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Tilting at Windmills

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March 12, 2009
By: Hilzoy

Going John Galt: The Video!

Dr. Helen has put up a video about 'Going John Galt' on PJTV, in which she interviews three people who claim to be Going Galt. (To see the relevant bit, follow the link, click the arrow to the right of the blue segment bar just below the video, and click on 'People Who Are Going John Galt'.) What's odd is that the people Dr. Helen interviews don't really seem to understand what 'Going Galt' means. Two of the people Dr. Helen interviews are trying to reduce their taxable income, and the third is trying to "follow Ayn Rand's morality as much as I can, and spread her philosophy as far as I can."

That's not what Rand meant by Going Galt at all. In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt decides to withdraw his creative and productive efforts from society. He is going on strike, and he convinces other creative, productive people to follow him. Here's what happens when someone Goes Galt in Rand's novel:

"He's quit! Gone! Gone like all the others! Left his mills, his bank accounts, his property, everything! Just vanished! Took some clothing and whatever he had in the safe in his apartment -- they found a safe left open in his bedroom, open and empty -- that's all! No word, no note, no explanation! They called me from Washington, but it's all over town! The news, I mean, the story! They can't keep it quiet! They've tried to, but...Nobody knows how it got out, but it went through the mills like one of those furnace break-outs, the word that he'd gone, and then...before anyone could stop it, a whole bunch of them vanished! The superintendent, the chief metallurgist, the chief engineer, Rearden's secretary, even the bastards! Deserting us, in spite of all the penalties we've set up! He's quit and the rest are quitting and those mills are just left there, standing still! Do you understand what that means?"

Rearden and his associates will not be paying a lot of taxes now that they've left. But that's not the point. Withdrawing their creative efforts is. In Rand's novel, it is they who keep the mills running, and without them, everything grinds to a halt and the world is plunged into crisis.

None of the people Dr. Helen interviews is actually Going Galt. More to the point, neither is Dr. Helen. She claims to be "mulling over ways that she can "go Galt". Allow me to help her out (along with Michelle Malkin, Glenn Reynolds, et al.) To Go Galt, she should:

(a) Identify those things that she does that are genuinely creative and productive. If there aren't any, then the fact that it will be difficult for her to Go Galt is the least of her problems.

(b) Refuse to do those things in any way that allows society at large, as opposed to a small circle of like-minded individualists, to benefit from them.

It really is that simple. If she and the other bloggers who are calling on people to "Go Galt" don't do this, the only explanations are that they don't have the guts to do what they are encouraging others to do, or that they recognize that nothing they do counts as creative or productive, or that they just aren't thinking about what they write.

They might respond by saying: we are doing something genuinely useful by making the case that people ought to Go Galt. So long as we are doing that, we can't Go Galt! But while this accords with Ayn Rand's actual practice, it does not accord with her views as expressed in Atlas Shrugged. John Galt did not need to go on the air to make his point. He made his case in private, to creative and productive people like himself. They went on strike, and as a result the world was plunged into crisis.

That's not a minor point. It's essential to Rand's entire view. Here's why Galt says that he decided to withdraw:

"Then I saw what was wrong with the world, I saw what destroyed men and nations, and where the battle for life had to be fought. I saw that the enemy was an inverted morality -- and that my sanction was its only power. I saw that evil was impotent-that evil was the irrational, the blind, the anti-real -- and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it. Just as the parasites around me were proclaiming their helpless dependence on my mind and were expecting me voluntarily to accept a slavery they had no power to enforce, just as they were counting on my self-immolation to provide them with the means of their plan -- so throughout the world and throughout men's history, in every version and form, from the extortions of loafing relatives to the atrocities of collective countries, it is the good, the able, the men of reason, who act as their own destroyers, who transfuse to evil the blood of their virtue and let evil transmit to them the poison of destruction, thus gaining for evil the power of survival, and for their own values -- the impotence of death. I saw that there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue, when his own consent is needed for evil to win -- and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent. I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was 'No.'"

By withdrawing, Galt was, essentially, testing this view. If he was right to think that an inverted morality could triumph only with his sanction, and that the parasites around him were helplessly dependent on his mind, and could survive only with the aid of his self-immolation, then once he and others like him withdrew, that fact would become clear. If not, not.

If Dr. Helen, Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, and the rest of the bloggers who are talking up the idea of Going Galt had the courage of their convictions, they would make the same experiment. If they don't, it's worth asking why not.

As I said above, the three most obvious answers are: (1) they do not believe that anything they do is in fact creative or productive, or (2) they are urging other people to do something they don't have the guts to do themselves, like scam artists who convince people to invest their money in schemes they themselves steer clear of, or (3) they have not bothered to think about what they are saying, even to the limited extent required to see that there's a conflict between their words and their actions.

I am open to the idea that there's a fourth possibility that I am missing. If so, I hope they'll enlighten me.

Hilzoy 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (126)

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Comments

I believe there was a mockumentary "A day without a Mexican" which showed how much the economy depended on immigrants. That is much more in line with the logic of 'going Galt.'

Posted by: kp on March 12, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Boy, Meghan McArdle is even uglier than I thought.


Posted by: slaney black on March 12, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure that my long term "going Galt" contribution has caused the current downturn. Sorry for that.

Posted by: tomj on March 12, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

t

Posted by: John R on March 12, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

We could only hope they follow through on their threats!

Posted by: kswan on March 12, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Short to Malkin, Beck, Joe the Plumber, and Rush Limbaugh: Go Galt! Go Away!

Posted by: Capt Kirk on March 12, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

How Quaint ! Ann Rand describing a time in America when we actually produced stuff instead of shuffling papers and exporting production to create wealth. Explain to again what exactly
Dr. Helen, Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, and the rest of the bloggers produce that will sorely be missed.

Posted by: John R on March 12, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

God, don't most of us grow out of Rand sometime during High School, like maybe junior year? Did these people get left back?? Or weren't they smart enough to read Animal Farm for balance?

Posted by: Bethie on March 12, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

What you need to understand, Mr. Benen, is that there's "Going Galt"---and then there's the FoxNoise, tail-tucking, yellow-dog-of-a-cowardly-cat, "fair-and-balanced" version of Going Galt. Kinda like "all talk, no walk" Galtism.

Dr. "I like to play with dead people's minds" Helen (which is about the best I can imagine a "forensic phychologist" as doing in the real world) prefers the latter type. If she ever stopped screwing around with the thoughts of all those dead people, well then---they just might all get up, and walk out of the room or something....

Posted by: Steve W. on March 12, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Man, those people are paranoid. Some folks didn't want to go on that pathetic webcast because "the Obama thugs might go after" them?

Posted by: Mainer on March 12, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for this post. It's exactly what I've been thinking and I'm glad you made the effort to capture your thoughts.

Posted by: dk on March 12, 2009 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Who is "going Galt"?

The American consumer. The so-called "economy" absolutely depends on hundreds of millions of people spending hundreds of billions of dollars on crap that they don't really need and don't really benefit from. Without that consumer spending, the whole house of cards collapses.

Ayn Rand wrote: "... the parasites around me were proclaiming their helpless dependence on my mind and were expecting me voluntarily to accept a slavery they had no power to enforce ... I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was 'No.'"

The ultra-rich corporate ruling class are parasites who are helplessly dependent on the rest of us voluntarily enslaving ourselves to consumerism. Put an end to their outrages by saying "No" to buying crap that you don't need and don't even really want.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 12, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. For years, I have prayed for the Rapture that will select out all those theocons, so the rest of us can get on with it. Now I can add a prayer that the Merchant Bankers and others favored by the Prosperity Gospel and Randism will choose to "Go Galt" and get out of the way of getting our country back on track.

