Monday, January 12, 2009

Calling John Galt

Chris Derry from the Bluegrass Institute passes along a terrific piece by Steve Moore on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I first read Atlas Shrugged in the 1980's when I learned that it was one of Ronald Reagan's favorite books. As we return to conservative principles, this book is worth another look.

Though it became an instant hit after it was published in 1957, the book was never made into a movie. And now there's no need: we can watch its plot unfold on the nightly news. Moore writes,

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.

Moore notes that Rand would have nothing but contempt for the bailout fever that is sweeping D.C. It is exactly what she predicted.

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."

The Age of Obama challenges us to keep in mind the appropriate relationship of the individual to the state. Rand made the case, better than anyone, that the only way to encourage initiative and hard work is to let individuals keep the fruits of their labor. Only economic growth can cure this recession; forcing one taxpayer to give to another person is not growth, it's just confiscation followed by a redistribution of wealth.

Without spoiling the ending, Atlas Shrugged gives us hope to survive the current explosion of government spending and the resulting loss of economic freedom and productivity. This won't last forever. Eventually, voters will see through the ruse and fire the "altruists."

No comments: