Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 6, 2009

Atlas Shrugs in the Real World

Filed under: Butterfly Wings — Punchinello @ 5:36 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Way back in the 1960s, Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged, a novel. Her intention was to follow in the steps of Plato, turning a philosophy into a fictional story. The idea was that if a philosophy was going to actually work in the real world, then it should also produce a believable story in a novel. She had many other non-fiction books, each one laying out a fundamental part of her philosophy of Objectivism.

The basic plot for the story is that the producers of the world get tired of being burdened with more and more regulations, so they quit. Those producers are the “Atlas'” of societies, holding up the rest of the world on their shoulders. As the story begins, an increasing number of these producing people are disappearing. The sort of main story teller is a woman who runs a national railroad company. She begins noticing that whenever she needs a critical resource, it’s gone.

Plot complications happen, the story moves along, and finally we find out the all-important answer to the question, “Who is John Galt?” He’s a representative of all the people who actually invent things, make things, build things, and form the foundation of business. Galt is the ideal American capitalist, and he’s the man who convinces the rest of the great industrialists to simply quit…to walk away.

In Atlas Shrugged, these competent people move to an enclave in the Rocky Mountains. There, they set up a new society that runs on the principles of reason, thought, capitalism, and moral values. Today, they would be called ideological conservatives. The rest of the world quickly begins to collapse. Nobody’s left to run things, teach things, build or invent things. Nobody’s left who knows how to maintain the technology of a viable society.

So where would such a place be? Where would an enclave develop? No place. In the real world, we really don’t have anywhere that an entire 10% (many people say 5%) of the population could go and call their own. There isn’t some block of geography that could be taken away from the nation of America. And yet, competent producers are disappearing every day. Where are they going?

The foundation of the US economy is the business owner. More than the multinational corporations, the small business owner is the direct ideal of true capitalism. Large-scale enterprise corporations represent profiteering, not ideal capitalism, so it’s the smaller companies that are the real capitalists. They’re the ones who interact with and care about the surrounding communities. They’re not driven by greed, they’re driven by profit.

Those small businesses are being driven out of existence. Regulations, taxes, rules and demands are all taking place exactly the way Rand predicted they would. Companies like Saturn were invented for the purpose of building a great American car, increasing American productivity, and reducing the stranglehold of the unions. The company lasted long enough to demonstrate its viability, then was destroyed by the vested interests and politics of General Motors.

Throughout the country, anyone with an idea about how to build something, increase our energy independence, invent something and help all of us enjoy a better life is being driven out of business. Organizations like the EPA, FDA, Congress, all are designed to wipe out American excellence. The government and the people who depend on someone else for their existence are now in control. Class envy, jealousy and greed have accomplished the rest.

What we see today is the same overall effect of Atlas Shrugged. All the producers are going away. But instead of moving to a hidden enclave in a particular location, those producers are being sidelined. They’re the ones losing their homes and businesses, and they’re disappearing. They’re moving in with family, living on the streets, taking small apartments or whatever else in order to survive.

There comes a point in the novel where the growing lack of competency has a direct impact on the American economy. With more and more people disappearing, the government passes a law that makes it illegal for anyone to quit their jobs. Similar to the “too big to fail” mentality, the fictional government realizes that some people are indeed unique! Some people can’t be replaced! There are, in fact, inequalities of skill and competence.

We’re not at that point yet. Right now, people can voluntarily choose to quit their jobs. And, by gosh, Social Security announced the other day that the early retirement numbers are far larger than they ever expected. Corporations are laying off everyone, with emphasis on those with high-value skills, in order to hire low-value inexperienced workers. The corporation loses a vast knowledge base, but that doesn’t matter. Profit is all that matters.

Profit can come by cutting costs, or it can come by increasing market share. Profits in capitalism arise from building things, making new products, innovation, development and creativity. Instead, we have profits today coming from loan interest, operating cost reductions, and so-called gross margins. Fire one person making $100,000 and replace them with two people making $40,000 and your net savings in salary “costs” is $20,000 per year.

The result is that those with skills, ideas, inventions, and competence are being removed from the economic equation. They have the adaptability skills to survive. What about the rest of the society? What about those who have no skills, can’t adapt, and don’t know how to create anything? What will happen to them? Ayn Rand wrote about what would happen, half a century ago. And today, we’re seeing it all come into reality.

Objectivism, the underlying groundwork for today’s conservatism, represents the opposite foundation of modern-day liberalism. That liberalism is essentially a form of socialism, based on altruism. Altruism is the sacrifice of a high value for the sake of the many. Today, we sacrifice the small business owner in favor of the poor, the hungry, the welfare system, government benefits, and the redistribution of wealth. What happens when there isn’t any more wealth? We print paper money.

Bankers and politicians, sports figures and Hollywood stars create nothing. In today’s world, those are the people making massive amounts of money. The result is that the US Dollar is now worth just over 4¢ and is about to become worthless. The American people seem to feel this is just fine, and we continue to feed the banks, hand over our cash, and re-elect all the same politicians. Meanwhile, the producers are all disappearing from the workforce. Gee…I wonder what will happen next?

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