Atlas Shrugged VS Tai-PanSubmitted by Treg on Fri, 01/02/2009 - 02:29
James Clavell's Tai-Pan is an excellent book. One of my favorite reasons for liking his book is that it shows Capitalism as it is.
Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is also an excellent book, but it does not show Capitalism as it is, it shows a stilted moral universe, a universe that Miss Rand felt was showing its moral ideal, as it should be.
Both create worlds of movers and shakers in the world of business, but only Clavell gets it right. For this reason, I think readers of DP may be interested to go back and find this most excellent book.
Once this reality based vision of Capitalism is understood, then understanding today's situation will come much easier. From Rands point of view, the following would be nonsensical. Yet from Clavell's point of view, it would be expected.
I welcome your comments, especially if you have read both books.
In Peace & Liberty,
IN Just 200 pages into Tia Pan you will find the hero, the Scottish Capitalist, Dirk Straun, wheeling and dealing with:
1) The Chinese
2) The British Navy, its cannon-bomb thirsty Captain Gleesing along with their naive "ambassador" who does not speak or understand the Chinese nor wants too.
3) The British Banks (of which there is a run on one, making him bankrupt and staring down at loosing everything in 30 days!)
4) The Tea & Opium Traders (His competition from America, Portugal, Spain, & the world wide Empire of Great Britain
5) Dealing with the Monopoly Giant: The East Indian Tea Company
6) Cholera, the Plague, lice, rats and the "Got rotten weather"
7) The death of his wife and most of his children & what it means to be Christian.
8) His Chinese lover May May (a cat of amazing social skills & opinions)
9) Transporting five refrigerator size crates full of bars of silver along with seven Chinese boat men in the dead of night who want to kill you for it. Just one bar of silver would make a man's family rich for two centuries and rumors abound that its near, somewhere. Yet its not even his! Dirk has it all on Loan to start his "Nobel House" of trade on the Island of Hong Kong. (you might say that Chinese Capitalists started Hong Kong thru their trusted British Capitalists).
10) Pirates, oh yes, lots of opportunistic pirates, thieves on boats.
In just the first 200 pages during this time you will learn that our Hero Capitalists "Dirk Straun" has opinions on ....
the Power of Money,
Importance of Family,
God & Gods,
and the reasons why Europeans should learn from the Chinese to "wip ur arse an wash ur hands"....and "take a bath once a week".
(paraphrasing from memory, not verbatim)
As he explains to his son Collum,
"You will do as I say and take a bath once a week. The Chinese don't stink, I don't stink, and your Uncle Robb don't stink. The Chinese think sickness and dung have something to do with each other and you will wipe ur arse & warse ur hands lassie. You will bath hot like the Chinese do. You shall drink hot tea, na water, tea. You shall get new clothes and wash them too once a week. And Got willin, you shall see 3 score and ten like me (age 40). We do not drop like flies with sickness like the other sailors on European merchants ships do. Aye, its Chinese ways, Heathen ways, but its keepen me alive. I got no lice, I don't stink and neither will you Collum."
Collum to his father Dirk, the Tia Pan (Biggest Capitalist trader of them all) --
"Everyone's got lice. You are born with lice and die with lice. Its just a scratchen. Everyone stinks. You are going back to London, they all stink and got lice. You bring your China ways there and they'll be laughing at all us Strauns"
"Lass, it was just 70 years ago that Captain Cook listened to the islanders, now we all take limes and as much fresh vegetables to sea as we can. I've seen the scurvy and if limes can stop that, then washin ur arse may do something too. You'll do as I say or I'll have you tied and drug in the water behind thy ship China Cloud til you good n clean."
What is most amazing is the amount of REAL business in the novel. From Banking, Notes, borrowing, debt, the value of someone's word all tied to ones character. Trust and luck plays a huge part in business success. Unlike Rand's Capitalist hero and simpleton, Hank Rearden, Dirk Straun is the real McCoy, savy, wise, and smart enough to know that he is not so dam smart he can't learn a thing or two from the "heathen Chinese". Like Hank, Dirk is sure of the physics of the world, that its reliable, testable and a good thing, but Dirk also knows that nature throws us curve balls and operates in strange ways. Like Hank, Dirk is also confused or unsure about the people world around him and finds their institutions strange and perplexing and at odds and, (unlike Hank) to be bent and manipulated like Hank would bend his teal green metal to his own purpose. Unlike Hank, Dirk can use and manipulate those people and institutions around him enough, just enough, to continue on his own selfish purpose. If Hank Rearden and Dirk Straun was to do real business in the real world, I would put my money on the Scotsman Dirk Straun hands down.
And that.... is in just the first 200 pages. By the time Miss Rand finishes with the first 700 pages, the wonderful novel about the 1880's opening up of China via Hong Kong, is over. Dam those Capitalists are fast.
In Peace & Liberty,