Posted by: MK on March 12, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Love it -

"I am not my brother's keeper."

"If children want free health care, they should take up smoking and pay for it themselves."

Posted by: Mainer on March 12, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well, there IS a fourth possibility -- or arguably a distinct variant of the second -- but I rather doubt they will enlighten you regarding it.

It is, of course, that they are cynical liars, who know that what they are saying is logically indefensible, but they say it anyway because they also know it maintains or adds to their popularity, and thus to their income, and THAT is what they care about.

And after "going Galt" is no longer Flavor Of The Month, we'll hear no more about it, except from the occasional Randroid-needler.

What, one wonders, will the next conservo-fad be? Buying and caching precious metals? "Reclaiming" public schools by purging them of ESL and native-language subject instruction? Campaigning against "wasteful, welfare-dependent" public transit? Really, the world is just a cornucopia of opportunity!

Posted by: bleh on March 12, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

A combination of these folks going Galt and Texas seceding (with Chuck Norris to be president) would yield some very nice outcomes.

Posted by: Mainer on March 12, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

(4) They have borrowed the phrase "Going Galt" and changed it to mean something in the current political context, significantly different from Rand's original definition. Since it is unlikely that many of their followers have ever bothered to actually read Atlas Shrugged, why bother explaining that there is a difference?

Posted by: Shalimar on March 12, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

So the young woman started going Galt by giving up health insurance. She think that's fine since she's young and healthy. She better hope she doesn't get cancer or have a car accident.

And, yes, none of these folks is actually going John Galt, not the way Rand explained it.

Posted by: Mainer on March 12, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't I help but paraphrase Kirk Lazarus's advice from "Tropic Thunder": "Never go full Galt!"

Posted by: Lou on March 12, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

I thought this post made a lot of sense, however much I might abhor the administration's rhetoric attacking relatively more productive and useful members of society, I have to agree Dr. Helen are being incoherent.

I have a fourth suggestion for rationale: they're being intentionally provocative. Demonstrably, it's not so bad yet that it makes sense to "Go Galt," but it might be in the future if the administration reduces returns to productive labor, perhaps less by direct taxes than by policies which seem to deflate equity markets and fail to accelerate economic activity.

Posted by: jmk on March 12, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think number 3 is right--they haven't thought things through.

I think this because the very phrase "going Galt" is a misconstrual of the basic idea. You're not "going Galt". You're either there or you've already gone Galt.

Also, it shouldn't have surprised me, but John Galt bores me to tears even at paragraph length.

Posted by: RSA on March 12, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

jmk wrote: "... however much I might abhor the administration's rhetoric attacking relatively more productive and useful members of society ..."

I guess you mean however much you might be hallucinating, because there is no "rhetoric attacking relatively more productive and useful members of society" coming from the Obama administration.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 12, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Fortunately there are plenty of creative, entrepreneurial achievers out there who are not also Randians.

This then is perhaps a fourth reason: They realize that of the set of highly creative, driven achievers in the world, Randians are but a small subset. Any attempt at 'going Galt' would only prove how insignificant they are.

Posted by: JWK on March 12, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think Shalimar nailed it: 'going Galt' is nothing more but the same lip service and weak action (e.g. mailing teabags to congresspeople) toward tax rebellion that wingnuts have engaged in for decades.

Posted by: idlemind on March 12, 2009 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone think they actually read Atlas Shugged? It's what, over 1000 pages? I only got through it listening to the audio book.

Posted by: johnf on March 12, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

At last an intelligent non-shrill look at Ayn Rand. Thank you Hilzoy. These Republicans who shallowly claim they're going Galt, think they're John Galts but they are the Wesley Mouches and his thugs who took power in Atlas Shrugged.

I think the Malkins et al are just incredibly shallow and dishonest.

Daily Beast:
The Ayn Rand Effect

Is this the book of recession? The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights claims that because of the economic crisis, sales of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged are through the roof. And according to an analysis of the so-called Rand effect in The Economist, “Whenever governments intervene in the market, in short, readers rush to buy Rand’s book.” Sales of the 1957 book—a novel about embattled capitalism that is often seen in backpacks of high-schoolers—have reportedly tripled over the past year.
Read it at The Economist

Posted by: Dale on March 12, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

The excerpts from Atlas Shrugged that Hilzoy posted reminded me of what an absolutely atrocious writer Ayn Rand was. She really was one of the worst writers in the history of English language literature. Jacqueline Susann was like Shakespeare in comparison to Rand.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 12, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone noticed that there's no troll in this thread? Holy moly!! What'll we do!?!

*shudder*

Posted by: brent on March 12, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

The wingnuts will offer up their lives and their fortunes to "going Galt" in the same way that they offered them up to the war in Iraq.

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on March 12, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Good luck in finding a Colorado hideaway with electromagnetic security screen like Galt did. These days, Google Street View would seek you out.

Posted by: joem18b on March 12, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe there is a Classics Illustrated version of Atlas Shrugged that they've all been reading.

Posted by: howie on March 12, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I would prefer to go Gaul;>

Posted by: martin on March 12, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

No, no, no. You don't UNDERSTAND. None of you really compreHEND the subtleties, the complexities, the deep, broad, wide, high, free flowing, incredibly deep... did I say deep already... okay, anyway, you just don't "get" the fundamental brilliance of the contemporary conservative movement.

Let me try to, as you kids might put it, 'break it down' for you. "Going Galt" is just noise. It's language, it's syllables, it's word, it's pixels on a computer screen, it's sounds moving from a larynx up a throat across a palate and out through the lips and into the world of ears. That's all. It's nothing. In and of itself, it's nothing.

It's the CONTEXT that's important. In the CONTEXT of contemporary conservatism, "going Galt" means "KISS MY BUTT, MR. LIBERAL!!!!" It means "Hail Republican Party, immortal Republican Party, we shall never be destroyed! Cut off a limb and two more shall take its place!"

It's the same as all the other stirring, powerful, unconquerable conservative tropes from the past. "It's morning in America." "Support the troops." "What about the VICTIM's rights?" "Family VALyewwwws." "String that nigga up --" No, wait, not that one. Um... "A slip of a lip can sink a ship!" And, of course, everyone's favorite: "WOOOOOLVERINESSSSSSS!!!"

"Going Galt" is simply our latest declaration of eternal defiance, of never saying die, of spitting in the eye of socialism, liberalism, and all you stinky stinky blue state people who don't vote Republican because you're mean and bad and stupid and smelly and you worship Satan or something. "Going Galt" just means "We're totally right and you suck! Ha HA!"

You liberals. You keep expecting the words we use to actually mean what you think they mean, but that isn't the conservative way. The conservative way is to stamp our feet for family values while texting provocative obscenities to 16 year old page boys! It's to demand "No special rights for gays" while subtly signaling the undercover cop in the men's room stall next to us that we'd like to blow him! It's to demand that anyone criticizing our President dude be locked up, deported, or killed as a traitor, and then to tell everyone that your President dude is a socialist pinko and we hope he fails!

You'll never understand. You're still playing by the old rules, where words actually MEAN something. We have passed you by. And that is why we will bury you. We will.

Or, you know, hire some Mexican to do it for us, because it's probably a lot of work and we might break a nail. Or get a blister. Or something.

