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In Ayn Rand’s classic novel, Atlas Shrugged, Ragner Danneskjold embodies the anti-Robin Hood spirit. In Danneskjold’s eyes, Robin Hood represents the justification for stealing from the rich to fulfill the needs of the poor. The legendary hero was charitable, but not with his own resources. He freely dispensed the wealth of his superiors, and lavished it upon those in need. Danneskjold compares this medieval legend to his contemporary times where he raises opposition against the systems which, in his view, extorts from the rich’s profits through (il)legal taxation etc. Danneskjold’s aim is to sabotage all humanitarian relief and aid targeted to help the poor, and refill the coffers of the wealthy whose property was taken. His belief is embedded in the principle that poverty does not invest one with the right to steal nor does necessity undermine morality – even when the end justifies the means. Under the guise of philanthropy, Robin Hood robs. Robin Hood is lauded as a provider to the poor and the defender of the poor’s rights to survival on the strength of the profitability of the rich. In this case, one observes that Danneskjold stands for meritocracy in its strictest sense. (expand). In the broader aspect, one understands that man will always have needs to be satisfied – but having them met while transgressing the laws of justice, only debases him to a selfish, indiscriminate creature. The idealized Robin Hood defies and braves. Danneskjold is against the lawless attempt at equal distribution of wealth which Robin Hood sought to achieve.
Another of Ayn Rand’s main philosophies is Reason which theme is highlighted in the conflict between the Dark Ages versus the Enlightenment. The legend of Robin Hood arises from medieval Anglo-Saxon lore where the moral, spiritual, and intellectual darkness enveloped Europe. The Renascence had not yet emerged therefore invention, naval exploration, philosophy, and science which characterize modernity were not yet pronounced. Danneskjold is as against the Dark Ages as he is against Robin Hood. The Dark Ages urged religion and faith, while the Age of Reason promoted atheism, and rationalism. By destroying Robin Hood, Danneskjold effectively repudiates all that the Dark Ages represents while embracing The Enlightenment. In this same passage, he also makes allusion to the French Revolution which stemmed from the Age of Reason, and ran in concurrence with The Enlightenment. The philosophes believed in the power of human progress through the mental exertion and in arriving at rational solutions rather than religious or sentimental ones. The chapter, “The Moratorium on Brains”, explains cerebral inactivity/inaction – where the mind is not engaged, or alive. Danneskjold militates against the moratorium on brains and urges rational thought and makes a close connection between the French Revolution and the Robin Hood spirit. As the French Revolution saw the triumph of the common peasants when they guillotined the aristocracy, in the same way, Dannneskjold perceived what he discerned as the guillotining of the rich producers by the unproductive parasitical poor who drained resources from the rich. Class conflict is nothing new and as there was class conflict in Robin Hood’s era in England, and Revolutionary France, so in Danneskjold’s contemporary world, the war rages between the lower classed looters and rich entrepreneurs. It is class conflict which sets the stage for the controversy…
The predominant values which prevailed during the Age of Reason are liberalism, laissez faire capitalism, and anti welfare state. Liberalism validated the superior right and freedom of the individual over society’s collectivism. Collectivism asserts that the greater good of the majority supercedes individual will. In Medieval England, Robin Hood exploited the wealth of few rich to ensure that the mass poor gained/benefited, hence he embodied this collectivist policy/school of thought. Those in the upper echelles had no right to their resources because of the pressing need of the (majority). Similarly, during the period of the French Revolution, the spirit of Robin Hood was manifested when the wealth and property of those in the upper estates were seized, looted, and shared among the mass peasantry. Laissez-faire (F. let do) capitalism, sees governmental intervention in the financial affairs of individuals as an interference which transgresses individual right. Danneskjold says that he kills Robin Hood by intercepting government relief ships, subsidy ships, loan ships, and gift ships. The State enforces the policy of redistribution of wealth and gains these resources through heavy taxation of the rich and hands it down to the needy. Robin Hood’s aim was to even out the wealth and balance the nation’s economy by stealing from the rich to bestow it to the poor. This humanitarian redistribution of wealth mirrors the principle of the welfare state. In this system, the State provides needy, poor citizens with ‘alms’ therefore the well-off must donate to help those who are less fortunate, while the State, like Robin Hood, channels these funds to the needy.
In Danneskjold’s self-assertion as an antagonist of Robin Hood, he ironically transforms into a type/form of Robin Hood. As the saying goes that “it takes a thief to catch a thief”, Danneskjold becomes an outlaw himself as he attempt to reverse what Robin Hood has wrought by recouping what the wealthy lost by stealing from the thieving poor. As Robin Hood epitomizes outlawed virtue, similarly, Danneskjold has his own virtue which was illegal since his actions worked against the government and the established authorities.
Ayn Rand’s Objectivism philosophizes that “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Her statement encapsulates her beliefs in individualism, rational egoism, liberalism, human progress and reason. Danneskjold forwards the argument that the spirit of Robin Hood promotes the cult of mediocrity among the poor. High achievers must suffer because under-performers suffer. Unearned resources are distributed and feeds the desire for gain as the poor subsists from stealing from the rich. Indeed, the myth of Robin Hood states that Robin Hood and his Merry Men got their livelihood not on their own sweat and toil, but by another’s meat. Mediocrity stagnates production and hampers the economy by atrophying the weak – suffered because of the lack of utility. The dependency of the mass population upon the resources of the rich (acquired comforts) delude them in a false sense of stability and complaisance.
Directive 10-289 is the policy which dictated/decreed that deprived citizens of economic freedom by stripping certain rights. Point three of the Directive 10-289 says that all patents, copyrights…devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gify by means of Gift Certificates etc. Under this section of the directive, the law wrests the legal titular right of ownership from the producers/inventors and redistributes evenly among the rest of society their patents. By this measure, one observes the tradition of Robin Hood being perpetuated through this policy for it snatches from the rich to benefit the mass poor and have-nots. Individual/privatized property by force become public possession hence one sees the transition from private hands to public domain, from the wealthy to the poor. The directive is drafted “in the name of the general welfare” (497), because “the people need it (and) need comes first” (491). The end is beneficial to society as a whole and for the public good and reflects the humanitarian heart of Robin Hood. Danneskjold deliberately flouts the directive 10-289 because he does not believe in its precepts/tenets that resemble the qualities of the legendary hero so he sets about to destroy Robin Hood by reversing/ counteracting/ neutralizing his acts. Bent on returning to the producers of wealth what was stolen from them through the directive, Danneskjold stands as the nemesis of Robin Hood, and must ironically pursue his enemy’s same steps…
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