'Atlas Shrugged': With America on the brink, should you 'go Galt' and strike?
In the face of onslaught, the heroes of Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' (now in theaters) decided to stop working, retreat to a valley, and try to rebuild only when the country had collapsed. What we really need to reject, Rand advised, are the flawed moral ideals that cause our economic troubles.
"Atlas Shrugged" has finally reached the big screen and, especially among tea partiers, Ayn Rand is being hailed a prophet. How could she have anticipated, more than 50 years ago, a United States spinning out of financial control, plagued by soaring spending and crippling regulations? How could she have painted villains who seem ripped from today’s headlines?Skip to next paragraph
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There’s Wesley Mouch, who in the face of failed government programs screams like Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts for wider powers. There’s Eugene Lawson, “the banker with a heart,” who like former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is ever ready with a bailout. There’s Mr. Thompson, who like President Obama seeks to rally the country behind pious platitudes. There’s Orren Boyle, who like President Bush says that we must abandon free-market principles to save the free market.
Time to 'go Galt'?
And in the face of this onslaught, what can you do? Should you, like Rand’s heroes, “go Galt,” stop working, retreat to a secluded valley, and try to rebuild only when the country has collapsed?
Rand was asked these very questions in her own lifetime. Her answers might surprise you. In the 1970s, America was in a deep financial crisis (a new word, stagflation, had to be coined), urban violence was rampant, and power-seeking politicians like President Nixon instituted wage and price controls that led to, among other things, gas stations with no gas. How, people wondered, could Rand have foreseen all this? Was she a prophet? No, she answered. She had simply identified the basic cause of why the country was veering from crisis to new crisis.
Was the solution to “go Galt” and quit society? No, Rand again answered. The solution was simultaneously much easier and much harder. “So long as we have not yet reached the state of censorship of ideas,” she once said, “one does not have to leave a society in the way the characters did in Atlas Shrugged.... But you know what one does have to do? One has to break relationships with the culture.... [D]iscard all the ideas – the entire cultural philosophy which is dominant today.”