Posted by: Doc Nebula on March 12, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I have posted elsewhere that this "going Galt" thing is great for the honesty of our political discourse-- it reminds us at bottom the conservative movement is not about "family values" or whatever but about the the supposed self-interest of the more short-sighted members of the ruling classes.

However, too much is being said to refute these people. There really is only one thing to say:

"Please. Go ahead, and don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out."

Posted by: Jake on March 12, 2009 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Two of the people Dr. Helen interviews are trying to reduce their taxable income

Let's not be too strict in our interpretation of what "going Galt" means. If they want it to mean intentionally working fewer hours or for lower wages to escape the evil socialistic progressive tax system then fine. I think that is the spirit of "going Galt" in their view. Sure, it demonstrates breathtaking innumeracy on their parts, but I'm happy for them to have less money to donate to GOP candidates.

But if it means "I'm finding new loopholes" or "I'm coming up with an excuse for why I've lost my job or have fewer clients" then they deserve nothing but ridicule.

As for creative contribution, that's a bit like arguing what what constitutes "real" chili, or who was the greatest guitarist ever. That's a question that can't be addressed based on facts or logic.

Posted by: lobbygow on March 12, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

They might respond by saying: we are doing something genuinely useful by making the case that people ought to Go Galt. So long as we are doing that, we can't Go Galt! But while this accords with Ayn Rand's actual practice, it does not accord with her views as expressed in Atlas Shrugged. John Galt did not need to go on the air to make his point. He made his case in private, to creative and productive people like himself. They went on strike, and as a result the world was plunged into crisis.

Not having read Atlas Shrugged, this seems like a distinction without a difference. *If* Reynolds genuinely believed in this cause (and I don't for a minute think he does) then his blog is in fact the most efficient, best way to spread the message. (Especially since he don't even know who the other potential Galts are.)

Anyway, his blog is something that really only benefits the "worthy" in his point of view. The "parasites" aren't benefitting from his blog in any way (all we get out of it is high blood pressure) so why stop?

Posted by: anon on March 12, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Strangely, Slavoj Zizek advocates something similar in "Parallax View" and "In Defence of Lost Causes." He calls it "Bartleby politics", after the Melville character, and sees it (gross simplification warning) as a way of heightening awareness of the contradictions of Capitalism.

I realize that the floor is now open for "Zizek is an anti-semitic twit", "Aha! He really is a totalitarian - he agrees with the Randians!" and other responses, and I don't want to get into those debates; I just want to make the point that a similar response has been advocated from a very different perspective and with a very different aim in mind.

Posted by: The Sophist on March 12, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Can all of Wall Street go Galt? Pretty please?

It's not like you were doing anything useful for society anyway!

Seriously though, I suspect that most of the people considering going Galt don't actually contribute that much to society anyway.

Posted by: mfw13 on March 12, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, there is a lot of news commentary to be eliminated on both sides of the political spectrum. Neither is particularly useful to the everyday workings of the world.

But, I agree with letting the Malkins, Becks and BillOs withdraw and see how much they are missed. Remember when Pres. Ronnie R. speculated shutting down the federal government wouldn't be noticed and then Newt (is there any more appropo name) did? Yea, how did that work out for ya?

Posted by: Darsan54 on March 12, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Then I saw what was wrong with the world, I saw what destroyed men and nations, and where the battle for life had to be fought. I saw that the enemy was an inverted morality -- and that my sanction was its only power. I saw that evil was impotent-that evil was the irrational, the blind, the anti-real -- and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it. Just as the parasites around me were proclaiming their helpless dependence on my mind and were expecting me voluntarily to accept a slavery they had no power to enforce, just as they were counting on my self-immolation to provide them with the means of their plan -- so throughout the world and throughout men's history, in every version and form, from the extortions of loafing relatives to the atrocities of collective countries, it is the good, the able, the men of reason, who act as their own destroyers, who transfuse to evil the blood of their virtue and let evil transmit to them the poison of destruction, thus gaining for evil the power of survival, and for their own values -- the impotence of death. I saw that there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue, when his own consent is needed for evil to win -- and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent. I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was 'No.'"

Three times I tried to make it through that paragraph and three times I had to stop out of sheer boredom. Jesus, what a load of codswallop.

Posted by: Stefan on March 12, 2009 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Having read Ms Rand's books (all of them) at various stages of my life, vigorously debated the merits of "The Fountainhead" with one of my architecture professors. Then I dropped out of society for a while like Francisco d'Anconia, and tried living the life of a Randian Capitalist. (Your fourth way)

The result was an unmitigated disaster and having thought about this for a while, I concluded that to be the perfect Randian Capitalist one needs to be rather like Spock rational to the point of cruel but with one's seething, inexpressible emotions all stopped up.

The Vulcans solved this problem by having very violent marriage rituals, Ayn Rand and Nathanial Brandon solved it by telling each of their respective spouses that since they shared the same values it was only logical they should have an affair, my solution was to live life as I saw fit rather than adhere to some impossible abstract standards.

Ayn Rand's logic starts with A=A, things are as we see them, an almost pre-Newtonian point of view in a very post-Newtonian world, in which one object can mean or be many things.

Finally, on capitalism, in "Atlas Shrugged" the most glaring flaw is her approval of monopoliesand resentment of government regulation and unions with the fervor of a JP Morgan and Henry Ford, in his later days. She seems to have learned nothing from the exploitation of workers in England in the early 19th century and in America late in the same century.

"Atlas Shrugged" taught me nothing about "capitalism" but I learned how to channel my confusion about the world, life, parents, etc. into a single formula, it's always someone else's fault or it's always your fault for not living up to impossible ideals. She gives one permission to play a double role Francisco d'Anconia, a proto-terrorist, who actively works against society while pretending to be a playboy and who winds up destroying an apparently billion dollar copper mining operation to prove a point.

He must have been quite the inspiration for the Weathermen and other people whose idea of a perfect society can only be accomplished by destruction of the one extant.

My imitation of him was limited to pretending to not give a damn about school while secretly learning as much as a could to fight the teachers on their own level, a rather Matt Damon-like figure in "Good Will Hunting."

This strategy worked through College and Grad School but failed miserably in the job market, until I changed my attitude to be less Randian and more human.

Ayn Rand is fun reading and moving emotionally, but is not a role model for life as a person or a society ... ergo anarchy posing as capitalism. Keynes, Adam Smith, Veblan, Paul Samuelson, Marx, Krugman and even Milton Freidman et al are all infinitely more complex thinkers than Rand in any serious discussion of Economics and life "Atlas Shrugged" is a footnote.

This happened with me when as grad student I took an independent course in which each student brought in three books for the others to read my rather books on reforming government were exposed as naive when compared to the ones the others had brought.

"Atlas Shrugged" is utopian fiction and while utopian and distopian fictions (cf "1984") can shed light on the human condition, to live it is undesirable and impossible (even Greenspan has disavowed Randianism as Economics.).

Posted by: Kurt on March 12, 2009 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, "Going Galt" as these people use the phrase means something very simple: tax evasion.

After all, the only real content of the so-called "ideology" of most self-described "libertarians" is a monomaniacal hatred of paying taxes.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 12, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Weren't Galt and the rest of the characters atheists?

Posted by: johnf on March 12, 2009 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

My God, this is freakin' moronic.

These people make my brain hurt.

Posted by: Stranger on March 12, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I am struck by the blatant arrogance of Rand's writing, and the sheer stupidity of anyone who buys into this puerile attempt at philosphy.

