me? . . . You know, I never thought you cared whether you saw me or not, me or anybody, you seemed so complete in yourself, and that’s why I liked to talk to you, because I felt that you always understood, but nothing could hurt you—you looked as if nothing had ever hurt you—and it made me feel free, as if . . . as if there were no pain in the world. . . . Do you know what’s strange about your face? You look as if you’ve never known pain or fear or guilt…”

  • Laird: Whether one views the characters as “archttypes” or “role models,” I don’t see in Thiel’s statement that he views the heroes and heroines as credible or “realistic,” whereas as I noted archtypical villains in real life come by the truckload today.

  • Bod

    On AS, I think the key point is that Galt is meant to be unknowable. He’s Rand’s ubermensch and we’re meant to grok his innate difference from the lumpen proles, but for me, Reardon’s a far more compelling character, precisely because he’s a kind of proto-Galt who in the final analysis, can never quite transcend mortality; which is of course, the reason Dagny gravitates to Galt. He’s doomed to stay tethered to the mortal realm while the new Adam and Eve ascend to Asgard to spawn a race of supermen.

    On the matter of reading lists, I’m rather partial to James Ellroy. Not primarily for the outright violence of his work, but the fact that everyone – and I mean everyone – is morally compromised. If he ever writes a book about the Vatican, chances are the Pope will have a gat under his chasuble.

    Every stick of Ellroyesque timber is crooked to some degree, which I find leads to some interesting plot twists, and you never know if a guy that has dominated the plot for the last 6 chapters is going to end up sucking the wrong end of an Ithaca pump, or in a burning Studebaker in Griffith Park.

    As an emigre to the States, I read a number of Ellroy’s books before I realized how much of contemporary American history was woven into his work. I found that the way he wove his L.A. Quartet into the 30’s thru 70’s.

    When he brought out the ‘American Tabloid’ cycle, I was far more aware (and it’s far more obvious) of how closely it’s woven into documented news. If you took the plots in that series seriously, you’d be sleeping in your tinfoil hat.

    It’s not for everyone, and the two movies made from the books failed to do them justice, but if you can handle something that occasionally seems to be like a mashup of Dashiell Hammett and Forest Gump, carrying a set of brass knuckles and a .38, it might work for you.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Johnathan: Agree with you 100% about Rearden. If someone asked me what character A.S. is about, I would answer, “Hank Rearden.” Dagny too, OBVIOUSLY, but the main human drama is Rearden’s.

    Which raises a whole line of thought in my noggin. A.S. is the drama of making success in heavy industry with every day more of the legislative cards stacked against the ventures and the products themselves…the bridge! Rearden Metal! Will the Mail go through on time! And the very mystique (for me, anyway) of the railroad, of Trains. But then, I was high on the trains of my youth.

    But A.S. is also the drama of Hank Rearden solving the problems presented him by his own character, with no clearly-conceived moral theory to help him. Good instincts, but not quite sure that they ARE Good. Dagny much farther along the path, but still missing some pieces.

    One thing that really got me on the first reading, and still does: “But you haven’t suffered!” I don’t remember the words that came next, but they were all in Hank’s head anyway (I think it was Hank)…the memories of suffering he’d had all those years, failure after failure, not because of the usual technical mistakes and blind alleys but because the world is populated by crazy people and there has been betrayal after betrayal.

    I’ll bet to a lot of people that sounded overwrought. I mean it’s not as if his dog had died! But it rings so true, and not overwrought at all. It is as if Miss R. had looked inside herself, and given us a simple straightforward report on what she found.

    So it is a “people” drama, as well an “industrial drama,” a drama about rail and steel and copper and locomotives.


  • Julie near Chicago

    bod, yes, I agree. You’ve nailed it perfectly. :>)

  • JohnW

    Ayn Rand never intended John Galt to be a conventional sort of hero.

  • Laird

    Edward, I also don’t view Rand’s heroes as “credible” or “realistic”, as living human beings. That’s why they can’t be role models, but merely archetypes, exemplars of certain moral qualities.

  • Julie near Chicago
    March 19, 2015 at 12:45 am

    Can’t say about Jewish writers but among Jews alcoholism is not unknown. Take my Dad for instance. Very bad PTSD. He quit drinking at about age 60. Never missed that I could tell.

    Drunkenness is encouraged for some holidays. Purim for instance.

  • Julie near Chicago


    Yes, I do realize that, just as I realize that there have been Jewish gangsters. But for whatever reason, the thriller-writers who can’t let their characters let go of being a drunk are far more likely to be of Irish than of Jewish extraction. In my own reading experience, of course. I’ve certainly never run a survey or study to check this.

    Now there are some poor souls who are half-Jewish and half-Irish, so must face a terrible problem as to whether they’re expected to get potzed on Purim or on every day of the year except Purim. For their sakes, pray that they never take up thriller-writing. 😉

    But thanks for your comment. And I’m glad your Dad managed to kick it. Good for him. I hope it didn’t make your own life as a young person too bad.

  • MadRocketSci

    her villains were real, but her heroes were fake
    That sentence was perhaps the most memorable one for me from Zero to One! It sort of stuck in my craw also.

    Maybe Ayn Rand’s characters were a little forced, but if her villains are real, and her heroes aren’t then what exactly are we (or Thiel) counting on? (Besides enlightenment civilization and all it has accomplished going down in flames as a foolish false hope? That seems to be what the paleocons believe, not the libertarians) If *some* sort of (perhaps heroism is the wrong word – depends on what you mean by that) but if some sort of decency and principle and individual *efficacy* cannot be real, then we’re hosed. Wasn’t that the point of some of Thiel’s other writing about needing disruptive innovators to create disruptive technology (I think something he wrote in “how I learned to stop worrying and love technofixes”).?