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Old 01-12-2009, 08:40 AM   #1  
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Default Atlas Shrugged

'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years Article

By STEPHEN MOORE
Some years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read "Atlas Shrugged" a "virgin." Being conversant in Ayn Rand's classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement. If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster.



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.

Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated "Atlas" as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.

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 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."

When Rand was writing in the 1950s, one of the pillars of American industrial might was the railroads. In her novel the railroad owner, Dagny Taggart, an enterprising industrialist, has a FedEx-like vision for expansion and first-rate service by rail. But she is continuously badgered, cajoled, taxed, ruled and regulated -- always in the public interest -- into bankruptcy. Sound far-fetched? On the day I sat down to write this ode to "Atlas," a Wall Street Journal headline blared: "Rail Shippers Ask Congress to Regulate Freight Prices."

In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal -- stronger but lighter than steel. The government immediately appropriates the invention in "the public good." The politicians demand that the metal inventor come to Washington and sign over ownership of his invention or lose everything.

The scene is eerily similar to an event late last year when six bank presidents were summoned by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Washington, and then shuttled into a conference room and told, in effect, that they could not leave until they collectively signed a document handing over percentages of their future profits to the government. The Treasury folks insisted that this shakedown, too, was all in "the public interest."

Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.

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?"

"Implicitly!"

"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. ------ and the ----- in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as ----- puts it.

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."

Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Last edited by jungle; 01-12-2009 at 10:17 AM.
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Old 01-12-2009, 02:05 PM   #2  
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Excelent book, my favorite in fact. Thanks for posting the article Jungle.
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Old 01-13-2009, 01:45 AM   #3  
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If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee
No disrespect intended, but you (Mr. Moore) assume these politicians are working for and in the best interest of the country and their constituents. Most are not. Their reading the book would make no difference.

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Old 01-13-2009, 01:50 AM   #4  
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No disrespect intended, but you assume these politicians are working for and in the best interest of the country and their constituents. Most are not. Their reading the book would make no difference.
Agreed,
There's no book out there, that I can think of, that will instill integrity and decency in our elected officials.

It comes back to morals, and politicians with morals are few and far between.
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Old 01-13-2009, 03:43 AM   #5  
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Agreed,
There's no book out there, that I can think of, that will instill integrity and decency in our elected officials.

It comes back to morals, and politicians with morals are few and far between.
There is the ballot box though
Glad to see I,m not the only Stephen Moore fan out there.
BTW .Atlas Shrugged schould be required reading for all High School pupil's unless of course American Idol is more important .

Why do I keep having thought's of Rome ?
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Old 01-13-2009, 04:22 AM   #6  
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There is the ballot box though
Glad to see I,m not the only Stephen Moore fan out there.
BTW .Atlas Shrugged schould be required reading for all High School pupil's unless of course American Idol is more important .

Why do I keep having thought's of Rome ?
Granted...Democracy is a gift we are all fortunate to have, far too many men and women have fought and died under our flag to preserve that civil right.

It is for that reason I feel so strongly about the quality and integrity of our public servants. Placing any individual who lacks morals, honestly, and sincerity in a public office is, in my opinion, a disgrace to the very principles our four fathers built this country on.
Political corruption charges should bear the same punishment as treason or espionage because, in either case, the true merits of this country are being betrayed.

Sorry for the thread drift, have not read Atlas Shrugged, but I plan on picking it up now. Been looking for a good book on economics, that was more upfront and honest as opposed to biased and conspiracy-theory-esque.
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Old 01-13-2009, 07:36 AM   #7  
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Hi!

The GW Bush Administration, and the Republicans, in general, worked very hard to redistribute income from the government to the Rich.

The Obama Administration, and the Democrasts, to at least some extent, are saying they will work to redistribute income from the government to the people.

I have heard many Americans criticize income redistribution to the poor. I have heard very few Americans criticize income redistribution to the rich.

