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It’s Called Fiction, Stupid

March 31, 2009

Conservative blowhards would have you believe that today’s current events are sprung out of one of Ayn Rand’s nightmares. Government regulations run amok have prevented free market capitalism from correcting the economic downturn, and instead have plunged us deeper into recession, on the verge of not just depression, but perhaps the end of America as we know it. And I can’t completely disagree.

In Ayn Rand’s classic work Atlas Shrugged, government overregulation of the nation’s major industries leads to a downward spiral of incompetence, greed, and economic hardship. As the government tries to solve the slowing economy with more regulation, it becomes almost a comedy of errors, with the ignorant politicians continually pretending to know more than the titans of industry who had kept the wheels of commerce turning for America since its birth. In a last ditch effort to save the country they love, the country that allowed them to build their wealth and their respective industries in a free market, the leaders of all major industries begin to recede from society one by one. Led by the pioneering character John Galt, they disappear, waiting in a secret utopian society while the socialist politicians lead America to ruins. Only once it has been completely destroyed will the capitalists return to rebuild society in their free market image.

Following in the footsteps of capitalist hero John Galt, several conservative loudmouths have tried to weave the phrase “going Galt” into their anti-Obama commentary. In their crude analogy, Obama is leading the government of “looters” that is pushing their own socialist agenda on the country, at the expense of our nation’s industries and economic well-being. Viewed in these simple terms, the analogy fits very well. Helping their case, there are numerous other stories in the news that seem to have been written by Ayn Rand herself.

As recently as two years ago, you’d probably think I was insane if I suggested that pirates would become a serious threat to commerce, and that there would be entire boom towns on the coast of Africa supported by piracy. But it’s true. I am not suggesting that these pirates are purposely sinking ships and destroying goods to bring down socialist societies around the world, but the argument could be made. To date, I have not heard anyone make the comparison of Somali pirates to the fictional character of Ragnar Danneskjöld. Of course, you’d have to have actually read the book, and not just the Wikipedia entry to get that reference.

In another Rand-ian twist, I have seen a train disabled on the tracks with my own eyes. While attempting to commute home from work last week, my fiancé’s train lost power when an overhead cable broke. She waited for nearly four hours before a rescue train arrived. To make matters worse, it was disabled on a section of track that was just off the road, and I could pull my car right up to it. However, the transit workers were frozen with incompetence and would not let anyone off the train until the rescue train arrived. I suppose their emergency procedures state as such, to limit liability, but the image of the workers all staring at each other, waiting for someone to come and tell them what to do, was rather striking. There was no Dagny Taggart coming to their rescue. So that waited. Tensions on board the train rose, and passengers began to have panic attacks, and they waited. One passenger began to walk up and down the aisles making racially charged death threats, and they waited. No one was breaking the rules, no matter how ridiculous they seemed.

When the news of the economy gets more grim every day, piracy becomes a news story instead of fiction, and basic services such as mass transit start to break down, one starts to question where all this is headed. As I sat there watching the disabled train in disbelief for four hours, I realized that it was a symbol of all that is wrong with the country. Everyone is frozen, not wanting to make the wrong next move. No one knows what to do, and everyone is waiting for someone else to come rescue us. But no one is coming. A generation ago, a country united to put a man on the moon. Now we’re struggling to get commuters home from New York.

Ayn Rand’s protagonists would have you believe the answer is to just let America crumble. We are too far gone to recover, and we must be rebuilt from the ground up. While this would be dramatic, I don’t see it being very practical. And what’s worse, the wrong people are hearing the voice of John Galt calling. Fundamentalist Republicans, being urged on and irresponsibly manipulated by their heroes on Fox News and talk radio, are staging “Tea Parties” and selling “John Galt” tee shirts, turning the noble intentions of our nation’s patriots into nothing more than a sad joke. If we are depending on these clowns to rebuild the country, I’d better start learning my Chinese. (And if John Galt was real, he’d be rolling over in his grave knowing that these ignorant loudmouths are using his name to sell merchandise.)

What these fugazi intellectuals don’t realize is that Atlas Shrugged was a work of fiction.  In keeping with their track records, they have no grip on reality, and probably failed to even read the whole book.  The “titans of industry” from Ayn Rand’s novel don’t exist in real-life modern America. They actually made things – their industries were steel mills, railroads, copper mines. Now we import all that. The so-called capitalists in the current American economy are banks, insurance companies, and Wall Street investors. See the difference? None of them make anything. They make money out of nothing. Or more accurately, they make money off of other people’s money. And not only are they in no position to save us or our economy, but we (the average working American) are actually being forced to save them with billions of dollars of bailout funds.

