As many of my friends and family know, I am rereading Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED.
I was maybe 18 when I first read it and although it stayed with me, the reality is I WAS A CHILD and had NO CLUE!
As I read it now, from the vantage point of age and experience, I find myself looking up from the pages and seeing this novel played out before my eyes every day and night on the news.
In the novel Rand has the movers, inventors, artists, and producers (Atlas) of American society simply strike and disappear. They remove themselves from the world. Today they don't go on strike; they just leave for other states and, eventually, other countries.
In America, right now, Atlas is shrugging.. He is going to places that WANT him, his skills, his jobs, and his money.
Right now companies, jobs, and people are leaving highly taxed and regulation punishing states like California and Illinois and relocating to states like Texas and Florida that have no income tax and fewer state regulations.
But for many, our federal policies drive them even further…they cannot stay here and thrive so…they leave the US all together.
This has been going on for a long time and it is now accelerating. Atlas is fleeing because of intrusive and economy killing government policies.
Atlas leaves in bits…he begins first by outsourcing, then the entire manufacturing process goes, and last is Atlas himself… the inventors and entrepreneurs .
These people go, as all people do, to where there is OPPORTUNITY. The globe is a different place than it was when Ayn Rand was writing. Many countries are tax friendly and their standards of living have entered the modern world. They offer dual citizenship.
And…I found this shocking…Americans renouncing their citizenship is higher than it has ever been! If our policies do not change we will lose….and it will play out within the next 20 years.
Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Monte Carlo, Belize, Costa Rica, Singapore, Panama, Bahamas, and Cayman are just a few examples of those offering low taxes and a business friendly environment.
My grandfather started, in Illinois, a successful metal manufacturing plant in the 40’s that has remained in my family for 3 generations…. a plant that is now being crushed by the state’s toxic policies and bankrupted economy. My brother, who now runs the company, has stated that, if he could, he would leave Illinois for another state. Our grandfather understood an economic America where wealth was comprised of big physical assets that could not be moved easily. The government could effortlessly, and still does in Illinois, bind you with heavy taxation and burdensome regulations.
Today, however, more and more wealth and assets are mobile. They can easily be sent elsewhere. Those physical assets are not so physical anymore….they are intellectual and electronic.
And when Atlas finds too many obstacles in the way of production Atlas can leave.
Today’s technology and transportation have given enormous freedom to those business people who wish to access it….their businesses are where THEY are and THEY can be anywhere on Earth.
The high tech revolution has freed businessmen to run their companies from anywhere in the world.
Present day producers do not have to punish themselves by dropping out of the SYSTEM as they did in Rand’s story. They just drop into another, more welcoming system…. while leaving this economy more and more adrift.
Big government and the CLASS OF DEPENDENCY get in the way and like a parasite, drain the host country. If this goes on long enough…. the host dies.
It CANNOT create jobs or wealth. It CANNOT make everyone equal materially or intellectually. The more it intrudes into the private sectors of society the worse matters become.
It makes no difference what our currant administration says, there is not one thing government can do to turn around this process of continual decline except to reverse its policies.
We must restore those conditions which make it attractive for Atlas to return. We must drastically reduce our spending and the thousands of strangling regulations that prevent production. We now have the highest corporate tax in the world…Why would ANYBODY want to start a business here?
It has taken us 100 years to get to this stagnant point…to reverse it will also take time. We must do it in the same way that it has been done to us…… incrementally. Our talented creators and the capital that the current toxic policies have driven away will not come back when other societies provide more favorable climates for entrepreneurs than we do. They must trust that the change is real.
Power does not relinquish itself. A bloated STATIST government, with injurious regulations and taxation, make escape impossible. That is its goal.
But… entrepreneurs are now free to vote with their feet and wallets. Thankfully they pose a threat to just how many of these bad policies any government can impose and still continue.
Who is John Galt? He is Atlas leading an organized "strike" against those who use the force of government law and moral guilt to confiscate the accomplishments of the productive menbers of society. He “Shuts down the motor of the world”.
U.S. politicians may tear their hair about THE RICH, but the real enemies of America are those who come to power by demonizing the successful while producing nothing useful themselves.
Rand calls them the “Looters”..they are proponents of high taxation, big labor, government ownership, government spending, government planning, regulation, and redistribution.
Rand also identifies the "Moochers" ….those who demand others' earnings on behalf of the needy or those unable to earn for themselves. Yet they berate the producers who make that help possible and seem to resent the talented on whom they depend. They destroy the productive through guilt, and by appealing to "moral right" while enabling the "lawful" looting performed by governments.
As I stated at the start of this entry, I am reading Atlas Shrugged while seeing its story played out in real time before my eyes.
In the novel many companies and businesses are moving to Colorado because it is a state that has “hardly any government” They leave to escape the onerous government regulations found in other states. Of course Colorado is deemed REGRESSIVE because of this.
And in response to their leaving, the federal government issues a decree forbidding companies from relocating.
As I continue reading Atlas Shrugged an innovative oilman invents a revolutionary process to extract oil from shale, but even though the country is desperate for energy, he is shut down by government regulations.
I look up from the page and the news is talking about a process called hydraulic fracturing— "fracking" for short—This makes it possible to extract large quantities of natural gas from shale formations across the country. It could revolutionize domestic energy production. But, again the media and the government are calling for a moratorium on fracking.
Atlas Shrugged…. where productive companies are bled dry to provide bailouts for failing companies which produce "unreliable goods at unpredictable times."
And here is General Motors and Chrysler who were bailed out with $80 billion dollars of our tax money so that nine of their cars made the Forbes list of the eleven "Worst Cars on the Road." The nine are:
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
Chrysler Town and Country
In Atlas Shrugged, the advocates of uncontrolled government keep spending money faster than they can take it by heavily taxing a shrinking number of producers. The title of one of the chapters is "Account Overdrawn."
In our world, S&P has downgraded the long-term outlook for US government debt, a first step to downgrading the nation's credit rating.
Throughout the novel characters are commenting on their inability to get things repaired, the abandonment of buildings, and the general lack of normal commerce.
And online I see an entire photo journal dramatically displaying the currant disintegration of Detroit, Michigan….a city that was once a jewel in this country’s crown.
And finally…in Atlas Shrugged, men of talent and initiative are disappearing and withdrawing from the economy because they refuse to accept punishment for their hard work and ambition.
In April of 2011 well known ad man and entrepreneur Jerry Della Femina announced that he had sold his famous restaurant and was withdrawing his money from all of his other businesses and investments because.....
"I'm just not ready to have my wealth redistributed. I'm not ready to pay more tax money than the next guy because I provide jobs and because I work a 60-hour week and I earn more than $250,000 a year."
"Read a brilliant book by Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged, and you'll know."