Everyone is replaceable, period. For most situations that are desirable (such as NY Times political columnist), there are hundreds if not thousands that can do the job better than the hacks that have lucked their way in.

O.K. I think Krugman is the exception that proves that generality.

Steve uses the term "scam artists" for these scumbags. I feel that that term is too sterile, too refined to describe these sociopathic creeps. They are the cancer in today's USA that allowed the mental midget puppet that just vacated the White House to grab power. So many minds have been warped by their lies, so many lives have been lost or damaged with their "blessings" that the USA is viewed as dangerous, criminal nation by the rest of the world.

The big lie here is that they KNOW that "going Galt" is the most ridiculous suggestion in the world. This is because if they left their lucrative positions, no one would miss them. Worse, perhaps most people would get a chance to see the more talented people that are ready & willing to step into their jobs. WingNut Welfare recipients like the folks described here could never regain their former lifestyles.

Total BS. Dr. Helen, in Jon Stewart's words, "F**K you!"

Posted by: BuzzMon on March 12, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Call their bluff: "going Galt" means renouncing their US citizenship. They don't want to work or pay taxes in America, etc. We get it.

Fair enough. Every time one of these folks talks about it, we should send 'em the following forms:

DS-4079 Information for Determining Possible Loss of U.S. Citizenship
DS-4080 Oath of Renunciation of the Nationality of the United States
DS-4081 Statement of Understanding Concerning the Consequences and Ramifications of Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship
DS-4082 Witnesses' Attestation Renunciation of Citizenship
DS-4083 Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States

Most particularly, since we are compassionate folks, we should make sure they understand the following statement: "if my renunciation of citizenship is determined by the United States Attorney General to be motivated by tax avoidance purposes, I will be found excludable from the United States ..."


Posted by: anonymous on March 12, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

The fourth possibility, which in my opinion is the most likely, is that these witless fucks don't actually know what they're talking about. They're just making noise because they're attention-whores with an overinflated entitleprivilege complex, and "Go Galt" is the Freeper catch-phrase of the week.

If Michelle Malkin et al want to retire from public life to a third-world hermitage for tax evasion purposes, I'll help them pack and even accompany the grand send-off with a rousing rendition of "Don't Let the Door Hit You In the Ass On the Way Out". Because you know these assholes could never actually manage to TRULY "Go Galt"; that is, without a sound. They'd scream and whine and milk the coverage for as much attention as they could get.

Posted by: Keori on March 12, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Let em go Galt. There's got be an army of talented unemployed people to take their place.

Posted by: Gandalf on March 12, 2009 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

None of the people who claim to be going Galt would ever be approached by the strikers.

Posted by: Dale on March 12, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'm an effete liberal but that prose style ... make it stop!

Posted by: Mike on March 12, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think a bigger effect than "going Galt" is that the Bushies (and that includes at all levels) and their rapacious greed have destroyed the willingness of a lot of people to participate in our system with trust and generosity. They see the takers manipulate the financial system with the help of the politicians and they lose faith in the possibility of fairness. They lose the spirit of participating.

Posted by: Dale on March 12, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Then I saw...."
Posted by: Stefan

The Ren and Stimnpy wing of the NeanderCon Party will probably try to adapt Thoreau's famous statement, "I am a majority of one." They can move into the wilderness, build a stick cabin, drink pond water, and grow pole beans.

Posted by: Steve W. on March 12, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

BuzzMon wrote: "I am struck by the blatant arrogance of Rand's writing ..."

You should see some of her nonfiction essays, wherein she proclaims that certain types of art and music -- like impressionist painting, or atonal music -- are "immoral" because ... well, because she doesn't like them or doesn't understand them.

Oddly enough, the kind of art that she did like was pretty similar to the "heroic socialist realism" art that was approved by the Soviet Union.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 12, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

I would have to give one more possibility--They don't truly understand what they are advocating. Hilzoy, you may be giving them too much credit. In fact, it's possible, likely even, that they haven't even read the book.

Posted by: Rachel on March 12, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Thought I'd point out that John Galt was Rand's vision of the perfect human being. The strike (which I believe was the original title of Atlas Shrugged) and the resulting utopia was her vision of the perfect implementation of her philosophy. I doubt she actually believed that such events would ever actually occur.

Too many people in here seem to be taking Rand's words as something she really thought could happen, rather than something she really wished would happen.

Posted by: John on March 12, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

As many comments have suggested, Atlas Shrugged is just Ayn Rand's theory about irreplacable authoritarians. Any idea based on a FALSE premise is by definition invalid, which makes the whole Rand concept junk. No one is indispensible.

Posted by: Robert Perry Sr. on March 12, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to fantasy land! So lets say the wealthiest 10% of the country just hopped off the grid at a moment's notice...

This might be the best thing to ever happen in this country. Rand's premise is now and always has been both totally unamerican and of course faulty.

You have to believe that not only a small percentage of people in this world hold the power (somewhat true), but the giant leap is that you have to believe that they are somehow irreplaceable.(Fantasy!)

There are 6 billion of us running around now, someone will pick up the slack, but please please don't let that disuade you Randians! Go Go Go!

Posted by: BigDuke on March 12, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

It is difficult to ascertain the exact degree of group think to be anything other than 100% on this thread.

"Going Galt" would be most applicable to middle class tax payers. And it is middle class tax payers who are likely to be the most ignorant when it comes to Rand's philosophy. So Dr. Helen et al do serve a purpose in their attempts to further awareness.

However one does not need Rand's philosophy to be able to withhold one's creative and productive value. In California there has been a middle class tax payer exodus from the state as a consequence of its ineffective governance at the hands of a left leaning legislature and a fraudulent executive.

At the federal level it is far more difficult to "Go Galt" other than to emigrate. Therefore short of emigrating, Dr. Helen et al have been exploring and advocating alternative means in which one can withhold productivity without emigrating.

But this begs the question, if Dr. Helen et al are futile in their advocacy, why does it invoke such an extensive analysis and subsequent commentary loaded with pejoratives?

Posted by: Lionel on March 12, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

The American consumer. The so-called "economy" absolutely depends on hundreds of millions of people spending hundreds of billions of dollars on crap that they don't really need and don't really benefit from. Without that consumer spending, the whole house of cards collapses.

You can thank Keynesian economics for this line of thinking which is now mainstream economics.

Placing so much value on aggregate demand as a means to produce wealth is still subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Keynesian economics has had a good 73 year run (omitting stagflation during Carter of course), we are most certainly due for a paradigm shift.

Posted by: Lionel on March 12, 2009 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Not only do the idiots have no idea what it really means to "go Galt", I highly encourage them to do so.

The fact is that Democratic counties and states give more to the federal and state governments than they get back, while red states and counties suck at the federal and state teats. Conservative-aligned industries like military and oil and big ag and Wall Street take far, far more from the taxpayer trough than do their progressive counterparts.

So let them "go Galt"--it's all hot air. Republicans are not in fact the productive members of society. On average, Republican existence depends on the self-immolation of urban progressives.

What truly drives modern "conservatism" is the belief that inner-city minorities are living entirely on welfare provided by white, middle-class taxpayers. This is a deluded but persistent fantasy driven entirely by racism. And it's racism that is really at the heart of the "going Galt" movement.

Posted by: David Atkins on March 12, 2009 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Lionel wrote: "But this begs the question, if Dr. Helen et al are futile in their advocacy, why does it invoke such an extensive analysis and subsequent commentary loaded with pejoratives?"

