Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Going John Galt"

"Going John Galt"

I hadn't heard this expression until quite recently. For those of you who have no idea what it means:

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the novel’s hero John Galt leads a secret strike of the most productive citizens in an America where productivity and freedom is no longer valued. The strike is an act of rebellion and self-preservation, fueled by Galt’s crucial insight that their enemies’ only weapons are the ones the strikers produce for them. By recruiting more and more strikers, Galt precipitates the ultimate collapse of American society.

We in the US are living in precarious times. Productive men and women should be taking a good hard look at the sort of government and society they are being forced to support with their taxes. They should also honestly assess the likelihood of freedom’s fortune improving.

It is a very tempting idea to respond by withholding the one thing we can: our creativity and labor. We can't withhold our taxes, but we can earn less, and therefore owe less to the government. (Recently, another engineer told me that he was thinking of working part-time to reduce the taxes that they pay to fund Obama's plans.)

Obama could bring back the draft (as this "voluntary" national service plan that his campaign was discussing a while back really is), but that would just expose the fascist nature of the Democratic Party in a way that even the news media couldn't hide. As British MP Kenworthy explained, during debates in the House of Commons in 1919, in expressing his concern about the Firearms Act 1920:
I do not know whether this Bill is aimed at any such goal as that but, if so, I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that if he deprives private citizens in this country of every sort of weapon they could possibly use, he will not have deprived them of their power, because the great weapon of democracy to-day is not the halberd or the sword or firearms, but the power of withholding their labour. I am sure that the power of withholding his labour is one of which certain Members of our Executive would very much like to deprive him.[Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, House of Commons, 5th series, 1920, 130:658-9, emphasis added]
Of course, for many of us, it's easy too talk of "going John Galt" because the collapsing economy has taken away this horrible choice of whether or not to be shoved into a higher tax bracket. There is very, very little danger that I will make anywhere near as much next year as I made this year, because there is very, very little danger that I will end up with a permanent salaried job in this coming year, and once you get done paying both halves of Social Security, health insurance, covering vacation and sick time, it is astonishing how little you make. Unfortunately, I only have 30 years of experience as a software engineer, and that's just not enough to get a job in Boise anymore.

Like many ideas that come out of Ayn Rand novels, this one tells us much about an important concept without having much applicability to the real world. I am also skeptical of "going John Galt" (except as a post-economic collapse rationalization) having any widespread support for several reasons.

1. Many people aren't prepared to sacrifice the absurd lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. "What? Not drive a new Mercedes SUV? I couldn't do that! Not drive to the lake every weekend in summer, towing a ski boat? Impossible! What? Not spoil my kids rotten with $100 a week allowances? They would never love me!"

2. Many of those who labor and creativity would be the most missed by the Obamination aren't going to "go John Galt" because they approve of the way that Obama would like to take the United States. The high salary crowd went for Obama in a big way last month, as they usually do. Our best hope of getting the $200,000+ salary group to "go John Galt" will be pointing out that in many respects, Obama's actual tax and spending policies won't go anywhere near hard enough left to make them happy.

3. Those people who are most inclined to take actual steps to deprive the government of tax revenue by reducing their lifestyle and working less are, for the most part, least able to afford to do so. As much as some people want to believe otherwise, the average Republican just isn't that rich. That's why Bush won the majority of whites below $100,000 a year household income in 2004, while Kerry won whites above $200,000 a year household income. For those of you who have spent much time around the Libertarian Party, you already know this embarrassing fact: the party and ideology of rugged individualism is dominated by people that work for someone else.

There are some business owners involved, but precious few. My experience is that most businessmen are either uninterested in politics (until their own ox is gored), or find libertarian ideas so unrealistic as to be uninteresting. Sad to say, they aren't much more interested in conservative ideas. Businessmen, for the most part, are dyed in the wool liberals. Take a look at where the money came from to elect Obama.

No comments:

Post a Comment