‘So … who just who IS that Galt fellow on your back window?’
|May 15, 2011||Posted by admin under News In General, Politics||
Sunday, May 15, 2011 — It finally happened — for the first time in the two years I’ve had the stickers on my vehicle rear windows, someone understood their meaning.
The stickers I’m referring to are the “Who Is John Galt?” vinyl decals on the rear window of my vehicles. The phrase is one of the notable ones from the 1957 novel by Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged.” The first one-third of the novel was recently turned into a movie, which included screenings at a couple of different theaters in Louisville.
My wife and I saw the movie at Tinsel Town theater off Westport Road in Louisville; as someone who has re-read the novel numerous times, the movie was a must-see event to me. For my wife, it was more of a question of investigating what it was that I found so captivating about Rand’s novel.
In the couple of years my vehicles have sported the “Who Is John Galt?” decals, I have had several people, from gas station attendants to drive-in car hops ask about it and who John Galt is or was.
The truth is that if you haven’t read the novel, explaining the meaning of the phrase could consume a lot of time. Rather than bore them to tears, I simply explain to the curious the question is a catch phrase from Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel which describes an American where corrupt government bureaucrats and lobbyists manipulate legislation and use the media to control public opinion in a campaign to cripple successful businessmen and steal from them the rewards of their labors — their profits.
Everyone who has heard my description of the novel instantly makes the connection — they realize its a novel that has some interesting parallels to the current economic situation.
“Atlas” is, of course, a work of fiction that is designed to promote a philosophy that embraces unencumbered capitalism and suggests that businessmen and women seeking to make a profit will make just and moral decisions; if success and making money is your goal, decisions that don’t support that goal would be illogical.
Rand’s philosophy that fills the book is called “objectivism.” The characters in the book — the ones who are the movers and shakers in the business world — won’t buy into the liberal/progressive line of thought that it is a successful business has a “duty” to give away its profits to charity or to support/subsidize those businesses or individuals who are less successful. Following Rand’s philosophy, individuals are the ones who decide if they wish to give to charity — it should not be up to business concerns to do so, nor should government impose its will (via taxes, coercion, etc.) to force businesses to do so.
Since the election of Barack Obama as president in 2007, there has been a surge in the sales of “Atlas Shrugged.” And if you read the book, some of the Obama Administration’s actions since 2008 nearly dovetail with the sort of things you would expect to read in the book.
We have businesses this past week — oil companies — that have been castigated by the press and members of Congress because of their profits; these were profits they legally earned and entitled to. How did they earn them? By investing in the infrastructure; by taking the often substantial financial risks involved in oil exploration; and by making sure supplies are maintained.
These oil companies now are being criticized for the money they earn, while at the same time they are not in control of the world price of oil, nor do they control the price fluctuations created by market speculators. But if you have read “Shrugged,” the criticism sounds familiar; it would be right at home in the pages of the novel if they were aimed at any of several industrialists whose crime in the public eye was an interest in “‘making money.” But as the book goes on to describe, without the men and women who run the companies large and small, our economy would likely collapse.
After watching the price of a gallon of gas jump last week, one of my Facebook friends suggested that the U.S. needs to create its own national oil company. I would counter that instead of a national oil company, the government should get out of the way of the development of new oil fields, the creation of new refineries and instead establish a pro-business attitude toward energy production that includes domestic coal, natural gas and oil.
Our economy depends on a steady supply of relatively inexpensive energy; renewable energy sources make for great sound bites on the six o’clock news, but the truth is they are neither feasible nor as affordable as coal, natural gas and oil.
This isn’t to suggest that alternative energy research be ended; no, quite the opposite. As with any developing technology, it needs to be matured and improved upon — not used as a backdrop for presidential pronouncements that gas prices are high and going higher.
Government’s role should be to enable new businesses to prosper — from local city and county government, all the way to the nation’s capital.
Why doesn’t government do this now? Why are government regulations appear designed to keep businesses from thriving? Why did our president suggest numerous times that government’s role is to “spread the wealth around” from those who are successful to those who are not? Why ask questions that can’t be answered? Or, as asked in the pages of Atlas Shrugged:
Who is John Galt?