That is what America is all about. In our economic and justice systems, and probably all other systems, the number one goal is to steer more money, power and privileges to the rich, so that they can become richer and more powerful.

cliff
GRB
PS-My parents had every Rand book she ever wrote. And, I am for abolishing the Income Tax, and replacing it the a National VAT or Sales Tax. My third choice would be a Flat Income Tax.
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Old 01-13-2009, 07:58 AM   #8  
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Hi!

The GW Bush Administration, and the Republicans, in general, worked very hard to redistribute income from the government to the Rich.

The Obama Administration, and the Democrasts, to at least some extent, are saying they will work to redistribute income from the government to the people.

I have heard many Americans criticize income redistribution to the poor. I have heard very few Americans criticize income redistribution to the rich.

That is what America is all about. In our economic and justice systems, and probably all other systems, the number one goal is to steer more money, power and privileges to the rich, so that they can become richer and more powerful.

.
Quaint and common concepts that are not supported by any facts.
Please don't show up unarmed here.

1. Government generates zero income, all wealth they redistribute is confiscated from individuals who earn it.

2. The top 10% of American taxpayers pay about 70% of the income tax burden, the top 50% pay about 97% of the income tax burden.
It is clear that half of us are carrying the load for the other half. Class warfare isn't going to change that.

3. Rich or poor, regardless of your political leaning, Government has spent too much of our money and the current course is unsustainable. We have been forced to support a massive program of deficit spending that we won't be able to continue in the future. How that money has been distributed is about as important as the proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic.

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Old 01-13-2009, 04:37 PM   #9  
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I,ll say it again -how many poor ppl can give an individual a job?
How is it that an individual who pays zero ,zip ,nada in taxes can get a refund ?
Any stimulus plan schould go towards the upper percentile that do pay taxes .
I hope the gov. spends that 30 plus grand in taxes that I payed wisely.

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Old 01-14-2009, 04:30 AM   #10  
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Originally Posted by atpcliff View Post
Hi!

The GW Bush Administration, and the Republicans, in general, worked very hard to redistribute income from the government to the Rich.

The Obama Administration, and the Democrasts, to at least some extent, are saying they will work to redistribute income from the government to the people.

I have heard many Americans criticize income redistribution to the poor. I have heard very few Americans criticize income redistribution to the rich.

That is what America is all about. In our economic and justice systems, and probably all other systems, the number one goal is to steer more money, power and privileges to the rich, so that they can become richer and more powerful.

cliff
GRB
PS-My parents had every Rand book she ever wrote. And, I am for abolishing the Income Tax, and replacing it the a National VAT or Sales Tax. My third choice would be a Flat Income Tax.
communism definition | Dictionary.com
communism definition | Dictionary.com

To say that Republicans redistribute wealth to the rich and Democrats redistribute wealth to the poor is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. I think many people believe that those are the fundamentals of both parties, but I like to define them like this:
Republicans believe in less government.
Democrats believe in more government.

(By Government, I mean Control)

I know that is somewhat broad, and I am sure that some will disagree with me on that, but that is how it appears to me.
I am not trying to make this a Republican Vs. Democrat discussion because I believe the composition of our government (Democrat AND Republicans) have failed this country.
The problems with our economy strafes on either side of partisan lines.

In a nutshell, MONEY (Not Republicans) looks out for money.
"The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer"
That statement is as true as it has ever been.

The vast, grand inequalities in wealth in this country is due in part of the failure of out government to properly regulate and oversee certain sectors of the economy. Mainly being the financial sector, as well as Wall Street.

In my humble opinion, Wealth Redistribution is the predecessor to Communism. This country should always reward hard work and dedication. That is the founding principles of this country, giving people the tools to climb out of one social class and into another.

As the old proverb goes,
"If you GIVE a hungry man a fish, he will eat and be hungry again, but if your TEACH a man to fish, he will NEVER go hungry again."

Not picking a fight with you, just showing one opinion versus another.
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