Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Atlas Shrugged Revisited

Stephen Moore, economist and writer for the Wall Street Journal, writes a brilliant reflection on Ayn Rand's great novel, Atlas Shrugged. While I'm no Objectivist myself (and while Rand certainly did not consider herself a libertarian), her novels provide an insight and clarity of thought that individuals of any political or philosophical flavor can appreciate. Of course, her stories become much less enjoyable when stripped from the page and thrust into the political and economic reality in which we live, a situation that Moore argues is occurring presently:

The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."

If you haven't read Atlas Shrugged yet, pick up a copy. Also worth a read is Moore's latest book, co-written with Arthur Laffer (of Laffer Curve fame), entitled The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy -- If We Let It Happen.

1 comment:

Alexander McCobin said...

Professor C. Bradley Thompson (http://business.clemson.edu/BBTCENTER/cci/faculty_thompson.htm) is doing very good academic work on just this sort of topic. When New York City experienced its first blackout in 1977, people began talking about how Atlas Shrugged was becoming reality. This time, though, the consequences are more dire, and hopefully people will start taking more lessons from the novel than before (although Reagan was elected just 3 years after the blackout, so maybe some lesson was learned after all).