You are misusing the phrase "beg the question".

What you mean to say is "this raises the question".

"Begging the question" is a classical rhetorical fallacy, in which a proposition to be proved is assumed in one of the premises put forth to support the proposition.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 12, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Lionel,

Keynesian economics came about as a backlash against the disastrous laissez-faire policies of the Gilded Age and the roaring 20s. It died in the 70s. when rich whites convinced poor whites, mostly in the South, that blacks were stealing more of their hard-earned tax dollars than rich whites were.

The past 30 years have seen a Milton Friedman revolt against Keynesian economics and the dismantling of the financial regulatory system, with predictably disastrous results.

The way out of this mess, again, lies in the rejection of Friedman laissez-faire policies, and the renewed embrace of Keynesianism.

Posted by: David Atkins on March 12, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Possibility #4, a variant of #3: these people don't know how to read. Either they're relying on what others have told them about Going Galt or on their own ability to infer what it means just from the name, or they've read Atlas Shrugged and failed to comprehend what Rand was recommending.

Posted by: Jay Gold on March 12, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

THe fourth possibility? The infinite number of monkeys theory ... i.e. it's not that they haven't bothered thinking about what they are saying, but that it's actually random noise caused by both brain cells colliding repeatedly.

God I'd forgotten what an absolutely shite writer Rand was.

Posted by: firefall on March 12, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

The very idea that one person is irreplaceable is at odds with the supposed benefits of capitalism. How can there be competition when there is only one right man for the job, and all will fall apart without him?

Plus, I share SecularAnimast's view of Rand's prose - that was atrocious, and it is no wonder that Rand is so popular among teenagers. All sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Posted by: maurinsky on March 12, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Why would middle class taxpayers "go Gault" when they're getting a tax cut? Why would the wealthy even bother, when we're talking a couple of points up in the marginal tax rate?

But this begs the question, if Dr. Helen et al are futile in their advocacy, why does it invoke such an extensive analysis and subsequent commentary loaded with pejoratives?

Ah, because so many people recognize it as stupid and futile behavior, it must have merit? You're going to have to do a lot better than that. But first start with re-editing Rand, because her writing flat-out sucks. As a former lit major, I'm thankful I never had to read the whole thing.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on March 12, 2009 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

So, I left this page and wandered to TAPPED, where the first thing I see is how France is returning to NATO after 40 years since DeGaulle pulled out in 1966. (url below)

Laboratory experiment in Going Galt: France pulled out of NATO, and national defenses coped just fine.

Posted by: Stuart Eugene Thiel on March 12, 2009 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and count me with those who hope and pray that Malkin, Beck, Coulter, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and the rest of the wingnut talkers "go Gault". They perform no essential service, produce nothing of value, and would not be missed one bit.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on March 12, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

There's no silliness meter or absurdity detector calibrated high enough to measure these people's mental illness. I'm trying to think of an equivalent for this kind of looniness on the left and I don't think there is one. Can anyone come up with one?

Posted by: digitusmedius on March 12, 2009 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

You've ALL got it wrong. Its s simple substotution problem.

In the fascist lexicon "Going" means to leave or depart and, as usual with these people, coercion is involved.

"Going" equates with what we in the real world call "firing"

FIRING John Galt is what is happening as all the productive people are fired and all the parasites are left to run the world pretty much as they have been for the last 30 years.

OUR problem is that if all the productive people went to the same valley, there'd be no room to breathe in and these miserable bastards would be left with everything they don't deserve, at least until it all finally collapsed around them.

It should take about half an hour.

Posted by: Earl Mardle on March 12, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

On "begging the question" misuse: I'm afraid the original use of this term is now all but defunct. It has been misused for so long to mean "avoiding the point or question" that it's futile to try to restore it to its correct place in logic. This happens in our language all the time. It just has to be accepted and move on. I suggest we say "circular argument" or some such for what used to be called begging the question.

Posted by: digitusmedius on March 12, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

In the way Ms Rand stated them, Going Galt would be one day discovering that Rush Limbaugh has left his castle of solitude with an empty safe, silent airwaves, and only a disapperaing trail of Twinkie wrappers to show he had even existed.

So, by all means, if clogging up the airwaves and blogs with filth is their contribution to society, then by all means, GO GALT!

Posted by: JT on March 12, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Well, to actually "Go Galt", you would have to find some vacant land somewhere.

Then you'd have to move there and build your own shelter, roads, utilities and sewage, and food, or you'd barter with someone to do it for you and let you have ownership or access. Of course, you'd have to arm yourself or trust others to protect you and your inventions from less honorable people.

All of that's hard work and leaves you vulnerable. It's much easier to sit in your underware eating cheetoes and type about "Going Galt!"

Posted by: Comrade Dread on March 12, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I, too, have never read Atlas Shrugged, and never will. I did read a synopsis of it not long ago just to get an idea of what this "Who is John Galt" crap was about and even that was nearly impossible to decipher. The excerpt that Hilzoy provided confirms the impression I got from the synopsis that it was written in a melodramatic comic book style. I doubt that Rand ever met a hackneyed metaphor or trite phrase that she didn't use, time and time again.

Posted by: digitusmedius on March 12, 2009 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Would someone please provide me some sort of a list of people this world could not live without?

Even Aynie's example is stupid to anyone that ever worked in a factory or mill. Plenty of people could easly run one quite well. Inovation, not so much. But the inovators were hardly running the mills in my 60s childhood and now are mostly wage slaves a computers instead of looms & forges.

Really, who can you point to that the world would fail without? Gates? Jobs? PAleeze!

Most of the yahoos claiming to go Galt would have been on the Golgafrinchen B Ark

Posted by: frankdawg82 on March 12, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

I read Atlas Shrugged. The concept of capital doesn't exist in the novel. There are no banks or third party venture capitalists giving loans to start businesses. Businesses exist when the novel begins or the heroes are already rich enough to create the businesses they want. Rand never quite confronts her absurd proposal that intelligent men and women are able to create capital intensive businesses like steel mills through willpower alone.

Atlas Shrugged = Lord of the Rings

Posted by: Ngiog Tlag on March 12, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Secular animst Begging the question" is a classical rhetorical fallacy, in which a proposition to be proved is assumed in one of the premises put forth to support the proposition.

Noted. Circular reasoning was not my accusation. Thus, "Raises the question" is more apt.

David: >>The past 30 years have seen a Milton Friedman revolt against Keynesian economics and the dismantling of the financial regulatory system, with predictably disastrous results.

This crisis extends beyond the SEC and Wall Street to global financial systems with their own regulatory systems.

The fact of the matter is, regulations ALWAYS LACK behind technology and innovation. The state is not designed to be able decisively attend to innovation in a beneficial manner. This is all the more true the larger a state becomes. It is the nature of scale and communication.

David: >>The way out of this mess, again, lies in the rejection of Friedman laissez-faire policies, and the renewed embrace of Keynesianism.

It didn't satisfactorily end the last mess, as we are still paying for government spending of 70 years past. Why would this be any different.

>>You're going to have to do a lot better than that. But first start with re-editing Rand, because her writing flat-out sucks.

The merit of withholding one's productivity for the benefit of not producing (given that the incentives to be unproductive is greater than the benefits of being productive) is independent of whether or not Rand's work is palatable.

Posted by: Lionel on March 12, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

BTW - Robert Heinlein is a far superior Sci-Fi libertarian writer. Still infantile political philosophy but at least his writing makes it palatable.

