Friday, January 9, 2009

I See the Looters but Where is John Galt?

I read Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged when I was a junior in high school and it had a profound influence on my political views. It pitted the philosophy of individualism against the philosophy of collectivism; the men of the mind against looters. While I never bought into her Objectivists philosophy, her portrayal of politicians struck a cord with me. I know for many libertarians it started with Atlas Shrugged but not so with me, I was already a libertarian when I read Atlas Shrugged. The book only reinforced the views I already held. Still to this day, I can’t imagine a better book to recommend a high school kid read in order to have a proper view political actors.

In a Wall Street column, Stephen Moore makes the same case regarding the actions in the last few months. Here is a long excerpt from Moore's column Atlas Shrugged: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years:

"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.

"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?

"These acts and edicts sound farcical, yes, but no more so than the actual events in Washington, circa 2008. We already have been served up the $700 billion "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and the "Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act." Now that Barack Obama is in town, he will soon sign into law with great urgency the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." This latest Hail Mary pass will increase the federal budget (which has already expanded by $1.5 trillion in eight years under George Bush) by an additional $1 trillion -- in roughly his first 100 days in office.

"The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. 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.""

We know where the looters are. Where is John Galt?

1 comment:

CB said...

I commented on this too. Most of the critics of the book never read it. I obviously don't agree with the characterizations of faith in the book but for anyone who has read the book, the similarities are eerie.