Thursday, January 15, 2009

Where is John Galt, now we truly need him?

Those who know me well know that I have been a fan of Atlas Shrugged for many years. Every day I realize more just how prescient she really was. Now someone in the mainstream media finally agrees with me. From an article by Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal:

Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

1400 pages, but who's counting? I am sorry every time I get to the end of the book. Just a few more pages ... another chapter or two. The chapter where they put it all back together after the Looter's Socialist Government actually does reach the point of collapse.

For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

Sound familiar?
In the book, these relentless wealth redistributionists and their programs are disparaged as "the looters and their laws." Every new act of government futility and stupidity carries with it a benevolent-sounding title. These include the "Anti-Greed Act" to redistribute income (sounds like Charlie Rangel's promises soak-the-rich tax bill) and the "Equalization of Opportunity Act" to prevent people from starting more than one business (to give other people a chance). My personal favorite, the "Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Act," aims to restrict cut-throat competition between firms and thus slow the wave of business bankruptcies. Why didn't Hank Paulson think of that?

Some things are so predictable. There must be a school somewhere where politicians and bureaucrats learn this stuff. Maybe Charlie Rangel and the others read Atlas Shrugged and misidentified who were the good guys and who were the bad?

Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."

Then why are we bailing out the big three auto companies and not the other American made car companies that even though they cost more people actually want to buy -- BMW and Mercedes?

One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:

Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"

Mr. Thompson: "Yes!"

"And you'll obey any order I give?"


"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."

"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?"

"Fire your government employees."

"Oh, no!"

Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as Barack Obama puts it.*

What Mr. Moore does not mention is that that exchange takes place with John Galt strapped to the the Government Institute of Science's second proudest invention, the ultimate torture machine, under duress with a gun to his head. They, the looters, are demanding that he fix the economy without doing what is necessary to actually fix it. They believe they can coerce him into being able to violate the laws of economics, the laws of human nature and the laws of physics.

Stephen Moore concludes the article by writing:
David Kelley, the president of the Atlas Society, which is dedicated to promoting Rand's ideas, explains that "the older the book gets, the more timely its message." He tells me that there are plans to make "Atlas Shrugged" into a major motion picture -- it is the only classic novel of recent decades that was never made into a movie. "We don't need to make a movie out of the book," Mr. Kelley jokes. "We are living it right now."

Or as I have long said "No need to see the movie, I am seeing it live."

*Yes, Barack Obama really did say the purpose of income taxes was not to raise money, but to equalize outcome.

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