I read Asshole Shrugged 40 years ago and it was one of the most painful weeks of my life – I had to force myself to open the damn thing and read even a few pages at a time. It is dreadful fiction.

Like the Bible 90% of the people telling you to live by this book have no clue what is in it.

Posted by: frankdawg81 on March 12, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK
As I said above, the three most obvious answers are: (1) they do not believe that anything they do is in fact creative or productive, or (2) they are urging other people to do something they don't have the guts to do themselves, like scam artists who convince people to invest their money in schemes they themselves steer clear of, or (3) they have not bothered to think about what they are saying, even to the limited extent required to see that there's a conflict between their words and their actions.

You forgot to add that if they in fact did Go Galt, being creatures of media themselves they would then have to disappear from public view. And we can't have that now, can we? Their remarkably collective (gasp!) sense of narcissism prevents them from actually doing what they're advocating.

These people have no convictions. They only possess ideology cloaked as such.

Posted by: joeyess on March 12, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Reynolds and Malkin claiming they want to "go Galt" is a lot like Bertram Scudder and Balph Eubanks declaring they've had enough of a system that penalizes them for their intellectual superiority and success.....

If those two fools had taken the time to consider how they would fit into Galt's ideal world, they would think twice before jumping in. They either haven't read the book, or they don't understand that THEY would be considered moochers.

Posted by: hank on March 12, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe what they really mean is "going Gault", which I presume is running a post pattern at a very high rate of speed, sorta like former Chicago Bears' receiver Willie Gault.

Posted by: bucky on March 12, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

"He's quit! Gone! Gone like all the others! Left his mills, his bank accounts, his property, everything! Just vanished! Took some clothing and whatever he had in the safe in his apartment -- they found a safe left open in his bedroom, open and empty -- that's all! ... He's quit and the rest are quitting and those mills are just left there, standing still! Do you understand what that means?"

I do. It means that in the non-fiction world -- you know, the one in which there's no deus ex machina that pulls energy from thin air -- someone else would happily take over the industries and other properties they abandoned, and Rearden and his bunch would find they aren't as indispensable as they imagined. Which kind of makes them moochers and looters too, doesn't it?

Posted by: Gregory on March 12, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

the third is trying to "follow Ayn Rand's morality as much as I can, and spread her philosophy as far as I can."

Asshole.

Posted by: Gregory on March 12, 2009 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Look, it's not like we wouldn't HELP THEM GO GALT if we could...

Posted by: e. nonee moose on March 12, 2009 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

>>Why would middle class taxpayers "go Gault" when they're getting a tax cut? Why would the wealthy even bother, when we're talking a couple of points up in the marginal tax rate?

It is only temporary. One cannot run deficits forever. Debt obligations must be paid and families making over $250k cannot make up the difference.

That seems to have been missed by a number of the Obama's advocates as well, marginal tax rate hikes apply to FAMILIES making over $250k, that is married filing jointly.

One can make $130k a year and if one's spouse is $120k or more, then that family will end up paying almost 40% of their earnings to the state.

In many regions in the country, that isn't enough to remain upper middle class. Thus this isn't a tax on the "wealthy".

These families will be forced to live within their means. Which is ultimately good for them, but this economic prescription advocates more spending not less.

Posted by: Lionel on March 12, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

What was it my Dad used to say when I started to think no one could possibly do without me: don't let the door hit you in the back side on your way out.

Posted by: shep on March 12, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

I recall a scene in the book where Galt was working as a hamburger cook. Perhaps we can arrange for some cross training at McDonald's for Dr. Helen.

Posted by: Solon in CA on March 12, 2009 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Man that's funny.

Dude, fewer than 2% of all households make more than $250k a year. Seriously.

I like how Republicans suddenly found out how deficits work when the money was spent to feed and educate their fellow citizens, instead of to slaughter brown people. Gotta have your priorities.

Posted by: Punditus Maximus on March 12, 2009 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

One can make $130k a year and if one's spouse is $120k or more, then that family will end up paying almost 40% of their earnings to the state.

Yet another one who doesn't comprehend the notion of a marginal tax rate.

Posted by: jimBOB on March 12, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Give it up Lionel. Every comment just puts you deeper into a hole. For 2008 a married couple, making, let's say, $300k, filing jointly with about $60k in total deductions/exemptions would pay a bit under $60k in federal taxes. IOW, the average tax rate is less than 20% of the total combined gross income. You and seemingly all other right wingers as well as a good portion of the press seem not to understand how progressive taxation works.

Posted by: digitusmedius on March 12, 2009 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

When I watched the video, it seemed pretty clear to me that Dr. Helen is just playing to the insane people who watch her. She knew they weren't really going Galt, but her only plan is to satisfy her audience. Her audience wants to know how to stick it to Obama and the Democrats, and "Going Galt" is a nice slogan to use for it.

Posted by: DR on March 12, 2009 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Lionel, please read up on how marginal tax rates work before posting in the future. A family that makes $250 K will not pay the 40% rate at all, because it kicks in on income OVER 250K. If they have 251,000 of taxable income, they will pay that rate on only on the last $100.

It's amazing how many conservatives either don't understand this or just deliberately lie about the income tax system.

Posted by: topher on March 12, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

If you hear of anyone going Galt, please let their employer know that I'm job seeking, have my masters, and feel confident I can replace any of these quitters.

Posted by: Jay Severin Has A Small Pen1s on March 12, 2009 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

digitusmedius: "You and seemingly all other right wingers as well as a good portion of the press seem not to understand how progressive taxation works."

No, they pretend not to understand how progressive taxation works.

Lionel seems just another idolator of the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Ultra-Rich", crying a river over the injustice of those poor rich folks being subjected to the same income tax rates that existed during the Clinton administration, when the AFTER-TAX incomes of the wealthiest Americans skyrocketed.

And by the way, the return of those tax rates in 2011 was mandated by Bush and the Republicans when they passed the tax cuts in 2001. Obama and the current Democratic majority in Congress have nothing to do with it.

And also by the way, those income tax rates are still lower than they were during the Reagan administration.

For "conservatives", the problem is always that rich people don't have enough money and poor people have too much.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 12, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Who is "going Galt"? The American consumer."

Also about 500,000 jobs per month

Posted by: mcc on March 12, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Rand's heroes are all handsome, successful, wealthy, independent and getting laid a lot. Therein lies the secret of their appeal.

Long comic books with sex. Being precocious, I read the damn Atlas Shrugged thing at age 11 for what has to be the only reason to read it - because it was there, as the sex was silly and the science and premise even sillier. I remember going but..but..but...he built this steel mill by himself? miracle metal? Unlimited power from static electricity? sonic guns? Magic people in magic land. It reads like a late night infomercial as she strives to make her heroes so super that they gain from and owe nothing to anyone else.

Posted by: bcw on March 12, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that so many of you associate Atlas Shrugged with conservatism is quite laughable and proves that you either 1) have not read the book or 2) are an idiot. Conservatism is just as far away from Atlas Shrugged's ideology as liberalism. Atlas Shrugged is a libertarian's Bible - conservatives simply hi-jack it.

Posted by: The Man on March 12, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

It's not the people here who are confused, then, is it? You'd be better served to direct your point to the rightwingers blathering on about it. We just find it hilarious no matter who it is that takes this seriously. And if there's any group more hilariously disconnected from reality than conservatives of the Ol' Perfesser and the Ol' Missus Dr. Perfesser stripes it'd be the libertarians.