For once, the nut-job conservatives don’t have it completely wrong. There are lessons to be learned from Atlas Shrugged, just not what Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin would have you believe. As Rand’s protagonist John Galt says in his defining speech, “evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from us.” Or as Thomas Jefferson once said, “all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

To quote another great American, “we are the one’s we’ve been waiting for.” We, the American people, have the power to demand better. If we can unplug our Wii’s and X-box’s long enough to build a united front, we can demand change. No matter how incompetent and corrupt Washington is, they still need our votes. We must band together and vote out every single member of Congress in the next election (except Bernie Sanders from Vermont, he seems ok).

While we’re at it, if we’re going to be handing out taxpayer money, we must demand that it come with some strings attached. Here’s a few of my demands – banks being handed billions of dollars should no longer charge ATM fees, checking account maintenance fees, or any other fees. Insurance companies taking a federal handout should be forced to provide actual insurance to their customers – no longer denying insurance for medical procedures based on pre-existing conditions or other technicalities. A basic American tenet is being innocent until proven guilty – how come when it comes to insurance the burden of proof is on the customer? Shouldn’t all services be automatically covered unless proven unnecessary by the insurance provider, not vice versa.

And since you brought it up, let me bring up the biggest gorilla in the room – defense spending. Why is it actually increasing under Obama’s proposed budget? We need some brave politician to say the obvious (yet taboo) truth – we have to drastically cut defense spending. Before you call me unpatriotic, or start crying about how this would make us less safe, please explain to me why we pay billions of dollars to military contractors such as KBR (aka Halliburton, aka Dick Cheney) for buildings in Iraq that literally electrocute our troops to death, or why the Air Force is asking for 200 additional F-22’s when they don’t use a single one of their existing fleet in either current war, or why we’re building a $588 million Cold War-era nuclear submarine in Connecticut that the Pentagon doesn’t even want. Was that money well spent, or would you rather have it back right now?

In the meantime, I’m hoping all these morons shrieking about “going Galt” without even realizing what it means actually follow through on their empty threats. If they disappeared, the bitching would finally stop and we could start getting things done.

It is clearer than ever that electing Obama was just the beginning. We cannot become complacent, and must stay actively involved. I intend on doing my part by hammering my Senators and US Representatives with emails, phone calls, and letters. I will frequently write letters to the newspaper to inspire debate and spark the flames of political awareness. Jefferson said that “every generation needs a new revolution.” Let’s not miss out on ours.

And if that doesn’t work out, I’m voting for Ron Paul in 2012.

Outraged as always,

KP Silverman

(Tune in next week for my MLB 2009 Season Preview and Predictions)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Matthew wilkerson permalink
    April 21, 2009 3:36 pm

    I agree completely.

    The problem is, there was no book like Atlas shrugged in her world. (I always wondered what it would be like if the world in a movie had a movie about the thing happening, this is close) The very people that are the enemies in the book are using the book as reasoning to take more of our money. It’s interesting seeing the airlines like ATA close and all of our car companies shut down. It’s not exactly like the book though. Most of that was caused companies not listening to the market. Instead of being people’s states, countries just go socialistic. This creates a much slower destruction of said countries. I would disagree on defense spending but if they can’t find anyone to run the spending wisely then it doesn’t matter anyway.
    … Oh, Who is John Galt? ( or more likely “oh, well, what do we do now?”)

    -The only 3 things that can happen are continued recession, end of recession and economic upturn, or a collapse of the dollar when China stops buying US debt. They you will see a civil war of the ignorant that believe this to be a problem of conservative VS liberal when it is more complicated than that. And if that happens, history will shine the victor in the light (whomever that is).

  2. Captain Crunchy permalink
    April 7, 2009 1:48 pm

    you’re fugazi.

  3. April 1, 2009 12:24 am

    Nice points. The current handling of the economy by the administration is quesionable, but neither I or nor anyone else seems to have any viable ideas about how to proceed. The sick truth is that our economy is no longer based on the production and exchange of fungible goods but the hedging of bets on a world economic model that exists only in mathmatics and crystal balls. The rise in defense spending is troubling and I don’t know quite what it means just yet. Obviously, the administration is preparing for a possible conflict, or intervention in a conflict, between Iran and Israel. Not to mention the cold cyber war China is fighting with us. As our economy shrinks, the only real power we will be able to influence upon the world is a threat we can back up. Hopefully, however, the administration is above the kind of intimidation the previous one used so freely.

    Despite all of the above, I feel very optimistic about our generation’s (I’m 25) ability to mobilize nationally and locally. I think there has not been so much community strength coming from the youth in several decades. Taking a note from Rand herself, we cannot compare ourselves to other people, to other movements. We have to work with what we have and believe completely that we can unite and lead.


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