Posted by: digitusmedius on March 12, 2009 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

I have encountered the attitude in some wealthy, successful, "productive," and creative people that asking them to pay marginally higher taxes is "punishment" for their success. Related to that belief, they deem any of the money they have earned from their labor going to help any other human being as "slavery."

I just could never understand how a multi millionaire who has taken full advantage of everything this system has to offer, including protection of personal property and the labor and consumerism of other people, and has reaped the benefits of that system to the maximum can bitterly equate themselves with slaves. These are people who live a luxurious lifestyle, free of concern for their economic survival, free to say or do almost anything, or go anywhere and they consider themselves slaves because they pay capital gains tax, and income tax and some of that money goes to "altruistic" "collectivism."

I guess they are all Randians. What a miserable world view, to consider yourself enslaved when you have so many freedoms and blessings. We should feel sorry for them. It must be difficult to be so bitter and to cling to your income like a toddler screaming "mine, mine, mine!"

Posted by: ajaye on March 12, 2009 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, in my view, the most likely answer is that Dr. Helen, et al., really don't understand what it means to "Go Galt". They think it's a tax avoidance scheme -- pure and simple.

Posted by: tsk on March 12, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK


One can make $130k a year and if one's spouse is $120k or more, then that family will end up paying almost 40% of their earnings to the state.

For someone posturing as a Randian Ubermensch, your knowledge of how income taxes work would embarrass a 9th grade Home Ec student. When you found Lionel Metals, remind me to short the hell out of it.

In the real world, tax rates are calculated upon margins, not absolute percentages as you seem to think. If you're in the 39.6% tax bracket, you don't pay 39.6% of your income in taxes. Everyone's first dollar is taxed at the same rate, no matter how many more dollars they have.

To illustrate: if the top tax bracket begins at $250,000 for a married couple filing jointly and increases from 35% to 39.6%, a family who makes $250,001 would see their taxes increase not by $11,500.05 (4.6% of $250,001) but by 4.6% of only that portion of income in excess of a quarter million dollars. In other words, a nickel.


In many regions in the country, that isn't enough to remain upper middle class. Thus this isn't a tax on the "wealthy".

Yes, having to dig all of five whole pennies out from the cushions of the rec room sofa will certainly make the difference between comfort and want.

Seriously, 1.5% of US households -- not individuals, households -- have income in excess of $250,000. Saying that a meaningful portion of the top 1.5% of households are "upper-middle class" rather than "wealthy" is like saying that a 99% on an exam paper should be a B+. And even if you're going to argue that "wealthy" should only be the top 1%, or the top 0.5%, remember, your $250,001 family upper-middle class family is going to have to return an entire pop can for deposit (half a can in Michigan) to meet their increased tax obligation. You can try to call this a tax on the upper-middle class with no more than the usual amount of dishonesty, but you can't call the amount of tax meaningful.

Posted by: cminus on March 12, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

And where, Galtlettes, would that be, exactly. And how fast can you Go-ers get there?

I'm all for the Republican get-up-and-goers 'going Galt'. The question is, just how many of 'em actually got up and went?

Posted by: Limelite on March 12, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

I had never read anything from Ayn Rand until I saw that posted paragraph.

Heh. Apparently Rand's editor 'went Galt' before Atlas got published.

Posted by: Irony Man on March 12, 2009 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Limelite: You made me laugh.

Posted by: ajaye on March 12, 2009 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

The Man wrote: "Atlas Shrugged is a libertarian's Bible ..."

It is apt to characterize Atlas Shrugged as a "Bible".

A struggling science fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard, speaking at a convention of science fiction writers, once said to his peers: "Writing stories for the pulp magazines at three cents per word is all very well, but if a man wanted to become rich, he would start his own religion".

Hubbard went on to write the best selling book "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" and then to start the science-fictional religion of Scientology. And he did indeed become very rich.

Ayn Rand also started out as a science fiction writer with her first novella Anthem, and as a commenter above noted, even Atlas Shrugged contained elements of science fiction.

And she had much the same idea as L. Ron Hubbard, with her philosophy of "Objectivism".

Atlas Shrugged is as much a realistic guide to the conduct of human affairs as is Battlefield Earth.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 12, 2009 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Damn Galtards...

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on March 12, 2009 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a website or something where we can go and find out which geniuses are deserting society for Galtland? With unemployment going up, there must other out-of-work geniuses who would gladly take an abandoned job at several million a year, pay Clinton era taxes and get to work rebuilding the country.

The Wall St geniuses can't leave soon enough, can they?

Posted by: bcinaz on March 12, 2009 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you for this post (aside from exposing me to the terrible writing of Ayn Rand). I've been thinking along the same lines lately. I don't think they've actually considered what it would take for them to "Go Galt" and essentially set up a new community independent of the government or laborers. I can't imagine them actually building and running it all themselves.

Posted by: thrillhouse on March 12, 2009 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Gee. Wonder which would happen quicker: the factory failing if all the workers walk out, or all the bosses vanish?

The (IMHO) core fallacy of Atlas Shrugged is Rand's horror at "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

She presupposes, of course, that all the ability is on one side, while all the need is on the other.

Absurd.

Denial of systems, interconnectedness, mutual benefit, is a hallmark of hers. As well as a complete obliviousness to such core altruistic acts as raising children, with all the inherent required sacrifices (funny how her heroines have sex all over the place and never get pregnant . . . )

Let them all go Galt. No one will even notice . . . except to the better . . .

Posted by: Dani Weber on March 12, 2009 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Fourth and most probably explanation: almost nobody has actaully read that enormous tome of dreck, so nobody is quite sure what going Galt means. We just have the Cliff's Notes and other 3rd party versions. So it can mean whatever you need it to mean.

Personally, I worked in a bookstore and based on the enthusiastic recommendation of a regular customer I took a copy home that was going in the dumpster (after the cover had been torn off). I didn't pay for it, but I'll never get the 2 or 3 hours of my life back wasted before I threw it in the trash where it belonged. It was so bad, I just couldn't even comprehend the plot. My mind just kept drifting away. All I remember was how simplistic characters were. There was a hero and at least one villian, and a whole lot of sterile writing and not so subtly disguised rantings from a very immature mind.

Posted by: jussumbody on March 12, 2009 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

I always thought it funny that the protagonist of "atlas shrugged" was a railroad executive.


every railroad in the US was built with public subsidies

Posted by: lgerard on March 12, 2009 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Poor conservatives. Rand, whom they claim to believe, said take everything for yourself -- and Jesus, whom they also claim to believe, said to give up everything.

They can't "go Galt" -- and they can't get to heaven. From the Gospel of Matthew:

Behold, one came to him and said, "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" He said to him, "...if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
He said to him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, "'You shall not murder.' 'You shall not commit adultery.' 'You shall not steal.' 'You shall not offer false testimony.' 'Honor your father and mother.' And, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

The young man said to him, "All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions.

Jesus said to his disciples, "Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."


Posted by: CMcC on March 12, 2009 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, that's easy. It's not hard at all for God to make it possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The wingnuts have an answer for everything.

Posted by: digitusmedius on March 12, 2009 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Funny how the criticism of Atlas Shrugged seems to come in two strains:

1) I have no idea what her ideas were, I just remember that when I was 12 I thought it was poorly written, so I didn't bother to read the book or pay attention.

2) But.. But.. her ideas are all wrong because I believe in everything that she said was bad.

As to the first, I say grow up. It's dense, but once you get your mind wrapped around what she's saying, her style is very effective at bringing the ideas to a crescendo at just the right moment. Besides, it's infinitely better than the pseudo-intellectual clap-trap that most ultra-liberal people think is so superior...

As to the second, get over yourselves. Your disagreeing doesn't make her wrong - especially not when your disagreement is based on a misconception of what she was saying. The only legitimate criticism of the ideas that I've yet encountered is that it's unhealthy to be an emotional vacuum. This is true - but that flaw in her characters isn't fatal to the central idea of the book.

Posted by: hank on March 12, 2009 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

OK, if they keep whining about 'going Galt' without actually, like, getting the hell out of here, I'm going to have to get around to creating the "lost chapters" of Atlas Shrugged.

You know, the ones which cover the way the workers at Galt's mills take over their own management, and streamline the processes, since they, themselves, are actually the ones doing the work, and, with a loan from some capitalists who were more than happy to see that insufferable prig Galt go running off to have sex in the mountains, expand the business and make a very good life for themselves, and their families.

Oh, and they also decide to correct the hideously toxic effects Galt's process was having on the environment, which he, as a self-obsessed "man of reason" didn't care about, since his effluent wasn't giving him cancer, and he'd die before global climate change would destroy the biosphere.

Posted by: biggerbox on March 12, 2009 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Going Galt,

What would we do if Daddy just left?! How would we live?! We've got to stop treating him so badly and objecting to how drunk he gets! (and all the other stuff) Without him we're nothing!

Posted by: alan on March 12, 2009 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

hank -- please don't tempt me to respond to Rand's actual views. I have gone through them, thanks to being a professor who has had Objectivist students. They are, frankly, risible.

Posted by: hilzoy on March 12, 2009 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK


The only legitimate criticism of the ideas that I've yet encountered is that it's unhealthy to be an emotional vacuum.

Really? Because I could write a book almost as long as Atlas Shrugged listing Rand's mistakes. Here's some obvious ones:

1. She completely misunderstands the creative mindset. She imagined writers, philosophers, scientists, and artists going to Galt's Gulch, but subsequent history has shown that these groups are mostly post-materialist subscribers to a view in which wealth has a steeply diminishing marginal utility; as Cory Doctorow put it (in an open-source e-book), "writers would rather be read than rich." Even technological innovators can be motivated by the thrill of creation rather than the chase of riches, or would you like to hear how much I paid for the software on my Linux box? There's a reason that Richard Florida's "ideopolises" are pushing the U.S. to the left.

2. She uncritically subscribes to outdated "great man" theories. In Rand's view a founder/CEO embodies the company. If the founder/CEO quits, nobody else can do the job. Anyone who doesn't defer to his authority knows nothing. There are no independent boards of directors. All workers are interchangeable and unskilled and cannot work without direction from the very top. Change Rearden Metals into the country of Reardenvania, and Stalin would have adored Rand.

3. She doesn't understand basic game theory. Even if we assume a world characterized by a handful of hypertalented people and an army of worthless parasites, Galt's Gulch will fail. In Rand's world, the residents of Galt's Gulch all gain if every denizen holds out to the end, but if one resident breaks early and returns as a savior, that resident makes out like a bandit. Not only could they get back most (if perhaps not quite all) of what they'd lost earlier, but they could also get the same proportion of all the companies that belonged to everyone else in Galt's Gulch. And there will surely be someone who would be willing to do exactly that, in a group for which the belief in maximizing individual profit is a condition for membership.

Posted by: cminus on March 12, 2009 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Well, just to go (de) Gaulle for a second I feel it's time to quote the good General: "The graveyards are full of indispensable men."

Lionel - looking forwards to your explanation of how marginal tax rates work. Quite seriously - I'd like to hear a well-reasoned counter-argument to cminus's. Thanks.

Posted by: Isaac on March 12, 2009 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

From the original post
"...(1) they [Malkin, Reynolds, et. al.] do not believe that anything they do is in fact creative or productive..."

Almost. They know nothing they do is productive, they just don't believe it.

Posted by: amorphous on March 13, 2009 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

The only possible response to anybody threatening to "go Galt" is jumping the protocol straight to "I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU!"

Posted by: cg359 on March 13, 2009 at 6:32 AM | PERMALINK

These bloggers realize that the most selfish (and thus virtuous) thing to do is not to go Galt, but encourge others to go Galt. You altruists just don't get it.

Posted by: david1234 on March 13, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Rand got things completely backwards. If the hypertalented were to quit, the not-quite-as-hypertalented would fill the void. It is said that a person is measured by the size of the hole she or he leaves; if Ayn Rand had been describing reality, Galt would have left the same sized hole that a fist leaves when exiting a bucket of water. It is true that many companies are founded and run by talented geniuses, but there are plenty that are founded by people with a moderate intellect and a lot of initiative and perseverance. And all of them, genius or not, are dependent on factors that lie outside the scope of personal genius: a labor pool, the advertising industry and a fair amount of dumb luck. Nobody becomes rich through genius and hard work alone. The truth is that the hypertalented are far more dependent on the common, untalented and unskilled worker than the other way around. As Basher said in "Ocean's 12," "Without us, it don't leave your 'ead, mate."

Current Randians, it seems to me, aren't really very interested in being genuine geniuses or in production; the seem to use whatever talents they possess to squeeze as much wealth from the system as quickly as possible. Listening to their arguments, it seems as though they are convinced that the world will fall apart without them, and that they therefore are entitled to wealth whether they actually do anything constructive with their talents or not. How else are you going to account for current CEO salaries and benefits, far beyond any conceivable benefit they can demonstrably provide to the companies for which they work? Many of them seem to be little more than welfare recipients on a grand scale.

As many others have said, I would be delighted for those who are threatening to "go Galt" to actually do it, but they won't. They know that others are ready to step into their places at a moment's notice, and that the only effect on the economy will be a slight increase in cash available for investment.

Posted by: Dennis on March 13, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

No matter what we do both for the good and that wich is bad we will give an account.Who is the servant and who is doing the serving?If one gets those things straight and the truth with-in the answers will aide in idenifying your role,one can choose to be a victem,and as far as dealing with our criminal politicians they have chosen their role.Do what you must,then do what you should.Galt knew that alone his departure alone would have little to no impact,so he did voice the need for the others to join him.Those calling for a greater impact now are only doing what they must,before doing as they should.They have annouced the need to stop allowing the criminal politicians to victemise others now they need to show others that they mean what they say,unless they want to be like the criminal politicians.They can lie to the ones they say they are out to help like politicians do.

Posted by: sinner on March 13, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

My knowledge of Rand is a second hand too, I have only seen the movie version of Fountainhead. But we should remember that Atlas is after all a novel and some weaknesses are probably caused by the necessities of a novel. Suspension of disbelief is necessary.

All that considered Rand actually shows a easy way to go Galt: Some of her "creators" take lowly menial jobs out of sight.

So any family earning more than 250,000 $ can just "strike" by taking up two minimum wage jobs.

The more complete way to go Galt is of course emigration: to Singapure, Hong-Kong, Dubai, Russia (Flat Tax!), Estonia, Latvia, Iceland.
Of course some of these countries are low tax but not politically free and then there is the language problem.

But what about Ireland? Moderate Climate, English Language, there may even be family connections..

So why do these people never mention emigration?

Posted by: IM on March 13, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Someone here or on another blog needs to start one of those daily tote boards: "_____ days we've been waiting for Michelle Malkin to muster the guts to Go Galt"

Posted by: Varecia on March 13, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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